Multicultural Alien Planet
Tell me about the qunari. Sten:
Well, that wasn't what I expected to hear. Sten:
Get used to disappointment. People are not simple. They cannot be defined for easy reference in the manner of "the elves are a lithe, pointy-eared people who excel at poverty."
A common decision that creators have when worldbuilding is if each planet is going to have a culture that spans the entire world
, or if they have distinct ethnicities, cultures, and traditions.
This is the latter. Either the writer is attempting to subvert or soften the traditional Planet of Hats
methodology, or they enjoy World Building
itself. Planets are unlikely to be as heterogeneous as modern humanity — most writers have trouble working that with humanity itself
— but there will be more than one defining characteristic for each race. The goal is to make each race as interesting and deep as a three-dimensional character, instead of a flat template to apply to any character from that race.
This trope is most notable for its appearance in Science Fiction
; however, it also appears in other Speculative Fiction
. In a science fiction work with only humans, this trope applies when multiple cultures appear in any given area, such as a Space Station
or a planet
. In a Fantasy
story with fantastic races, this trope applies when there are different ethnicities or cultures within the races, such as more than one type of elf
or more than one type of goblin
. A given work may mix and match the tropes, giving Planet of Hats
treatment to the villainous races, and Multicultural Alien Planet treatment to the heroic races. If a work has the same alien race on five planets, and each planet has a different ethnicity, then the creator is using both. Often helps contribute to an Ungovernable Galaxy
Examples of this trope are species with a tendency to possess diverse and varied cultures. There may be cultural or societal divisions, and ambitious writers might even suggest different languages among members of the same species. However, given the tendency to skip alien languages altogether
, some will simply invoke Aliens of London
and settle for giving alien species different accents or speech patterns. (Note: If the diversity is only
in accents, the example belongs on Aliens of London
, not here.)
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- Because Flash Gordon is set entirely on Mongo and doesn't do any standard planet hopping (at least, not until the strip's later years), Mongo is an incredibly diverse planet.
- Marvel's Kree come in two skin-colours, pink and sky blue, the latter looking down on the former. Their original home planet, Hala, is also home to the Cotati, a species of sentient trees, whom the Kree all but wiped out.
- Transformers, Cybertronians are split into two cultures, Autobots and Decepticons.
- Star Wars
- In the prequel trilogy, Naboo has at least two cultures, the Gungans and the humans.
- In the original trilogy, the nomadic culture of the Tusken raiders is very distinct from the majority of the population of Tatooine. The majority of the the population also belongs to at least two races (humans and Jawas), while the population of spaceport Mos Eisley and Jabba the Hutt's lair is home to a number of representatives of other species, mostly from off-planet, apparently.
- Planet Thra from The Dark Crystal is inhabited by the ruthless Skeksis and the peaceful Mystics. Subverted in that they used to be the same race but when the titular crystal was shattered each individual got separated in two distinct beings, one Skeksis and one Mystic. Of course, we also have at least two other races on the planet: the Gelflings and the Podlings.
- In Out of the Silent Planet, the inhabitants of Malacandra come in three different species (not counting the energy beings), each with its own language. Furthermore, the sorns (giant feathered humanoids) come in at least two varieties - white (in the mountains) and red (in the deserts), and the hrossa (otter-people) come in at least three races — black, silver, and crested. There might be more, but the viewpoint character wasn't on the planet long enough to tell, as he was vividly aware.
- In the original Foundation novels, Trantor is barely mentioned beyond being a City Planet (and then eventually a Farm Planet after the Empire collapses and it gets sacked), but in the prequel novels it's described as a very diverse planet — so diverse that Hari Seldon uses it as a sufficiently simplified model of the galaxy for Psychohistory.
- In the Rod Albright Alien Adventures' first book, one of the aliens comments that a swamp on Earth reminds him of home. Rod asks if he came from a swamp planet, only for the alien to sarcastically ask if Rod comes from a "swamp planet." He just happened to live in a swamp on a planet as diverse as Earth.
- In Tolkien's Legendarium, there are eight Elven cultures, following the Sundering. The hobbits of Buckland are also noticably different culturally from the Shire hobbits, for instance being less conservative and more adventurous. Taking it further, there are seven clans of Dwarves (though only one of these, Durin's Folk, gets particular attention), at least three broad divisions of orc (Misty Mountains goblins, Isengard Uruk-hai, and Mordor orcs, and the last encompasses various orc breeds like fighting-orcs and trackers) and a very wide selection of human nations (just at the end of the Third Age you have Gondorians, Rohirrim, Bree-men, Dúnedain of the North, Dunlendings, Beornings, Dalemen/Lakemen, Snowmen of Forochel, Woses, Near Haradrim, Far Haradrim, Corsairs of Umbar, Black Númenóreans, Variags, and an unknown number of groups who fall under the general heading of "Easterlings").
- In Discworld, dwarfs can be divided into the Uberwald dwarfs, who still revere the knockermen (dwarfs who go into the deep mines to clear them of explosive gases by igniting it before anyone else enters, and who sometimes have mystic experiences while they're there), and the Ramtop dwarfs, who invented the Davy lamp and stopped worrying about that sort of thing. Within the Uberwald communities, the "deep-downers", who wear a knockerman's protective outfit at all times, especially if they're forced to go to the surface, seem to be a distinct subculture.
- Jack Vance often fills his worlds with different cultures. For example, in his Planet of Adventure series, the planet Tschai is full of different peoples (some descended from transplanted humans, some not), tribes, lands, and regimes. They all have their own cultures and political structures, ranging from the nomadic Emblem Men to the repressive underground Pneum, as well as those exiled Pneum who have been cast out of the underground and live on the surface.
- Arnould Galopin's Doctor Omega, a 1906 pioneer sci-fi novel involving a trip to Mars. The main Martian species are divided into two castes: a ruling caste and a working caste. Both form the Northern Martian nation, which is at war against a distinct Southern nation. Then we have the primitive savage tribes of the polar regions which belong to the same species but aren't nearly as advanced and have a completely different culture. And then you have at least two other intelligent species: one of humanoid bat-people and one of aquatic reptile men, which are also at war against the land Martians.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs was a master of this trope, as his work falls in the Planetary Romance genre, the worlds visited by our heroes are always very culturally diverse. This goes for Mars, Venus, Jupiter, the Moon and Pellucidar.
- Star Trek Expanded Universe: The shows may favor Planet of Hats, but less so the books:
- The Star Trek: Stargazer novels reveal that the Gnalish, a race of Lizard Folk of which the Stargazer's chief engineer Phigus Simenon is a member, have three separate subspecies, although they are able to interbreed (or, at least, fertilize the same eggs). Being of the weaker, "middle" subspecies, Simenon's subspecies has learned to be highly resourceful and wily, which helps when you're Picard's chief engineer.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch novels, the Andorians and Bajorans, at least, demonstrate significant cultural differences depending on which region of their planets they originate on. In Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Andor, the differences between Northern and Southern clans (to oversimplify a bit) are an important aspect of the plot. We also learn that "Bajora" originally referred to one nation on Bajor that over the civilization's very long history grew to encompass all Bajorans. The relaunch also explains the differences between Next Generation and Deep Space Nine Trills (ridges vs. spots, transporter allergy, etc.): they're just different ethnic groups among the Trill humanoids.
- In Star Trek: Articles of the Federation, the funeral service for former president Jaresh-Inyo references his culture as "semtir"—his species is Grazerite, but apparently not all Grazerites have the same customs.
- Helena, a planet introduced in "Quarantine" of the "Double Helix" miniseries, is a strange partial example: diversity is its Planet of Hats hat! Settled by mixed-species people seeking to escape discrimination, almost all Helenites are a mix of multiple species, nobody else in the galaxy has devoted more scientific oomph to helping members of different races reproduce, and the organization heading this effort is the most powerful political force on the planet. The more races in you or the rarer your mix, the more special you are. As a human/Klingon hybrid, a pre-Voyager B'Elanna Torres is treated as royalty. If you're only of a single species, you're absolutely, totally equal but will be asked to use that other dining hall over there.
- In Marcus LaGrone's novels the Taik homeworld of Afon is home to at least four different cultures, the Highlanders, the Kulpgarie Republic, the Altshea Confederation, and the Draeka Empire, the latter three also have thousands of interstellar colonies.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek
- This is the unofficial In-Universe explanation for Tuvok's skin color — he's from a different stock of Vulcan than most of the ones we've seen. And Tuvok wasn't the first "minority" Vulcan we've seen. At least one of the Vulcan priests seen at the end of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock highly resembles an Asian person from Earth (which makes sense, as the Vulcan in question is played by George Takei, who had apparently always wanted to wear the ears, but never had a chance up until then). And between them was a black Romulan.
- There was this one episode where Chakotay, on his own on a planet, joins a group of humans in an effort to overthrow the lizard-people on the planet. It's two separate regions, two separate cultures. However, the two cultures (Vori and Kradin) are, at their worst, at least equally corrupt and brutal, and at their best equally welcoming, or so it's implied. It's even suggested their customs are similar—they seem to share at least one tradition. So it's a bit of a subversion, really; the two are different, certainly, but ultimately not by that much. We might even go as far as to say Vori-Kradin does have a unified culture under default settings, only it's in a state of civil war at present...
- The Next Generation has an episode involving a planet on which the population is divided into two different factions, who are caught up in a cold war.
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- The episode "The Omega Glory" involves a war between two cultures living on the same planet, descended from cultures very similar to Cold War era Americans and Russians.
- In another TOS episode ("Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"), there is a war between two different ethnicities from the same planet. (The skin of one is black on the left side and white on the right side of the body, the other one's skin white on the left and black on the right.)
- In Star Trek: Enterprise, we meet the Xindi, which are five different species (formerly six, but a war wiped them out.) We also find out that in addition to the Andorians, Andoria has the Aenar (blind telepathic pacifist albino Andorians).
- Doctor Who:
- In the Doctor Who serial "The Keys of Marinus", the protagonists visit a different area of Marinus in each episode, each with its own inhabitants and culture.
- Skaro, the planet of the Daleks, has also been home, at various points of its history, to Kaleds (the precursor culture to the Daleks, a race of poets and scientists and prone to Putting on the Reich), Dals (originally proposed as the precursor culture to the Daleks but Retconned into a long-dead race that served as a cultural precedent for the Daleks - supposedly teachers and philosophers wiped out by the Kaleds), and Thals (originally a warrior race but forced to take on a pacifistic, farming lifestyle to survive). All have their own distinctive cultures, all of which change depending on the era the story is set. It should be noted that both Skaro and Marinus were originally created and written about by Terry Nation.
- "The Web Planet" has a very alien variant of this with a beautiful flying race that lives on the moon, a rather plucky unintelligent race that lives in herds on the ground, a short troglodyte race that lives in tribes underground, and a horrible tentacled lifeform that communicates through webs. All have unique psychologies and cultures conveyed by their speech patterns and the things they build, as well as different religions and ways of relating to each other.
- "The Savages" presents a wealthy, star-gazing technocratic civilisation headed by a council of elders, that is soon revealed to support itself by draining life energy from the more egalitarian cave-dwelling civilisation that lives in the wilderness surrounding the city.
- The Fourth Doctor serial The Face of Evil involve the Tesh and Sevateem (Leela was one of the latter), two orthogonally distinct cultures (technologists and savages) on the same planet. Of course, they both originated from the same initial culture over 9000 years earlier.
- Done repeatedly in Stargate SG-1. In most cases, the different cultures are at war with one another. Special mention goes to Jonas Quinn's homeworld Langara, which in its first appearance is roughly in the 1950s technologically. The three dominant superpowers are engaged in a Space Cold War with one another, which briefly goes hot after "Shadow Play", resulting in Kelowna dropping a naquadriah bomb on the other two powers' combined armies. This cold war comes to a crashing halt when Anubis invades in search of naquadriah to power a superweapon, and the superpowers pull an Enemy Mine and join with the SGC to repel the invasion. This leads to the formation of a United Nations-like joint ruling council on Langara.
- Another prominent example is the planet Tegalus, separated into the Rand Protectorate and the Caledonian Federation. Like Kelowna, Tegalus is in a state of Cold War. However, the arrival of SG-1 causes the Cold War to go hot. In a later episode, a Prior of the Ori arrives to Tegalus and offers the Rand Protectorate the means to destroy the Caledonians in the form of a powerful Kill Sat. While SG-1 manage to stop the satellite from being used against the Caledonians, the peace talks break down, and the two nations nuke one another.
- In Babylon 5 the Narn are the only major races besides humans to have multiple religions. G'kar somewhat accidentally starts a new one.
- A number of Votan species in Defiance came from the same planet in the now destroyed Votanis system. Castithans and Indogenes were originally from Daribo (though many of the former migrated to Casti when the latter finished terraforming it). And the Irathients, Liberata, and Sensoths are all from Irath, and since the former two were conquered by the Castis they presumably had significant populations on other planets in the system.
- In Traveller, the Aslan are divided into many different clans with their own parochial customs. The Vargr have no rhyme or reason to their organization, being Chaotic Neutral.
- In most Dungeons & Dragons worlds there are multiple societies of elves and dwarves.
- In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger the eponymous character once informed the Worf stand-in just how inaccurate his idea of his own species was.
- In Dominic Deegan, crossing over with Our Werewolves Are Different, the people of the Winter Archipelago have several different subgroups—werewolves vs. spellwolves, the nobility vs. commoners, young vs. old. When Mookie had one storyline focusing on the nobility, followed by another storyline focusing on their equivalent of wild college kids, he was accused of being "inconsistent" when it was really this trope.
- The Cyantian Chronicles: Cyantia is inhabited by at least a dozen different species, both natives and immigrants created from human and animal genes. The immigrants compose four major nations (the Mounty Kingdom, the Alpine territories, the Wolf City-States, and the Fox Empire) and numerous less powerful ones. The natives tend to keep to themselves.
- The Trolls of Homestuck have pretty diverse culture, based even on the small sampling that we actually get to see.
- Eternia and Etheria from Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) and She-Ra: Princess of Power respectively. Both are inhabited by a variety of cultures and species.
- In Ben 10: Omniverse, we finally get to see the planet Anur Transyl. In addition to Transylians (Frankenstrike and Dr. Viktor's species), it's also inhabited by Loboans (werewolves), Thep Khufans (mummies), and Ectonurites (Ghostfreak's species). On top of that, it used to have a vampire race called Vladats, until they were destroyed in a war with the Transylians, who got sick of being used for sources of slave labor and Life Energy. All There in the Manual previously gave each race a different planet of origin (all named Anur Something, so presumably in the same system.) but the show has them all coexisting on one world.