The most perplexing part of any science fiction story is rarely ever a major plot detail, unless you're watching a SyFy film, in which case the most perplexing part is how the movie was made without causing the collective brains of everyone involved to have a group aneurism brought on by sheer stupid overload. In other sci-fi, there are numerous small and generally overlooked details that never get adequately explained because they're not entirely essential to the story proper, but at the same time could probably use a bit more detail because, you know, what the fuck?
#6. Escape from New York's Light Wall
The world's very first sci-fi filmmaker may have been a goldfish, or perhaps a playful kitten. I say this only because of sci-fi's long history of light love. The people who make sci-fi love lights. They like flashing bulbs and lasers and occasionally chandeliers. You can't make a good sci-fi film without lights. You definitely can't make a bad one. Now take a second to look at that still from Escape from New York up there.
Just behind Lee Van Cleef there you'll notice a massive wall panel covered in lights. It's like they based their operation out of a shitty Lite-Brite factory. In the movie, no one ever touches that light panel, it's never discussed, it has no purpose. It's just an artistic touch, a piece of flair. But what the fuck is it? It's like the panels on the 1960s Enterprise, just flashing lights blinking on and off to indicate that yes, we have power and yes, we're wasting it like the dickens.
"Captain, our electricity bill is ridiculous."
I want to believe this light panel has a purpose. Throughout the movie, the lights just change patterns. It's like a bothersome string of Christmas lights that got cubed and some asshole installed a blinker in the string, so now they all keep turning on and off, just waiting to cause a lazy seizure if you watch them too long.
The story in Escape is that Snake Plissken, a one-eyed fellow who growls more than speaks and who everyone thinks is dead, has to save the president from the terrible prison that is Manhattan. He has only so many hours to do so, otherwise no one gives a fuck, plus Snake will die. So he's motivated. This command center exists to track Snake's progress and extract the president once he has succeeded. Those lights, therefore, are to monitor the health and safety of either the president or Snake Plissken. That's what they do, all flipping on and off every second on what is easily a 3x3 panel set into the wall.
Do the lights indicate in some graph form the general satisfaction of the voting public with how this situation is being dealt with? Occupied cubicles in another part of the building where soldiers are preparing a furious round of musical chairs as indicated by illuminated lights? John Carpenter needs to spill the beans.
#5. Quantum Leap's Ziggy Interface
Quantum Leap was probably the best sci-fi show that Scott Bakula has ever been on. Top two, anyway. And the episode in which this happens will forever be timeless:
It's awesome writing with emotional impact like that that kept us all from noticing something that was staring us in the face since the show began. Namely that Scott Bakula is traveling through time via the consciousness of strangers thanks to the help of an AI made from LEGO. Look at that thing.
This thing could make you endure years in a Donald P. Bellisario show.
That's Ziggy. Well, that's the model handlink that Al uses to get info from the supercomputer called Ziggy that apparently has info on everyone in the past ever and is awesome at guessing what kind of do-gooder shit might make Sam Leap to another person.
You spend most of Quantum Leap either looking for your remote control or, at the very least, wondering what Sam has to do this week to get out of another jam, such as being a woman, or black, or retarded. I can't stress how impactful the writing on Quantum Leap was. But there should have been at least a little lip service paid to how a supercomputer with a million GB of memory, which was totally a lot back in the 1990s, interfaced with the rest of the world via a block of transparent LEGOs with a handful of LEDs behind them.
Just cross this with a shark and you've got a SyFy franchise!
Ziggy was advanced enough to have its own ego, but unless it was speaking via light and sound in some Close Encounters method of communication, what did that hand unit do? It seems entirely plausible that Al was just fucking with Sam the entire time he was adrift in time because no one knew what the hell was going on anyway. There was no display screen, no visible buttons, just some squishy, sproingy sounds when Al whacked it as an example of the quality put into its design. Does anyone but Chris Brown think something should work better after you smack it?
#4. Deadly Friend's BB
Deadly Friend is one of the less inspiring films in Wes Craven's film catalog, which is saying something because, by and large, Wes Craven doesn't make good films. Go on, laud the merits of Scream or Nightmare on Elm Street and I'll throw Vampire in Brooklyn at you. Then, when you're reeling from that affront, I'll double team you with Pulse and Shocker until you're passed out in a puddle of your own panic shit.
Filmmaking chops aside, we can debate the merits of the technology present in Deadly Friend because the movie is predicated on you not understanding robotics and biology and/or being heavily medicated while you watch. Here's the story in a nutshell -- this kid has created a robot complete with artificial intelligence named BB. It's basically his best friend and they do dumb crap together and have fun. He's the Hobbes to the main character's Calvin. One day, Throw Momma from the Train shoots BB with a shotgun because she is old and abominable, as old people tend to be. Slightly worse is that Kristy Swanson gets in an accident and suffers brain death. Kristy Swanson was very hot in the '80s, so naturally the kid in this movie loves her and wants to save her. He does this by jamming a microchip in her dead-ass brain. Naturally two things happen -- she comes back to life and she's basically a robot.
Despite BB being a friendly puppy of a robot previously, now that he's merged brains with a teen girl, he's homicidal as fuck. He pops Throw Momma from the Train's head with a basketball, there's a gif and everything.
Spoiler for those who feel they can get spoilers from movies that came out in 1986 -- the movie ends with BB tearing its way out of Kristy Swanson's carcass, only this time he has evil, sharp robot teeth in a decorative mouth. It grabs the kid who created it and kills him. The end. Now how the fuck does that work?
I guess this kid is a genius, what with his remarkable 1980s AI and all. BB probably runs on some kind of wicked 286 processor and has upward of 500kb of memory and everything. Still, merging that kind of technology with the technology required for a robot to grow itself a new robot body inside a human corpse like some kind of awesome parasitic wasp larvae is leaps and bounds beyond the normal.
Say Kristy Swanson didn't die. Could he have put that microchip in a sandwich and made the sandwich grow an evil robot? A watermelon? A turd stack? What exactly were the limitations on this thing?