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.
- 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 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.
- In Project Blue Earth SOS, there's an alien autopsy scene. Unfortunately, the alien isn't quite dead.
- 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.
- 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 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 bona-fide 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Paul, the Big Bad wanting to do this to Paul is what sets off the plot.
- Downplayed, while justified, in Battle: Los Angeles where the alien is still alive as they do the 'Autopsy' to figure out where its vital organs are.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- The Trope Maker is the footage of the alleged Alien Autopsy 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Subverted on Tracker, 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.
- In the Farscape episode, "A Human Reaction", the crew of Moya lands on Earth but not really and Rygel is dissected.
- 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 cause 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 Taken miniseries, autopsies of the alien visitors are alluded to on several occasions. In a twist to the usual, one scene involves a team of doctors conducting brain surgery on a man infected with an alien implant.
- Avoiding this scenario was a major driving part of the premise of ALF.
- The Outer Limits (1995):
- 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.
- 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 laughing stock if it gets out, as it was after it was revealed that the Trope Maker was a hoax.
- Also 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 "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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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 keep 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.
- The UFO Afterblank 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Dead Space 3, 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 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 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."
- 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.
- In the Futurama episode "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: Don't touch that! I need that to speak!
Surgeons: (look at each other for a beat, then saw even faster)
- The Simpsons episode "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".
- 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.
- One episode of All Grown Up! 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.
- On Invader Zim, Dib frequently discusses his desire to do this to Zim; Zim himself once had a fearful Imagine Spot about this.
- In 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.