Gilmore: What are we looking for, little green men?It's something that tends to happen with particularly advanced mentor-like alien species, Sufficiently Advanced Ancient Astronauts and the like. You don't want to be something as uninspiring as a Rubber-Forehead Alien nor something as unphysical as an Energy Being while also maintaining some sense of secrecy and wonderment, so you take the "astronaut" idea and run with it. The aliens end up wearing large all-enclosing hazmat-like encounter suits that shield their frail physical selves from the elements. The great thing is that because you don't know what their encounter-suited butts look like, they could be anything! The variety of abnormal suit shapes that can be worn by a performer is also greater than the variety possible with rubber faces. People in Rubber Suits still need the full detail and design of a whole new species, while this trope leaves things to the imagination. A permanent life in an encounter suit can also be justified a lot more than Humanoid Aliens: they have Bizarre Alien Biology that can't stand our atmosphere, they're physically very frail by comparison, so it works like Powered Armour and similar things. May overlap at times with Mobile-Suit Human if the "can" is human shaped. Contrast with Exposed Extraterrestrials.
Seventh Doctor: No, little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armor.
Seventh Doctor: No, little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armor.
- Doctor Who, "Remembrance of the Daleks"
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- The Emperor of the Arquillian Galaxy from Men in Black, of course. He's the classic Little Green Man in a can... disguised as an elderly Eastern European jeweler.
- The Mondoshawan from The Fifth Element have really big waddling rears with tiny dog-like heads that give them a very odd Humpty Dumpty appearance.
- The aliens from Independence Day. The suit itself is explained as being some kind of organic technology and indeed the helmet portion looks like it's a solid external skull. This makes it retrospectively more badass that Will Smith's character knocked one out with one punch.
- The Skakoans from Star Wars are required to wear a full body environmental suit as they live on a planet with a high pressure atmosphere. Going to a 'normal' planet unaided would cause explosive decompression, like bringing a deep sea fish up to the surface.
- The Bounty Hunter Seripas from Star Wars: The Clone Wars is also a straight example.
- Krang in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is basically a brain with a face and tentacles who lives in a bulky set of Powered Armor.
- This also applies to his animated incarnation as well.
- The One from Last Legionary is a mutated human with stunted limbs, wearing a massive golden exoskeleton that turns him into The Juggernaut.
- The Creapii from Terry Pratchett's The Dark Side of the Sun are always encountered in tentacled, ovoid environmental suits. Not because they're too frail to survive the kinds of atmospheres the other sentient species use, but because their natural habitat is the photospheres and upper corona of stars (with a class system based on how hot their home star is). Their true form is said to be spiral-shaped, with the result that their mythology anthropomorphised the galaxy as a giant Creap.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- The Daleks (pictured above), though their suits aren't so much suits as little tanks in which utterly feeble bodies reside. In the Seventh Doctor's words, they're not so much little green men as "little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armor." This varies with the story; in Into the Dalek the suit was a fully-integrated cybernetic system that artificially manipulated the organic part to prevent it turning against it's programming, but The Witch's Familiar a season later made it such a simple mechanical device that a human pilot could climb in and drive it around.
- The Ice Warriors, too: their big, hulking bodies are stated to be biomechanical spacesuits in their debut story. Though in a later episode it turns out that Ice Warriors are anything but frail outside of their suits; they stay in the suits primarily for cultural reasons related to honour, and also because their military prefers Mighty Glacier to Fragile Speedster.
- The Krotons are an especially weird variant, even by Doctor Who standards - they are a form of semi-living crystal dependent on their Tin-Can Robot suits to have useful physical form. They need to breathe from a 'polarised centrifuge' to remain in this living state, but the closest thing to an actual death they have is just 'exhaustion', which is when their crystals revert to a simple (gaseous) state, and which is apparently temporary. In the Eighth Doctor Adventures the Krotons' implied ability to inhabit any machine is made explicit when it is revealed they are able to possess Dalek ships.
- The Delegate from Arcturus in "The Curse of Peladon" is dependent on a huge black life support system out of which only his head is visible, enclosed in a solid clear dome that constantly spurts fluid. Some of his technology includes a sensor array, without which he becomes comatose, and a 'helium regenerator' which sabotaging would make the easiest way to kill him. Due to how much it restricts his movement and capacity for doing anything, he crosses over into Evil Cripple.
- Babylon 5:
- The Vorlons, who not only need a completely alien atmosphere but also have their own reasons for wanting to hide their true appearance. (Later in the series it's implied that they don't actually need that atmosphere, they just use it to discourage visitors.) Comes complete with Neglectful Precursor behaviour.
- The series finale shows that in the distant future humans become like this too, though they don't need to; they probably took a lesson from the Vorlons about the advantages of standing around being cryptic when dealing with younger races.
- The Gaim wear encounter suits that resemble humanoids in gas masks. Underneath, they are insectoid and apparently far from humanoid. The suit serves both as environmental protection and a translator/speaker unit, as the Gaim are incapable of vocalizing most species' languages.
- As a hivemind species, Gaim units are genetically engineered by their queen for specific tasks. Thus the Gaim ambassadors and traders seen on Babylon 5, needing to interact with the mostly-humanoid races, are more humanoid than typical for their species - even being granted a degree of autonomy and individuality.
- In Stargate Atlantis, the team encounters a group of aliens who kidnap Daniel (who's in the galaxy visiting) and Rodney. It's eventually revealed that they're a group of rogue Asgard who have taken the degenerative cloning problem into their own hands and are using man-sized suits to exist on a poisonous planet with no stargate as a means of staying hidden.
- The Breen of Star Trek, who first appeared on-screen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, come from a much more frigid environment than most humanoids and need environmental suits to interact with other races face-to-face.
- Though according to Weyoun, their planet is actually quite mild. It's also said that if you saw a Breen in the flesh, it'd turn you to stone. However, this is also clearly a lie, as Kira manages to steal one of their uniforms without any ill effects. In the Star Trek Novel Verse, there's more than one kind of Breen, they just all wear environment suits that make them look identical. Some of them need the refrigeration, some of them don't. Possibly, some of them turn you to stone and some of them don't as well.
- The Quarians from Mass Effect wear them to protect their absent immune systems from having to deal with normal environment. From a more Doylist viewpoint, it helps make the Space Romani seem more hidden and closed off from the other races.
- Quarian spacesuits don't really leave much to the imagination, but the volus from the same series could look like anything under their bulky (or not?) suits. They even seem to have completely robotic "hands".
- You can just barely see hints of Tali's face through her helmet.. but they're so vague that they do little more than establish that it has a human-like configuration. It's possible to see a photo of her with her mask off in the third game if she's romanced, and she looks like a normal human with white irises, although her limbs and hands are quite different.
- The Unggoy (aka Grunts) from Halo are a partial example. They tend to wear no clothes and only partial armor, but they're always seen with breathing apparatuses on their mouths/nostrils and large tanks on their backs, as they can only breath methane and have to carry it with them much like divers and astronauts.
- The Meklar from Master of Orion were originally this. As the series progressed, they gradually became Cyborgs, then full-on Mechanical Lifeforms.
- The Tholians in Star Trek Online can only survive in environments like the surface of Venus, so humans have to wear encounter suits when fighting them on extremely hot worlds. The Tholians likewise, will use their own encounter suits◊ when fighting humans in temperate environments.
- The Andromedons from XCOM 2 wear encounter suits to maintain the weapons-grade acidic environment they need to survive in.
- Sam Starfall from Freefall. He wears an environment suit, but we've never seen his actual form. It's implied that it's so horrible that it destroys the minds of anyone who sees it. Also, his suit is deliberately designed to be cute, as a means of distracting people so he can steal from them.