The images from President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia are not Photoshopped. That is, in fact, a glowing orb being caressed by world leaders in what is the least transparent metaphor for global domination (actually, it was the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh).
Scenes like this are exactly the kind of set-pieces we expected when Donald Trump's presidency transported us into the darkest timeline of world history, but I wonder, did Trump take us to a dystopian sci-fi techno hell? Or a fantasy netherworld controlled by dark magic? The answer lies in the orb.
Orbs and other spherical rarities make appearances in many sci-fi and fantasy films, novels, video games, and even anime. Whether it is a prize, a tool, a window into the future, or the source of one's power, orbs in fiction tend to be coveted items that both villains and heroes are willing to kill and die to obtain, like an otherworldly McGuffin.
Here is a "round" up of the best orbs in sci-fi and fantasy, which offer power the 45th president of the US could only dream of...
1. Translation Sphere in Doctor Who
This white orb is a Google Translate for the Ood, an alien species in the Whoniverse who speak to each other telepathically. To communicate with non-telepathic beings, they connect the orb to a tube which runs into their mouth, so that their thoughts can be converted into phonetic language. Oh yeah, and it can kill people if you boop them on the head.
2. Prophecy Record in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Hall of Prophecy is stacked with misty blue orbs, each one containing a prophecy spoken by a Seer. In the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter is keen on ruining all of the plot twists in his life so he grabs one and listens to what it has to say. "Dumbledore dies," it whispers.
3. Globe of Peace in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The Trade Federation invades the planet Naboo with the goal of overthrowing their government led by a teenager, Queen Amidala. The many factions on Naboo join forces to expel the invaders, with the subjugated and disrespected Gungans leading the fray. The native Nabooans win but at the cost of countless lives. To reward the Gungan Boss, the Queen presents him with the pointless, plasma-filled Globe of Peace. Voting rights would have been nice.
4. Palantír in The Lord of the Rings series
This is a classic crystal ball used to privately communicate with other Palantír orbs in Middle Earth, kind of like Snapchat with more corruption of the soul. It is most prominently used by Saruman to contact Sauron in the first trilogy, and serves as the basis for the real-life company intelligence software company founded by Peter Thiel.
5. Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball Z
The Dragon Ball anime series walks the fine line of fantasy (talking dragons and spirit bombs) with sci-fi (alien warriors with power levels over 9000). Central to each series are the seven Dragon Balls. When all are collected, the user can summon the Eternal Dragon and have one wish granted. Unlike Aladdin, no one ever wishes for the Dragon's freedom.
Based on the examples above, orbs can be justified in each genre. Within sci-fi, it represents the perfect tool, a clean sphere which can only be manufactured by bleeding edge technology. In fantasy, their origin is mythic, forged in magic too dangerous for mere mortals. But in both genres, orbs allow the user to transcend beyond their station.
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