Usually seen in science fiction TV series involving multiple alien races in its story line. The main action of such series usually occurs in a "neutral" place (such as a space station) or on a starship, but when the plot of a particular episode or scene occurs on the home planet of one of the show's alien races
, we'll often see a still Establishing Shot
of a major metropolis or capital on that alien planet. This shot will often display fantastic architecture that characterizes the race, such as buildings with crystalline spires
for "advanced and enlightened" races
, or for a warrior race
heavily fortified structures (maybe under a reddish sky
). A race with some sort of totalitarian government might show a capital with severe blocklike architecture
reminiscent of the Soviet Union (and perhaps a bleak grey sky), a monarchy might show something like the "old quarter" of a European city (along with a stylish palace), a more hardscrabble race might exhibit a chaotic jumble of buildings or something akin to a Mideastern bazaar, etc.
Such scenes are Eye Candy
and can show some cool artistry. The trope covers when such scenes are still shots of an alien skyline, usually for a few seconds before the storyline continues someplace within that setting.
- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace offers us the estabilishing first introduction of Coruscant, complete with the comments from the local Captain Obvious. Since there's no Earth in Star Wars, everyone there qualifies as alien.
- In David Lynch's adaptation of Dune, the House Harkonnen seat on Geidi Prime looks like an industrial wasteland under a dark gloomy sky, while another shot of the planet itself shows the surface itself as black (almost like a theoretical "carbon planet").
- Various series of the Star Trek franchise featured these, showing the Klingon capital on Qonos (gloomy sky, buildings lit in red), the Bajoran (a spiritual or religious race) capital (lots of temples and greenery), the Cardassian capital (1984-like architecture, grey sky), the Vulcan capital, the Romulan capital (with 1984-like architecture mixed with Ancient Grome), etc., as well as future San Francisco where Starfleet was headquartered.
- Babylon 5 displayed the capital on Centauri Prime (a monarchy with architecture like Renaissance Europe); a crystal-spired metropolis on Minbar; the Narn capital (low fortified buildings and red sky); and a Drazi metropolis (narrow bazaar-like streets); all in such establishing shots throughout the show. The Earth capital ("Earth Dome", in Geneva) also got such a shot, as did the major city of Mars for various episodes involving this planet. Then there was the stock shot of Z'ha'dum, with its eerie stone spires, Mordor-like dark and chaotic landscape, and noxious-looking foggy atmosphere.
- Stargate SG-1 liked to do this on the rare worlds like Langara and Hebridan that had civilizations comparable to or more advanced than Earth's.
- Doctor Who's Gallifrey: The Time Lords' home planet is only ever actually seen like this unless you're inside, at which point it looks equally amazing◊. Any establishing shot will be the first one, though.