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Space Orcs

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Aliens in high-tech settings who are warlike, brutish, primitive and aggressive.

In general, cultural sophistication is often assumed to go along with the technological kind — as a civilization becomes more advanced, it's expected that it will become more civilized and sophisticated as well. These guys are living arguments against that, retaining distinctly barbaric cultures even while utilizing and producing technology far ahead of what we have in real life. At best, they will retain social mores and values most societies leave behind when they exit the bronze age, remaining focused on and accepting of warfare, raiding, piracy, slavery and personal vendettas. At worst, they'll be pillagers, warmongers, and a generally murderous or thuggish lot — The Horde in space — lacking even the honor codes of a Proud Warrior Race that regulate how they go about combat and glory-seeking.


Their technological base may vary in nature and advancement. They generally have much more primitive technology than other factions, which in space age settings may range from near-modern industrial machinery to them being still in the stone age. When they have reliable tech of their own, it will often be more primitive than what's normal for the setting, or at least more used, dirty and worn in appearance. Often, they may have obtained what tech they have from someone else, whether this was stolen or given to them by other factions seeking to use them as armed forces. It's in fact fairly common for Space Orcs to work as Mooks, mercenaries and soldiers for others — it keeps the other group away from the bloodshed, and these guys rarely care who or why they're fighting as long as they are.


Note that not every one of these qualifiers need apply. Space Orcs may possess and maintain sophisticated technology of their own, although this will be mostly put to use in waging war and killing people. They may also be a neutral or even heroic faction, albeit one in the vein of the Noble Savage who shuns technology and civilization in favor of a life of warfare, hunting and physical combat.

Sometimes, these alien will be literal fantasy orcs, ogres or similar fantasy races IN SPACE! Otherwise, they most commonly resemble Hollywood ape-men or simian creatures of various sorts, in which case they may overlap with Killer Space Monkey. When not ape-like, they may resemble a Pig Man.

Subtrope of Our Orcs Are Different and Low Culture, High Tech. Contrast Space Elves, who are most often associated with advanced technology and magic and with refined cultures. Often overlaps with Planet Looters.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fifth Element: Mangalores are ugly, brutish spacefaring mercenaries with a generically warlike culture, hired by the Big Bad to attack the Big Good, steal the MacGuffin, and generally cause havoc.
  • Star Wars: The Gamorreans are short, stout aliens resembling green-skinned humanoid pigs. They're mostly characterized as dim and uncultured thugs, and are often used as minions and low-level grunts by Hutt crime lords. Despite living in a galaxy full of high-tech weapons, including both Ray Guns and Laser Blades, Gamorreans use simple metal-bladed axes.

  • Animorphs: The Yeerks fulfill this trope in an oddly literal way: K. A. Applegate based their name on yrch, the plural of "orc" in J. R. R. Tolkien's Sindarin language.
  • Known Space: The Kzinti, a species of towering catlike aliens, are what you get when you take a bronze age culture and give it hyper-advanced technology with no adjustment period. Evolved from territorial predators, they had just worked out metalworking when a space-capable species, the Jotoki, culturally uplifted them to use as soldiers and bodyguards. This worked great until it didn't and the Kzinti overwhelmed the Jotoki, enslaved them and used their tech to create their own star empire. Modern Kzinti are extremely aggressive and warlike, routinely invade, conquer, enslave and eat other sapient species, have a society entirely focused upon martial prowess, and are so prone to dueling each other to the death that this serves as their main population limiter. They have however become far less vicious in the tail end of the setting's timeline, in large part because the Puppeteers contrived for humanity to gain a technological edge on them, causing the Kzinti to lose all their wars against them and cull off the most aggressive and warlike members of several consecutive generations.
  • Space Captain Smith: The Morlocks are a One-Gender Race of green-skinned, fanged, inhumanly strong, humorously violent headhunters. One of whom, Suruk, is the protagonist's best friend.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The ancient Mandalorians were a society of warriors and marauders who were constantly at odds with the Republic, warring against it and raiding its worlds. They were often allies of the Sith, and armies of Mandalorians riding on the backs of the quadrupedal war droids were common sights during the numerous Sith/Republic wars. In the setting's present, long after the fall of the Mandalorian empires, they mostly live as clans on their homeworld or as Bounty Hunters and mercenaries in the wider galaxy.
    • New Jedi Order: The Yuuzhan Vong warrior caste are dogmatic, skilled and fearsome warriors who live for combat and driving their species' conquest of the galaxy. The other three major Vong castes (shaper, priest, intendant), who run and direct the Vong civilization, are less savage and more cunning, and in many ways fall closer to dark elf status than anything. Indeed, the Vong's backstory has them as essentially Space Elves gone bad. In any case, they follow a narrative trajectory fairly typical of fantasy orcs, being initially portrayed as unrepentantly Always Chaotic Evil before being more fleshed out and finally doing a race-wide Heel–Face Turn.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The Ogrons are large, black-to-purple-skinned caveman-like aliens mainly noted for their stupidity and their aggressive natures. Most live primitive lives on their homeworld; the ones seen on other planets are typically mercenaries and thugs under a villain's employ.
  • Star Trek: The Klingons have gone through a similar arc as orcs have, from the Tolkien-orc-like nearly-Always Chaotic Evil antagonists of Star Trek: The Original Series through their softening and fleshing-out in various films and ultimately to the Blizzard-orc-like sympathetic Proud Warrior Race of Star Trek: The Next Generation and later.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax are an ancient race of insanely aggressive Blood Knights who can resent other lifeforms enough to want to hurt them simply for the fact that they were born, while also being intelligent enough to build Hactar, the universe's first supercomputer that functioned like a living creature's brain (which they naturally put to work designing weapons for them). They became extinct about 20 billion galactic years ago when they found an incredibly creative way of blowing their entire species up, to the immense relief of every other lifeform in the galaxy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In Spelljammer, the scro are very literally D&D orcs IN SPACE!. They're actually more civilized than the usual orcs (meaning they're usually Lawful rather than Chaotic Evil, employ tactics and never fire on messengers and truce-bearers), but remain a roving culture of warlike marauders and a constant menace to other species and societies. They live for combat, which they see as the highest possible calling, and view themselves as fighting a holy war to drive all other species either out of space and onto planetary life or into enslavement under the scro.
  • Traveller: The Vargr are a species of uplifted wolves known for their high aggressiveness and warlike natures. Their society is limited to what groups a charismatic leader can hold together, and Vargr leaders need to constantly prove their strength or be deposed and replaced. The rest of the setting's species see them as a vast horde of barbarians, marauders and Space Pirates (and the Vargr do see pirates as admirable cultural heroes), although their ability to threaten the rest of the galaxy is hampered by their constant infighting.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Orks were originally Warhammer Fantasy's Orcs transplanted directly into a space-age setting. They're big, green, dim-witted apelike brutes who live to fight and kill, speak in a rough and crude manner distorted by a heavy Funetik Aksent, and go to war in massive hordes of howling barbarians supported by crude smoke-spewing technology, ramshackle war machines and giant beasts. They have very little technical knowledge themselves, and what technology they possess they either steal from others or build from hardwired instinct. They could quite easily overrun the whole galaxy if they united, but will never stop fighting one another long enough for that to happen. They are also an artificial species, having been created as a species of living weapons by the Old Ones long ago, who made them ferocious and nearly unkillable and gifted with instinctive knowledge of machinery as a last-ditch attempt to stem the tide of the C'Tan and their Necron armies.
    • The Kroot, a race of green-skinned, featherless avian humanoids, are a non-villainous take on this, being essentially a species of Noble Savages. They're largely still in the stone age, relying on their Tau allies for technology, and have little ranged weaponry — something their speed, strength and sheer ferocity in melee easily make up for. On their homeworld they live in scattered tribes, hunting the savage beasts that share their planet, and make their living in the wider galaxy as ferocious mercenaries and as auxiliary troops and wilderness scouts in Tau armies. They also eat their foes and their own dead, although the former is a form of tribute as the Kroot absorb traits from other species that they consume, and thus to be eaten by a Kroot means it considered you worthy enough to take into itself to become better. This is played in contrast with the Tau, with the latter's futuristic technology, lofty philosophies and darker underbelly juxtaposing the Kroot's crude tools and huts, direct survival-oriented worldview and frank and honest beliefs.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: Super-mutants are humans who have been mutated into monsters by exposure to the Forced Evolutionary Virus, and generally appear to be giant, well-muscled humanoids with green or blue skin. Their intelligence ranges from on par with humans (1st generation), to human but with a strong disposition towards mental instabilities (the Nightkin sub-caste), to Dumb Muscle (2nd generation and most subsequent generations), depending on how pure the batch of FEV used to create them was, and they are able to use human tech like guns and laser rifles, although these are generally assumed to have been scavenged from humans. They are often violent towards humans due to the mutual Fantastic Racism between the two species, and while some super-mutants show tolerance towards humans, they tend to be the exception.
  • Halo: The Brutes are towering aliens resembling huge apes with tusks and claws, and are savage, violent and antisocial barbarians to the last. They commonly eat other sapient races (they openly discuss eating an Elite in one of the first cutscenes of Halo 2), and are the most directly violent of the races of the Covenant; the other member species have at least some pretenses at honor and righteousness, are alien and enigmatic in their motives or are slaves or Hired Guns, but the Brutes seem to just like killing people. They actually built a complex technological society at one point, but their warlike nature led them to bomb themselves back to the stone age. The Covenant rediscovered them after this, at which point the Prophets decided they'd make fine Mooks and recruited them as frontline shock troops and heavy hitters for their armies.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The krogan, as a result of having evolved on a Death World of climatic extremes and deadly predators, are noted for a combination of intense aggressiveness and extremely resilient biology. Their culture is strongly focused on combat and battle, their honor system is based entirely around how successful and feared you are as a warrior, they tend to enter berserk rages when injured and when their old industrial civilization first split the atom it promptly nuked itself back to the stone age. They afterwards remained as primitive, squabbling clans for two millennia until the Council brought them to space to fight the rachni, after which the krogans attempted to overrun and conquer the rest of the galaxy before being restricted back to their homeworld.
    • The yahg are, essentially, the krogan squared. They're even bigger, stronger and tougher than the krogan, and much more antisocial and aggressive. Their society is based entirely around pack structures where one yahg dominates the others by force until another kills him and takes over, which has resulted in a violent and hypercompetitive species chronically unable to work efficiently in large groups. They're currently stuck in their solar system, as they don't possess FTL technology and they were placed under quarantine after they massacred the delegation sent to contact them. They are, however, highly intelligent, although their violent and competitive tendencies prevent them from making good collective use of their brainpower.
  • Serious Sam II: Orcs are a primitive sapient alien race uplifted by Mental and recruited for his army. They carry plasma weapons and drive hovecraft, and are among the weakest enemies.
  • Space Empires: The Sithrak have the same level of space-faring technology as the other empires, and are described as being in a constant state of warfare with all non-Sithrak lifeforms (in the lore, at least; in the actual game they can be negotiated and allied with like any other empire). Because they are natives to another dimension who invaded this universe, it's theorised that in their home dimension they're at the bottom of the food chain, so constant fighting and treating others as a potential threat are necessary survival tactics.
  • Star Control II: The Thraddash are a species of hulking aliens with a great love of fighting and a firm belief that Might Makes Right. They've built their way to high-tech society and bombed themselves back to the metaphorical stone age a solid eighteen or nineteen times, with the cycle only coming to a halt when they were enslaved by the Ur-Quan and pressed into service as Battle Thralls. They quite like their new lifestyle, although they don't care for how the Ur-Quan won't let them fight among themselves anymore.
  • Stellaris:
    • Any AI empire with the Honorbound Warriors or Slaving Despots personality, especially since their slaves aren't particularly good at research.
    • Marauders are Space Cossacks with mid- to late-game technology but who live in dingy overcrowded space stations and survive by raiding and extorting tribute from other empires or or hiring themselves out as Private Military Contractors. One of their three custom personalities is prone to screaming threats to kill and eat the player in communications. And of course, when one marauder tribe unites under a Great Khan, they become The Horde and invade everybody around them with extremely powerful fleets.
    • One of the species portraits in the Humanoids DLC looks particularly orcish, though given the AI species are randomly generated there's no guarantee they'll act like it if encountered.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: Two of the Ganglion's primary Mook races fit into this archetype:
    • The Prone's skin colors include pink and purple rather than green, and they have tentacles hanging off their faces, but aside from appearance they are essentially Blizzard orcs. They tend to have aspects of both Tolkien and Blizzard orcs, usually depending on how likely they are to shoot you.
    • The Marnucks are essentially Tolkien orcs, aside from their blue skin, being reptilian, preference for guns, and having invented their own military technology. What little we know about them is that they don't just love war; their chief deity is their god of death, and they think killing people in battle is an honorable act. Their homeworld was destroyed by a global civil war, and the only ones left are the ones that sided with the Ganglion.

    Western Animation 
  • Rick and Morty: On the planet Gazorpazorp, male Gazorpians are large, sex-obsessed primitive brutes who spend their short lives trying to kill each other and impregnating artificial birthing machines distributed to them by the more civilized females. The females are more like Space Elves, including the cultural posturing.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: The Galra are large, proud, purple-skinned warriors with appearances that range from shaggy and brutish to ruggedly attractive. Their culture is strongly focused on expansion and martial conquest, and most Galra seen in the show are either Mooks or antagonistic military leaders. On the more noble side, the Blades of Marmora are a secretive faction of Galra who oppose the empire and assist the heroes. Even King Zarkon, ruler of the empire, was once a true hero before he was corrupted into a genocidal monster.

     Real Life 
  • One commonly held belief in Internet circles is that, should contact ever be made with alien life and humanity becomes part of galactic civilization, then we'll be the Space Orcs compared to everyone else. It's not without precedent — we're super-persistent pursuit predators, we're able to continue functioning even after taking extreme damage, we're fairly strong for our size, and we have borderline no sense of self preservation. Our idea of a good time is consuming various poisonous substances to experience their side effects. Our idea of a delicious food seasoning is a defense mechanism that certain plants evolved to protect themselves from being eaten by making themselves literally painful to eat. We say bring it on, the more painful the better! Not to mention that Humans Are Warriors isn't a trope for no reason.


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