"'When did life start on your world? —And let me say, that's a nice hat.' And then he or she would say, 'It's my helmet, it's my space helmet, because your atmosphere is just—it's no good for me,' and so on. I'd want to know where they came from. I'd want to know why they wanted; what were they doing asking me what I was doing? It would be great to know, though, we're not alone. That would be a heck of a thing. It would change the world."Since man has known what sort of sphere we live on, we have looked at the stars and wondered: are we alone? In this vast, empty Universe, are there any other intelligences gazing up at our star from under an alien moon? A common theme in Speculative Fiction, science fiction writers have loved to speculate for decades what that pivotal moment will be like: the day we first make contact with an extra-terrestrial intelligence. Writers have invented everything from truly Starfish Aliens to Rubber-Forehead Aliens and every scenario from aggressive aliens or humans to peaceful coexistence, and everything in-between. The name for the trope and the term itself comes from the 1945 Murray Leinster novelette First Contact. This is not the same as first contact, lowercase, which describes any first contact between two cultures. Expect someone to make a statement or speech about what a pivotal moment this is for the human race. You may find religious fanatics who claim the aliens are devils, angels, or even gods. Unless the aliens are Sufficiently Advanced or it is Handwaved, there may be communication difficulties and misunderstandings, sometimes leading to outright warnote . Scientists will want to study the aliens, ofttimes without the aliens' consent. The aliens will usually be more technologically advanced, although not always more sociologically advanced. A specific group of specialists may be formed to create a First Contact Team in order to plan for every contingency. If taking place in America, it may turn out that First Contact actually happened decades ago in Roswell, New Mexico, and that the government has been keeping it under wraps ever since. Speculation about First Contact scenarios has led many scientists and philosophers to consider that the human race may not be ready for such contact — they often argue that the multitude of armed conflicts and the pollution of our own world as reasons that an extra-terrestrial lifeform may pass Earth by, which Hollywood will pick up on when they feel their movie needs a message. Compare Alien Among Us. Contrast with Absent Aliens. See also First Contact Math, Boldly Coming (a.k.a. Thirty-Fourth Contact), Faeries Don't Believe in Humans, Either. For the film, see Star Trek: First Contact. Naturally, this is the step between The Masquerade and The Unmasqued World.
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Anime & Manga
- In the Macross universe, First Contact occurred during Super Dimension Fortress Macross between the humans and the Zentradi, which resulted in the near-total desolation of Earth and the annihilation of a large Zentradi fleet in its skies. The main conflict (but not all the bitterness) ends when the two sides manage to communicate and realize that they're not so different after all. Oh, and with the songs of an idol singer. Can't forget about that.
- It is worth noting that the fleet destroyed during the original series was not the main fleet of the Zentradi. There is no such thing, really. It was actually just one of hundreds of similarly-sized fleets that are still patrolling the galaxy locked in an endless war with the Supervision Army, who themselves are just Zentradi brainwashed by the Protodeviln. The fact that utter annihilation could stumble upon them at any moment is the driving force behind the combined Human/"cultured" Zentradi settling of every possible planet they can find in later Macross series.
- The Gundam 00 movie, Awakening of the Trailblazer, deals with First Contact with an alien species called the ELS. The two species are so completely alien to one another that humanity mistakes their attempts at communication for hostile attacks.
- Happens in the Distant Finale in the final issue of Chew. The aliens that have been murdering every human who eats chicken come down and, surprise, they look like giant chicken people. Thanks to the cult that's been preaching the aliens are benevolent the crowd watching the UFO are passive until an elderly Tony Chu, still bitter over all the deaths, stabs the alien ambassador in the chest with a knife. End series.
- In Worldwar: War of Equals, when The Race's fleet is spotted just outside the solar system, Humanity tries to go for a peaceful version of this with America and Europe using SETI's ATA and China using a system developed in Yantai Space City. The Race refuse to take the offer for peace.
- This is the premise of Mass Effect Clash Of Civilizations, as the Council races encounter the humans of the UNSC.
- In Harry Tano, this happens when Ahsoka Tano meets and subsequently adopts a young Harry Potter. It is later lampshaded by Margaret Thatcher when she realizes the the Ministry of Magic botched up the official First Contact due to being paranoid prats.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Episode 14 features the Stardroids, alien robots who do not come in peace.
- The Next Frontier features a Perspective Flip of sorts, as the big moment unfolds largely from the perspective of a non-human species, namely the Kerbals.
- Subverted in Discworld and The Big Bang Theory crossover The Many Worlds Interpretation. The Caltech nerds (and Penny) are the first to make contact with "aliens" - who turn out to be from the Discworld. One of the visiting aliens is young, red-haired and attractive enough for Howard Wolowitz to forgo the usual "take me to your leader..." stuff. His first words to the alien visitor are Are all the women on your planet as hot as you?. An "alien" visits. Howard makes a pass at her. And when the Caltech crew visit the Discworld, a specialised aspect of quantum theory allows them to take the Internet with them. An Unseen University faculty member, given a resource allowing him (at least in theory) to tap into the accumulated knowledge of an entire planet, immediately asks if you can get lots of pictures of, er, young ladies, in artistic poses with urns and lengths of gauze. Yes. The Senior Wrangler immediately latches onto Internet porn.
- Equestria: Across the Multiverse:
- The mane theme and idea of the story is interuniversal exploration and contact, so first contact with alternate universes is a frequent occurrence. Twilight has a detailed list of how they're supposed to do it, but never gets to actually do it. The My Little Pony Tales arc is the one that follows the mold most closely.
- Eventually, the tech leap that Equestria Prime makes results in a race of aliens called the Celestial Ponies making an organized First Contact. They come in peace...except one of their supervillains, Black Star the Light Stealer, who also arrived and made First Contact with Queen Chrysalis.
- Integration: This is one of the main plot lines. The human world is slowly gaining more magic stability and pretty soon it will be impossible to hide magic from the population outside of CHS, so the ponies in Gaia (pony world) and the humans in Terra (human world) work together to prepare for official contact and for the two worlds to become inter-dimensional allies. Sunset and Princess Twilight also have plans for when contact is made, Sunset planning to help the citizens of Terra adapt to the magic they will receive and Twilight hoping to bring technology from Terra over to Gaia.
Films — Animation
- An unintentional one in Planet 51, where the protagonist is an astronaut sent to a supposedly-empty planet only to find that he landed in the middle of an alien neighborhood BBQ party. This is portrayed as a First Contact from the aliens' viewpoint, who immediately assume the astronaut is hostile. It turns out the reason why no one on Earth knew about the aliens is because the robot sent to scout out the world prior to the manned mission is obsessed with rocks and didn't bother sending any images of aliens.
Films — Live-Action
- Despite the name, only a minor theme in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. It serves as the event that the Enterprise must prevent the Borg from sabotaging, since it was more or less what led to the creation of the United Federation of Planets. For the record, Humanity's First Contact is with the Vulcans.
- The movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial takes a very Disney approach to this theme.
- Approached in a relatively similar vein to E.T. The Cat from Outer Space has humans make first contact with alien... cats.
- In Alien, First Contact takes place between a crew of space truckers who are more interested in a percentage than diplomacy, and an H.R. Giger-designed horror from the beyond the stars that just wants to share a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong with them. They get along about as well as you'd expect.
- In Independence Day, the aliens never make a formal First Contact other than trying to Kill All Humans. The closest it comes to a dialogue is when a capture alien takes telepathic control of a half-dead scientist for a pleasant chat with the President. The President asks if peace is possible; the alien curtly answers "no peace." When the President asks what they would like us to do, the alien simply responds, "Die."
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind — The various close encounters throughout the film are building up to this (the eponymous CE3K being actual contact with extraterrestrial life). It happens at the climax of the film starting with the sequence where the scientists try to communicate with the UFOs (through music).
- Mars Attacks!, the First Contact seemingly goes bad when the Martian ambassador mistakes a dove for an act of aggression and starts shooting up the American greeting party with his Death Ray. The alien expert tries for a more peaceful second contact and invites the ambassador to Congress, where he pulls out his Death Ray again and kills everyone. It turns out the Martians are just dicks.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
- Also happens in the 2008 remake, where the alien craft is initially thought to be a world-ending meteorite before it slows down and lands in Central Park. The craft is surrounded by US military only for all electronic equipment to shut down, when the craft emits an EMP wave. A humanoid figure comes out, but one of the soldiers freaks out and shoots at it. A huge humanoid robot comes out to protect the alien, only for the wounded alien to stop it from attacking the humans. The alien is taken to a secret government facility, where the bullet is removed and the wound treated. To the doctors' surprise, the alien's internal structure is identical a human's. It turns out that the aliens specifically grew a body that would be able to survive on Earth. After awakening, the alien (named Klaatu) expresses his wish to speak with the UN, but the US Government has no intention of letting him leave the facility.
- The film Transformers has a sort-of First Contact when the explorer Archibald Witwicky discovers a slumbering Megatron in the early 20th century. Though Megatron is kept insensate, humanity gets a technological jump start from what they learn of his workings. More commonly seen first contacts take place later, when the Decepticon Blackout and his little friend Skorponok flatten a US military base in the Middle East, and the Autobots track down Archibald's descendant, Sam, and ask for an artifact from his ancestor. They learned their command of English from the Internet. Despite battling with the Decepticons in public, the Autobots are presumably covered up by the government, and they remain on Earth, in disguise, watching and protecting and waiting for their fellows to join them.
- District 9 handles this in a very interesting manner. Unusually for a mainstream film, it's the humans who oppress the aliens.
- In the Soviet cult classic Moscow — Cassiopeia, humanity receives a signal from a faraway star. The Soviet government builds a nuclear-powered relativistic spacecraft and crews it with high school kids, realizing that they would be adults by the time the ship arrives. However, a stowaway sits on the engine controls and somehow accelerates the ship beyond the speed of light. Long story short, they arrive to their destination in the blink of an eye (for them, at least) and encounter an alien ship. The Captain gets into a transparent dome on the hull and tries to communicate with the Human Aliens with hand gestures. They appear to understand and reply in kind. Later, the teens use a Universal Translator they brought to teach the aliens Russian in a matter of seconds. They find out that the aliens they met are the last of their race due to a robot revolt some time ago. Only those who were in space at the time escaped. The rest were "enhanced" by the machines by having their emotions removed, thus stopping procreation (apparently, love is a prerequisite for sex). The humans offer to help the aliens retake their homeworld.
- Meanwhile, the same guy who sat on the controls (who is also Wrong Genre Savvy about aliens) ends up being a part of the landing party on the alien planet. While exploring a strange white column, he finds himself face-to-face with a pair of strange-looking Human Aliens with antennae and black jumpsuits. He also uses a Universal Translator to translate their whistles into Russian. He further tries to use math to communicate, but gets the formula wrong. One of the aliens corrects him and tells him "It happens to everyone." It's later revealed that these are actually Ridiculously Human Robots.
- Thor and The Avengers (2012) for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since the Asgardians are revealed to be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. The former is a rather low-key event which is covered up rather neatly by the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The latter is a massive city-scale invasion that lets the entire world know they are not alone.
- Oblivion (2013) : What the "Odyssey" mission was meant to be (meeting an unexplained space object near Titan). To say that it Went Horribly Wrong is a massive understatement.
- Man of Steel greatly deconstructs not only the concept of a superhero appearing for the first time, but humanity finding out that they're not alone and not even close to a match for their competition.
- In Prometheus the main characters' goal is to make first contact with the Engineers that created humanity. After waking the last surviving one up, he immediately attacks them and tries to wipe out humanity with the Engineers' bioweapon.
- In Pixels, humans attempt to make first contact with aliens. It goes catastrophically wrong when the aliens misinterpret the message of peace as a declaration of war.
- Arrival: around a dozen alien spaceships touch down on various places around Earth and then just... sit there. The story mainly revolves around humanity's attempts to work out some way to communicate with the aliens aboard the ships, and find out why exactly they've come to Earth.
- First Contact by Murray Leinster is, unsurprisingly, about exactly this. Interesting because it takes place a long way from home for either species and both of them are worried that the other might be powerful and warlike, so neither wants to give away any information about the location of their home planet... which also means they're both stuck there, since they can't be sure the other ship can't fly faster or track better than theirs can.
- The novel Contact by Carl Sagan deals with first contact in a relatively "hard" manner. Aliens in a system twenty-six light years distant send a radio signal to Earth - a long sequence of prime numbers. It's a palimpsest, and under it is a second message that turns out to be an audio/video signal, a repeat of the first few minutes of the first television signal broadcast strongly enough to traverse out to Vega - which, unfortunately, turns out to be Adolf Hitler's Olympic commencement broadcast. This, too, is a palimpsest, and under that is the blueprints to a machine. Even this is a palimpsest, for there's a primer buried in there telling Earth how to build it.
- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, although in this case the contact occurred in the backstory when the insectoid aliens (colloquially termed "Buggers") sent an invasion fleet to Earth's solar system. The only interactions anyone has with them in the first novel are violent. In the epilogue and subsequent novels, it's up to Ender to make a true First Contact by being the first of his species to successfully communicate with a Hive Queen.
- The prequel comic Formic Wars (and the Formic Wars novels expanding on the comic) describe the arrival of the Formics (nobody uses the term "Bugger" now) into the Solar System and the devastating First Invasion. 44 million Chinese are killed, and a large chunk of China is covered by a deadly acidic gas. And that was just a single mothership that was barely defeated. The final shot of the comic shows a whole fleet of these on the way, with the humans creating the Hegemony and the International Fleet to prepare for the second arrival, using the mothership to reverse-engineer Formic tech.
- Poul Anderson's novelette The Enemy Stars deals with an accidental First Contact between a human and the aliens that save his life, and the sequel The Ways of Love deals with how humans handle the first alien beings on Earth (not well, in some cases).
- The prequel novel to Mass Effect, Mass Effect: Revelation deals with the start of the First Contact War mentioned below in its prologue. Interestingly, even this novel doesn't really describe the first contact or the subsequent conflict. Anderson is merely told by his superior about the attack on human ships and the retaliation on the turians. Of course, the existence of aliens isn't really news, since the exploration of the Prothean ruins on Mars is what allows humans to develop FTL travel.
- The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Inverted in that humans have the star-spanning empire, while the aliens are trapped on one single world.
- The Contact section of the Culture in Iain M. Banks's novels, described as the "good works" agency of that society, apart from Contact's "Special Circumstances" division, who interfere in other civilisations if it looks like they'll be trouble to the Culture. A kind of Reverse Alien Non-Interference Clause.
Encyclopedia Exposita: Prepping. A very long-established practice, used lately by the Culmina amongst others, is to take a few examples of a pre-civilised species from their home world (usually in clonoclastic or embryonic form) and make them subject species/slaves/mercenaries/mentored. so that when the people from their home world finally assume the Galactic stage, they are not the most civilised/advanced of their kind (often they're not even the most numerous grouping of their kind). Species so treated are expected to feel an obligation to their so-called mentors (who will also generally claim to have diverted comets or otherwise prevented catastrophes in the interim, whether they have or not). This practice has been banned in the past when pan-Galactic laws (see Galactic Council) have been upheld but tends to reappear in less civilised times. Practice variously referred to as Prepping, Lifting or Aggressive Mentoring. Local-relevant terminology: aHuman & rHuman (advanced and remainder Human).
- An interesting variation on First Contact occurs in The Algebraist, another of Iain M. Banks's sci-fi novels. It is mentioned that humanity - (perhaps just human genetic material) - was transplanted from Earth to a number of nearby worlds in 4051 BC. These humans were raised in an interstellar culture while Earth itself was declared off-limits. Result; by the time Earth discovered interstellar travel, Human Aliens, or aHumans outnumbered the remaining humans or rHumans by an order of magnitude. First Contact was less We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill then What Kept You? As a method of preventing every First Contact boondoggle ever theorized, it worked. It also annihilated all terrestrial human culture.
- Sci-fi author Peter F. Hamilton discusses the devastating effects on the economy of an advanced alien technology in The Nano Flower and the short story Escape Route.
- Ivan Yefremov's novella Cor Serpentis is essentially a one big Take That! at Leinster's spin on the theme. Both Yefremov and his characters take it as extremely distasteful and, believing that no spacefaring civilization might be hostile, meet the aliens with open hands, in one of the most touching description of contact ever written.
- Subverted with extreme prejudice in the Harry Turtledove story "The Road Not Taken", in which Earth has first contact in the form of an alien invasion.... by Aliens that are less advanced technologically than Humanity in every single aspect other than space travel. They literally attack with flintlocks and swords. It turns out that basically Anti-Gravity is ridiculously simple and most species discover it during roughly the Age of Sail. Although the ending of the story makes it appear that Humans are a Mary Sue, a sequel subverts the premise by having Humanity be the less advanced one.
- Halo: Contact Harvest details the UNSC's first contact with the Covenant from the perspective of both human and alien characters. When the Covenant's Hierarchs discover from a Forerunner AI that Humans Are Special and not them, they decide to wipe humanity out in order to preserve their religion (and thus their power). That said, the shooting only begins in earnest after one nervous and Trigger Happy Grunt attacks a human during a negotiation.
- Blindsight by Peter Watts invokes this. The ship Theseus Earth sends out is manned because they have reason to suspect that the event know as Firefall was initiated by aliens, who... for some reason took a picture of all of Earth. It's then subverted when what the crew of the Theseus finds isn't quite the intelligent life forms they expected to find and brought a linguist to communicate with, though. The alien scramblers which inhabit the Rorschach turn out to be hyperintelligent but not conscious or self-aware, and can only parse human languages as space-wasting cognitive viruses designed to hurt them. As the narrator puts it:
How do you say "We come in peace" when the words themselves are an act of war?
- John Ringo's Troy Rising kicks off with aliens bringing a gate for a Portal Network near Earth.
- Jack McDevitt:
- Infinity Beach begins on a human colony world making a final attempt to communicate with any possible life Out There, but the conclusion appears to be that mankind is alone. Unknown to all concerned there had been a First Contact some years before but it was bungled, with all the aliens and several humans killed; ashamed of their error the survivors covered things up. When the protagonist discovers this the government decides the best thing is for humanity to lay low, for if the aliens weren't hostile before, they undoubtedly will be now! Against orders, a group of scientists decide to risk another Contact. Fortunately the aliens accept their explanation that it was all a mistake, and peaceful relations are established.
- In Omega (part of the Priscilla Hutchins series), an intelligent species is discovered directly in the path of an interstellar catastrophe. The species has begun to develop technology, but is still at a pre-spaceflight stage of development. Researchers determine that the technology they have may be enough to save most of their population if they can be persuaded to apply it properly, but the Alien Non-Interference Clause makes the first-contact team's job difficult. Disaster is approaching rapidly, and the team needs to learn as much as they can about the language and culture of the Goompahs, starting from zero. But how do you persuade some alien creatures to cooperate in saving their species if you can't even reveal your own existence?
- The Hercules Text, published almost simultaneously with Carl Sagan's Contact, has a very similar premise: signals are received by Earth via a radio telescope which contain mathematical information that turn out to be the key to a later transmission containing a great deal of scientific information. The effect of all this on the peoples of Earth is dramatic.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy parodies this, of course. Humanity's ostensible First Contact with Galactic civilization is with the Vogons, who are here not for chitchat but to destroy Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. It's subsequently subverted in at least four separate ways, which ought to be It Was His Sled by now:
- Earth's been visited by aliens for ages, we just never realized it.
- The Earth is actually a giant supercomputer built to calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
- Humans are themselves Ancient Astronauts and not the originally planned sapient inhabitants of the planet.
- Due to a temporal anomaly, Earth had a First Contact event prior to the Vogon demolition of Earth: an alien war fleet attacked Earth but due to a miscalculation Earth - or at least Humans - never noticed as the warfleet was swallowed by a dog.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, First Contact happened during the first extrasolar jump, which coincidentally put the space shuttle near a Conclave ship. One of the crewmembers is interrogated by the aliens, and she reveals the location of Earth. She is later tried for treason but acquitted, as the defense claimed the aliens Mind Raped her. Thus humanity becomes just another cog in the ruthless Conclave regime. Slightly subverted due to humans being descendants of the colonists from the Shadow.
- In Vladimir Vasiliev's Death or Glory, humanity's first contact with The Alliance takes place after the discovery of FTL travel. A Svaigh ship lands in the middle of a British city and incinerates a Special Forces team sent to it. They demand a few tons of beryllium and take off. This repeats a few times, but, for the most part, they leave humans alone. Could've been worse, as at least some of The Alliance races are known to have conquered younger races and kept them as slaves. This becomes a major plot point in the later books of the series.
- The plot of The Sparrow is about how First Contact can go horribly wrong.
- Anne McCaffrey's Tower and the Hive series depicts humanity's first encounters with two separate alien species - the first is an insectoid race trying to exterminate humans; the second is a compatibly sentient species impressed by our ability to defeat the first and trying to ally with us against them.
- The first contact that accidentally happens in McCaffrey's Decision at Doona isn't technically mankind's first first contact, but the fact that that first-ever alien culture encountered committed mass suicide in response drives much of the novel's plot by informing the human policies established afterwards to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. One of these is "non-coinhabitation"; humans aren't allowed to live on the same planets as intelligent alien lifeforms, period. Which creates a problem when the first human settlers on the new colony world of Doona run smack into just such an intelligent alien lifeform that the initial surveyors somehow managed to miss... Because the "natives" are actually new colonists from another planet, who find themselves in the same boat!
- In the backstory of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth universe, humans and Thranx both have first contact with the violently xenophobic AAnn shortly before coming into contact with each other, taking what might otherwise have become a violent war and turning it into an Enemy Mine situation that evolves into the two species becoming close allies.
- In the Kir Bulychev novel The Mystery of Urulgan, first contact occurs when a small band of adventurers finds a spaceship that crashed in Siberia. The alien assumes the humans will be civilized, and shows them his technology, but all that ensues is conflict between the adventurers and attacks on the alien, who finally escapes.
- In the Doom novels, humanity's First Contact with the aliens on the other end of Mar's teleportation network was an Imp throwing a flaming ball of snot into the crowd. It went downhill from there.
- In The Killing Star, first contact with the aliens consists of them slamming relativistic missiles into the Earth, nearly wiping out humanity.
- Mikhail Akhmanov's Invasion describes first contact with the Bino Faata, whose starship has arrived to the Solar System in search of new races to conquer and integrate into the Faata hierarchy. The novels title and The Teaser (before cutting back to how it started) are clear examples of the bad kind of first contact. Humanity barely survives the assault with tens of millions of dead all over the world. On the bright side, the Faata starship remains mostly intact. From it, humans reverse-engineer the contour drive, Deflector Shields, and Anti Matter weapons. The second novel takes place 37 years later and involves a newly-created battlegroup taking the fight back to the Faata. Also, in-between the novels, a proper First Contact takes place with the peaceful Lo'ona Aeo, who wish to trade with humans.
- The Faata do attempt at faking the good kind of First Contact by disengaging their stealth systems at the approach of a human flotilla and offering various technological boons, including longevity treatments, cures for all known diseases, FTL technology, Artificial Gravity, etc. Naturally, this huge list of boons only serves to make the admiral, who's tasked by the UN Security Council to negotiate with them and keep them away from Earth, suspicious of their motives. The alien representative then points out that they know from intercepting transmissions that Earth is not unified and threatens to accept one of the non-Western nations' offer of landing. After a few days of not getting anywhere, the Faata decide to drop the charade and just wipe out the flotilla.
- In Earth Girl, planets are settled with a human-deployed Portal Network. Planet First military forces first make sure no sentient aliens live there, then commence settling. So far they have found none, only neo-intelligent species on two planets they subsequently put under quarantine. In the sequel Earth Star, an mysterious unmanned, but armed alien probe travels to earth orbit and is an ambiguous threat through the book, causing evacuations of the Earth population when it does not answer any communication.
- Raymond Z. Gallun's "Old Faithful" (1934) is one of the earliest science-fiction novels to deal in detail with the difficulties of making long-range signal contact with ''very'' alien aliens. The in-story solution, which begins with basic mathematics, is the method which was also chosen by most SETI scientists from the 1950's on.
- Real Quick Flash Fic has a parody version of first contact in the story; The Selkat Snooper.
- Seen from a nonhuman perspective in one of the infodump chapters of The Romulan Way. The Vulcans' first contact was disastrous, as it took place with the predecessors of the Orion Pirates. The Vulcans fought them off but the aftereffects were one of the triggers for the Sundering between the Vulcans and the Rihannsu (everyone else calls them Romulans). A couple thousand years later the Rihannsu, not warp-capable but who had shipbuilding capacity to support trade between ch'Rihan and ch'Havran* detected a ship in orbit and linked it in their minds to the pirates of millennia earlier, and reacted accordingly. Unfortunately for all involved, the ship belonged to the Federation.
- In one of the short stories in the companion volume to Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks For Dear Friends, humanity is set to be eradicated by an alien empire whose hat is destroying redundancy. It seems that everything that (we naively believe) makes humans unique is actually duplicated somewhere else in the galaxy, and the aliens see no sense wasting a prime habitable planet on such a bog-standard redundant species. The main character saves the human race with a magic trick, implying that deceiving one another by sleight-of-hand for amusement is the one uniquely human art form.
- Several Harry Harrison novels deal with first encounters with aliens:
- In Plague from Space, a ship sent to explore Jupiter returns, releasing a deadly disease that rapidly mutates and kills people. Eventually, a special forces group makes its way aboard the ship and watches the videologs, which reveal that the solid core of Jupiter is inhabited by a Hive Mind race whose hat is Organic Technology. The crew of the ship learned to communicate with the Jovians, but the Jovians eventually moved on to dissections. The remaining crewmember was sent back along with a Jovian passenger, infected with a disease engineered for humans. It turns out that the whole plague thing is nothing more than an attempt by the Jovian Hive Mind to study humanity, whom it perceives as also likely a Hive Mind. After the end of the "experiment", the Jovian passenger transmits the results to Jupiter, gives the humans the cure, and dies.
- In Invasion: Earth, a spaceship crash-lands in New York's Central Park. Since the book was written during the Cold War, the Soviets send a representative (a female linguist) to join the First Contact Team that enters the craft, mostly composed of American soldiers. Inside, they are attacked by a Wookie-like creature, which they riddle with bullets. They find a chained-up white-skinned Human Alien who speaks English and Russian from aliens intercepting the most common radio-broadcasts. The alien explains that Earth has been targeted for invasion by their bitter rivals Blettr (the hairy aliens). The Oinn, the alien's people, offer to help by setting up a base in the Antarctic to defend Earth using their advanced weaponry. The Blettr fleet arrives, and the Oinn battle them. They manage to fight off the first wave, but several human cities are wiped out by Orbital Bombardment. The authorities begin to doubt the truth when the Oinn refuse to let humans anywhere near their base and forbid them from attempting to communicate with the Blettr. In the end, it's revealed that the Blettr and the Oinn are Planet Looters who are working together to get as much radioactive material from Earth as possible before moving on, looking for their lost homeworlds. The humans manage to fight them off and bluff them into leaving the system, while keeping a small ship to reverse-engineer.
- In Angel Station, human protagonists make a First Contact with a race of Living Ships and promptly start to trade with them.
- The core of Constellation Games is the tale of what happens when modern day Earth encounters a vastly superior alien civilization, and whether everything will go horribly wrong or not. The key difference from most such tales is that the main character isn't an ambassador, or a badass; he just wants to play their video games.
- In the short novel The Librarian (2015) the protagonist alien accidentally falls prisoner to the military. He explains he was not intending to make First Contact per se, but since they already know he's not human, he better explain the rules of how this is usually done.
- Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy kicks off when an already interstellar humanity makes first contact with a new alien race, who respond to the standard "we come in peace" greeting by opening fire, wiping out the entire expeditionary force and finally Blasting the Escape Pods, leading them to be known as the "Conquerors Without Reason." Yet during their interrogations of the sole survivor of this task force, the Conquerors insist that it was the humans who shot first, and the books revolve around reconciling these conflicting reports of what happened during their disastrous first meeting.
- In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, the human survivors manage to make contact with the hidden aliens of the world.
- Cherry Wilder's Torin trilogy concerns the first contact between the Moruians of Torin and visitors from the alien planet Earth, told almost entirely from the viewpoint of the Moruians.
- Mindscape: The Barrier that appears is actually an alien life-form. Both the Vermittlers and the Ghost Dancers communicate with it by singing.
- The Listeners by James E. Gunn is about a very slow first contact made via slower-than-light radio. The story covers the lives of several men, years apart, who are involved in the very slow process.
- We Are Legion (We Are Bob): Bob is forced to reach out to the primitive inhabitants of Delta Eridani when more subtle means of encouraging them to move camps fail.
- Halfway Human: The Capellan legal system requires first contact to be done carefully, because intellectual property is considered the universe's most valuable commodity. First Contact Team scientists work for infocompanies that monetize their research.
Live Action TV
- Played with. In S01E07, "I, E.T.", Moya has to land on a backwater planet because of a beacon put on her that could alert the Peacekeepers, and removing the beacon is a surgical procedure that could kill her. John and the others go in search of an element that can serve as an anesthetic for the procedure and meets with some of the locals... who are flabbergasted at meeting an honest-to-goodness alien. Yes, a human is the first contact of another sentient species.
- Also happens on Earth multiple times throughout the show, though the first few times it was All Just a Dream. Eventually it happens for real, though.
- The very beginning of V (1983) (both the original series and the remake). Alien ships appear over Earth, and the humanlike aliens promise that they have come in peace and want to establish relations with mankind. Their motives and nature turn out to far more sinister.
- Doctor Who has a few examples:
- In the episode "Aliens of London". The Slitheen hoaxed a "first contact" situation as part of a plan to destroy the planet.
- There have been a few real, official first contact situations on the show. None ended well.
- The Outer Limits (1995) did several episodes based on this trope.
- One memorable episode, "Trial By Fire", starts with a new US President being inaugurated only to be whisked away into a bunker deep underground when objects are detected approaching Earth. There's plenty of misunderstanding, as the humans have no idea what the aliens are planning. Meanwhile, the President's efforts to maintain peace are theatened by Russia's gung-ho attitude to the aliens, eventually forcing the President's hand. The bitter irony is revealed at the end, just before Washington, D.C., and Moscow are obliterated in retaliation. The aliens were speaking English all along, but their message was distorted by their aquatic environment. It was a message of peace.
- Another episode, "Relativity Theory", involves a human ship landing on an Earth-like world and encountering a group of seemingly primitive aliens. The scientists are keen to make contact and study the locals, while the military types want to wipe out the locals to make room for a future colony. It turns out the "primitive locals" were the equivalent of Boy Scouts on a camping trip and weren't even from that world. When they call for help, a powerful alien ship shows up, downloads the human ship's navigational charts, and heads straight for Earth to exact revenge.
- Hilariously spoofed in the comedy series Hyperdrive, most notably in the Queppu episode.
- Most Star Trek episodes by default (particularly in Star Trek: Enterprise), but the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode deals specifically with the protocols (and problems) involved.
- Ironically for a show revolving around specialists in alien diplomacy, the Enterprise-D was pretty bad at it. Their crewmen were captured, their surveillance apparatuses blown wide open, their technology pillaged. When the Federation is probed by a heretofore unknown race (and not the other way around), things typically go much smoother.
- The self-titled Next Gen episode, "First Contact", depicts a First Contact gone awry. The species in question erases all evidence of their encounter with Picard's crew, believing that divulging the existence of aliens would cause panic and civil unrest. Even some warp-capable species want nothing to do with those weirdos.
- "Who Watches the Watchers" had the opposite effect Starfleet intended, with Picard accidentally rekindling the Minatakans' belief in a wrathful god.
- Sometimes when First Contact occurs between two alien species, the results have been less than happy. The Cardassian Union landed on Bajor and proceeded to herd everyone into ore mines. They later claimed they were a backward race and disputed that Bajor had achieved space flight first (they had).
- In Enterprise's Mirror Universe episodes, the First Contact between humans and Vulcans at first played out exactly as in the film, but instead of welcoming the aliens with a handshake, the humans shot the aliens, stole the advanced technologies on board the alien ship and proceeded to build an interstellar Terran Empire.
- Babylon 5:
- Earth has at least one truly disastrous first contact in its back story: The first contact of humans and Minbari happened between two warships. Recognizing the strangers as fellow warriors, the Mimbari lowered their shields and readied their weapons as a weird gesture of transparency; Earth's forces sensibly shot at them while their defenses were down; the warrior caste, not ones to turn the other cheek to insults (or turn down a good bloodbath) proceeded to make mincemeat of Earth's military. They would have wiped out every last human if they could.
- First Contact was also made with the Centauri, who tried to con the silly apes. Other races seem to have had pretty bad experiences too from time to time.
- The Narn for example had a terrible first contact as they were invaded and enslaved by the Centauri (the Centauri claim that the Narn considered them gods, yet the Narns denied this). Thankfully for humans the Centauri were already left their imperialistic tendencies for the moment they met or maybe their similar look make them more friendly toward humans than usual (they did tried to claim Earth as a long lost colony til it was discover to be a con as the Centauri and humans are not genetically related, the physical similarites are just a coincidence).
- One episode deals with a probe that gives the people on the station a short amount of time to answer various complex mathematical and scientific questions before it blows up, as its creators believe only races that can answer them deserve to live. However, Sheridan figures out it's actually designed to kill anyone who can answer the questions, whom the aliens consider a possible threat.
- Notably averted in Power Rangers, where hostile aliens attack on a weekly basis for six years (without any diplomatic contact of any kind!) before anyone friendly enough (and not focused on perpetuating The Masquerade) to speak to officials or the public at large shows up. By that point, everyone is fairly certain that there's life on other planets; it's the reason property values in Angel Grove have fallen so much recently.
- The real First Contact in the Stargate-verse (not counting Transplanted Humans abducted thousands of years ago, or the Precursors who happened to evolve here millions of years ago (sort of, maybe)) happened in 1994, when a top-secret Air Force team used an ancient alien artifact to travel to another world, where they found Transplanted Humans being ruled by a Puppeteer Parasite. More than 15 years, 300 episodes, three TV series and two made-for-TV movies later, despite the creation on Earth of half a dozen ships capable of interstellar travel and at least two battles in Earth's atmosphere or in orbit between humans and aliens, the existence of aliens is still apparently a secret from the general public. This trope has also been inverted several times, when we see First Contact from an alien (well, transplanted human) point of view. In general, the aliens' government covers it up just like ours if they are advanced enough to do so, but there have been several exceptions.
- In The X-Files, humans were contacted, abducted, and experimented upon for millions of years but the first contact between the alien Colonists and human authorities took place, as far as we know, in October 13, 1973, giving rise to the shadowy Government Conspiracy to hide the truth. It is also of note that the contact was made possible by extensive reverse-engineering of the alien craft recovered from the Roswell Incident.
- Dark Skies also has the first contact between the Hive and the American government take place in secret. The President has a face-to-face meeting with an alien representative, who telepathically demands Earth's unconditional surrender. In response, the President creates the Majestic 12, whose job is to cover up the existence of aliens and fight their attempts to infiltrate humanity using any means necessary.
- Vaguely mentioned in an episode of Sliders, after they end up in a world with a more advanced level of technology. It turns out, due to World War II continuing for several more years in this world, a different US President got elected just in time for the Roswell incident. Instead of covering it up, this President decided to make the existence of aliens public knowledge. Shortly after that, the Reticulan-American Free Trade Agreement (RAFTA) is drafted, allowing a good amount of Imported Alien Phlebotinum to be ubiquitous by the end of the 20th century, as well as a manned mission to Mars. No aliens are actually present in the episode, but one of the locals is a human who has been accidentally turned into a Half-Human Hybrid with a gene therapy that cures most known diseases.
- Features in the backstory of Defiance. It went... badly. The Votan arrived as desperate refugees, and relations between them and us were always strained, and then one of their ambassadors was assassinated on live TV. The resulting wars reduced the planet to mostly 19th century infrastructure levels (give or take some alien gizmos).
- Hot Chocolate's "No Doubt About It".
- The music video to Moby's "In This World" has a few representatives from a civilzation of aliens the size of jawbreakers fly to Earth and attempt to greet humanity, using signs of basic human greetings like "Hello" and "Hola" in lieu of speech (most likely they only knew how to write human language, not speak it). Unfortunately, their tiny size compared to humans makes them nearly impossible to notice, with the exception of one man who gives them a wave...then walks away shortly afterwards. The aliens then return to their home, last seen preparing a bigger sign to carry.
- The Blobs in Star Realms were the first intelligent aliens humanity made contact with. It doesn't go so well at first.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The First Contact between Tau and Necrons goes... rather differently. A Tau world is under attack from a Tyranid fleet, then a Necron fleet shows up and slaughters them all. In thanks, the Tau send a delegation of their highest officers, including their Ethereal, to give thanks and possibly introduce them to the Greater Good. The Necrons slaughter them all.
- The Tyranids are named after their First Contact with mankind—namely, eating the planet Tyran.
- In Mass Effect, first contact with aliens leads to a war with the turians, which is then dubbed the 'First Contact War' (though this happens several decades before the start of the game). The casualties on both sides of the war is the cause of much conflict between turians and humans. It was basically a classic example of Poor Communication Kills coupled with an inability to communicate and horrible judgment. The turians found a human merchant group of ships opening a mass relay—something that's illegal by Citadel law, but also something that humanity would not know of. Because randomly opening mass relays led to a costly Bug War in the past, the turian patrol opened fire on the merchant ships, but one got away. Cue a short but heated conflict in which the number of casualties is altogether very low for an interstellar war, but allows humanity to prove its military prowess despite having absolutely no experience with space combat. Hostilities ended when the Citadel Council stepped in and reprimanded the turians for shooting before asking questions, and allowing humanity to step into the greater galaxy in peace.
- Played with in Mass Effect 2 with the geth. In the previous game, all the geth Shepard and company thought were worshipers of the Reapers, but as we come to learn from Legion, they make up a minority of all geth, with the mainstream geth just wanting to be left the hell alone. Legion was created to act independently of the geth consensus in order to make contact with Shepard, and if Shepard lets Legion join his/her crew, it becomes the first geth to make peaceful contact with a human, as well as the first since their war with the quarians to make peaceful contact with any organic. If Legion survives into Mass Effect 3, this becomes an important turning point for the geth, as Legion and Shepard's first meeting allowed them to start considering peaceful coexistance with organics.
- Mass Effect: Andromeda:
- The Andromeda Initiative's first meeting with the angara plays with the trope. At first, it seems like first contact between the bold explorers and the twitchy locals... only for the aliens to speak comprehensibly in English, because they've already met some humans. The idea is explored with the angara having wildly different opinions. Some are nervous (since the last alien species they met tricked them, and have spent the last eighty years trying to kill them), some overjoyed, some suspicious, some violently disgusted, and in one case, thinking humans made themselves look more "familiar" so as not to freak the angara out.
- Also approached with the kett. On first meeting, Ryder tries to look friendly and non-threatening, as the kett shout and beat another member of Ryder's scouting party for no identifiable reason, then open fire on Ryder and Liam. Later on, when Ryder has a chance to talk with one of the Andromeda Initiative's leaders, they'll ask what the plan for First Contact was. The person they ask retorts that Initiative expected someone who'd want to talk back, not just kill them on sight.
- In the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series, humanity's first official contact with sapient alien species (the Scrin) occured during the middle of the violent Third Tiberium War between the Brotherhood of NOD and the Global Defense Initiative. Since the first action of the Scrin is to attack every humans encountered, none of the two human superpowers bothered to communicate and just add them to their target list. While still fighting each other. It should be noted, though, that humans do fire the first shot, when Acting Director Boyle orders the ion cannon to target the incoming alien craft, but the Scrin weren't planning on chatting anyway.
- Inverted in the first three Star Ocean games, in which we focus on an alien species who learns that they are not alone in the Universe.
- The prequel, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, features Earth in the beginning of its spacegoing existence. Not only does it feature Earth's First Contact (with Eldar via subspace radio), but the main character initiates and/or encounters the aftermath of so many First Contact situations that go/went horribly, horribly wrong that he persuades Earth to set up a prime directive.
- As mentioned under Literature, Halo doesn't have nice first contact. "Hello, our Prophets say that you are abominations to all that is holy. Our Gods demand your genocide." It goes downhill from there until Halo 2.
- A few Final Fantasy titles deal with first contact, most of them bad experiences:
- Final Fantasy IV: Goes good (advanced technology) and bad (mad scientists, rampaging mechs.)
- Final Fantasy VII: Goes bad (Jenova kills off the precursor race and her body helps foster an Evil Army, plus she won't die)
- Final Fantasy VIII: Goes very bad (The moon contains monsters and ended at least one civilization)
- Final Fantasy IX: Goes extremely bad (Culminates in the destruction of one planet, and apocalyptic events for the other)
- Starcraft: The Federation has experimented on Zerg for a while and already knew about the Protoss but the "official" first contact with both races involves a planet getting overrun with the Zerg and then getting blown up by the Protoss.
- The Warcraft franchise started with the people of Azeroth's First Contact with the Orcs of Draenor which doubled as an Alien Invasion. The Orcs were so vicious that the Humans thought they were demons. Which wasn't too far from the truth. Of course, later games revealed that 10,000 years before that, the Burning Legion made contact with the Night Elf royalty and tricked them into opening a portal to Azeroth and invade.
- In the X-Universe, humanity knew there were (or at the very least, had been) aliens out there somewhere since 2041, when one of the jumpgates they built locked onto a gate of alien origin. But they wouldn't actually meet aliens until 2300, when the Argon Federation encountered the Paranids. The Argon and Paranids ended up allies and trading partners for a while, but then the Paranids elected not to help the Argon fight the Xenon and things went south.
- The interludes popping up throughout Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri reveal that Planet is a Genius Loci. One of the endings involves blasting the combined human knowledge into the Planetary mind in order to force Planet to "mature". It works. The Transcendence victory has the humans then joining Planet's Hive Mind. The Expansion Pack involves a more traditional First Contact with descendants of the aliens who created Planet. In fact, the contact is with two of the factions of the same species, who are engaged in a bitter ideological war over Planet (AKA Manifold Six). Human factions can't communicate with Progenitor factions until either one researches a certain technology (Social Psych for Progenitors, Progenitor Psych for humans).
- One of the possible victory conditions in Civilization: Beyond Earth is managing to achieve this with an alien race.
- An interesting version in Civilization: Call to Power. One of the endings involves discovering a wormhole in Earth's orbit and sending an unmanned ship through to collect some samples. The ship comes back with samples of alien DNA. The final task is to create a cloning lab to make new aliens.
- The latest update to Pandora: First Contact introduces the Messari, advanced warlike aliens, who may or may not have originated on this world but abandoned it for some reason. If one of the human factions activates some of their technology, they will receive an FTL signal and come back in force, opening portals throughout Pandora to wipe out the interlopers. As a Higher-Tech Species, their units are extremely tough and frequently require We Have Reserves tactics to beat. The only way to stop them is to destroy their portals.
- In Evolve, humanity already encountered various non-sentient alien life. Their first encounter with extraterrestrial beings equal to or greater than humans in intelligence was a single, massive creature that slaughtered the population of an entire world and demolished their technology with its bare claws. Since its massacre was efficient enough to prevent any word from getting out, this situation replayed an unknown number of times before anyone realized first contact had been established.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has Princess Voluptua musing on why she wants to avoid a big public First Contact: "Five billion primates all asking, 'How does this work?' 'How does that work?' Ugh! No thank you!" Elaborated on in the following strip, where she boredly enumerates some of the silly questions newly contacted primitives usually ask.
- In Freefall humanity has made contact with a few alien races, though mostly aliens of the starfish variety so relations are limited. Also many humans were wary of accidentally causing an interstellar incident when first meeting Florence or Sam (until they realized that Florence wasn't an alien and Sam was annoying).
- When they found Sam's species, the summary was "keep searching".
- In Tailsteak's Band the sequence of squares is employed.
- In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, Quinn goes through this with the blue Federation aliens, the "hand head" alien planet, and later takes some time to address the Empire's somewhat unusual First Contact philosophy.
- In El Goonish Shive this is played for laughs when Elliot first meets Uryuoms.
- Vexxarr falls (ahem) into this situation frequently enough, so when he doesn't see natives...
Sploorfix: Hiding?Vexxarr: From two unarmed alien bags of fluid gastropodding across their local gren space? We should have seen either their military or their nerds by now.
- In Loon Land the alien Lana Loon lands on earth and has a close (failed sexual) encounter with the terrestrial loon Mike Moon .
Mike: Hang on! You've got like five holes down here! Which do I poke it in?Lana: All of them.
- Galaxion has:
- Jax Augustus's encounter with Myradi
- Hiawatha crash landing - the crew was taken in by friendly natives
- our protagonists failure of a First Contact and it's much, much more of a failure than we're initially given to think
- Between the human protagonists and the Starfish Aliens in Anna Galactic.
- Ellie On Planet X: Ellie is the first link between Earth and the planet's adorable aliens.
- The issues involved are explored on this page of the Atomic Rockets website.
- Should you have come on this page with the intent of finding help, this page should hopefully provide.
- In EdStories, First Contact is established about 85 minutes after the Andromedans aimed an asteroid into the Earth at 10% light speed.
- The Journal Entries doesn't cover the actual first contact of Earth in any detail (there are two different things that could count, but the one described at all is just Ken visiting himself in his subjective past on Earth to give himself the Applied Phlebotinum that kick starts the whole series, and that's just mentioned in passing). The first contact between Pendor and Eareth kind of weirds Earth out not because Pendor is peopled by furries with amazing technology and weird social standards, but because Pendor desperately wants Earth culture. (At this point, Pendor has existed for something like a century and everyone is desperate to get at the deep, rich cultural materials Earth has accumulated over several thousand years.)
- The Futurama episode "When Aliens Attack" involves first contact between Earth and the people of Omicron Perseii VIII.
- In the Rick and Morty episode "Get Schwifty", a race of giant alien heads appear in Earth's sky and command the human race to "Show me what you got." It turns out that this is an invitation to participate in an intergalactic musical reality show. Not realizing this, several Earthlings form a cult worshiping the heads. Sometime later (and offscreen) in "The Wedding Squanchers," formal diplomatic relations are formed with the Galactic Federation and Earth accepts membership. The transition appears mostly peaceful; many aliens appear interested in Earth culture after the planet is opened up to tourism.