Tx. 29th December 1966
A single clip ( b/w 16TR ) and one extended
audio extract exist from this production.
Story Context: Within the home of insecure
Claire Belmont (Wendy Craig), a field experiment to test the suitability
of a new range of ‘domestic’ robots is about to be conducted. Claire’s
husband Larry ( Barry Warren) ) is the executive charged with the task of
introducing her to the new robot, known simply as TN-3 or ‘Tony’ (Hal
A section lasting approximately two and a
half minutes exists from Scene 4 of the play, in which a bemused Claire is
introduced to Tony for the first time and is initially skeptical of its
The clip derives from an edition of the
BBC-1 science documentary series Towards Tomorrow entitled Robot
(TX. 28/12/67. Prod/Dir: Ramsay Short). This edition contained a large
amount of interview material featuring Isaac Asimov, in which he related
his thoughts on current trends in the field of Robotics. The
Satisfaction Guaranteed clip was used in an early segment of the
programme, and appears in order to illustrate Asimov’s reflections on the
various reasons for creating robots in the shape and form of humans.
The clip begins as Claire, Larry Belmont
and Tony, along with company ‘robo-psychologist’ Dr Jensen, gather
together in the living room of the Belmont’s home. Asimov’s voice (a
continuation of the interview footage which precedes the clip) obscures
the first thirteen seconds of the extract’s soundtrack, losing a few
pieces of dialogue. The latter comprises Larry telling his wife that his
work requires him to go to America for three weeks, and that he loathes
leaving her on her own for so long. Also obscured is Dr Jensen’s ambiguous
response: “Mrs Belmont won’t be quite on her own”.
The play’s own soundtrack then cuts in,
with Larry turning to Claire and saying: “Claire, while we’re away, we’d
like you to take charge of TN-3”. Since Clare looks at him blankly, Jensen
goes on to explain: “TN-3 is a robot”.
Claire protests against the idea, and Larry
attempts to calm her by pointing out that TN-3 is fully programmed – she
“won’t even have to press a button”. When Claire suggests leaving the
robot somewhere else, Larry explains that their little field-test “isn’t
quite legal”, since domestic robots aren’t as yet permitted by law. As a
result, nobody must know about ‘Tony’. Again Claire looks at him blankly,
to which Larry responds by adding: “I mean that he’s a robot”.
Claire is incredulous at this, and refuses
to believe that the ‘person’ sat opposite her, apparently listening
politely, is anything less than human. On Larry suggestion, Claire then
gingerly feels for Tony’s (non-existent) pulse. Dr Jensen then suggests
that if Claire is still not convinced, she can demonstrate how Tony’s eyes
are removable. Her demonstration of this is cut short by Claire’s
At this point in the clip, a short piece of
narration (by John Stocksbridge) is overlaid on the play’s soundtrack as
follows: ‘In his recently dramatised novel Satisfaction Guaranteed,
Isaac Asimov reveals the standard of engineering he expects to see’. This
obscures Jensen’s dialogue as she talks about the perfect proportions of
the robot’s body, the unblemished skin and the miracle of detail that has
gone into it’s construction.
After the brief piece of narration, the
original soundtrack returns with Jensen going on to explain how the “real
miracle” exists inside Tony’s skull – an artificial brain, nearly as
complicated as a human’s, which works like an “immense telephone
switchboard” receiving and acting on billions of possible connections.
Claire is completely dumbfounded by all
this, saying weakly that “it’s very interesting”. Larry asks her whether
she’s now agreeable to the proposition, to which she can only respond
with: “I don’t know – couldn’t we talk about it in another room?"
The others laugh at her naiveté.
NB. The above clip was later re-used in the
early nineties for a feature on robotics in the BBC2 arts programme The
Late Show. On this occasion however, the clip was both heavily edited
and finished at the point where Clare begins to feel Tony’s non-existent
‘pulse’ (running in at approximately 1'00").
The existing audio material consists of a
section (lasting just over two minutes) from scenes 12 and 13.
This begins at the point where Claire walks
into her kitchen at night, and discovers Tony ‘reading’ in the dark
(courtesy of its ‘ultra-violet’ vision). Claire is confused at the manner
in which Tony seems to be hurriedly flicking over the pages of the
magazine it is reading, and accuses it of not being able to read. Tony
politely corrects her by saying that it is scanning the pages and that
it’s memory is photographic. When Claire queries why the robot is looking
at “women’s magazines”, Tony states that one of it’s duties is to
assimilate all available information, of whatever nature, and that this
helps to increase it’s usefulness to Claire.
Changing the subject, Claire mentions that
she thought she had heard a kettle boiling. Tony offers her tea, and when
Claire refuses, Tony automatically begins suggesting a range of
alternatives despite Claire’s insistence that she does not want anything.
She accuses the robot of “impertinence” and storms out of the kitchen.
There is a short break in the clip at this
point, within which Claire notices that Tony has followed her into the
living-room. This loses two pieces of dialogue, comprising Claire’s
request that Tony returns to the kitchen and the robot’s monotone refusal:
“No, Mrs Belmont”.
The extract then picks the action up at
Claire’s startled reaction to the robot’s refusal to obey a human order.
She demands that the robot keeps it’s distance from her, and runs around
the living-room table in order to put something between herself and the
robot. Tony calmly tries to assuage her fears by saying it is true that it
is obliged to obey. However, the robot continues, there is also the
question of priority. It reasons that if it were to return to the kitchen,
then Mrs Belmont would continue to remain frightened of its presence in
When Claire blusters: “Frightened? Who says
I’m frightened?”, Tony replies that her voice and manner betray her
A second break in the clip at this point,
losing Tony’s response to Claire’s nervousness. Here he states that her
fear is based on the fact that it so closely resembles a human being, and
that a part of her mind cannot completely accept Tony as a machine.
Instead, she looks on the robot as a stranger in her house.
The extract resumes again with Claire’s
nervous reply: “So you are!”. Tony states that it is a mere appliance like
her vacuum cleaner and washing machine, and that until she realises this,
the experiment is a failure. It insists that Claire must believe that what
it says and does is only for her own good.
A third short break here, losing Claire’s
nervous statement that she has noticed how the quality of Tony’s voice has
changed, and yet the robot’s facial expression has remained unaltered.
The extract resumes as Tony explains how
it’s voice alters in accordance with what it is saying., Facial
expression, however, is dictated mood and instinct and Tony is capable of
neither. Having said this, Tony offers to ‘smile’ if it makes Claire feel
more relaxed. The ensuing ‘smile’ is unnerving however, since only the
curvature of the mouth is altered. Claire shudders and says: “Never