In Oblivion, Malcolm Beach explains to Jack Harper his memory of the fight against the Tet, after mentioning the destruction of the moon and the consequences on earth, he continues:

Most people just starved, then the Tet sent troops ships down. The doors opened and out you came, astronaut Jack Harper, thousands of you. Memory wiped, programmed to kill. They had take one of our best, and turned him against us. No soul, no humanity.

I thus understand that troopships went down on earth (not 60 years later, but only a few years - at most - after the Tet's arrival into earth orbit), and an army of Jack Harpers got out and fought the remaining humans.

If the Tet can mind control Jack Harper to the extent of killing humans, why does it bother to create false memory and mock a bizarre relationship and pretend to be Sally with these really weird gimmicks?

In particular, the following dramatic point of the scenario are thus presented as keys in the Tet's grip on the minds of Jack Harper's clones:

  • Jack Harper must not discover other clones
  • Jack Harper must not discover that scavs are humans

I interpret the second one as the fact that Jack Harper's mind won't coerce easily to orders that ask for humans death.

If these particular points are really key points in holding Jack Harper's mind as the film suggest. How can you make army of Jack Harper's clones fight humans? It seems unavoidable that both constraints would have to be broken. In this perspective, I can't understand how the clone's mind would have been tricked while keeping coherence with the film's key points.

Did I misunderstand Malcolm Beach's recall of the situation? Are these first cloned Jack Harpers different types of clones?

  • Tet/Sally "People look like you (Jack/Sally). A genetic virus escaped and turned a lot of people into mutants that don't look like you. They are trying to take over your planet. Kill them with extreme prejudice." Or any of a hundred other similar stories.. Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 6:28
  • 1
    BTW - try watching Oblivion again with the thought that the Tet is really just a Berserker probe and all the stories it tells are simply a cover for wiping out all life on the planet. Who better to do the dirty work for you than an army of clones of the most technological species? They are obviously the equal of the average human (or better), are already adapted to the local environment and even think like them. Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 6:33

2 Answers 2


This question makes a lot of sense and I think that any viable answer will be a stretch at best (the real answer being, of course, the more interesting/suspensive narrative).

First, the events after the invasion - as described by Malcolm - tell us that Jack #49 is somehow special. He had doubts, curiosity (that book he took), he had love for the Earth (that hidden shack of his),... We can assume, since Malcolm had to wait for him for so long, that Jack #49 is somehow special... "faulty", in a way.

Of course, it's quite unbelievable that - after thousands of clones raided the Earth - two such clones came into being (remember, it took #52 only three years to become what #49 was), but we could attribute that to the movie's need for a happy end that could easily be treated as a separate (maybe deleted) scene.

The real problem here is that Malcolm based his whole plan to fight back on a very stretched premise that such a faulty clone would appear. The Tet's mission was almost done, so he would have literally waited until the Earth's final annihilation, had Jack #49 not been "faulty".

Second, one could argue that the blind annihilation of mass proportions needed mindless "machines", while the final stages of the invasion (where #49 and #52 participated) needed some fairly level of humanity, maybe some love for the Earth (to fight the "enemy" that we, later on, learn to be the remnants of the human race), and maybe some curiosity and reasoning to be able to handle unpredictable situations and the most resilient of the resistance. This would justify the clone army being mindless killing machines, and the later techs being much more human.

One stretch here is, IMO, that the clone army was needed in the first place. Why not just drones (that proved to be quite useful even against the human guerilla; imagine what would they do while the Earth was still more densely populated), or some other - maybe more advanced - technology? We are talking about an entity capable of travelling huge distances in space, cloning life forms completely alien to it, intercept its technology and comms to mimic it later on, etc.

Another problem would be the reasoning behind the need for techs to be very much themselves, manipulated through false Sally and fake memories of the past. I see no real purpose for an astronaut to be suited for a mission on a scorched Earth any better than a thoroughly Tet-reprogrammed clone or some kind of a machine.

I have no better explanations, and these do seem weak for the reasons I've given, so I'm quite certain that the movie narrative took a higher priority here than the need for the plot to make sense.


There is one detail that I missed (of which HBhatia's answer reminded me), which does make #49 and #52 less faulty (but still doesn't explain the bad planning on the side of Tet).

It seems that our techs, Jack(s) and Vika(s), were created quite well, but for operating in total isolation. While #49 was curious and Earth-loving, he still needed the right outside impulse, which was Julia's arrival (and him witnessing the slaughter that the drones did around the wreckage). For #52, the outside intrusion came from #49 and their brief encounter, as well as Tet being destroyed.

This, IMO, does make for a better explanation why #49 was special, although he was different - as Malcolm said - and Julia coming to him (as opposed to some other tech) is a typical movie stroke of luck (or whatever that's called).

However, why sending to an extremely hostile environment something that relies on no unexpected intrusions... well, Tet had to give humanity some chance. ;-)


This particular clone which acts as a hero in the movie was different than others: Following dialogue between Beech and Sykes suggests the same:

Sykes: You've risked all our lives, everything. What makes you think he's different?
Beech: She does.

This can also be guessed from the scene where other clone does not hesitate to get into a fight with him. The other clone did not even bother to think who is the look alike he is fighting with:

False memory and mock a bizarre relationship was just to give there life a meaning and motivation. Tet had strong grip on mind of Jack Harper. So we can say that this clone Tech#49 and few other like him Tech#52 (appears in the end) were different or faulty.

  • 2
    "Only this particular clone was different." - So you're saying the other clones didn't have such a drone-repair-evacuating-earth-fighting-aliens story behind them and were just mindless evildoers? Extremely unlikely, considering that at the end there's another Jack visiting Julia. So it's likely the other clones might sooner or later develop the same insecurity and want for discovering the truth. At least they definitely are told the same Victoria-Sally-earth-evacuation lies as our Tech-49.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 11:52
  • may be I was wrong while saying that this particular clone was different I should have said few of the clones were different than others. As there can be multiple theories behind it and Oblivion had a very loose plot my answer did not deserve a down vote..
    – HBhatia
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 13:41
  • The other clone did not even bother to think who is the look alike he is fighting with -> I disagree with this. Imagine the following situation: you are on Earth, destroyed by an alien force; you know that the only friendly living being close enough to make a contact is your colleague and lover, back in your tower; you know that groups of marauding aliens prey on you and your drones; and, suddenly, another person, seemingly a copy of yourself, is trying to kill the drone you just fixed. Would you think that this person is anything other than an alien-engineered imposter? Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 15:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .