It's no secret that Zoe Ball is the latest media darling. On radio, on TV, in the press, there's just no escaping from those blond tresses and that perky grin. But have you ever suspected that there might be a sinister side to this multimedia domination? Well, there is, and we're here to reveal it. Top secret BBC documents have been leaked to us that reveal the startling facts behind Zoe's meteoric rise to fame.
She is not a human being, but is actually an Artificial Lifeform, otherwise known as an android.
Think about it. Somehow this revelation is not a total surprise, is
it? And a glance at the facts below should confirm what a nation has oft
Johnny Ball had always had two ambitions. Firstly, to show children
that science can be both accessible and fun. And secondly, to become master
of life itself and create a living breathing artificial being. The experiments
began in the late seventies, when Johnny was fulfilling the first of his
ambitions by presenting the popular children's science show Think Of
A Number. While the public watched him explaining the basic principles
of physics every week, few suspected that in private, he was actually putting
every ounce of his scientific genius to work, making Asimov's dream of
a positronic brain a reality. He named the experiment Project Zoe, from
the Greek word meaning "life", the goal of his research, although it was
only in the later stages of construction that it also became the name of
his creation. "Zoe" was originally called simply "my child" by the doting
Johnny, and "That Thing From The Cellar" by the BBC honchos, a sobriquet
still occasionally used today.
That was the plan. However, it took ten years of solid work before Johnny was able pull back the curtain and reveal his working creation to the BBC management, and by this time, corporate faith in the profitability of the Zoe machine was on the wane. Here we reproduce an internal memo sent to Johnny just after the tests set up to showcase Zoe's abilities had taken place...
Johnny was dismayed at first, as any "parent" would be, but soon came to terms with the situation, and decided to train his creation specially for her new role. The first tests of Zoe on live television took place not at the BBC but hidden far away from the public eye, on Sky TV. These broadcasts were deemed incident-free enough to warrant the debut of the Zoe android on the early morning birthday slot on the BBC. There, it was believed, the occasional quirk of un-human behaviour would not be noticed, the pre-school audience being too pre-occupied with thoughts of swallowing Lego bricks and buttering the cat to notice any accidental cries of "Zark!" or "Die, puny flesh beings!" And the gambit worked. Zoe took to the simple repetitive speech patterns and humour responses of children's television like a duck to water. It was onwards and upwards for the proud creator and his cybernetic child.To: Ball Laboratories From: The Director General Dear Johnny, I'm afraid to tell you this, but we have found the results of initial testing on the ZOE machine to be disappointing. We were led to expect a logical, selfless being, able to carry out simultaneously tasks involving complex reasoning and literate intellectual discourse, and these expectations were not met. Generally speaking, we require a higher level of emotional involvement from our investigative reporters, and less conversation about lipstick and shoes. We are sorry that we must be the ones to thwart your original high ambitions for ZOE. However, we hope our investment will not be entirely wasted. A bright spark happened to notice that your creation displays the exact combination of innocent glee and very basic motor skills that we look for our children's presenters. We would therefore be happy to hire the machine from you at an hourly rate, while you continue to work on its higher brain functions. Yours sincerely (signature withheld)
There were also some early trials using with double A batteries, but these came a cropper when untrustworthy cameramen thought it was funny to remove Zoe's batteries just before a broadcast and use them in their Walkmans instead.
A couple of years ago, however, she was converted to run entirely from solar energy. The solar cells are highly advanced, and in the form of many-stranded fibres which look very much like hair, and so have replaced the wig she originally wore. When fully charged, they are a pale yellow in colour; when energy stocks are being depleted, the ends nearest to the scalp become much darker in tone. Any off-stage technician spotting the tell-tale hair can quickly send a message to Ball Laboratories, using the code-phrase "Her roots are showing" and an "urgent location report" in the Costa del Sol will be arranged so that Zoe can be recharged discreetly.
Continuing with the environmentally-friendly principle, most of Zoe's
outer casing is made from recycled materials. In the main these are taken
from disused shop-window mannequins, with the occasional Barbie spare part
thrown in. Any plastic sheen to her skin is rendered invisible on camera
by the skillful use of make-up, so that now, ironically, Zoe appears more
authentically human than many so-called "real" presenters.
We can only hope that Johnny Ball has foreseen the possible consequences
of his creation over-stretching itself and attempting world domination,
and has built in a failsafe to prevent this, perhaps in the form of a restricted
lifespan. Already, some attentive viewers may have noticed that, of late,
the Zoe unit's clothing has become more and more scanty. This is due to
the increased risk of internal over-heating due to circuitry overloads,
and means that, as a precaution, outer insulation of the unit must be kept
to a minimum. It is feared that this is a sign that irretrievable meltdown
is approaching. Any untoward demands on her neural nets - for example,
a request to present the National Lottery Live - could quite literally
cause Zoe to explode. But we know Johnny will do everything possible to
keep his beloved creation in a safe, non-challenging environment. Her very
existence may depend upon it.
Your comments re the unit's heat dissipation are very true. Last year when the unit was on a photoshoot to publicise the relaunch of Pepsi, it came so close to overheating under the studio lights that its external covering of T-shirt and denim jacket had to be removed altogether, the clothing then being crudely painted on. One effect of this, from our point of view, was to show the two expansion sacs on the Zoe unit's chest, used to absorb excess pressure generated within the body cavity. These had inflated, indicating a build-up of pressure, and it was also apparent in the sideways shots that the pressure relief valves on each sac were also fully extended, suggesting that pressure was becoming dangerously high. The valves had apparently been adjusted during the shoot, presumably to prevent blow-off, as the blue paint had worn off exposing the pink underneath.Some valuable information you never thought you'd hear, I'm sure you'll agree. So if you discover any further clues to Zoe's mechanical origins, please do mail Jill and get the whole thing off your, errrr, chest...