Alien Encounters – Television’s Memorable Extra-Terrestrials

Anna, the face of the Visitors - V

Anna, the face of the Visitors – V

With the upcoming launch of “V”, it makes it the perfect time to reminisce about our favorite aliens of yore. The extra-terrestrials who land on earth seem to come in three varieties: aggressors, refugees, and observers. But whether they have come to Earth with world domination on their minds, or they simply want to study the local ugly giant bags of mostly water, they almost always seem to stick around for a while.

So click-through and check out some of TVOvermind’s favorite, and not so favorite aliens on television.


We’ve got a pretty nice planet here. And they want it. They want our resources; they consider us to be lower life forms and want us to supplement their food supply; they just want us dead. No matter how you slice it, we are going to have a fight on our hands.

Some claim to come in peace. We’ll find out next week what the true motivations of the Visitors are. The last time they showed up they set up fake factories in order to steal our fresh water supply and abducted and flash-froze humans by the thousands to use as entrees. I don’t think a single fan of the original series will ever forget the cheesy horror of the scene where the visitors’ true nature was revealed when one of them opened his snake-like double-jointed jaw and swallowed a hamster whole. I doubt that they’ll be a whole lot friendlier this time around.

From the Steven Spielberg mini-series - Taken

From the Steven Spielberg mini-series – Taken

Aliens don’t have to have a lot of screen time in order to scare the holy hell out of us. A duo of X-Files writers gave us Space: Above and Beyond where humans were well into a war with invaders. We didn’t need to see them; their ships were enough. In Steven Spielberg’s Taken, three families suffered for generations after aliens abducted and impregnated various members in a decades-long experiment that finally resulted in hybrid child that may be the key to their future. This mini-series wasn’t the first to cover this idea but it was definitely the most disturbing version to come out in recent years. These guys were not E.T. Human experimentation was also the premise for The 4400, but that series dealt mostly with the after-effects and the aliens themselves didn’t have a real role. Mulder’s Roswell Greys were a threat from day one in the X-files but they were seldom physically present although their impact on our civilization had been tremendous over the decades.

Marvin the Martian versus Bugs Bunny - Looney Tunes

Marvin the Martian versus Bugs Bunny – Looney Tunes

Some aliens have the same failings as we do – a big ol’ ego being at the top of the list. Why bother experiment on us when they can arrive and simply rule? Of course, ego does not always equal intelligence, as Marvin the Martian found out in his running attempts to dominate Earth in various Looney Tunes incarnations. Marvin first appeared in 1948 and hasn’t succeeded yet. He shouldn’t feel badly; that wascally wabbit has a tendency to outwit humans too.

The war at home doesn’t always have a visibly alien enemy. Both First Wave and War of the Worlds had enemy combatants in human form. It’s much easier to identify them when they run around in impenetrable armor or have lizard skin.

I suppose when should be flattered that the Borg felt that we were advanced enough to be assimilated. When they first appeared in Star Trek – The Next Generation, their unstoppable threat was impressive.

The Borg - Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager

The Borg – Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager

Unlike most televisions aliens, like Stargate: SG-1’s Goa’uld, Ori, and Replicators, the Borg were never decisively beaten in battle. Humans (okay, all of Star Fleet) won skirmishes. They blew up individual cubes. In one epic battle, they even managed to blow up a transwarp hub. But the Borg remained a threat that was too widespread to destroy. Although regions of space were freed from their influence, the knowledge was out there. We may have proved that resistance is not futile but we certainly didn’t will the war.



Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman - Smallville

Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman – Smallville

Say what you will about global warming, we are still doing better than a number of alien civilizations out there who have lost their home plants. We haven’t blown up Earth in some kind of planetary civil war or conflict with a neighboring species. We haven’t poisoned it to the extent where we have to leave in order to survive. We haven’t messed with the gravitational pull so that it is going to fall into the sun or dug so deep into the earth’s crust that the surface has become uninhabitable. Okay, sometimes it’s not their fault, like when their sun goes supernova, but really, shouldn’t they have picked a better planet in the first place?

Isabel Evans, Michael Guerin, and Max Evans - Roswell

Isabel Evans, Michael Guerin, and Max Evans – Roswell

No matter the reason, Earth seems to be the destination of choice when aliens are out of options. Superman arrived here (again) in 2001 when Smallville gave us the teenage years of Clark Kent. He was sent on an intergalactic road trip as a baby when his planet was destroyed. But really, all that advanced technology and they couldn’t manage to put together a rag-tag fleet of vessels to give more of the civilization a chance to survive? I guess governments are the same the universe over. Eight years later the boy from Kansas/Krypton is still going strong in Metropolis, U.S.A.

It’s awfully hard to tell an alien from a teenager. Hormones and out-of-this-world abilities are easy to confuse. They must be or Max, Isabel and Michael from Roswell wouldn’t have been able to last for as long as they did. In an uncommon turn, it turns out that these three had special powers which were contagious when used on unsuspecting humans. It took a few years to develop but humans were infected by exposure, providing all the more subjects to be kidnapped by secret goverment agencies for illegal experimentation.

Human Matthew Sikes and the Francisco family - Alien Nation

Human Matthew Sikes and the Francisco family – Alien Nation

Some aliens are not humanoid. They can’t blend in to Earth’s population. So if they land in the right backyard, some friendly human might build them a nice insulated doghouse or basement suite to live in. Provided they don’t eat the family cat, of course. Enough said about those kinds of Alien Life Forms.

Rarely, the refugees arrive not in individual pods or single ships but en masse. And then what do we do with all the illegal aliens when want to stay?

Sometimes their arrival is not planned, like when a ship full of Newcomers arrived. These slaves were glad to escape from their Overseers and Earth seemed like a paradise. If you think liquor laws or loose, imagine the thrill of being able to get drunk off of spoiled milk – you don’t even need to be 18 (or 21) to buy the stuff. On the other hand, throwing a baby shower because your male partner is pregnant because both sexes can give birth may be enough to make your neighbours flinch.

The Taelons - Earth, Final Conflict

The Taelons – Earth, Final Conflict

The winners of my personal alien creep-fest must be the Taelons. They arrived on Earth professing nothing but good intentions and the importance of recycling. It was what they wanted to recycle that squicked me out. They wanted human bodies; deceased was fine, so long as there was minimal damage. They needed to download the consciousnesses of their fellow Taelons into bodies in order for them to survive. I don’t know what it was about this show but out of every sci-fi alien series I have ever seen, this one gave me the most nightmares.


These are the aliens that tend to be the most fun. They don’t necessarily want anything. They just think we Earthlings are kind of cute.

These extra-terrestrials often have to report back to a Supreme Commander, a giant head, or fellow scientists who are orbiting the planet and are watching their view screens with a mixture of amazement at confusion.

It’s not ever Tom, Dick, and Harry who can set up a complete household on Earth and blend in as well as the Solomons did. Okay, honestly, Harry didn’t blend that well but the rest of them did okay. Despite what they consider to be their advanced intelligence, observers tend to be confused by our lexicons and low-tech gadgetry. (At least TV aliens are not complete morons who are stumped by something like, oh, doors.)

Mork from Ork - Mork and Mindy

Mork from Ork – Mork and Mindy

They may not all be able to hold down jobs as college professors but some of them are able to find love. All one goofy, manic, improvisational extra-terrestrial needs to find to achieve happiness is a good human woman. (A job of some sort would be helpful though because I don’t know how many sofas that poor Mindy went through with all the bouncing.)
Alien/human friendships are not at all uncommon. Sometimes we become such good companions that we are invited back to the ship. Or Police Box. Or whatever. Having a human sidekick when roaming the galaxy can be very convenient. Sometime an earthling will even join the crew. We can offer a lot. Humans have innovative ideas when it comes to problem solving. We can confuse the enemy with verbiage that is incomprehensible to any being that has not watched cable television over the past three decades. Or, in a pinch, we can be used as a scapegoat and sacrificed while the rest of the team makes their getaway. Relax, they’ll come back and save us before we get killed. Mostly.

Human Homer Simpson and an alien from Rigel 4 - The Simpsons

Human Homer Simpson and an alien from Rigel 4 – The Simpsons

All extra-terrestrial observers are not sweet and funny though. Some just like to mess with us. They abduct us but cause us no real harm, leave plot circles to give farmers grief, and treat us like coo-coo birds by letting an alien baby grow up in a human household to see what happens. They aren’t completely heartless though. They will take care of our politicians as a thank you for the trouble they’ve caused. And we appreciate that.


Whoever they are, whatever they look like, and no matter their intentions, aliens are here to stay. Check out Earth’s newest Visitors when “V” premieres on Tuesday, November 3rd on ABC.

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