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Gordian Plot

List of stock characters in science fiction

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  • The Absent-minded professor: An academic with important information whose focus on his learning leads him to ignore his surroundings. Possibly based in part on Archimedes or Isaac Newton. Jerry Lewis has portrayed many such characters in his career.
  • The Mad Scientist: The (perceived) insane scientist who either accidentally or intentionally "meddles with the forces of nature" and causes the trouble that the hero must correct. Well-known examples are Victor Frankenstein, Professor Hojo and Dr. Moreau.
    • The Amoral Scientist: similar to the Mad Scientist, but is cold, analytical, and devoid of any compassion for others. Mad Scientists simply get carried away by their exuberance; Amoral Scientists are out to play God. They are obsessed with their work to the point that they are willing to sacrifice anybody, all in the name of research. Examples: The Zarn from Land of the Lost, Ash from Alien, Doctor Onishi from Akira, Professor Hojo from Final Fantasy VII.
      • The Lame Amoral Scientist: An Amoral Scientist who is bent on world domination and claims to be an "evil genius", but is actually quite clumsy, idiotic, and unlucky. While the Amoral Scientist is cold and analytical, the Lame Amoral Scientist is usually loud and pompous without much substance to back up his ostentatiousness. Anything they do that actually does pose a threat to the world is always thwarted by a hero or their own stupidity. They are often used as the main villains in cartoons, and are almost always male. Examples include Dr. Drakken from Kim Possible, Jack Spicer from Xiaolin Showdown, Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls, and The Hacker from Cyberchase.
    • The Heroic Scientist: Less common than the mad scientist, uses their knowledge for the good of mankind, even at personal risk. Always moral, courageous, unorthodox and liberal in their views. Typically laid back and unconventional, usually far more charismatic than the stereotypical scientist. Examples of both include The Doctor from Doctor Who, Dr. Light from the Mega Man series, Professor Bernard Quatermass, and Henry Pym (Marvel Comics). Female versions are often strong, opinionated and independent, but rarely extreme feminists.
  • The Ignorant Friend: A recurring character who the hero knows in their everyday life, but who is unaware of the hero's identity is or of what the hero does when his or her friends are not around. The audience might think the answer should be obvious to the Ignorant Friend, but he or she cannot figure it out (but may learn the truth later on). Various examples in superhero series, such as Bulk and Skull from Power Rangers.
  • Redshirt: an inconsequential character who is killed or injured soon after his or her introduction in order to indicate the dangerous circumstances faced by the main characters. The term originated in reference to the frequent use of such characters in the original Star Trek TV series. In the series, these characters usually wore red uniforms, signifying both their station as security personnel, and their insignificance. The same trend is reused in 24, which often kills off nameless red-clad security guards. Where red clothing is not worn (perhaps due to uniform regulations), redshirts can be distinguished by other tell-tale clues that they are going to die, e.g., playing a harmonica in a war film, being close to retirement when a cop, showing a picture of your children to anyone under any circumstances (see Maes Hughes), having no full name in a horror or sci-fi movie. See also “Cannon fodder.” A horror-related version of this character is called The Warning.
  • The Robot Servant: A sidekick type character who often serves as comic relief. Most often a robot whose purpose is to act as butler or maid for the hero or another protagonist. Often has a quirky personality, such as as effeminacy or manic depression. Examples include C-3PO from Star Wars, Kryten from Red Dwarf, Dot Matrix from Spaceballs, and Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • The Golem: Not directly related to the golems of biblical and Hebrew mythology, a Golem character in science fiction is a robot or other artificial life-form which can think and make decisions, but whose mental faculties are not directly analogous to those of a human character. A golem may lack emotions, such as Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek, or it may be programmed with directives that prevent it from fully exercising its free will. It may or may not look human; often it looks "nearly human" but with some obvious qualities that give it away as somehow "false" or "artificial." However, it is not the physical appearance, but rather the uniquely non-human thoughts and motivations of the golem that are important to the story. The psychological or behavioral limitations of a golem character are often used as a plot device, allowing the author to explore themes such as hubris and Artificial Intelligence. Isaac Asimov worked this angle extensively with his many stories about robots. Sometimes, living characters in Sci-Fi will seem to overlap with this archetype, for example the Vulcans and the Borg from Star Trek, or Robocop. Also, because Golem characters think and react differently than humans, they can sometimes be used as comedy relief, by placing them into social situations in which normal human interaction is expected or required. This happened occasionally with Data and Mr. Spock, but a much more extreme example is V.I.C.I. from TV's Small Wonder.
  • The Robot Clone: A contemporary of the Golem, the Robot Clone is a robot that seems completely human in appearance, speech, and mannerisms, but which definitely lacks a human brain, mind or soul. Note that although the term "clone" suggests that they are duplicates of a specific individual, this is not always the case. Most Holodeck characters from Star Trek: TNG are designed to display varying degrees of human emotions, although it is clear that they are merely holograms controlled by the ship's computer. Sometimes a Robot Clone can appear so human that it is not known whether or not the character possesses true emotions. Such is the case with the Cylons from the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica, which seem to exhibit genuine human emotions. In one scene, a Cylon reacts with fear and even catatonia when she is beaten and threatened with rape. At this point, although the characters know (and the audience might presume) that Cylons are bio-mechanical warriors designed to emulate human behavior, the Robot Clone's reaction is realistic enough to raise some serious doubts, in the minds of both the characters and the audience. The T-1000 machines from the Terminator movies might be the definitive Robot Clones; It is explicitly stated that they do not feel, yet they appear very human most of the time.
  • The God-like Alien: These otherworldly beings seem to demonstrate the axiom that "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." They are usually depicted as invincible and all-powerful, more than capable of dominating or destroying the rest of the characters. They may be able to alter reality in ways that seem implausible or ineffable. God-like Aliens are sometimes used as an allegory for human intervention, or as a convenient source of Deus Ex Machina. In the "Space Opera" sub-genre of Science Fiction, they can fulfill the role an actual God would play in a Fantasy story. Usually, God-Like Aliens are operating on a level so far above the other characters that their technology can not be comprehended, and they are far too powerful for the other characters to kill, threaten, or even communicate with as equals. Sometimes, an Alien may at first appear to be God-like, but become more apparently mortal as more information becomes known. In such cases, if the Plot demands it, a character belonging to a weaker or less advanced race might discover a way to defeat the God-like Alien. Other times, the other characters might negotiate with the God-like Alien and convince it to help them, or at least to leave peacefully. Examples of the God-Like Alien archetype include Q from Star Trek, The Master Control Program in Disney's Tron, the Kurii from John Norman's Gor books, and the Ancients and the Ori from Stargate SG-1
  • The Wedge: named after Star Wars character Wedge Antilles. A background character who, unlike others, survives on skill instead of luck or because the plot requires it as is often the case with the major characters. Other than this, they usually get little or no character development or backstory. Lieutenant Leslie is an example of a Wedge in Star Trek.

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