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Ditto Aliens

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By the time you've figured out how to tell them apart, you're dessert.

Luke Rattigan: How... do you tell each other apart?
General Staal: We say the same of humans.

The tendency for all aliens, within a given species, to look almost identical. This is contrary to human expectations, where the diversity of appearance within even single families of humans is remarkable. With extraterrestrials there is no evidence of this racial or ethnic diversity. Everyone from the same species will look almost exactly alike.

The technical reasons for this stem from the aliens' real-life origin. If they're Rubber-Forehead Aliens, then the rubber forehead, if it is of sufficient weirdness, makes every actor who wears it look alike. If the aliens are Serkis Folk, the modelers got lazy and only designed one computer model (this is also why this is common in video games). If the aliens are Big Creepy-Crawlies, well, all bugs look the same anyway.

If anyone tries to point this out, the alien character will most likely respond that they look nothing like their compatriots and might shoot back, "To me, all humans look the same," implying that there are indeed differences that the untrained eye might not pick up. Alternatively, they may accuse you of Fantastic Racism. Counterintuitively, this is one way in which Human Aliens are more realistic than the more "complicated" types.

A potential explanation is that aliens tell themselves apart by non-visual signals. Many real animals, who may or may not know each other visually, get lots of information just from scent, but this is rarely used as a device unless the aliens are particularly inhuman.

Interesting side note: Some evidence suggests that humans have trouble discerning differences between faces that belong to a group they are unfamiliar with. "They all look the same", therefore, has some basis in fact. This is the basis of the Racial Face Blindness trope. However, this effect fades with time and exposure to different individuals of said different groups. Therefore, a sheltered Westerner moving to Korea will, after initial difficulty, eventually be able to tell his neighbors apart quite well.note  One can assume the same would hold true if he moved to Alpha Centauri.

See also In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race. Compare Planet of Hats and Inexplicably Identical Individuals. Contrast Cast of Snowflakes, where even the aliens look different from each other.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: while they're far from identical, the Saiyans uniformly resemble East Asian humans with no variation of skin, hair, or eye color and very similar facial features, while the humans have all their real life variations and several other ones. Daizenshuu 7 points this out and justifies it: the Saiyan population was very small (just several thousand) so predictably there wasn't much phenotypic diversity within it.
  • The alien race Tony belongs to in Hetalia: Axis Powers all look like typical grays, though some have antennae. This is played with in Paint it White, where Tony's data claims that Earth is one of the most backward worlds in the whole galaxy because of its diversity and constant fighting. The Pict targeted Earth as part of its Assimilation Plot because it was rumored to be one of the most underdeveloped. Everybody on Earth is different and has their own ideas and views on the world, while they get along in harmony because they are almost exactly the same as each other allowing them to advance further in their technology and naturally get more "evolved."
    • This is also played with when it turns out that the Pict are indiscriminate of whatever world or being they come across Even Tony himself gets turned by them.
  • The Emilys in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry looked exactly the same and even shared the same consciousness.

    Comic Books 
  • Shakara: Many alien species look like they might as well be clone populations, including the Krull, the Subbubi, the Psicos, and even the Shakara themselves.
  • In one Superman story, a grateful race Supes once saved is on Earth to find a human actor to play him in a movie they're going to make about his daring rescue. The one they wind up choosing bears a much closer resemblance to Jimmy Olsen (short, scrawny, red hair and freckles). He's ultimately chosen because he's ill (further separating him from Superman) and his coughing is close to the aliens' language, which will make it easy for him to memorize the script, but even after Superman himself points out the difference, the aliens shrug it off, insisting that they're practically identical.
  • In Superman vs Muhammad Ali, the aliens attending Superman and Ali's boxing match insist that Superman keep his costume on instead of changing into boxing trunks. That way, it will be easier to tell them apart.
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages: In "One of a Kind", the Lirin all appear to be identical to one another.
  • In one Fantastic Four story, the Solons are a large but humanoid race who reproduce by binary fission, like single cell organisms, so apart from gender (the purpose of which is anybody's guess) they all appear identical. Amusingly, the first Solon to visit Earth assumed she wouldn't need to disguise herself (despite being huge and blue) because, to her eyes, individual humans all looked so wildly different that she assumed no one would even notice her.
  • The Skrulls, or at least the rank-n-file ones, all tend to look and dress exactly alike (with mild variation if they're the brawny soldier type or the puny, gangly scientist type). Skrulls in charge look more different, but their tendency towards homogeneity has been pointed out and mocked a few times. Such as during the Young Avengers / Runaways crossover, when Xavin is mistaken for Super-Skrull (because she also has superpowers like his) and asks the Young Avengers if they think all Skrulls look alike. Hulkling (who we should point out is half-Skrull himself) sheepishly goes "yeah".

  • Defied multiple times in Dæmorphing. When Mr. Tidwell morphs a Yeerk for the first time, he notices that Illim has one palp shorter than the other and a reflective patch on his front; the Animorphs use the frolis maneuver to create Taxxon morphs because they don't want to steal sapient beings' appearances; and Jake can't distinguish Tom's Hork-Bajir morph from any others at first, but soon comes to recognise it.
  • There's an alien-on-alien version of this in Eugenesis, one Quintesson is unable to distinguish between Cybertronians, despite the fact that Cybertronians are incredibly varied by body-structure by design.
  • averted in Ex Astris Gloria with regards to the asari. Any asari with a non-asari parent will have traits from them, such as one with a hanar parent whose fringes change color. Or one with a krogan parent who's noted as being at least One Head Taller than the other asari and built like a tank.
  • In Message In a Bottle, human space explorers visit Equestria via uploading their minds into a probe, sending it there and having it fabricate a pony body on sight, one of the problems is that initially, the probe doesn't have any pony DNA to make a body so it creates clones of existing ponies. This leads to several misunderstandings such as a pony mistaking Lucky Break for his dead daughter because the probe exhumed her corpse to make the body.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Averted in Avatar: The Na'vi all have noticeable difference in facial features.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Oompa-Loompas look identical to humans, except for their size, but all of them are played by the same actor, with no attempt to differentiate individuals.
  • Cocoon: Played straight with the Antareans, to such an extent that Kitty can easily impersonate Phil in the second movie.
  • In The Last Starfighter, although the member species of the Star League are visually diverse, members within most species are distinguishable only by their clothing. Played for laughs when Grig rapidly flashes through photos of his 600-member family; the images are a blur of various Lizard Folk of different height and dress, all sharing the same face.
  • Averted in Mom and Dad Save the World. There's an alien species with men who look like dogs and women who look like fish, but they all look unique. When Marge meets one dogman, she recognizes him from a photograph his wife showed her.
  • The unnamed "miner" aliens from Galaxy Quest are a pack of cute, adorable, identical-looking cannibalistic blue-skinned critters.
  • Star Wars averts it, where most of the alien species with multiple members given screen time are diverse. This includes suits (Twi'leks, Wookiees, Zabraks and Ewoks) and computer generated (such as Gungans and Yoda's people). An exception is the Gungan celebration at the end of The Phantom Menace, we see a group of absolutely identical CG Gungans dancing in impossible lockstep. Like everything else about the Gungans, it was intended to be funny, but it totally breaks suspension of disbelief.
  • In Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, it turns out that all the females of the alien race look exactly alike. The heroes discover that their lady friend is an undercover alien when they meet two more alien women who look just like her.

  • Subverted in Seekers. When Ujurak transforms into a seal to talk to some real seals, he thinks they all look the same at first, but then he notices subtle differences between them.
  • This trope is touched on, and then averted in Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis. The protagonist, who comes from Earth and finds himself stranded on a planet he later learns is Mars, cannot tell the individuals of each local race apart initially. But he learns after spending some time among them.
  • Discussed Trope in Max Lucado book "When God Whispers Your Name": We tend to consider strangers an indistinguishable mass of people, but as the shepherd of a flock knows each sheep by name, so does the Good Shepherd Jesus know all of us as individuals.
  • In Harry Turtledove's World War/Colonization series, which takes place over nearly a century, neither humans nor the alien Lizards ever quite get the hang of even telling each other's genders apart.
  • In Doris Egan's Two-Bit Heroes, the heroine, Theo, is on a planet where the overwhelming majority of people have dark hair and eyes. She's bewildered when the locals insist that she closely resembles another offworlder — at one point, someone tells her, "You could be twins" — despite Theo having auburn hair and the other woman being blonde. Everyone having the same hair color has led to them recognizing one another by cues that have nothing to do with coloration, to the point where they don't even think about color as an identifying feature.
  • Inverted (in the "other races can't tell us apart" sense) in The Lord of the Rings:
    • In one scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo is astonished that his elven audience in Rivendell can't tell what parts of a poem he was reading were written by him, and which were written by the Dúnadannote . One elf responds "To sheep other sheep no doubt appear different, or to shepherds. But Mortals have not been our study. We have other business." Bilbo later discusses with Frodo why this might be: Bilbo actually wrote all the verses; Aragorn merely told him to include the detail of the green stone.
    • In The Two Towers, during the Entmoot, Pippin expects the Ents to be as similar to each other as hobbits look to another race, but it turns out they are as different as the various tree types.
  • Discussed in Galaxy of Fear; the heroes meet a Sullustan named Dr'uun, and see in passing one named Dr'aan who looks exactly the same.
    Zak: Maybe all Sullustans look alike. Maybe all humans look alike to them.
    Tash: Maybe it was the jumpsuit. They're all wearing the same uniform.
    • Tash concludes that maybe they're twins. And as it turns out, that was actually Foreshadowing for how both were clones of the same Sullustan.
  • In Everworld the Hetwans all seem to look and act completely identical, though the human protagonists eventually realize they have Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism (females are rarely seen). They initially hope that the Hetwans can't tell humans apart either, until they see a wanted poster for Senna in their capital city.
  • Codex Alera: Subverted with the Canim. The Narashan Canim are the only Canim to have diplomatic relations with the Alerans and almost all look like seven-foot-tall wolfmen with midnight-black fur, leading to most Alerans assuming that all Canim look like them. Later on, however, Tavi and company are introduced to the Shuaran Canim, another group of Canim who have tawny golden fur, lankier bodies, and comparatively slender snouts.
  • In Alien in a Small Town, the alien Paul initially finds humans hard to tell apart, but he learns in time. In fairness, his own species isn't remotely humanoid.
  • Played With in Animorphs — when the future Visser Three first manages to infest Alloran, Elfangor realizes that his subordinates won't know which Andalite he's gotten, so he contacts them and does his best "Evil Overlord" act.
  • Mass Effect Annihilation: Used for racism at one point, when the Sleepwalker team see a panicked batarian running around, vomiting up black stuff. Irrit Non, a volus, decides he must be responsible for everything that's going on, because he's a batarian (never mind that he's clearly in no condition to be responsible for anything). Another batarian who's there angrily asks Irrit if she thinks all batarians look alike. Irrit just replies "yes".
  • In InCryptid, the Human Outside, Alien Inside Johrlac are Inexplicably Identical Individuals — all of them are Eerie Pale Skinned Brunettes, only differing in appearance between sexes and across age groups. Since they're a telepathic species, they never needed to differentiate each other by appearance.
  • Star Trek Living Memory: The Warborn, due to their origins as force-grown clones. By design they don't really have even the distinguishing characteristics usually given with puberty (since their designers figured with their fast life spans that wouldn't be much of a need). The ones at Starfleet Academy have to wear custom uniforms just so strangers can tell them apart. Of course, this means if one Warborn wanted to imitate another, all they'd have to do is copy their mannerisms enough (an easy task given they're designed to learn quickly) and wear the same uniform...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lampshaded in 3rd Rock from the Sun: In an episode where the (alien) family is trying to decide what (human) race they are, it is pointed out that Dick has never noticed that Nina is black, at which point he quips "You people all look alike to me".
  • Babylon 5 provides many counter-examples.
    • The Minbari all have different head crests, starting with caste differentiations and then extending down to individual characters, and each Narn had a unique facial structure and spot pattern. Even Centauri (who were the most human-looking and thus already easily distinguishable to viewers) used their hairstyles to advertise their status. When any other race appeared in quantity, they also were all individuals.
    • Even non-speaking background characters from the minor races were often diverse, although sometimes more due to Art Evolution (the makeup changing over time). Just for a few examples: Drazi sometimes have spiked cheeks, but many don't, and the scale patterns on their head are different — some even have smooth heads. The Abbai's crest comes in different lengths, and their colour ranges from orange to reddish-pink to beige, with different spot or blotch patterns. The Hyach come in different shades of orange from a near-beige to a near-red, and their scale patterns are different each time (some more pronounced, sometimes extending over the bridge of the nose). Markab sometimes have underbites, sometimes overbites. One of the Brakiri is bald, while most of his race have hair.
    • Pak'ma'ra seem to be impossible to distinguish for other people, which mostly results from the fact that the masks completely cover the actors faces and hide all facial features. Within the show, the similarity of individual pak'ma'ra is used to employ them as spies and secret couriers. They all look the same, never seem to talk to anyone, don't have any conflicts with other races, and are also said to smell horribly. As a result they are ignored by everyone, are almost impossible to be individually recognized, and security personnel are very reluctant to perform searches on them, which makes them perfect spies.
    • The family Zathras (all of them) is (are) the exception to the aversion. They're all played by the same actor, and all have the same name (albeit pronounced in several inaudibly different ways). The whole thing is played for levity, mostly.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Played straight in an episode of where one race has no diversity of appearance beyond male/female.
  • Doctor Who: Several of the alien races, usually because the costume designer stretched the budget by making all the masks from one mould. The most popular of the Doctor's adversaries (Daleks and Cybermen) are intentionally homogeneous, which adds to their creepiness.
    • In "The Sensorites", the humans' inability to tell the Sensorites apart inspires one Sensorite to impersonate another with no more disguise than a change of clothes; the imposture fools everyone he meets, including some of his fellow aliens (although he does try to avoid anyone actually personally familiar with the one he's impersonating).
      • That's right, the Sensorites were all physically identical, to the point that even they themselves could not tell each other apart except for their clothing, and not one of them had ever noticed this fact in all the species' long history.
    • Occasionally problematic — both "The Silurians" and "The Sea Devils" have the moral that the Silurians are all individuals and should be treated as such. Having identical, inexpressive faces and the same actor doing all of the voice work does not really contribute to this. Fortunately, for a later story by the same writer with the same themes, "Frontier in Space", the effects department gave all of the Draconians different faces, which makes them a lot easier to see as people. The revival series also redesigns the Silurians to look like beautiful lizard people.
    • An odd exception: the Sontarans, explicitly described as being a race of clones, didn't all look alike, firstly because a variety of different actors played them and secondly because the costume and make-up was mildly revised for nearly each story in which they appeared. (The first and second Sontaran stories, "The Time Warrior" and "The Sontaran Experiment" averted this by having the same actor player play the three Sontarans seen in that story. Even though they did have a continuity mix-up in the latter story.) Despite there still being slight differences between the two Sontarans whose un-masked faces we see on scene in "The Sontaran Stratagem", the Ditto Aliens phenomena is lampshaded in the typical way "we say the same of humans." It's since been explained that the different looks are different batches of clones.
  • Averted in Farscape where pretty much all the alien species seen have distinct differences among individuals.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "The Deprogrammers", the Torkor Koltok mentions that humans all look alike to him.
  • Planet of the Apes:
    • In "The Good Seeds", a gorilla officer comments that all humans look alike.
    • In "The Surgeon", the gorilla guard Haman can't describe the human who attacked him, namely Burke, as he thinks that all humans look the same. Urko agrees with him.
    • In "The Deception", Fauna says that all humans looked alike to her when she could see.
  • The Asgard in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis are all identical, though it is justified by the fact that they are all clones. (In the finale Daniel Jackson says they tell them apart from their voices.) Other alien races such as the Wraith, are similar to one another, but have enough differences between themselves to be unique. The Wraith also have cookie-cutter soldiers, but those are clones. The mindless soldier caste are also masked, making it even harder to differentiate them.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • Odo always said he had difficulty imitating humanoids (unlike other Changelings), and when someone said they thought he had perfectly imitated a seagull, he responded "I doubt the seagulls would agree."
    • When Odo finally meets other Changelings, and they take a humanoid form, their faces are similar to Odo's. This doesn't make much sense, since Odo's face looks like that because he didn't have the skill to properly imitate humanoid facial structure, and other Changelings are shown to have that skill. It seems the Changelings were made to look like Odo just so the viewer would know they are part of the same race, even though this should be totally obvious anyway, as both Odo and the other Changelings explicitly state that Odo is one of them.
    • In Odo's case, it's quite likely that he could do a better job of mimicking human or Bajoran facial features, but simply chooses not to because he wants to maintain a distinct racial identity; this is his stated reason for refusing cosmetic surgery after being Brought Down to Normal for a while. As for the other Changelings, one of the major plot threads during the Dominion War arc was their making a huge effort to entice or cajole Odo into shifting his allegiance, so they may have been imitating his appearance on purpose.
    • The Changeling design is also a copy of the makeup from a race of Precursors in TNG which was deliberately designed as a "generic" humanoid (with the main Changeling character played by the same actress).
    • After Sisko ends up taking the role of a 21st century historical figure, Quark fails to notice the resemblance even when it's pointed out to him, saying "All humans look alike." The man who he replaced was played by Sisko's usual stunt double, although they don't really look that much alike. It's also a reference to Quark's actor playing several unrelated Ferengi characters over the course of the franchise.
  • A Star Trek: The Next Generation episode had Wesley mistake a visiting alien officer for a friend of his from the Academy. Said alien explained that members of his race who come from the same "geostructure" look identical. When asked how the aliens told each other apart he replied "We just do."
    • This may be a Lampshade Hanging, as the alien was played by the same actor. It's possible it was intended to be the same character, until the actor came on set and explained why that wasn't possible.
  • Klingons in Star Trek are the archetype of the Rubber-Forehead Aliens, but are a good counter-example to this trope. Their ridges are family traits and the exact pattern is as unique as a fingerprint.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise managed a slight aversion with the Andorians, who, while mostly being various shades of blue, also feature a race of white-skinned Andorians called the Aenar. In the Distant Finale, we see that blue Andorian Shran married one of these Aenar, and their child is an interestingly unique Teal color.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "To Serve Man", the Kanamits are all identical in appearance. The ambassador has a goatee and white robes to distinguish him from the others.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Played with with the Eye Tyrant (Beholder) race. To other races, they all look alike... but to the Beholders, that slight difference in the exact shade of red their skin is or just how long their teeth are that the other races overlook is a sign that the other Beholder is an abomination against nature that must be killed on sight. A Beholder would probably be shocked and disgusted that humans or elves can't tell its purity from the debased nature of the other breeds... if it actually viewed anything that's not a Beholder as anything more than annoying vermin. There is a Beholder goddess that represents the true form of Beholder perfection, and that would be great... except that any Beholder who sees her sees her as looking exactly like them.
  • The Tau of Warhammer 40,000. Humans have a lot of trouble telling if a Tau is male or female (the trick is that the nostrils have different shapes), nevermind spotting out individuals.
    • Da Orks have this view of humans. Ork hierarchy is based on who is da biggest, meanest Ork around. Some relatively philosophical Orks (and the bar is very low here) wonder how the human chain of command works, since humans are all about the same size as each other. Some crafty Orks have noticed that da 'oomies what give da orders have more shiny bits on deir clothes. The main competing theory is dat it's all 'bout dem fancy 'ats.
  • Space 1889 has a weird double inversion. Martians think humans look rather similar, but that is because they have seen only Caucasians. Mars has had a global society and easy long-distance travel for millennia, so regional differences between Canal Martians are next to non-existent. So Martians who do get to see east Asians and black people will be surprised by human diversity and perhaps realize that it is they, the Martians, who are similar.
  • In Rocket Age the Metisians are a race that look incredibly alike due to their only method of reproduction being cloning. Although there are slight variations, only a Metisian could tell them apart, since they are a race of squid-like aliens that look a little like brains in jars.

  • Transformers: Exception — Due partly to the Merchandise-Driven origins of the franchise, most Transformers look suitably different, have different weapons and abilities, and even those who share an alternate mode may transform differently. A small handful don't even have a humanoid robot mode. It's not uncommon for Transformers to be upgraded into new bodies by any number of means, either, so the trope has arguably been completely reversed here: Not only do they not look identical, sometimes they won't even look like they did last time someone saw them!

    Exception to the exception: The plastic injection mold being one of the most expensive parts of the toymaking process, Hasbro and Takara tend to create multiple characters as recolors of the same physical design, so in the fictions some characters are model-mates with others. In G1, Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp are all the same design, as are Thrust, Ramjet and Dirge. Rumble and Frenzy are the same model, as well. Then there are some specific "races" of mass-produced Cybertronian Mecha-Mooks, like Sharkticons, Sweeps, the Vehicons from Beast Machines, and some other examples.

    Video Games 
  • In Solar Winds, all the aliens of the nearby warrior race all look the same, as they use the same sprites. However at one point you are disguised as an alien through some Camera Spoofing, and it's explained they merely look identical to your (human) eyes. If you then run into the alien that the spoofed footage is based on, he'll notice immediately that you stole his face and attack you.
  • StarCraft: averted with the protoss who have varying facial features, builds, and skin tones, with their coloration varying from pale white to pink to dark purple (except for the Purifiers, who are made of grey metal). Played straight and justified with the zerg: every zerg subspecies looks identical to every other member of the subspecies, but that's because they all use the same genetic code and are simply printed from a larva when the hive needs that specific form. Except for the handful of sapient leaders, they're all essentially clones.
  • Used throughout Star Control, and lampshaded by the Zoq-Fot-Pik: "You must meet with our leaders. They are wiser... more powerful beings! ...They look just like us, though."
  • In the Mass Effect Expanded Universe, Kahlee Sanders notices that every single quarian looks exactly alike, and then when she thinks of it, nearly all members of alien races look identical. Then she notes that humans are beginning to follow the same trend, since in this universe, due to many interracial relationships, many humans are becoming more and more similar as all the races begin to mix together. She theorized that a couple hundred more years, humans will become Ditto Aliens.
    • Mass Effect actually averts this trope in that most of the Humanoid Aliens of the same species do look different, either by having different facial proportions or different coloration/markings. For example, asari have skin tones ranging from blue to deep purple, turians range from grey to reddish brown and krogan have different colored head crests and different shapes of eye while salarians have different skin patterns and variously shaped 'horns' on their head. True, some do look identical, only generic NPCs that reuse the same character model. However, for the more starfish-y aliens like the quadrupedal elcor, jellyfish hanar or the pressure-suit wearing volus, there is only one model throughout the series, though the Volus Adept, a Joke Character in Mass Effect 3 did receive a uniquely skinned pressure suit with extra armor plating. Drell seem to play this straight; every drell in the series is a recolor of the same model.
    • This is pointed out by Mordin Solus, who claims that humans have a much greater genetic variety than other races. This is fairly shocking if you know your genetics; humans are actually remarkable among Earth species for how limited our genetic diversity is.
    • Lampshaded in the first game, when a human attempting to get a refund says to the turian clerk, "I know it was you, I remember your face." The turian is somewhat impressed that the human can tell aliens apart at all.
    • In Andromeda every single asari except for companion Peebee has exactly the same face, varying only in coloration. This is especially odd since they were previously the race with the most distinct individuals.
    • Gets invoked in an insult-off between squadmates Liam and Jaal at one point. Liam asks Jaal if all humans look alike to them. Jaal answers no, but some of us sound alike.
    • Played for horror with the kett. Yes, they do all look alike. Being the product of hideous forced biological alteration down to the genetic level will do that.
  • Spore, though earlier stages at least have "baby" versions with more exaggerated features. Civ and Space, though? All members of a given species are identical, including the outfits.
  • The Legend of Zelda: This fantasy series uses the Ditto Aliens trope a lot. When Gorons and non-lethal Zoras were introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, each had exactly one model to go around — the only ones who looked any different were the Zora king and princess, and the Gorons' tribe leader. The gorons at least had deviation in size, but it was still the exact same model, just enlarged or shrunken as needed. This is in stark contrast to the Hylians, who all looked unique.
    • This was improved a bit in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess — the Zora had two different models for standard citizens. A number of relatively important gorons got unique models as well, but the ordinary ones still all looked alike.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while Hylians and Sheikah all have truly unique models, the Zora, Gorons, Rito, and Gerudo have one basic model for the males and females of their children, adults, and elderly, with the Gerudo also having an extra one for the middle aged characters. Said model is usually made more distinct by changing the color of its skin, its hair style, and/or its wardrobe.
  • Originally, Pokémon did this with all of its Mons and most NPCs. In the newer games there are now differences between genders of Pokemon. Also, since GSC mook trainers have names.
    • Notably averted with Spinda, which has a different pattern of spots for each individual member of the species. Although there logically is a limit to the number of different spot patterns, the number is still high enough that a player would have to hunt them for several years before getting a repeated pattern.
  • Lampshaded in the Shadow Warrior remake.
    Lo Wang: "Not to be racist or anything, but all you demons look alike to me."
  • Inverted in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, in which an NPC, Visquis, mistakes Fiery Redhead Mira for the Player Character, claiming "all humans look alike" to him. Possibly also a lampshade hanging, as Visquis is a member of a species that only has a single character model in the game.
  • It comes up a few times in Hatoful Boyfriend, though instead of aliens these are birds. The human protagonist notes that she can pick out her Childhood Friend Ryouta from a crowd of other rock doves seventy percent of the time, but when meeting three new pigeons at once she can't tell them apart. There are also three white fantail pigeons in the cast. In the manga human difficulties in telling them apart are brought up more than once.
  • In Halo, it's generally played straight within each individual game, but averted within the franchise as a whole, particular with the Kig-Yar, whom we know consist of at least three different sub-species; the Jackals from the Bungie-era games (native to the continent of Ruuht), the Skirmishers from Halo: Reach (native to the asteroid colony of T'vao), and the Jackals introduced in Halo 4 (native to the continent of Ibie'sh). Additionally, Word of God has explicitly stated that the continually changing physical appearances of the Covenant species between each game all represent equally canon phenotypes.
    • There's even a rather clever justification why humans seem to avert this: originally, humanity displayed dozens of different subspecies and variations on par with the physical variety seen among the other alien species (Neanderthals, Denisovans, H. floriesensis/Florians, etc.). Most of these, however, were present on the Halo targeted by the Didact for composition. The few that remained were only enough to preserve Homo Sapiens in the long run.
  • Warcraft III: Varimathras (a Nathrezim dreadlord, a race of vampire-looking demons) has this to say about Grand Marshal garithos:
    I believe his name was Garibon or Gilithos or something. Human names all sound the same to me.
  • All the alien skins in Star Wars Battlefront (2015) are identical to a single member of that species, with all the Rodians looking just like Greedo and all the Sullustans having the same face as Nien Nunb. Meanwhile, all those humans running around look different for whatever reason.
  • Moshi Monsters: Played straight for the Astro Gremlins, who all look like pointy-eared blue creatures, and inverted for the Zoshlings where each individual one looks different.
  • Pico: Penillians are a hermaphroditic species that use the same character model in both canon and fan games. Some fan games give them a little diversity by including gender differences (female anatomy is more prominent on males and vice versa), but otherwise leave the similarity intact. This doesn't apply to their Human Disguises, which can blend in with the populace seamlessly.
  • Part Time UFO: The humans and other earthly creatures seen throughout the game are drawn distinctly from each other. The same, however, is not true of the aliens:
    • The only difference between the two player Jobskis is the color of their respective chassis. A piece of art drawn for Father's Day also showed that Jobski's father looked exactly like them, but with a topknot instead of an antenna.
    • Aside from their commander, the star aliens found on the Moon resemble each other.
    • The only exception to this rule is Ankh, but she is the only member of her species seen in the game.

  • Given a Lampshade Hanging in Schlock Mercenary, when a local sapient uses "they all look the same to me" line when referring to the mercenary group, offending the titular character Schlock, who is not even remotely bipedal. Hung with an even larger lampshade in a later strip of the same comic, where the alien members of the mercenary crew are complaining that a group of new recruits are all Terrans, and 'all look the same to them'. Given that at this point in the series history, 'Terrans' includes humans, various sapient varieties of ape (pretty much anything Chimpanzee-sized and larger, up to and including Gorillas), along with sapient elephants...
    • Another time, the Toughs are visiting a space station owned by The Gavs, a single human who was duplicated nearly a billion times by an immense Teleporter Accident. Tagon warns them ahead of time so that they won't get weirded out by the sea of identical-except-for-hairstyle faces. Turns out the Gavs had just perfected a process for remaking themselves into unique individuals, and there was no such sea.
  • Uryuoms from El Goonish Shive seem to be Ditto Aliens as well. They don't even have different genders. However, they are big on fashion and cosmetics, so apart from the basic face, they can still be differentiated.
  • In one Starslip strip, when the crew is on Earth, two humans mistake Mr Jinx for their own cirbozoid employees. When Mr Jinx corrects them, one of them haughtily replies that cirbozoids all look the same... followed by a panel showing them standing next to each other, showing them to be nearly identical (mostly due to the strip's art style).
  • Averted in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. We've seen crowd scenes of dragons, bigfeet, Nemesites, and Fleenians, and they've always been pretty well individuated.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Deliberately done in the Battle For Azure City arc. The hobgoblin army was done entirely by copying and pasting one (male) sprite hundreds and hundreds of times, while the human army contained a wide variety of sprites of different genders and appearances. Word Of Giant is that this was done to indicate that the humans of Azure City were more socially advanced than the hobgoblins.
    • Also in the Azure City battle, Redcloak creates three skeletal undead and dresses them up like Xykon to serve as decoys:
      Monster in the Dark: How did you get them to look exactly like Xykon?
      Redcloak: I didn't. They're human skeletons, I put a blue robe on them and called it a night.
  • Thief in 8-Bit Theater insists that all humans look the same, one of the many expressions of his racism against all non-elf species.
    Thief: All humans look alike. Which is to say, ugly.
  • In one strip of Oglaf, humans are considered sexual deviants by other sapient species because their men look like their women. The really unsettling part for them is that our species looks like their women too.
    Mushroom Man: (Pointing at a picture of a human male) They're like blobby chicks you wouldn't fuck!

    Western Animation 
  • Averted in American Dad! — when we finally see more of Roger's species, they still look like The Greys but differ a lot in body type.
  • Usually avoided in Ben 10, if only because you rarely see two aliens of the same species even if the scene is in a crowded space-prison, although you occasionally see an alien like the ones Ben can change into. There is a literal Ditto Alien, though, in Ben's Ditto form which can split into multiple copies. In Ben 10: Alien Force, however, the DNAliens all look the same, and Ditto has been replaced with the sonically-empowered Echo-Echo. The Highbreed are near-indentical, but had differing patterns for the eyes on their face, which are sometimes asymmetric. One episode featured extended contact with a specific Highbreed individual, who returned for the finale. Justified because they were inbred to the point of becoming sterile. Thus there's not a lot of genetic diversity among them.
    • In one episode of Alien Force, a dragonlike alien claims that all primates look alike to him. He was probably referring the the similarity Kevin and Gwen bear to his enemies the Forever Knights, but at the time Ben was in the form of Spider Monkey: a four-armed blue monkeylike creature.
    • Averted to a higher degree in Ben 10: Omniverse, where aliens of the same species all have distinct looks.
  • The LGMs of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command all look identical in addition to having a Hive Mind. On the flip side, one LGM called Mira "Booster" with the explanation that "you all look the same". Mira and Booster aren't even the same species; Mira is a Blue Skinned Space Babe, and Booster is a large red implied-to-be-reptilian being.
  • Exo Squad plays with this; it is mentioned several times that Terrans can't tell Neosapiens apart, to the point that every Neo has to have a unique "broodmark" tattooed on his/her head in order to distinguish them. However, they all look quite different.
  • On Futurama, the aliens of Omicron Persei 8 take the "humans all look the same" philosophy to ludicrous extremes by not being able to tell the difference between a woman with one eye and a orangutan wearing clothes, a wig, and an eyepatch.
  • Averted in Invader Zim. Irkens vary widely in looks, while still obviously being the same species.
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles: All the characters are Serkis Folk, but the humanoid "Skinny" aliens are all the same model in (occasionally) different clothes. As are the bugs, within a given breed. The "Skinny" Colonel T'phai uses the "all humans look alike" line at one point.
  • Exaggerated in one episode of Samurai Jack with the Chritchellites, an alien race whose members not only look the same, and dress the same, but sound the same, all voiced by Tom Kenny inflecting all their lines the exact same way. The only distinguishing feature that their leader has is that his visor is orange.
  • Zig-zagged in Steven Universe: Gems of a single kind are actually supposed to all look alike, as they're created artificially and designed for specific tasks, as can been seen with the first three Rubies shown, who are identical except for gemstone location. Major variations in body type (like Amethyst's short height, contrast with Quartzes' intended Heroic Build) are considered deformities/defects. However, a later group of Rubies show there are cosmetic variations small enough to not be considered deformities, like varying tones of the same color of skin, which is how most later gems of the same type are portrayed. And while they share voice actors, they do make their voices sound different. Pearls seem to have such differences deliberately in order to match the appearance of those they serve under (e.g. Yellow Diamond has a yellow Pearl, Blue Diamond has a blue Pearl).
  • The Transformers: Aside from having a Hive Caste System, the Quintessons look identical, with no individuals having distinctive traits. This is exploited in "The Dweller in The Depths" when Galvatron distrusts some Quintessons trying to work with him after being manipulated by members of their race before. The aliens convince Galvatron to trust them by pointing out that Galvatron has no way of knowing if they're the same individuals who betrayed him previously, since they all look alike.
  • What If…? (2021): The divergence point in "What If... T'Challa Became A Star-Lord?" was Yondu sending Kraglin and Taserface to pick up Ego's offspring instead of doing it himself. They follow the wrong energy signature (from Wakanda's vibranium instead of Peter Quill's Celestial heritage) and pick up the wrong human (because all humans look alike to them, notwithstanding the obvious skin color difference).

    Real Life 
  • This exercise demonstrates why this may well be Truth in Television — while we're very well wired (for good reason) to distinguish between other members of our own species, without particularly noticable distinguishing features we're far less able to differentiate between individuals even of other commonly encountered species native to our own world. As such, it's no stretch to imagine we'd have difficulty with creatures from another world entirely.
    • However, people who regularly live or work with animals will usually learn to recognise individuals of that species after enough time.
  • People who have Asperger's Syndrome or other forms of autism may have a hard time remembering people by their faces. To them, you can tell them a name, and while they're able to tell you if they've heard it before, they absolutely cannot connect the name to a face or personality unless (1) more information about the person is provided, or (2) they've been around said person multiple times or have found them especially memorable.
  • People from one race are often unable to differentiate between members of another (unless they are well-known to them). It's called the Cross-race effect.
    • This is a phenomenon Older Than Feudalism. Aristotle is said to have claimed that the difference between Greeks and "barbarians" (i.e. non-Greeks) is that all Greeks look and act different but all barbarians look and act the same.
  • More generally, an estimated 2.5% of people can't tell faces apart at all.
  • Nonhuman animals which don't have a need to recognize each others' faces tend to have less individual facial variation. Bonobo chimpanzees are noted for having very variable faces, like humans, and unlike many others. For animals which aren't so extensively social, or which tell each other apart by scent or voice or looking at parts other than faces, there may still be variation, but it's more incidental.