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Human Aliens / Live-Action TV

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Due to generally having a lower budget than film but still being live-acted, Human Aliens are a tried and true way for live-action TV to avoid the immersion break of Special Effects Failure and the heavy makeup of Rubber-Forehead Aliens — especially with main characters.

  • The aliens on 3rd Rock from the Sun mention a few times that they've taken on human form and describe their natural form as being "purple tubes". They seem to have picked their human bodies from a catalogue. Vicki's son Eric, fathered by the Big Giant Head in his human guise, looks like a perfectly ordinary human baby and is rejected by the tabloids because Vicki didn't even try to make him look more "alien".
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  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete usually stuck to Magical Realism or surrealism rather than out-and-out science fiction, but the special "Space, Geeks, and Johnny Unitas" revealed that Joe Jones was in fact an alien, presumably from Alpha Centauri.
  • The Aliens: A colony of aliens descended from those who crashed on Earth decades ago, their species look exactly like humans and the modern generation speak English as their first language, although there are some minor biological differences which can be detected to give them away, the main one being their hair can be smoked as a drug by humans but has no effect on themselves. They can even interbreed with humans although this is frowned upon by both sides.
  • Animorphs did this most of the time with Ax and Visser Three, keeping them in human morph for budget reasons (their natural forms being blue centaurs with scorpion tails and antennae topped by extra eyes). It was a lot more common than in the books.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Centauri look outwardly exactly like humans, except for their barely noticeable Cute Little Fangs. They also have distinctive hairstyles - the men wear their hair in fans like peacock tails and the women shave their heads - but this is a cultural difference rather than a physical one. However, beneath the surface they have Bizarre Alien Biology - double hearts, lack of major blood vessels in the wrists, and very different genitalia (the men have six tentacles and the women have six orifices along their spines).
    • This was lampshaded in the first episode, where it is revealed that, after encountering humans for the first time, the sneaky Centauri claimed that their physical similarity was due to Earth being a long-forgotten Centauri colony. Human scientists, no doubt keeping the fossil record in mind, got hold of some Centauri DNA and disproved this claim. The Centauri saved face by claiming "clerical error" had mislabelled Earth as a lost colony.
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  • Battlestar Galactica: It's revealed during the finale that the show is set in the distant past, and the United Colonies of Kobol were populated by Human Aliens who found Earth's humans in a primitive tribal state. They and the surviving humanoid Cylons settled there and blended into the general population after giving up their technology. Convergent evolution is Turned Up to Eleven, even linguistically. The Colonials are even miraculously capable of interbreeding with the Earth humans. Earth itself ends up being named after a different planet also called Earth, which was colonized earlier.
  • Blake's 7:
    • So you're watching B7 and you find yourself wondering whether the very-human looking primitive tribe on this episode's guest planet are alien humanoids or descendants of a lost human colony? Don't bother thinking about it that hard. The series itself even lampshaded this in the 4th season:
      Vila: Everyone came from Earth originally. That's a well-known fact.
      Soolin: It's a well-known opinion, actually.
      Tarrant: Most well known facts are.
    • Various ideas were put forward in development for making Cally look alien, including red skin and black eyes. In the event, they used none of them. Even the writers became confused over whether her telepathy was because Cally was an alien or from genetic engineering.
  • Doctor Who did this more times than can be counted.
    • The most famous examples are, of course, the Doctor himself and the other Time Lords. Their most noticeable physiological differences (two hearts, 60-degree Fahrenheit body temperature, a far more complex brain structure, a respiratory bypass system, "symbiotic nuclei" in their cellular structure, and whatever organs or systems are responsible for their ability to regenerate) were effectively invisible to the television viewer. Whether these are universal racial traits for Gallifreyans or only possessed by the ruling class of full Time Lords (as well as whether that's a real distinction) varies Depending on the Writer.
      • In fact, right at the very beginning, the Doctor was so human he was even Ambiguously Human. He tells Ian and Barbara that he is "not of this race", but refers to himself as a "human being" in "The Sensorites" and "The Savages". "The Power of the Daleks" is the first story that really explores him being non-human, such as dealing with the fallout of his recent regeneration and revealing things like his absurdly long lifespan.
      • The Fourth Doctor tells Sarah Jane at one point when she's wondering at this that although he looks human to her, other species can quite easily tell them on sight as two separate species.
      • The Expanded Universe once explained this as being the result of Rassilon, one of the three founders of Time Lord society and a xenophobic megalomaniac note  deciding that the Time Lord form was supreme and going around the universe to infect species with a virus that would cause them to evolve into humanoid forms.
      • The Expanded Universe also explained this via a different route. The Time Lords evolved first out of all sentient species. Therefore, the morphic resonance of Time Lord-ness propagated throughout the universe.
      • A lampshade was hung in the Easter 2009 special "Planet of the Dead". A similar conversation between Amy and the Doctor was repeated in "The Beast Below", the following year.
        Christina: You look human.
        The Doctor: You look Time Lord.
      • A DVD-exclusive scene bridging "The Eleventh Hour" and "The Beast Below" lampshades it further: Amy hypothesizes that the Doctor's a tiny little slug in a human suit. The Doctor is not amused.
      • A similar situation appears in the two-parter "Aliens of London"/"World War Three", where Mickey and Jackie wonder if the Doctor isn't just wearing a human suit like the Slitheen.
      • It's occasionally implied that a Time Lord can regenerate into a non-human-looking formnote , but we've never actually seen it happen on the show.
    • This comes up in the classic series as well, most notably in 1973's "Carnival of Monsters", where a travelling Lurman showman named Vorg remarks upon the strong resemblance between his species and the human race (known to him as Tellurians):
      Vorg: These creatures are Tellurians, a species discovered in a distant galaxy. Scientists have been amazed at the remarkable similarity between these little chaps and our own dominant lifeform.
      Orum: The resemblance is unpleasant.
      Vorg: These are the only Tellurians in captivity. Some scientists think that their discovery refutes Valdek's theory that life in the universe is infinitely variable.
    • Thals and Kaleds look like humans. "The Stolen Earth" reveals that they have fewer ribs than humans and Bizarre Alien Biology, though.
      • According to the audio drama I, Davros: Corruption, Kaleds and Thals were separate species who both evolved (on the same planet, obviously) to a humanoid form as that is the optimum biological form for Earth-like planet. One of the novels in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe made a similar claim about all human like species which may or may not contradict the explanation given above relating to the Time Lords.
      • It's probable that in-universe science assumes that the human form is optimal, since every species seems to evolve into it. When actually every species evolves into it because the Time Lords engineered it to be so.
    • The Solonians in "The Mutants" are human aliens, but only some of the time. Their Bizarre Alien Biology means that they have a metamorphic life-cycle, and at other times, they look like human-sized insects, and at others, glowing, hovering angelic beings.
    • The Fifth Doctor had quite a few non-Time Lord Human Alien companions, to the point where it gets a bit of a Lampshade Hanging in "Four to Doomsday". Tegan mentions that she's human, and their alien hosts ask if the rest of them are too. The Doctor has to correct them that, no, he's from Gallifrey, Nyssa is from Traken and Adric is from Alzarius. Turlough from Trion joins the TARDIS the following season, just to top it all off.
    • "Smith and Jones": The Plasmavore externally appears human, which helps her blend in with the people in the hospital, although, as the Judoon don't know what she looks like, this appearance could be part of a disguise. The Doctor, meanwhile, uses his Human Alien status against her by tricking her into thinking he's human and drinking his blood to try and hide from the Judoon's species scanners.
    • In the 2007 Christmas special, "Voyage of the Damned", everyone seen on board the Titanic (a starship moulded into a replica of the 1912 ship) apart from two cyborgs are indistinguishable from humans, yet know very little about Earth culture, even the self-proclaimed Earth expert.
      • Somewhat justified however, with the revelation that Max Capricorn chose the name Titanic on purpose, betting on the people of Sto being so ignorant of Earth culture that the name wouldn't raise any alarm bells, allowing him to collect the insurance when the ship tragically crashed. The Earth "expert" similarly admits he's a fraud and just Signed Up for the Dental.
    • "The Girl Who Waited": It's implied that the Apalapucians are this. When Amy winds up trapped in a facility for Apalapucians with the dreaded One-Day Plague, the medical robots cannot tell that she is not the same species as the facility's intended patients. The one thing known about them is that they, like Time Lords, have two hearts.
    • Nardole, the secondary companion of series 10, is one of these. He's also a cyborg with human lungs, due to the Doctor having to rebuild him after the events of "The Husbands of River Song". His species, however, is unknown.
    • Played with on the spin-off series Class, in which Rhodian Charlie and Ms. Quill the Quill both look entirely human, as do other Rhodians seen in flashbacks. However, both refugee aliens' appearance is actually something else entirely, and the "flashbacks" are implied to be merely how Charlie's human friends, who don't know his race's true appearance, imagine the past events he's recounting. There's a brief moment in the first episode where Charlie and Quill's true appearances are seen.
    • "The Ghost Monument": The three guest stars, Angstrom, Epzo and Ilin, are all different species of this. None of them have ever heard of either humans or Earth before.
    • "The Tsuranga Conundrum": The Gifftans, Yoss' species. The primary difference between them and humans shown in the episode is their Bizarre Alien Reproduction, where both sexes can get pregnant, males with males and females with females.
    • "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos": Paltraki and his crew. They represent the Council of the Nine Worlds, and Paltraki doesn't recognize the name of Earth when Yaz mentions it to him.
    • "Praxeus": Suki Cheng turns out to belong to an unnamed human-looking alien species that came to Earth to develop a cure for the titular disease. The Doctor doesn't even realize that she isn't human until tipped off, despite herself being a Human Alien.
  • Eerie, Indiana: In "The Loyal Order of Corn", Ned belongs to an alien species who, while very long lived, are identical to humans except for the presence of "+" and "-" signs on their hands, just like Dash X's. Ned admits that he does not know the meaning of the signs, which long predate his civilization.
  • The Skelecians in the 2000s remake of The Electric Company look human. However, they each have a ring around their neck, supposedly to define them from the normal humans.
  • The aliens in The Event are distinguished from humans only by their longer lifespans and certain undescribed "skeletal and serological abnormalities". The latter are pronounced enough that a blood test will reveal them, and one plants himself with a tube of human blood to avoid arousing suspicions during a blood test. A DNA test will also reveal them, and dogs sometimes bark at them.
    • They are able to interbreed with humans, though.
  • On Farscape, several races look like humans, except for strange colored eyes or hair or (sometimes) skin. Which makes them all Rubber-Forehead Aliens, but the Sebaceans look exactly like humans, despite having a considerably different biology. Eventually, this is explained: In The Peacekeeper Wars, we learn that the Sebaceans actually *are* humans, taken from Earth by the Eidelons 27,000 years ago and genetically modified to a much higher level of evolution to serve as an interstellar police force. There are a few that may be additional examples or may be Sebacean offshoots, since it's either not specified or is debated in-universe.
    • A one-off race called the Yenen looked exactly like humans with the exception that their women look like human men. It was never clarified if the reverse was also true.
  • In the 2007 Sci-Fi Channel version of Flash Gordon, Flash calls the inhabitants of Mongo "aliens" even though they look entirely human and speak English (which is lampshaded, but not explained).
  • Lexx: Humans evolved independently in both universes and on multiple planets. Technically all the characters are human aliens until the fourth season, which takes place on modern-day Earth.
  • Most of the aliens encounter by the Robinsons in Lost in Space, to the point that some look exactly like cultures from Earth, like the Vikings.
  • The Middleman gives us the Manicoids, who are just human-looking enough to pass for plastic surgery victims; and the Clotharians, who look like human teenagers or young adults (the odd man out being High/Maximum Aldwin, who appears as a humanoid adult).
  • Mork, from Mork & Mindy. He was even able to have a kid with Mindy (although he was the one who laid the egg, and the kid was middle-aged Jonathan Winters.)
  • Odyssey 5 had Synthetics, which were human bodies created by artificial intelligences. At one stage the team consult a sci-fi writer, pretending they're looking for help with a sci-fi novel. The writer complains how cliched the idea of Synthetics is: "It's just a cheap tool TV shows use to save on special effects!"
  • The Orville: The species in "Mad Idolatry" are nearly identical to humans. Xelayans are also very close, though far stronger than human beings. As a matter of fact, the Sarguns of Sargus 4 in "Majority Rule" all have an extremely identical appearance to the humans of 21st century Earth.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Starcrossed", the Hing, who invaded Earth in 2050, are completely human in appearance. However, their skin glows blue at times of high emotion.
  • People of Earth has the Nordics, or "White" aliens as one of the three species of the Trinity Federation along with The Greys and Reptilian "Greens". The most notable being Don, who's played by a Swedish comedian and looks like Legolas.
  • Power Rangers / Super Sentai:
    • Power Rangers in particular really abuses this trope, invoking it for more or less anyone who isn't a rubber-forehead-alien or a robot-ish thingy. They even stated that aliens can be human, but they never explained how the same species can exist in multiple planets.
    Andros: Earth isn't the only place where humans live.
    • Largely averted in Power Rangers S.P.D., which had a city populated with aliens from various planets. While producers used a few rubber-forehead aliens, nearly all the aliens in human form (except for Mora/Morgana) masqueraded as such. Producers used everything from old monster suits to complicated appliances and animatronics to accomplish this.
    • The five initial team members of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger are space pirates who hail from various worlds, and yet are all effectively human. Their Ascended Fanboy Sixth Ranger is a genuine human, from Earth. Power Rangers Super Megaforce reversed this.
    • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger mostly follows in Gokaiger's footsteps, with five obviously human members. However, there are four other members of the team, one of whom is a humanoid alien wolfman and the other 3 are all humanoid robots of the "Rubber Suit Alien" variety.
      • Then the Sixth Ranger s come in skewing the balance to five human looking aliens, five rangers in suits and TWO HUMANS.
  • The four alien kids from Roswell who looked human, but prettier. It's gradually established that they are actually traditional Roswell greys in human form. The thing is, they assumed these forms before exploring outside their crashed spaceship as children. The reason they knew to do so was later Handwaved by explaining they are Half Human Hybrids. Whew!
  • Roswell, New Mexico also began with superficially human aliens trying to live undercover in society, though it seems to be diverging a bit from its predecessor series. We do know that, no matter how human they look on the outside, very obvious differences are seen as soon as they are opened up or their cells examined.
  • Sliders gives a rare non-extraterrestrial example. The Kromaggs are hominids, who have evolved from a more aggressive species of ape. While their name hints at their relation to the Cro-Magnon, this is false (in fact, we have evolved from the Cro-Magnon). Their home Earth, dubbed Kromagg Prime, is home to both humans and Kromaggs, although the humans have managed to kick all the Kromaggs out of their Earth and locked it down to prevent the Kromaggs' return (unfortunately, the attempt also trashed the planet's environment). Only one other known parallel Earth produced Kromaggs (dubbed Kromagg Double Prime), but this version of the species is docile and has been hunted nearly to extinction by that world's humans. The Kromaggs are physically strong, bald, have sharp teeth, and possess Psychic Powers. They are able to interbreed with humans, producing so-called "Humaggs", which have features of both races, including Psychic Powers.
  • In Smallville, Clark and any Kryptonian, of course. Martian Manhunter also uses a completely human form for 99.9% of the time. All the Phantom Zone escapees are aliens, and some are excused because they are possessing humans, but the rest still look mightily like humans. In fact, throughout the ten seasons of Smallville, there has not been a single alien without a human form.
  • A nice Hand Wave comes from the TV show Something Is Out There. "God created human beings in his image, right? How many images do you think he has?"
  • Stargate-verse:
    • In Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, the "humans" in Pegasus and the Ori galaxy were seeded by the Ancients and Ori through genetic engineering, and are not directly descended from them, despite the use of the term "ancestors" in Pegasus. The humans on Earth presumably came about the same way. Humans were not seeded on any other Milky Way planet: the Goa'uld brought them to those worlds from Earth.
    • There are a few occasions where the trope is played straight, however. First are the Jaffa, a race that is genetically engineered to house infant Gao'uld in a pouch in their bellies. Aside from this pouch they are indistinguishable from humans. Unless you count the tattoos on their foreheads. The there's the Nox, who can only be differentiated from humans by their big, poofy hair. There's also the one-shot race from SG-1: "One False Step", who look like humans with white paint smeared all over their bodies. Finally, Aris Boch, a one-shot Bounty Hunter from SG-1: "Dead Man Switch", looks completely human on the outside, but has Alien Blood and something about his species, identified in the RPG as the Ilempiri, renders them immune to Goa'uld infestation. The snakes wiped most of them out because of it.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Due to budget constraints, any non-Monster of the Week and non-Rubber-Forehead Alien would likely be one of these. The Klingons (before they were turned into Rubber-Forehead Aliens) looked like rather swarthy humans with upswept eyebrows, the Halkans looked like humans with blue dots on their foreheads, the Organians spent most of their time in a totally humanoid form despite being made of pure energy, and all alien cultures that bore a suspicious resemblance to periods of Earth history had aliens that bore a suspicious resemblance to humans from that period of history.
    • One comment by Spock during the first season suggested that his species and many other humanoids were created by a superior race and it was part of his planet's mythology. This explanation seems to have been dropped in favor of one in which a race of Precursors seeded DNA with code to create humanoids in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The show attempted to provide an explanation for the prominence of humanoid species (both Human Aliens and Rubber-Forehead Aliens) in the universe by revealing that there was a common ancestor race that "seeded" the galaxy with its basic genetic material. They switched to exclusively using Rubber-Forehead Aliens rather than Human Aliens after the first few seasons (excluding Guinan's people, the El-Aurians and Councelor Troi's, the Betazoids — sort of, the Betazoids are very subtle Rubber-Forehead Aliens (or rather, Coloured Lenses Aliens)).
    • An episode of Next Generation, "Code of Honor", tried to reverse the White Aliens trap by giving us a planet where the aliens all looked human, but African. The results are generally agreed to be staggeringly racist, and to have turned a mediocre episode into one of the worst of the entire franchise. It didn't help that the director for the episode decided to pile on as many Darkest Africa cliches as humanly possible even though the script didn't remotely support it. (The script didn't call for the aliens to be any particular colour at all, except for the guards. Turning them into a darkest-Africa Planet of Hats was the director's terrible idea.)
    • "Who Watches the Watchers" has a Vulcan Aliens example; a race that happens to resemble the franchise's Space Elves. (It's implied that they may be related to Vulcans and, at the end of the episode, seem to be taking a turn toward Vulcan logic.)
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • Kes, one of the crew members, is an Ocampa, which generally look almost exactly like humans.
    • There are a few Human Aliens in its first season, too, mainly wearing strange and colorful national dress.
    • Oddly this is inverted by a species encountered by Voyager that look sufficiently lizard like but turn out to be, while not human, from Earth!
  • Supernatural uses this a lot. Their special effects budget is limited, so many exotic monsters conveniently take on human-looking forms, including dragons and phoenixes in the "mother of monsters" arc.
  • The Croutonians in the 90's sitcom They Came From Outer Space are also indistinguishable from human except for their inner biology like eating tons of food and producing smoke during coitus.
  • Cole and possibly (but not for certain) Zin in Tracker. The rest were alien life forces inhabiting human bodies. Even Cole took human from from an underwear ad. They later encounter the male model who posed for the picture.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In the episode "Third from the Sun" appeared to show two families preparing to escape to a planet of Human Aliens. At the end it is revealed that they are the Human Aliens and the planet they are traveling to is Earth.
    • At least half of all the aliens look human, sometimes from budget and/or 60s special effects limitations, sometimes for the "they're aliens, and the 'aliens' were humans" reveal, such as The Invaders, Probe 7: Over and Out...
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • "A Small Talent for War" features a race who sowed humanity on Earth in the distant past, and so humans look like punier versions of them.
    • In "The Wall", Baret's people, who live on a Paradise Planet far from Earth, are identical to humans.
  • Ultra Series:
    • The movie Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends revealsnote  that the Ultramen living on M78 were identical to humans in the past, only morphing into their current appearance when the artificial sun they created to replace their dying star enveloped them in immensely powerful light energy. Some Ultras such as Ultraseven, Ultraman Leo, and Ultraman Mebius possess the ability to assume human identities of their own, in contrast to others who simply take human hosts. It's also the reason why they protect humans because Earthlings remind the Ultramen of their past selves.
    • A number of other aliens (both malevolent and benevolent) in the franchise look exactly like humans, but it's often ambiguous whether they are simply using a disguise (like many aliens in the Ultraman franchise are capable of) or actually are Human Aliens. Yuko Minami, female co-host of Ultraman Ace, was revealed to be one of a species from the Moon in Episode 28 of the series.
  • Pax and Crona from Vintergatan both look human, but with three differences — they constantly crave sugar, their hair changes colour depending on their emotions, and they make quick, pig-like noises when they're upset. Strangely enough, only Pax shows the two last signs, leading one to believe that it's either an Informed Ability for Crona, or he's just so slick he never changes emotion from 'groovy'.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place played this with the aliens who land at Waverly Place in the episode "Wizard For A Day" to steal Jerry's milkshake machine who wear silver suits and have dealy-bobs coming out of their heads, but otherwise look just like us. You'd probably see weirder things on an average day in New York.

Aversions and subversions:

  • Babylon 5:
    • The Vorlons are so alien looking that for the first two seasons we don't know how much of them is clothing and how much is their real body. Their true form appears to be some kind of energy being, but every species perceives a Vorlon to look like their species' version of an angel — it is suggested that this is the result of the ancient Vorlons having not only genetically tweaked the other species, but also appeared to them as angels at appropriate times in their respective development, creating a basis for the legends, taking advantage of them, or both.
    • After First Contact the Centauri initially claimed that humanity was an offshoot species derived from an ancient colony of theirs. This was proven false when the Earth Alliance managed to get hold of a sample of Centauri DNA; the Centauri called it a mistake due to a clerical error. (The human reaction amounted to, "Ha ha, very funny.")
  • In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the trio of alien party boys, who occasionally pop in, look human enough, but they're actually in disguise. They give themselves away by eating with their butts.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had a weird variation once: apparently, it's not just humans that have doubles. "Who Watches the Watchers?" features an alien species that are physically identical to Vulcans (or at least Romulans, who are basically Vulcans with a ridge to make them distinct from their Federation cousins) without being a descendant. Strangely enough, they were apparently also mentally similar to Vulcans (the whole logic thing).
    • Between them Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: Enterprise played with it for the Klingons. In TOS, the Klingons look human enough, in everything else they are the Rubber-Forehead Aliens. Turns out they tried to create super-Klingons based on human Augments. The attempts to salvage the situation when things inevitably go wrong led to a significant portion of the Empire effectively becoming Klingon-Human hybrids visually indistinct from humans (the alternative was to have a significant portion of the Empire become dead Klingon-Human hybrid Augments).
      • Before this, Direct Line to the Author was Gene Roddenberry's official explanation: All the aliens don't look human, there just wasn't the budget to make everyone look the way they do in his head. (You'll notice for a Klingon to pose as a human it took surgical alteration and not just a haircut. This is apparently why.)
      • Perhaps in keeping with this, the Klingons in Star Trek Into Darkness look even more distinct than before, and even stranger in Star Trek: Discovery, which is supposed to take place between ENT and TOS.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Twilight Zone in which astronauts are surprised to find Mars inhabited by human beings. Though played straight in many, many other episodes.
  • Famously subverted in V (1983) - the Visitors present themselves as Human Aliens, but are really Reptilian Aliens using Latex Perfection to disguise themselves.
    • The 2009 remake lampshades this in the pilot, when a reporter asks Anna how it's possible for them to look like humans despite scientists claiming that aliens wouldn't look like that. Anna retorts that their scientists have determined otherwise.


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