The renowned artist Zima recounts his mysterious past and rise to fame before unveiling his final work.
In a modern, yet incredibly far futuristic world, a reporter named Claire Markham is being transported over the sea in a fast boat-like hovercraft to the secluded headquarters of Zima Blue, a world renowned artist famous for his works containing a precise shade of blue. The reporter narrates that Zima had rejected her requests for interviews for many years, but has requested an audience with her only now for reasons she does not yet know. The other thing she can't figure out about the mysterious artist is what "Zima Blue" is supposed to be in terms of color, because it is not the sky or the sea.
Claire explains how this artist made his mark in the world of art. Nobody truly knows anything about him. However, there is speculation he started out in in portraiture. As magnificent as it was, he was never satisfied with the human form. He thought of it as "too small a subject". His search for deeper meaning led him to look deep into the cosmos, which in turn, led him to painting enormous murals of various cosmic formations, such as planets and nebulas. One of his most recent murals was unveiled with a tiny blue square painted in the center. That mural was the precursor for several decades worth of murals that continued to evolve, with the blue shape becoming more dominant. This is how the artist earned the name "Zima Blue". One day, he unveiled an entirely plain blue mural, which everyone believed it was as far as he could take things. However, the murals became billboards and towering walls until they eventually became full-on celestial bodies. However, planet-sized murals and spray-painting asteroid belts were only the beginning. It was Zima's ambition to take things to the far reaches of the universe that made him famous. Although, despite his rise to success, fame was never the point, and he was never satisfied with anything he belted out.
Claire arrives at her destination and is greeted by Zima Blue, an intimidatingly tall man with metallic skin. He explains that it's been over a century since he's spoken to the press, and he's invited Claire to his artificial island home to help him tell his true story.
Claire further elaborates the legend behind his outward appearance: Many years ago, he paid a visit to a planet called Kharkov 8, which specialized in bio-mechanical enhancements. Zima underwent many cybernetic procedures to the point where he could physically tolerate any environmental condition without the burden of a protective suit, and even transcending the need for oxygen. His eyes were upgraded to see in any known spectrum and his skin was replaced with pressurized polymer. From that moment on, his journey for truth began where he ventured the cosmos and embraced with all of his senses. From his adventures, Zima had finally realized that the cosmos was speaking a truth that not even his canvases could show.
Zima leads Claire to the top of his fortress and shows her the construction site which will become his final piece; an old swimming pool which he claims is what his search for truth led him to. He further elaborates how this swimming pool means more to him than anyone has ever known; Long ago in Southern California, it was in the backyard of a talented young inventor with an interest in practical robotics. She built dozens of robots to do various jobs around her house, but took particular interest in the robot she built to clean her swimming pool. It perpetually scrubbed the ceramic walls of the pool, but since the inventor wasn't satisfied with the job it did, she upgraded it with a full color-vision system and a CPU powerful enough to process the visual data into a model of it's surroundings. When she was done with it, the robot could make it's own decisions and develop it's own strategies for cleaning her pool. As time went on, she used it as a guinea pig for other various hardware and software until it became self-aware. When the inventor passed away, the robot was passed down from owner to owner, each adding it's own modifications as seen fit. With every mod, it became more "alive", revealing the legend about Zima's trip to Kharkov 8 was completely make-believe. He's not a man with machine parts at all, he's an mandroid who evolved from a pool-cleaning robot. That same swimming pool was dug up and moved to the top of his fortress where he is currently restoring it and preparing to debut it as his final work to the public.
Claire initially has a hard time believing he is actually a gradually evolved android instead of the handsome cyborg everybody thought he was. However, Zima was the first to admit that even he can't fully believe what he's become, and even further what he originally was. Claire finally figures out that "Zima Blue" is what the manufacturers of the ceramic pool tiles called the color. A blue-tiled swimming pool is where the legendary artist originated, and evolved from a sentient block of steel with barely enough intelligence to control it's sense of direction.
On the night of the big unveiling, the stadium is totally sold out and the whole world (perhaps the entire galaxy) anxiously awaits the appearance of Zima Blue. He emerges under a spotlight wearing his signature red cape and immerses himself in the pool. As he swims, he slowly shuts down his higher brain functions. Before long, he sheds off his appendages and completely dissembles his body piece-by-piece much to the crowd's shock. Emerging from the former android's remains is the original "him": the pool-scrubbing machine from which the artist evolved from humble beginnings. He claims that this way, he can appreciate his surroundings, so that he may appreciate the satisfaction of a task-well-done. Zima Blue's search for truth is finished at last. "He's going home".
- at the as Zima
- at the as Claire
- Zima Blue is based on the short story of the same name written by Alastair Reynolds, who also wrote the original story for Beyond the Aquila Rift.
- The Art style of Zima Blue bears many similarities to the style of the artist A.M. Cassandre, who specialized in graphic posters composed of simple geometric shapes, gradient compositions and exquisite alignment and use of geometry to create images that ranged from comical to impactful.
Below are screenshots of the episode.