Beginning with the third season, Modern Family has added an extremely unsettling, CGI smile to the face of Baby Lily in the opening credit montage.
The Adult Swim show Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! uses this trope for comedic effect. Whenever pictures of children are displayed on the show, there's always something terribly wrong with their face. The funny thing is, it's possible for kids to actually look like that.
The careful use of slow-motion, freeze frame and camera zoom makes pretty much every human actor fall deep into the valley at one point or another.
In an episode of House, the patient, a painter, is doing a portrait of a man's wife. When the painting is done, her husband goes to look at it, and it is horribly distorted. The same patient later sees extremely disturbing doppelgangers of Taub and Thirteen as a result of the same vision distortion... the two actors were brilliantly cast by the creators of the show. The freaky almost-but-not-quite aspect is nailed perfectly.
While not actually eerie-looking (since he's played by a real actor) the robotic sheriff from Eureka has this effect on the townspeople, who are unnerved by him and especially by his creepily fixed smile.
Red Dwarf: Holly is generally acceptable because he/she acts just like a normal human, with a lighthearted, "chummy" way of speaking. But on the instances where he/she malfunctions and reverts to Robo Speak it can be damned creepy. "The phrase 'cargo bay doors' does not appear to be in my lexicon," for example. An episode in which it is revealed that Lister is a robot lampshades this trope, with Kryten explaining that some robots were produced that were too close to humans in appearance, which was creepy for some and so they were recalled.
Done deliberately with the Data Doctor from Back in the Red, apparently inspired by Max Headroom.
The first novelizationInfinity Welcomes Careful Drivers notes that Holograms all have the big chrome "H" on their forehead to make it more acceptable and less creepy for your dead friend to be walking around and talking to you, as it makes it more explicit that the person you're talking to is not actually the real person.
Kryten mentions that his predecessor series was a notorious commercial failure because it looked so much more human that it made humans uncomfortable, while Kryten's "novelty eraser shaped head" (as Rimmer puts it) is sufficiently far enough from human appearance to avoid the valley effect.
Invoked in the episode Blue where, in The Arnold Rimmer Experience, the appearances of Cat and Lister are slightly off, with extreme make-up and overly white teeth
A DVD extra shows a deleted scene from the episode, for good reasons: a rejected version of the Rimmer Experience ride entrance featuring a terrifying static CGI head of Chris Barrie.
Doctor Who, as a show designed for scaring children often featuring humanoid monsters, has a very strong relationship with this trope. Classic Doctor Who frequently created this due to Special Effects Failuredone right. The show was always made on a shoestring budget, especially in the early runs (for obvious reasons) and the 1970's (due to Britain going through a nasty recession). The sheer creativity and ingenuity of the special effects crew was able to rectify the silliness of the monster costumes to a degree, but even then, they were still poorly designed and didn't allow for properly articulate human movement, and the results could be described as "unwittingly terrifying".
For an example that's just a few steps down from the human side, the alien-ness of the Doctor is normally expressed by casting actors who aren't ugly, but have faces or mannerisms that look... just ever so slightly strange. From the Fourth Doctor's bulging Creepy Blue Eyes, to the Fifth Doctor's stiff and awkward smiles that never touch the upper half of his otherwise pleasant face, the odd tempo of the Sixth Doctor's speech and motions, the Ninth Doctor's unusual bone structure, the goggle-eyed almost-handsomeness of the Tenth, the Eleventh's face that flickers between gorgeous and ugly within the same second...
The First Doctor evoked this slightly personality-wise, in that he often demonstrated a distinct lack of empathy, acted very childish and petulant for his age, and generally conveyed an impression of not thinking or acting like a normal human being. And the Second Doctor looked inherently cartoonish, plus he did a lot of silly gurning, a trait which carried over to the Third. The Eighth Doctor is reasonably normal-looking, but there is the fact his hair is an obvious wig, and he has oddly old-fashioned-looking features.
The original design for the Cybermen is this, with the mouths that would open and then make no further movements as the monotone voices droned on... the empty eyehole sockets contribute to this as well. The freakiest thing about them might be that their hands are still human. *shudder*
Where John Barrowman had the Autons, Matt Smith had these guys. He has said that his favorite monster was that particular version of the Cybermen (who in the old series never looked the same twice beyond the presence of handlebar heads.) They were scary because you could see the remaining humanness.
"These were robots in human form with distorted faces, and they gave my daughter nightmares. When I asked her why she was frightened of the Cybermen but not of the Daleks, she replied that the Cybermen looked like terrible human beings, whereas the Daleks were just Daleks."
Speaking of Daleks, the infamous "Dalek voice" (produced using a ring-modulator) is probably an example of this trope - the fact that it speaks in intelligible words but uses stresses and intonations that are just so inhuman, combined with the distortion and the volume of the voice, is probably what sent children diving behind the sofa and still scares children to this day. For others, however, it's Creepy Awesome or just plain Awesome.
Doctor Who has a long history of using robots as substitutes for supernatural walking-corpse monsters -
In "Tomb of the Cybermen", the Cybermen come out of sarcophagi in a tomb filled with puzzles, like revived Egyptian mummies. The new series gives them a marching zombie aesthetic, especially in "Death in Heaven", where they burst out of graves like zombies.
"Pyramids of Mars" features service robots wrapped in bandages. There's a particularly zombie-like scene involving one with its leg stuck in a bear trap.
The Storm Mine robots in "The Robots of Death" (as described further down this page) are related to corpses.
Autons, possessed shop window dummies (and occasionally similar plastic tat items, like dolls, waxworks and big carnival masks). After they were first shown, some children would refuse to walk past a clothes shop (John Barrowman included.)
The Axons in their 'beautiful' forms are gorgeous and golden, but they also have face-dominating, blank, protuberant eyes and talk in surreal, flat voices.
Some of the androids in "The Android Invasion" qualify - the 'deactivated' androids with their flat expressions and staring eyes, the finger-gun androids with their slightly odd artificial hands, the android Doctor doing all the loveable Doctor tics but with dead, predatory eyes, and especially the android Sarah Jane when her face falls off and reveals a strange mechanical head with protruding eyeballs.
"The Robots of Death" references the Uncanny Valley effect in the form of "Grimwade's Syndrome", (named after Peter Grimwade, a production assistant who always complained about having to do robot-themed episodes) a mental disorder whose sufferers subconsciously equate highly humanoid robots with animated corpses; the robots in that particular story looked just slightly less human than the animatronic dummies on a Disneyland ride, but the idea of being surrounded by human-sized creatures with emotionless and immobile features is unpleasant enough that the audience could easily accept it.
The Fifth Doctor's companion Kamelion, played by a real robot. He's supposed to be fun, but is just terrifying.
The clockwork robots from "The Girl in the Fireplace". Even more so in "Deep Breath", when they are not cogs and glass in debonair masquerade apparel, but made of scavenged human scraps. Especially the Half-Face Man, who is played by both an actor wearing green screen technology on the left half of his face to appear like part of it is hollow and mechanical, and an even creepier realistic animatronic.
The animated episode 'Dreamland' has a crude, stiff style of CG that makes it look unfinished and creepy.
Jack Harkness evokes this for the Doctor as a living fixed point in time, "a fact", which his Time Lord instincts balk at.
"Voyage of the Damned" not only had the Host, robotic creatures made to look like gold angels (when they're not killing you with their halos), but at the end of the episode, Max Capricorn is revealed to be no more than a head attached to a box-like wheelchair that keeps him alive.
In "The Lodger", there was a very strange picture on a wall... and it didn't have anything to do with the episode. You could see a cameraman in the reflection on it, though.
The gangers definitely fall into this, especially when they melt... like the fake Melody Pond baby does.
The George Lopez Show, of all shows, has this in George's childhood flashbacks, which take the head of adult George and paste it onto his childhood body.
Naturally, it's because they actually "integrated" the head onto child George's body, rather than doing a cheap photoshop AFV-style.
Parodied brilliantly on the live action show 30 Rock as the reason why it is impossible to do a porn video game... and then the game Tracy made went on to make $300 million. He apparently figured out a way to avoid the valley after all.
Torquemada Software's Video Strip Poker avoids this trope by using actual video clips of actresses.
The abundance of nudity mods for popular PC video games seems to indicate that people aren't so creeped out by that as they should be.
And of course, this explanation in a way even Tracy Jordan can understand:
The miniseries adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (the one starring Bob Hoskins) subtly uses this one to make the Australopithacines distinctly creepy.
LazyTown. Specifically some of the human characters and their prosthetics. Not to mention that Robbie Rotten looks just a little too close to Bruce Campbell. Heck, is Robbie Rotten even human, or puppet? He looks so human, but human skin and hair aren't glossy like that!
The three creepiest characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer are generally considered to be Gnarl, the Gentlemen, and Sid. The first two by virtue of exaggerated and odd movement, and the last due to being a self-animating ventriloquist's dummy.
The "lead" Gentleman, played by Doug Jones, famous for the equally creepy performance as "The Pale Man" (also known as 'the creepy guy with eyes on his hands') in Pan's Labyrinth as well as the faun. Also the creepy "Angel of Death" (also known as 'the creepy guy with eyes on his wings'. is there a pattern here?) and much less creepy Abe Sapien from the Hellboy movies. As a trained mime and body artist he clearly excels at placing himself smack in the middle of the Uncanny Valley.
Perhaps even more notable to Buffy fans is that actor Camden Toy portrayed both the Gentlemen and Gnarl, as well as the Übervamps let loose by the First in Season 7, and the Prince of Lies in an episode of Angel. Other notable roles include Creepy Guy, Red (described in the casting announcement only as "tall" and "evil"), and Fresh Dead/Dead Raoul. Not that he's experiencing any Type Casting.
April the Robot from I Was Made To Love You. She's an in-universe example, as the main characters all slowly realize there is something wrong with the super-cheery way she talks, the way she walks, and eventually her huge amounts of strength.
Played with with Warren's second creation, the Buffybot. Though it has the same problems as April, her friends fail to realize they're talking to a robot, merely thinking that their friend that they've known for years is behaving oddly for some reason, until Buffy herself shows up.
However it doesn't completely qualify as Max is played by a live actor (although at the time, this fact was underplayed in the media as a fiction that Max was an actual CG construct was maintained for a while, though this was dropped once the TV series started and the actor started to become known on his own merits).
Human form replicators definitely qualify. They look perfectly human, and even come off as human for the first thirty seconds they appear in the series. But soon it becomes pretty clear that there's something off. Fifth comes off as much more human and is (originally at least) a sympathetic character as a result.
A very good example is FRAN, the replicator created by Rodney McKay in Stargate Atlantis. She acts perfectly human, friendly, yet is willing to completely obey orders (meaning suicide) and is even slightly enthusiastic about it. It is very much the Uncanny Valley. The notable thing is that she is actually unsettling to the other characters (such as McKay himself) because of this, too.
Another Atlantis example is the first few appearances of the Wraith. In an attempt to avert Rubber-Forehead Aliens, their eyes and mouths were noticeably slightly too big (apparently with CGI), leading powerfully to this effect. It was apparently too creepy, or else just too expensive, and they abandoned it later on.
Mr. Data, the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation, sometimes slips a little ways down the right side of the Valley — though, as he's played by a person, he never gets very far down. Though the grimace-lockjaw-rictus-smile he had during the dancing scene in "Data's Day" greased the slope quite effectively. This trope was cited in all but name when it was revealed to Data that he was designed to not perfectly mimic humans as it tended to creep people out.
Switching him off also had this effect, though for the opposite reason (the character we were expected to believe was a machine looked disturbingly human when he was deactivated and effectively, dead.)
Of course, since Data spent so much time out of the Valley, the scene makes the audience sympathize with him and make Riker look like a jerkass. Turns out he felt like one too.
Which may be a big reason why the Amargosa scene in Star Trek: Generations wigged out a lot of people. Especially when his emotion chip overloaded and he couldn't stop laughing.
In the episode Clues", everyone on the ship but Data is knocked unconscious after going through a wormhole. He tells them they were out for only a few seconds, but strange hints that he may be lying begin to appear. Picard gets increasingly frustrated as he — and the audience — realize just how hard it is to figure out what's going on inside Data's head, and how unsettling that can be.
Data's relationship with the Uncanny Valley is nicely illustrated when contrasted with his brother/prototype Lore. Lore had more human qualities than Data, including emotions and the ability to express them.... but this only made him unpredictable and dangerous to be around. As a result, Lore comes off as too human, with his emotions not matching up at all with what's happening around him, and it creeps out the audience. In response, Dr. Soong constructed Data to replace Lore and consciously dialed back the human qualities so he's be approachable and polite, keeping Data out of the valley.
"Brothers" is another episode where Data's inhumanity was brought into sharp focus. For reasons that only become clear later, he suddenly seizes control of the ship and pilots it by himself to an unknown star system. The frightening ease with which he accomplishes this — the entire rest of the crew are essentially powerless to stop him — and his blank expression throughout (even as a child's life is threatened by his actions) can be very disturbing.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo's face slips into uncanny valley. As a Changeling shapeshifter, Odo normally takes the form of a humanoid man, but he has difficulty mimicking humanoid facial details. The result is that his face has very blunted features with unrealistically smooth skin. Fortunately, he does not seem to trigger an uncanny valley response in the other characters.
In Star Trek: Voyager, one could infer this is the reason why the Emergency Medical Hologram ended up being an utter failure. It seems that Starfleet crews found it difficult to trust medical care in someone "not real" and would often forget they were a sentient, self-aware hologram, leading them to treat them as though they were not even there. They also seem to have been designed a little too lifelike for people's tastes; the EMH Mk 1 was too pompous, while its replacement, the EMH Mk 2 was scathingly sarcastic, etc. As of "Life-line", the Doctor's creator reveals they were up to a Mk 4 and still running into this problem.
"Know a lot of people, kid. Don't know you. Anyone ever heard of John Connor?"
Also from the finale: "You're building Skynet". "No. I was building something to fight it."
"Will you join us?" Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles sometimes slips into the Uncanny Valley, such as one scene where she perfectly repeats a deceased classmate's last words, word-for-word and inflection-for-inflection. In another, equally disturbing example, while she is being crushed between two trucks, her face is covered in cuts and burns, and her head is being sliced open, she starts talking to John in a completely normal tone of voice that shifts into frantic pleading and crying just like a normal person.
A program on the Military Channel about the Gettysburg Address features a mix of live actors, with a mostly-to-completely CGI Abraham Lincoln. The CGI Lincoln squarely falls into the Uncanny Valley.
David Lynch filmed several scenes in Twin Peaks within the Black Lodge. All the apparitions in the lodge were characters who did their scenes, all speech and movement backwards. Then the filmed result was played in reverse, giving all the action an unsettling tone.
For Tony's stag party on Coronation Street, they all wore "Tony" masks - flat unmoving faces with little cutout eyes peering out.
For some, the Generic Man sim used to illustrate animal traits on The Most Extreme avoids this by being just slightly cartoonish, especially the goofy surprised looks whenever he gets overrun by something. In other cases, this cartoonish defiance from a normal human's appearance drives this into the deepest part of uncanny valley.
Though he doesn't play an alien, robot, or supernatural creature, Michael Emerson's performance of Ben Linus in Lost has a hint of Uncanny Valley, as one of his techniques he uses to achieve his magnetically compelling creepiness. He sometimes goes for a long time without blinking, then blinks very slowly at a carefully chosen moment.
"Floyd", the agent from "Department 44" in the NUMB3RS episode "Dreamland". He looked perfectly human, but his effect was rather like an android with a better-than-average speech program. The bouts of "invisible cell phone" had some viewers looking for the spinning blue ring, and the tendency toward Stealth Hi/Bye (Amita called it "materializing") just added to the weird factor. You would think that an agent with such a secretive group would want to blend more.
One episode of the season 5 of Criminal Minds has the title "The Uncanny Valley". Young women are abducted and paralyzed before being transformed into living dolls, giving them a surreal look. The creepiest part is that the eyes are often shown, being the only thing that they can still move.
For those of you crazycurious, hereare◊ some pictures. Sorry, they somewhat overlap...
Though not alive (or meant to be alive), Buster from MythBusters fame falls squarely into this category, considering all of the things Adam and Jamie have done to him to get a more "human" response out of him during tests, including giving him a "spine", "brain", and even breakable "bones" for testing injury. Special mention goes out to the "death balls" used for the Plywood Builder myth, which shatter upon a lethal impact, releasing stage blood. All used for effect, of course.
This also came up in a myth testing Latex Perfection. Even after getting the best masks money could buy, Adam and Jamie couldn't convincingly fool anybody unless they stood at a distance and didn't speak. Even complete strangers pointed out that upon closer inspection, something wasn't quite right about the faces they were looking at and they quickly deduced what was going on. Oddly enough, they apparently did fool someone: Jamie's dog. Because it did fool people at a decent distance (30 feet), even fellow MythBuster Grant Imahara, it was called "plausible".
In the American version of Big Brother, at least once a season, often a veto later in the game, producers take pictures of the contestants (it can be any of them) and then morph them together into one picture. The houseguests in the competition then have to identify which two houseguests's facial features are represented in the picture. It can sometimes actually be a bit funny, such as in 10 where the one featuring Jerry (who was in his 70s) was morphed together with another houseguest significantly younger than him was described as a "Demon", or rather disturbing when you see Laura in 11's mouth look significantly bigger than the rest of the face.
One episode of Wife Swap featured a New Jersey woman as one of the wives who owned a huge and ever-growing collection of reborn baby dolls. She is shown carrying out a daily routine of brushing their hair, changing their diapers, and carrying them around with her constantly. She even brought one of them with her to her swap family's home, and the wife of the other family was understandably freaked out when she encountered the dolls.
The first appearance of the Drakh in Babylon 5 were mouthless ghost-like creatures with glowing eyes that appeared distorted as though they were only partly in one place. They were later changed to be Rubber-Forehead Aliens with a reptilian look, and future appearances of the mouthless "soldier" caste Drakh were more rendered solid rather than distorted.
Series three of Merlin features an elderly version of Merlin, portrayed by Colin Morgan in age make-up. Eerily realistic age make-up. The effect is... unnerving.◊
The educational children's show Téléfrançais has a rather...erm...uncanny puppet character named Pilote. If you're curious, start watching around 4:45 on the first episode.
The mascot from Community falls under this trope. Having been designed to have no ethically distinguishing features, it ended up being an androgynous White Mask of Doom.
On the show River Monsters, host Jeremy Wade investigated some attacks on people in Papua New Guinea. One victim told him it felt like a person was biting him. Wade eventually catches the culprit, a fish called a pacu. Native to South America, the pacu were imported about fifteen years earlier and had seriously disrupted the ecosystem. Though related to piranhas, pacu were herbivores, and their flat teeth were normally used for crushing seeds and nuts. After being transplanted, though, they were unable to find enough of their regular diet and had expanded to meat-eating, including, apparently, humans. (They were far too small to eat a human whole, but could bite off chunks, including some... painful areas.) When Wade catches a big one, he pulls back its lips to reveal the teeth, which at that size were eerily human-looking.
Space: Above and Beyond features the Silicates, robots who, based on outward appearance, are nearly indistinguishable from humans, except for three things:
All Silicates (even the Sex Bot models) have crosshairs for eyes.
The odd physical tics and the occasional st-st-stuttering of speech.
The opening theme to Here's Lucy has always been somewhat freaky.
Walking with Cavemen's human ancestors, who are actually People in Rubber Suits. Especially Australopithecus, because they are supposed to look weird, but their human proportions make them just slightly less weird than they should.
Gerry Anderson's puppets for Thunderbirds and other shows are creepy - Peter Cook and Dudley Moore doing a live-action parody are even creepier. Or funnier.
The creepiness of Gerry Anderson's puppets arguably reached new levels with the 80s series Terrahawks. The tried-and-tested "supermarionation" puppetry technique was swapped out for the newer "supermacromation", and these new puppets somehow managed to look even more disturbing than anything that Thunderbirds and its ilk could produce (they looked a lot more realistic than the older puppets, but there was still something distinctly "off" about them). See the intro for yourself here.
The History Channel documentary Ancients Behaving Badly focuses on famous historical figures, forensically reconstructing their personalities (pathologies and all). Unfortunately, these segments always include a CGI rendering of the subject's face — which more often than not looks like an embalmed Gelfling that wants to dine on your tasty, tasty soul.
In the live-action The Fairly Oddparents movie, Timmy's mom and dad are this. Despite being real people, they act a bit too cartoonish.
In the Japanese comedy show Vermillion Pleasure Night, the viewers are given Cathy's House.
Rainbow, the British answer to Sesame Street, features two muppets who look perfectly alright...yet Bungle, a guy in a suit, falls right into the Uncanny Valley with his realistic movements and his unfortunate design.
Speaking of The Muppets proper, most Muppets steer far clear of the valley because of their obviously exaggerated portions and colorful cartoonish looks. But every now and then one will be introduced that is just a little too human while not being human enough, and it'll creep people out. The character of Digit from the "MuppeTelevision" segments of The Jim Henson Hour is a prime example, often topping lists of creepiest Muppets; the bug eyes that are not open fully and barely moving mouth while at the same time having an otherwise human facial proportion is just disturbing. Chip as well, who is also from The Jim Henson Hour, tends to fall into this category. Much like Digit, he has huge bulging eyes but with an odd blinking mechanism that cause his pupils to occasionally flicker. This ended up being Played for Laughs in The Muppets as the rest of the Muppet characters also seem to find him unsetting or awkward.
The majority of Power Rangers villains were far enough away from human that this rarely applied, but any time they veered toward human-like, they hit this full-force. Take, for example, Madame Woe◊ or Lipsyncher.◊
Sliders has a Big Bad in the form of the Kromaggs. The first time they appeared, they were just sufficiently not-quite-human to make them uncomfortable to look at. Subsequent returns of the Kromaggs make them look more human.
CSI: NY has an uncomfortably zombie-like woman who's lying comatose in a hospital in the first episode "Blink".
Played for Laughs in the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch, "The Merryville Brothers", which features a trio of animatronic musicians (played by cast members) that engage in increasingly creepy activities towards couples trapped on their rides, usually culminating in trying to kill or harass the riders in an over-the-top manner.
On Extant John says that the uncanny valley issue is not with his robots' appearance (which he's solved, as they cannot be outwardly distinguished from humans'). Rather it's their behavior, which is still inhuman.
An aural rather than visual example from season 2 of Game of Thrones. Daenerys' baby dragons sound JUST enough like human infants to make their cries of fear extremely disconcerting.
In the Black Mirror story "Be Right Back", a woman buys an artificial meat effigy of her dead husband coded with a facsimile of his personality based on his social media posts. It starts to have this effect on her after a while, when she begins to pick up on things like the fact that he doesn't breathe, and that instead of sleeping he lies next to her with his eyes open, and how the pores and creases on his skin are completely two-dimensional and 'bump-mapped'.
Advertisements for a company named Persona Synthetics, which provide realistic-looking synthetic servants to look over your family, appeared in British newspapers and aired on Channel 4 in mid-May 2015, which drew a lot of comments on Twitter from people freaked out by it. It turned out to be a marketing ploy for an upcoming TV show, Humans, and the synthetics in the ad were just actors.
The AMC series Humans is built on this trope. All the Synths look almost exactly like normal people, but there's all sorts of little details that remind you that they're not - unnatural eye colors, overly smooth and shiny glossy skin, etc.
One episode of The Librarians 2014 has the team chasing down a shapeshifter called Hoklonote, which impersonates other people, but has a tendency to break out into an inhumanly wide grin.
The Roidmudes in Kamen Rider Drive are supposed to evoke this trope, although all are played by regular actors. Chase, with his expressionless face and unnaturally wide purple eyes, is the most prominent example.