Directors: James Sheldon and William Claxton
Writer: Ray Bradbury
Cast: Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Charles Herbert, Veronica Cartwright, Dana Dillaway, Susan Crane, Paul Nesbitt, and Judee Morton
Composer: Van Cleave
Air Date: 5/18/1962
Production Code: 4826
In need of a caregiver, widower George Rogers (David White) orders a robotic nanny from a cybernetics company. Despite winning the trust of Tom and Karen Rogers (Charles Herbert and Dana Dillaway), “Grandma Robot” (Josephine Hutchinson) struggles to gain acceptance from Anne (Veronica Cartwright)—the eldest of George’s three children.
“I Sing the Body Electric” is marred by sappy, unrealistic dialogue and a mixed message regarding the disposability of human beings. Additionally problematic is the personality of Grandma Robot, who, due to her infallible nature, never develops as a character.
Ray Bradbury’s narrative contains a number of poignant, if slightly forced, exchanges between the artificial nanny and her surrogate children. Especially worth noting are Grandma Robot’s interactions with Anne, who, while mourning the death of her true mother, takes a great deal of time to accept her new caretaker as a normal child undoubtedly would.
Feeling abandoned, Anne expresses hatred toward her late mother for “leaving” prematurely—a bizarre and selfish attitude from someone coping with the loss of a cherished relative. (Many real-life children, on the other hand, might instead blame God, the world, or even another family member for failing to prevent the inevitable.)
Also troubling is the fact that Grandma Robot records entire conversations without consent, allowing her to emotionally manipulate one of the children during a moment of tremendous grief.
“I Sing the Body Electric” operates on the premise that a manmade device could one day surpass the average person in terms of overall functionality—a disturbing implication here explored through a lens of unwarranted optimism. (In fairness, “The Lonely”—a classic episode from season one—maintains a similar perspective on humanoid robots, albeit without the excessive sentimentality embodied in this offering.)
This iconic episode should be commended for its heartwarming subject matter. Nevertheless, “I Sing the Body Electric” deserves criticism for its wooden performances, underdeveloped characters, and hackneyed depictions of human relationships.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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