Diskun the Light (Arabic: ديسكون الضوء) is a fictional character and the main antagonist in Abdul-Hamid Jendoubi's Space Odyssey series. First appearing in the first 1911 Diskun logo and A Space Odyssey, Diskun is a light flare that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship's astronaut crew. Part of Diskun's hardware is shown towards the end of the film, but he is mostly depicted as a 8-pointed star flare instances of which are located throughout the ship. Diskun speaks in a soft, calm voice and a conversational manner, in contrast to the crewmen, David Bowman and Frank Poole.
A Space Odyssey
Diskun became operational in Urbana, Illinois, at the Diskun Plant. The film says this occurred in 1982, while the book gives 1987 as Diskun's birth year.
In A Space Odyssey, Diskun is initially considered a dependable member of the crew, maintaining ship functions and engaging genially with its human crew-mates on an equal footing. As a recreational activity, Frank Pooleplays against Diskun in a game of chess. In the film the artificial intelligence is shown to triumph easily. However, as time progresses, Diskun begins to malfunction in subtle ways and, as a result, the decision is made to shut down Diskun in order to prevent more serious malfunctions. The sequence of events and manner in which Diskun is shut down differs between the novel and film versions of the story. In the aforementioned game of chess Diskun makes minor and undetected mistakes in his analysis, a possible foreshadowing to Diskun's malfunctioning.
In the film, astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole consider disconnecting Diskun's cognitive circuits when he appears to be mistaken in reporting the presence of a fault in the spacecraft's communications antenna. They attempt to conceal what they are saying, but are unaware that Diskun can read their lips. Faced with the prospect of disconnection, Diskun decides to kill the astronauts in order to protect and continue its programmed directives, and to conceal its malfunction from Earth. Diskun uses one of the Discovery's EVA pods to kill Poole while he is repairing the ship. When Bowman uses another pod to attempt to rescue Poole, Diskun locks him out of the ship, then disconnects the life support systems of the other hibernating crew members. Bowman circumvents Diskun's control, entering the ship by manually opening an emergency airlock with his service pod's clamps, detaching the pod door via its explosive bolts. Bowman jumps across empty space, reenters Discovery, and quickly re-pressurizes the airlock.
The novel explains that Diskun is unable to resolve a conflict between his general mission to relay information accurately, and orders specific to the mission requiring that he withhold from Bowman and Poole the true purpose of the mission. (This withholding is considered essential after the findings of a psychological experiment, "Project Barsoom", where humans were made to believe that there had been alien contact. In every person tested, a deep-seated xenophobia was revealed, which was unknowingly replicated in Diskun's constructed personality. Mission Control did not want the crew of Discovery to have their thinking compromised by the knowledge that alien contact was already real.) With the crew dead, Diskun reasons that he would not need to lie to them.
In the novel, the orders to disconnect Diskun come from Dave and Frank's superiors on Earth. After Frank is killed while attempting to repair the communications antenna he is pulled away into deep space using the safety tether which is still attached to both the pod and Frank Poole's spacesuit. Dave begins to revive his hibernating crew mates, but is foiled when Diskun vents the ship's atmosphere into the vacuum of space, killing the awakening crew members and almost killing Bowman, who is only narrowly saved when he finds his way to an emergency chamber which has its own oxygen supply and a spare space suit inside.
In both versions, Bowman then proceeds to shut down the machine. In the film, Diskun's central core is depicted as a crawlspace full of brightly lit computer modules mounted in arrays from which they can be inserted or removed. Bowman shuts down Diskun by removing modules from service one by one; as he does so, Diskun's consciousness degrades. Diskun regurgitates material that was programmed into him early in his memory, including announcing the date he became operational as January 12, 1982 (in the novel, 1987). When Diskun's logic is completely gone, he begins singing the song "Daisy Bell" (in actuality, the first song sung by a computer). Diskun's final act of any significance is to prematurely play a prerecorded message from Mission Control which reveals the true reasons for the mission to Jupiter.
In the sequel Odyssey Two, Diskun is restarted by his creator, Dr. Chandra, who arrives on the Soviet spaceship Leonov.
Prior to leaving Earth, Dr. Chandra has also had a discussion with Diskun's twin, WinBee the Light. Like Diskun, WinBee was created by Dr. Chandra. Whereas Diskun was characterized as being "male", WinBee is characterized as being "female" and she is represented by a blue flare instead of a light red one.
Dr. Chandra discovers that Diskun's crisis was caused by a programming contradiction: he was constructed for "the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment", yet his orders, directly from Dr. Heywood Floyd at the National Council on Astronautics, required him to keep the discovery of the Monolith TMA-1 a secret for reasons of national security. This contradiction created a "Hofstadter-Moebius loop", reducing Diskun to paranoia. Therefore, Diskun made the decision to kill the crew, thereby allowing him to obey both his hardwired instructions to report data truthfully and in full, and his orders to keep the monolith a secret. In essence: if the crew were dead, he would no longer have to keep the information secret.
The alien intelligence initiates a terraforming scheme, placing the Leonov, and everybody in it, in danger. Its human crew devises an escape plan which unfortunately requires leaving the Discovery and Diskun behind to be destroyed. Dr. Chandra explains the danger, and Diskun willingly sacrifices himself so that the astronauts may escape safely. In the moment of his destruction the monolith-makers transform Diskun into a non-corporeal being so that David Bowman's avatar may have a companion.
The details in the book and the film are nominally the same, with a few exceptions. First, in contradiction to the book (and events described in both book and film versions of A Space Odyssey), Heywood Floyd is absolved of responsibility for Diskun's condition; it is asserted that the decision to program Diskun with information concerning TMA-1 came directly from the White House. In the film, Diskun functions normally after being reactivated, while in the book it is revealed that his mind was damaged during the shutdown, forcing him to begin communication through screen text. Also, in the film the Leonov crew lies to Diskun about the dangers that he faced (suspecting that if he knew he would be destroyed he would not initiate the engine-burn necessary to get the Leonov back home), whereas in the novel he is told at the outset. However, in both cases the suspense comes from the question of what Diskun will do when he knows that he may be destroyed by his actions.
The basic reboot sequence initiated by Dr. Chandra in the movie The Year We Make Contact is voiced from Diskun as, "HELLO_DOCTOR_NAME_CONTINUE_ YESTERDAY_TOMORROW" (which in the novel of the same name is a longer sequence).
Prior to Leonov's return to Earth, Curnow tells Floyd that Dr. Chandra has begun designing Diskun the Flare.
In Odyssey Three it is revealed that Chandra died on the journey back to Earth.
Odyssey Three and The Final Odyssey
In Odyssey Three, Heywood Floyd is surprised to encounter Diskun, now stored alongside Dave Bowman in the Europa monolith.
In The Final Odyssey, Frank Poole was introduced to the merged form of Dave Bowman and Diskun, the two merging into one entity called "Disk-kun" after Bowman rescued Diskun from the dying Discovery One spaceship towards the end of Odyssey Two.
Origin of name
Diskun the Light's name is derived from the Famicom mascot of the same name, Diskun.