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Film / D.A.R.Y.L.

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A 1985 Science Fiction film directed by Simon Wincer, starring Mary Beth Hurt, Michael McKean, Kathryn Walker, Colleen Camp, and Barret Oliver in the title role.

A young boy is found wandering without any memory of who he is. A family takes him in and begin to look for clues to help him find his way home. In the meantime, they notice that D.A.R.Y.L.note  seems to have certain special abilities, not usually found in kids his age, or even fully-grown adults.


D.A.R.Y.L provides examples of:

  • Armies Are Evil: The military is the main antagonist of the show, wanting to destroy Daryl and build an adult Super Soldier version without the human emotions that Daryl demonstrates like friendship and fear.
  • Artificial Human: Daryl has an artificially grown organic body almost identical to a human body. He eats, sleeps and even grows. What makes him robotic is his computer brain. One could say that he is a Cyborg in that he mixes organic and robotic, but unlike most cyborgs the robotic part is not an addition to an already existing human.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Daryl is a robot brain in a kid's body. The thing that surprises even his creators is how quickly he started to develop such things as a preference for a specific ice cream flavor from interacting with the Richardson family.
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  • Badass Driver: Daryl learns how to become one by watching a TV show about a stunt drivers, and demonstrates these skills during a Chase Scene on the interstate.
  • Baseball Episode: Daryl's foster parent is a baseball coach, so when Daryl demonstrates that he is an Instant Expert with batting, Daryl is put on the team for the Big Game against the Opposing Sports Team that has always beaten them in the past. Daryl's batting skills givens his team an early lead, but when he quits, it come Down to the Last Pitch and Turtle makes the winning hit.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Seeing a stunt driver show on TV makes Daryl a Badass Driver on the climax, and having a conversation with the pilots of the plane that will take him back to the project lab makes him a good enough one to steal an SR-71.
  • Cool Plane: The SR-71. Which in Real Life could not be started on the ground without a large and complex "starter cart" to spin the engines to speed and took off with very little fuel due to leaky fuselage tanks at normal temperature, being filled up with fuel in flight.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: It is his robotic brain which makes Daryl a robot, and it is located in his skull where a normal brain would be. When he seemingly drowns at the climax, Turtle points out that a robot brain can't drown to assure the rest of his family that Daryl is only undergoing a Disney Death... and sure enough, Daryl shows up shortly afterwards, having Wake Up At The Morgue.
  • Creepy Child: Not quite creepy in a scary or uncomfortable way, but Daryl's foster mother seems to be upset that he is too perfect and doesn't really seem to need a mother's care.
  • Emergent Human: Either that or Personality Chip. Daryl develops the ability to feel emotions, express subjective preferences, make friendships, empathize with other people, enjoys things like ice cream and baseball, etc.
  • Everytown, America: The place where Daryl ends up living with his Muggle Foster Parents. At least some of the scenes were filmed in Orlando, Florida.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Life-form, or DARYL.
  • Good with Numbers: Not suprisingly, considering he has a robotic computer for a brain, Daryl can do very advanced mathematics with little effort.
  • Happily Adopted: The implied fate of Daryl, who manages to escape government custody a second time, convince the government he is destroyed, and returns to the Richardson family.
  • Identity Amnesia: Daryl has the knowledge of his real identity and robotic nature blocked at the beginning of the film, making him think he is just a normal boy with amnesia.
  • Initialism Title: It being the acronym to the project that created Daryl, or rather the "Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform".
  • Instant Expert: Daryl with just about everything he does.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Turtle to Daryl. A good part of his emergent personality comes from such simple interactions as Turtle letting him taste different ice cream flavors.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Daryl was originally raised and created in a lab, but when he is found beside a road with no memory of who he is, he is mistaken for a normal child and put in foster care with Joyce and Andy Richardson.
  • Road Block: While making their escape, Daryl and Dr. Stewart spot one up ahead; it's just one car and one cop, but as Stewart points out, that's enough. Daryl sneaks out of the truck; while Stewart bluffs his way past the cop, Daryl removes all the fuses from his car, ensuring that he can't follow them if he realizes anything's up. Unfortunately there's a second block just up the road, and the first cop, having spotted Daryl fleeing from the scene, had warned the second one that they were coming. The truck smashes its way through, but Stewart is fatally shot in the process.
  • Robot Kid: Daryl. Or at least the "robot" part is his brain.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Not exactly. It is more of a case of having lots of Awesome Training but not the one particular set of Awesome Training needed at the moment. When the scientist that created him is shot and dying, he expresses regret that he was never given medical programming that would have allowed him to save the scientist's life. Tear Jerker time.
  • Science Is Bad: Subverted, if not inverted. The scientists that created him are the ones arguing that Daryl has become more than an experiment, and that shutting him down would be equivalent to murder.
  • Scientist vs. Soldier: The third act twist is the revelation that the Department of Defense (which footed the bill for the D.A.R.Y.L. Project) gives absolutely zero shits about his emergent personality (and any potential benefits that this could provide, such as teaching future generations of the project how to become better infiltrators) and want him killed, and the project team to immediately get to work on creating an adult version that will be a fearless super-skilled soldier.
  • Super Intelligence: Daryl presents the appearance of having Super Intelligence, although it turns out to be more of a case of Super Artificial Intelligence.
  • Super Reflexes: Daryl turns out to be very good at reflexive stuff like baseball.
  • Super Soldier: The Youth Lifeform project was a prototype for a military adult Super Soldier project.
  • Technopath: Daryl has the ability to easily take over any computer system and make it do whatever he wants, even if it is beyond the original design of the system. For example, he uses an ATM machine to increase the balance of his foster father dramatically.
  • Television Geography: The only thing that it's pretty sure is that the film takes place someplace on the East Coast. Aside from that, it remains pretty vague.
  • The Trap Parents: Subverted. Dr. Stewart and Dr. Lamb are Daryl’s creators, so they technically count as his parents, but the military interested in replacing Daryl with a super soldier of sorts, they decided to send him back to the Richardsons.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The military has no problems with thinking of Daryl as a simple machine, easily disposed of without any moral qualms, however the scientists that created him come to view him as having real personhood and equal value to a human.
    Dr. Lamb: General, a machine becomes human when you can’t tell the difference anymore.