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Telepods
Plot element from The Fly film series
First appearance The Fly (1986)
Genre Science fiction
In-story information
Type Teleportation devices
Function Teleportation of individuals

Telepods are fictional teleportation devices featured in the 1986 film The Fly and its 1989 sequel, The Fly II. The teleportation system in the original 1958 version of The Fly was referred to as a "Distintegrator-Integrator", and resembled two high-tech telephone booths. The Telepods from the 1986 remake (and its sequel) are different from the teleporter in the original movie in several ways, both in function as well as design.

HistoryEdit

The FlyEdit

The Telepods were the invention of molecular physicist Seth Brundle, and at one point he stated that they would probably prove to be his life's work. Brundle's initial motivation for creating a teleporter was to avoid traveling in vehicles, since he suffered from motion sickness. The project was funded by Bartok Science Industries, and took six years to complete. Brundle secretly subcontracted elements of the Telepod design and components to other scientists, none of whom were aware of the true nature of the project. He then assembled the components himself, and, despite his own scientific brilliance, he modestly referred to himself as nothing more than "a systems management man", since he was not entirely aware how certain components worked.

Brundle constructed one prototype Telepod (presumably used to both disintegrate and reintegrate test objects), and then had two refined models ("Telepod 1"--sending pod, and "Telepod 2"--receiving pod) built after the first version proved successful. All three Telepods were housed inside Brundle's makeshift laboratory/living quarters, which was located on the top floor of an old warehouse.

In 1986, Brundle was attending a meet-the-press party sponsored by Bartok when he met science journalist Veronica Quaife of Particle Magazine. Convincing Veronica to come to his lab, Brundle showed her the Telepods, and teleported one of her stockings as a demonstration. Brundle asked Veronica to keep quiet about the project until the proper time, and offered her the chance to chronicle his work, with the goal being a book that would end with Brundle using himself as the system's first human subject.

Despite Brundle's apparent success at creating a functional teleportation system, there was still a major problem that had yet to be overcome: the Telepods could only successfully recreate non-living matter. This was gruesomely displayed when Brundle used a baboon as a test subject, and the animal was reintegrated in the receiving pod inside-out. Depressed by this failure, Brundle realized that the reason organic matter could not be successfully teleported was because the Telepods' main computer did not understand the nature of living flesh, and was rethinking living tissue instead of reproducing it. After beginning a sexual relationship with Veronica, Brundle determined that the computer needed to be programmed for creativity when reintegrating living beings.

Brundle's epiphany was proven correct when a second baboon was teleported successfully. However, that same night, he came to the mistaken conclusion that Veronica was still seeing her editor and former lover, Stathis Borans. The drunken and jealous Brundle thus decided to teleport himself without Veronica being present as an act of revenge. Just before Telepod 1's door automatically closed, however, a common housefly slipped into the pod, unseen by the distracted scientist. The computer, confused by the presence of two distinctly separate life-forms in the sending pod, decided to fuse Brundle and the fly together at the molecular-genetic level. The resulting being that stepped out Telepod 2 had the body of Seth Brundle, but contained the new Brundle/fly hybrid DNA within his cells.

Many viewers have questioned why Brundle was merged with the fly, but not with the various bacteria and other such life-forms inside the Telepod--and his own body. One can assume the Telepods were programmed to compensate for such micro-organisms (a notion that is reinforced by Brundle's initial assumption that he absorbed the fly rather than merged with it), but not for a separate life-form of such relatively significant mass as the fly.

At first energized by this unexpected genetic fusion, a manic Brundle mistakenly theorized that the teleportation process itself had somehow purfied and improved his physiology. Seeing teleportation as "a perfectly pure and benign drug", he teleported himself a second time. Soon after, however, Brundle came to realize that something had gone wrong during his first teleportation, and an examination of his computer's records revealed to him the horrific truth about his fusion with the fly. Over the next few weeks, Brundle slowly and painfully mutated into a deformed, asymmetrical creature that he eventually named "Brundlefly".

Desperate to find some kind of cure for his rapidly deteriorating condition, the diseased scientist turned to the Telepods for salvation. He reconditioned the old prototype Telepod (now dubbed "Telepod 3"), and, considering how to minimize the severity of his gradual mutation, he installed a "fusion" program into the computer as way of finding a solution. Eventually, the computer suggested to him that the best way to make himself more human would be to genetically merge with one or more pure human beings.

In a scene deleted from The Fly, the desperate Brundle used the three Telepods to fuse the surviving baboon and an alley cat together into one entity. However, the resulting "monkey-cat" creature was horribly deformed and in terrible agony, and so Brundle put it out of its misery by beating it to death with a metal pipe. This experiement was clearly a failure, since Brundle's fusion program was designed to merge living beings together at the genetic level--just as Brundle and the fly were--, but the baboon and cat were instead physically merged together into one entity. As a result, Brundle resolved to refine the fusion program.

Soon after, Brundle kidnapped Veronica and took her back to his warehouse after learning that she was pregnant with their possibly child and was seeking an abortion, believing the unborn child could be the last, potentially untainted remnaint of his humanity. Stathis came to her rescue, armed with a shotgun, but Brundle mutilated him with his now-acidic vomit-drop, only sparing his life on Veronica's pleas not to kill him.

Brundle then revealed his last-ditch plan to Veronica: he intended to use the Telepods (with Telepods 1 and 2 serving as sending pods, and the prototype as the receiver) to fuse himself with Veronica and their unborn child. He believed that this would make them the "ultimate family", an entity "more human than I am alone." As Brundle activated a countdown to the fusion sequence, Veronica resisted, and pulls off Brundle's jaw in the ensuing struggle, tiggering his final transformation, Brundle's diseased and rotting outer skin was shed as he made his final transformation into "Brundlefly", the monsterous fusion of man and insect that had been growing beneath.

The Brundlefly creature then threw Veronica into Telepod 1 and stepped inside Telepod 2. However, the wounded Borans managed to stay conscious, and used his shotgun to sever the cables connecting to Telepod 1 to the computer, which allowed Veronica to escape unharmed. Seeing this, Brundlefly attempted to break out of Telepod 2 just as the fusion sequence occurred, and as a result was molecularly intertwined with chunks of metal and other components from the Telepod itself. As the mortally wounded Brundlefly-Telepod 2 fusion creature crawled out of the prototype Telepod, it begged Veronica to end its suffering with Borans' shotgun by placing the barrel against its own head. A devastated Veronica hesitated, then mercifully pulled the trigger.[1]

The Fly IIEdit

After Brundle's death, the Telepods became the property of Bartok Industries, headed by Anton Bartok, who had financed Brundle's experiments. Along with the Telepods, Bartok also inherited Seth's orphaned son, whom he named Martin Brundle (Veronica Quaife died in childbirth). Young Martin proved to possess human/fly hybrid genes like his late father, since he'd been conceived shortly after Seth Brundle's fateful teleportation. Although Telepod 2 had been effectively destroyed when a portion of it was fused with Brundlefly, Telepods 1 and 3 (the prototype) were salvaged, and placed in Bay 17, a high-security section of the Bartok Industries complex. For the next five years, Bartok and his scientists were unable to make the Telepods work correctly, resulting in several failed teleportation experiments, including a golden retriever which became horribly deformed after being sent through the malfunctioning devices.

When Martin Brundle had matured into a young man who physically appeared to be in his twenties (in only five years' time, as a result of accelerated aging caused by his mutated genes), Bartok offered him the chance to finish his father's work by correcting the flaw in the Telepods. Martin quickly applied his genius-level intellect to the situation, and the Telepods were able to successfully teleport living matter once again, Martin using a kitten as his first test subject.

Soon after, Martin used the Telepods' scanners to provide an analysis of his own body, and attempted to find a cure for his accelerated aging. To this end, he devised a "gene-swapping" program which would substitute his own mutated DNA for healthy DNA from a donor subject, but he quickly rejected this potential cure, since the gene-swapping process would horribly mutate the donor. However, Anton Bartok was secretly planning to use the Telepods' obvious talent for DNA manipulation and mutation in order to "control the form and function of all life on Earth", and had earned Martin's trust for the sole purpose of exploiting the boy for personal gain once his mutation had completed. When Martin learned of Bartok's deception and his plans for the Telepods, he escaped from the Bartok complex and went on the run with his lover, Beth Logan, but was eventually recaptured by Bartok. However, Martin had booby-trapped the computer prior to his departure, and only he knew the correct password which would enable the Telepods to work. Any incorrect password entered would trigger the complete erasure of the computer's programming.

When Martin's mutant genes fully awakened from their dormant state, he quickly transformed into a bizarre fusion of man and insect, one far more biologically viable and powerful than the sickly creature his father had become (most likely due to the fact that his mutation was completely natural while his father's was a complete accident). The fully-transformed "Martinfly" creature went on a rampage within the Bartok facility, and eventually found the duplicitious Bartok in Bay 17. Forcing Bartok inside Telepod 1 with him, Martinfly entered the correct password ("DAD") into the computer, and used the gene-swapping program to transfer his corrupted genes into Bartok. Martin emerged from the receiving pod as a completely healthy human being (and free of accelerated aging), while Bartok had mutated into a monstrously deformed hybrid of himself and the Martinfly creature, an abomination which was forever doomed to a pathetic existence in one of his own company's specimen pits.[2]

Functions and SpecificationsEdit

THE FLY

The Telepods were originally designed to act as matter teleporters. An object would be placed inside one Telepod, its molecular data scanned and recorded by the main computer, and then disintegrated. The computer then immediately used the recorded pattern to perfectly recreate the object from a raw stock of new molecules (which Seth Brundle referred to as "the plasma pool"). Of course, this process raises ethical and philosophical considerations regarding whether or not one is essentially committing suicide and being replaced by a perfect duplicate when being teleported, but the film only hints at such questions without stating them outright. In the original 1958 version of The Fly, the teleporter worked by disassembling an object, transmitting it like a television signal, and then reassmembling it, as opposed to destroying and recreating it as the Telepods in the 1986 remake did. Brundle's Telepods are disintegrator-duplicators instead of disintegrator-integrators.[3]

Each Telepod was capable of both disintegration and reintegration. It can be inferred that Brundle disposed of the inside-out baboon's remains by disintegrating them without reintegrating them in another Telepod.

As originally set up, the three Telepods were housed in Seth Brundle's warehouse laboratory (approximately 15 feet apart from each other), and were connected to the computer, each other, and the lab's power supply by means of a cluster of cables running along the floor. The basic design of each Telepod was essentially the same, although there were some subtle differences between Telepod 1 and Telepod 2, while the prototype Telepod was visibly less refined than the newer models.

The Telepods were originally controlled by a freestanding, wheeled user console which was linked to a large computer bank (among other equipment) located in a nearby corner of the laboratory. The computer terminal stored data on laserdiscs, and could be controlled with a keyboard, or by voice commands given by Seth Brundle (whose voice the computer was programmed to recognize via voice-stress analyzer). The computer provided information (and answered questions posed to it) by displaying text and/or graphics on its monitor screen. Each Telepod featured a central door and hatchway, and the refined models also included small, round viewing ports on their sides. The pod doors could be opened manually or by computer-control, and the doors on the two refined models featured transparent windows, while the original prototype pod had an opaque metal piece in place of a window.

Each Telepod door included a small black control panel that served as both a locking mechanism and a means of opening/closing the door. These control panels each featured two red buttons and a small metal disc with a black marking on it. When the door was closed and the lock engaged, the metal disc would spin so that the black marking faced the upper red button, and the button would then illuminate. When the lower red button was pushed, the disc would spin 180 degrees (so that the black marking would face the lower red button), the button would illuminate, and the unlocked door would open. The interiors of the Telepods did not contain any door opening/closing mechanisms, so as to prevent the doors from being opened accidentally during a teleportation sequence (a design feature which nearly proved deadly for Veronica Quaife when she was trapped inside Telepod 1 and about to be merged with the Brundlefly creature). The danger of having a Telepod door open during teleportation was made clear when Brundlefly smashed out of Telepod 2 moments before being teleported. As a result, the destructive energy effect spilled out of the open Telepod, and actually disintegrated a portion of the pod itself in addition to Brundlefly.

During a standard teleportation sequence, the following would occur:

  • The sequence is activated, with an automated countdown (the duration of which would be determined by the operator) ticking off the seconds until teleportation.
  • Shortly before the countdown ends, the Telepods audibly power up, and scanners chart the atomic structure of the subject being teleported. The data is encoded and stored in the computer's memory.
  • The subject is disintegrated by a powerful energy "zap", and the encoded molecular data is transmitted to the receiving Telepod, which decodes the data and then recreates the subject with an audible "boom" and an accompanying flash of light. A great deal of mist is generated during the reintegration process, and is evacuated from the Telepod when the door is opened.

After being reprogrammed with the creativity which would enable it to successfully teleport living flesh, the computer displayed increasingly independent decisions (and even recommendations), including:

  • The decision to genetically fuse Seth Brundle and a common housefly when faced with the problem of two life-forms inhabiting the same sending Telepod.
  • Suggesting to Brundle that the best way to minimize the percentage of fly genes in his body would be to genetically merge with one or more pure human beings.
  • Fusing the "Brundlefly" creature with a segment of Telepod 2 during a malfunction that caused Telepod 2 to partially disintegrate itself.

After Brundle began mutating into a human-insect hybrid creature, he installed a fusion program in the computer (in addition to its original teleportation programming). This new program was specifically designed to merge living organisms together, and was a part of Brundle's desperate attempt to find a cure for his deteriorating condition. The Telepods were thus repurposed for a use that was originally unintended and unplanned for by their creator: fusion (and/or gene-splicing), as opposed to just teleporting objects.

THE FLY II

Later, when Bartok Industries took possession of the Telepods, they were moved to a secure research facility. The power/computer cables linking the pods together (and to the computer) were routed into the floor of the raised platform that the pods were displayed upon. The computer console was also replaced, and the user interface's text/graphics redesigned. Eventually, Martin Brundle eliminated the automated countdown that led up to a teleportation sequence, and from then on a given sequence was triggered by manually activating the process with the "Enter" button on the computer's keyboard.

During his attempt to find a cure to his accelerated aging problem, Martin installed a "gene-swapping" program in the computer. This program was eventually used successfully to restore Martin to human form, while leaving Anton Bartok as a deformed freak cursed with Martin's mutant fly genes.

The sound effects for the Telepod doors opening/closing, the doors' control panels/locking mechanisms, and the actual teleportations themselves changed significantly between the first film and the sequel. While this certainly represents a deliberate stylistic departure undertaken by the filmmakers, it could also be interpreted that these aural changes were the result of Bartok's scientists studying and modifying the Telepods.

Also, in an early treatment for The Fly II--and in the completed film--the Telepods were shown to be malfunctioning, despite still working correctly at the end of the first movie (aside from the destruction of Telepod 2, and Telepod 1's link to the computer being severed). In the early story treatment for the sequel, it was revealed that the Telepods were not working correctly because Stathis Borans had taken the computer's information storage discs (which contained the Telepods' programming) before Bartok took possession of the pods. However, this detail was dropped from the final film, and it is left unclear as to why the Telepods suddenly aren't working at the beginning of The Fly II.

Behind-the-ScenesEdit

  • Writer-director David Cronenberg initially commissioned The Fly's art department to design a teleportation system that looked like "high-tech Italian phone booths" (similar to the 1958 version of the film). However, when the resulting designs didn't meet approval, Cronenberg showed the artists his vintage Ducati motorcycle. Noticing the unique design of the motorcycle's cylinder, production designer Carol Spier based the final look of the Telepods on the cylinder as it appeared when turned upside-down, and added doors (among other components) to the existing design.[4]
  • In early drafts of the script, the devices were referred to simply as "booths", until Cronenberg devised the name "Telepod".
  • Early tests for the teleportation effect included the use of an argon laser system which would project shafts of light inside the Telepods. This approach was scrapped in favor of using extremely bright flashbulbs to "burn out" the image of a person or an object inside a Telepod, an effect enchanced with animation in post-production. A motion-control camera was used to film two versions of each teleportation shot: one with an object/person inside the pod, and one with the pod empty. The shots were then optically dissolved together.[5]
  • The computer display screens in the first movie were created with animation, and transferred to videotape for on-set playback. For most closeups of the screen that are seen in the film, the animation was cut directly into the movie (as opposed to photographing the images off of the actual computer/video monitor used on-set). The computer display screens used in the sequel were photographed on-set, using a real video monitor.
  • The Telepod props were reconstructed for The Fly II, and the new versions were designed to be simpler and easier to work with during filming. The new pods built for the sequel also featured a number of notable differences in detail and color when compared to their predecessors.

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Fly, Brooksfilms/20th Century Fox
  2. The Fly II, Brooksfilms/20th Century Fox
  3. The Fly Papers, Tim Lucas, Cinefex Magazine, 1986
  4. The Fly Papers, Tim Lucas, Cinefex Magazine, 1986
  5. The Fly Papers, Tim Lucas, Cinefex Magazine, 1986
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