|“||The hosts are the ones who are free. Free. Here. Under my control.||”|
He is the chief programmer and chairman of the board of Westworld, and has an uncompromising creative vision for the park — and unorthodox methods of achieving it.
Dr. Robert Ford was one of the initial creators and designers for Westworld, alongside Arnold, who helped devise emotions and movements for Hosts created as part of the fantasy world. It is assumed that he had a hand in designing the first official host who eventually took the role of Dolores Abernathy. During the early years of the park's development, Ford learnt about Arnold's obsession with the hosts, following a personal tragedy. He has since worked alongside new contributors of the project including programmer Bernard Lowe, Lee Sizemore and Theresa Cullen.
Ford often finds comfort in revisiting his old work and causes a disturbance in Sub Level B83. He talks to one of the old model hosts, in the persona of Old Bill. Ford informs Bernard that the animatronic design had been vastly developed since the early models, before asking the host to return to its "slumber". Later, when Theresa decides to recall all the hosts that received a recent reveries upgrade, Bernard is asked to inform Ford of the mistake that he'd made in the upgrade that has been causing malfunctions in Westworld. Ford isn't surprised by this, and explains that humanity was built on a mistake, and that this current stage is the best they'll ever be.
After the hosts have all been collected, Ford is brought in to investigate the odd malfunctioning of Peter Abernathy, after he found a photo left behind by a visitor to the park. In his formal interrogation, Ford discovers that the host can revert to its previous personas, including a cannibal he once was who used to quote Shakespeare.
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It's discovered in Sector 17 that Dr. Ford's robotic, Host family is living "off the radar" and is not on any of the recent surveys of the park. We find out the Little Boy is indeed intended as a copy of a young Robert Ford.
After a demonstration of a host malfunctioning, Ford is told about Bernard's dismissal. Seemingly troubled by this decision of the board, Ford seems frozen for a moment. Afterwards Bernard confronts Theresa and tells her he needs to show her something. The two head to the secret cottage in sector 17 (in which the unregistered hosts created by Arnold were found earlier), and head for the basement, where they find an active host-crafting station within a laboratory. Theresa finds blueprints of some of the presumably first hosts, as they show Dolores and the Little Boy.
Theresa is shocked to find drafts of a Bernard host as well and after trying to confront him in vain, Ford intervenes, revealing that Bernard wasn't capable of seeing the blueprints as it could have a harmful effect and he (Ford) wanted to spare his hosts from such events. Still in shock about Bernard being a host, Theresa calls Ford a "f*cking monster" and implies that the board would have Ford dismissed as well. Ford however doesn't seem impressed and tells her that the deal he has with the board would be too valuable for them to dismiss him and that Theresa was just a test for him, revealing a quite diabolic side of the board who was enjoying this for the "sporty nature" of these incidents according to Ford, who demands a "blood-sacrifice". Afterwards he instructs a now robotic Bernard to "help" Theresa who has "grown weary". Bernard kills Theresa by smashing her head against the wall, crushing her skull.
The episode opens with Ford asking Bernard to bring himself back online. He does, and immediately begins hyperventilating and sobbing as he remembers what he did to Theresa. He can't understand why he killed her, because he believes he loved her. Ford marvels at Bernard's display of emotion, calling it "a thing of beauty". He tells Bernard that he killed Theresa because he, Ford, told him to, and says he must feel proud of the emotions he's feeling, confusing Bernard. He explains that in the beginning the Hosts could only feel "Primary Color" emotions; love, hate etc. The engineers couldn't create a more complex Host, so Ford built Bernard and together they achieved a wider range of feelings for the Hosts.
Bernard asks why Ford would he would make him kill Theresa, because he loved her. Ford quotes Frankenstein, saying "One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire." He continues his story, saying that 'they' would have destroyed all his work, and destroyed Bernard, and that he won't let that happen.
Bernard becomes angry, and refuses to help Ford in any way. He stands up and throws his chair away, advancing on Ford who freezes him. Ford casually recalls that Arnold felt the same way, and he couldn't stop Ford either. He gives a command to Bernard that shuts off his emotions, and tells him that he needs the old Bernard back, the capable Bernard who can cover his tracks. Bernard, no longer angry, asks Ford how he should proceed, and Ford tells him to erase any connections between them and Theresa's death. He promises Bernard that he will wipe away all memories of Theresa when he's finished, so he may be at peace.
Ford is later present when Theresa's body is unveiled in the Mesa Hub, along with Charlotte and Stubbs. He pretends to be unaware of what happened to her, asking questions and appearing curious. After sharing a look with Charlotte, who brings up Theresa's belief that the new narratives should be delayed, Ford reveals that he has found Theresa's demonstration to be staged, as a technician edited Clementine's code. He suggests that technician access to hosts be limited, until a more principled team can be found. He manages to get Bernard reinstated as head of Behaviour.
Back in the same room as before, Ford prepares to erase Bernard's memory, as he has successfully cleared up any evidence linking them to Theresa. Ford comments on Bernard's extraordinary circumstances; being a host that understands how hosts work. The two converse for a while, with Ford telling Bernard how lucky he is to have no emotions.
Before his memory is wiped Bernard asks Ford wether he has made him hurt anyone before. Ford says no, and initiates the memory wipe, however Bernard has a flashback which proves Ford is lying.
Ford meets with Bernard in one of the rooms behind Cold Storage, and is told by Bernard that he wants his memories back. Ford warns him that he may not like what he finds, and is amused when Bernard pulls out a gun. He says "You're allowed to hold that Bernard, but not to use it.", and Bernard calls in the original Clementine. He tells Ford that her code was damaged during her lobotomy, allowing her to bypass the Good Samaritan reflex and hurt humans. Ford agrees to give Bernard his memories.
He watches Bernard experience his memories and explains where necessary, talking about Arnold and how similar the two are. When asked about the reasons behind giving Bernard the memory of a dead child, Ford reveals that Arnold thought giving the hosts tragic backstories made them more complex and feeling. During Bernard's experiences we see the aftermath of Maeve killing herself due to the trauma of her daughter's death. Bernard tries to understand how she remembered the pain after Ford wiped the memory, and he begins to glitch. Ford explains to him that Maeve's trauma was so great that she just wanted it to stop, and that although the memory was gone the pain remained.
Later on Ford is seen in one of Dolores' memories as a young man, walking through the corridor of an underground Hub, looking for Arnold.
After Bernard sees himself kill Elsie he asks Ford why he was asked to do this, to which Ford replies that sometimes hard choices have to be made, once again demonstrating his willingness to kill to protect his work.
Ford does a voice over as Bernard is revealed as Arnold. He greets Bernard as he wakes up for the first time, and dresses him up to look like Arnold, teaching him all of Arnold's little mannerisms and giving him his new name.
When Bernard starts talking about setting the sentient hosts free Ford says that they will not be safe in the real world, as humans will destroy the hosts to maintain their primacy, and that humans should not be trusted as they inevitably disappoint. Ford later shuts down Clementine, revealing that he could have done so all along as Bernard built a backdoor into all the hosts' code. Ford takes control of Bernard and forces him to take the gun from Clem and point it at his head. He instructs Bernard to shoot himself as soon as he (Ford) leaves the room. Bernard begs him not to do this, but Ford walks away through Cold Storage, as a shot rings out.
Dr. Ford can be described as brilliant, egotistical, arrogant, charming and with a sinister side. He seems to have a connection with the hosts. Despite this, he is very clear with his employees that they are never to consider the hosts to be real people. Ford angrily shouts at a technician who covered up a host's private parts, saying the hosts have no modesty and feel no shame.
He is willing to kill to protect the park and his plans for it, demonstrated by Ford instructing Bernard to kill Theresa.
- Though other employees need touchscreens or Voice Command's to make the hosts shut down or perform another action, Ford can control all of the hosts in the park — even animal robots — with a mere flick of his finger. This was demonstrated when he encountered a rattlesnake during his walk with the Little Boy. We saw this again when he had lunch with Theresa Cullen. He froze a host as it was pouring wine, and paused all the hosts in the vicinity at the same time.
- A possibly significant aspect of Ford's character is his hat. Ford wears a black hat when he enters the park — a probable symbol of his darker intentions.
- As Ford says: "For three years we lived here in the park, refining the hosts before a single guest set foot inside," Ford explained. "Myself, a team of engineers, and my partner."
- Ford shares his name with the historical figure Robert Ford, best known as the man who killed famous outlaw Jesse James. A Western film titled The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford was released in 2007 by Warner Brothers, with the titular Ford played by Casey Affleck.
Ford and Lowe maintain a father-son relationship, with Ford having created the Host Bernard Lowe in order to improve the emotional response of the hosts by having Bernard create the neccessary sub-routines. The two share an interest in the artificial creation of consciousness; much of their conversation in the series revolving around Ford's experimental and ambitious code that has resulted in abnormal host behavior.
Ford and Theresa don't interact very often on the show. Theresa seems to dislike him enough to conspire with the board to get him removed. Ford simply thinks of Theresa as a test from the board, and casually instructs Bernard to kill her, showing he has no special regard for her.
Ford doesn't appear to like Lee very much, dismissing his idea for a new narrative and insulting his lack of imagination in front of other employees.
|“||Everything in this park is magic...except to the magician.||”|
|“||One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire.||”|
–Dr. Ford, quoting Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, in "Trace Decay"
- Season One