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Alien Autopsy

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Remember, class, this counts for 25% of your biology grade.

Grey 1: If the military get wind of this, it'll be scalpels and cameras and bloody weather balloons all over again.
Grey 2: Poor Glukx. He always wanted to be a celebrity...

The post-mortem examination of an extra-terrestrial being, oftentimes winding up on video tape.

Whenever any aliens find their way to Earth, you can be pretty sure that human governments and scientists will want to study their Bizarre Alien Biologies. Naturally, if the alien creature is still alive, X-Ray and CT Scanning technology can, at least, allow for a sizable chunk of that information to be gained "humanely." However, if the alien subject is deceased, then doctors are going to be setting up E.T. for an up close and personal look of his insides on the nearest operating table.

This trope is one of The Newest Ones in the Book, with its modern form origins dating back to the mid-1990's when UFO Conspiracy Theorists began speculating that one such autopsy was performed in the wake of The Roswell Incident. The fact that the fifty-year anniversary of that event was approaching at the time, which led to increased coverage of the story in the media, surely helped spread the rumor, as did a video recording purporting to be the alleged autopsy in question, which is now largely regarded as a hoax. Regardless, the concept (including, on occasion, the aforementioned part about it usually being a hoax) has gone on to become as much a staple in Speculative Fiction and alien lore as Aliens Steal Cattle and Anal Probing are.

Related to They Would Cut You Up, which would be more focused on the fears an alien or unique character would have about being subjected to human study and vivisection.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In one episode of Durarara!!, we see Celty watching a documentary on one of these in the background while Shinra speaks on the phone. Celty, as it turns out, is terrified of aliens. This despite the fact that she's a Celtic fairy (who might also be a Valkyrie) and may be completely unkillable.
  • In Project Blue Earth SOS, there's an alien autopsy scene. Unfortunately, the alien isn't quite dead.
  • In an early episode of UFO Baby, Miyu tries to call her mother (working overseas for NASA) for advice on what to do with the suddenly-arrived alien baby, but is discouraged when her mother starts enthusiastically (and graphically) describing the alien autopsy video she's watching.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In the Show Within a Show in episode 5, Big M. and Little M. play aliens who die and have their bodies dissected in a hospital. When Happy S. gives up his role as the doctor who does the dissected, the director Mr. Lightbulb takes the job into his own hands, but realizes too late that the scalpel he's using is a real one rather than the rubber prop one, which is still in Happy S.'s hand. The ensuing pain does not sit well with Big M., who gets mad at Mr. Lightbulb over it.

    Comic Books 
  • Referenced in the Bec & Kawl story arc "Attack Of The Cones" from 2000 AD. The Greys who have abducted Pierre and suspect him of being a soldier of some sort, and they contemplate killing him, referencing the fate of the last of their kind who wound up on Earth as appearing the notorious "alien autopsy video" as their rationale.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The original staff of the abandoned Monarch Black Site being utilized by Alan Jonah and his paramilitary apparently performed autopsies on Chuchuna specimens, the decayed corpses of which are still lying in the old mortuary chamber.
  • EVA Sessions: Someplace Vast and Dry:
    • Yui arranges for the US Army to transfer Lilith's body to the Kyoto University's Fuyutsuki Annexe, where she, her eponymous mentor and their colleagues dissect the remains to better understand the biology of The Others.
    • NERV later cuts up the remains of the first Messenger to attack Tokyo-3, primarily to dispose of its remains but to also take tissue samples for further study.
  • Defied in The Finger Trap. Adrian sarcastically (or not-so sarcastically) asks the colonel if they are going to do this to Twilight Sparkle, whom he found on his front porch. Colonel explains that such a thing could invite reprisal that could be catastrophic, depending on how advance the species is. They wouldn't even cut open an already dead alien without asking the family for permission or respecting that nations funerary customs.
  • In Guilty Sparks, Mordin Solus performs one on a Flood combat form, hoping to figure out how the Flood are able to control dead bodies. He does, and the discovery prompts him to immediately torch the remains.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld and The Big Bang Theory crossover, The Many Worlds Interpretation, Johanna Smith-Rhodes, a visitor from the Discworld, is given the non-invasive version by Amy Farrah-Fowler, who is excited by the idea of investigating the brain functions of a genuine bonafide alien visitor. Assured that scalpels and sutures will not be involved, Johanna subjects herself to CAT-scanning, and Amy discovers this alien is also 100% human.
  • This happens offscreen in Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40K to Ki-Adi-Mundi after he was previously killed in battle with the Imperium of Man. Because the Star Wars universe is full of Rubber-Forehead Aliens, the Imperium initially believed that Mundi and many other humanoid aliens they killed were mutated humans. They were shocked and more than a little disgusted to learn that this was not the case.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2006 British Comedy Alien Autopsy centers around the creation of the original autopsy video that serves as the Trope Maker. The promotion of this film is what led the creator of the original autopsy video to come clean about the true authenticity of his video.
  • Blade II: Done in spirit, even although not technically aliens. They find a reaper corpse and begin analyzing it to better understand its anatomy. After suffering in their first encounter by not knowing their weaknesses compared to regular vampires (silver and garlic are useless, UV light is their best bet and provides important information on how Blade eventually beats Nomak), this lets them be more precise and mow them down by the dozens.
  • In Captain Marvel (2019), an autopsy is performed on a Skrull who had impersonated Coulson and died in a crash in Fury's car. According to the coroner, the body is not composed of carbon.
  • MNU's laboratories from District 9 sure have the remains of a lot of dead Prawns lying around, although unlike other examples of this trope, they were likely all killed by MNU. If they're not lying dead and mutilated on an operating table, they're probably suspended on a meathook. In Wikus's case, MNU scientists opt to try and perform a vivisection.
  • Though not an actual autopsy, Independence Day sees Dr. Okun and his colleagues at Area 51 stripping off the bio-engineered suits of an unconscious alien pilot in preparation of one. The alien wakes up halfway through and has both Psychic Powers and control of the armor's tentacles. Three others are said to have been studied in such a manner after the Roswell crash; their remains are kept on display.
  • Professor Kessler performs one on a dead Martian in Mars Attacks!.
  • In Men in Black, the coroner, Laurel, ends up performing these inadvertently on two non-human corpses. It's suggested that she is one of the MIB's most frequently neuralized individuals for this very reason.
  • In Paul, the Big Bad wanting to do this to Paul is what sets off the plot.
  • Early on in Starship Troopers we're treated to a biology lesson where Rico, Carmen and the rest of the students dissect and disembowel some Arkellian sand beetles.
  • The Thing:
    • The Thing (1982): Dr. Blair performs two autopsies on the titular alien, once when a split-faced charred humanoid body is found and taken to the American base, and again when the Dog-Thing is burned to death. The first autopsy has Blair find human internal organs in the split-faced thing, and the second has Blair discover that the creature that attacked Clark's dogs was starting to imitate the dogs it was absorbing. A Deleted Scene has Blair give more details about his discovery as well as the fact there is still cellular activity within the remains...
    • The Thing (2011): After the team at the Norwegian base incinerates the alien that escaped from the ice block it was frozen in, Dr. Sanderson orders an autopsy to be done on the remains. This allows everyone present at the autopsy to discover its most recent victim at the time, Henrik, in the process of being absorbed by the creature, as well establishing some facts that would become important later onnote .

  • In H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, Professor Lake's group retrieves fourteen starfish-headed "Elder Things" in an impressive state of preservation inside an ice cave, proceeding to dissect, discover, and describe their Bizarre Alien Biology in detail. It turns out that the Elder Things weren't dead but alive, slumbering in a state of hibernation, and they proceed to kill Lake's group in self-defense when they wake up and perform autopsies on both the men and the sled dogs, being intelligent and scientifically curious life forms themselves.
  • In the Michael Swanwick short story "Passage of Earth", a coroner is given a large alien worm-like creature to dissect after a spaceship crash lands on Earth, killing its crew of hundreds of worms. From his examination he speculates that the alien, which is blind, examines its surrounding mostly via taste. Halfway through the autopsy he has an irresistible compulsion to eat part of the worm whereupon it takes him over; he beats to death his ex-wife who brought him the corpse and drives out into the desert while reliving this and other unpleasant memories from his life. Belatedly he realizes that he's the one being autopsied - out in the desert was another spaceship whose crew consumed him, but this all happened years before and a worm is sampling his memories as it digests him over the eons between star systems.
  • Presumed Dead by Rick Kennett, has a child soldier watching an instructor dissect the corpse of their Starfish Alien opponents. Her classmate cynically notes that right now on another planet, an alien instructor is likely doing the same to a human.
  • The Price family of InCryptid normally treats sapient cryptids and their bodies with the same respect they would show humans, but when a dead Johrlac falls into the family's hands, they dissect her For Science!. Justified since she would have killed them, and they may never get another chance to examine the insides of one. It turns out to be a minor Chekhov's Classroom in the next book when Sarah (another Johrlac) is stabbed in the abdomen and asks Antimony if any vital organs were damaged.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Trope Maker is the alleged footage of this that occurred after the fateful event in Roswell, New Mexico which eventually became the FOX Network's 1995 TV special Alien Autopsy: Fact Or Fiction. The special gained a lot of media attention as well as a lot of criticism for not showing many of the autopsy's significant findings with a lot of the footage appearing extremely pixelated and/or with the examiner blocking the camera's view (or simply cutting away just as something interesting is happening). Over a decade later, the person who originally presented the footage admitted that video wasn't entirely authentic but a re-creation of another alien autopsy video that he claimed to have once seen with "a few frames" from that "original" video appearing in the one that was showcased in the TV special. As a result, most people tend take this admission as a sign that it was all a hoax.
  • Avoiding this scenario was a major driving part of the premise of ALF.
  • Subverted in CSI, when an "alien" that Doc Robbins examines is revealed to be a human body mummified by the desert conditions while inside a grey alien costume. It didn't help that his body was found in a shallow grave in the small town of Rachel, NV, the closest public town to Area 51, and they called in Vegas CSI because they were to small to handle such matters. Doc Robbins' assistant was spooked by the chirping of the man's hearing aid on a low battery. The killer buried the man in the desert because the man truly believed in alien conspiracies, and he felt the deceased should be buried as close to where he believed they were located as possible.
  • In the Farscape episode, "A Human Reaction", the crew of Moya lands on Earth but not really and Rygel is dissected. D'Argo and Aeryn assume that the humans deliberately posioned Rygel so they could study him, with Aeryn bitterly noting that even the tyrannical Peacekeepers wouldn't stoop so low.
  • On NewsRadio, Joe, Beth, and Matthew act out a fake alien autopsy (with Matthew as the alien) in front of a 24-hour webcam for the radio's website.
  • In the pilot of Stargate SG-1, the military has an autopsy performed on a Jaffa killed during the initial attack on the base.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • Discussed in "A Special Edition". Dr. Avery Strong says, "This isn't an alien autopsy hoax. This is real!" regarding that evidence that he has gathered about secret government experiments.
    • In "Relativity Theory", the xenobiologist Teresa Janovitch performs autopsies on two of the aliens killed by other members of the expedition to Tau Gamma Prime.
    • In "Manifest Destiny", the UFS Mercury medical officer Dr. Will Olsten performs an autopsy on one of the Trion bodies kept in cold storage aboard the UFS Rhesos.
    • Also discussed in "Down to Earth". Uma is convinced that the fragment of an alien ship from Area 51 is a fake and the UFO community will once again be a laughingstock if it gets out, as it was after it was revealed that the Trope Maker was a hoax.
  • Taken:
    • In "Beyond the Sky", scientists at the Wright Air Field conducted autopsies on the three aliens who were killed in the Roswell crash and on a fourth who died later.
    • Discussed in "Dropping the Dishes". Lt. Williams believes that all of the talk about the impending arrival of a Flying Saucer is part of a psychological test being conducted by the military. When Captain Walker reminds him that they were shown video footage of the aliens, Williams replies that he also saw the Trope Maker, which he thought looked more realistic.
  • Subverted on Tracker (2001), where it appears that the government scientists are going to start dissecting Cole-but the light shining on him warms him enough to wake him up and allow him to hyperspeed out of there.
  • One sketch from The Whitest Kids U' Know sees a team of doctors at Area 51 beginning to perform one such autopsy on an alien corpse recovered from Roswell. Only it turns out to be a pinata shaped like a Grey Alien and filled with Reeses Pieces candies.
  • The X-Files
    • Played With this one as well as made a Shout-Out to, and a Take That! against, the Trope Maker in the episode "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'". According to Agent Scully's interpretation of events, an autopsy which she performed on an alien and allowed to be video taped became commercially released as "Dead Alien: Truth Or Humbug." Embarrassed by it, Scully complains that the video ignores several of her findings, chief among them being that the dead alien was revealed to be a Man in a Rubber Suit.
    • Another episode saw Mulder buy pirated alien autopsy footage. Scully comments that it looks hokier than the FOX autopsy. Only this time the footage turns out to be real.
    • The Myth Arc episode "Gethsemane" sees Mulder observe an autopsy on something which everyone involved believes to be an alien. However, an employee of the Department of Defense, Michael Kritschgau, suggests to Mulder that it is not a real alien but only what "they" want Mulder to see.

  • Nintendo Power's walkthrough guide for Body Harvest for the N64 includes one level where the Player Character has to rescue a captured Grey from Roswell. One picture caption for the level humorously tries to guilt trip readers into sympathizing with the alien and make them feel bad "for having laughed at that alien autopsy video".

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Dilbert, Dilbert makes a model for the company's future that requires some "optimistic assumptions" to meet their projected revenue goals.
    Dilbert: In week three, we're visited by an alien named D'utox Inag who offers to share his advanced technology.
    Pointy-Haired Boss: Then do we use his technology to design our new product?
    Dilbert: No, we kill him and sell the autopsy video.

  • This is the focus of the Martian Autopsy mode of Revenge from Mars.
    "That's not a spleen, that's my wife!"

  • One of the highlights of the play The Aliens are Coming! The Aliens are Coming! is an alien autopsy.

  • Mattel's 1980s Mad Scientist toyline included the memorable Dissect An Alien kit, a sort of 3D puzzle complete with scalpel and green glow-in-the-dark blood.

    Video Games 
  • In Dead Space 3, a plot point is the frozen corpse of one of Tau Volantis's long-dead alien inhabitants, which has been sliced into cross-sections (still in the ice) for study. A puzzle involves putting its pieces back together. Later, you get to do this. In Mission 12, the player needs to climb into a frozen Nexus Necromorph in order to get data from its nervous system.
  • The fate of Cryptosporidium-136 in Destroy All Humans! after his Flying Saucer was shot down. When Crypto-137 finds his body at Area 42, it sends him over the edge and makes his war against humanity personal where it had once merely been his job and something fun to do. During the Final Boss fight, Silhouette also gets in some Evil Gloating about personally torturing and interrogating Crypto-136 just to twist the knife.
  • In the post game of Mass Effect: Andromeda, there's a text file in the Hyperion you can find that reveals the humans did this to the Archon after the game's climax. Unlike most examples of the trope, though, the autopsy results also showed that the doctor in charge insisted that the subject be given the same respect and dignity that would be afforded to any human autopsy (with the exception of receiving consent from the Kett government). Her assistants, on the other hand, are a little bit too happy that the bastard is dead, and she has to put her foot down that they can't list the cause of death as "Pathfinder."
  • The Area 51 stage of Perfect Dark has a level which involves rescuing an alien from vivisection, and another (bonus) level involves sabotaging the autopsy of an already dead alien.
  • The Sims 2 expansion University apparently allows player characters to take a course on this as part of the Biology Major. The course is called Xenobiology and the course description is, "Who's probing who NOW?"
  • In Stellaris, when initiating a First Contact procedure with another empire you have the opportunity to abduct their citizens to perform an autopsy on them (or become a victim of it). The rest of their species will know, however, and will be very unhappy with you if you take this option.
  • Referenced and Played With in Surgeon Simulator 2013: You open the metal sci-fi capsule with a hiss of steam, the opened alien lies ahead of you with funky internals of all shapes and sizes... but you're a surgeon, not a scientist, and your goal is to perform a transplant of one of several bizarre organs. This might seem like an Inverted Trope, but keep in mind the standard practice for operations in this game...
  • Terra Invicta: One of the early story missions for the Humanity First faction is to hunt down and dissect an alien.
  • Touring around the Area 51 compound in the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater will reveal a number of alien artifacts surrounding a skating bowl. Amongst the captured UFO and military paraphernalia is an Alien predictably undergoing an autopsy on an operating table.
  • The UFO: After Blank series has this too. Notable in that unlike X-COM's aliens, transgenants are pure Nausea Fuel even without being cut up. On the other hand, the autopsy reports are always correct about what the transgenant is vulnerable to.
  • XCOM:
    • In X-COM: UFO Defense, the player's scientists can perform these. Aside from giving you points when it's finished, it sometimes gives you information about what that particular alien is vulnerable to. However, expect lots of inaccuracies (for example, Reapers are said to have flammable hides but incendiary damage is really buggy in the game).
    • X-COM: Terror from the Deep keeps autopsies as a key game mechanic, but instead of adding points to your score, they unlock new research projects.
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The bonus granted from getting full satellite coverage of South America, "We Have Ways," lets alien autopsies be completed instantly, along with alien interrogations, which can be thought of as a form of vivisection (your head scientist is basically sticking probes in a captive alien's brain and getting data from it until it expires). With the Enemy Within expansion, autopsies also unlock alien-derived genetic enhancements for your soldiers, while your MEC Troopers' "Vital Point Targeting" ability gives them a damage bonus against any aliens you've autopsied.
    • XCOM 2 continues the trend, with the note that your head scientist is a biochemist, so sometimes his autopsy reports have him admitting he has no idea how a given specimen works. Dr. Tygan also mentions that cutting up dead aliens in his lab gives him practice in case he's called upon to perform surgery on your soldiers.

  • CoyoteVille: This strip has Sean, alongside a few other coyotes, performing an autopsy on an alien and discovering that its internals have a "creamy nuget [sic] center." They end up having a fondue party in the last panel.

    Web Original 
  • One Something Awful front page column from a series presented as US Vice President Joe Biden writing about The X-Files mentions him meeting a fellow fan of the show who gives him a VHS copy of the hoax alien autopsy video, which Biden believes to be authentic.
    Joe Biden: I asked Barack about the video and he says it was an old fake, but I'm not so sure. That was a dead alien being autopsied, and I saw the evidence with my own eyes.

    Western Animation 
  • All Grown Up!: One episode has Dil steal a tape of what is supposed to be an alien autopsy, planning to play at a viewing party he is hosting, but the tape gets destroyed before anything is shown and they have to film a fake one.
  • American Dad! Roger is cut up by an Alien Hunter, but thanks to his species's ability to stay alive as long as their head is intact, Roger lives.
  • Futurama: In "Roswell That Ends Well", Dr. Zoidberg turns out to be the Roswell alien that got cut open. However, he's still alive, conscious and unconcerned about the affair, and does things like re-eat the deviled egg removed from his stomach, or after his heart is removed remark "Take, I've got four of them."
    Zoidberg: Hey, don't cut that! I need that to speak!
    Surgeons: (look at each other for a Beat, then saw even faster)
  • Invader Zim: Dib frequently discusses his desire to do this to Zim. Zim himself once has a fearful Imagine Spot about this.
  • In the "Starcrossed" season 2 finale of Justice League, Earth is attacked by a Gordainian strike ship, which is then rescued by some conveniently close-by Thanagarians. Batman suspects foul play and makes off with the dead Gordainian from inside of the Gordainian ship and begins dissecting it on the Watchtower. Wonder Woman points out that Batman has no knowledge of Gordanian physiology.
  • The Simpsons: "Worst Episode Ever" sees Bart and Milhouse uncover a secret room in Comic Book Guy's shop which houses a secret stash of bootleg videos and other illegal video clips. Among the video titles mentioned are "Alien Autopsy" and "Illegal Alien Autopsy".
  • Steven Universe: According to Ronaldo's Character Blog, he once became convinced his younger brother Peedee was one of The Greys in disguise and tried to do this.
  • Transformers: Prime:
    • What MECH does when they capture a Cybertronian. They work pretty fast and usually do their autopsy in the field. They don't really care if it's an Autobot, a Decepticon, or a rogue Cybertronian; dead or alive, just as long as they have one to study.
    • On the other side, this is what Knock Out ends up doing to Silas at the end of "The Human Factor". Oh, the irony.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Alien Autopsy Video



While in Roswell, Zoidberg is vivisected alive by scientists, though he's not bothered by it (except when they start cutting whatever he uses to speak).

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Main / AlienAutopsy

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