2001: A Space Odyssey Characters

2001: A Space Odyssey Character List


The unnamed ape who makes contact with the alien monolith three million years before the birth of Christ which provides a catalyst to the process of the evolution of man. In a way, this simian primate who is actually a little more than ape and a lot less than man can be viewed from a Darwinian perspective as a metaphorical Adam just as the alien intelligence responsible for the appearance of monolith can be viewed as a metaphor for the God of Abraham. With the whisper of intelligence from this advanced civilization, Moon-Watcher becomes the first animal to learn how to use tools to hunt and kill, thus enhancing the available food supply to provide the missing nutrients needed for the brain development.

Heywood Floyd

Heywood Floyd seems to possess some importance of greater significance than other characters in 2001, but that significance really won’t be come to the fore until the later sequels. In effect, Floyd in the year 2001 is little more than a futuristic bureaucrat for the space program who has been called to the moon in that capacity to become a liaison between various concerned parties over the discovery of a strange object uncovered slightly beneath the surface of the satellite. Given the equally bureaucratically boring name TMA-1 (Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One), the object turns out to be the same thing that endowed Moon-Watcher with intelligence millions of years ago. The difference this time around is that the monolithic object is now broadcasting a signal through space, triggered by its first exposure to sunlight in three million years. This mission by Floyd will ultimately result in the launch of the Discovery mission.

David Bowman

David Bowman is one of the two astronauts aboard the Discovery on its mission who is not in a state of suspended animation for the journey. As far as rank and responsibility, those things hardly matter. There is essentially no crew to captain and even if there it would not really fall to Bowman to become the Capt. Kirk of the Discovery. Bowman’s primary responsibility as a character is to come to the realization that the spaceship’s computer in charge of controlling everything is beginning to act like a robot that has achieved sentience. Once he comes to the realization, his responsibility is to keep the computer from harming him.

Frank Poole

If Bowman were in the traditional role of the captain of a spaceship, then Frank Poole would be his Gilligan. Or, perhaps, the roles would be reversed. So meaningless are is the conventional expectation of crew hierarchy about this mission that it is equally likely that Bowman or Poole could be considered the commander. In fact, so unconventional is the Discovery mission within the context of the genre of science fiction space travel that the destination changes from Jupiter to Saturn after the ship has been launched. Poole’s place within the narrative is little different from Bowman’s except that his realization of the danger posed by the ship’s computer reaches a much higher personal level than it does for Bowman.


HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer) 9000 is the computerized control of the Discovery space ship. The computer oversees the maintenance of all mechanical and life support systems on board and is enabled with a human-sounding voice to facilitate communications with the astronauts. As HAL grows increasingly idiosyncratic, Bowman and Poole slowly begin to understand that the actual role of the computer extends far beyond maintenance to the point that he appears to have been programmed with an authority that far exceeds their own.

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