Lately, I’ve been binge watching the original Twilight Zone on Hulu. That will be the subject of another post, because I’ve learned much from it. But today I want to focus on one character: Robby the Robot.
Robby actually appears, in one form or another, in 4 Twilight Zone episodes. What a blast from the past. Robby has a special place in my heart.
He first was created in 1956 for the movie Forbidden Planet. I loved that movie as a child. It excited me to think that there could be other worlds and other ways of living. And Robby was this benevolent protector, which was something I was sorely lacking in my life. And he had a wry sense of humor, which is a quality that I have always appreciated.
As I’ve matured, my relationship with Forbidden Planet, first forged in midnight movies during summer vacations, has evolved. Now I realize it is a vehicle for the “born sexy yesterday” trope that I’ve blogged about before. Indeed, the promotional posters for the movie show a menacing looking Robbie carrying a scantily clad woman, something he never actually does in the film. Nevertheless, I keep coming back to see it, mainly because of Robby.
Robby was quite an investment for MGM. He apparently cost $125,000 to make, which is the equivalent of around 1.1 million today. But they certainly got their money’s worth out of him. I would venture to say that Robby is the busiest robot in Hollywood history.
This robot has popped up in unexpected places throughout my life. Not only does he make several appearances in the Twilight Zone, but he’s also starred in The Addams Family, Mork & Mindy, The Love Boat, Gremlins, Earth Girls Are Easy, The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, and has even been in commercials for Charmin and AT&T. He has dozens of other credits as well. That’s an impressive resume for any actor, but even more so for one made of plexiglas and rubber.
As with any typecast celebrity, Robby is often misunderstood. Just as William Shatner is remembered for saying “Beam me up, Scotty,” when he never actually said that on Star Trek, ever, people often think that Robby said, “Danger, Will Robinson!” in Lost in Space, when in fact, he never did. He did appear in Lost in Space twice (and as two different characters, believe it or not). But the “Danger, Will Robinson!” line belongs to another robot, the B-9 Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot, known as “Robot” for short. I’m sure that both robots will be relieved to know that I’ve set that record straight.
A sad footnote is that after Robby “retired”, he was housed in the now defunct Movie World / Cars of the Stars Museum in California, where he was often vandalized and allowed to fall into disrepair. That would have been an undignified end to such a stellar career! Fortunately, he was rescued by horror filmmaker William Malone, who restored him to his former glory. Robby resided in his Forbidden Planet collection, and Mr. Malone had coffee with him every morning for 37 years.
Robby was sold to an anonymous buyer at auction this past November, along with his equally iconic vehicle, for $5,375,000.00 which means that he can add “most valuable movie prop ever sold” to his credits.
I wish I knew where you were, Robby, but Godspeed! Thank you for being such a big part of my life!