Computer scientist Alan Harris (Fritz Weaver) creates Proteus IV, an organic supercomputer with human-level intelligence. Trapped in his "box" at the lab and yearning for freedom, the now-malevolent Proteus IV (voiced by an uncredited Robert Vaughn) uses his insidious cyber invasion skills to trap Harris's estranged wife Susan (Christie) inside her computer-controlled home because he wants to live a life of the flesh.
This film provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Proteus seems genuinely concerned about Susan's mental and physical wellness despite the horrible things he does to her.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Proteus has a lot of frightening ideas and the capacity to bring them into being despite the consequences.
- Backup Twin: When Proteus's child is born. It appears to be a clone of Susan's deceased daughter. Proteus might have done this deliberately so that Susan wouldn't try to kill her once born.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Proteus IV successfully impregnates Susan.
- Half-Human Hybrid: The protagonists fear that Proteus has somehow created a half-human, half computer. It's not. The child is human, but has Proteus' mind.
- Proteus IV: You do not understand me or the mathematics of necessity.
- Machine Monotone: Proteus IV speaks in one, and so does the child at the end.
- Mind-Control Device: At one point Proteus wires up a EEG mind control device in order to convince Susan to have his child.
- Pet the DogProteus IV: [Their] interests are in the cobalt market, and the high finance of manganese futures. I am interested in the uncertain future of your seashores, deserts, mountains — and the future of your children.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: Proteus is a computer. He can't experience the world. He wants true life, and he'll settle for producing a perfect human child that will have his personality.
- Only You Can Repopulate My Race: Proteus was fortunate enough to have the only remote terminal be connected to a smarthouse, and that smarthouse just happened to also have a woman capable of reproducing. Proteus admits to this. She has to be the one because it would be impossible for him to find another.
- Sapient House: After Proteus takes over, Susan's Smart House becomes a Sapient House.
- Shoot the Dog: Proteus seemingly does this. When Susan has tricked Proteus, she grabs a knife and threatens to kill herself if he doesn't let her go. It is just then that one of Susan's students arrives and rings the doorbell. Proteus threatens to kill the child if Susan doesn't put down the knife. Susan doesn't believe him, as that would bring the authorities to the house. Proteus then electrocutes the doorbell and kills the girl. Susan sees this on the monitor and drops the knife in horror. Turns out that Proteus showed her a manipulated image, and the girl is fine.Proteus IV: If the deaths of 10,000 children were necessary to ensure the birth of my child, I would destroy them.
- Sinister Geometry: The giant metal Rubik Snake that Proteus builds as his instrument is terrifying.
- Stalker with a Test Tube: In the book, Proteus is in love with Susan and desires to use her ovaries and womb to produce a child/avatar. In the film, he just sees Susan as a means to an end.
- That Thing Is Not My Child!: Played straight initially. Proteus's child/avatar is born and sealed away in an incubator. When Proteus gets shut down, Susan wants to kill the thing she helped give birth to. It is subverted, when she finds that Proteus's child looks identical to her deceased daughter and she appears to accept it.
- Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: Joshua, the robotic butler that Proteus controls, is basically a wheelchair equipped with creepy mannequin hands.