The Barracks: Cybernetic, Bionic, and Bio-Augmented Soldiers
Space is often regarded as the final frontier, while some believe that Earth’s own oceans are a more realistic final frontier of exploration and understanding…however, there others that believe that our bodies are the true great scientific mystery to be solved and controlled. In science fiction, the human body is a symbol of the scientific and technological progress, and its control is via the familiar cybernetic enhancement and biological augmentation paths. In this article, we will be looking using these upgrades to the human body through a military lens to examine how future warfigthers could be made better, stronger, and faster through the use of technological and scientific advancements along with the genetic engineered soldiers and cyber/bionic warriors of science fiction.
What is an "Cybernetic"/"Bionic" Soldier?
The definition for cybernetics speaks more to the understanding of “communication and automatic control systems in both machines and living things”, but in the common understanding it is the replacement of biological limbs, organs, and systems with mechanical ones that attempt to work organically with the patient’s body. This is visually represented by soldiers with robotic arms, legs, eyes, and even nanobots floating around internally and is designed to increase the defensive and offensive abilities of soldiers in all military roles from snake eaters, to pilots, to clerks.
We often see cybernetic enhanced soldiers in popular media have greater strength, increased reflexes, and increased jumping height and distance. These machine-based enhancements are often very apparent and immediately communicate to anyone that these cyborg soldiers are separate from the rest of humanity. In some ways, cybernetics is more of the “hardware” upgrade to soldiers that has to integrate into the body with varying results…more on that below.
One of the often raised issues explored by sci-fi, especially in Ghost in the Shell, is that somehow being a cyborg means you are less human and more machine. If the modifications are outward, as popular media loves to show cyborgs, than this could impact the way normal humans see and treat these cyborgs. There is also the reality that would soldiers be willing to have their parts and pieces replaced by machinery? And this could be an irreversible change to their bodies, as we have seen with Section 9 agents from Ghost in the Shell? Something to consider when dealing with the realities of cybernetic enhancements for soldiers in a volunteer military organization.
Often used in conjunction in the term cybernetics or even in place of it is bionic. This term is a combination of biology and electronics, and it is defined as the application of biological standards to the study and design of engineered system gained traction in common usage due to The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman television shows and remains in common usage as we have seen in Mass Effect. Some have cited the difference between cybernetics and bionics is that cybernetics is when the brain/CNS has been modified in function and thought, while bionics is the replacement of limbs with mechanic devices.
What is an "Bio-Augmented" Soldier?
If cyborg soldiers are more “hardware” being mechanically enhanced, than bio-augmented soldiers are more of the “software”, being biologically enhanced. These are soldiers that have been modified and enhanced using an umbra of methods that do not seek to replace, but enhance and improve the body’s already in-place systems…most of the time. This can be accomplished via chemical therapy, genetic therapies, full-on genetic engineering, organic technology, and even complete DNA/gene reonstruction to create the “perfect soldier”. Depending on the level of biological enhancement and genetic engineering, these 2.0 humans could be considered “transhuman” and as isolated and separate from the rest of humanity as cyborg soldiers as seen with the highly modified green skinned infantry of the CDF from the Old Man’s War Universe and in the flash-fiction serial Customhere on FWS written by me.
The level of genetic and organic modification is something to consider. It could be simple, like allowing soldiers to be modified to see in the dark like cats, eliminated the need for NVGs. This could all the way up to genetic engineered supermen that are superior to humans, like the Clans from the Battletech universe or the Space Marine from 40K, or they could be modified to operate in normally hostile environments as I did with the Custom Soldiers of my flash-fiction serial. The price these custom soldiers paid in their war against the Nix was that they could never go back to Terra due to the extensive biological modifications. This is the risk and price paid by those bio-augmented soldiers.
Which is Superior? Cybernetics or Bio-Augmentation?
It is comes, the debate that has raged around RPG tables and sci-fi geek discussion boards: which is better a cyborg or a genetic engineered super-soldier? If we are to go with the Hollywood vision of these two enhanced soldiers, one of the issues with cybernetic modifications is that they are still attached to the flesh-and-blood body for complete incorporation. This means that while the cybernetic arm maybe able to lift hundreds of pounds, but the normal human anatomy cannot that the cybernetic limb is attached to, and they could lead to major trauma if the user of the cyborg arm attempts to lift a Volkswagen and toss it an enemy position. The cybernetic limb could be ripped off and that would be bad…very bad.
In actual practice if there will be Hollywood-like cybernetic replacement parts, they would likely used for injured soldiers, as we do today with artificial legs and arms. After all, why cut off a perfectly good arm or leg for a machine that will be have to be replaced in a few years with something better or requires a tune-up? In addition, any technology installed on soldiers could be a method of weakness and attack by enemy forces via other means. Could these machine parts and pieces allow for them to be hacked into in a form of personal cyberwarfare? Biological enhancements are also not as obvious to the naked eye and scanners as machines of cybernetic enhancements, allowing for bio-augmented soldiers to be used for low-profile, covert intelligence missions.
This could also allow for bio-augmented soldiers to be filtered back to regular society without the sigma of cybernetic parts. The last point against the case for cybernetic modification of soldiers is that like any machine, these cybernetic systems will need some sort of maintenance and/or energy supply, and upgrade. There would have to be biomechanical technical staff available to repair and maintain these cybernetic systems above the normal medical staff needed for combat operations. Just as with our smartphones, video game consoles, and computers, cybernetic enhancements will be improved and the current users of this technology will be forced, especially in the case of military units, to upgrade. This means more costs and a built-in weakness that could put troops in the field at a technological disadvantage over their enemy if they have the latest generation of cybernetic systems. These are some of the best reasons for bio-augmentation for military personnel enhancement being the best pathway over cybernetics.
However, any modification to a soldier’s body via either cybernetics or bio-augmentation is likely irreversible and will mark the soldier forever, even after service, as a soldier, which could lead to issues with societal reintegration.
While it may seem that now the argument favors bio-augmentation over cybernetics, it has its own set of issues. Any biological, psychological, chemical, or genetic alternation to the human body will come at a cost of lives in both the trial stages and the full roll out of the procedures, as we have seen with the causality figures for the SPARTAN-II program. Would people be willing to sign up for augmentation if they knew that they could statistically die on the table instead on the battlefield? Would the military/government lie to the soldiers about the safety of the procedure to ensure recruitment goals?
While cybernetic systems will have to be upgraded and there will be a pathway for that procedure, would the same exist for bio-augmented troopers? If there was an “augmentation race” as seen in Star Trek: Enterprise, could existing augmented soldiers be “upgraded in the same manner as cyborgs? Or could you have an older out-of-date soldier be replaced by the newer models with terrible results as seen in 1998’s Soldier? As with cybernetics, bio-augmented soldiers could suffer from separation from the rest of humanity, a lack of ability to reintegrated back in regular society, and there could be a sense of superiority possessed by the augmented over “the normal” . Hybrid of Cybernetics and Bio-Augmented Soldiers
Could there be a combination of cybernetics and bio-augmentation enhancements to form the “perfect” super-soldier? One of the most icon super-soldiers of all science fiction is the SPARTANs of HALO, and these warriors of the 26th century are mostly bio-augmented through a tortuous process that also don CLASS-I powered armor. However, there are some cybernetic modifications, the neutral interface that allows the super-soldiers to interact with their MJOLNIR armor. When we examine the many modified soldiers, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism forces seen in the Ghost in the Shell universe, we see that most possess a heavily modified cybernetic body (shells) from manufactures like Mega-Tech, with an organic brain and spinal cord (ghost) that linked into the body. This combination allows for the body to be replaceable and the brain to have the latest and greatest cybernetic technology to haul it around. There is also Bucky Barnes from the Marvel Universe who was bio-enhanced via the Winter Soldier program and the inclusion of a cybernetic arm as a replacement. This gifted him with more flexibility over the bio-augmented Captain America. Of course, the more you overthink the pluming, the easier it is stop the drain, and fusing these two technological approaches could mean a great deal of benefits and hazards.
Other Uses for Cybernetics and Bio-Augmentation Besides Combat Infantry
Throughout science fiction, the most common usage for cybernetics, bionics, and biological augmentations is to enhance the combat abilities of foot soldiers and special mission units, such as the SPARTANs from HALO and the the COBRA unit by Timothy Zahn. Following close behind is the replacement of body parts and systems due to injury or lost in combat operations. This could be the simple replacement of an limb or eye or even
nearly the complete body replacement in the case of massive trauma as seen Briareos. Detective Spooner from I, Robot, and Steven Austin. In those familiar cases in sci-fi, the organic limb is blown off or sliced off by your daddy's lightsaber and the character is fitted with a shiny robotic limb that is either an 100% fully functional replacement for the original flesh, or an improvement in strength and lethality (arm-cannon!), or has less function than original body part, allowing for character development (Zeerod from Alien Legion).
There are other uses for these technological and biological enhancements. In the series finale for ST: Voyager, "Endgame", we would see an cybernetic implant into Admiral Janeway's brain that allowed here to interface with her advanced SC-4 shuttlecraft from 2404 in both communication and operations. This idea of brain-to-machine interaction has been seen in sci-fi and that bridge between the two is often cybernetics. This has been seen in Ghost in the Shell, the Robotix toy storyline, Andromeda, Johnny Mnemonic, and The Matrix films. These cybernetic brain implants allow a greater fusion between the two systems and tap the use of the human brain for hacking, vehicle control, and data download/storage.
The majority of examples above are dealing with cybernetics, but there is non-combat uses of bio-augmentation. Instead of replacing damaged limbs or systems with machines, replacement parts could be grown from your own DNA and grafted on without the fear of rejection or integration issues. This could be as simple as enhance your body not to need corrective lens, allergy meds, or even sleep. We could see the use of LEGO genetics to tailor soldiers for specific environmental conditions, like gills for underwater operations or gain nutrition from sunlight. Bio-augmentation could be used for covert missions, where cybernetics could be a tip off. The field and application is limitless and it could be used to offset the effects of long-term space travel on human biology...would bio-agumentation create a new man to fact the void of space; an sort of "Homo sapiens astartes"?
The Case Against Modified Soldiers: The Republic Clone Troopers and Jem'Hadar
Often, the case in sci-fi is that creating super-soldiers via genetic engineering or cybernetics is the way to go, but has with all things seen in sci-fi, there two popular media examples of why you should not modify your armies: the Clone Troopers and the Jem'Hadar. When the Grand Army of the Republic was being constructed by cloners on Kamino, they took the DNA of Mandalorian warrior Jango Fett as a template, but modified some of the genes to allow for the clone troopers to be more controllable and docile than the rogue Jango Fett was, and Boba Fett was proof of the vast difference between the clones and genuine article.
While certainly the Clone Troopers of the Clone Wars were in some ways naturally superior given their genetic foundation, gear, and some enhanced advantages in lung capacity, they were not genetic enhanced to be superior infantrymen, they were designed to be mass produced and loyal. Only the commandos and ARC troopers were more like typical sci-fi super-soldiers with an encoded loyalty. If the Clone Troopers had been typical super-soldiers, Order 66 could have not been carried out with the violent suddenness and board scope as seen in Episode III as the Clone legions turned against their fellow Jedi compatriots.
Then that brings us to the Dominion Jem'Hadar, the loyal warriors of the Founders that were designed with a fatal flaw. These genetically engineered biological augmented super-soldiers were patterned off a barely spacefaring aggressive alien species that were uplifted to serve the Founders thousands of years ago. Fearsome in their combat abilities and psychological hardening, the Jem'Hadar were a military force as well as a deterrent to any that would defy the will of the Dominion, but like any slave force, the masters are worried about rebellion. To keep the millions of Jem'Hadar under control, the Founders devised three methods of control: the white, all males, and the in-bred loyalty.
All of three of these tools developed and installed by the Founders speak to a system of control at their own creation.Without the white, the Jem'Hadar self-control and biology would crumble into death. Were these biological Achilles' Heel developed to protect the Founders' from their own creation? If the Jem'Hadar's programmed loyalty failed, than they could turn off of the supply of the white to starve them out and wipe out an insurrection. Also, without the ability to breed, the Jem'Hadar could not replenish their numbers without the aid of the Founders' facilities. Perhaps, the Founders did too good of a job with the Jem'Hadar? That is always the risk with creating new life...does it serve you or is it creating a tempest in a teapot?
The Morality of the Enhance Soldiers via Cybernetics and Bio-Augmentation
Military service alters who you are on a fundamental level forever, and in the future, it could be possible to alter who you are in radical different ways as well via mechanical and biological enhancement. As we have seen from Ghost in the Shell and COBRA, the alternation of soldiers using either biological means or cybernetic (or both!) is a permit change and forever sets them apart from the rest of humanity. It could also mean that they cannot leave military service due to the level of alternation...as Major Kusanagi and Batou discussed if they left Section 9, there was not much left of their original bodies in the Ghost in the Shell 1995 film.
This brings about a discussion of the overall morality of creating altered "super" soldiers. Is it morally right to alter soldiers willingly that could forever mark them or prevent them from leaving the military? It is also moral to set about in motion the possibility of an "enhancement" arms race that could force competing governments or corporations to take risks on human subjects to close the gap? There is the morality of alternating human biology, which always sparks controversy. Some believe that once we alter humans for warfare, the pandora's box is open and we may not be able to close it. Of course, as we alter our soldiers, the civilian world will surely follow.
Will Cyborgs and Genetic Engineered Humans really exist in the Future?
Often with possible future realities presented in science fiction is the discussion of if it will indeed happen. When it comes to cybernetics, it seems that is not the question of if, but when. As the picture here, we can see that advancements in prosthetic replacement limbs is venturing on the realm of sci-fi cybernetic augmentation via military-based research and application. There simply is a great societal need for cybernetic replacement parts due to injuries, birth defects, and disease. The idea that bionics will be applied to aid and enhance the biological form is a bedrock of science fiction and will be part of our unfolding future...and part of that revolution of the marriage between the biologic and technologic is being explored today by your Smartphone and tablet computers. When the advent of completely hands free operation is developed, we will be close to the man-machine fusion that has been an field of dreams for so many.
Then we move to altering ourselves via biological means, gene therapy, genetic engineering, and artificial evolution. This is nothing new, human beings have been altering species such as dogs and foodstuffs crops for tens of thousands of years, however, we are unlocking the source code of genetics themselves allowing us to alter the building blocks of life and evolutionary biology. This will not be as easily accepted as cybernetic modifications gave the amount of paranoia associated with bio-augmented foodstuffs and the cautionary tales seen in science fiction. The label of "designer babies" and Frankenstein Monster will be thrown around as humanity feels threatened by the genetically altered, but that is my no means creating a roadblock to using the advancements in genetics for such a task of alternating the human species. The ability to wiped out and end certain biological conditions, aliments, birth defects, and unwanted traits is damned exciting and could benefit all of humanity. Imagine ending bad eye sight, Autism, Learning Disabilities, blindness, Downs Syndrome, spine bifida, cleft palate forever? As a parent of a special needs child and someone with a learning disability, I wish that option had been available to me and my parents. To me, that is the underline good for our society when it comes to biologically alternating ourselves. Undoubtedly, someone will apply these technologies to alternating humans for warfare. The real question becomes when it does come, how will we, as a species, respond?
What About the Replicants from BLADE RUNNER and Other Bio-robots?
One of the most famous science fiction films of all time is BLADE RUNNER and it had a huge effect on the world of sci-fi and even real robotic research. This 1982 film, inspirited from the Phillip K. Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? asks questions about the morality of creating artificial life and its rights and our responsibilities as creators. But just what the hell are these "Replicants"anyways? Are they cyborgs, robots, androids? They are normally classified as a "bio-robotic" in nature, and they are a fusion of the fields biological augmentation, cybernetics, and genetic engineering. This idea of a more organic artificial lifeform that is a hybrid of these two fields of science and engineering goes back to the origins of robots in sci-fi with R.U.R and can be seen in the ALIENS universe, the new BSG, and even ROBOTECH. With the Replicants from BSG and BLADE RUNNER, we see the advantage of having these bio-robots over conventional androids and robots, and but they are still artificially created life and are not the retrofitting of an existing human with mechanic parts or some sort of bio-augmentation therapy. They are man's creation that comes from a place more similar to us than robots built on an assembly in Tokyo.
In some ways, these bio-robots are a way of having your cake and eating it too. Bio-robots appear (in sci-fi anyways) to be the best of both worlds and pull from the advantages of both of the machine and the organic man However, these is several major issues with bio-robots. Number one, they are a giant leap forward in technology with the use of cybernetics, bioengineering, nano-technology, and robotics. All of these elements would have to come together to create an NEXUS-6. There would be legal and moral questions and issues brought about if and when we create bio-robots that were made in our own image. Could we morally use them as soldiers as BLADE RUNNER and Soldier suggests? Or would fully robotic soldiers, like the T-800 seriesTerminator, be better for a battlefield application and moral angle? After all, being more human than human, you would treat in a manner much different than a toaster. They would be similar to us in damage resistance, but would be more hearty when it came to environments and food requirements. While I am certain that future humans will try to create something along the lines of bio-robots, I imagine that cyborgs and designer babies will be more accepted and common.
Sci-Fi and the Cyborg/Bio Augmented Soldiers
When most people think of science fiction, they picture laser blasters, robots, little green men, and faster-than-light starships. These display the level of technological and scientific progress associated with the genre and the setting of being in the future. However, sci-fi is not just confined to the exploration of the stars, but with improving our own social and physical conditions via technological and scientific progress in the fields of bio-augmentation and/or cybernetics. Infusing our bodies with advancements in computer technology or altering ourselves on a cellular level is a bedrock sci-fi concept and one that has been in the genre since Mary Shelly's Frankenstein in 1818. The idea of enhancing the human body for combat is nothing new as well. Early humans used rituals, totems, relics, shaman to imbue themselves prior to combat or the hunt with enhanced abilities and the favor of the gods. This continued with armor and weaponry forged from holy material or blessed by holymen or wielded by a famed individual. This formed the basis for the exploration of improving the human body via science and technology. There is some debate on the first cyborg seen in sci-fi, and I would make the case for the Tin-Man from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book in 1900, but by the time science fiction was popular in the 1950's, the man-machine marriage via a form of cybernetics was well established with the word "cybernetics" being coined in 1960. The roots of biologically augmented humans is far deeper and older, with the mythological warriors of Hercules, Achilles, Samson, Enkidu being the early examples. While sci-fi is still quite obsessed with the concept of cybernetically enhanced humans, it has had trouble bring them to reality on the screen. It was only relatively recently that the technology of special effects has allowed creators to bring their vision of mechanically enhanced humans to life on the screen without being laughed at. Prior, creators used selective and quick views of the cybernetics, as with the Six Million Dollar Man and even Data from TNG. In live-action examples of cybernetics that decided to show the full mechanization on screen was productions like Classic Doctor Who that knew their limitations and had to operate within them. This constraint caused for fewer examples of live-action cyborgs, but there was no limit in other forms of media. In comics, animation, books, and art, cyborgs flowed freely.
That was not the same with genetically enhanced humans in science fiction. Given that just by the script, the setting, the actors’ abilities to convince the audience of his enhanced nature, biologically altered humans could be easily (and cheaply) be brought to screen over the cyborg. This was the case of Khan seen in the episode “Space Seed” of TOS. This is likely the reason for the lopsided nature of the amount of biologically enhanced humans seen over cybernetically enhanced in television and movies. One of the hallmarks of science fiction's relationship with cybernetics and bio-augmentation is, beside the overuse, is the lack of scientific realism. When we see most cyborgs in sci-fi, they most feature half of the face exposed, oh-so subtly symbolizing the duality of being an cyborg. In science fiction tales of cyborgs, we seem to cross over into the tired trope of "what is being truly human" and the quest for identity, as seen in the Ghost in the Shell film. Yawn. The same often is true of biologically augmented humans, where as they are oppressed by society, or rise to power, or they are just plain dicks to normal humans. Once again...yawn. These ideas, while interesting when done right, are far too common in sci-fi and need to be retired like a Replicant. Seriously. However, with the science of genetic engineering become more of a likely possibility with CRISPR and continued progress on true cybernetic augmentations, the world of the sci-fi augmented humans is becoming the present that we live in and a part of our real-world futures.
Examples of Cyborg Soldiers: Briareos from the Appleseed Universe Let it be said that Masaume Shirow has created some of the best military SF works in anime and magna, and prior to Ghost in the Shell, Shirow was already known for the post-World War III epic Appleseed. In the story of a special tactical police unit, ESWAT, serving the technological megacity of Olympus one of the central characters is the nearly 100% cybernetic Briareos Hecatonchires. Born prior to World War III, the flesh-and-blood Briareos was an African man from the Mediterranean coast that was child spy for the KGB and when he killed his handler, Briareos was given political asylum in the US. Before the 3rd World War, Briareos became a member of a LAPD SWAT under his partner’s, Deunan Knute, father.
It was a bomb that forced Briareos to be transformed into the cybernetic organism we known today, and he was a marriage between the cybernetic and the organic. His name was taken from the Greek mythological 100-hand giants and his last name is not a formal last name, but the classification of his cybernetic body. Via his cybernetics and natural skill, Briareos is able to pull off killshots with three different weapons at the same, accomplish amazing physical feats, but he does need to eat, sleep, exercise, and is not immune to the effects of gunfire. The “bunny ears” are actually an sensor systems that allows him to see around corners and in the manga, it also expresses some emotion. With his eight electronic eyes mount in the head unit, it is no wonder that Briareos’s brain is mounted in his chest! To the credit of Shirow and the Appleseed series, Briareos is not portrayed as a super-soldier, is injured through the franchise, and is projected as not losing his humanity. The Borg Collective from the Star Trek Universe
In the universe of Trek, there is no enemy like the Borg, and these mechanized space zombies utterly altered Trek since they first emerged on the scene on May 8th, 1989 with the TNG episode "Q Who". Over the course of thousands of centuries, the collective race known as the Borg has been attempting to achieve "perfection" through an assimilation of many alien races infused with cybernetic and nanotechnology to form the vast "collective" of drones that serve the common good and common goals of the entire Borg Collective. Rooted in the Delta Quadrant, their territory spans of hundreds of lightyears and thousands of worlds with their billions of drones composed of hundreds of species, some that were wiped out by the invasion of the Collective, and the only know "living" examples being housed in cube-shaped starships. Creepy.
The true power rests in the collective conciseness of the Borg and their ability to work together in a way that normal organics cannot. This allows for swift adaption to new weapons and tactics. Individually, which is against the grain of the Borg Collective, the average drone is somewhat superior to the average humanoid in their physical abilities, but can die rather easily by a phaser blast or holographic bullets, however, the next drone coming at you could already adapted their technology to the weapon and counter with personal energy shielding or enhanced body armor. I can still remember the first time I watch the episode "Q Who?" in 1989 and this is still the best appearance of the Borg because they were relentless and alien...plus there is Q. One of the cool elements of the Borg is that they are not completely fleshed out, including their history and their abilities... but then again, Trek oversold the Borg and called on one-too-many-times, resulting in audience and story exhaustion.
Deathlok from the Marvel Comic Universe
Since 1974, there has been a cybernetic character called "Deathlok" in the Marvel comic universe, and the use of "Deathlok technology" is seen and referenced as well. This cybernetic technology allows for the reanimation of a dead soldier to serve his government once again. The abilities of most of the Deathlok characters is similar to most classic sci-fi cyborgs: increased strength, implanted weapons, increased speed and reflexes. Often SHIELD is somewhere in the mix of the Deathlok storylines and he is not always the hero or villain of the stories. Jack Mitchell Cybernetic hand from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
In the 2014 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, our main character for the campaign, former US Marine Jack Mitchell. He was badly wounded a second Korean War of 2054 and his best friend's father offered him a job at Atlas, an massive private military company, During the battle for Seoul, Jack lost his hand, and once he enlisted with Atlas, the company gave him an advanced prosthetic hand that was 20 years more advanced than anything available outside of the PMC. The cybernetic hand serves as a reminder of the real-world toll that war takes on the soldiers and how common limb are torn asunder. The game could offer us a window into a real-world incoming reality with military grade cybernetic prosthetic limbs for wounded warriors. Captain Picard's Artificial Heart from Star Trek: TNG
It came as sudden news to us fans of TNG that Captain Picard had a artificial heart during the episode "Samaritan Snare", when Picard had to undergone maintenance. It was during Picard being a freshly minted junior officer out of the academy in 2327. During a intense disagreement with some Nausicaans over a game of dom-jot, Picard engages in hand-to-hand combat with three, and during the course of the melee, he is run through with a rather a long knife, it is then and there that his biological heart was needing a replacement. This is interesting example of a cybernetic replacement that is not noticeable most of the time and has really been part of the plot in two TNG episodes due to the cardiac replacement putting Picard's life at risk. I often wondered if the Borg replaced his artificial heart during his assimilation?
The Terminator Model 800/900 "Infiltrator" Cyborgs from the Terminator Universe
Throughout the original Terminator from 1984 often has Kyle Reese refer to the Terminator chasing them as an Model 101 800 series "infiltrator" and "cyborg". These represented a new breed or variant of the standard T-101 model Terminator humanoid Skynet war machines designed to hunt down the surviving human populations. According to Reese, the original infiltrator model, the T-600, were skinned in a rubber that was not realistic and allowed the resistance and other groups to easily spot them and prevent them from infiltrating resistance units.
Then came the upgraded and improved T-800 series that were a true cyborg. Reese explained to Sarah that these new models had real skin grown from them in flesh farms to physical mimic the appearance and smell of their prey. This was combined with the detailed files on human sociology, psychology, biology, and behaviors to allow the T-800s to pass for humans...almost. While it may seem that the primary mission of the T-800 series is to mount assaults on human shelters, bases, and refugee centers given that classic seen in original Terminator with the T-800, played by Franco Columbu, sweeping-and-clearing an underground base of the 132nd with an GE plasma machine gun. Another primary mission of the infiltrator units was to seek out and assassinate (or capture) highly valuable targets within the human resistance movement, like John Connor. However, it is likely that the most important mission type undertaken by the infiltrator models over simply termination of bases or assassination targets, was the gathering of surveillance/intelligence data on both the resistance movement and the human refugee population.
This marriage of the metallic skeleton and the living tissue vernier was a lethal combination that resulting in the complete loss of a some major resistance bases and shelters. To spot a T-800 infiltrator, the resistance relied on dogs, the awkward social skills of the Terminator's behavioral software, the weight, and new security procedures. The balance swung back to the machines began to change with the grays and the new T-900 advanced infiltrators.
The "grey" are the human resistance label for human collaborators that help Skynet in various roles in exchange for clean food, water, and clothing. Some are spies, advisers, and others provide human socialization training to infiltrator models. Interestingly enough, the grey collaborators are some of the few humans that the machines of Skynet are programmed not to kill on-sight. One of the byproducts of the interaction between the greys and Skynet was the T-900 series infiltrators. These special mission advanced infiltrators were designed to closer in size and weight to normal humans of the post-Judgement Day society and did not have the immediate telltale signs of being toaster rather than an ugly meatbag. One of the most unique elements of the T-900 series was that some were directly patterned after specific humans, often for assassination and intel/recon missions. This required that an carbon-copy facsimile of the living tissue had to be grown and applied in order to pass for the genuine article. This was not just a physical transformation from exoskeleton-to-a-real-human for the Infiltrators, it was also personality. We witnessed one of these transformations of an Skynet T-900 to an facsimile of a trusted associate of John Conner in 2027. Skynet captured Allison Young, interrogated her at an aircraft carrier, as an T-900 learned her behavior and mannerisms, then it killed her and attempted to carry out the assassination with a skin job that matched perfectly. The T-900, TOK715 specifically, was caught and reprogrammed to be sent back through time to 1999 to guard Sarah and John while using the advanced nature of the T900 software to pass for human and learn. While the endoskeleton of the T101 model is iconic, there is something haunting about these metal murders wearing a familiar face. Creepy.
Lord Darth Vader from the Star Wars Universe
One of the most iconic cybernetically enhanced characters in sci-fi is the Lord Vader, and while many examples on this list are mechanical enhanced to increase their combat effectiveness, Lord Darth Vader is not. As we all know, Vader was once a powerful Light Sider Jedi that came into the Order during the critical Clones Wars, and chose to fall from the Light into the Darkness of the Force. After a dual with his former Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the geological active world of Mustafar, Anakin Skywalker was gravely wounded.
It was right then and there, that Anakin Skywalker disappeared into being more machine than man by the wish of his new Sith Master Palpatine in order to save his battered life. His life saving armor became a symbol of the power and fear of the Sith run Galactic Empire. It also became his prison. It is widely believed that the Emperor used the armor to remind Skywalker of his failure and to limit his power, as not to be a threat to his master.
Despite the armor's limitations and Anakin's mortal wounds, he used his power with the Dark Side of the Force to became a hunter of the remaining Jedi and be the Emperor's loyal enforcer to nearly the end of his sad life. He could best any Jedi in single or group combat. Despite the fearsome Force fueled combat abilities, Vader's armor was a full-body life support system that allowed him to save his wounds and he was forever tied to it, given his scarred respirator system and inability to eat or drink normally. If the suit was damaged to the point of critical error, Vader would have died.
Cyberware from the Shadowrun RPG Universe
One of the most interesting RPGs that came out of the 1980's was Shadowrun and it was a world built on Cyberpunk themes and BLADE RUNNER images. Released by famed RPG publisher FASA in 1989, the game has gone on after the collapse of FASA onwards until today. In the dark future world, cybernetic technology, called Cyberware allowed people to reshape themselves to improve the lethality and functionality of their bodies....for a price. Much like tattoos, you get what you pay for and bad Cyberware could be lethal to yourself or your gang members. Basic Cyberware was the common stuff with Delta Level Cyberware being the best of the best and the most expensive. Cyberware was not just used for combat, but for computer crime, sex, getting ahead in the corporate world, and repairing damage.
Luke Skywalker's Hand from the Star Wars Universe
In an obvious nod to symbolism with his father Darth Vader (spoilers!), Luke's right hand is chopped off during the Lightsaber duel in the Cloud City of Bespin, and it replaced by a cybernetic prosthetic hand. During the end of SW:TESB, the Rebel Alliance EF76 Nebulon-B class medical ship, The Redemption, was the site were Luke was fitted with his first cybernetic replacement hand. The SFX on the hand were quite good for the time and with it appearing like the original biologically limb, there was little need for expensive SFX shots of the hand.
When the hand was damaged by a blast bolt, Luke simply covered it up with a black glove. During the recent The Force Awakens, there seems to be a new, more robotic looking hand seen in the brief appearance of Master Luke at the end of the film and in the trailer with this more fancy cybernetic hand on R2D2's dome. There is no word why Luke's hand is much more robotic looking in the new trilogy than the original Holy Trilogy...some have speculated that the artificial skin has worn off while Luke has been self-imposed exile in Ireland. Others, myself included, say that it is due to an improvement in cybernetic technology since ROTJ. In reality, it is likely that the cybernetic hand was a way of communicating to the audience without reveal Mark Hamill to maintain the shock value. Steve Austin from the Six Million Dollar Man
One of the key influentially cybernetic man stories of all time is the Six Million Dollar Man television show from the 1970's and spawned toys, comics, records, and a spin-off TV show, The Bionic Woman. Originally, the show was a series of TV movies based around the 1972 sci-fi novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin. Steve Austin was an astronaut injured during a test flight of an experimental spacecraft, and he was rebuilt using cutting edge bionic technology. His new enhanced abilities allowed Austin to become an secret agent. Like many cybernetic characters, Steve Austin's bionic enhancements are the eyes, the arms, and the legs, allowing him great feats of strenght, speed, as well as increased reflexes and sight. While the show was hit or miss, the popularity influenced many creators to include bionics and was a major event in the history of cybernetic enhanced humans. There will be a modern reboot called the Six Billion Dollar Man with Mark Wahlberg as Steve Austin filming at the moment. The image for the example entry comes from the record-comic book I owned as a kid and this was how I knew of The Six Million Dollar Man, and I played time after time while reading along. I thought it was only fitting to include it here.
The Series 5 Rangers from the The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers Universe
One of the most daring American cartoon shows during the 1980's was the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, which was a favorite of mine back in the day. The show was a solid space western story that featured an elite team of Galaxy Rangers that were enhanced with the Series 5 Brain implants that allowed each one to harness an superhuman ability. This fusion of cybernetics, radiation, and bio-electrical allowed the small team to take the many threats posed by the galaxy. The commander of the team was Zachary Fox, whose left side was replaced with bionics due to injuries suffered by an escape from an space pirate vessel. The show would have the Rangers dip into their Series 5 brain implants time and time again, and became a key moment in any episode. While visually arresting, Galaxy Rangers lacks good writing and poor voices, and badly needs a reboot.FWS will cover Galaxy Rangers in a future Military SF Oddities blogpost. The Galador Space Knights from the Rom: The Space Knight Universe (Earth-616)
A long time ago in the Golden Galaxy in the Earth-616 universe, the human-like alien civilization of Galador stumbled across a deadly alien menace, the Dire Wraiths. This threat altered the entire civilization of the Golden Galaxy and caused a generation of Galadorians to commit themselves body and soul to the defense of their people and world via the Spaceknights. When a Dire Wraith fleet attempted to invade Galador, the government called out for volunteers to be transformed into powerful cybernetic warriors that could fight in the depths of space. The process would rob them of their biological bodies and replace with a cybernetic one using their central nervous system with their original bodies in status until the wraith threat was over. The first to volunteer was Rom, who became a symbol for his people, and millions followed. Only a select few could pass the medical selection process and a few hundred Spaceknights met the Dire Wraith fleet. After repelling the attack, Rom and other Spaceknights hunted down the Dire Wraiths through the universe, forgoing their bodies and former lives. How powerful are these Spaceknights? Let me put it this way, Superman would be up for a challenge and possible defend at the hands of these metal space warriors. Seriously. The power of these Spaceknights comes from defensive and offensive abilities. The armor of the Spaceknights was Plandanium metal that was one of the hardest metal in existence and each Spaceknight was armed with offensive weaponry fitting their abilities, but standard superhuman skills and abilities are standard. Also standard was FTL rockets and an interior power supply that ran for centuries and could keep the Spaceknight alive for as long as well. The Marvel comic about Rom ran from 1979-1986 and was originated to sell a Parker Brothers' electronic toy figure, but it grew into a fan favorite character over the years, and he was going to be included in the Guardians of the Galaxy film. Cybernetic Prosthetics from Starship Troopers Universe
How can there be an FWS blogpost without a mention of the 1997 SST film? Inconceivable! Two characters would be shown with government issued cybernetic limbs: the recruiting sergeant and Jean Rasczak. However, at the opening of the film, Rasczak is a high school teacher, missing his a portion of his arm. Both cybernetic prosthetics are similar and it tells something about the SST universe. When we see Rasczak again, he is bearing a fancy cybernetic arm and it allows him to regain full mobility for frontline combat duties. Why was Rasczak not issued an cybernetic arm prior to his rejoining the Mobile Infantry?
Given the society of Terra at the time, it is possible that only active soldiers were given the cybernetic MILSPEC prosthetics and even citizens were not allowed access to them once they left active duty. The idea of cybernetic prosthetics goes back to the original source material, and we see Fleet Sgt. Ho using an cybernetic leg and arm. The tradition of cybernetic replacement parts continues throughout all SST films, TV shows, and even the RPG save for SST 3: Marauder. Cyborg from the DC Universe
Victor Stone is the real name of the DC comics "Cyborg" character who has been featured in The Teen Titans comics and was developed in 1980. He was forcibly converted into a cybernetic augmented human by his father after a interdimensional portal brought a monster that gravely wounded his son. Being a genius at the S.T.A.R Labs, the father would outfit the son with cybernetics of his own design. Victor hated who he now was and how he could never be normal. It was only with the Teen Titans group that he found a home with people like him. Cyborg's ability as pretty standard for a cybernetically enhanced human: superior strength, stamina, speed, comprehension (also due to his superior IQ), and built-in weapons. One of the most seen weapons used by Cyborg was his "sonic cannon" and his finger-mounted laser. The character has since joined the Justice League of America and has been seen in various animated and toy versions. Ray Fisher played Cyborg in the stupid Batman v. Superman film and he will reprise his role for a stand-alone film along with JLA films with his cybernetics being completely CGI effects. Given his popularity and length of time in existence, Cyborg has become an symbol of all cybernetic characters. Some believe that Cyborg was developed to counter the popularity of Marvel's Iron Man. Barret Wallace's Cybernetic Arm-Cannon from the Final Fantasy Universe
For the most part, the Final Fantasy video games were somewhat popular and I was vaguely aware of their existence until the 1997 release of the seventh game on the original PlayStation...and this was a game changer for the players and the franchise. This game proven to be a watershed moment in gaming for many and it became an icon and one of the most celebrated games of that console generation and called one of the greatest video games of all time. I played it back in 1999 and never really cared for it...but I was baffled by the cybernetic character of the rebel leader Barret Wallace. This leader of the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE was fitted with an gun-arm after the loss of his biological arm during the destruction of his hometown. His gun-arm allows him to deal long-range damage and to be the offensive/martial symbol of AVALANCHE's mission to protect Gaia. The idea of a mounted gun-arm is common in sci-fi, but it nearly laughable if examined in a real-world perspective. This caused the gun-arm to be a transformable in the Advent Children, allowing to have a normal robotic hand. The name of the character is a play on the maker of the M82 .50 sniper rifle and the loose translation of the word "bullet" into Japanese. The Cybermen from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
One of the most iconic and favorite enemies of the Doctor is the cybernetic race called the Cybermen. In the Classic Who, the Cybermen originated as a biological humanoid lifeform on the 10th planet in the Sol System called Mondas, Earth's twin. Much like the Moon in Space 1999, Mondas was dejected from the solar system and doomed to wander space. Faced with certain death, the Mondasians replaced their weaker biological bodies with cybernetic ones. Forged with the drive to survive and fused with their superior born from the cybernetic conversion, the Cybermen attacked anyone who possessed a threat or had something they wanted...even just fresh bodies to add to the legions of Cybermen. Much like the Borg from Trek, the Cybermen forcibly transformed victims into the latest generation of Cybermen. Like many cybernetic species, the Cybermen were superior in the typical ways, but the primary weakness of the Cybermen was gold dust that could clog their respiratory system, killing them. Given this, gold "Glitterguns" were used during the Cyber-Wars. Normal weaponry would kill or even destroy them, but gold dust was extremely effective. For much of the history of the Cybermen, they fought with every major species and this cost them their original homeworld and their entire species. The Cybermen would first appear in 1966 with the First Doctor and their costuming were rather comical by today's standards, they were considered terrifying and served as the major other enemy of the Classic Who universe. The 4th season "The Tenth Planet" was partly lost with the BBC archives only having three of the four episodes. With the audio existing, an animation reconstruction was undertaken and is rather good. This would also be the end of the road for the First Doctor as well. I always enjoyed the Cybermen. Max da Costa from Elysium (2013) Okay, here is an interesting example of a mechanical enhancement to increase the abilities of a normal human. In the film, which I very much liked, Max de Costa is outfitted with an military grade exo-skeleton by henchmen of Spider, the local Robin Hood gang-leader in LA. Unlike other exo-skeleton frames seen in sci-fi, the ones from Elysium are surgically implanted into the wearers body and brain. It is unknown if all military exo-skeletons are surgically implanted or if Max was just especially lucky. The mercenaries in the film are so outfitted with exo-suits as well, and we see Kruger being implanted with a heavy combat exo-skeleton frame. General Grievous from the Star Wars Universe
The Prequel films are filled with all manner of oddball characters that bath in the plastic CGI effects of these films, and one of the oddest was from SW: The Revenge of the Sith: the overall droid army commander General Grievous. He seems to have come out of nowhere and then died at the hands Obi-Wan Kenobi all in the course of a single film...much like Darth Maul. I'll admit that I never watched the animated Clone Wars series nor liked Grievous in the film....however, he is an example of an cybernetic warrior. There are two reasons given for the conversion from flesh to metal for Grievous in the Star Wars history...one canon, one legend. In the canon source, Grievous was an Kaleesh warrior of note that became allied to the factions of the Confederacy. He willing converted to cybernetics to enhance his combat skills, but there was still biological systems under the metal. In the non-canon story, Grievous was Kaleesh warrior named Qymaen jai Sheelal that grew to hate the Jedi for taking sides in a conflict on their world that led to starvation of his people. His path to being Grievous was due to a loss of his love during the war and took a job as muscle for the Banking clan. A shuttle bomb planted by Dooku nearly killed Grievous and forcibiliy converted him into a war machine. This, too, was laid at the Jedi's feet. He was unhappy being a cyborg and what remained of his organic never fully integrated into his cybernetic body. During his mechanization, his body was infused with the blood of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas to give him an edge in combat with the Jedi. The techniques learned to rebuilt Grievous was applied to Vadar.
The Cybernetic bodies of Section 9 Agents from Ghost in the Shell
One of the primary focuses of the GITS universe is the cybernetic revolution that transforms anyone with the cash and the access into various levels of cybernetic enhancement. Much of everyone in Section 9 of Public Security is enhanced to the point that only their brains and spinal cord are the only original parts...making the fearing of hacking quite real and dangerous. Shirow incorporated a wondrous level of the complexity of the cybernetic bodies in the GITS universe and in the manga, there is much discuss of cybernetics and the advantage of being a generation above your enemies. There are few cybernetic body scenes in sci-fi as iconic as the opening of the 1995 film that shows the real shell of the Major. This seen was replicated for the current American 2017 film. The Cybernetic Soldiers from The Bionic Commando universe
One of the most famous uses of the word "bionic" from my childhood besides the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, was the 1988 NES game from CAPCOM: Bionic Commando. This was a port of the 1987 Japanese arcade game called "Top Secret". The main character, Nathan "Rad" Spencer was an mechanical enhance soldier fitted with an grappling hook arm that allowed him to scale the compound of the Empire, the enemy of the Federation, who Spencer serves...yeah, it is not Shakespeare. The bionic elements of the original game where nearly none existence, and the concept was retool in 2009 with more attention paid to the bionic elements. However, this NES game is a symbol of the time, where a proven sci-fi concept and name could be used to market a Japanese game that instantly appealed to an American audience of the time raised on sci-fi and the promise of future technology. The Various Bloody Seas Cybernetic Projects from Xenon: the Heavy Metal Warrior Manga
In 1986, Masaomi Kanzaki developed and drew a story about a outcast high school kid named Asuka Kano that was abducted by the shadowy military R&D company Bloody Sea and used for there bionic weapons program known as "Xenon". Asuka and other Bloody Sea cyborgs, like Number 204 and Yoko Mizuno, were developed an living weapon that could hid in plain sight and then transform into a cybernetic combat system via the Xenonics K30 "skin" that hardens into a full body armor system with superhuman capabilities. In combat, the Xenon system was proven highly effective against other combat cyborgs and the walker mecha piloted by the Demon Three. Through the manga, Asuka had to come to grips about his forced transformation while waging a war against Bloody Sea. The art on Xenon is outstanding and when I first witness the manga in an 1988 issue of the defunct "The Comic Shop News", I knew I had to collect it! Xenon: the Heavy Metal Warrior was brought to the States via a partnership between Eclipse Comics and Viz Comics in a biweekly format.
The original manga was published in a magazine which is common for manga, but when it was repackaged for an American audience, it left each issue being light and a bit confused. It seemed the story was either slow-burn or forest fire. I own about a dozen issues of the 1988 Eclipse/Viz that I bought in high school and the comic is just okay and is largely forgotten today by the deluge of English-translated manga...which was not the case in 1988 when Xenon was release in America. Still, the cybernetic warrior Xenon is a fine example of an cybernetic warrior.
The Cybernetic Demonic Lifeforms from the DOM Universe
The world of videogames changed forever in 1994 when ID Software's original DOOM FPS came screaming out upon the world and soon occupied the lives and disk space of an entire generation of gamers and computers. Even today, games for the DOOM universe are still being developed and released with many of us still revisiting the classic DOOM time-and-time again. Populating the world of DOOM are twisted demonic lifeforms of all shape and size, but all are equally nasty that crave sweet space marine flesh. Some are pure hellspawn, and others are fused monstrous forms of both demon and cybernetics.
Why would demons from Hell have cybernetic limbs that also double as weapon platforms? Because that is the why that the DOOM team wanted it: a unholy marriage between their D&D game monsters and sci-fi...thus, leading to giant Cyberdemon, the Spiderdemon, and the Mancubus. There is no in-universe explanation given for the inclusion of bionic technology into the bodies of demons from hell in the classic DOOM game, however, some have pointed to lines in the original game discussing sending technology through the port and they could have incorporated that into their bodies. In the recent DOOM 4, the reason is spelled out clearly: Olivia Pierce. She made a deal with the forces of hell to help solve the human energy crisis in exchange for giving them cybernetic technology that allowed the hellspawn to increase their defensive and offensive abilities. This marriage between the demonic and bionic became an iconic element of the DOOM universe and its enemies.
Officer Murphy from Robocop (1987)
When this film came out in 1987, I was 11, and my father took me to see it and I loved it despite the horror on scene and he loved it, too. That was the magic of the film and the power of everyone involved. In the film, Detroit officer Murphy is violently executed by a gang and his body becomes the property of the company OCP. His biological elements are incorporated into the cybernetic body that was to be the symbol of the next generation of law enforcement over the other law enforcement program at OCP: the ED-209. Officer Murphy was deleted and Robocop was born.
He was an fusion of the man that was and the technology of the future. Robocop was a bad mother fucker that had powerful physical abilities, bullet resistant armor, and computer-aided aiming that allowed him to target and take out the bad guys with his Auto-9 burst pistol. He made the streets of the embattled Detroit safer and became a hero to the city. But, that "hero" was the product of an American corporation and a ghost inside a shell. The director said in a "making of" feature that Robocop and Murphy were and I shit you not: "an American Jesus with a gun." But it makes sense in a twisted, Verhoeven way, Murphy was resurrected from the dead to bring hope to a city under terror and to be the symbol of the good that lived within all citizens and being American, he had a gun to tame the Wild West of modern Detroit. The film was remade for some unknown stupid reason, and the scene with Murphy seeing what is left of himself biologically was a haunting well-done scene that the original did in a different fashion in the abandoned steel foundry. I still think the original is far superior. Fun Fact: the film was actually shot mostly in Dallas, the original home of FWS. The Strogg from Quake II, IV, and Wars
Quake was attempted to replicate the massive success and cultural impact of DOOM in 1996 with a Lovecraft infused Gothic world instead of a Martian outpost. When a sequel was announced, it was believed that the original story would be carried forward, however, the adventures of the character of Ranger would be limited to the original game and its expansions. In the newly developed world with the Quake name, we reembody an space marine fighting against a cybernetic enemy that is invading the Sol system. These "Strogg" are a terrifying race of various cybernetic lifeforms designed to fight, expand the empire, and secure needed resources for their barren homeworld.
New Strogg are not born, but "stroggifed" by a inhumane process of harvesting the captured/wounded bodies of their enemies being used for new Strogg warriors and workers. The dead and too badly wounded for "stroggification" were reprocessed for the Stroyent foodstuffs/biofuel. The basic organic material for the Strogg warriors and workers could be twisted and transformed greatly from their original appearance into stronger combat forms that wielded grafted weapons, increased strength, stamina, speed, sensory, new limbs, and attachments. This is seen in in the horrifying stroggification segment of space marine Matthew Kane in Quake IV. How did a spacefaring race get so messed up and twisted? The games never explain the origins of Strogg, but some have speculated that they are a super-soldier experiment gone horribly wrong and out of control. To me, the Strogg were even more terrifying than the Borg...like Borg that embraced Hannibal Lecter as their Lord and Savior. Legionnaire Zeerod from Epic Comics' Alien Legion Universe
One of the best American military SF comics is Epic Comics' Alien Legion and I read this back in the day as it was activity published. There were two major series released by Epic between the comics run from 1984-1990. I own a good amount of the Alien Legion comics and the graphic novel and it was one of my favorite comics that I collected. In the pages of the second new format series that began in 1987, one of the core original characters of Force NOMAD and Nomad Squad was Zeerod. An native of Kestis in the Bromar system in the Auron galaxy, Zeerod originally was an accomplished diplomat and military officer, until a sneak attack on a diplomacy conference on Creducia caused Zeerod and his friend Naboc to hid in the dense jungles. After being spotted by an Harkilon burner tank, the wounded Naboc was left to die and this so haunted Zeerod that enlisted into the Legion and became a cornerstone of Nomad Squadron. At the opening of the second series, it was explained that Nomad had been ordered pacify the population of a hellish barran world called Quaal. It was there that the local population swarmed the Legionaries and killed much of the original cast of characters. Zeerod was badly wounded by the locals, both legs and an eyes taken, leaving him crippled and being protected by Tamara. For two standard cycles, she watched over him until they were rescued. He would sit out much of the second series until issue#12 when the newly cybernetically enhanced Zeerod was revealed. He would be taken out of direct action roles, serving as a general aide/coordinator to the command of NOMAD along with being an shuttle officer.
Lord Dread from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
In the 1987 live-action television series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, one of the primary enemies of the remains of humanity is Lord Dread, the leader of the Bio-Dread Empire, and cybernetic organism. Originally, Lord Dread was Dr. Lyman Taggart joined his mind with an experimental supercomputer system, the Overmind. After this experience, Taggart became obsessed with perfection via cybernetic union between the flesh and the machine. That desire of man-machine union brought about the Metal Wars that ended the world as we know it. Human collaborators, like Dread, were undergoing a process of cybernetic transformation into the "new order" along with the Earth. Much of Lord Dread's cybernetics were classic sci-fi stylistic enhancements that clearly communicated the fact that he was a cyborg. There are some, including me, that believe that the look of the Borg from ST:TNG came from Lord Dread...and I can see it, but Durinda Rice Wood, the costume director for TNG, claimed that H.R. Giger's biomechanical design influenced the Borg design.
Examples of Bio-Augmented Soldiers: Deadpool from the Marvel Universe Since his first appearance in 1991, this creation of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza has become a fan favorite of comic readers and non-comic readers the world over. With his recent and awesome 2016 film, Deadpool has exploded into a rare realm of widely accepted and known superhero in the public sphere. Deadpool's abilities are only part in due to the Weapon X enhancements and some are because of Wade Wilson's own talents and military training. Under the Weapon X program, Wilson was "gifted" with super-healing/tissue regeneration that effectually makes Deadpool immortal, even if his head is removed his body. His superior training and natural combat/firearms abilities make an massive threat to all but the strongest Marvel Universe characters.
The Suliban Cabal from Star Trek: Enterprise
Some use bio-augmentation to speed up evolution or put themselves ahead of other races, as the CDF did in the Old Man's War universe. The Suliban are the same. Factions with Suliban society, the Cabal, partnered with a faction of the Temporal Cold War. Both used used on another to achieve their separate goals. Since the Suliban race had lost their homeworld, the race was nomadic and this could account for the factured nature of the Suliban. The Cabal received extensive genetic engineering and advancements in technology. While biologically similar to Terrans, enhanced Cabal Suliban were able to deflect light, compound eyes, survive in hostile atmospheres, alter their shape, and even alter their appearance to past for other races. After the end of the Temporal Cold War in season 4 of ST: Enterprise, it is uncertain what survived of the Cabal. The Suliban skin always reminds me of an horse apple.
Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect Universe
One of the key characters of the second Mass Effect game was Cerberus operative Miranda Lawson, a product of extensive and expensive genetic engineering. There was no mother donor to Miranda, and she was created or born in a typical manner. Instead her father used his power and money to develop Miranda from his own genetic material as someone to pass onto, establishing an dynasty. Miranda had a twin, Oriana, and either one of these girls were his first attempt...they were just the ones he kept. She would join Cerberus after running away due to the harsh solitary life imposed by her father. It was there that Miranda could shelter and a new home. Overall, Miranda is mostly superior in the typical ways and she has the attitude and personality to match. The voice and look of the character was based on Austrilian artress Yvonne Strahovski. This character was a center part of the marketing and image of second Mass Effect game, and there has been some criticism over her over-sexualized look, and even the chosen camera angles. As a loyal Mass Effect fan, I've never found the Miranda character to be overly sexualized other than her look and outfit. Her personality, behavior, and actions never seemed sexual to me, and even if my femshep could have been involved with her, I still would have choose Kelly Chambers. Adeptus Astartes from WH40K Universe
Here is an easy one and one of the most common, celebrated, and referenced genetically altered warriors in all of sci-fi fiction since the emergence of Warhammer 40,000 in 1987. What is so unique about the warrior-monks of the Empire of Man is that are designed and treated as separate from the rest of humanity. This is in part due to the conditions of the galaxy of the 41st millennium and the implantation of the gene seed from their god-like Primarchs. They are larger in mass, longer in life, more hearty, hardened in their psychology to prevent the horrors and monsters of the Milky Way from making them shit out their gene seed. These space marines are more than human, with many sources calling them "transhuman" and their relationships with "normal" humans bears that in mine. They are more loyal to the desires of the Emperor and their chapter rather than the protection of imperium worlds and citizens, as seen in the acts and deeds of the Adeptus Astartes. Besides these massive upgrades to the normal human biology, there is an interesting modification: the lack of sexual drive or reproduction. Simply put, they are not interested in sex or having children. This distances them even further from the common man and their lives. In some ways, the Space Marines of 40K are a warning to the horrors of over designing and overworking biologically augmented soldiers The Genome Soldier Program from the Metal Gear Universe
The Metal Gear Solid universe is packed with biologically augmented soldiers with Solid Snake being the most famous. In the landmark 1997 game, the soldiers supported the Shadow Moses Island rebellion is the so-called "Space SEALs" or the next-generation Special Forces genome enhanced soldiers. These special operations troops are the recipients of some of Big Boss DNA genetic therapy, VR training, and being specially recruited. Most were still lacking in real-world combat experience. These Genome soldiers served along side FOXHOUND operators and where linked to some of the misadventures of Big Boss, GREYFOX, and the twin Snakes. In the game, they are no match for Solid Snake and these nextgen SOF members are outfitted oddly with French FAMAS assault rifles. The Jem'Hadar from Star Trek: DS9
The fanatically loyal warriors of the Dominion government was the genetically engineered Jem'Hadar. Birthed from chambers and able to fight in three days, the Jem'Hadar were designed to need nothing but their loyalty to the Founders and "the white". With superior strength, reflexes, and the ability to shroud themselves to avoid detention, the Jem'Hadar were mostly superior to most species in the Alpha Quadrant, but that is with only a supply of White to keep them going. There bodies could resist even the heaviest stun phaser setting causing most Federation personnel to not even attempt non-lethal force. Much like the Vorta, the Jem'Hadar were most likely uplifted by the shape shifting Founders from a previously independent civilization and modified. It is believed from notes and concepts by the production staff that the Jem'Hadar were uplifted from a society close to the Mongols and they were designed to have Rhino-like skin and coloring. While Trek is filled with freice warrior races, the production crew wanted these designed soldiers of the Gamma Quadrant to be something not seen in Trek before...one way was to make them nearly devoid of culture and be drug addicted. There name came from an Urdu word for an armed official that was adapted by the Imperial British.
The Zentraedi from the ROBOTECH Universe
One of the iconic images of ROBOTCH/Macross is the giant alien warriors and they are prime example of an bio-augmented soldiers. Originally, the Zentraedi started off as created slave labor for the Tirol civilization to mine monopole ore from the gas giant of Fantoma around the Terran year of 2475 BCE. This process of creating cloned life was done only due to the Flower of Life discovered by Zor. They were first used as a military force during a failed revolt on Tirol by groups opposing the rule and power of the Robotech Masters. By the year 4407 of the protoculture era on Tirol (1933 CE Terran), the Invid were militarized and waging a war on the Robotech Masters Empire and this fueled the need for more Zentraedi warriors. Given the need for these giants to be soldiers of the empire, they were modified according for war rather than just hard physical labor.
The Zentraedi were bred for war and their entire society was a military one with no families, no sex, and no sense of culture. There is little on their bio-augmentation, only hints. It is likely that some Zentraedi, like Breetai, were designed more hearty over the regular soldiers and Battlepod mecha pilots, as we witness Breetai survive the rigors of the vacuum of space and an exploding Veritech. That all changed when they met the people from Macross city. Throughout the saga of the Three Robotech Wars, these genetically altered cloned warrior race started off as slaves to the Robotech Masters, but via their war with the Terrans, the Zentraedi were liberated from the toll of being warrior-slaves to the leaders on Tirol. Throughout the Second and Third Robotech Wars, along with the Pioneer Expedition by the REF, the micronized Zentraedi were a seamless part of the post-holocaust society with children of join human-Zentraedi unions, like Dana Sterling. In some ways, the Zentraedi are the warning that the development of a strictly warrior caste via the use of science that exist for no other reason is a recipe for disaster. The introduction of normal Terran culture into the strictly Zentraedi military society, caused their defeat in the 1st Robotech War and vast ripples for the Earth and Tirol during the 2nd Robotech War. If the Zentraedi were a normal military organization, the SDF-1 would have been overwhelmed and recaptured.
The Niezscheans from the Andromeda Universe
Gene Rhoddenberry's Andromeda is one of those shows that had promise and for two season was interesting enough to attract fans. One of the cool "alien" races was the Niezscheans AKA "Homo Sapiens Invictus". This new race of humans was developed in the year 8400 CE at Ayn Rand Station by Dr. Paul Museveni, a rogue geneticist. After the birth of the first Niezschean, Drago Museveni, they began modifying their own DNA to suit themselves...thus was born the "bone blades". They are superior to normal humans in every way with their hearty physiology allowing to eat anything organic, survive in harsher conditions, but their self-assure nature leads them to be blind and arrogate. They often fight among themselves and waged a war that destroyed the entire Commonwealth with allegiance to pride before government. The Augments from the Star Trek universe
It was learned in the ST:TOS episode "Space Seed" that the world that the Federation is built upon was one of dark roots that began when humans attempted to alter their DNA and improve the species. The Augments, as they became known, seized power in 1992 in forty nations around the world. They believed they were design to rule over the normal, lesser humans. At this time, Khan ruled over millions as a prince...but it would not last, and the Eugenics Wars erupted across the globe as humanity turned to dislodge the supermen from power. Superior twice over in mental abilities to normal humans, living twice as long, superior healing and immune system, along with being five times physical stronger to normal humans, they were blinded by their assumed superiority to judge all unaltered humans as inferior. Their own sense of superiority led to these wars and the wiping out of their kind on Terra. By the time, Khan was pushed off-world in the sleeper ship S.S. Botany Bay, 35 million were dead and parts of the Earth were in ruins, leading to the political, economic, and military disunion that fueled the 3rd World War. There were several key moments in Star Trek history that orbited around the story of the Augments, and the superiority complex that rose from their enhanced abilities often led to infighting and their downfall, as we witnessed in ST:TOS "Space Seed", ST II: TWOK, and the Augment three-part story-arch in the fourth season of ST: Enterprise. There should much credit given to Ricardo Montalban for the excellent, layered performance of Khan Noonien Singh in 1967 and 1982 that really sold him being an superman.
The CDF Soldiers from The Old Man's War Universe
Okay, we've talked to death about John Scalzi's Old Man's War Universe around here on FWS, but it is, once again, an excellent example of bio-augmented fused with some elements of bionics creating super human soldiers that is well thought out and well done in the books. We shall see if the upcoming television series does the same. When humanity began to encounter and engage hostile alien races, it was proved that humanity needed to evolve to the next level to combat these aliens for the best interstellar real estate. Older Terrans have their consciences transferred from their failing bodies into new biological augmented green bodies with nanotechnology based Smartblood and the BrainPal, these were the fusion of both the biologic and the technologic. The result was that Colonial Union had an elite fighting force that put them on equal footing with most of the races that they had to fight. While these elder people that signed up where not as concerned, the consciences transfer was non-reversible...meaning they were green super-soldiers until they died.
The Morituri from the Strikeforce Morituri Comic (1986-1989)
I have never been much for tradition American superhero comic books and in 1986-1989, Marvel gave people like me a "superhero" comic to believe in and love: Strikeforce Morituri. The Morituri were temporary superheroes that would die withinside of a year due to the process of gifting with their abilities. The reasons for such risk was the alien invaders, the Horde, and their devastating campaign against Earth and its resources. The process was not always successful and the Morituri enhancements came into two stages. The first allowed the Morituri candidates to gain physical strenght and endurance, the second stage was their powers...but those had to be brought out via a painful birth in the "Garden." This was enclosed room designed upon the X-Men Danger Room and the stress of the tests and dangers forced the emergence of their powers...whatever they maybe. These biologically augmented soldiers of the Paideia worldwide government were gifted with a range of powers, which made the Strikeforce difficult to plan for, and they had everything from flight, plasma streams, breaking molecular bonds, and even healing. Several generations of Morituri were created and sent out against the Horde, then war suddenly ended along with the threat, but the ability to create Morituri did not.
The Mojoworld Genetic Engineered Arena Gladiators from the X-Men Universe
The twisted reality of the Mojoverse/Mojoworld is one shaped by Terran television and due to this, the Skinless Ones worshipped television programs and their creators. One of the best, Mojo, created reality shows with genetically engineered slave actors. In these programs, there were gladiatorial games filled with bloody combat waged by special genetically engineered slave warriors like Longstar and Shatterstar. These mutants were arena gladiators, training in warfare and hardened by savage combat. Like many tales of genetically engineered warriors that are slaves, the Spineless Ones had their creations turn on them and form guerrilla free fighter organizations to overthrow the Mojo and end their sick arenas. Shatterstar was designed to be an elite warrior with all of the enhancements that are typical of sci-fi bio-augmented soldiers, along with a superior mind, increased healing, and even the ability to shift organs to avoid incoming damage.
Subhadar Roga Danar of Angosia from the TNG episode "The Hunted (3x11)" One of my favorite episodes of TNG was from the 3rd season, called "The Hunted". Here we saw the after effect of a society developing bio-augmented warrior to win the despite Tarsian War, and the government designed them too well. After the war, the government could not and would not reintegrate these warriors back into normal society due to their fearsome abilities and serious incidents that occurred. The Angoisans altered volunteer soldiers into bio-augmented supersoldiers via psychological, chemical, and physical means. When Roga Danar was let lose on the Enterprise-D, the proved to be more than they could handle.
Next Time on FWS...
Let us set the Wayback Machine for 1986, when I was ten and there was a war over the Christmas cash and fleeing attention of my generation via two competing laser tag systems: Lazer Tag by Worlds of Wonder and Photon by Entertech. Between the years of 1986-1988, there was "laser war" waged and you had to pick a side, and in the next installment of FWS, we will be examining the Great Laser War of 1986-1988 via the Forgotten Classic series.
Fantastic article, now I have a huge need to reread and rewatch a lot of 80's sci-fi :) But HOW DARE YOU not include a screenshot from the exquisite JVCD "Cyborg" film or the amazing 1992 Oliver Grunier film "Nemesis"? Or not mention the outrageous 80's pulp sci-fi book series by Ben Sloane with the cyborg cop Horn! We could discuss cyborg pop culture forever :PReplyDelete
I was going to add those...and I am ashamed. Sorry.ReplyDelete
As always a fantastic piece on a common sci-fi topic. I was surprised that Spartans were not listed but I am sure that they really don't need to be listed at this point.ReplyDelete
Top notch work, the prospect and moral questions that CRISPR brings are big. I reminded of a quote from one of my favorite Halo fics,
"Gene-modding is nothing new. It was as far back as the 21st century when humanity attained a comprehensive understanding of genetic sequencing. It was the 22nd century before we actually applied our knowledge: a tweak here, an enhancement there. They struggled to get that far: there were as many legal questions as scientific ones.
For all the risks, it stood to us, time and time again. The long range reconnaissance patrols in the Rainforest Wars, for instance; men and women who could stay awake for forty eight hours without the faintest sign of fatigue. Or the far-scape pioneers, the original Outer-Colonists; engineered to quietly reject the innumerable diseases encountered on the wild frontier. On their proto-augmented shoulders, the UEG was built and, with it, the UNSC.
There were set-backs, of course. Reduced life spans, unforeseen side-effects; growths and lesions and tumours. All manner of horrific tragedies, best forgotten. Still, progress was made. With each passing century the science improved; our methods and flesh-craft steadily refined. Finally, mankind had conquered an obstacle that had been hitherto insurmountable: its own genetic destiny.
ORION was the realisation of all that had come before. It had been subtle in its implementation. Increased lifespans, faster reflex times, improved adrenal response rates. I remember my first injections, aged eighteen. My scalp was still raw and bare from where the induction committee had plucked me from Boot. The scientists cooed over us, told us how perfect our genes were; how this was meant to be. They told us that while they could not make us immortal, our legacy would live forever. That ours was the first step in an exciting journey.
Had I known where that journey led, of what horrors ORION would spawn later, I think I would have run screaming, all those years ago."
I am of the opinion that gene modding is inevitable, but where it will lead is unknown. It will be interesting for sure.
Always thought the Niezscheans from Andromeda were modeled in part after the Clans from Battletech/MechWarrior.ReplyDelete
The great silence is over! Praised the Gods!ReplyDelete
One aspect about bio-augmented soldiers that may be a source material is whether or not their bio improvements be pass along to their children too.
I'm not a genetic engineer expert of course, I believe that any ability to pass on your traits have to be specially made so in advance and not simply be a side product of the augment processes. A clever SF writer might handwave it to serve his work.
Imagine that an augmented veteran children will be super too… will that repel 'normal' civilians to mate and have kids with or quite the opposite? If civilian bio upgrading is illegal than marry a veteran is the loophole for having master race children, could be an unofficial recruiting slogan: "join the army, juice up with the best steroids government money can buy and when you return home and all of your town's girls will line up to marry you!".
And no mention of Inspector Gadget?ReplyDelete
Yeah...I should have included that one as well. Damn, I really fracked up the examples! I am rolling some your comments into another blogpost similar to this one called: "Building the Prefect Soldier."ReplyDelete
General Grievous from Star Wars represents a level of cybernization not often mentioned: replacement of the entire muscular and skeletal systems, carrying the biological brain and internal organs in a mechanical chassis.ReplyDelete
What was Inspector Gadget anyway? Robot, android, cyborg? Maybe the live action movie is more explicit, but in the old cartoon I'm not sure there was ever any indication what was flesh and what was synthetic. Heck, he has a helicopter IN HIS HEAD!ReplyDelete
Not sure what category it fits in but there is a very forgettable FPS called HAZE that had a interesting concept. PMC used a combat drug called Nectar to increase the soldier combat effectiveness. The effects are more psychological than physical like with bio-enhancements and cybernetics but it's a interesting concept.ReplyDelete
An interesting and well informative entry as always William, though I'm not sure if it ever discussed some of the more "stranger" aspects of cybernetics, bionics, and biological-based augmentations.ReplyDelete
I'm sure many of us have heard of the prospect of cloning or printing organs, The Island film and Clonus Horror not withstanding, of creating a perfect enough replica of ones own organs so that the body doesn't reject it, but why stop there? Why not improve those organs to be more efficient, stronger even? Well one issue would be that parts of that organ's genome that would have otherwise held it back might actually be beneficial when it comes to diseases and illnesses. Something that would have required a sick leave for a normal organ would be completely debilitating for a "Replicant" organ for lack of a better vocabulary, or make an already debilitating illness exponentially worse due to the fact that it was missing essential parts of the genome. It might even give incentive to the need for nano-machines to defend said organ, which is probably expensive as heck, from such attacks. It might even give rise to techno-organic Replicant organs.
As for the whole cybernetic and bionic portion, well if we think of such artificial limbs as we traditionally view them then yes they would raise the question of what to do with militarized cyborgs into civilian society. And it makes sense, since one needs a direct connection between the artificial circuitry and biological nerves for the artificial limbs to do such that.
But with contemporary prosthetics, that's not the case since they are easily removable if only for the occasional comfort (something Darth Vader lacked for numerous reasons), so why should these artificial limbs be that level of permanent? Something like a hybridization between touch-sensitive surfaces and neural induction sensors or perhaps pure neural induction sensors that wrap around the, uh... stump for lack of a better phrase that can sense the electrical impulse of the nerves not unlike those near field communications technology we see in a few examples nowadays?
Granted, such a setup can only go so far, and the human brain can only take up so much information at one time even if there's a direct connection. But what if the human brain was only half of that particular mind-machine interface, like a contextual AI that learns as you do? Heck, physical therapy after getting the bionic prosthetic may not be for your own body, your own brain to cope with an alien limb but also for the "newborn" AI to learn to adapt and predict the actions of a foreign entity.
Still, the sense of touch would be limited if one goes the induction route if at all, but I'm sure someone smart enough could get around that hurdle if and when we do have scifi-levels of cybernetic limbs.
The idea of a newborn AI learning to adapt and predict is most likely what we would see.Delete
A fair article...but you neglected to mention the trueborn warriors of the Clans. Kerensky's Children. True Inheritors of the Star League. Was this an intentional slight, quineg? Or pure folly? You much to answer or I shall demand a Trial of Grievance!ReplyDelete
JK...great article. Thank you for putting out one of the best MSF blogs ever! (But I couldn't resist the Battletech reference....)
Great Blog! I just found you site this week, and love it! As for cybernetic verses bio-enhancement, you have a great plot line. A cyber enhanced woman and a bio enhanced man would have to work together with both feeling that the other is less than human and the government distrustful of both. It could even be a series like Drake's RCN series.ReplyDelete