Machines that speak have been a common element in Speculative Fiction
almost since the beginning of the genre. Usually, such voices have been portrayed as either an electronic monotone, or as an endlessly calm human voice that, while certainly warmer than the electronic buzz of the synthesizer, is unsettling to listen to because of a lack of basic emotional content. This is because, for the most part, machines are incapable of actually feeling emotions.
When delivered in a flat monotone voice (that is usually free of contractions or slang), even Spock Speak
can take on creepy undertones.
This is especially evident when an artificial intelligence goes nuts
. Despite going crazy and deciding to to Kill All Humans
or simply to take over and rule us for our own good
, all the threats and casually vicious comments the machine makes are made in the same level, calm mode of talking, making them that much more creepy.
A subtrope of Creepy Monotone
. Also a justification
if the voice comes off as creepy.
This can be an aspect of the Uncanny Valley
Compare Synthetic Voice Actor
and Computer Voice
. Contrast Electronic Speech Impediment
, where the lack of a Machine Monotone is a cause for concern.
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Anime and Manga
- Father Tres Equis from Trinity Blood, except he's a cold killer android. He's still the kind of guy who proposes killing a small child for simplicity's sake, and lacks emotions of any kind. Probably one of the only example who actually acts as unemotional as a walking computer would. A few minor events suggest that Tres does some of this intentionally; he's certainly not as emotionless as people think.
- The main antagonist of Digimon Tamers, the D-Reaper, also uses a Creepy Monotone (this time because it is evil/a computer program). This is made twelve times creepier because the Creepy Monotone it uses is the voice of Jeri, one of the main characters, whom it had absorbed early on.
- Project 2501 "the Puppetmaster" from Ghost in the Shell speaks in monotone constantly, and for added dissonance, has a male voice in a female body, and does not move the mouth.
- Chachamaru in Mahou Sensei Negima! (played by Akeno Watanabe, who also plays Robin Sena). This trait was carried over into the dub by giving her a British accent, and casting Caitlin Glass to play her.
- The gynoid Dorothy from The Big O speaks in a level electronic grate - although peculiarly, instead of making her seem detached or dispassionate, it transforms her into a snickeringly incisive Deadpan Snarker.
- The hero Roger has just literally kicked her into the middle of a crossfire - she emerges with her shell sootied, her clothes tattered, and her frazzled hair sticking out every which way. Her comment? "You're a louse, Roger Smith".
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd As has NachtWal, the The Book of Darkness' malfunctioning automatic defense system that speaks in Gratuitous German with a calm, mechanical monotone as it terminates the Wolkenritter, breaks Hayate's mind, possesses her body, and starts destroying the world.
- HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey always talks in a near-monotone with just enough inflection to put it in the Uncanny Valley. Towards the end of the movie, when Dave is essentially lobotomizing him, HAL goes from trying to reason with Dave to pleading for his life, stopping only when he reverted to factory settings and began singing a rendition of "Daisy." All in the same calm, polite voice.
Dave: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
HAL 9000: I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave.
- The original model Terminator always spoke like this, even when mimicking someone else's voice. In the first sequel, it is revealed that the longer he spends in contact with humans, the more human he will come to act. But he still pretty much speaks in a flat monotone. The T-1000, on the other hand, is shown to be able to mimic vocal inflection, it just doesn't do it unless it's necessary.
- The agents from The Matrix all talk like this, even while in the midst of a gunfight.
- The Ilia-probe from Star Trek The Motion Picture spoke like this.
- Proteus IV in Demon Seed, provided by an uncredited Robert Vaughn.
- VIKI from I Robot, in contrast to Sonny's speech, which is between this and a genuine emotional voice.
- ARIA in Eagle Eye, probably the best thing in all the movie.
- "Max", from Flight of the Navigator. At least, until it downloaded information from David's brain and accidentally took in some of his personality and started to sound like a sci-fi Pee-Wee Herman...
- EDI, the rogue plane of Stealth, is particularly cruel when says "Goodbye, Henry" to Jamie Foxx, one second before jamming him and his plane against a cliff.
- The titular Master Computer from the 1970s film Colossus The Forbin Project:
- The WOPR supercomputer ("Joshua") from Wargames. Somewhat justified, because WOPR isn't really "talking", it's simply printing text which is run though a fairly simple text-to-speech synthesizer on the protagonist's home computer.
"Shall we play a game?"
- GERTY from Moon isn't monotone, but speaks in a rigidly pleasant and soothing tone.
- The calm monotone of David from Prometheus just serves to make his semi-sarcastic one-liners all the more cutting.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "Robots of Death", the eponymous robots speak with no inflection. More of than than not, all the robots and computers tend to do this.
- The modern Cybermen, as well as their original incarnations from the '60s, speak in a constant and unchanging monotone. And that's the least freaky thing about them.
- The Daleks avert this. There are some instances where they talk in a rather monotone voice, but most of the time they simply shout in xenophobic rage.
- In Gene Roddenberry's failed pilot Questor, the titular android (played by the always excellent Robert Foxworth) spoke like this.
- Cameron, from The Sarah Connor Chronicles, uses a Machine Monotone in general. The absence of the Machine Monotone we're used to is what made the scene where she recites, not only word for word but inflection for inflection, a "classmate's" emotional bathroom rant for the principal creepy.
- Similarly, in the second season premiere, the steady shift from Cameron's Creepy Monotone to her desperate, terrified pleas to John to a screaming declaration that she loves him while he's trying to take out her chip makes for a chillingly awesome scene.
- And in the episode "Allison from Palmdale", the use of the Creepy Monotone and its absence makes an already chilling episode that much creepier.
- The Bionic Woman (1970s) episode "Doomsday is Tomorrow". The
HAL 9000 ALEX 7000 computer that's trying to kill Jaime has a voice like this.
- The androids in the Star Trek episode "Mudd's Planet" all spoke in a constant monotone.
- Not to mention the main computer of Enterprise.
- Except the one episode, when it gets reprogrammed with a husky female voice.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has had at least two monotone androids:
- The first was the android "Ted". He keeps it up even with half his face missing during his fight with Buffy.
- The other was April, an android created by Warren Meers in a fifth-season episode. Xander and Anya even remark that her strangely even and polite monotone, while odd, is a turn on to some guys. Considering her original purpose in being built it was probably intentional.
- The Buffybot has an even "Creepy Perkiness" manner of speaking.
- Although they don't exactly sound like it, the Borg Collective in Star Trek: The Next Generation technically speaks in a monotone, albeit a loud, reverberating one. Certainly, their insistence that everything you throw at them is "irrelevant" fits this trope to a T - and they have the ability to back it up. Locutus' speech patterns sound closer to a traditional Creepy Monotone, but he slipped some inflection in there amid the creepy disjointedness. The Borg Queen pretty much threw the whole idea out the window.
- Locutus (a hybrid of types 2 and 3) was specifically intended by the Borg to facilitate "relations" between themselves and the bothersome humans who kept resisting. His inflected speech and referring to Riker as "number one" were poor attempts to put the humans at ease, most likely. Of course, this was even more horrible than if he'd spoken like the other brain-dead, soulless drones.
- Vicki on Small Wonder is a comedic example, though she also did natural intonations from time to time.
- This is a combination of this trope and A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
- In Worm, the supervillain Bakuda has a gas mask that does this to her voice.
- Dragon Ball Abridged gives Killer Robot Android 19 one of these by having a computer text-to-speech program voice him.
- Eudocia from Brennus speaks like this. However, Polymnia manages to avert it despite using a voice synthesizer — she custom-built her own, using her enhanced knowledge of sonics to make it sound very close to a real human voice.
- Auto the autopilot from WALL•E, itself a lampshade of HAL-9000.
- Parodied in Futurama where a HAL 9000-like spaceship talks like HAL at first until they change the voice to a cheerful girl's voice. It's still creepy when he/she/it becomes obsessed with Bender.
- Another episode features a rather fearsome robot nanny that shouts in a seemingly angry monotone, "Sleep, little dumpling! I have replaced your mother!" Leela says, "Aww!"
- Series: The Transformers. Example: Soundwave. Behavior: Always uses monotone. HAL 9000 voice synthesizer: Comparatively flexible. Outcome: Enduring fame and popularity.
- Soundwave of Transformers Cybertron rocks the monotone too, but he remixes it with some phat Jive Turkey.
- It is illogical to ignore Soundwave of Animated. He speaks in complete sentences. This differentiates him from the original. His inflection remains flat and heavily synthesized. His sentences are clipped and precise. His voice remains a tinny monotone under all circumstances. He is Soundwave.
- There's also Animated Perceptor, who according to Word of God supposedly removed his personality to have more room for information storage. And he's one of the good guys. In fact, his synthesized voice is basically the same as Stephen Hawking.
- Omega Supreme talks like this because he was attacked by a Mirror Morality Machine long ago. He was able to break free before it had finished reprogramming him, but it left him nearly emotionless. He can talk "like a normal Autobot," but it seems to take some effort. Prime expresses the hope that Omega may eventually recover his ability to feel, and Omega answers, "Possibility: growing."
- Subverted by Deceptitran (in the episode "Sea Change"), a Decepticon computer that is expressly proven to be nonsentient, but whose voice sounds like it's on the verge of hysteria.
- The Autobots' computers Teletraan-1 and Teletraan-2 both have fairly inflectionless voices, although 1 always sounds like it's boldly announcing something, and 2 has a more soothing HAL-type voice.
- The Decepticon Shockwave is described as an evil version of Mr. Spock, though that mostly refers to the comic-book version, who is every bit as fond of the word 'logic' as the Vulcans. However, he does speak in a very emotionless manner, with a bit of rasp as well. The Animated version talks the same way, and has the same actor, but in his disguise as Longarm, he talks much more normally and even has a different accent.
- The DCAU version of Brainiac, being an AI, is portrayed quite like HAL.
- Voiced by Corey Burton, who also voices both versions of Shockwave.
- The computer from The Brave Little Toaster.
- Ultron from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes does this. As arrogant and psychotic as a machine he can get, his voice never really changes.
- The computer whom the Blockheads consult numerous times in the first movie of Gumby. Midway, it starts changing tones for no apparent reason.
- Watson, IBM's Jeopardy playing computer, pretty much sounded like this.
- Who could forget Microsoft Sam?
- Stephen Hawking. His is an interesting case, in that the synthesiser he uses is over thirty years old and significantly out of date, yet he continues to use it because the synthesiser's monotone is so universally associated with him and is, in effect, his actual voice as far as most everyone is concerned.
- The hacktivist group Anonymous use voice synthesizers to hide their identities.