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First Contact Team

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Whenever there's some kind of alien artifact found, or an extraterrestrial ship spotted in space, the government will always have some kind of official plan for dealing with First Contact. This trope is for when there is a "team" assembled, usually consisting of scientists, mathematicians, cunning linguists, and often a few oddball specialties.

The reasoning is that, because nobody knows how the heck to talk with the aliens or how to interact with them, you'll want a team with a wealth of knowledge to draw on in order to ease the First Contact. For example, if you can't understand the Aliens language, you might have your mathematician demonstrate a little First-Contact Math. Or, if the aliens' behavior is bizarre and incomprehensible, you might have an anthropologist on the team to help discern their meaning.


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    Fan Fiction 


  • In Blindsight, the crew of the Theseus consists of highly specialized individuals specially assembled to be able to initiate First Contact, all of which have something unusual about them: Susan James, the linguist, has had her brain altered to facilitate the development of four different personalities; Isaac Szpindel, the biologist, has nerves which have been repurposed to allow him to see x-rays and taste ultra-sound; Major Amanda Bates is a military specialist whose defining career moment consisted of an act of treason in order to facilitate a peaceful outcome; Jukka Sarasti, technically the head of the team, is a genetically re-engineered vampire whose intellectual capabilities and foresight surpass those of any given human; and a synthesist, Siri Keeton, whose job it is to translate complex statements and/or data into more easily palatable language. Each of the crew also have potential replacements kept in hibernation until needed, though only Szpindel's backup, Cunningham, is awakened before things go completely wrong.
  • Noah from Clade is part of a team of researchers scanning the sky for any sign of alien communication. They actually do receive a burst of noise from a star which, when slowed down, shows patterns that mean it's almost certainly a language of some kind. Unfortunately, they have no way of deciphering the language, and because the star is 500 light-years away, they have no way of establishing communication with the senders, either.
  • In Communion Of Dreams by James Downey, when an artifact is discovered on Titan (Saturn's largest moon), the government sends a team similar to the Sphere example, but also includes an anthropologist, an expert on Game Theory, and an artist.
  • In Contact, an international team is assembled in order to make contact with the aliens who sent the signal.
  • Invasion: Earth opens with an alien spacecraft crashlanding in New York City (barely missing the World Trade Center). A general steps out of a helicopter and announces that he's taking charge of the situation... and is arrested by the police captain who's actually in charge. The next military man to show up is the protagonist, an Air Force Intelligence officer who respectfully offers the captain some intelligence and practical advice (which is taken), then waits quietly while a team of scientists and military brass dispatched by the President argue. When it's time to enter the craft, he takes a Sergeant Rock with a .45 as protection, and an electronics specialist with a cable-fed camera (the cable guarded by its own team of soldiers).
  • In The Lost Fleet, the fleet is sent into alien space with xenologists who had attempted to work out how to contact aliens if they ever found them. They turn out to be much less useful than a general-turned-politician who had been sent along as an official ambassador, and who had many fewer preconceived notions.
  • When the Sun-kissed agree to negotiate in Musketeer Space, the hastily-put-together First Contact Team includes a mob of linguists, a group of Mendaki (another species of alien — what they bring to the table is never made clear, and lampshaded by the other characters), an agent who has worked with a Sun-kissed spy in the past, and two Musketeers who have previously had sex with said Sun-kissed spy. Somehow, it works.
  • In the Priscilla Hutchins novel Chindi, the First Contact Society are wealthy UFO-chasers who are generally regarded as kooks but are indulged because they help raise funds for the Academy. When they fund a private expedition to investigate an alien transmission, no-one expects they'll find anything, but the Academy sends Hutch as The Captain to babysit them. Unfortunately, several of them end up getting killed when they make First Contact for real, as they lack the caution of professionals.
  • In Sphere, when an alien ship is discovered at the bottom of the ocean, the government sends a team composed of a psychologist, a mathematician, a biologist, and an astrophysicist. Later becomes a subversion: the psychologist who wrote the "Emergency First Contact Plan" admits that, after having been approached by the government to produce the plan, he thought it was so ridiculous that he lazily based all his recommendations on popular science fiction.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, The Essential Guide to Alien Species reveals that the Old Republic had these.
  • In The Voyage of the Space Beagle, the eponymous ship is staffed with a wide selection of specialists, including a Nexialist, a scientist who specializes in the general use and assimilation of knowledge.
  • In the Xandri Corelel series, the protagonist works on the starship Carpathia as the head of Xeno-Liaisons. She and her four team members work to learn how newly discovered species communicate, both verbally and nonverbally, in order to bring their planets into the Starsystems Alliance.
  • In the Salvadorean novel Yo Soy La Memoria ("I Am the Memory") by Hugo Lindo there is a team comprised of the wisemen from several different fields, tasked with checking upon some wreckage. It included: an Astrologer, a Physics man, a Biologist, a walking memory log, and a Medic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stargate-verse:
    • The main team of Stargate SG-1 are a pretty balanced collection who take up a number of roles: a military officer with sufficient authority to represent the United States to foreign powers, a physicist who can perform preliminary analysis of alien technology encountered, an anthropologist and linguist who can help with establishing friendly relations with any cultures they encounter, and an alien defector knowledgeable about the greater galaxy that Earth is stepping into. Also somewhat present in the Stargate movie.
    • Parodied in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Cure" when a delegation of Human Aliens is awaiting the arrival of Tau'ri representatives. They talk about what they've heard about the representatives' leader, painting him as a brilliant negotiator. Then out of the gate comes O'Neill.
      Colonel Jack O'Neill: Howdy, folks!
    • Similar to SG-1, the team in Stargate Atlantis is frequently sent out on first contact missions, though they eschew an anthropologist in favor of a "native guide" in the form of Teyla. They later add another "native" in the form of Ronon, although he also doubles as The Big Guy, just like Teal'c in SG-1.
  • Any Star Trek episode that revolves around first contact, from any series, often has this with the away team, although they avert it almost as much.
  • The pilot episode of Threshold starts with one of these being organized.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In the Modesty Blaise storyline "Take Me to Your Leader", a respected scientist and government advisor encounters what he believes is a first contact situation, and Sir Gerald Tarrant is given the job of selecting a small discreet first contact team. Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin are his first and only choices; their ability to sniff out a scam is an obvious qualification, but Tarrant suggests that he would have picked them even if he didn't suspect a hoax — of all the people he knows, they have the broadest range of interests, solid grounding in the basics of many disciplines, and open and enquiring minds, which he considers more likely to be useful than any number of experts whose expertise might be about to be proven useless.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • First contact is usually a minor event to the galaxy at large, since most species couldn't hope to match the power players in the galaxy. For the Imperium, First Contact is usually done by Rogue Traders or the Adeptus Mechanicus. If the alien species proves useful, they'll be allowed to survive, for a time. If not, or if first contact is made by a militant body, the Imperium will wipe away the alien species soon afterwards.
    • The Tau have the friendliest First Contact policy, trying to negotiate with minor species and try to bring them into their stable of client species. Some species simply prove too aggressive and have been exterminated as a matter of pragmatism.
    • Most species to make first contact with the other major galactic powers will find themselves killed, and maybe eaten afterwards. The major exception is the Craftworld Eldar, with historical precedent suggesting that they prefer to remain unseen and would ignore most species unless they can prove useful. Eldar have regarded some individual humans in a manner that's arrogant, but helpful, and might generously be called friendly, so they might consider new species in a similar manner.

    Video Games 
  • Although only one of them is in on it at first, the three protagonists of The Dig are such a team. Ostensibly, they were organized in order to stop an asteroid collision, but the government also picked them on the basis that the asteroid had intelligent beings behind it — and it did.
  • Mass Effect:
    • First Contact Teams are mentioned in passing in Mass Effect 2 as envoys from Council space to any newly discovered species. In this instance, the species in question was the yahg, and the incident got the yahg blacklisted and their world blockaded.
    • Humanity never had the benefit of First Contact Teams, as we had expanded far space and ended up meeting the Citadel species by accident. Specifically, the turians, who caught humans illegally reactivating mass effect relays, and assumed we were pirates. The ensuing war was brutal and brief, and made more bitter by a number of misunderstandings which nearly escalated the situation into a galactic crisis. The other Citadel species caught wind of the situation, stepped in and brokered a cease fire, paving the way for humanity to join the Citadel. The incident was a point of contention between humans and turians for years after.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, Pathfinder teams are specifically trained to handle first contact, among other things. Ryder has to put this to use when the Tempest makes an emergency landing on the angara world of Aya. It's only afterward that the diplomats, xenoanthropologists, and sociologists are brought out.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the expedition into the Schwarzwelt consists of both scientists and soldiers. It's not initially conceived of as a First Contact Team, but they end up making contact with intelligent life within the Schwarzwelt, and their varied skills help see the mission through to completion.
  • The intro to Sid Meier's Starships has the colony assemble one after receiving a signal from another colony, the first word they've had from other humans in a thousand years. However, the signal is later determined to be a distress call, resulting in the civilian team being replaced by a fleet of well-armed warships.

    Web Original 
  • The Journal Entries: White's Teams, which are often based on White's Ships, named for White's Theorem: "A space-faring species' first encounter with another space-faring species is most likely to be a distress signal." This occurs multiple times both on-screen and in backstories.

    Real Life 
  • Any diplomatic mission meant to travel beyond the sphere of a given ruler's sphere; to chase an interesting rumor, for instance, or to begin relations with a previously isolated people. These were usually sent for utilitarian rather than scientific purposes and some behaved quite brutally. Yet in fact they were a first contact team and may have been the inspiration for this Trope.
    • Vasco De Gama was sent around the Cape of Good Hope for instance; in his case the mission was botched through bad intelligence. They found India and found it had been almost as rich as legends painted. Unfortunately they hadn't planned for that just yet and had only trade beads in for gifts because they were expecting to meet local tribes; and of course beads were just insulting to the Grand Mogul. In this case they were able to settle for another kind of means which was good enough for the purpose as no local prince had much of a navy.
    • The Polo family had the patronage of the papacy which thought they might be able to find a potential ally against the Moslems.
    • One of the first explorers in history was a Chinese courtier sent to an unmapped kingdom which was famous for horses (which the Chinese army was short on), and rumored to have a grudge against some of China's enemies.
    • Commodore Perry was America's first contact team to Japan. Other than a small Dutch presence on an island just offshore of Kagoshima who were only allowed to trade in Japan once a year, it was the first large-scale Western presence in Japan in 250 years of Tokugawa Shogunate rule (Japan having all but shut itself off from the rest of the world as a result of adopting its sakoku policy).
    • Once Japan realized just how far behind it was technologically, the shogunate sent its own embassy on a tour of Europe, eventually setting the stage for its very rapid industrialization in the Meiji Era.
  • Truth in Television: A lot of various governments and intergovernmental organizations do indeed have contingency plans in the event that extraterrestrials ever land on their part of Earth, though (of course) these plans do tend to change as various administrations come and go. A number of these plans specifically include assembling a welcoming party including certain prominent scientists and/or certain prominent religious and political leaders to greet these visitors. (Some of these plans also involve arresting the extraterrestrials and impounding their ship; which might explain why extraterrestrials in range, if there are any, have been keeping their distance from us.)