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Transhuman Aliens

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"We were like you once, but now we are different... Certain weaknesses have been removed."
A Cyberman, Doctor Who, "The Tenth Planet"

Related to the Earth All Along ending, and sort of like Was Once a Man for an entire species, this is where a group of alien/future creatures (typically ones encountered by normal humans) are revealed to be descended from humanity, either an isolated group separate that branched off from the rest of the human species or all of humankind in the distant future.

There are two broad ways in which these entities are portrayed. In the first, they'll be actual Transhumans, whose inhuman or post-human state is the result of centuries, millennia or more of increasing technological or spiritual advancement and modifications to the original human form. These are often cyborgs, Energy Beings or aliens highly similar to The Greys — indeed, the Greys being far-future human descendants is a common element in conspiracy theories related to them. These posthumans will often be amoral or disinterested in modern humans, but there are occasional instances of uplifted humans who having experienced The Singularity who are benevolent and god-like. In the second case, they'll instead be bestial creatures, often a Formerly Sapient Species regressed to animalistic ways, and physically monstrous in the bargain.

A key aspect of this trope is the shock of learning that these profoundly inhuman beings are what humanity can become or will become in time. This often raises questions about what it means to be human, what traits are important to modern humanity, and what it would mean for these traits to be lost. In the case of advanced Transhuman Aliens, they may be attempting to manipulate modern humans, potentially to ensure their own existence. In the case of bestial ones, existential dread or pessimism may come into play in seeing how far humanity can fall or the ultimate end of all human history and achievements.

Compare with Not Even Human; in this case, they are worse because they are. For populations of humans that moved to space and stayed human, see Transplanted Humans. Compare/contrast with Human All Along and Human Subspecies. Not to be confused with Ultraterrestrials. See also No Transhumanism Allowed and Transhuman. Can be used as a justification for Humanoid Aliens or Rubber-Forehead Aliens if Time Travel is involved.

Contrast Panspermia and Humanity Came from Space.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ergo Proxy: Possibly true at the end, where it's shown that the Proxies were created by humans with the intent that they would make Earth habitable again. When this does occur at the end of the series, you see a bunch of spaceships descend from the sky intent on killing the human survivors from the domes. While the viewer isn't shown what they look like, they are alien invaders who were/are human.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: The Hideauze are revealed to be descended from humans who volunteered themselves to be part of genetic experiments that would allow the human body to survive the harshness of space in search of a new homeworld to escape an Earth going through global cooling. That group, known as the Evolvers, were opposed by other humans who formed the Continental Union, the forebear of the Galactic Alliance. They wanted to escape Earth as well, but as humans, and relied on technology more than genetics. This contradicts everything Ledo learned about the Hideauze being a hostile alien force that wanted to wipe out humanity.

    Comic Books 
  • Blake and Mortimer features a story where Little Green Men are kidnapping people from various times and places over several centuries. They turn out to be humanity's descendants after nuclear war seriously messed up the planet. But where modern man has mastered the atom, they mastered time travel instead, and brought back Basam Damdu (the dictator from the very first story) so as to ensure that under the leader who came closest to world domination, humanity wouldn't rip itself apart.
  • In The Books of Magic, Tim Hunter briefly visits a distant future in which humans have evolved into eerie plant-animal hybrids.
  • Micronauts (Marvel Comics): The many races of the Microverse are all descended from a future humanity which fled through time, space and dimensions to escape a genocidal war.
  • Seven Soldiers of Victory (2005): The Sheeda are a future posthuman species that robs the past to support their resource-poor civilization.
  • The Reveal in Zenith is that the Eldritch Abomination villains are actually a trio of Earth superhumans who had evolved far beyond human form and had gotten stuck on the wrong side of a dimensional barrier in the process.

  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: The robotic alien creatures at the end of the movie are a rare positive example of this. Being robots with biological components in a world where humans are extinct, the implication is either that they are robots who won the Robot War with evil humans or else uplifted humans who learned the error of their ways. In either case, they are a Sufficiently Advanced Alien.
  • The Descent: A borderline example with the cave creatures who evolved from Homo sapiens or an earlier ancestor.
  • Interstellar: The beings responsible for creating the wormhole are speculated to be simply humans from the extremely distant future who have evolved to exist in strange 5-dimensional space and can thus travel through time as though it were a physical dimension, and influence the material Universe via gravitational alterations, much like the "ghost" who directs the protagonist to the hidden NASA base is revealed to simply be himself from the future, influencing his own past to create a Stable Time Loop that will allow humanity to develop the technology necessary for interstellar travel.
  • In perhaps already the most over the top and science fiction-ish James Bond plot competition, Moonraker contains not just Agent 007 himself engaging in space travel as well as an invisible city orbiting around the Earth, but also an antagonist who’s evil plot involves destroying all human life on Earth and breeding genetically perfect people to create an ultimate humanoid alien race to come and take the big blue planet for themselves.
  • Official Denial: The Greys come from the future and are the last generation of mankind, having lost the ability to reproduce. The protagonist understands this after consulting the database on the ship, and remembering "DOS" words that, to save "DOS"'s people, he must save his own.
  • Pandorum: The creatures are at first assumed to be aliens that somehow got aboard the ship. It's revealed that they were humans that, like everyone on board, were exposed to an agent to accelerate their evolution and evolved to life on the ship.

  • All Tomorrows: Humans first colonized Mars, where the lower gravity and other conditions caused them to evolve a little, but still be recognizably human. After humanity developed interstellar travel and settled many planets across the galaxy, an alien species called the Qu showed up and, after defeating humans on almost every world, genetically engineered them into grotesque forms. These then evolved on their own for a few million years, most into forms that are no longer recognizable as originating from Earth, let alone human. Several do re-evolve sapience, though. Eventually the cyborg Machines wipe out most of the other species, only to be stopped by the godlike Asteromorphs, whose ancestors managed to escape the Qu since they lived on spaceships rather than planets.
  • Belisarius Series: The backstory features two opposing factions in a far-future war, which can be summed up as a fight over whether humanity should be defined by the mind or by the body. One faction is made up of Transhuman Aliens, humans evolved or genetically engineered to live on alien worlds. Some evolved into gigantic Space Whales, while others scuttle about on crab-like legs that are modified ribs. The opposing faction fancies themselves the original, pure-blood humans, and wants to wipe out all the evolved and engineered subspecies of humanity. Of course, this far in the future, they aren't recognizably human any more, either. More precisely, the Great Ones are so different as to be made of non-organic crystals and forcefields, but think like human beings; whereas the New Gods resemble impossibly perfect humans, but have lost all compassion for those not like themselves to the point where they seem less human than the Great Ones. This is why one faction is trying to alter the past into a meritocratic society, and the other into a caste-based eugenic society.
  • Diplomatic Act: The Greys ("Homus" is their real name) turn out to be humanity's descendants from the future.
  • In "The Dragon Masters" by Jack Vance, a human colony is plagued by alien kidnappers. After fighting back and taking captives, the story shifts ahead many years, and the captive aliens have been bred into dragons of many breeds with many purposes. When the alien slavers return, it's revealed that they have done the same with their human captives.
  • House of Suns: The galaxy is home to staggeringly diverse beings, from sea-life to giant space-dwellers to semi-sentient weather, all of which are in fact evolved or modified human stock. The only reason the central characters are remotely recognizable as human comes of their spending the eons since the original diaspora flitting around at relativistic speeds and thus have passed much less subjective time in the meanwhile.
  • Hyperion Cantos: In The Fall of Hyperion, the Ousters have modified their DNA to varying degrees; the more extreme variants have wings and are capable of flying unassisted in space.
  • Much of Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future is about various genetically engineered species of humans, starting with future descendants of modern humanity who become entirely dependent on technological cradles to survive and later replace these with genetically engineered bodies unique to each individual and, after the collapse of their society, to multiple kinds of non-sapient human species created to replace long-extinct mammalian megafauna. The book ends with an alien species coming to earth and destroying all life on land, who themselves are the evolved remnants of the humans who went into space at the beginning of the book.
  • The Downstreamers from Manifold: Time and Manifold: Origin are descendants of the human species from the very end of time, after the heat death of the universe. Since much or all of the material universe has disappeared in their time, they function as disembodied minds hosted in a computational sub-stratum of the Universe itself, where they can survive indefinitely. This allows them to access entire galaxies' worth of energy and complete control over space and time. It doesn't mean they enjoy it, however.
  • Paradox: The Pelted are multiple races of genetically engineered human-animal hybrids created as part of "Project Homefront".
  • Phobos Mayan Fear: The grey aliens held captive in Area 51 turn to be transhumans from the future, specifically the ancient Mayans leaded by Chilam Balam through the wormhole created in the past by the present CERN.
  • Revelation Space Series: The Ultras vary from human-seeming to animated works of art; the Skyjacks are permanently adapted for life in space; the Stoners are heavily augmented humans who go so far as swapping sexes and appearances the way most people choose hairstyles — Zebra from Chasm City has horselike legs, zebra stripe skin pigmentation, a mohawk that runs all the way down her spine, horselike eyes, and hasn't always been female (not that any of that gives the hero a moment's pause before bedding her).
  • Several Star Trek Expanded Universe novels have the crew meeting "aliens" who turn out to be heavily modified humans.
  • In That Hideous Strength, it becomes apparent that the Moon became as desolate as it is because the Lunarians tried to destroy their bodies and become pure minds. The mad attempt destroyed their civilization and the few not to attempt bodiless immortality have been struggling to survive on the dark side of the Moon. It turns out that the goal of the earthly N.I.C.E. is to repeat the process on Earth with some help from the Macrobes to ensure no savages survive blemish their untainted universe.
  • The Time Machine is an early example with the Morlocks and Eloi as future humans (the result of respectively factory workers and privileged elites developing into separate species) and neither presenting that pleasant an outcome for the human race. The Morlocks are subterranean monsters with the intellect to operate machinery, the Eloi are beautiful creatures with low intelligence who live pampered lives. The latter is maintained by the former for food.
  • The Time Wanderers: The Homo Ludens are essentially a benign, but detached, group of ascended humans who protect their bodily brethren.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: The Cetagandans are attempting to evolve themselves into an example of this trope. Miles notes that they do not yet consider the process complete, and do not know exactly what they will have become when it is finished.
  • In "Zima Blue" by Alastair Reynolds, an artist who appears to be a transhuman turns out to be a pool-cleaning robot who developed sentience and modified itself repeatedly over the centuries.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda:
    • Nietzscheans are humans genetically engineered to be superior Ubermenschen by a literal Nietzsche Wannabe Mad Scientist a thousand years or so before the events of the series. They can eat almost anything organic, have nanobot-enhanced immune systems, and bone spikes growing out of their forearms (in addition to the usual Super-Strength and other enhanced physical abilities).
    • The Castalians are humans genetically engineered with gills to live underwater and breathe water rather than air. They've got nifty water-tank backpacks with tubes to their neck gills for when they have to come out of the water to meet others. Nietzscheans are pretty much neutral, Castalians generally fairly good guys, although they've done some nasty things to survive in the Crapsack World after the fall of the the Commonwealth, and they tend to treat the "air-breathers" (i.e. normal humans) on their planet as second-class citizens.
    • There are a few less obvious examples. For example, Dylan's enhanced strength and a few other traits are due to his mother being a high gravity worlder. Becca has a number of enhancements such as enhanced reaction time that make her a better spacer (and were reverse-engineered by the time-traveling creator of the Nietzcheans). The crew had only one un-altered human (until they started to get a bigger crew in later seasons), and it was mentioned a few times that more than 80% of humans have some kind of engineered genetics.
  • Babylon 5: The season 4 finale, "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", has a human from a million years into the future revealed as a transhuman Energy Being that uses an encounter suit much like the Vorlons earlier in the series did.
  • Blake's 7: "Moloch" features one of these, who is the result of a computer simulation made flesh by an ultra-sophisticated replicator.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The original Cybermen aren't technically humans (they're an identical species from Earth's long-lost twin planet Mondas). Regardless, they often forcibly convert humans into Cybermen, so at least some Cybermen fit this trope perfectly. Other Cybermen are humans from an Alternate Universe.
    • The Toclafane from Series 7 are cheerful psychopaths who look like flying silver basketballs. These balls contain human heads, revealing their true nature as refugees from a decayed far future.
    • There are Daleks partially built from human DNA in "The Parting of the Ways", as well as a human being converted into a human-Dalek hybrid in "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks".
    • The Face of Boe is most likely a human, specifically, Captain Jack Harkness, after eons of Age Without Youth.
  • Fringe: The Observers are revealed to be this, albeit coming from one possible future of humanity. Using their unique mastery of time, they are free to interact with the past (including our present).
  • The Outer Limits (1963): "The Sixth Finger" follows a working-class guy who gets accelerated through Evolutionary Levels to become a superintelligent creature. Transhuman Treachery follows, partly because he had been kind of a misanthrope to begin with.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): "The Origin of Species" has a group of college students board an ancient alien starship. When they land, they find a skeleton of a human-like figure with bat wings, which they assume to belong to the aliens who sent the ship. Then it is revealed that the planet is actually Earth in the future, meaning the skeleton belongs to a human who has either evolved or has been genetically modified to have wings.
  • Primeval: It's speculated that the mer creatures — animals from the future resembling a cross between a sea lion and an ape — may be descended from humans, although it's only solidly established that they're primates.
  • Red Dwarf: Finding Earth is one of the series' goals, though hardly ever really worked toward. It’s suggested that humanity is extinct due to the three million year difference between when Lister left Earth and the current time frame. In the first episode it is suggested that if three million years could turn a house cat into Felis Sapien, Lister compared to "modern" humanity might as well be the slime that crawled out of the primordial sea. The various species of GELFs (Genetically Engineered Life Forms) the crew encounters are all of human creation, but they serve very much the same role in the plots that aliens would in a more conventional spaceship-based show, so that every "alien" in the show is a human creation, fast-forwarded three million years. Many shows have the Precursors; here, we are it.
  • Stargate SG-1: The Jaffa are humans genetically engineered by the Go'auld into incubators for their larvae, which act as their immune system.
  • Star Trek:
    • Series-wide, the human members of the Borg can qualify. The vast majority of Borg drones seen seem to be human, including the various Borg Queens. That said, this is a series famous for its Human Aliens, so they could just be aliens that look a lot like humans. The Star Trek: Destiny novels reveal that the first Borg were human, merged with a Starfish Alien.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series features several incorporeal aliens who evolved past a humanoid form, including the Organians, Zetarians and Thasians. The Preservers have also evolved past the need of a body but resemble oversized brains, and several other humanoid species have been replaced by their own machines.
    • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Chase" inverts this trope when it's revealed that all humanoid species, including humans themselves, are descended from ancient humanoids that thrived billions of years ago. The first humanoids had explored the galaxy and found no beings like themselves.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Threshold", Tom Paris breaks the warp threshold and has his natural evolution accelerated to the point that he mutates into a primitive salamander-like creature along with the captain.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: "Terra Nova" has the Enterprise encounter a colony wiped out by radiation, and an English-speaking primitive group of underground-dwelling bumpy-skinned humanoids, all under a certain age. Guess what, they're the surviving kids and their descendants, having been hidden away in a shelter when their parents died. Why the Enterprise crew don't make the connection sooner is just par for the course for the series.
  • War of the Worlds (2019): The aliens are human-like invaders from another world. In fact, descendants of Emily and Sacha created by a Stable Time Loop.

    Tabletop Games 
  • AT-43: The Therians are an immensely advanced race descended from humanity, who long ago breached The Singularity and became minds hosted within complex computer systems, but found that the universe would collapse in a trillion years in its current state. To prevent this, they seeded worlds with life which would strip their homeworlds of resources, allowing their conversion into a gigantic Dyson sphere. All the other factions in the series were seeded by them. As is befitting the setting, they are also huge nerds. The MMORPG is the basis for their society, and forums are considered cities.
  • Continuum plays this a number of ways. Every Spanner, whether Continuum or Narcissist has been at least partially uplifted by future technology to give them the ability to Time Travel. Aquarian humans from after 2222 AD or so are benevolent, slightly weird telepaths (and get weirder the further Up you go) as a result of the same sets of technology, while past 2400 the world belongs to the Exalted and the Inheritors. The Inheritors have apparently managed to colonise and fill the rest of the universe, so a portion of UFO sightings are spotting them taking a break en route to their colonies in the Earth's past (the rest are spotting them cleaning up someone's attempt to mess with causality and cause vigintillions of Inheritors to never have existed). The monstrous side of the trope is played straight by the Scorpiod Kings of Antedesertium who all started out as human Narcissists.
  • Eclipse Phase: "Transhumanity" is mostly made up of humanity and its descendants, though except for flats, almost everyone is genetically enhanced to some degree and virtually immortal. It also includes uplifted animals and A.I.s though, who are not that different from humanity anymore (and can slip into each other's bodies).
  • Gamma World: An early Dragon Magazine article justifies the unrealistic physical hardiness of its "pure strain humans" by revealing that they're descended from genetically-engineered superhumans. Untampered humans' descendants are all mutants; "pure strains" only think they're the original human type because they physically resemble the humans in ancient pictures.
  • Mindjammer: Since its whole premise is being transhuman space opera, these fill the role of what normally be Humanoid Aliens in most other Space Opera settings. During the First Age of Space, Earth sent numerous slower-than-light ships across the galaxy. Over the next 10 thousand years, the colonists often had to genetically modify themselves to the new environments, resulting in a wide variety of sub-species that are broadly human despite sometimes looking radically different.
  • Strange Stars combines the aesthetics of 1970s Space Opera with modern ideas of transhumanism. Earth has been forgotten and humanity has branched into various 'clades' (races). Most of them are now varying levels of Humanoid Aliens, but others may look closer to insects or crustaceans.

    Video Games 
  • Achron: It's not stated outright, but can be inferred that the Vecgir are in fact the descendants of humanity that have been enslaved and modified by the Coremind in a loop that has been going on for millions of meta-years.
  • City of Heroes: The Rikti are mutated humans from an Alternate Universe. They're disfigured to the point of being unrecognizable as human, but they also have advanced technology and Psychic Powers.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth:
    • The end result of devoting your civ to the Supremacy or Harmony affinities is turning your people into Cyborgs or Half Human Hybrids respectively. This may be a positive or negative portrayal depending on how you play them; Supremacy, Harmony, and Purity are about tools, not how they're used.
    • The hybrid affinities of Rising Tide play with this. Supremacy/Harmony actively embraces this as a goal, its citizens pursuing whatever form they desire through unchecked genetic and cybernetic engineering.
    • Defied by Purity and the Purity/Supremacy hybrid. They only engage in modest genetic and cybernetic enhancement, while carefully ensuring that its people remain essentially human; the latter is more willing to experiment with AIs and cybernetics, but keeps fairly baseline humans at the helm. Purity/Harmony is a bit more daring, seeking to become the epitome of the human form, but they're still "essentially" human.
  • Cognitive Dissonance reveals that the Starmen were once the denizens of Mars and were leading a promising society, but after losing a war against Giegue, they were offered by him to have their PSI powers enhanced in exchange for his loyalty. This lead to the creation of the cybernetic aliens that we know today.
  • Half-Life 2: Combine Overwatch soldiers are substantially modified humans touted as "transhuman" and the next stage in the human species' evolution, according to Dr. Breen, and are referred to by Dr Kleiner as the "post-human allies" of the Combine in one of his broadcasts. The Combine will uplift you to the next stage of evolution whether you like it or not.
  • Killzone: The Helghast are the descendants from a group of exiles who modified themselves to survive their Death World home planet. Due to this, they can't breathe regular air any more, and have very prominent gas masks on their armor.
  • Mass Effect: The Reapers, although they're more along the lines of Transalien Aliens. The Human Reaper encountered in the second game counts, though, as it's "constructed" from harvested humans.
  • Phoenotopia: Awakening: The Stellanites are revealed to be a quarter of the human population who have departed Earth to the Milky Way Galaxy, under their mistaken belief that the former is beyond recovery. Their blue skin and pointy ears are the result of modifying their genes to adapt to the harsh conditions of space, and live much longer lives comparable to elves.
  • Touhou Project: Lunarians were humans that moved from earth to the moon in ancient times. They also have the most advanced technology in the series, live on the source of Gensokyo's magic, and include a pair of God Mode Sues that systematically defeat many of the main characters. In spite of this, they notably still possess human minds and personalities, and the extended isolation from other human factions leads them facing repeated military defeats against their much less advanced Earth counterparts.
  • Warframe: All the enemy factions are merely different groups of transhumans. Of course, so are the civilian factions and the player characters. Absolutely everything and everyone in the Origin System has been genetically engineered and cybernetically enhanced, not to mention those "corrupted" by Orokin towers or affected by Void energies. The most alien creatures in the game are the Sentients, and even they were originally engineered by humans.
  • Wild ARMs:
    • Wild ARMs: The evil alien robots turn out to be robots from the future after mankind has replaced organic parts with machine parts.
    • Wild ARMs 5: The Veruni are believed to be aliens by the inhabitants of the Filgaia they conquered. However, it later comes to light that centuries ago they fled Filgaia by spacecraft and then returned a few decades ago. However, their alternate path of evolution has made them unfit to survive on Filgaia and they are dying out.

  • Spacetrawler: The Eebs are revealed to have evolved from a tribe of primordial humans who developed telekinesis and then used their powers to leave the planet when they got tired of the non-TK humans. Their short, stocky bodies are a result of their new homeworld's higher gravity and the green skin was caused by something in the atmosphere, but no explanation is given for the antennae. They can still cross-breed.
  • Triquetra Cats: The Venusians are humans who used cybernetics and genetic manipulation to adapt themselves to Venus, and ended up looking like cyborg grey aliens.

    Western Animation 
  • Æon Flux: In "End Sinister", the last episode, Aeon learns too late that the "aliens" are future humans, and that by killing them, she has exterminated the entire human race, except for her and Trevor.
  • Challenge of the GoBots: The Gobots are descended from Human Aliens rather than humans per se, but they're still a race of Cyborgs.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Mewmans are introduced as Human Aliens from another dimension, having a near-identical appearance but a fair amount of Bizarre Alien Biology that distinguishes them. The last season reveals that they're actually descended from humans, and exposure to magic is what led to their different biology.