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We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill

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We wanted peace. They wanted war.
Not exactly our best first contact...

"Humans of Earth, I come in peace. You need not fear me; I mean you no harm. However, it is important to note that most of you will not survive the next 24 hours."
Gallaxhar, Monsters vs. Aliens

Aliens' First Contact with Earthlings will go one of two ways, usually.

  1. Peaceful aliens will be met with fear and greed, as humans try to kidnap, interrogate, dissect them, etc. They'll usually think the aliens want to attack. Said aliens may gain one or two human friends (the main characters) but most of the human race is shown to be primitive fools. Humans Are the Real Monsters and Humans Kill Wantonly. It is a Subtrope of Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold with its own flavor. Incidentally, this trope is a staple element of at least some parts of ufology, among those who believe in it.
  2. Evil aliens will either outright attack, or manipulate themselves into positions of power over humanity, made more easy by the hordes of naive humans who just want to be friends, which shows most of the human race to be primitive fools. Only a few will know the truth, and try to convince everyone else that "it's a cookbook!" This is a Subtrope of Subverted Suspicion Aesop with its own flavor.

It's a Schrödinger's Gun; mankind is either an aggressive oppressor or clueless victim, and never in the beneficial combination. The trope name comes from the signature line of "Captain Kirk" in the song "Star Trekkin" by The Firm. (Contrary to popular belief, Kirk never actually said this on the show.)

A subversion of I Come in Peace. Aliens who try this should read How to Invade an Alien Planet.

Sister Trope to First Contact Faux Pas.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: "Blood of the Daleks" features a beleaguered human colony being contacted by "benevolent aliens". The clue's in the title. (And at the end they make the same mistake with the Cybermen.)

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • When Overlanders (Humans) first make contact with the Echidna of the Floating Island, this is said almost word for word. Brutus Kintober (Robotnik's ancestor) leads an expedition to the island, trying to pass his group off as friendly all the while schemeing to conquer the island.
    Brutus: "My companions and I come in peace!"
    Brutus's Companions: (whispering to each other): "Get ready to shoot to kill!"
    • Humans dissecting the occupant of a downed Xorda spacecraft caused the entire race to launch genetic bombs at the Earth, thus killing off most humans and causing evolutionary mutation that led to our furry friends, the Mobians, becoming a dominant species along with the human-like Overlanders.
  • Action Comics: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes. An ancient and wise race is doomed by planetary destruction. Their greatest scientist is ignored by his peers, so he sends his infant son, the Last of His Kind, to Earth, where his ship lands in a field outside a town called Smallville ... And because this is the institutionally anti-alien Earth of the 31st century, Jun and Mara blast the infant with a laser-rifle and bury the remains behind the barn. They're still talking about how right they were to do so some months later, when they get killed in passing by a deranged Alternate Universe Superboy. That's karma for you.
    • Pretty much the same thing happens, without the Karmic Death, in an issue of Planetary. Except that the killer in question was a government operative there to salvage technology who showed no signs of considering the kid a threat, and simply thought that his boss wouldn't want to have to deal with it. Ironically, just after he did the order came in to bring the child in for study.
    • Inverted (for a Version 2) in both the last arc of Marvel's X-Man and the Maximum Security Crisis Crossover, in which a clueless farming couple attempt to rescue an "alien baby" who turns out to be a biosphere-devouring menace.
  • Rom: Spaceknight: Initially played straight as the villain shapeshifting Dire Wraiths are able to easily convince most of the people of Earth that Rom is a murderous marauder. However, this trope is later averted when the Dire Wraiths get more brazen and the Earth authorities realize that Rom's story about the menace of his enemies is real and throw their complete support behind the space knight, including making him field leader for hunting expeditions with SHIELD agents.
  • The very first issue of Paperinik New Adventures starts with the Evronians overwhelming the last Xerbian stronghold on their homeworld. Two issues later we find out from Xadhoom it was this trope in action, with the special "The End of the World" later providing more details: the Evrons, knowing that their army was superior to the Xerbian glorified police force but their ship wouldn't survive against the planetary defenses, sent ambassadors to sign a 'commercial agreement' (plus a shape-shifting spy to replace a member of the government and insure the treaty was signed), and as soon as Xerba's planetary defenses were temporarily deactivated as sign of peace the Evronian 'freighters' disgorged hordes of soldiers, overwhelming the Xerbians in a matter of days, with Xadhoom returning on the planet just in time to see the end of the last stronghold.
    • In Spores we discover the Evronians are trying the same thing on Earth, trying to lull the United States and a Ruritania in a sense of peace, with the implied reason being that Earth is the exact opposite of Xerba: the Evronians can land, but there's no guarantee their soldiers would win (in fact they got their asses handed to them by human troops four times on-screen, one of them showing that Evronians with air support will win, albeith with heavy losses, but as soon as the battle moved into the corridors of the attacked base the US Army needed just a couple minutes of pause to muster a counterattack that won the day with the power of More Dakka). Also, they know that Earth weapons can shoot down their landing ships (a dozen assault helicopters at short range of one of their heavily armed assault ships were treated as an instant victory for the helicopters, and a blimp filled with TNT exploding near one of their 'Invasion Hives' in the upper atmosphere was enough to shoot it down), and while they know they can destroy our missiles they have no idea of how many nukes we have, and just one of them going off in a cluster of ships would annihilate them. In fact, one of the Xerbian colony ships that escaped the invasion tried to warn Earth of the invasion and to pass their technology and all information they had on the Evronians, knowing that their technology and humanity's warrior nature would be more than a match for the invaders.
  • The Reach are a type 2. They are evil, manipulative, world conquering aliens, but they always present themselves as benevolent visitors.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Vision came to earth to warn humanity about Galactus. The Russians stored her in a bunker, and tried to create super soldiers by removing parts from her and implanting them into people. All those experiments have Gone Horribly Wrong.
    • Ultimate Vision: The Gah Lak Tus drone may be armed, but it's alone, separated from the swarm, which is a hundred million miles away and going even farther. Vision asks for a truce. Of course, there is only one answer to that...
  • Zig-zag: In The Powerpuff Girls story "Power Picnic" (DC issue #31), a family of giant alien one-eyed chickens land in Townsville Park to have a picnic, unaware that there are living beings underfoot. The son of the family does collect some of the citizens in a jar, mistaking them for ants.

    Fan Works 
  • Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40K: The incident which sparks off war between the Galactic Republic and the Imperium of Man. The Republic initially makes first contact with the Imperium when one of their fleets encounters a lone Imperial freighter carrying refugees. Their meeting goes horribly wrong when one of the Republic's Venator-class Star Destroyers (secretly acting under Palpatine's orders) suddenly moves out of formation and uses its hyperdrive to perform a Suicide Attack on the Imperial refugee ship. Horrified by what has just occurred, the Jedi General leading the Republic fleet immediately sends over rescue ships to save the crew of the attacked freighter. It's at this point that an entire Imperial armada shows up, sees their damaged civilian ship being surrounded and boarded by unknown alien vessels, and opens fire under the assumption that their refugee ship is being attacked by slave raiders.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Iron Giant: Everyone initially assumes the Giant is hostile despite lack of evidence that it's hurt anyone; Kent Mansley in particular refuses to be convinced to the end. In a twist, he'd probably be right if it weren't for the damage to the Giant's programming; all the weaponry it carries combined with the dent in its head fixing itself just before its Roaring Rampage of Revenge suggests its original purpose was less than friendly.
    • A deleted scene confirms this: A nightmare the Giant has, stemming from his damaged programming, reveals he is only one of an entire fleet of giants, built by an unknown alien race ostensibly for the purpose of being the vanguard to invasion.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens parodies this with Gallaxhar's introductory broadcast to Earth, as shown in the page quote. After stating his peaceful intentions, he warns the humans of their impending deaths, and it just gets worse from there.
    Gallaxhar: "Those of you who do survive will be enslaved and experimented upon."
    • The animated series uses a more subtle version with Coverton acting as a Mole for an alien invasion after his attempt to remove Susan's powers failed.
  • Played for Laughs in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: The Sistarians actually want peace but have a really warped idea of what the inhabitants of Bricksburg like. The fact that after five years Bricksburg looks like something out of Mad Max: Fury Road didn't exactly help convince them otherwise.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Displayed quite nicely in Independence Day, in which a horde of Genre Blind people has assembled atop a skyscraper waving "hello and welcome to Earth" placards as the alien spaceship positions itself directly over them... and then fires its massive "frission" cannon, destroying the building and most of the city. Earlier, the government sent a helicopter rigged with a grid of flashing lights to try and communicate: the aliens promptly blew it out of the sky. This is not only a darkly funny Take That! to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but a Shout-Out to The War of the Worlds. A group of astronomers tried to use semaphore flags to communicate their good will to a pit containing the Martian ship and a half-constructed tripod. Heat Ray-ity Ensues.
  • Mars Attacks! : Subsequently parodied. The Martian ambassador comes up to a podium and speaks into a translation device, translating his words as "We come in peace". Then they whip out the rayguns and incinerate everyone in sight- at first, seemingly in response to a "cultural misunderstanding" where "dove means war", but it quickly turns out they are just doing it For the Evulz. Later, during the full-scale genocide, one of the Martians is carrying the translation device, which now broadcasts "Do not run! We are your friends!" over and over.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (the original) is the quintessential movie for demonstrating how badly humans would treat Innocent Aliens. The 2008 remake zig-zags the Trope: Klaatu's mission on this version is to Kill All Humans because we are a serious ecological threat to Earth, but the way the United States Government treats him from the moment he accidentally gets shot (including being detained, interrogated, any information he gives told outright will be made classified, told he will never talk to the world's governments and apparently was going to be poisoned) don't do much to make him believe his decision is wrong until Helen begs him to reconsider and the Professor brings up the logic that Klaatu's race was the same a long time ago.
  • In the aptly titled I Come in Peace there's an alien running around the city, who says "I come in peace" constantly, especially when he's murdering people.
  • Starman (the movie, and then the TV series based on it) was about a friendly alien who was hounded by the government. He first came to Earth in response to our friendly greetings carried aboard one of the Voyager probes... and was promptly shot down.
  • Gamera:
    • Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) featured a variation. Although not aliens, the army incorrectly decides that Gamera, a benevolent Anti-Hero Kaiju created specifically to protect the Earth, is the real threat, while the evil, destructive, man-eating Gyaos are a nuisance by comparison.
    • The third movie, Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys, has an interesting variation: while Gamera is shown in his darkest portrayal yet (a fight at the start of the movie with a Gyaos in Shibuya causes at least twelve thousand casualties, at least half from Gamera's Breath Weapon, and he's proven to be an incarnation of Gaia's Vengeance), it's shown pretty conclusively that he's by far the best alternative despite this, as other monsters are far more hostile to humanity and likely won't stop until they or humanity are wiped out. And besides, the last scene of the movie depicts a massive Gyaos outbreak (as in a flock of thousands of the buggers, ranging in size from a VW Beetle to stadium-sized) and a spent, wounded Gamera soldiering on and preparing to go and face them for the sake of humanity.
  • Godzilla:
    • Invasion of Astro-Monster has evil aliens claiming they need help to get rid of a giant monster known to the aliens as "Monster Zero" (it's King Ghidorah) in exchange for your average intergalactic secrets, namely a miracle drug capable of curing any Earthly diseases. The earthlings are only too happy to send the destructive Godzilla and Rodan to stop Monster Zero. And, evil aliens being evil aliens, it turns out that they were controlling Monster Zero the whole time, at which point they use Mind Control on Godzilla and Rodan as well and unleash all three monsters upon Japan.
    • Also, Godzilla: Final Wars.
    • The laughably cheesy Godzilla vs. Gigan has evil cockroach aliens disguised as humans who disguise their evil intentions via a Godzilla-themed amusement park.
    • While technically not aliens, the Futarians from the 1990s film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah qualify here. They act as if they're helping Japan by removing Godzilla from history, but in reality they just need to get rid of Godzilla so they can replace him with their own monster, King Ghidorah.
  • Played as allegory in District 9, where despite evidently superior firepower the "prawns" take on the role of African refugees and generally accept their poor treatment. The vast majority were basically "worker bees" who didn't really do anything unless a "Commander" (like the one the main character teamed up with) gave them direction.
  • Parodied in Moontrap, where the scientist who wants to talk to the alien cyborg changes his mind after it shoots him and tells the security detail to "Get the son of a bitch!". Too bad he forgot that he is down-range; he quickly ducks as everyone opens up.
  • The 2012 sci-fi parody film Iron Sky uses this as one of its tag lines. The film is about Space Nazis invading the Earth.
  • Played with in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. The aliens want to make peaceful contact, but only to negotiate the surrender of a Vichy Earth, as conquering Earth by force is not in their interests. The military in turn fire on their Flying Saucer when it lands in the middle of an army base, having not understood their signal asking for a meeting (because it was transmitted at the wrong speed).
  • Captain Picard normally strictly adheres to the Prime Directive. In fact, violating it is a bit of a Berserk Button for him. So naturally, when he has to visit a primitive inhabited world in Star Trek: Nemesis, he makes an effort to avoid contact with the natives. It fails spectacularly, and Picard, Worf, and Data find themselves in a high-speed gun battle with the locals. Adding insult to injury, they also give the natives their first look at a real-life spaceship while the away team makes their getaway.
  • Ba'al in Stargate: Continuum does this, even phoning the President to tell him that he comes in peace, knowing that a direct attack would make things much harder. It would have worked if there hadn't been a time traveling La Résistance waiting for his arrival. And if all his subordinates hadn't been Card Carrying Villains, including his lover, who betrays and murders him so they could attack.
  • Classic '50s sci-fi movie It Came from Outer Space derives its central tension from which of these two scenarios it's ultimately going to be, and the awful weight of responsibility in navigating such a situation. The aliens claim they mean us no harm and just want to fix their spaceship, and that the people who have gone missing from around town have been taken as hostages to ensure that nobody interferes with their repairs. The human townsfolk are torn between The Sheriff who doesn't buy the aliens' story and an astronomer who wants to give them a chance and recover the hostages (one of whom is his wife). The astronomer is ultimately correct, and he's able to defuse the situation with minimal loss of life. The hostages are freed and the aliens are able to go home. Given the time period in which the movie came out, the Cold War Reality Subtext of it all is not especially subtle, but very compelling nonetheless.

  • A somewhat clever twist occurs in one Maximum Boy novel where alien cows decide to visit earth: The cows state that they come in peace, but state that how they leave depends on what they find. Sure enough.....
  • The Holy Land, in which the fundamentalist American government attacks — first with tanks, then with PR — pagan "Jews from space."
  • Skewered in George Alec Effinger's hilarious 1984 short story, "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything": the aliens who visit, called the Nuhp, really do come in peace, and really are willing and able to help solve at least some of Earth's problems. Unfortunately, they're also such an annoying bunch of know-it-alls, that their presence gradually becomes more curse than blessing. Eventually, humanity leaves Earth in droves to get away from the Nuhp... and the resultant population reduction solves the rest of Earth's problems by default. Turns out this happens on every planet the Nuhp visit, and space is filled with species that left their homeworlds to get away from them.
  • Stanisław Lem's novel Fiasco features a human starship on a mission to "peacefully make contact" with the inhabitants of the planet Quinta. This proves difficult when they discover that Quintan civilization is consumed with an internal conflict that has led the antagonistic factions to garrison their entire solar system with powerful automated war machines. Despite the humans having a substantial technological edge over the Quintans, a series of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and double-crosses ensues, accompanied by escalating shows of force that culminate in the humans blowing up the entire planet.
  • Happens with the Pitar in Alan Dean Foster's books set in the Humanx Commonwealth. They were so human in their appearance and character, so charming and affable, that Humanity went head over heels about them. Any suspicions were either ignored in this wave of enthusiasm, or quietly swept under the rug. Until the news got out (complete with gory footage) about a peaceful and unarmed colony utterly obliterated by the Pitar invasion fleet. Humans were not amused.
  • The first encounter between humans and the the Kzinti (The Warriors, reprinted in the first Man-Kzin Wars collection) found the peaceful human explorers (whose society had abolished violence and war) on an unarmed ship being slowly roasted by an Kzinti warship whose captain wanted to kill the human crew without destroying their ship, having determined via a telepath that the humans had no real concept of war and have no weapons aboard their ship ... and then one of the humans realizes what is happening, and rotates the human ship to cut the attacking ship in half with the powerful laser the human ship utilizes as both reaction drive and communications device and loots the weapons off the wreck. The tag for the series was that humans had decided to study war no more because we're too good at it.
  • Used a number of times in the Star Trek novels:
    • Used as a cover story by the Grigari in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Millennium trilogy. The Grigari "mistook Earth's intense sensor scans" for an attack, then "fired a warning shot" that they "didn't realize would overwhelm the planetary defenses". Result: Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
    • In Diane Duane's Rihannsu series this was how the first contact between Vulcans and outsiders went, with Orion pirates announcing their peaceful intentions and then taking hostage the initial welcome party to ransom them, resulting in the still warlike Vulcans slaughtering the invaders and looting their technology, while also growing wary of themselves enough that Surak's more peaceful ideas started taking hold. Having left Vulcan after that event, the Rihannsu (better known to the Federation as the Romulans) have always been a bit wary of peaceful intentions, and when Starfleet first tried to make contact they didn't answer but started building thousands of small warships, with which they disintegrated the Federation fleet that made the second attempt.
  • John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata starts out with friendly aliens contacting humanity. In a subversion, the contact was because of humanity's aptitude for violence, and the Galactics' complete lack of it even in the face of the Posleen steamrollering anything in their way. Although as the story unfolds, it turns out to be played rather straighter than it initially appears, as one faction of the 'friendly' aliens has a serious case of Good Is Not Nice at best.
  • The same is pretty much the case in Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories; the Carmpan, an inherently peaceful race unable to directly fight the titular killing machines, gives humanity just enough help to become expert Berserker-killers.
  • A subversion in another John Ringo work, Live Free or Die: The initial contact is peaceful, by a race that's only interested in trade with Earth. Contact with the Horvath is... not, and for rather less pleasant purposes than trade.
  • Dreamcatcher by Stephen King involves an invasion by an alien species of telepathic mold (It Makes Sense in Context). The mold sends out telepathic messages which includes the classic "We come in peace", but the big lie is "We are not infectious".
  • Played with in Halo: Contact Harvest. First contact between humanity and the Covenant happens between the human inhabitants of Harvest and a Covenant task force led by Jiralhanae (a.k.a. Brutes). The Jiralhanae are making unreasonable demands during the negotiations, but that's not what starts the Human-Covenant War. Instead, it was a trigger-happy Covenant Grunt. Also, unbeknownst to either party, the Covenant's High Prophets were already planning on wiping out humanity regardless of how negotiations went.
  • Played with in Harry Turtledove's short story "The Road Not Taken". When aliens land, humans send out peaceful processions to greet them, which are quickly massacred by the landing party. However, the humans also very reasonably have military units nearby, just in case. The twist is that, other than their space travel capabilities, the aliens are ridiculously out of their league, technologically (attacking with flintlock rifles and powder cannons). The invaders are killed or captured in minutes.
  • The arrival of the Yuuzhan Vong in the New Jedi Order series is Type 2. The aims of the Vong are pretty clear, but the Quislings in the Peace Brigade are convinced they can reach an accommodation with them. This isn't the case of course.
    • Technically, the Yuuzhan Vong do come in peace. The closest translation for "peace" in the Yuuzhan Vong language is "appropriate submission of the conquered to the conqueror."
  • In the The War Against the Chtorr book A Day for Damnation, McCarthy and Fletcher consider the possibility that the Chtorrans are peaceful but powerful aliens that humans keep provoking. They plan a peaceful contact with Chtorrans with McCarthy unarmed and naked. It turns out they were right the first time. They all nearly get eaten alive.
  • Throughout Refugees, characters question the Benefactors' motivations.
  • Played With in We Knew They Were Coming. The aliens really are hostile conquerors, but humanity had no way of knowing that when we fired first. Basically all they had done was clear orbit of all debris and satellites (leaving the ISS) before settling into orbit themselves, and not answering radio calls.
  • In the backstory of the Kris Longknife series, the humans and Iteeche first encountered each other when the Iteeche attacked outlying colonies without warning. After a bloody border conflict the two species agreed to ignore each other and established a demilitarized zone that neither was allowed to fly through. That's the official story on both sides anyway: What really happened was that the attacks went in both directions, having been committed by Iteeche and human Space Pirates. These pirates then lied to their respective governments when reaction forces moved in to defend the colonies; the two navies collided and lack of shared communications frequencies and unwillingness to negotiate did the rest. After figuring out some of what was really going on, Ray Longknife and Roth'sum'We'sum'Quin managed to make contact with each other and negotiate The Neutral Zone, and the two species went their separate ways, all the while with both their respective publics convinced that the other side had intended their extermination and they had survived by the skin of their teeth.
  • In the Confederation of Valor series, the Others began attacking the Confederation centuries ago. The Confederation sent diplomats to point out that Space Is Big and there was plenty of room for both civilizations; the Others sent back the dead diplomats with a bomb. Actually, the Others, who call themselves the Primacy, had the exact same experience with the Confederation. Both sides were being manipulated, and peace efforts sabotaged, by a Higher-Tech Species as a giant sociology experiment. Once this is discovered by protagonist Torin Kerr and other inmates of an alien POW Camp in book four, they bury the hatchet with the Primacy.
  • The Nano Flower: Julia Evan's husband Royan discovers some alien microbes and decides to experiment with them. Unfortunately they gain sentience and try to assimilate Royan when he tries to terminate the experiment, but end in a Mexican Standoff as Royan is partly-absorbed but could still detonate the gamma mines he's set up if the alien tries to complete the process. They agree each will send one message to the outside world; one to Julia Evans and the other to a Corrupt Corporate Executive, with both of them pitching the argument for the alien's survival vs. destruction to whoever turns up.
  • Bounders has an example with Earthlings as the aliens. When humans first started mining Gulaga for occludium, they thought the Tunnelers were just dumb animals. Once they realized Tunnelers were actually intelligent beings with a complex civilization, they effectively enslaved the species, while pretending to be their allies, and forced them to mine occludium. La Résistance fought hard but lost and was forced to flee into the wilderness, while Gulagaven, the planet's main city, fell completely under Earth Force control. By The Heroes Return, the Tunnelers have expelled Earth Force from the planet and are now at war with Earth.
  • Transpecial opens with the human starship Valley Forge making First Contact with a ky'iin starship. The ky'iin send a video message to the Valley Forge. Unfortunately, humans instinctively respond to ky'iin body language with fear and aggression. When Captain Simms sees the ky'iin in the video move, he cries out in horror and gives the order to fire.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Both variations are common in The Outer Limits (1963), The Twilight Zone (1959) and similar anthology shows.
  • Chris Elliott did a sketch on some show parodying the "all aliens are friendly" by hugging and promoting one trying to attack him.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: The friendly alien protagonists live in constant fear of being experimented on by "primitive" Earth scientists and use this as the justification for their Masquerade. Subverted in how paranoid they are about this happening even though none of the human characters even suspect they're aliens. Well, except for that one psycho played by Kathy Bates, but it turns out she had a habit of killing innocent people she incorrectly suspected of being aliens.
  • In the first episode of ALF, when authorities investigate the crash landing of ALF's ship, they make it clear to the Tanners that if an alien life form is found, it will be taken into custody to be experimented on.
  • In Babylon 5, such an incident kicked off the pre-series Earth-Minbari War: during the first contact, that EarthForce captain Jankowski had orders to avoid, the human ships come in with active scanners to try and get data of the Minbari ships they met in what they thought was neutral space; the Minbari, to which the system actually belongs, approach with gunports open, a cultural gesture of respect, while giving a slight show of force by activating their stealth on low, thus negating EarthForce' scanning, and using their own high-powered scanners, that accidentally jam the humans' jump drives with their scanners; as Jankowski realizes he messed up and starts broadcasting "We mean no harm" and Dukhat, the leader of the Minbari, realizes what the open gunports orderd by his subordinates could be mistaken for, things look salvageable... Then the Minbari detect Soul Hunter ships, that they shoot on sight and humans can't detect, the commander of the Minbari flagship powers the weapons to deal with the Soul Hunters, and Jankowski, mistaking it for a coming attack on his ships, opens fire.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Silurians have elements of Category 2, with the Doctor castigating UNIT for being trigger-happy. But the Silurians themselves are conflicted, with some of them wanting peace and others releasing a plague on London.
    • "Army of Ghosts" demonstrates a variation whereby the visitors are not aliens but Killer Robots called Cybermen from a Parallel Universe, being deliberately brought to ours by the Torchwood institute. (In the first act of the episode, the Cybermen take on a "ghostly" appearance and do not speak.) During the period where the visitors are assumed to be friendly, humans call them "ghosts", and many even think they really are the silent spirits of their deceased loved ones. The Doctor says "No one's running, screaming, freaking out", to which Jackie responds "Why should we?" Correct answer: Because you aren't, which means they're probably dangerous. There's a great line at the end of that episode.
      Yvonne: They're invading the whole planet.
      The Doctor: It's not an invasion, it's too late for that. It's a victory.
    • "The Sound of Drums": plays this one straight: The Master goes to Earth, creates a human identity for himself, and gets elected as Prime Minister. (Artistic License: Politics?) Then he calls in the Toclafane, who come to Earth under the pretense of sharing their technology in exchange for Earth's friendship. Moments after first contact, however, the Master and the Toclafane set their true agenda into motion: take over the world so they can build warships and conquer the rest of the universe. Earth humans are literally (in the Latin sense of the word) decimated.
  • Subverted in Earth: Final Conflict. When the show starts the aliens do have a great deal of influence, but many humans are still untrusting. More significantly, while the aliens do have a hidden agenda, it's several gambits, which generally end up anything from failing to being near-cataclysms (having so many of them, often working at cross-purposes, getting in each other's way, or at the least diverting important resources from each other turns out not being a great idea. Go figure).
  • On Hyperdrive, this trope constitutes most of the Camden Lock's operating procedure for dealing with aliens. Henderson and Teal come in peace, York shoots to kill and either way it bites them in the arse.
  • The main characters of Roswell are just three (or, for a while, four) teenagers who only want to live in peace until they figure out a way to get home, but they live in constant - and justifiable, given certain events of the first season - fear of the government and other alien hunters.
  • Stargate SG-1 is often an exception. The aliens they make first contact with are rarely evil, and it's even more rare for the protagonists to try to do them any harm. They're just incredibly unlucky. At least if you count all the non-Earthborn humans as aliens like the SGC does. Some of the real aliens fit the trope better.
    • The Ori in the last two seasons fit rather well. They attempt to spread the religion of Origin throughout the Milky Way, having their priors say that it's enlightenment, the Ori are gods, and that they'd teach ascension. Really, they just want the power your worship will give them, and if you don't convert, they'll kill you and maybe your entire planet.
    • The Aschen, after giving mankind a crapton of Applied Phlebotinum, including a serum which doubles their lifespan, are discovered to be sterilizing the human population, so that they will eventually die out, and the Aschen can take over the planet. They are of course found out, but too late, requiring a Time Travel Retcon.
      • SG-1 then make contact with the Aschen again in a later episode and nearly repeat the mistake, until they realize they come from that planet the Ominous Message from the Future told them never to visit.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • Captain Archer of the NX-01 Enterprise sets forth on a mission of exploration and derides the need for powerful weapons, but three years of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind and the deaths of 27 crewmen in the Xindi conflict cause him to recommend that the NX-02 be better armed and have a squad of MACO's as well.
    • The prologue to "In a Mirror, Darkly" takes the First Contact scene where humanity meets the Vulcans, flips it inside-out and drops it squarely into Type 1 of this trope — Zefram Cochrane blasts the Vulcans in the face with a shotgun and hijacks their ship. Pretty awesome, in a sadistic sort of way*.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation played with this in an episode titled "First Contact", not to be confused with Star Trek: First Contact. Riker is captured monitoring a planet that's on the verge of becoming warp capable. While the planet's leader is a Reasonable Authority Figure, his head of security shoots himself with a phaser to frame Riker for murder, but screws it up. It's playing with both examples of this trope.
  • James Kirk didn't really say "We come in peace — shoot to kill", but in "Spectre of the Gun" he told the Melkotians "We come in peace," drew and aimed his phaser and said "But we'll defend ourselves if necessary."
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, the first part of the trope name is a Berserk Button for T'Kuvma, who believes that the Federation are liars, who claim to come in peace, while aiming to assimilate all cultures they come across, including the Klingons. To him and his followers, claiming to "come in peace", while seeking to undermine what it means to be a Klingon, is a bald-faced lie. He manages to rally most of the Great Houses under his banner, while chanting "Remain Klingon!" Michael Burnham is the only one who thinks that this approach to Klingons is wrong, having been told by her foster father Sarek that Vulcans have learned to open fire on Klingon ships at every encounter in order to initiate a dialog (the so-called "Vulcan hello"). She wants to do the same, against her captain's orders, not realizing that T'Kuvma intends to start a war no matter who fires first.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In the episode "To Serve Man" (based on the Damon Knight story of the same name), outwardly-benevolent aliens visit us and grant us all of their technological wonders, including indestructible force-domes that protect each nation from nuclear attack by any other nation. We accidentally get hold of their handbook, titled "To Serve Man". Guess which kind of "Serve" they had in mind?
    • The first version is explored in the lesser known episode "The Gift". An alien makes contact with a superstitious Mexican town and is killed out of fear. The villagers find he had a paper as a gift saying "Greetings to the people of Earth. We come in peace. We bring you this gift. The following formula is a vaccine against all forms of cancer...." the rest of the page burned away.
  • V (1983) was about a hostile, sneaky, Nazi-like alien race using humanity's credulity against them. Originally conceived as a show about the presidency of a Father Coughlin like American fascist, but the network demanded Nazis IN SPACE! It actually proves a clever tactic, since there aren't actually very many of the Visitors and while their tech is superior it isn't THAT superior, meaning they almost certainly would have been stomped in a direct invasion.
  • The 2009 reboot V (2009) makes it the alien leader's catchphrase: "We are of peace, always." (Major spoiler: No, they aren't.)

  • A recurring line in "The Firm's "Star Trekkin'", attributed to The Captain Kirk. This is, of course, the Trope Namer.
  • "Star Invasion" by Helloween has one such misunderstanding. An awful mess ensues.
  • Peter Schilling's "Zone 804" is about peaceful aliens visiting to fix our planet, but the world sees them as a threat and responds only with having missile silos open and standing by.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the Back Story to Necessary Evil. A friendly alien race comes to ally with Earth's super heroes in their endless battle against another, warrior alien race. After a long battle with the enemy, the good aliens drive off the evil ones and all of the heroes gather up to throw a celebration in their honor. It turns out to be an elaborate trap. The good aliens and the evil aliens are both on the same side, and fabricated the war in order to gather all of the super heroes in the same place at the same time. Following the extermination of the good supers, the aliens enslave humanity and rule with an iron fist leaving only the super-villains to fight for humanity.
  • Warhammer 40,000: One of the Tau's first contacts with the Necrons happened when a Tau world was attacked by a Tyranid swarm. A Necron fleet arrived and proceeded to eradicate anything that moved before making planetfall. The Tau sent out a delegation including an Ethereal to greet their rescuers and recruit them into the Greater Good, the Necrons proceeded to eradicate anything that moved.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy IV's Lunarians. The majority are peaceful, kept in stasis until the humans below have evolved far enough to accept the aliens' intergration onto their world. One Lunarian, however, rejected this plan and opted to invade now. This plot was more or less recycled in Final Fantasy IX, with a single-minded android in place of the rogue alien.
  • Final Fantasy VII's Jenova. Originally thought to be a mummy from an ancient, magic-wielding civilization, it was later exposed as an alien who was entombed by said magic-users. Jenova's MO is to imitate someone's appearance and voice, then - using their absorbed memories - approach that person's friends and loved ones under the guise of the victim. Her spawn have this ability, too, so it's a good thing Jenova was stopped dead in her tracks before she could escape the arctic.
  • Mass Effect:
    • First Contact with alien life for humans came in the form of the turians discovering human explorers activating inactive mass relays whenever they found them. Unbeknownst to the humans, this was a serious crime by galactic law... and to make it worse, they were colonizing inhabitable planets within turian space. What the turians saw was an unknown race of aggressive expansionists who wantonly ignored all the Citadel Conventions that they were sworn to protect, and being a highly militaristic society, opened fire without warning on the human forces. The humans in turn saw a bunch of aliens attacking their new colonies for no reason. Fortunately, the other Citadel species, particularly the diplomatic asari, quickly saw what was happening and stepped in with peace talks before it could explode into full-blown war. Indeed, the Council ordered the turians to pay reparations to the humans, saying that they should have contacted the humans and explained the situation before immediately shooting at them and occupying a colony world. Good thing, too, as if it had expanded into a real war, there's no telling who would have come out on top, and there would definitely have been billions of casualties on both sides. The salarians actually did some projections of what might have happened, and determined that, most likely, the humans and turians would have wiped each other out... and taken a quarter of the inhabited galaxy with them. The whole debacle became known to humanity as the First Contact War, while the turians call it the Relay 314 Incident.
    • The Reapers also attempt to invoke this, by inviting planetary government leaders for "peace talks" (read: indoctrination), and otherwise come out guns blazing. Ironically, it takes a combined human/turian fleet (along with support from the asari, quarians, salarians, geth, and krogan) to even stand a chance at fighting the Reapers.
    • When the kett first encountered the angara in Mass Effect: Andromeda, the angara were still reeling from the Scourge cutting off so many of their colony worlds, resulting in the destruction of a large majority of their history. The kett gifted them with knowledge, resources, and the like, and when the angaran's guard was down, they suddenly began abducting and killing them.
  • The Esmers in Little Big Adventure 2: Twinsen's Odyssey. Their catchphrase: "Greeting Twinsunian! We are your friends. We come in peace. Have trust in your friendship!" is so suspiciously harmless that it is really no surprise when they turn out to be not so nice after all. The fact that they fire guns at you from behind newspapers and even dress up as cacti and trash cans to shoot at you further exemplifies this.
    • It was later revealed that they're pretty decent beings in a more modern and industrialized but diverse society in their home planet Zeelich. However their religion and prophecy are controlled by, as revealed near the end of the game, Funfrock, the Big Bad of the first game.
  • The Backstory to X-COM: UFO Defense has humanity repeatedly trying to contact the alien invaders and being ignored. Although the aliens weren't really bad guys at that point (there were UFO sightings, but relatively few abductions), there wasn't much of a problem other than the diplomatic equivalent of getting the cold shoulder. Then the aliens attacked a city. Let's round up a posse and kick their alien asses!
    • In addition, in both UFO Defense and Terror from the Deep, the aliens will try to convince territorial governments of their good intentions. If they succeed, the government ceases funding X-COM and the aliens actually don't attack them any more. If all governments sign non-aggression pacts with the aliens, then the aliens summarily destroy humanity. Whoops!
    • The PlayStation version had this rendered as a cutscene of two world leaders in the UN building signing a treaty with the aliens, only for a group of aliens (led by a Sectoid with a Slasher Smile and two Mutons) to come through the door and blast the head off one of them.
    • The most recent iteration of x-com, X-COM: Enemy Unknown, is in all respects very similar to UFO Defense with a few minor changes. The aliens in addition to giving us the cold shoulder start abducting humans at complete random across the globe. Terrible as this is they seem willing to keep it at that until X-com operatives start killing their troops, shooting down their UFO's, and raiding their bases at which point they outright attack civilians (with no intent to abduct) with some of the most horrifying stuff you will ever see eviscerate a live human.
      • The sequels reveal that the alien leaders' master plan was to harvest human DNA, which contains a rare genetic sequence that allows for a combination of peak physical performance and psionic spellcraft, in order to save the galaxy... by pulping humans en masse so they can get shiny supermen bodies for their frail psionic ghosts to inhabit. When they win in Enemy Unknown, they set up a worldwide dictatorship to streamline the process of getting humans to sit in their fancy tubes. Also, the alien leaders have been brainwashing, segregating, and outright torturing their minions (who were also subject to the same atrocities as Earth in their first contact histories) to maintain control. Most of the aliens revolt in disgust when they realize they were also victims of the scam.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: "Republican Space Rangers" mocks this trope to hell and back as part of the satire.
  • The trope title is a criminal offence in Startopia, which will occasionally show up on criminal peeps that enter your station.
  • The Slylandro probes in Star Control II state peaceful intentions, but abruptly change their minds and attack regardless of conversation options. Turns out the Slylandro just suck at programming; they dialed up the probes' self-replication priority too high, resulting in them dissecting the targeted ship for materials to make more probes.
  • Escape Velocity: In the original and Override, the aliens and Voinians did the overt Type 2. The Classic aliens wanted to kill us, while the Voinians wanted to enslave us. Nova's a little more complicated. First contact between the Polaris and Wraith ended up as Type 1 when Polaran border patrol ships thought some young Wraith playfully buzzing them were attacking and killed them. The Polaris storyline gives you the opportunity to get a peace treaty signed.
  • In StarCraft first contact consisted of a Protoss fleet sterilizing a Terran colony whose inhabitants hadn't realized their world was infested with Zerg. There was some later peaceful cooperation between some Terran and Protoss factions, even Zerg for short periods of time.
  • Portal Runner: When the Martians start invading the other worlds, the Martian leader says that they come in peace...while the other Martians are blasting everything in sight. Lampshaded by Sarge, who states "Doesn't look so peaceful to me."
  • In Bloons Tower Defense 6, the alien hero ETN is a normal Hero Unit in gameplay, but his lines hint at this; one of his on-click lines is "I come in peace", while his on-placement line may be "Take me to your leader", but his other lines are often more... suspicious, and once he reaches Level 20...
    ETN: The invasion will now commence!
  • In Earth Defense Force 5, the appearance of "Human Aliens" (actually giant Frog Men) among the invading Primers leads some Earthlings to believe that peace can be negotiated. Unfortunately, everyone that tries to open a dialogue with the invaders ends up getting killed. The Primers don't have any difficulty in communicating, they just never had any desire for peace.
  • This can happen any time in a First Contact situation in Stellaris when at least one of the two spacefaring empires has set their First Contact Protocol to "Aggressive", which allows them to immediately open fire on any unknown entities in range, including abducting the most-likely unarmed ship (since science vessels are usually the ones exploring unknown systems) and abducting/vivisecting the crew while Mission Control can only watch in horror. Adopting the stance requires that the empire in question not be Pacifist or Xenophilic, meaning the one who starts shooting before even trying to decrypt and translate the other side's communications is at minimum paranoid as all hell if not an outright Jerkass.
  • Terra Invicta: When the aliens finally show up and it becomes apparent that they do not come in peace, the Academy end up kicked in the metaphorical junk and losing a ton of their support to hardliner factions. That's not to say however that the Academy cannot succeed in their goals however; it just requires a bit of manipulation and ruthlessness.

  • In Sluggy Freelance, a horde of fleshreaving, soul-devouring, pure evil demons invade another dimension, yet they become widely accepted (at least in America) thanks to propaganda portraying any resistance against them as anti-demon bigotry. This strip says it best.
  • This is one of the two strategies of the invading Martians in Irregular Webcomic!, as explained in this strip, and the strip annotation references this very page.
  • Discussed in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic. Mankind is so divided on whether an uncommunicative alien vessel approaches in peace or hostility that war breaks out on Earth before it even gets here. The ship goes past Earth with no indication it ever noticed or cared.

    Western Animation 
  • Back to the Future: In "My Pop's an Alien", once the Hill Valley military thinks the alien is holed up at the Browns' house, they surround it and threaten to blow the place to smithereens.
  • There was an episode of ThunderCats that had Lion-o attack an innocent alien visitor, then out of embarrassment help the next alien he met, who turned out (of course) to be evil.
    • This was also an example of Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain, as Lion-o fired on the first alien because he was ugly and spoke gruffly, while the second was elegant and cultured.
  • The various Transformers series have had both, at times: The fiendish Decepticons worming their way into humanity's places of power, and the heroic Autobots being hounded as invaders (often after the Decepticons reveal themselves).
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well", when Harry S Truman greets Zoidberg with "If you come in peace, surrender or be destroyed. If you're here to make war, we surrender."
  • In the cartoon Garfield and Friends, some aliens landed saying "we come in peace," and Garfield observed that any aliens who say that are actually evil invaders. His prediction was correct.
  • In the Super Friends episode, "Volcano," an alien ship crashes lands into an active volcano. Superman and Samurai come to render assistance, but the aliens are so paranoid that they are more determined to keep the superheroes away even while their ship is sinking into the magma. Meanwhile, the heroes rack their brains for a way to save the aliens before it's too late.
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Springfield Files", the trope is parodied when an alien (which later turns out to be Mr. Burns, made to look like an alien through various circumstances) greets the people of Springfield:
    Alien (Burns): I bring you love!
    Lenny: It's bringing love! Don't let it get away!
    Carl: (grabs a baseball bat) Break its legs!
  • REGIS in Megas XLR gives us these gems:
    Do not panic, you will all die.
    Surrender and I will destroy you peacefully.
  • Inverted in one old Gumby short. Long story short, Pokey needed to be rescued from a group of Native Americans, so Gumby and some pilgrims storm their camp and send the natives running with gunfire. Immediately thereafter, they claim that they "come in peace."
  • Benevelon in Ben 10: Omniverse is a curious example of this trope. He says he's coming to bring peace, and he means it. However, his idea of bringing peace to Earth is by wiping out the human race.
  • Danger Mouse and Penfold are the welcoming party for an alien spacecraft and its occupant in the episode "The Aliens Are Coming". The alien occupant isn't so much malevolent as he is mischievous, having fun at DM and Penfold's expense.

    Real Life 
  • Juan Díaz de Solís led the Spanish expedition to the Americas that discovered the Río de la Plata. He saw natives at the oriental coast (modern Uruguay) and landed for a first contact. He was killed on sight by a wave of arrows. Only a few survivors managed to return to the ship and go back to Europe.
  • To this day the North Sentinel islanders resist any attempts at meaningful first contact with lethal force.


Video Example(s):


The Earth-Gamilas War

The people of Earth were told that they were attacked by Gamilas unprovoked; however it's revealed that Humanity was given the order to attack them first.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / WeComeInPeaceShootToKill

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