Sci-Fi Corner: Aliens

This week, we're going to have a look at the major sci-fi staple; Aliens. The main thing I want to look at is why we seem to identify best with humanoids. If we look at the best loved and most famous aliens from sci-fi history, Predator, Chewbacca, the Klingons, E.T etc. they are very easily identifiable as humanoids, bipedal, human forms, all features (mouth, eyes, nose (usually), hands, feet) all in places we'd expect to be. Even the less humanoid aliens, such as the Aliens or Jabba The Hutt have some humanoid features with few bits taken away, like the humanoid rear legs on Jabba (but he still has very human arms) or the human-like head/ face on the Aliens, which is the bit that makes them so scary, as we humans seek emotion from the face, so removing the face makes the Aliens emotionless and unnerving. The only major alien that has no humanoid features, that I can think of off the top of my head, would be the Daleks, and we can argue semantics over whether the Daleks count as full aliens or cyborgs, because of the pepper-pot mobility suit, but even there they were engineered by a humanoid from humanoids, which is meant to be (alongside the Cybermen) a metaphor for the dangers of surgical enhancement, by making them less human they become more scary.

Anyway, I'll let you guys take over now. Why do you think we identify better with aliens that are more human? Can you think of any famous non-humanoid aliens that are worthy of major note that I've missed? And who/ what is your favourite alien?


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7 Responses to Sci-Fi Corner: Aliens

  1. Avatar Herr D says:

    E.T. was mentally what we should all aspire to be, except of course for his addiction to Oreos.
    I’m pretty sure that the ratio of more fear to more alien is proportional because most people fear the unknown . . .

    All in all, I gotta say my two favorite aliens are my favorite out of sympathy.
    First, the creature Han parked the Millennium Falcon in once.
    How would any of YOU like it if something flew right into YOUR mouth and apparently resented you reacting at all? Poor thing.
    Second, Jane Doe from the movie GalaxyQuest loved so completely that she will deliberately give up so much and live so completely away from all she knew. You go girl.

  2. Avatar Calvary_Red says:

    People definitely go for the familiar. Most superheroes are white because their creators were white. If we struggle to make characters a different race from us, why should it be easy to design a seven-limbed, headless cyclops person? The key word is “person,” if you want a mindless monster, non-humanoid features are expected.

    Of course then there’s the fact humanoid designs are much easier for human actors to play in live action productions, like Star Wars.

    As for non-humanoid aliens, there are a few Green Lanterns that come to mind, though they may not be that popular. Dkrtzy RRR, the sentient math equation, is about as far removed from humanoid as you can get (and never appears in stories). Then we have Mogo, the living planet and Galius Zed who is a large head with three legs and two arms, both of which are fairly well known. Given the thousands of Lanterns, writers (especially Alan Moore) have had a chance to exercise their imaginations a little, even if most Lanterns (and all of the major ones) are still humanoid.

    i’d never given a lot of thought to my favorite alien, but i always liked Piccolo from DBZ. He wasn’t the strongest, but he had some neat powers.

  3. As already noted, humanoid is familiar, so it creates a base from which to develop alien races and their relationships with humans. My own speculation is that humanoid races exist throughout the universe as a matter of evolution, plain and simple. The “Goldilocks Zone” and “M-Class” planets provide the “exact” conditions to support life and the chemistry has to be just right. Personal opinion, anyway. Doesn’t mean that non-humanoid / non-carbon-based lifeforms can’t exist (eyes Herr D). It’s just more likely.

    You can also take the Star Trek route that there was an original race who spread their own seed throughout the galaxy. Thus giving rise to variations of themselves conditioned by environment. Which explains races being biologically similar enough to inter-breed.

    I would have to peruse all the material for weeks to really come up with my favorites. Some off the top:

    Experiment 626: Technically, a unique alien not a race. However, it seems that Dr. Jumba Jookiba used common DNA to create others.

    Leviathans and Pilots (Farscape): Talk about alien. Their perspective of the universe is far above and removed from us dirt-dwellers.

    The Vorlons (Babylon 5): Also a race that seems rather aloof and detached from others. They appear as angels when outside of their encounter suits. Whether that’s a generated illusion or the viewer’s own mind creating the image is testimony to their technological level.

    Suggestion: Maybe at the end of these blogs, post next week’s topic so we can have time to think! ;9

  4. Avatar Arioch says:

    Calvary_Red: i always liked Piccolo from DBZ. He wasn’t the strongest, but he had some neat powers.

    That, and he was so cool.
    One of the better-develloped characters in DBZ (Ok, that’s not hard, but still), always here at the right time, and with a lot of charisma whenever he saved the day.

  5. Avatar Herr D says:

    Dah! How could I forget 626! Any being who can act against their “intelligent design,” or, in his case, screaming-heeby-jeeby-mad design in a positive manner is about as admirable as any being can be.

    @AP: Hey, yeah, um–all those non-humanoid, non-carbon lifeforms are cool to imagine what they might be like, right?

  6. Avatar Calvary_Red says:

    Can i just say it’s awesome we’re using the name “626?”
    My brother always thought it was weird when i said that instead of “Stitch.”

  7. Avatar Herr D says:

    Can i just say it’s awesome we’re using the name “626?”
    My brother always thought it was weird when i said that instead of “Stitch.”

    Well, we DO have in common that we care about origin stories . . . You know who else I identify withlike? Megamind! He’s about as humanoid as it gets. And who wouldn’t love Minion? Any gorilla robot fish is worth a second look. I wasn’t actually raised in a prison, but I can tell you there are days I look around HM and wonder where all this positive stuff was when I was growing up . . .