Who did it better? Victim card edition.

Let’s cut to the chase. Las Luchadoras is a wholesale rip-off of Cybernauts, from the 1961–1969 British TV series The Avengers, specifically the episode “Return of the Cybernauts” from 1967. Thanks to readers Xavier Mouton-Dubosc @dascritch and Roger Long @evil_potato for drawing my attention to the complete ripoffery.

Dust off your stereoscopes for this one.

Compare freely…

  • Bad robot is silver-faced, wears a black trench coat, does not speak, wears black sunglasses, and a black hat.
  • Bad robot is given instructions via a graphically-designed card inserted into a machine slot.
  • Bad robot smashes through walls to gain access to victims who stand there in horror rather than, say, running from the slow-walking golem.
  • When bad robot kills, it does so with karate chops.
  • Bad human captures scientists and forces them to provide engineering specs to fulfill his evil ambitions.
  • Bad human forces scientists to build a wrist-wearable mind-control device, for use on Team Good. (One’s a bracelet. The other is a watch.) The main target for mind-control is a woman.
  • Bad human has plans to use the mind-controlled person to fight the rest of Team Good.
  • The day is saved (spoiler? I guess?) by pulling the mind-control device from the victim and putting it on the robot, which instead of granting the bad human more control of the robot, causes it to go berserk.

It’s like René Cardona saw “Return of the Cybernauts” on TV, loved it, and thought there is only one thing that could make this better: Lady. Wrestlers. So he added luchadoras and hoped BBC Four wouldn’t notice. He just wanted to make the world better, y’all.

If you think I’m exaggerating, here are a few side by side shots.

I guess we can give credit to Cardona’s selection of a Bolero hat instead of that tired Fedora thing? SciFiFashionChoices.com
I like the implication in Luchadoras that audiences wouldn’t trust that these men were engineers unless they were in medical scrubs. (?) Way to trust your audience, Cardona.

The main differences from the technology point of view is that in “The Cybernauts” (the first episode from The Avengers to feature the robots, when the series was still shot in black and white), the robots didn’t track their victims by heartbeat. The robots followed a radio signal emitted from a pen that was gifted to the victim. In “The Return of the Cybernauts,” they’d gotten an upgrade, and did their tracking via sensors that were all on board.

10 FOLLOW PEN / 20 GOTO 10

Additionally, in The Avengers, the victim card is inserted into an angled control panel attached to a wall-sized computer. In Luchadoras, the card is inserted into a slot built into the Robot Asesino. (The next post.) Otherwise, the steps of interaction are the same.

Which brings us to the Victim Cards

Behold them, side-by-side.

It’s easier to tally the differences than the similarities, because they are quite alike.

  • Avengers’ cards are affixed to transparent plastic. Luchadoras’ cards are a thick paper.
  • Avengers’ has its elements separated by light blue rule lines. Luchadoras’ has no borders.
  • Avengers’ has a numeric unique identifier in the lower left.
  • Avengers’ top graphic looks like black computer-readable shapes on a white background. (Though it was almost certainly graphic tape.) Luchadoras’ looks like a white star chart on a red background.
  • Avengers’ middle graphic is clearly a cardiogram (even if cardiograms are continuous not plotted points). Luchadoras’ is hard to read because of the crappy transfer, but nothing like a cardiogram.
  • Avengers’ lower graphic looks something like white braille pips on a red background. Luchadoras’ is weird white glyphs on a black background.

So…Who did it better?

Let’s not use the low resolution of this transfer against Luchadores. And we won’t use the lack of trippy face-stabilizing algorithms in the transfer of The Avengers against it.


The bits on The Avengers’ card are clearly pasted there. The corners are curling up! But the plastic card feels solid and monumental. Luchadoras’ card seems like it was printed the way we see it! Using a color printer today, this would be a no big deal. But back in 1969 this was quite an achievement. Luchadoras wins.


Avengers top graphic is perfect. Like an early version of OCR. It’s very convincingly an instruction for a computer: precise and high contrast. Sadly the cardiogram is a little off, since even if it was plotted points, those points would be evenly spaced, and having the irregular plots on graph paper only highlights the unevenness. The braille-like bits at the bottom are, again, very convincingly an instruction for a 1960s computer to easily read.

Luchadores’ is just…nonsensical. A star chart? Hieroglyphs? “Cardiogram” lines that go backwards and cross back over themselves?

Avengers wins, leaving us with a need for a tie-breaker.

Diegetic usability

This is the main measure, and I’m just being coy for leaving it to the last. The purpose of the card is for henchmen and bad guys to provide programs for a robot assassin.Luchadoras’ space-filling layout and production quality make it look more in-line with modern design sensibilities on the surface, the actual content of those graphics are just 4th-wall-destroyingly awful.

Plus, since, the Avengers’ has the unique ID that makes it easy to for the humans to talk about with each other,…

“Get me the Peel card!”
“Uh, which is that?”
“The only person presenting as a woman?”
“Oh, Hahaha. Got it.

…it wins.

If you’re going to copy, Luchadoras, seek to deeply understand the thing you’re copying first.

For more Who Did it Better, see the tag. Right now there’s only the fingernail-o-matics from The Fifth Element and Total Recall, but I’ll tag future things with that same tag.

Playing the Victim Card

To specify a target for assassination or kidnapping, Orlak (or a henchman) inserts a specially designed card into a slot built into the robot’s chest, right at its heart. One of those cards is below.

The layout of the card puts the victim’s picture on the left; a node-graph diagram that looks like a constellation diagram, and some inscrutable symbols on the right. The characters discuss that this card contains a cardiogram of the victim, but it’s unclear which part of the card has this information, because they usually look something like this:

1896 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution
only license CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning that one of the movie’s givens is that a cardiogram can uniquely identify a person, like a thumbprint (which isn’t as provably unique as popular culture would have us believe). But to use a cardiogram to locate a person without a ubiquitous sensing network (unthinkable in 1969) would require a very high resolution cardiogram, a wall-piercing sensors, and some shockingly advanced pattern matching on the part of the robot, and I’m not sure I’m willing to give this film that much credit.

Presuming that there are lots of technical reasons for the stuff on the right, and the robot needs the profile for visual recognition, I imagine the only thing missing is a human-readable name so these are easy for the henchmen and scientists to discuss amongst themselves. I mean, they might happen to know every single scientist in town by sight, but having the name would avoid possible misidentifications. The design of artifacts have to take into account all common scenarios of use, including production, maintenance, and storage.

Speaking of which, it’s unclear how these cards are produced. They seem like they take a lot of expert effort to produce and fabricate. Let’s give the film credit to say that this is a deliberate attempt by the enslaved scientists to…

  • Make something as irrevocable as a death sentence very difficult to order.
  • Ensure an order to the murderous robot takes time, and thereby give time to let passions subside and orders to be rescinded.
  • Serve as a bailiwick of sorts, being too difficult for a layperson to do, and thereby difficult to turn on its masters.
  • Secure their jobs.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: Turns out these cards are a copy of cards from The Avengers (1961–1969). Check out the comparison.



The lifeclock is alterable, as we see when the Übercomputer sets Logan’’s lifeclock to blinking red years before he is actually due to Carousel. This procedure must be beyond the capabilities of the populace since it could be used to blackmail citizens, or, if reversible, to allow them to delay carousel.


Why this procedure was designed in a way to cause stress and discomfort on the part of the subject is unclear. Since the computer is counting on Logan and needs his cooperation, it should have taken the exact opposite approach. Even if the discomfort is a necessary part of the retrogram, the computer should have handled it like a friendly nurse, explaining that there will be some unavoidable pain, and given Logan some tools to manage it like a number to count to. And c’mon, it should skip the ominous red light.

Industrial design

The other design consideration is the placement of the divot in which Logan must place his lifeclock for retrogramming. All told, it’s pretty good. It’s a natural placement, almost difficult for Logan to avoid putting his hand in the right spot. Even if the Übercomputer is going to just “sneak up” on Logan and retrogram him without warning, it’s the right spot given that the Übercomputer seems to have no complex actuators.


There’s an interesting issue about the divot that depends on the level of pain that Logan is feeling. If it’s too great, Logan might jerk his hand away and ruin the retrogram. In that case, the arm of the chair should hold Logan’s hand in place, like one of those automated blood pressure cuffs. But the pain we see on Logan’s face in the scene doesn’t look that great. It looks like just enough to force him to concentrate to keep it there, to do his duty and comply. In this case even if the pain isn’t a necessary part of the operation, the Übercomputer might want to add that pain in, just as a test of his continued compliance.