The 10 Most Cliched Character Types in Sci-Fi


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Let’s face it: sci-fi is often silly. Now, before you hurl your drool-moistened Phillip K. Dick novels through your monitor, we’re talking about sci-fi, not science fiction. Amongst those who make a distinction between the two (us nerds, that is), science fiction deals with how science will change the human condition, while sci-fi usually deals with hallway-chasing-explosions, weirdly shaped knife-fights and Megan Fox’s ass… although not necessarily in that order.

Sci-fi is the watered-down, mass media version of science diction, the generic Dr. Thunder to the true amazingness of Dr. Pepper, if you will. But since most people don’t know the difference, you get non-fans thinking that Independence Day is the epitome of smart science fiction (although, it did teach us all how explosive a drunk Randy Quaid can be). And even worse, since a lot of sci-fi is shaped by executives who thought Lost in Space was a true vision of the future, it falls into the trap of showing the same clich?d stories with the same clich?d characters over and over again. Here are the 10 worst.

10) The Robot Who Wants To Be Human



So, you spend billions of dollars creating a fantastical metal man and all he wants is to be is made of meat? You could’ve done made one of those with just a condom and a pin! Yep, most sci-fi robots just want to be regular humans and aren’t happy with their giant mechano-arms or brains that break down at the slightest illogical statement. Of course, not all of them want to be us — some just want to kill us all. At least they have some robo-self-respect.

9) The May-Or May-Not Be the Devil Guy



It can be tricky to create a good villain that’ll scare people, which explains why sci-fi properties from Battlestar Galactica to Doctor Who (and just about every Star Trek series) has had someone who just-might-be-but-we’re-not-definitely-going-to-say-yes-or-no-whether-he’s-the-devil character. Hey, we’ve got nothing against the Devil (how do you think we keep this blog running?), it’s the coyness that bothers us. Just once we’d like a show to say, “Yep, that’s the Devil over there. Let’s run in terror.” Would that be so hard?

8) Pure Energy Beings

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Everyone wants to know what the human race is going to be like in the future — and invariably sci-fi predicts that we’re going to turn into pure energy — evolving past the need for things like brains, limbs or dangling genitals. It’s never really made clear why energy bodies are so desirable — you don’t need to eat, but being able to open doors has a certain kitschy appeal. Sure, it’s an easy way to show that creatures are “advanced,” but how bout you spend some time writing something smart for them to do?

7) The Accidental Time-Tourist



Almost no one ever plans to travel in time — they have to bumble and accidentally stumble into the past in a way that would embarrass even Don Knotts. They either get zapped there by a daffy scientist or fall through a machine or get struck by lightning — which is the best evidence we have that time travel doesn’t exist. If it did, we’d quickly notice the silver-suited jerks flailing around the place like Harlan Williams on too much Ambien.

6) Genetically Superior Smug Humans



These characters are basically Space Nazis. Spock put it best in Star Trek II: “Superior intelligence breeds superior ambition.” So,the minute anyone’s genetics get spruced up a bit, they figure they’ve got to take over the galaxy. Sorry — we’re not buying it. Really smart people should be able to figure out that ruling the galaxy’s a huge hassle and let other people to conquer the world for them while they put their superior feet up on some superior sofa (we assume, from some sort of space Ikea).

5) The Monocultural Alien



While Earth’s future is always as multi-cultural as a Benneton ad, how many alien planets can say the same? Every alien world is exactly one big homogeneous lump, be it all desert, ice, jungle or junk, and every one of that planet’s species is likewise the same. For example, every Vulcan’s pretty much the same as Spock, it’s just that some have bigger breasts and trouble staying out of saunas. Can’t they even have different accents? Wouldn’t you love to hear a Scottish Klingon sometime?

4) The Captain Ahab

Don’t have strong emotions about anything in sci-fi, or chances are you’ll become so obsessed with it you’ll become essentially insane and functionally retarded. Yep, whether it’s destroying a giant space whale (which comes up more often than you’d think) or Picard freaking out about how the Borg touched him in a bad way, sci-fi is full of people over-reacting and overacting about their obsessions. It’s a good thing in space no one can hear you scream.

3) The Bumbling Robot



If there’s a more pernicious robo-stereotype than the wanna-be meatbags, it’s the robots that are programmed to be 2000% more bumbling than humans can ever be. Sometimes they’re overly cute (Twiki), sometimes they’re overly serious (C-3PO) and sometimes they’re a ball filled with rodeo clown Slim Pickens (Old B.O.B.), but they’re all apparently programmed to be not only annoying robots, but annoying people. It’s hard to believe that their creators wouldn’t simply rebuild them to make them work properly… but then I never understood why Steve Guttenberg didn’t simply take an axe to Johnny Five.

2) The Evil Twin



Whether they be clones, robots or alternate reality versions, evil twins eventually show up in just about every sci-fi property — looking just enough like the regular version to fool everyone that knows them, but different enough that the viewer wonders why everyone on the show is an idiot. Of course, they’re most famous in the Star Trek universe, where evil Mirror Spock’s goatee has become the universal symbol for the phenomenon (as well as for filthy beatnicks). Oh, and evil twins are almost always sluttier than the regular version, although whether that applied to KITT’s evil twin KARR we leave to your and AAA’s imagination.

1) The Over-Obsessed Scientist



If there’s a biggest clich? in science fiction, it’s got to be the scientist that has to “play god” and “go where man should not go” and “do bat-shit insane things that no one would ever want to do” in the name of science. Yep, if you’re a scientist, you’re probably going to threaten everything you love (if not the universe) for the love of science. And thus is born Frankenstein’s monster, Jurassic Park and Alien Resurrection.