Prog #9: Now Get Into Those Flames! (Robots)

Case File

Dredd has been assigned to protect the Robot of the Year show from a ransom demand. The attack takes place, and Dredd uses robot technology to track down the perp.

Ol’ Stoney Face

Maybe a little surprisingly, Dredd calls the destruction of George the Robot “a cruel exhibition”. He is very reflective of the position of robots in the Big Meg in these pages, wondering what this treatment will lead to. He states that he much prefers robots without feelings.

Dredd’s new-age sensitivity to robots is then ever-so-slightly undermined by his description of the ransomer as “Cripple in a Robochair”.

The Big Meg

Robots are now familiar and everyday parts of the world. The City holds the “Robot of the Year” show which demonstrates new models and advances. This year the big new thing is the K Series, which have to obey instructions like other robots but can think and feel as well – they can even cry. This is demonstrated by one of them being ordered to stand in a fire and melt himself. Just in case that doesn’t seem bad enough, he has a name: George.

The robots we see here all have subservient modes of behaviour and speech, and seem desperate to please their masters. Dredd ponders when advances in robot technology will lead to them becoming lawbreakers.

Mega-City One has an air purification system.

The Law

Judges are assigned to guard the Robot Show after receiving the ransom demand for 20 million credits.

Judges have access to respirators as part of their uniforms, and apparently have recently developed The New Police Bloodhound Robot! It Can Catch A Scent At 20 Miles! This bizarre creation looks like a large jet ski with eyes and a long, elephant-like nose with two nostrils. It can obtain a lawbreaker’s smell-scan from an object and track them down. A Judge can ride on its back.

Creeps

The ransomer doesn’t get a name. Or a motivation, beyond money. He has a Robochair which he can control by voice command, has a bullet-proof shield and reserves of deadly Myclon Gas.

Resyk

The body count gets a bit high this time. The ransomer takes out at least 3 Judges (we see him shoot down 2 of them, and Judge Diablo succumbs to the fumes.) If more were on guard at the show they may also have died. Dredd states that “hundreds” of citizens died from the gas.

The ransomer plunges to his death off a freeway after Dredd takes out the Robochair’s controlling robot.

George melts. Poor George.

Verdict

This is a pretty refreshing change from the first 7 issues in many ways. Even just something basic like the single extra page (5 rather than 4) gives the story a tad more breathing space and doesn’t feel as rushed.

The reflective nature of Dredd is good here. Dredd has mostly been presented as a stoic block of muscle and jaw so far, so his immediate reproaching of Diablo’s enjoyment of George’s melting is interesting. It’s a quick couple of lines, but tells us that Dredd is not some gun-happy thug who enjoys violence but does what he must to protect his city. He’s also smart enough to realise the treatment of the robots may have repercussions.

Again we have another non-descript villain, in fact this time he doesn’t even get a name. But to make up for this, we get the Bloodhound Robot! I admit, I am a sucker for ridiculous golden-age robotic creations. I don’t care how bizarre and silly it is (and that we likely will never see it again).

Dredd and the Judges’ complete failure is very quickly glossed over here, but it’s worth pointing out. Literally everyone at the Robot Show except Dredd and the Robots are killed, despite a warning that this could happen. Pretty bleak, but good for the series. Dredd just solving the case and winning every week would become boring very quickly.

We also get an unusual ending – no stupid pun (yay!) and a semi-cliffhanger. This bodes well.

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