Multicultural Alien Planet

Warden: Tell me about the qunari.
Sten: No.
Warden: 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.
    • Sakar had two distinctive people - the red-skinned Imperials and the grey-skinned Shadow People
  • Transformers, Cybertronians are split into two cultures, Autobots and Decepticons. Depending on continuity, there are far more than that.
  • Warlord of Mars, like the novels it was based upon, had 5 distinct main races: the Red Martians, who are the most predominant and thriving race in Barsoom, the nomadic and warlike Green Martians, the scheming White Martians, the religious Black Martians and the reclusive Yellow Martians.

    Fan Works 
  • Played subtly between a pair of Bajoran cadets at Starfleet Academy in "Remembrance of the Fallen". When Kanril Eleya (Bajoran) is given the job of tutoring Tiana Lanstar (human) and Kojami Sobaru (Bajoran), she notices that the construction of Sobaru's given name indicates her being from Hathon Province. When they meet face to face in the next scene Sobaru in turn notices that Eleya's accent indicates her being from Kendra Province. Other Star Trek Online fanfics by StarSword similarly refer to different Bajoran ethnicities, accents, and dialects.
  • A Changed World: Eleya and Gaarra explain that "Bajoran" is the species, while "Bajora" is an ethnic or cultural group that conquered the others (and apparently renamed the species and planet after themselves: Beat the Drums of War by the same author had a Precursor refer to Eleya as an Inshal'halan). Eleya is Kendran, while Gaarra is half-Dahkuri. The modern Bajoran language, Bajor'la, is a simplified version of the Bajora tongue Bajor'ara that the Bajora taught to their conquests.
    Gaarra: It's like... Well, like Lieutenant Park here being Korean.

  • 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.
    • The Expanded Universe established that both the Mon Calamari and the Quarren come from different regions of the same planet.
    • And as a rare and interesting inversion, the Neimodians from the prequels and the Duros are the same species that inhabits two different systems which each have their own independent representation in the Republic, something that is otherwise only shown to be the case with humans (who are the main species of at least several dozens of systems).
  • 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 into 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 Predators (and by extension, the rest of the series) the Predators have different tribes who have been at war with one another. We see at least two.

  • 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 Aliens Ate My Homework, 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").
  • On Discworld there are apparently even more different intelligent species and ethnic and cultural variants of the same to outdo even Tolkien. Apart from various types and cultures of humans (including werewolves, vampires and zombies), trolls (including gargoyles), dwarfs, pictsies, elfs, gods, anthropomorphic personifications, demons and what have you, there are also artificial beings like golems building a culture of their own.
    • Dwarfs in particular 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. Within the latest generation or so, dwarfs who move to Ankh-Morpork and integrate with humans, accepting such ideas as different genders (dwarfs are all male by tradition), have been emerging as a third separate cultural group. There's also a small community in the mostly-human country of Llamedos who deal closely with humans (enough that intermarriage is fairly common) but haven't assimilated with them and are neutral between the main dwarf factions; the current Low King of all dwarves was selected from this group simply because the fewest people hated him.
  • 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 the secret world inside the hollow Earth.
  • The planet Ktrit in Junction Point is one. There are at least four major religions, and likely many more minor ones, ethnically diverse populations, prejudices, an array of family structures.
  • 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 The Highlands Of Afon 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.
  • Almost every planet considered worth the bother of visiting in Technic History has political and ethnic divides of various kinds, within races as well as between them. Sometimes they are mainly there for color and other times they are a plot point. The most important one of these is Avalon where Ythrians and Humans jointly found a colony. The main division is between Humans and Ythrians but there are divisions between Ythrians as well. Stories about Avalon stress both that friendship with someone who isn't like oneself is harder work then cliches make it out to be, but that it is worth the trouble.
  • In The Red Vixen Adventures there are at multiple distinct nations on Foxen Prime, the feudal Mother Country is the largest and only nation with an off-world presence while the second largest is the parliamentary republic of Gerwart.
  • In the soft sci-fi book Through Space To The Planets, the planet has at least three separate governments in three different places.
  • In the Chanur Novels by C. J. Cherryh, the hani homeworld is noted to have multiple countries and languages.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek
    • Voyager
      • 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).
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had more time to develop the Bajorans, so they wind up getting some of this. For one, we know that they have two religions: the majority worship the Prophets, but some worship the Pah-Wraiths, their Evil Counterparts (though their followers don't interpret them that way). There's also at least one episode that deals with warring tribes who are described as living in a hardscrabble part of the planet, who seem to be at least semi-independent of the Bajoran government.
  • 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.
    • The Minbari speak several languages, especially on Minbar, and the three castes are shown to have unique rituals as well. It's implied that the Minbari were more divided before Valen appeared to unite the people in the previous Shadow War.
  • 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 an early episode of Alien Nation, Matthew Sikes is initially shocked to discover that his alien neighbor Kathy follows a different religion than that followed by his alien partner George (and George's family), even asking, "You guys have more than one religion?" To the credit of both the character and the writers, Sikes immediately lampshades how ridiculous that question is by saying, "Wait a second, of course you do. Why wouldn't you?"

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Traveller, the Aslan are divided into many different clans with their own parochial customs. The Vargr's ability to organize is largely limited by the leader's charisma, so they've got thousands of polities that rarely last more than a generation or two.
  • In most Dungeons & Dragons worlds there are multiple societies of elves and dwarves.
  • Space 1889 Mars has plenty of languages, ways of life, cultures and religions and three different races/species of Martian.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect
    • The quarian species were originally represented in the first game by one individual, who spoke with a suspiciously Eastern European accent. In the sequel, we are introduced to multiple other quarians. While some share the Eastern European accent of the Token Minority party member, others possess more distinctly British or American accents, and one of them is quite clearly Adam Baldwin. Clearly, the population of the quarian flotilla is drawn from many elements of the species, and each ship has its own subculture.
    • The Codex suggests that most species still maintain multiple languages, even after however many centuries of interstellar travel. By this point, technology has evolved such that subdermal devices instantly translate other languages into the listener's own, and most everyone seems to have one. That said, quarians are pretty much the only non-human species encountered that have a discernible accent; everyone else (besides Miranda and Zaeed) speaks in a generic North American accent, no matter what language they're speaking or species they belong to.
    • This trope is hilariously referenced in Mass Effect if Kaidan and Wrex are in an elevator together. Kaidan comments that Wrex isn't what he expected from a krogan.
      Wrex: Right. Because you humans have a wide range of cultures and attitudes, but krogan all think and act exactly alike.
  • In The Elder Scrolls universe, humans and elves are not two single races, but have a half-dozen races of their own. Even within the races there are cultures of various degrees of distinctness. Khajiit and Argonians still get stuck with Planet of Hats, however.
    • The Khajiit are actually extremely varied, even if you don't see it in-game: There are numerous Khajiit sub-species, ranging from Khajiit that look like house cats to the Cat Folk you can play as to borderline beast of burden. Stranger still, sub-species is apparently determined not by ancestry but by what phase of the moons they were born under.
    • And the Argonian connection to the mysterious Hist trees may justify their uniformity. The Hist are said to form a kind of Hive Mind with the creatures of Black Marsh, which probably doesn't leave much room for cultural differentiation.
  • The first two WarCraft games didn't give much detail of any culture, but appeared to have homogeneous cultures with orcs, trolls and their allies all on one side, and humans, elves, and others on the other. Warcraft 3 changed this, with multiple factions within each group - the orchish Horde was primarily split between those who wanted to go back to their more-or-less peaceful shamanic roots, those who were still under the influence of demons and wanted to conquer the world, and those who weren't under any influence but still wanted to fight everyone else because it was fun. Meanwhile the Alliance had splits between those who just wanted to defend themselves and rebuild, and those who wanted to dominate the world and punish the orcs for attacking, plus a previously unseen race of elves was revealed to be closely related to the earlier ones and didn't quite get along with anyone. By the time of World of Warcraft, practically every region has multiple factions fighting each other, and many of the major plot lines revolve around infighting and leadership battles within a faction rather than an external Big Bad.
  • Zig-zagged in Stellaris, there is considerable variation in most species portraits and the Leaders or Planetary population tabs will usually display a wide range of skin/scale/fur colors, but each FTL-empire starts out as a One World Order whose population all share the same ethical values, including either human empire.note  It is possible for populations to change ethics but more likely on colonies than homeworlds. Pre-FTL species are implied to comprise a number of planetary nation-states but become unified after uplift, discovering FTL on their own, or invasion of course. And while it's possible to place multiple species on the same planet, the only way for two species to share the same homeworld is through the "Subterranean Civilization" event chain.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • Mars in Marooned has three sentient races with varied lifestyles.
  • The world of Astray3 is quite rich - we've seen two cultures as of yet, with their own languages, foods and customs.
  • A major theme in Leif & Thorn, which not only deals with cultural differences between two of its fantasy countries, but ethnic differences within each country.

     Web Original 
  • How to Write Badly Well skewers the concept of Planet of Hats by asking if the Ewoks who lived on the other side of Endor from the Death Star wear business suits and read news articles about native exploitation.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Multicultural Alien Race