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"There is a notion called 'terraforming' that has held popular theoretical cache for some time. It holds that given the correct level of technology, the potential is there to change the environment of another planet into one like our own. This is nothing the human race has yet been able to put into practice. It's
never been considered that someone might do it to
us. These central positions look less and less like someplace a human could survive. They have been
Imagine you are a leader of an alien race currently at war with another race, and your natural habitats are drastically different. How would you perform a hostile takeover of a planet?
By making it so the planet is now inhabitable by you and not by the natives, of course! Converting the atmosphere, reshape the land and sea, overrun the native ecosystem with one more suitable - whatever is necessary to make the very ground your enemies tread on no longer their ally.
A specific context for Terraforming
, and if it's an Earth-like world being changed for to another ecosphere, the term would be "xenoforming". Often overlaps with Atmosphere Abuse
, though the latter doesn't have to occur specifically for terraforming purposes. Depending on methodology, it can involve Grey Goo
, Gaia's Vengeance
, or Meat Moss
. Due to the destruction, this is an Apocalypse How
of the Planetary Species or Total Extinction variety, depending on how much of the planet's multicellular life is replaced.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Lord Slug wanted to freeze the Earth because of this in the fourth Dragon Ball Z movie. "De Terraforming" was discussed in the Dragon Ball Abridged movie version.
- Space Battleship Yamato 2199: 2199 puts more focus on this aspect of the Gamilas attacks on earth, describing the effects as "pollution" instead of explicit radiation like the original series and live-action movie. The Planet Bombs also seeded poisonous Alien Kudzu that's shown penetrating the underground cities, which is discovered as identical to the plant life on the Floating Continent.
- Tekkaman Blade: The Radam Invasion seeds the earth with strange fungus-like plants while they decimate the Earth Military. However, the plants aren't there to terraform Earth, they're there to forcibly terraform us into the best possible Hosts.
- This is the alien robot Mazin Garon's modus operandi in Astro Boy. After he's activated by one of the scientists who found him he goes about remolding the rocks, air and even gravity of the island he crashed on, killing everything for miles around with the poison gas meant to be the planet's new atmosphere. Although in Garon's case it's not really hostile, as he was only doing what he was programmed to do before the space mail order package he was in crashed on Earth by accident instead of the planet he was supposed to help his owners colonize.
- The first issue of Sillage/Wake involves an alien who intends to terraform a jungle planet to suit his species, although in this case he's unaware that there's one sentient being (the human girl Navis) and lots of semi-sentient animals already living there.
- The Authority battles God ("The Outer Dark," issues 9-12). Earth's creator is a moon-sized alien being that created the planet as a retirement home. Since Earth's creation, changes to its orbit and ecosystem led to the rise of life as we know it, instead of somewhere its creator would be comfortable. God immediately sets about "fixing" that. Or as The Engineer calls it, "turdscaping".
- Superman: In various media, villainous kryptonians often attempt to remake Krypton on Earth.
- Nobody Dies: Ichi is accidentally doing this in chapter 109.
- The Arrival: Aliens are causing global warming in order to kill off humans and make the planet more comfortable for their kind.
- The Genesis Device was first featured in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock the Klingons expressed concern that it would be used for Hostile Terraforming. An interesting twist here is that, due to the relatively human-like physiology of most Star Trek aliens, the terraformed planet would still for the most part be habitable to the original inhabitants... it's just that the ones who are actually on the planet when it is terraformed would be used as raw materials for the terraforming transformation.
- They Live! used a similar premise, with aliens "turning our world into theirs". Although it should be noted that this was only speculation from one resistance member as to what their motives were, which the audience never actually does find out. It's also contradictory since they were capable of surviving on Earth anyway.
- Battle for Terra: The humans sends a machine that can convert the air on Terra to be human breathable in seven days. This would leave the air unbreathable for the Terrians.
- The Trollenberg Terror is about aliens' native air slowly enveloping a mountain and later the surrounding area.
- In Man of Steel, General Zod and his followers attempt to use a device called the World Engine to convert Earth into a new Krypton. Not only is the process incredibly destructive, but Krypton's atmosphere is toxic to humans. When Jor-El tries to persuade Zod not to do this, appealing to the fact that Earth's environment gives Kryptonians super powers and they can live side-by-side with humanity, Zod says he doesn't care about the humans and he doesn't want to have to adjust to the enhanced senses.
- In Pacific Rim, the Kaiju creators learned from their first attempt during the age of dinosaurs, that they were incompatible with Earth's atmosphere. However, this trope is inverted, as instead of colonizing and ruining our planet, they waited and went to other worlds for 65 million years. Eventually, we destabilized our world enough to their liking in 200 years that they could just walk right in.
- In The War of the Worlds, Martians use areoforming as a weapon, essentially. Possibly an Ur Example.
- The ultimate plan of the alien conquerors in John Christopher's Tripod novels.
- Last and First Men, the Fifth Men escape a dying earth by terraforming Venus. Halfway through the process they discover that Venus is inhabited and oxygen is lethal to the natives, they keep at it anyways.
- The War Against the Chtorr features this prominently.
- A specialty of the Yuuzhan Vong in the New Jedi Order.
- This is the long-term plan of the alien invaders in The Tripods series.
- The Alectors of the Corean Chronicles carried this out against the Ancients when they began colonizing Corus.
- This happens to Earth in Thomas Disch's The Genocides.
- Cthulhu Mythos: Allies of the Mythos are trying to work towards "clearing off the Earth" for the Great Old Ones.
- In Star Trek: The Genesis Wave, the titular Wave is designed to do this, transforming planets into new homes for Plant Aliens the Lomarians. Fired from the Lomarians' hidden base, the energy wave transforms worlds in its path into swampy hellholes through use of Genesis technology stolen from Dr. Carol Marcus. The Lomarians even go as far as to program their own genetic profile into the genesis matrix, combining colonization with reproduction by having new Lomarians spontaneously generated on transformed worlds.
- The Culture of Ian M Banks considers all terraforming hostile for this very reason. Also inefficient. Turning dead rocks into tailor-made Orbitals and Rings is much more desirable, on all points.
- In The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham it turns out that the alien invaders are triggering global warming to melt the ice caps, presumably to increase the amount of ocean deep enough for them to live in.
- A minor example in Harry Turtledove's Colonization books, when the Race's Colonization fleet finally arrives, they bring with them plants and animals from Home, a desert world. The plant life thrives in Earth's desert regions and spreads faster than weeds. Since the Race also happens to control most of Earth's desert regions, this works out for them. However, arid American states are also being taken over by the alien plants. Home's animals are even worse. Since they're used to food being scarce, they eat all plants down to the roots, leaving not a blade of grass in their wake. Many characters compare them to goats, only much worse. When the US complains to the Race about their animals crossing into American territory, Fleetlord Atvar simply tells them they're free to destroy any plants and animals in their own territory as they wish. Of course, while a farmer with a rifle may scare off and shoot a coyote, good luck doing that to a brontosaurus or a whole herd of them. Neither the plants nor the animals are likely to move into the colder regions, though.
- Isaac Asimov's In A Good Cause... has information on the sulphur-reducing Diaboli terraforming the obscure human colony of Chu Hsi to be fit for Diaboli life falling into the hands of a group of human anti-Diaboli Federalists, who intend to release it to break up a Diaboli-sponsored all-human conference. Except it turns out the information was a forgery by Earth's government, as part of a long-running scheme to manipulate things so that when the human-Diaboli war comes, no human power is on the Diaboli's side.
- This is the purpose of the Mimics in All You Need Is Kill.
- There was a Choose Your O Wn Adventure book that involved alien domes that were polluting the air, apparently in an attempt to make the atmosphere like theirs.
Live Action TV
- In Quatermass II an alien vanguard takes over selected humans so they can build a chemical plant to make an atmosphere that will support their kind of life, and kill off all terrestrial life.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Home Soil" featured a Federation terraforming project that was doing this by accident. And the locals didn't like the "Ugly Bags of Mostly Water" mucking up their planet.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sisko used a specialized warhead to poison the atmosphere in such a manner that it would be uninhabitable for human life, but functional for Cardassian in an attempt to force Eddington to surrender. Though the Maquis did pretty much the same thing (except rendering it uninhabitable to Cardassian life but safe to human) to multiple Cardassian colonies.
- Stargate SG-1:
- In the episode "Scorched Earth", an alien vessel was terraforming a planet inhabited by Human Aliens into something hostile to their form of life. Unlike most of the civilizations SG-1 encounters, the aliens need a very specific environment to survive, meaning they can't easily be moved to another world, plus the ship had already expended too many resources to abandon the process. Eventually it's resolved when it turns out the terraforming ship has information about said aliens' home planet.
- By connecting to every Stargate in the Gate network simultaneously, the Dakara Superweapon is capable of seeding life across the entire galaxy (and did, billions of years ago)... or can completely wipe it out.
- Doctor Who:
- "The Sontaran Strategem". Weakened by their eternal war with another race of Scary Dogmatic Aliens, the Sontarans hatched an uncharacteristically circuitous plan to bathe the earth in gas which is poisonous to native life but nutritious to themselves, so that they can use it to spawn more soldiers.
- In "The Seeds of Death" the Ice Warriors attempt to xenoform Earth using a fungus that will extract oxygen from the atmosphere.
- And from the other direction, "The Mutants" has a group of evil human colonists plotting to terraform an inhabited planet in a way that will genocide the indigenous sentient culture.
- The Andromeda episode "Point of the Spear", the Pyreans (aliens that live in Venus-like environments) tried to forcibly pyroform a Commonwealth world. A large battle breaks out, and to prove that the Commonwealth is not one to be messed with, Dylan orders the planet's destruction via Nova Bomb.
- One episode of the new The Outer Limits had this with a new model of car that would poison the atmosphere for infiltrated aliens.
- Defiance had a somewhat unintentional example, when the Votan Ark ships were destroyed the terraforming equipment they were carrying fell to Earth and malfunctioned, creating deadly hybrid creatures such as Hellbugs and those bear-spider-armadillo things.
- In the second season of Earthsearch, the Angels force the humans off the planet Paradise and back onto their spaceship by using its terraforming technology to melt the icecaps, causing massive flooding.
- Metagaming's MicroGame 12 Invasion of the Air-Eaters. An alien race invades and uses Atmosphere Converters to change Earth's air to sulfur dioxide, which they can breathe it but we can't.
- Warhammer 40,000
- "Tyrantforming" is the first stage of devouring a planet by the Tyranids - the spores dropped onto the surface merge with local plantlife, turning it into Hungry Jungle - rapidly draining the ground of all nutrients. The Tyranids then devour the plants.
- Orks are described as "an invasive ecosystem by themselves", and shed spores to generate new creatures, which will grow to be squigs, grots, gretchen or full orks depending on the conditions. With enough orks, they create their own flora and fauna, and the whole ecosystem is "orkoformed".
- In Magic The Gathering, a single drop of Phyrexian oil can corrupt anything but it has an easier time with metallic objects. Karn the Silver Golem unknowingly spread Phyrexian oil on his travels throughout the planes thanks to the Phyrexian heartstone that Urza used to give him life. Then he created an artificial plane Mirrodin full of metal structures and metal-infused people. The oil he left behind quickly corrupted Mirrodin and turned it into New Phyrexia.
- The page quote comes from the woefully underappreciated 2001 videogame Hostile Waters Antaeus Rising, very likely the first piece of media some tropers heard about terraforming in the first place. In it, the genetically-engineered "alien" Species, after having Turned Against Their Masters, begin to drop the ambient temperatures of the island chicane where they operate, in addition to pumping toxins into the air and increasing ground radiation levels, to bypass their in-built sensitivity to heat (which in itself was a safety feature to prevent them from spreading too far). The effects become more and more pronounced with every mission, until the final islands come to resemble nothing on Earth (and, indeed, the very last one was not even there in the first place):
Sinclair, First Officer's log entry two-zero-three-two-kappa
. The air is changing in composition. Radiation levels are shifting, altering in frequency and power. Something's growing in the rocks. The ground is scabbing over, shuddering with intense fungal infection. Its freezing
. Humans couldn't live
in an environment like this. Oh... God... That's the point!
- The Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series centres around humanity adjustments to a world being transformed by the eponymous Technicolour Crystaltech - which not only convert the atmosphere and the ecosystem, but also extract useful minerals from the Earth's crust for easy harvesting when the invaders finally arrive in person.
- Half-Life 2 in its released form contains hints of this - most notably, the Combine drain the Earth's oceans and use Xen species such as Headcrabs and Leeches as biological weapons. The original beta however went much further - a key location in the game was the "Air Exchange", which replaced the air with noxious gases breathable by the Combine, and which meant that all human characters in the game had to wear gas masks.
- In Star Control II, Mycon Deep Children reshape planets they collide with, stimulating their volcanic activity to the point where it's comfortable for Mycons - obviously, since they enjoy temperatures above 600 Kelvins, it's less than comfortable for pretty much everyone else. Mycons don't seem to care.
- Resistance has massive temperature shifts - most obvious in Resistance 3 - due to the Chimera terraforming the planet to be more suitable their own needs.
- In Spore, you can deterraform planets of an enemy empire to reduce the level of colony that planet can maintain (especially effective against enemy home-worlds, as it reduces them from thriving T-3s with extra settlements, to a basic T-2 with two settlements at best). Empires will regard this as an act of war. More in line with this trope, the Grox, Enemy to All Living Things, can be killed by terraforming their planets, and likewise they specialize in deterraforming.
- Phazon from the Metroid Prime series tends to do this. It turns out to be a Sentient Phlebotinum Planetary Parasite that originates from the planet Phaze, which deliberately seeds the universe with phazon meteors.
- The Korath Clan in Galactic Civilizations 2 prefer to eliminate a planet's entire biosphere. They can then colonize the resulted toxic world.
- All K-D Labs RTS games employ combat terraforming to some extent.
- All sides in Perimeter and two sides in Maelstrom can terraform the battlefield to create passages and so on. Both sides in Perimeter II (Exosus being waterborn, Comeback being landlubbers) and Hai-Genti in Maelstrom instead make parts of land inhabitable only for themselves.
- In Perimeter, terraforming is out-and-out weaponized. The Exodus' superweapon, the Scum Disruptor, creates a volcano wherever it's targeted, and Scum Splitters create a localized earthquake.
- In Lost Planet: Extreme Condition NEVEC is planning to terraform E.D.N. III in a way that would instantly thaw out the planet and kill the native Akrids and the rebelling colonists. Fortunately Wayne discovers an alternative that won't fry the colonists and by Lost Planet 2, ten years later, most of the frozen wastes of E.D.N. III have been replaced by deserts and jungles, and several new Akrid species are coming out of hibernation.
- In Stars! Claim Adjuster trait can undo enemy terraforming via Retro Bombs. Claim Adjuster races also can use Orbital Adjuster on a planet without conquering it, and Packet Physics races terraform planets they bombard with mineral packets. If environmental requirements of the sides are different (frequently, as it's 3 independent values), it's deterraforming for the target.
- In Haegemonia: The Solon Legacy, high-level spies can reverse-terraform enemy planets. It's not permanent (the enemy can simply terraform it back if they have the tech) but as planet quality is the primary factor in maximum planet population, killing off a few hundred million colonists or at least inciting revolution due to massive overpopulation with a single spy can really wreck someone's day.
- Aurora (4X): Terraforming can add or remove any gas into a planet's atmosphere. Hilarity Ensues as well.
- De Blob: Interestingly, neither the Raydians nor the Inkies seem to be able to tolerate the environment that is suitable to the other; A world full of color and lacking ink is downright chaotic for the Inkies (and deprives them of the ink they need to replicate themselves), while the Inky world of black and white is painfully dull and polluted for the Raydians, even more so if they are forced into the suits that impede their movements and are the only known way that the Inkies can generate new ink. So it follows that in the areas that the Inkies take over, they dramatically alter the environment in addition to altering / bleaching buildings. This is often seen in the first console game in the form of massive spills / slicks of ink on the surface of formerly clean water and stunted vegetation. In the second game these effects are much more pronounced - Prisma City has suffered both heavy water and air pollution even before the formal Inky takeover, some buildings / landforms are submerged underground to impede Blob's progress, and perhaps most dramatically of all, the canyon leading to the Inktron Collider (formerly Prisma City's hydroelectric plant) is near-completely submerged in frozen ink. Of course, as Blob makes progress, he alters the landscape in a fashion that is detrimental to the Inkies.
- The planned fate of Earth in Manhunter.
- The Shroobs do this to the Mushroom Kingdom in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. After raiding Peach's Castle and Toad Town, they proceed to cover it all in their native purple mushrooms — and also harvest vim from Toads, turning them into those mushrooms as well.
- In Civilization: Beyond Earth colonies following the path of Purity intend to replace their new planet's ecosystem with that of Earth's, rather than adapting themselves like Harmony and Supremacy. In fact, Harmony-leaning factions will demand that Purity and Supremacy factions stop clearing the miasma (a highly-toxic alien gas) near their lands, showing that they view this act as this trope.
- White Noise had this happen in the backstory. The aliens who killed off everyone on Earth's surface then attempted to terraform the planet to suit them, resulting in a clouds of toxic Murk that roam the surface.
- In Homestuck, the Troll Queen aka Betty Crocker's attempts to recreate Alternia on Earth lead to mass flooding and the extinction of humanity. Among other things, she tried to force humans to adopt troll culture and romance which was impossible due to basic biological differences. Humans don't mix their genetic material in buckets to make new larva, for example.
- Orion's Arm:
- Happened on occasion due to many early colonists preferring to adapt to new environments rather than terraform, putting them into conflict with later waves who would rather change the planet than themselves. Most notably when the original Martian Tweaks were forced to leave their homeworld when the atmospheric pressure and oxygen content were raised to intolerable (for them) levels. However, the terraforming of Mars took long enough that a second clade of Martian tweaks emerged, and managed to halt the process at a level they are comfortable at.
- A similar thing happened on Venus, despite the extremophile tweaks wiping out the baseline colonists (the former were then banished from the solar system).
- When Zarathustra, one of the first exosolar colonies, was settled there was minimal terraforming and the tweaked colonists went feral. A couple centuries later Jupiter Transsystems arrived, enslaved the natives, and set up terraforming stations that would have killed off the tweak population if they hadn't also awakened and pissed off the original colony AI.
- Oglethorpe and Emory of Aqua Teen Hunger Force tried to do this in the episode "Universal Remonster".
- In Justice League, the Imperiex attempted to do this in the series premier, and for Book Ends, the denizens of Apokolips attempted it in the series finale.
- Super Friends (1973-74):
- The inhabitants of the planet Solar Terrarium are moving the Earth closer to the Sun so it will become hotter and more comfortable for them. They are too desperate for their own survival that they couldn't worry that the increased heat and resulting climate change will kill most of the humans living here. Being the benevolent heroes that they are, the Super Friends agreed to repair their planet if they stopped trying to mess with Earth's climate.
- In an episode of Challenge of the Super Friends, beings from the planet Venus agree to help the Legion of Doom destroy the Super Friends in exchange for increasing the Greenhouse Effect on Earth so that the Venusians will be comfortable there.
- In Transformers Generation 2, the Cybertronian Empire's modus operandi was to kill all the inhabitants of each planet and then mechaform the planet itself to make replicas of Cybertron.
- In Transformers Prime, the Decepticons intend to use the Omega Lock to convert Earth into a second Cybertron.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Episode "TCRI". The Kraang plan to alter earth's atmosphere to one that they prefer, and that earth natives can't breathe in.
- In Ben 10: Omniverse, the Kraaho attempted to detonate a nuclear device on Earth to heat it up and make it more comfortable for them, not caring that this would kill off the humans.
- Young Samson & Goliath episode "Cold Wind From Venus". Two robots from Venus plan to impose "environmental control" over the entire Earth by reducing the temperature to -200 degrees Fahrenheit (turning it into an Ice Planet) so Venusians can settle here.