Does not compute: The 10 most annoying kid + robot team-ups

Robots are awesome. Yet pair them up with a kid and you create something brain-meltingly irritating. We've picked 10 of the most annoying bowl-headed moppets and their frustrating robot chums

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films | TV | Movies | Television | Technology
Richard Trenholm
9 min read

You're making a movie, or a TV show. You've got the awesome concept, you've got the heroic lead and a staunch band of loyal allies. You've got your evil villain, your cool technology, your amazing gadgets. But there's something missing. The final detail that will really seal the deal on your killer concept. What can it be?

You need a kid. And a robot.

When film and television wonks are putting together a project, audience identification is high on their minds -- or at least whatever it is they're using instead of minds. If kids are going to watch a film or a TV show, the logic goes that they need to see a kid up on screen to 'identify with'. Apparently children struggle to identify with badass grownups screaming around in unutterably radical sports cars that turn into helicopters, whupping supervillain ass and taking hot chick names. No. They need kids with bowl haircuts that fall down holes.

If there's anything more annoying than kids with bowl haircuts that fall down holes, it's capering comedy-relief robots. Instead of indestructible, super-intelligent doomdroids, we get scampering, cowardly automata. What's that about?

Click through the links to meet the ten lamest kids to ever disgrace their badass mums and dads, and their ten robot sidekicks that make Asimo look like Arnie. They'll stow away on suicide missions, wander off at inadvisable moments, and generally annoy the shazbat out of you. Who knows, they may even save the day. Make it to the end without your brain exploding, and we'll reward you with the one glorious exception.

Boxey and Muffett the daggett (Battlestar Galactica)

The original Battlestar Galactica was often denigrated as a Star Wars clone, its rebel good guys, armoured bad guys and feathered haircuts appearing hard on the heels of George Lucas' meisterwork. But really, it's just another take on Star Trek's original concept: Wagon Train to the stars. The transposition of the Western frontier myth into space sees colonists wandering the cosmos, searching for a home. And pioneers mean families, and families means one thing: annoying kids learning life lessons.

Boxey, played by Noah Hathaway, learned the lesson that life is tough when his 'daggett' -- that's Galactica-speak for dog -- Muffett was killed by the dastardly Cylons. Fortunately, he was lucky enough to have father-figure Commander Apollo around, who talked Doctor Wilker into building a robot dog: Muffett II. Of all the fictional tech we want, a robot dog is way down the list.

Boxey and Muffett proceed to run the full gamut of annoyance: the kid has a bowl haircut, the dog runs off at inappropriate moments, the kid runs after the dog, they need rescuing... and that's just the first episode, 'Saga of a Star World'.

Adric and K-9 (Doctor Who)

If you think Catherine Tate's annoying, you clearly don't know Adric. Bowl haircut? Check. Gauche alien mannerisms? Check. Maths genius? Check. Adric, played by Matthew Waterhouse, was picked up by the Doctor in the alternative universe E-Space.

For some of his time on the show, Adric shared the TARDIS with K-9. K-9 was a robot dog, and no matter what your misty-eyed dad says, he was rubbish. If you're going to make a robot dog, at least make one that can get around. Muffett could get around -- that's how he ran off all the time.

Admittedly, it was quite sad when Adric got blown up. He was attempting to crack the logic puzzle codes that had locked a spaceship on collision course with prehistoric Earth, but when a curmudgeonly Cyberman stopped him, his last words were, "Now I'll never know if I was right." Smug git -- the dinosaurs probably weren't too chuffed either.

Scott Trakker and T-Bob (MASK)

MASK was a 1980s cartoon and toy line involving a band of crimefighters called Mobile Armoured Strike, er, Kommand, who all wore masks, each of which did something unique, such as shooting sound waves or allowing you to pass through solid objects. Cool enough for you? How about having characters called Hondo MacLean, Ace Riker and Boris 'The Czar' Bushkin, beating up guys called Sly Rax, Cliff Dagger and Lester 'The Lizard' Sludge? Still not awesome enough? Okay, how about having all the characters race around in motorbikes, monster trucks and race cars that turn into tanks?

Inexplicably, having stuffed the show with not one, not two, but three awesome high-concept hooks, the Hasbro toy team that developed MASK apparently ran out of juice. How else to explain the release of stand-alone weapon-platform toys that transformed into... a packing crate and a billboard? Righteous.

But that's nothing compared to the creativity fail that accompanied the introduction of Scott, the son of MASK leader Matt Trakker. What kind of vehicle would he have? Some kind of cool bike with hidden rockets, we'd expect. Actually, it was a scooter. Except it wasn't a scooter, it was a cowardly dustbin on wheels called T-Bob. That stands for Thingamabob, apparently. The intervening years haven't made this -- or the hateful duo's real-life safety tips at the end of every episode -- any less mystifying.

Telemachus and Nono (Ulysses 31)

Before anybody really knew what manga was, British kids' TV imported a number of manga-tinged foreign cartoons such as Battle of the Planets/G-Force and Thunderbirds 2086. But the holy trinity of dubbed after-school animation, complete with once-heard never-forgotten theme songs, was Willy Fog, Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31.

We wanted to be in Ulysses 31 so badly. Ulysses was a spacefaring warrior with a jetpack and a lightsaber that had a laser gun built into it. He's so badass that even looking like Barry Gibb can't dent his awesomeness. The commander of one of the coolest spaceships ever, the Odyssey, he is condemned to wander space after rescuing his son, Telemachus, from the evil Cyclops. Frankly, we wish he hadn't bothered with the irritating moppet.

Telemachus not only has the blond bowl haircut, he has a daft headband, and hangs out with a cowardly robot called Nono. Honestly, cowardly robots? Who the frell builds a cowardly robot? Nono is clearly intended as comic relief, which he achieves by -- you'll love this, it's hilarious -- eating nuts and bolts. We were 5-years-old and we still hated him.

Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform (DARYL)

The military -- those crazy dudes are always spending taxpayers' money on newer and more exciting ways to kill people, as if we haven't been managing it perfectly well for thousands of years. In the 1980s, the big wheeze was apparently gun-totin' robots -- although it seemed that some of the R&D budget should have been spent on better fencing, because those pesky machines were always legging it.

Irritating wiseacre Johnny 5 was designed to carry nuclear bombs behind enemy lines, which even we knew was stupid, and we couldn't get food into our own mouths. Even worse was the Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform. A programme to create the perfect soldier might have set out to develop a giant, invincible metal killdozer with miniguns for eyes and a flamethrower in each nipple, but probably not a pasty little kid.

DARYL, played by Barett Oliver, earns double irritation points by being both a robot and an annoying kid. No wonder they wanted to destroy him.

Will Robinson and Model B-9 Environmental Control Robot (Lost In Space)

The Robinsons were another pioneer family, and we know what that means: annoying kids by the spaceship-load. As if Penny Robinson and her chimp-in-a-hat alien pet Bloop weren't annoying enough, young Will Robinson was always getting into scrapes. As the show shifted from sci-fi to silliness, Will, played by Bill Mumy, and villain-turned-comic relief Doctor Smith, played by Jonathan Harris, dominated the show.

Will's best friend was the Model B-9 Environmental Control Robot, which uttered the famous line, "Danger! Will Robinson". In both the 1960s TV show and the 1998 film version Will is a child prodigy, and in the movie invents time travel. Oh right, thanks for sorting that one out.

Max and Jinx (SpaceCamp)

As wish-fulfilment nonsense goes, SpaceCamp scores pretty high on the tosh-o-meter. With NASA's co-operation making this 1986 movie one of the most realistic depictions of the space programme, the producers decided they needed to throw in some annoying kids -- and lots of them.

Somehow it was decided that space travel -- frakkin' space travel! -- wasn't exciting enough, and what was needed was, you guessed it, a child genius and a robot that could talk. Max the smart kid was played by Joaquin Phoenix, while the robot was given the name Jinx -- which is asking for trouble, frankly. When Max wishes he was in space, Jinx rigs a shuttle test firing so the kids would be launched into space, and all sorts of exciting hi-jinks ensued. Well, we assume so, we'd zoned out, thinking about our favourite off switches.

Wesley Crusher and Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Oh good, another child genius. Wesley Crusher, played by Wil Wheaton, was annoying enough when he was wandering around, looking puzzled and bothering whichever alien was that week's guest star. But pair him up with Brent Spiner's pasty-faced android Data and the annoyance level is going through the roof as the pubescent know-it-all and the straight-faced metal man attempt to puzzle out what it would be like if they only 'ad an 'eart.

Sorry, but that just does not compute. Data is a super-strong, lightning-fast, uber-intelligent and near-indestructible badass, yet everybody laughs at him because he can't tell a joke. Meanwhile Wesley is a genius at, like, everything. So stop whining, the pair of you.

David and Gigolo Joe (AI: Artificial Intelligence)

Ah, Haley Joel Osment. There was a period a few years ago that we wondered if a clone army of HJOs was attempting to take over the world -- or at least the Croydon Odeon -- so ubiquitous was his soulful puppy-dog gaze and quivering lower lip. In Steven Spielberg's AI he is the absolute nadir of annoyance: he's an annoying kid and he's an annoying robot.

Astonishingly, there's worse to come, as just when we're trying to unclench our brain Jude Law turns up -- as an annoying dancing robot -- at which point our only option was to begin repeatedly punching ourselves in the face.

Anakin Skywalker and C-3PO (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

Let's get one thing straight: Darth Vader, intergalactic cyborg ninja overlord, never said "Yippee!" or "Wizard!" And at no point did anyone ever, ever, call him 'Annie'.

Look up the expression 'lost the plot' in the dictionary, and there's a picture of George Lucas conceiving the Star Wars prequels. Admittedly, he's sat on a pile of money the size of Finland as he does so, but surely he hasn't lost touch with reality so much that he thought it would be kinda cool if Darth Vader had a bowl haircut... oh, wait, he has.

But hey, everyone was a kid once, even the planet-killing, black-clad top boy of the dark side. What really annoyed us about the prequels -- even more than Jar Jar -- was Lucas' insistence on shoehorning every conceivable character in there, even though their presence makes absolutely no sense at all. In A New Hope, Alec Guiness' Obi-Wan Kenobi mutters "I don't remember ever owning a droid..." Apart from the one that your former pupil, the Nazi samurai cyborg whose jackboots oppress the entire galaxy, once built? The one that outstayed its welcome thirty years after the whole gay butler thing stopped being funny? Ohhh, that droid.

So annoying is this logic-defying moppett/muppet combo, we would drop to our knees and scream "Nnnnnnoooooo!" but that's the sort of horrifically hackneyed cliche only a complete moron, utterly bereft of creativity, might use. Hang on...

So are all crime-fighting/spacefaring kids annoying? Only when they're a genius and there's a robot involved, clearly. Inspector Gadget is technically a cyborg, not a robot, which may explain why Penny is so great at solving crimes, all the while stirring new and unfamiliar longings in our pre-adolescent loins. But here's the true, undisputed daddy of kids with robot sidekicks, the exception that proves the rule by stealing the rule's money and having his pet cyborg killing machine shoot the rule in its rule knees.

Honourable mention: John Connor and T-800 (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

It is, of course, the one, the only, John Connor from Terminator 2. And yes, we say the one and only because the other incarnation of JC -- check the messianic initials -- is a prat. In Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, he gets chased around by a cybernetic killing machine called Cromartie, for shazbat's sake.

But Edward Furlong, in T2 alongside Arnie's T-800, he's the business. His hair is rather floppy, sure, but he also swears a lot, and steals stuff, and says things like, "Easy money!" while swearing and stealing stuff. So when he does have a bit of a cry, it's okay. We're all crying too. Now that's identification.