Created By: DennisDunjinman on July 14, 2012 Last Edited By: DennisDunjinman on December 26, 2013
Troped

Once-Green Mars

Mars had a thriving civilization on it... once.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
"One needs only to look upon the once-green planet of Mars to understand the full scope of the devastation the Rüstov leave in their wake."

In Real Life, Mars is understood as the lifeless, dusty red planet next door to the lush, green planet we call home, Earth. The implication that barren Mars once was as bountiful and full of life as Earth and has become a wasteland entirely through the activities of today's threat gives a chilling demonstration of what kind of potential damage could happen to our world. Often this sort of damage starts with Mars first and goes from the outside of the solar system to the interior.

Stories where Mars had a thriving civilization are getting to be a Discredited Trope these days due to real-life Martian probing finding very little archeological evidence. The theorized reasons why Mars isn't thriving like Earth now has a lot to do with its significantly lower gravity being unable to hold in an atmosphere with enough air pressure to keep liquid water from evaporating away, or any ozone layer to protect it from deadly solar radiation; a slow environmental death of natural consequences. However, in the past before space probes, astronomers only had their telescopes and their imaginations pointed at Mars, giving plenty of room to think up entire alien civilizations living on it.

If Earth is going to be next, then Mars is the Sacrificial Planet. Compare Pluto Is Expendable.


Film
  • In the movie John Carter of Mars, it's said that Mars is dying out due to the actions of the Therns, and after the Therns are done with Mars they'll just move on to Earth. This doesn't happen in the book; in the book Mars is dying on its own and the natives have multiple methods in place to slow down the planet-dying process.
  • Near the end of Mission to Mars the astronauts discover an ancient Martian orrery that explains that Mars was once very Earthlike and had spacefaring intelligent life on it. The planet suffered a cataclysm and the Martians abandoned their homeworld and seeded Earth with life on their way out of the Solar System.
  • Total Recall showed that Mars was once inhabited by ancients, who had a massive machine that maintained a breathable atmosphere and biosphere on the planet—which was being uncovered by the mining operations going on in the movie's present.

Literature
  • A throwaway line in the first Jack Blank book shows that the planet of Mars once was as green as Earth, and that the reason it's as barren as it we know it is because the planet-consuming Rüstov already finished with it, and they are presently attempting to invade the Earth.
  • In C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, it turns out that Mars was once lushly habitable before being attacked and ravaged by the bent Oyarsa of Earth (i.e., Satan), and now life there is mostly limited to a few geothermal oases.
  • One of Niven's Svetz stories, Rainbow Mars involves time travel to Mars' verdant past, and chronicles what happened to it.
  • H. G. Wells War of the Worlds had the Martians invade the Earth because Mars was dying. They would go to consume their solar system inward if they hadn't made their lifestyles so sterile that they couldn't survive an encounter from Earth's abundant microorganisms.
  • Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles showed a civilization living on Mars who didn't think Earthlings existed until they started landing on the planet, which the Martians attempt to resist as much as possible. Eventually, the Martians die off from a mild Earth disease and humans are all that remain on Mars.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the serial "Image of the Fendahl", the Doctor says the Fendahl were responsible for Mars becoming a dead planet.

Video Games
  • In Doom III, a civilization existed on Mars that was destroyed by the Legions of Hell. The exact same legions that are faced by the human space marine protagonist.
  • In Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams, the Avatar travels in time to the 19th century, and from there, to Mars, where a native civilization is discovered. Said civilization is in ruins, however, and the Avatar needs to help them with restoring Mars to a habitable state.

Western Animation
  • In the Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Fool's Gold", mischievous but harmless aliens come to a village every 17 years where they eat massive quantities of popcorn and defecate solid gold. When the town's mayor gets greedy and kidnaps one, he gives the alien a steak, causing the alien to grow into massive size and defecate unstable uranium. The alien's friend tells Ben that Mars "used to be called The Popcorn Planet" before his kind came there.
  • The first episode of the Justice League cartoon displays an invasion of aliens coming to Earth. These aliens previously had taken Mars, leaving the Martian Manhunter as the sole survivor, who comes to Earth to warn the planet and help form the Justice League to fight them off.

Real Life
  • In Real Life, our probes have uncovered a lot of evidence indicating Mars once had oceans and running water (and possible fossilized microbes have been found on meteorites in Antarctica traced back to the Martian crust). For its first billion years of existence perhaps, Mars might have had a magnetic field strong enough to sustain a decent atmosphere and protect a primitive biosphere—but being smaller and further from the Sun its core might have cooled fairly quickly, weakening that magnetic field. (There's also some evidence that a very massive object, possibly a dwarf planet like Ceres, impacted Mars in such a way as to throw the core itself off balance and likely disrupt its magnetism—the fact that the Southern Hemisphere crust is significantly thicker than the Northern is related to this.)
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • July 14, 2012
    Vir
    In Ben 10 Alien Force when the heroes are fighting the Monster Of The Week, his friend informs them that what he'll do to Earth their race already did to Mars.
  • July 15, 2012
    Koveras
    • Mars is destroyed mid-second season in Exosquad by a single abandoned alien ship exploding. Then, in the series finale-slash-Sequel Hook, said aliens come back and, since Mars is already gone, destroy Chaos (the hidden tenth planet of the Solar system). Too bad the series was never continued...
  • July 15, 2012
    DennisDunjinman
    In Jack Blank, Jonas Smart states "One needs only to look upon the once-green planet of Mars to understand the full scope of the devastation the Rüstov leave in their wake."
  • July 23, 2012
    chicagomel
    Not sure if it counts or not, but Animorphs mentions Mars dying in, I believe, 'The Ellimist Chronicles'.
  • July 24, 2012
    aurora369
    In Doom III, a civilization existed on Mars that was destroyed by the Legions Of Hell. The exact same legions that are faced by the human space marine protagonist.
  • July 24, 2012
    Omeganian
    It is more commonly done to the planet that was (supposedly) located between Mars and Jupiter.
  • July 24, 2012
    animeg3282
    I don't like mars that was as a name since I think it's Earth That Was on Mars, but yes, I can see SHIT THEY BLEW UP MARS AND THEY'RE COMING FOR US! as a trope.
  • July 24, 2012
    DaibhidC
    • In the Doctor Who serial "Image of the Fendahl", the Doctor says the Fendahl were responsible for Mars becoming a dead planet. (Presumably the Ice Warriors evaded them somehow, and he's not mentioning that for simplicity's sake.)
  • July 24, 2012
    Rognik
    ^^ I don't think it's that far off this trope, but if the confusion is that widespread, it might need a name change.

    I don't remember the exact details of this, but one episode of Captain Planet And The Planeteers had the spirit of Mars come down to Earth and gave the Planeteers powered-up version of their powers. They slowly get corrupted by the increased powers and it's implied this is what destroyed Mars.
  • July 24, 2012
    DennisDunjinman
    If anyone can suggest a snappier title, that would be nice.

    The main idea is that whatever is going on this week has wrecked Mars's ecosystem and possibly exterminated its civilization, making the whole planet uninhabitable, and Earth is next. There's no Earth Shattering Kaboom, this isn't Pluto Is Expendable on Mars, but that Mars was just like Earth before THIS happened, and Earth is just about to go the same way.

    Additional Example: The first episode of the Justice League cartoon displays an invasion of aliens coming to Earth. These aliens previously had taken Mars, leaving the Martian Manhunter as the sole survivor, who comes to Earth to warn the planet and help form the Justice League to fight them off.
  • March 11, 2013
    Earnest
    I like Once-Green Mars as a name. If that's the title used for launched there should be a disclaimer it's unrelated to the Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy, where one of the three books is named Green Mars.
  • June 1, 2013
    chicagomel
    Re the Captain Planet one, I don't know if they ever said Zarn was from Mars, specifically. I recall he talked about being from an advanced planet, and had caused a lot of trouble there...
  • June 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    The title Once Green Mars made me think this was a trope covering all stories (or backstories) where Mars was once Earthlike, whether or not something "coming for us next" destroyed its ecosystems. I'm wondering if the trope shouldn't be broadened to include all such stories, unless it exists already as a trope.

    For instance, the film Total Recall had it that Mars was once inhabited by ancients, who had a massive machine that maintained a breathable atmosphere and biosphere on the planet--which was being uncovered by the mining operations going on in the movie's present.

  • June 1, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    ^ This trope is currently in a morphing stage right now. I was thinking of including non-Martian examples, such as how in Futurama the path that the Brains take in destroying planets clearly points to Earth when drawn on a flat space map, or how at the end of Cluefinders: Mystery of the Missing Amulet the planet Millenia had been dead a long time due to Malicia's influence and she says once she's done she's heading straight for Earth.

    The difference is that if I include non-Martian planets, it changes the nature of the trope and removes the familiarity and closeness of the given conflict. We Earthers are rather attached to Mars and know what it's like there since it's right next door in real life. Made-up planets don't have the same punch.

    If you can find any sister tropes, lay them on.
  • June 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    In Real Life, our probes have uncovered a lot of evidence indicating Mars once had oceans and running water (and possible fossilized microbes have been found on meteorites in Antarctica traced back to the Martian crust). For its first billion years of existence perhaps, Mars might have had a magnetic field strong enough to sustain a decent atmosphere and protect a primitive biosphere--but being smaller and further from the Sun its core might have cooled fairly quickly, weakening that magnetic field. (There's also some evidence that a very massive object, possibly a dwarf planet like Ceres, impacted Mars in such a way as to throw the core itself off balance and likely disrupt its magnetism--the fact that the Southern Hemisphere crust is significantly thicker than the Northern is related to this.)
  • June 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^ Yeah, I guess the trope could be expanded in either of two directions: "any planets that preceded ours as targets of alien destruction" or "all stories/backstories where Mars was once inhabited ("green")"--but these two things would be separate tropes at that point.

    If you're aiming for the former (stories involving Earth being next-in-line for alien attack/destruction after other planets got it), cool--but I'd then suggest a title like Earth Is Next or something.
  • June 1, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    I guess the trope can be split. But there's a special dramatic effect created when Mars Was Once Green and Earth Is Next are used in tandem.

    If split, this trope will be used for stories where Mars had a thriving civilization (which is very close to a Discredited Trope these days due to real-life Martian probing finding very little archeological evidence), and create another for the destruction of planets.
  • June 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Venus is sometimes pointed out by scientists as a real-life, next-door example of the results of a runaway greenhouse effect. Not sure if any fiction exists (yet) exploring this, or the possibility that life may have once existed on that planet. (The Sun has steadily increased in luminosity by about 50% since its beginnings on the main sequence about 4.5 billion years ago--and in roughly a billion years from now, it's estimated, it will become luminous enough to render Earth uninhabitable--so to me it's actually more conceivable that Venus (more Earthlike size and gravity), rather than Mars, once hosted a biosphere. But whether brought on by sentient inhabitants or (more likely) a brightening Sun, at some point a runaway greenhouse effect turned it into the hell it is today.) I've heard it brought up as a sort of Green Aesop warning us to watch our carbon emissions or we could be next, but what happened to Venus was almost certainly inevitable whether indigenous life fouled its nest or not.
  • June 1, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Even without the greenhouse effect, Venus's proximity to the Sun still makes it a stormy, volcanic Death World anyway, and therefore completely unlike Earth despite some similarities (and much more Discredited than Mars).

    But as far as I'm aware, Venus isn't as popular a fiction spot as Mars is. No one writes about how the aliens destroyed Venus first, instead preferring to go outside-in on the solar system. (I think I read one where Earthicans destroyed Venus by accident by dropping a very small amount of trash on it, causing a microbe to spread and kill all native life-forms).
  • June 1, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    . (examples deleted--straying too far from the trope parameters)
  • December 14, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    In C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, it turns out that Mars was once lushly habitable before being attacked and ravaged by the bent Oyarsa of Earth (i.e., Satan), and now life there is mostly limited to a few geothermal oases.
  • December 15, 2013
    Generality
    For a title, we have Earth That Was, so maybe Mars That Was?
  • December 15, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ We never knew how Mars looked like long ago, so I'd stay on Once Green Mars.
  • December 15, 2013
    foxley
    Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors are the remnants of a civilization that flourished on Mars thousands of year ago when the planet was more favourable to supporting life.
  • December 16, 2013
    StarSword
    @We Are All Kosh: For the sake of argument, Heinlein's Space Cadet has intelligent life on Venus.

    On-topic, under Film:
    • Near the end of Mission To Mars the astronauts discover an ancient Martian orrery that explains that Mars was once very Earthlike and had spacefaring intelligent life on it. The planet suffered a cataclysm and the Martians abandoned their homeworld and seeded Earth with life on their way out of the Solar System.
  • December 20, 2013
    Koveras
    • In Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams, the Avatar travels in time to the 19th century, and from there, to Mars, where a native civilization is discovered. Said civilization is in ruins, however, and the Avatar needs to help them with restoring Mars to a habitable state.
  • December 21, 2013
    Dalillama
    • One of Niven's Svetz stories, Rainbow Mars involves time travel to Mars' verdant past, and chronicles what happened to it.
  • December 22, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Does anyone else have any more examples to provide or statements to make?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=fdybh7jp8fmhzp4b68djbw56&trope=OnceGreenMars