"We need no language. We can project our thoughts long distances."Space travelers and extraterrestrials are often telepathic. This has two advantages: 1) We assume they can "think" to others in a way that the recipients' minds will translate into their own language, an elegant version of Translator Microbes for communicating with people from different planets. 2) By some absurd Applied Phlebotinum it is assumed that telepathic communication is instantaneous anywhere in the universe, allowing instant communication across the light-years. In many far-future science fiction stories, movies and games, it is assumed that human evolution will eventually result in the development of Psychic Powers for the entire human race. As most of those same stories involve space travel, this could be interpreted as humanity becoming the telepathic spacemen. Compare Enlightened Mystic Race (Type II Space Elves) and/or Proud Scholar Race Guy. See also Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
— Alpha, Catwomen Of The Moon
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Anime and Manga
- The Mobile Suit Gundam Universal Century continuity has Newtypes who can, among other things, communicate with each other telepathically. It's initially assumed that this is the result of humans evolving to adapt to living in space, and in the UC continuity the specific mechanism is understood well enough that a) weapons exist to take advantage of this without having to rely on electromagnetic signals, and b) surgically altering otherwise normal 'Oldtypes' into Artificial Newtypes (typically with the added cost of mental instability) is an option.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 also uses this trope with the Innovators, a group of Artificial Humans who were created to lead mankind to the stars. They don't seem to be very good at this, considering so far all they've used their powers for are killing.
- Then we have the appearance of the "true" Innovators, evolved humans rather than engineered clones. Their telepathy is more powerful, and with the presence of large amounts of GN Particles, can telepathically connect everyone within the field. One of them (Setsuna) even uses these powers to communicate and broker a treaty with a group of Starfish Aliens called the ELS. The epilogue implies that the entire human race is slowly transforming into Innovators.
- Gundam X deconstructs this. The Colonies follow a 'Newtypism' ideology, essentially this trope as a political movement. It quickly becomes clear that the Colonies do not actually have any Newtypes among them, and in the series perhaps 5 emerge (if you don't count the Frost brothers), all from Earth. At the end, D.O.M.E. makes it clear that the "Newtypes" that appeared were basically mutants, and their abilities merely individual talents that happened to be similar to each other.
- The Human Alien mages of Lyrical Nanoha, who possess Magitek that allow casual travel between planets and can telepathically communicate with each other as a basic ability.
- The Nameks from Dragon Ball Z are stated to have this role. As are the Yardrats, according to Goku, and presumably whatever race King Kai comes from. It seems to be one of the setting's Stock Superpowers that comes with (or at least becomes possible with) attaining a certain threshold of ki control and power level; Goku also demonstrates it at least once, although it shows up inconsistently. King Kai has an apparently unlimited ability to open telepathic communication with anyone in the universe, from outside the universe, and direct physical contact with him (normally in the form of a hand on his shoulder) allows anyone else to piggy-back on that ability even if they have no telepathy of their own.
- Tony the alien from Area 51 in Axis Powers Hetalia at one point seems to transfer his thoughts full of offensive language to England when America introduces them to each other. America, since he did not hear it, thinks they are getting along fine.
- In Vandread, Hibiki encounters a group of humans in an asteroid belt who have the ability to communicate telepathically. They can't speak normally, because Earth stole their voices.
- In Heroic Age, some species are capable of telepathy, most notably the Silver Tribe, who use it extensively as a means of communication, and even politics.
- In God Mars, telepathy is the most common psychic power seen among the aliens. They're able to communicate over large distances and even speak to the dead under certain circumstances.
- Martian Manhunter and Saturn Girl, among others, in The DCU.
- Top 10's Glusko the Spaceman is a former Kosmonaut who got his telepathy during a space mission. He also has a telepathic space chimp named Tanya.
- Guardians of the Galaxy's Cosmo the dog, who became a telepathic space alien (by 'citizenship' if not birth) in a couple of issues of Nova when he was sent out on a Soviet space probe. He has a Russian accent.
- Allen the Alien from Invincible, as well as Viltrumites and other aliens capable of unassisted space flight.
- The elves from ElfQuest are eventually revealed to have originated as a variant of this, and the future for most of them is the same. The humans on the planet are also eventually revealed to be heading toward being on a par with the elves in telepathy and other "magic" powers.
- Shakara: The Psico Collective are one of the most powerful species in the universe due to their innately vast psychic and telekinetic powers. Their bodies are very frail, but their floating eye-shaped heads can combine into a Hive Mind.
- In Independence Day, the aliens are said to communicate with each other via "some kind of extra-sensory perception." They don't seem able to manipulate or read human minds at a distance, though one alien controls a dead scientist through physical contact in order to speak with the main characters. It also made direct contact with the President's mind. It gave the President a crippling headache, but it got the message it wanted to convey across.
- In Adaptation. by Malinda Lo, the Imria have a form of telepathy/ empathy that allows them to sense emotions.
- The Stainless Steel Rat. Communication is handled by professional "Psimen" who send telepathic telegrams (telepathegrams) across the universe to other psimen on your own planet who then phone your message in to your boss for you. For a fee, obviously.
- The Andalites from Animorphs, as well as anyone who uses their morphing technology (which is a nice work-around for the issue of "How can your team communicate when everyone is a rat"). The first book seems to indicate that normal humans can do this too, as long as they focus and the recipient is in morph, and that one can broadcast images as well as verbal communication this way, but neither of these ever come up again- it's commonly accepted that the author just screwed up on that bit, and it was fixed in the reprint. Also Leerans (in addition to being psychic mind-readers) and Garatrons. The Yeerks themselves seem to be telepathic in a sense, but only when they're inside a host body and only for Yeerk-to-host communications. It seems to be part of their physical link to the host's brain; we find that their bodies aren't as solid as they appear and they're able to spread over and through the brain, linking their neurons to the host's neurons.
- There are also rules for it. With Andalites it's words. The name "thought-speak" describes what it literally is; like speaking but with thoughts. Anyone in morph can do it; it makes sense because it's Andalite technology; they made it so they could still talk the way they always do. Though it took the writer(s) a while to realize it, this means that you can do it when morphed into another human; Tobias and Ax use the ability to thought-speak in human morph to their advantage late in the series. It's so similar to speech that more than once, a character hasn't realized that they didn't exactly "hear" what was spoken to them if the speaker deliberately made the sentence short and sweet. Leerans, on the other hand, transmit feelings and images as well; it's not exactly like words in your head. Leerans also have a spoken language; it consists of single syllable words. The listener will always understand the meaning perfectly, as if they were native Leeran speakers themselves. Leerans also receive thoughts and feelings from you whether you want them to or not, a passive ability that's always on; the Yeerks have few Leeran hosts because there's no hiding your intentions from one; infiltration is out of the question and the element of surprise doesn't exist. The Animorphs are very wary of the few Leeran-controllers who exist, because all you have to do is get near one and that's the end of having a Secret Identity.
- Notably, Andalites did not always have the ability for thought-speak; when the Ellimist encounters prehistoric Andalites in The Ellimist Chronicles, they communicate using sign language (due to their lack of mouths).
- Due to Painting the Medium, we know when someone's clearly not speaking normal words though we don't know how it works. Andalite-style thought-speak is represented instead of "like so," and Leeran speech (spoken or not) is in italics and underline. Therefore, it's safe to assume that when the Ellimist starts talking in small uppercase letters it doesn't sound like his harmless-looking human disguise form is speaking normally. Interestingly, his opposite number, God of Evil Crayak, does speak with normal quote marks. Apparently he doesn't feel the need to communicate in a more impressive/intimidating fashion.
- Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye novels have this in reverse; the Lost Colony of Gramarye is presently a medieval-level society, but eventually they will go into space (there's an entire Time Travel war going on over it), at which point their telepaths will revolutionize interstellar communication.
- The Kzin from Larry Niven's Known Space Universe had a rare subspecies of telepath who facilitate contact with alien races (mainly calls for them to surrender, since the Kzin are Proud Warrior Race Guys). The telepaths, thought enormously useful, are not allowed to breed and are generally despised because they require an addictive drug to activate their powers, which contributes to them being rather poor examples of the race by Kzinti warrior standards.
- E. E. “Doc” Smith used this heavily in his Lensman series, making this Older Than Television, and nearly as old as the entire concept of interstellar travel. Most of the really powerful intelligent species in the galaxy are telepaths — some of them make humans look distinctly puny by comparison. However, sufficiently competent members (usually the result of a long breeding program) of any species may wear a Lens, a device which allows them to communicate telepathically. Oh, and understand any language. And crack codes effortlessly. And... well, let's just say it gets more out of hand from there. The Lens serves as the ultimate Translator Microbes and Mind Probe, and is sometimes believed to be the inspiration for the original Green Lantern Ring.
- The Rowan series by Anne McCaffrey has psychics as not only the means of communication between colonized star systems, but also the means of transportation (via psychokinetic teleport) that makes such colonies possible to begin with. From the point of view of the Mrdini, who have no psychics of their own, humans are the telepathic spacemen.
- The chieri of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe, although their rather impressive range of other powers puts them on the edge of being Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Between interbreeding and the psi-amplifying crystals on the titular planet, some humans become telepathic spacemen as well.
- Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein is all about a spaceship that exploits the idea that telepathy is instantaneous.
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe:
- The Sector General series has two species of empaths, long-range emotion detectors of varying sensitivity. Others are telepathic. This is presented as an entirely biological process, the concept having apparently been more plausible back in the day, and several storylines revolve around telepathic capabilities that have been damaged, stuck on, or which come with side effects. Humans possess a vestigial, atrophied capacity for telepathy and can sometimes be contacted. The feeling is compared to having one's brain worked with a wire brush.
- Stephen King's Dreamcatcher has telepathic aliens coming to Earth. Thing is, their telepathy is contagious. It appears at the end that the aliens themselves may not even be sapient in their own right, instead telepathically taking on the traits of sapience expected of them by the humans.
- The Insect race in Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series communicates with one another (and anyone else) using natural telepathic abilities. They are also able to use those abilities to stun opponents with a mental strike and probe them for information. Certain humans, while lacking full-blown telepathy, can form empathic bonds with others; however, this requires special circumstances. Also, since every human is from birth implanted with a small chip that is used to remotely control household appliances and the like, certain individuals who have been implanted with multiple chips are able to read other's thoughts with the use of the chips.
- Interesting example in Ender's Game, where the Buggers have Hive Minds.
- The Dune series is filled with these since the Spice grants psychic abilities. The ones that most fulfill this trope however are the Steersmen and Navigators of the Spacing Guild, who use their abilities to see the future and to guide the ships.
- Handled relatively realistically in Ethan of Athos: telepathy results from a random mutation, and is refined through successive generations of genetic engineering. The telepaths are limited in range, their ability to read minds is blocked by even thin pieces of metal and confused when there are many minds or sources of electronic noise in the area, and they can read some minds far better than others.
- The Alex Benedict series has the alien Ashiyyur, commonly known as the Mutes. Their telepathic abilities only work within a range of a few meters, however; and they can only hear thoughts, not broadcast them. They also have considerably more difficulty reading human thoughts than they do communicating with each other.
- The colloids in The Parasite War are this way.
- In The Planeteers, Penton and Blake encounter several species of telepathic aliens. Also, at the beginning of the series, the Martians teach Penton their telepathic techniques so that he becomes a telepathic spaceman, and he uses the skill to instantly learn languages on other planets.
- Actually inverted in the My Teacher Is an Alien series, where humans are apparently the only sapient species that are innately telepathic. However, the strain of suffering the thoughts and feelings of a multitude drove humankind to mentally isolate themselves, and the resulting lack of empathy causes them to do terrible things to one another, making humans also the only species to commit atrocities.
- The Martians in The War of the Worlds are theorised to be this by the narrator after he observes them working together without any visible means of communication, though it is never definitively proven one way or the other.
Live Action TV
- Mork & Mindy: "Mork calling Orson, Mork Calling Orson." "One moment, Mork, I'm taking a call on another brain cell." Even Mindy can do this, by holding Mork's nose and putting her finger in his ear.
- The Tomorrow People: The Galactic Federation, a space collective of telepathic species, sends communications to the human Tomorrow People via telepathy. Due to the distances involved, the messages are usually received by a telepathic computer instead of directly, except in desperate cases.
- Star Trek regularly uses telepathic species. Vulcans are touch-telepaths (or at least, most of them are; Spock's half-brother Sybok is an example of a Vulcan who doesn't require physical contact); they can't communicate over distances, but Spock has used a mind-meld to communicate with aliens on occasion. And then there's the katra business, using a mind-meld to cheat death.
- Early episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation gave The Empath Deanna Troi the ability to communicate telepathically with Riker. This was dropped later on, though. Betazoids can telepathically communicate with each other; Lwaxana prefers this but Deanna considers it rude to do when among species that can't pick up on it.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- The first pilot episode, "The Cage", features the Professor X-level telepathic Talosians, making the first Trek aliens ever (other than Spock, that is) qualify. They weren't nearly as nice as most of the other examples here, though.
- The episode "The Immunity Syndrome" does feature Spock telepathically picking up (at interstellar distances) a message of sorts from a group of Vulcans. Said message being the death of the four-hundred or so Vulcans in that group.
- Star Trek: Enterprise. Trip and T'Pol find their "intimate relationship" has unexpected consequences when they find themselves sharing the same daydream, despite being on completely different starships.
- Discussed in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where Quark, Rom, and Nog accidentally end up at Roswell. The scientist examining them is surprised that an advanced alien race is not like that. In fact, Ferengi are stated by telepaths to be impervious to scans due to their strange brain structure.
- In Doctor Who. The Doctor can do what seems to all intents and purposes a Vulcan mindmeld and other telepathic feats, such as memory-wiping also by touching the subject's temples... sometimes. It's annoying.
- And, in emergencies, giving people an instant infodump by means of a Glasgow kiss. (Banging foreheads.)
- Babylon 5 has telepaths in nearly every alien species, as well as humans. Turns out Vorlons Did It. They're so touchy.
- Something Is Out There (a short-lived sci-fi series on NBC). The alien protagonist Ta'Ra is telepathic; unfortunately she's also a hot chick so she's constantly annoyed over how these Earth people want to "do that with her body" (her species has a somewhat different way of making love).
- Orsian twin pairs from Tracker.
- Cally, one of the protagonists of Blake's 7, is a Human Alien revolutionary who can do this. She can send her thoughts to humans (i.e. they can hear her unspoken voice), though not read their thoughts. (She's from a clone race.)
- In Stargate SG-1, the Ancients gained this as one of their powers when nearing the Ascension threshold. A number of humans (not all of them from Earth) have also gained telepathic powers by various means. Nirrti used an Ancient DNA manipulator to experiment on humans of one planet, some of whom became telepathic. Khalek, genetically-engineered by Anubis, is also able to read minds, as well as Mind over Matter abilities. In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, McKay can also read minds when nearing the threashold and is even able to impart knowledge on someone else.
- In Lois and Clark, Superman finds out that he is a member of a Telepathic Spacemen species when he encounters a group of survivors from Krypton. The only reason he never knew he was telepathic was that he had no one to "talk" to before.
- Astropaths in Warhammer 40,000 are the Imperium's only method of communicating over stellar distances. Unfortunately, since the transmission medium is essentially a cross between Hyperspace and Hell, they tend to live unhappy (and short) existences. The Astronomican beacon they use to navigate is Powered by a Forsaken Child, it burns through the lives of ten thousand psykers every month. Psykers have to undergo a process called soul-binding which causes them hours of agony at the hands of their Physical God, invariably destroys their sight, and often other sense, and sends large numbers of candidates insane; all in order to be able to pass messages safely without getting dragged into the Warp when they send messages. Or, for that matter, that if you're found by the psyker-hunting Black Ships, you have around a 90% chance of being 'selected' to undergo this honour. GrimDark indeed...
- All Eldar are psykers by nature, but the Dark variety are wary of psykers for fear of attracting the attention of Slaanesh and hence their psyker potential has atrophied over the millennia. The Craftworld Eldar do not share this compunction, although most of them have their psyker potential blocked at birth and slowly regain it by following the Path of the Seer, for the same reasons mentioned above. Many of the most powerful psykers in the whole galaxy are Eldar: during the 13th Black Crusade, the noted Cadian general Ursakar Creed took a contingent of the above mentioned sanctioned psykers to a meeting with the High Farseer of Ulthwe, Eldrad Ulthran, only for each and every one of them to be incapacitated by Eldrad's mere presence.
- The Zhodani are an empire ruled by telepaths in Traveller, though they are a race of Transplanted Humans rather than aliens.
- The V'sori in the Savage Worlds setting Necessary Evil are highly telepathic. They communicate telepathically, can detect any other nearby telepath, which include the Atlanteans and Half-Breeds, both of which are playable races. While V'sori blood may be a cause for a player's telekinesis, most V'sori are actually not telekinetic.
- Both the Ethereals from X-COM: UFO Defense (who aren't REALLY ethereal) and the Re'Lu from Deadlock are telepathic aliens - whose access privilege to your brain includes both read and write, incidentally.
- In fact, many of the species from the X-COM series are telepathic. Sectoids are budget versions of the Ethereals psionics-wise, then there's the giant Psimorphs from XCOM Apocalypse. The species from XCOM Terror From The Deep essentially use telepathy but it's called "Molecular Control" and works via implanted chips.
- A number of psi-weapons are specifically designed to amplify telepathic projection to injure, confuse, or control creatures in the X-COM games as well. Which makes senses... up until the ship-mounted psi-blasters of X-COM Interceptor. Huh?
- Similarly the mind worms in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. These tiny little white things stun you from afar, burrow through your skull and lay their eggs in your brain. They move in enormous swarms called boils. They appear (in a hard sci-fi setting) a few decades after humans land on the planet and have no other prey, causing mankind to realize that it might just be in trouble here. They can be beaten (flamethrowers work quite well, according to the fluff), but one must be mentally strong in order to overcome their psychic attacks. What good is a flamethrower if you're too stunned by fear to push the button?
- The Vell-Os in Escape Velocity Nova's are telepathic post-humans who fly in shells of solid telepathic energy. There are also the Polaris, who are less powerful telepaths with technologies at least a century in advance of the rest of humanity, and use both of those things to back up their isolationism. And then there is the masters of the Heron-style of martial arts, who also appear to develop a sort of telepathy. It is left uncertain just how much this trope will apply to the rest of humanity, not because humanity won't develop species-wide psychic powers (that is made clear) but because it might not happen until the point just before they all Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, leaving the 'spacemen' thing far behind them.
- The Furons in Destroy All Humans!, who can do Mind Probe, Mind Control, and Mind over Matter.
- Word of God for Sonic the Hedgehog states that powers like Silver's telekinesis and Blaze's pyrokinesis are a common occurrence two-hundred years into the series' future. Although it was ''2006'' that promoted the concept, it might still hold true for the Sonic Rivals series. (And although space travel hasn't become a common occurrence yet, humans of the series have quite advanced space technology as it is.)
- The Nihilanth from Half-Life communicates with Gordon Freeman by telepathy, and does so the minute you teleport to Xen.
- The Protoss in StarCraft fit this to a tee. The humans are also apparently in the "developing into the telepathic race" stage, and the Zerg have their own, different forms of telepathy too. In fact, the difference in psionic powers between the Protoss (offensive) and Zerg (Hive Mind control) is a plot point; both races were originally meddled with by precursors with the eventual goal of unifying, but this failed. They then went to war and the Zerg, outclassed by the Protoss, searched for a new species they can assimilate and use its psychic powers to defeat the Protoss. Enter: the humans.
- The godlike humanoid Kamir in Other Space utilized their blindingly powerful telepathy to help them search for appropriate lifeforms for their evolutionary experiments.
- The Martian Xeno Teleptaths in Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds, who actually weaponise this through both a short range psychic attack and several flavours of Mind Rape.
- Elgyem and Beheeyem from Pokémon Black and White are Psychic-type aliens.
- The Starmen from the MOTHER series have access to psychokinetic powers and teleportation. In an interesting twist, the secrets of PSI can be taught to other races, leading to humans developing it when the protagonist's great-grandfather was abducted by aliens but escaped with the secrets.
- In The Sims 3: Seasons, aliens have this ability. Full-blooded aliens can "Scan", which leads to them discovering the target Sim's traits.
- Leono from Sluggy Freelance has this ability, though it only works among his own species and is only really displayed once.
- In Outsider, the Loroi are galactically (in?)famous for this; protagonist Alexander Jardin realizes that he is on a Loroi ship by observing a nonverbal communication.
- Most species in Vexxarr are telepathic, which makes sense since many of them are Space People who need to be able to communicate through hard vacuum.
- In Trying Human, both The Reptilians and The Greys, but the Greys are much, much stronger with it, also having loads of Mind over Matter.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there aren't any inherently telepathic alien species; that said, the Tautiq and the Pelkons are both more likely to acquire Psychic Powers than humans are, and are less likely to be driven mad by those powers. Xorn and Delethai, on the other hand, are even less likely than humans to gain such powers.