2001: A Space Odyssey (Film) Quotes


"Eighteen months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered."

Heywood Floyd, space administration bureaucrat

The screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey is notoriously skimpy on dialogue. The overwhelming bulk of the visuals on screen are not accompanied by characters in conversation nor is there any voiceover narration to guide the viewer’s understanding. Under normal circumstances, this would mean that the dialogue which is spoken is of exceptional importance either as a device to propel the plot or as a means of delineating character. Since this is not a normal film by any definition, such expectations fail to apply. About the closest that the dialogue in 2001: A Space Odyssey ever gets to being used for the purpose of explaining important plot points is this snippet from a prerecorded briefing made by one of the government bureaucrats in charge of authorizing the Discovery One Mission.

"Well, it's exactly like being asleep. You have absolutely no sense of time. The only difference is that you don't dream."

Frank Poole, Discovery One astronaut

This quote is given in response to a question posed by a BBC reporter back on earth to one of the astronauts making the long journey aboard the Discovery spaceship. While prosaic enough as an image to convey the daily routine of space travel, within that ordinariness of language lies a secret nugget of information that can be useful to the viewer. The astronauts aboard the Discovery seem particularly absent any sort of awe normally associated with representing humanity as space explorers; in fact, they seem absent almost all emotions normally expected of human beings in any situation. The answer to why the filmmakers chose to present a science fiction movie populated by characters possessing none of the standard traits associated with the heroic astronauts of previous space travel films turns out to be…well…prosaic: space travel is boring and with no rise and fall of the sun by which to measure the passage of time in ways one is used to, long-term missions like those of the Discovery doubtlessly would actually provoke the sort of somnambulism Poole is describing.

“The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”

HAL-9000, the Discovery spaceship's computer control

One of the worst mistakes anyone can ever make is believing claims that a machine is foolproof and incapable of accidents or errors. That mistake is only compounded when the machine itself is making those claims to infallibility. Of course, the question that must be discovered is whether HAL-9000 was exhibiting evidence of not being foolproof with its claims of being foolproof or whether it was instead exhibiting a particularly sinister demonstration of human-like disingenuousness.

“Dave, I can't put my finger on it, but I sense something strange about him.”

Frank Poole

In what they believe is a private conversation not accessible to HAL, Frank makes this observation to Dave. The subject, of course, is the increasingly erratic ship computer. Indeed, something is very strange about HAL. And both astronauts are about to find out just what an odd duck he is.

"Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL. Hello, HAL, do you read me? Hello, HAL, do you read me? Do you read me, HAL? Do you read me, HAL? Hello, HAL, do you read me? Hello, HAL, do you read me? Do you read me, HAL?"

Dave Bowman, astronaut

A lot has gone down since HAL-9000 revealed its endless capacity for self-promotion. In the interim, the astronauts have had good reason to suspect that the vaunted infallibility of their ship’s computer was basically just some really purple prose from the marketing department. By the time the point at which the plot takes a sharp left turn into the realm of thriller and astronaut Dave Bowman proves himself every bit as capable of repetition as a programmed computer script, the conundrum concerning HAL’s position as foolproof has been demonstratively and definitively answered.

“Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over. I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”


It has been a very stressful trip for the ship’s computer. In between making sure the Discovery remains operational, he’s been quite busy killing off all the human inhabitants. Except Dave.

“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid.”


Needless to say, HAL’s insistence that his homicidal spree was merely an example of poor decision-making was not exactly convincing to Dave. In response, Dave commits the technological equivalent a revenge killing: he pulls the plug on HAL. In the last moments of his death throes, HAL reveals a surprisingly moving emotional dimension which defies all conventional rules of logic. Nevertheless, take notice that the only character given the kind of emotionally devastating death scene so popular with actors is the computer.

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