Created By: MorganWick on March 20, 2012

The Manual from Outer Space

Aliens send directions for how to make something to us.

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Somehow, a set of instructions from aliens for how to make something arrives on Earth. No direct contact is made; the instructions (and maybe some other things) are the only things we get from them, and usually the only evidence the aliens exist at all.

Naturally, scientists get to work following the instructions. Nine times out of ten, following the instructions leads to Very Bad Things. Usually the aliens planned this all along; perhaps they're softening us up for conquest.

Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • March 20, 2012
    One Harry Dickson story has a dying alien land on Earth in the 1930s and ask the Earthlings to build a galactic radio which he has the blueprints for, so that his kind can come pick him up and heal him, in exchange for advanced technology. It turns out the alien is in fact a human from the far future where nuclear war has rendered most of the planet uninhabitable, and the mutant humans now require blood to survive. The "radio" was in fact a time machine that would allow the aliens to go back in time to a planet full of non-radiactive food sources.

  • March 20, 2012
    Good idea, but your examples need more explanation.

    Under film

    • In Explorers, aliens send a boy intructions on how to build a space ship, in the form of dreams. He makes it together with his friend.
  • March 20, 2012
    This Island Earth begins with scientists ordering parts and instructions from an unusual electronics catalog to build an advanced alien device known as an interocitor.
  • March 20, 2012
  • March 20, 2012
    • NASA have put instructions on how to build a record player onto some of their probes, on the underside of a record containing human voices.
  • March 20, 2012
    Live-Action TV

    • This was the entire premise of The Greatest American Hero. The series followed the adventures of long-suffering schoolteacher, Ralph Hinkley, who receives a red suit with superhuman abilities from an alien spaceship. However, it's slightly subverted as Ralph loses the instructions on how to control the suit, so he's forced through Trial And Error on how to properly use the suit.
  • March 20, 2012
    Contact: the "Vegans" transmit the plans for the sphere to Earth, piggybacked on an old broadcast signal

    This Island Earth: This is basically how the main scientist characters get their hands on the instructions to build the Interocitor (a variation being that the aliens are already on Earth and are using this intergalactic hobby kit to stealthily select Earth scientists to help them in their mission; therefore they simply mail the instructions- and some of the parts- to the interested scientists.
  • March 20, 2012
    • Contact has aliens sending us directions for how to make a device to get in touch with them. The first one is saboaged by Well Meaning Extremists (or not so much). The second one was made in secret, and that's the one Ellie Arroway uses.
    • There's also more than one episode of the new The Outer Limits
      • One aliens send music to turn teenagers into evolved creatures so they will survive the solar event (humans of adult years just have to stay inside. Their bodies won't change)
      • Another episode has aliens sending directions to a deaf woman so she can help them from earth to avoid getting killed by the solar wind.
  • March 21, 2012
    An expansion on the Species example in the OP.

    • Species. Scientists receive a transmission from space with instructions on how to create a catalyst that would create an infinite amount of energy from methane (or allow the creation of an infinite amount of methane, the movie wasn't clear). They therefore assumed that the aliens were benevolent. The aliens then sent a description of a segment of DNA and how to merge it with human DNA. The scientists created the DNA and merged it with human ova, resulting in Sil, a human-appearing child that later turned out to be a murderous Shape Shifting monster.
  • March 21, 2012
    Related to Imported Alien Phlebotinum.

    • A For Andromeda: A radio message from the Andromeda galaxy gives instructions on how to build a Master Computer which can aid mankind, but which may have its own secret agenda.
    • The eponymous radio signal in the novel The Orphiuchi Hotline by John Varley.
  • March 21, 2012
    • In a recent Science Channel miniseries, "Alien Encounters", in the second episode ("The Arrival") the aliens send us plans for constructing a dark energy detector.
    • The manual left behind by the Kanamits in the Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man." "It's a cook book!"
  • March 21, 2012
    ^ I'm pretty sure "To Serve Man" isn't an example, the aliens had physical contact with humanity and that one with the book seemed to leave it behind absentmindedly.
  • March 21, 2012
    Sounds like a Sub Trope of the E.T. Gave Us (The Instructions To) Wi-Fi type tropes.
  • March 21, 2012
    "To Serve Man" is an example. They give people a shield that protects from all weapons, and a potion that cures all disease (along with their book). This is all for different reasons than people think though, since they want people healthy and defenseless.
  • March 21, 2012
    Yes but the trope specifies that the aliens only give humans the plans to build whatever technology they're giving out. The Kanamits didn't expect us to do anything but allow ourselves to be domesticated, they installed the shields, they handed out the medicine and fertilizers, they transported humans to their homeworld on their ships.
  • March 22, 2012
    • The Mars Archives in the Mass Effect series were left behind by the long-extinct Protheans to allow the nascent human civilization to use the Mass Relays and thus expand into space. In Mass Effect 3, they are also revealed to contain the blueprints for the Lost Superweapon capable of wiping out the Reapers.
  • March 22, 2012
    • Subverted several times in Babylon 5 and its spinoff, Crusade.
      • On Babylon 5, an alien probe arrives at the station, and offers information on advanced technology, energy production, medicine, etc., as long as they are able to answer a variety of (very complex) math, physics, chemistry, etc. questions. It turns out, the probe's purpose is to find anyone who is advanced enough to answer those questions, and destroy them, to prevent them becoming a threat to those that sent the probe.
      • Meanwhile, on Crusade, an abandoned city is found on a distant planet which has partial writings and formulas on the walls, just enough for investigators to realize they provide (incomplete) details about various advanced technologies. In this case, the purpose of the bait is to keep people around investigating long enough to be abducted and experimented on, in hopes of developing a cure to a plague that is ravaging the natives of the planet.