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What Measure Is A Non Human / Live-Action TV

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  • Life-Model Decoys in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are treated with at best cold indifference by villains and heroes alike, who have no problem killing them despite them having duplicates of human brains, being capable of deep thought, and even feeling emotions and pain. It's somewhat glaring when you consider how much SHIELD hates The Watchdogs for having a similar "they're not human so we can kill them" mentality regarding the Inhumans.
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  • The 2000s Battlestar Galactica is practically built on toying with every permutation of this trope. At the beginning, humans automatically treat Cylons as machines and Cylons automatically treat humans as cattle. As the series goes on, dissenters emerge in both races. Made more confused by the fact that Cylons, despite being artificially born and having cybernetic neural properties, practically are biologically human, and several 'human' characters are Cylon sleeper agents.
  • Omnipresent in the Buffyverse:
    • Both instantiated and subverted in the episode "I Was Made to Love You" from season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where, after chasing Robot Girl April for most of the episode with the intent of bringing her down, Buffy finally ends up staying with her as she slowly fades away, allowing April to "die" with dignity. Later, however, she does not show such concern for the worth of the "Buffy-bot" Spike has built for his amusement. Certainly, anyone would be Squicked over being the basis of somebody's -ahem- artificial stimulation, but the series had established that these robots are people too.
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    • Buffy freaks out in "Ted" when she thinks she's killed the eponymous character in self-defense, but when he comes back and is revealed to be a robot, she has absolutely no qualms about destroying him (though he was an asshole Serial Killer).
    • Buffy has no problem with beating Spike to a bloody pulp shortly after voluntarily sleeping with him after his Heel–Face Turn. Well, she beat him to a bloody pulp while she was sleeping with him, too. Sure, Spike is a vampire (but so is Angel, Buffy's previous lover). The justification given was that Spike possessed no soul (true at that time), while Angel did. Though even despite her insistence otherwise, it becomes increasingly clear that she's haunted by the guilt for the way she'd been using and abusing Spike regardless of his lack of a soul, as he was still an individual who truly did love her (even if he was terrible at expressing it in a human manner).
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    • When Willow turns evil and kills people in season 6, Buffy tries her very best to help her and worries for her sake more than for the people she's trying to kill. When Anya turns evil in "Selfless", Buffy immediately decides she has to kill her, justification being Willow is human, Anya is a demon. It is explicitly said later in the episode that vengeance demons have souls, which makes it all a lot worse.
    • To the end, Buffy flat-out refuses to take human law into her own hands and just kill Warren, preferring to simply turn him over to the police. The other Scoobies, however, are so disgusted with him that they rally behind Willow en masse when she goes out to kill him and avenge Tara's death. The only issue anyone really has afterwards is how gruesome Warren's death was, and the fact that Willow refuses to settle for just killing him.
    • In "Hell's Bells", there is Buffy's killing of the guy who was cursed by Anya to be tortured in a hell dimension. He had a very legitimate grievance with Anya, and he's unconscious and helpless, and he's killed like it's nothing.
    • In Angel, the rule is more like "what measure is a dangerous non-human?" Killing innocent demons is treated as a hate crime almost as bad as killing humans (see the season 3 episode That Old Gang of Mine) but killing demons who are a) animalistic and predatory or b) evil is treated as heroic, whereas killing a human is treated as wrong no matter how evil the human is.
  • Charmed:
  • Tokusatsu series Chou Sei Shin Gransazer has an ugly version of this. Many episodes feature a Minor Character Of The Week, who may be a human or a benevolent alien. At the end of each such episode or arc, such a characer will almost always be saved if human, but an alien will invariably die. Often ostensibly by a Heroic Sacrifice, but it comes off as Redemption Equals Death to atone for the "crime" of being an alien.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Honestly, this show suffers from this trope with the Doctor himself despite the Doctor being an alien. He kills numerous non-human aliens, he does try to show mercy usually but is a bit schizophrenic about it. On the other hand, he hasn't directly killed a single human on camera.
    • Possibly the original series' most awkward example is the Ice Warriors. They appear in four stories. In one of them, they're treated as surprising allies. The other three (one of which was made afterwards) treat them as Always Chaotic Evil: In two, the Doctor kills several of them without a second thought, and in the other he stands by while someone else does it.
      • "Empress of Mars" explains the discrepancy by having them leave the remnants of their ruined empire on Mars and begin a new, diplomatic, coexistence with other species.
    • The Doctor also had a long running argument with the Brigadier about "the military mind's" tendency to solve everything with "five rounds rapid". Averted with "Doctor Who and the Silurians"; the Doctor is upset at the Brigadier destroying the Silurian base. He does, however, keep working with the Brigadier and gradually become friends with him; the mass murder of the Silurians (which as far as they knew at the time constituted genocide) gets brushed under the carpet.
    • Done oddly in "Warriors of the Deep" where the Doctor gets upset at the humans killing Silurians and Sea Devils, even though the reptiles attacked first. Every story with Silurians tries to avert this.
    • Russell T. Davies had a rule for his tenure in prohibiting humans from shooting other humans with "real" weapons. This rule does not, obviously, extend to Cyber-converted humans, the Futurekind (savage humans) or the formerly-human Toclafane. In fact, the rule gets broken in Russell T Davies' own "Tooth and Claw", in which Queen Victoria shoots a human traitor with a revolver.
    • "Boom Town" plays with it: when the heroes are angsting about having to take an alien criminal to her execution, Mickey tries to justify it with "She's not even human." It's made clear, though, that he's only trying to convince himself. When he asks her if she'd really blow up a whole world to escape, she replied "Like stepping on an anthill."
    • One example where the trope is played straight is in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit". Faced with a choice between rescuing his human companion and a few others and dozens of enslaved tentacle-faced aliens, the Doctor picks the companion. Despite having a time machine.
      • Partly justified as various stories in both the official show and spin-off media have confirmed that black holes make it tricky to steer the TARDIS properly.
      • He repents for this in "Planet of the Ood", by opting to free the aforementioned tentacle-faced aliens from slavery permanently.
    • Bizarrely inverted by the Tenth Doctor at one point: he forgives the Daleks for trying to destroy the universe in "Journey's End" and is horrified when his clone annihilates them, treating him like a monster. However he has no such pity for his own people (the humanoid Time Lords) for trying the exact same thing in "The End of Time".
    • The show is later much more consistent about this. In "The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood", a major conflict arises from the Doctor trying to prevent a woman who believes her child murdered from killing a captured reptilian agent, for the sake of proving that humans can in fact be civilized.
    • The two-parter "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People" explores this with the doppelgängers ("gangers" for short). Every character except the Doctor and Rory consider the gangers to not be human. The Doctor and his ganger manage to prove them wrong, and throughout the episodes the death toll for gangers and originals is pretty even, with two of the eventual survivors being gangers.
    • Even in the above examples, the Doctor's attitude is iffy at best. The Doctor defends the rights of a Silurian prisoner but when she gets killed anyway, he protects her human murderer (who's an attempted mass murderer) yet does nothing to prevent the death of the dead Silurian's vengeful sister, even though apart from one being green they seem to be Not So Different. He claims gangers are people, then kills one just to prove she is a ganger. (Word of God attempts to justify it by saying that ganger is non-sentient but it's still a massive Broken Aesop.)
    • Averted in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". The Doctor is angry when he finds out the human Solomon murdered the Silurians, and when missiles are sent at Solomon's ship he leaves him to die. This proved slightly controversial despite Solomon being an obvious bad guy.
  • The show Eureka typically puts one of the main characters in mortal peril as part of the Disaster of the Week; when Andy, the android deputy sherrif, is the one in danger, the situation is given exactly no less weight or gravitas. The show doesn't make light of things just because the character is a robot, and all the other characters are just as worried and working just as hard to fix things as if one of the humans were in danger.
  • Extant: John objects to one of the board member's questions as to whether he has a plan of how to destroy Humanichs in the event they revolted by saying Ethan is his son, and questioning whether she has a plan to kill her daughter. The woman counters by saying that her daughter has a soul, to which John says there's no appreciable difference between humans' and Humanichs' brains. It soon degenerates into insults.
  • Farscape:
    • It subverts the "duplicates are worthless" concept, with a villain who has a machine that can create instant, perfect duplicates - such that the question of "which is the original" is, for all intents and purposes, meaningless. When Chiana is duplicated and one of them is killed, she tries very, very hard to convince herself that she's okay because it was just a clone and she's definitely the original... but she chokes up when she gives this speech. Both Johns are treated as equal, and when one of them dies, Aeryn can't even look the other in the face for a while. Also, the Expendable Alternate Universe treatment of identical opposites is thoroughly deconstructed (see that page). As for the show's and the characters' treatment of humans versus non-humans, well, the characters are various degrees of amoral and the creators love painful deaths, so it's hard to say.
    • This trope is explored with a twist (What measure is a non-animal?) in the episode "Bone to Be Wild":
      Zhaan: I cannot condone what his people did, but for all this unparalleled flora to flourish, it may not be entirely unreasonable to-
      John: To murder sentient beings in order to save a few stinking plants?
      Zhaan: How animal-centric of you, John.
      John: Sorry, Zhaan. I forgot. You're a-
      Zhaan: I am a "stinking plant".
  • Grimm:
    • Generally averted. Nick is fine with letting supernatural creatures live their lives, as long as they are not breaking the law and has treated them as he would to human beings in comparative situations. This comes to a shock to many Wesen as this approach was unheard of among Grimms. Many still remain wary of Nick while the ones that get to know Nick are surprised that Nick seems to ignore the traditional feuds, even appreciating the protection that comes with having a Grimm as an ally. With the reputation of Grimms, most creatures that recognize Nick instantly assume he is there to kill them on the spot.
    • Deconstructed at the beginning of Season 3. As Nick mopes in guilt after killing a man while in zombiefied state, Renard sarcastically asks him if he is feeling guilty because he killed someone or because he killed someone who is not Wesen, adding, "God knows, you killed plenty of them."
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys explores the question in an episode which reveals that most of the mythological monsters Hercules killed during the first season were, at one point, just as sentient and emotionally complex as anyone else. Though it's played for comedy at first, as Hercules learns all this from their bumbling Gentle Giant father, it comes to a dramatic head when he finds out that Hercules has killed them all: the ensuing fight's only resolved when a regretful Hercules (now realizing that he'd unfairly dismissed them as mindless monsters) convinces him that there really wasn't any other option, since Big Bad Hera had brainwashed them into becoming her evil minions.
  • Kamen Rider in general has this to some degree. It normally varies on how morally right the hero is and how peaceful the monster is. The main Rider normally won't kill a non-human who isn't hurting anyone, but sometimes the secondary Rider might not be as merciful and consider all of the species to be Always Chaotic Evil. Though to be fair, some of the non-human races are truly Always Chaotic Evil, such as the war-like Grongi, but most are depicted as having good and evil members.
    • The franchise also uses this trope in a meta sense, in that the Big Bad is usually a human, and that human will usually turn themselves into a monster by the final story arc. While it gives the villain the power to throw down with the Rider in a cool fight scene, it can also end up sending a signal to the audience that "He's not human any more, it's okay to kill him now."
    • Kamen Rider Faiz is pretty much based entirely around exploring this trope, with Orphenoch protagonists getting as much screentime as the Riders, and the second Rider's hatred of them regardless of alignment being only one of his many Jerkass qualities. It helps that the "monsters" are formerly human, and generally forced or bribed into evil. In the end, some humans and some Orphenochs survive.
    • Kamen Rider Kiva has Fangire who, while often evil, have been shown on various occasions to be capable of living peaceful lives without killing people, and to be able to love humans. However, Wataru generally has no qualms about killing them. Though he doesn't go out of his way to kill peaceful ones and has on occasion spared some.
    • Kamen Rider OOO has a particularly jarring example, in that the non-human in question is a main character. Ankh is a Greeed, and, technically speaking, not even alive. Very little regret has been shown about hurting or destroying others of his kind, and the only reason Ankh isn't lumped in with the other Greeed is that he is incapable of making Yummy and causing the kind of havoc and slaughter that the other Greeed can. However, even when Ankh regains enough power to create Yummy and hurt people, the thought of him dying is still upsetting to the main characters, and they try reasoning with him instead of flat-out fighting him as they would with the other Greeed, who they never try to reason with.
      • Emotions play big role in this. Eiji and Hina spent most of the story around Ankh and came to like him, so it's obvious they would be upset over the thought of him dying. Being a Greed doesn't have anything to do with it. The team also didn't hesitate to end Dr. Maki in order to save the world, though as usual it was after he'd taken a monster form.
    • Deconstructed with the Inves in Kamen Rider Gaim. At first, the heroes have absolutely no problem with using lethal force against the creatures, believing them to be mindless beasts. Then comes the Wham Episode where Hase/Kamen Rider Kurokage is transformed into an Inves, while Micchy learns that many of the creatures are actually mutated humans, and that the first Inves Kamen Rider Gaim ever killed was actually his best friend Yuya. After Hase is brutally executed by Kamen Rider Sigurd, Kouta tearfully asks why the boy had to die, at which point Sigurd, smug Jerkass that he is, simply smiles and says that killing monsters is what Riders do.
    • Kamen Rider Drive plays with this in a very complicated fashion that lingers heavily on the point of view and Alternative Character Interpretation. Roidmudes are shown to be sentient and as capable of emotion as humans. The problem is that they are, by programming and other causes, very rarely anything else than Always Chaotic Evil. Shinnosuke usually doesn't have any issue with fighting them because they cause suffering and chaos, but doesn't have problem with accepting the ones who do not. On the other hand, the second rider, Gou holds the adamant resolution that all Roimundes are evil and throws a nasty fit when proved otherwise. From the point of Roimundes, they are as worthy as humans and what the riders do is a slaughter. They view humans as lesser, though. As such, you'll have a Roidmude general filled with righteous fury over the Rider as a murderer, but shrug off "yeah, and what about all the humans you lot have killed?" with "they were just humans."
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid provides a zigzagged example. The resident Monster of the Week species, the Bugsters, are video game characters that spawn in real world by infecting people in form of virus. As such, they are bound by their programming and thus only capable of emotion or independent thought as much as it allows. Usually, there is no way to save the patient without destroying the Bugster spawned. Most Bugsters are violent because they were programmed as villains of their respective games. Emu has some success trying to reason with the benign ones. Other Doctor riders don't have such moral compunctions if presented oppurtunity.
      • The matter is brought up by de facto leader of Bugsters, Parado. He calls humans out on being hypocritical by creating video games only to have Designated Villains they could beat up to feel better about themselves. From his point of view Bugsters matter as much as humans do. If it doesn't matter if they were defeated according to game rules, because that's how it's supposed to be. They can respawn indefinitely. He objects only to their Designated Villain position.
    • In Kamen Rider Zero-One:
      • The monsters are androids that are hacked and reprogrammed to kill any human in sight. While Aruto rarely hesitates to put one down if it's a danger to others, he's otherwise a firm believer that Androids Are People, Too. Meanwhile, the Isamu is a nearly Rabid Cowboy Cop who hates robots and is convinced that every one of them, hacked or not, is secretly a killing machine deep down (thanks to suffering childhood trauma when several went berserk); and his second-in-command Yua sees them simply as machines that are useful, but easily replaced if they break.
      • However, while the show has the audience sympathize with the robots, it also plays this trope straight by the fact that the robots-turned-monsters are initially treated worse than humans-turned-monsters are. Usually in Kamen Rider, humans that get turned into monsters are able to be reverted to normal (unless they're the Big Bad or there's some dark plot twist like Gaim's). The robots get no such courtesy; once they're reprogrammed the person they used to be is gone and they have to be scrapped. The first kill of the series was even destroyed in Ludicrous Gibs that would have been far too graphic for the target audience if it was flesh and blood instead of metal and oil. This is especially jarring when Zero-One itself introduces human-made monsters that avoid death as usual, but quickly becomes downplayed as the robot hacking concurrently starts being done with a different procedure that allows for the original personality to be restored from a backup; meaning all the victims now get to survive the experience.
  • Lost in Space (2018) touches on this with the Robot in the first season, but really ramps things up in Season 2, with the revelation that the builders of the Resolute have no qualms about torturing an enslaved alien robot into acting as the ship's navigator, directly leading to one of the major conflicts of the season.
  • Merlin has the Sidhe, a race of fairy-like creatures that Merlin has no qualms killing off in surprisingly brutal ways (he essentially blows them up with magic). Of course, he's also killed humans with very little remorse, but the Sidhe are notable in that many of them aren't even being particularly threatening at the time of death. Grunhilda in particular, a pixie who was just following orders from a Sidhe Elder, never harms anyone during the course of the episode in which she appears. Her only "crime" is being part of a plot to ensure that Princess Elena marries Prince Arthur (a plan that doesn't involve killing anyone), and she comes across as genuinely fond of her ward.
  • Played with in Mr. Bean. He had at least two companion cubes: his teddy bear and his car. Teddy can get decapitated and ripped apart every episode. The audience always laughs but also "Awwww"'s at close ups of the cute little toy bear, indicating that they sympathize with the toy but still feel it can be beaten up a little. His car provided a stranger example. In one episode, Bean's car was demolished. The audience apparently has a case of Mood Whiplash by laughing, showing sorrow, and then laughing again.
  • Several "Muppet" productions have addressed this. The little-known holiday special "The Christmas Toy" takes on the Living Toys issue (we're starting to sense a pattern here). In "The Muppet Movie", one of the first humans Kermit meets wants him to be the spokes-frog for "French Fried Frog's Legs", effectively selling out his species!
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • This is exploited in the episode Screaming Skull. Before the main film, Mike and the 'bots watch the Gumby short "Robot Rumpus", in which a bunch of housework-performing (and apparently non-sapient) robots go rampant and start destroying property. Gumby and his dad forcibly dismantle the wayward robots, and this is all presented as comedy. Crow and Tom Servo, robots themselves, are thoroughly traumatized by the proceedings.
    • Taken to its (il)logical extreme when Cambot, their handy camera-wielding robot, starts crying at the end of Danger!! Death Ray after the hero blows apart a series of the villain's... security cameras.
    • Tom Servo's had a lot of clones of himself. During Danger: Diabolik, he casually obliterates all of his spare Servos without a second thought and in Reptilicus, Crow casually clones Tom and just as casually sends them off to be destroyed (except for one because somehow the real Servo got mixed up in the call to slaughter and the spare didn't.)
  • The Outer Limits (1995): This trope is explored in several episodes, with respect to androids in "The Hunt", "In Our Own Image" and "Glitch" and the titular Slave Race in "The Grell". It also comes into play and gets inverted for both sides in "Promised Land".
  • Other Space has several cases.
    • Kent's physiology and upbringing are so different from standard that it is questionable whether he's human. After brief deliberation the crew decides he counts.
    • Karen agonizes over accidentally killing Art the robot until she finds that there are several versions of him available for easy replacement. She promptly kills another one to vent her frustration.
    • Natasha the computer program will have her memory wiped at mission's end to give her a fresh start with the new crew and to preserve the current crew's privacy. No one's especially happy about this.
  • Although they were all technically aliens, Power Rangers could kill "monstrous" villains but not "human" ones. In a particularly egregious case, a bunch of "monstrous" villains are killed but the few human-looking ones are turned good, with both of these outcomes resulting from the same attack.
    • This turns out to have been a case of Executive Meddling—the producers refused to kill the humanoid villains, even though the writers had scripted all villainous characters, "monstrous" and human alike, would be destroyed.
    • When he first appears, Andros, a Human Alien, cryptically says "Not everything human has to come from Earth." The meaning of this statement has been much debated in fandom, but seems to indicate that Power Rangers considers "looking human" and "being human" to be close enough.
    • In an earlier episode, Ecliptor (one of the monsters vaporized in this attack) explains that he (and presumably other monstrous-looking villains) are evil because they were built to be. Of course, he was the most noble Noble Demon ever and truly loved his surrogate daughter Astronema.
    • As Linkara pointed out, In Space also has an appearance of a monster who wants to be good. This implies that any of the previous monsters may have been good but cajoled into serving evil. (A lot of them are also created via alchemy or magic, especially the ones employed by Rita and Zedd, raising the question of just how much free will they actually have.)
    • More later seasons occasionally feature villains who are human—not Human Aliens or human-disguised monsters, but humans—being vaporized by the Rangers after taking on rubber suit advanced forms.
    • Three very telling examples: Camille of Jungle Fury survives and turns good despite not being human (She has a human form, but traits like her prehensile tongue suggest that this is not her true form). On the other hand, Zeltrax of Dino Thunder, who does not have a face, is killed destroyed, despite the fact that we are told not only that he is a human wearing cybernetic prostheses after a lab accident, we are even told his human name (It's Terrence Smith, aka Smitty). However, he got a That Man Is Dead/Redemption Rejection moment, giving his destruction some justification. Likewise, Frax (formerly Louis Fericks) of Time Force is turned evil and ultimately dies, despite the fact that he also was once human before being forced into a robotic body. On the other hand his personality is erased by Ransik first, so arguably Ransik killed him and the Rangers destroyed a machine.
    • Time Force also features another case. The various monsters were never destroyed, but instead frozen and shrunk (into what looked like action figures). The idea of killing them is consistently treated as abhorrent, and on the one occasion where one of the rangers was about to execute a mutant who had killed someone close to her, the other rangers were horrified, considering it to be a violation of their duty as rangers. Apparently despite being "mutants", they have certain rights. Conversely the purely robotic Mooks were consistently destroyed outright.
    • Before that, the series compromised this policy when Trakeena was finally defeated in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. Sure, she looked like any other Monster of the Week when she was killed, but she had previously been the same type of Human Alien that folks like Divatox had been.
    • Master Org spends most of the series looking like a human in eeevil makeup, but has a monster form when he's taken out (however, when taking the final blow there's a moment of his human form being seen just before he's gooified once and for all! Cole even visits his grave at the end of the series.) Moltor and Flurious were near-humannote  In the last two episodes, Moltor dies for real, and Flurious, though he does fight as a One-Winged Angel, is finally destroyed in his human-with-makeup-faced standard form by Mack, who was determined to finish him off even though he'd already been totally defeated. Mind you, Mack had... issues... at this point.
    • This can also boil over to robots, too. In the Power Rangers: Beast Morphers episode "Silver Sacrifice", General Burke orders the newest Beast Bot, Steel, deactivated as they really can't trust him due to being initially designed to be Evox's newest body. However, due to being mixed in with Nate's DNA, Steel's been acting very human and the Rangers try their best to prove Steel's worth. When Burke's children, Ben and Betty, get captured, Steel selflessly surrenders himself to free them and makes Burke realize he had made such a terrible decision over wanting Steel shut down.
  • Red Dwarf
    • Played both straight and for laughs in the episode "The Last Day". Lister is horrified that Kryten has built-in obsolescence and convinces him to stay alive, however his replacement Hudzen is programmed to kill him if he doesn't shut down on his own. Hudzen cannot harm humans, but when the boys from the Dwarf stand up to him, his Stat-O-Vision reads "Hologram - Ex-Human - Viable Target", "Felis Sapiens - Non-Human - Viable Target" and "Homo Sapiens - Barely Human - What the Hell".
    • Similarly, "Back to Earth" has a new hologram taking Rimmer's place, and trying to shut him down. When he asks if this isn't murder, she replies "No. Holograms already dead. Ethically, morally, legally, hologram killing fine." So he pushes her in front of a bus.
    • And again in "The Promised Land," with Lister convincing a despondent and physically damaged Rimmer that he's more than just a light-bee computer simulation.
  • Smallville:
    • Oddly, the show lampshades it and tosses it aside in the 7th season finale. The sentient, apparently emotional robot Brainiac, at Clark's mercy, tells him he could never kill a man. Clark quickly replies "You're a machine," then electrifies him.
    • Another episode does have Clark upset after he unintentionally kills a decidedly non-human alien (and, in fact, a criminal by Kryptonian standards) in a forced arena fight. Apparently, sentient organic life merits consideration whether human or alien but sentient AI systems do not.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • The Atlantis Expedition has allowed itself to perform war-crime experiments on some captured Wraith, because "if they were there when the Third Geneva Convention was signed, they would have eaten the attendees instead". This comes back to bite them, in the form of Michael.
      • Some episodes show that the Wraith, or most of them, are not evil per se, but the laws of nature dictate that they feed on humans to survive. Those same laws dictate that humans do not calmly accept this, but instead kill Wraith to survive, ala dolphins killing sharks. It's all a matter of who wins, not good and evil, at least until the treatment to make Wraith not need to feed on humans is invented. The Wraiths' specific requirement of human Life Energy instead of nonsapient animals brings this far into the Fantastic Aesop territory. The species is just written to provoke this conflict.
      • There's a great conversation about this in "Be All My Sins Remember'd" when McKay and Zelenka create a human-form Replicator strictly for the purpose of using her to destroy the rest of the Replicators. Carter argues against destroying a self-aware being, but McKay argues strongly that she doesn't count as a life form. He later shows some discomfort, though, when FRAN displays excitement about being sent to her "death". Even the non-human doesn't think her life matters! As far as she's concerned, she's fulling the purpose of her existence.
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • Occasionally brought into question in regards to how casually the Goa'uld are thought of - sometimes when dealing with the Tok'ra and once with a trial between Skaara and the Goa'uld Klorel for who was allowed his body. Mostly, though, the trope is inverted with the Goa'uld, who think 'What Measure is a Human?'
      • This issue is also addressed with the Unas in a number of episodes. Their body language unfortunately comes across to humans as somewhat aggressive, so they can seem quite menacing, but Daniel learns how to communicate with them a bit and finds that most Unas are really just peaceful people who are, at worst, rather suspicious of outsiders to their tribes. He gets rather peeved when other people treat them like animals.
      • This is even inverted at one point: an Unas named Chakka captures Daniel on a hunt as part of a rite of passage in his tribe, but by the end is arguing with his people that Daniel is an intelligent being, not an animal, and thus should not be ritually killed.
      • In the season-three episode "Urgo", the team encounters a program which was downloaded into their brains, and unintentionally results in an AI named Urgo. Who constantly pesters them. They go to Urgo's creator to have him removed, but Urgo is afraid that he will be destroyed. Sam and Daniel decide that destroying him would be akin to murder, because he is intelligent, aware of his existence, and afraid of death, and these together define him as sentient. They convince the rest of SG-1 and Urgo's creator to agree with them, so Urgo's creator downloads the AI into his own brain instead of destroying him.
      • The first season had it happen twice with Human Aliens: once with Teal'c in "The Enemy Within", and once with the Tollans in "Enigma". In both cases it contrasted the SGC, which believed that offworld-born humans and human offshoots should be afforded the same rights as Earthlings, and the NID, which didn't. "Enigma" features this gem:
        Jack O'Neill: These people do have rights, you know.
        Col. Maybourne: Do they? Under what nation's jurisdiction?
        Daniel Jackson: How about basic human rights???
  • Supernatural:
    • The Winchesters and their allies seem to care less and less about killing or torturing demons as the show goes on, despite demons possessing human bodies with the original occupant still in there. This is why the human version of Meg calling Sam out on it was such an awesome moment. Sam starts out using demon blood-fueled powers partly because it lets him exorcise demons quickly and without endangering the host. When Ruby tries to persuade Sam to work with her, Sam orders her to vacate her current host. To placate him, she goes to a hospital and possesses the empty body of a Jane Doe who just flatlined, which Sam reluctantly accepts.
    • In fact, no supernatural creatures are allowed to live, with the exception of the nest of vampires (led by Amber Benson (Tara), ironically) who live off animal blood. She gets a Mercy Kill later, when the dark sides of the monsters are brought out by their Mother. Even the sympathetic (or just pathetic) creatures, like shapeshifters (who were born preternaturally mutated and cast out from society and kill because of their Freudian Excuse) and werewolves (people who are bitten, black out when they turn, and have no idea that they spend the night murdering innocent people) must die. The only werewolf episode is "Heart", and it explores this trope.
    • Two of the three shapeshifter episodes, "Skin" and "Monster Movie", give us pieces of insight into the shapeshifters' painful existence; the first shapeshifter was an intentionally cruel rapist/murderer, but the second was incredibly lonely and a victim of society's narrow-mindedness and his own killer instincts:
      Girl of the Week: Did you ever think you might be lonely because you kill people?
      Shapeshifter: Or maybe I kill people because I'm lonely.
    • Which is a godawful excuse, but that guy was twisted. Dean actually felt sorry for him, which is a change. A similar example would be a man who was turning into a creature known as a rougarou, which feast on humans. He was born that way and the brothers tell him what is happening to see if he can fight it off and hold in his vicious nature. Then a fellow hunter's actions force him to turn into a monster and they are left with no choice.
    • In season six, we find out that all these supernatural creatures are created by the children of one Mother and tend toward Always Chaotic Evil, especially when she's around. In season seven, we see that it's still possible for at least one monster to choose not to give in to The Dark Side most of the time. Every time a monster or witch doesn't act evil, though, it never seems to last—resulting in the Hunters' position making more sense.
    • On the other hand, Reapers must be kept alive. Considering they fulfill a function—harvesting those whose time has come—rather than actively killing, the distinction is understandable.
    • An odd example is Castiel, an angel. When he's losing his power and collapses, the Winchesters show genuine concern for him, despite disliking the other angels (although the others are trying to bring about the apocalypse).
    • In season seven, Sam still prefers not to kill and Dean still would rather kill than be sorry later (although considering everything that came between, it might be "again" rather than "still"), but Sam's not exactly stable enough to stay that way consistently, and Dean's still tormented enough that he can slip out of this practicality.
    • This trope is further discussed in season eight on several occasions. There's Benny, the vampire, who helped Dean escape from Purgatory, thus creating a conflict between the brothers regarding what to do with him, Dean obviously wanting to protect him. Later, in "Man's Best Friend With Benefits", Sam and Dean come across an old friend who has turned to witchcraft, and they must decide whether or not to give him a "free pass", as Sam calls it.
    • Possibly adding to the evidence that the boys let their emotions do the decision making, they're good friends with a werewolf ( Garth) and his eventual family and make no moves to hurt him or his werewolf acquaintances. While he's a very friendly werewolf not known to hurt anyone, they also were already friends with him before he was bitten, when he was a fully human fellow hunter.
  • A question often posed in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, especially relating to Cameron. The characters have varying degrees of belief in the value of Terminators as a whole and Cameron in particular; Derek Reese views her as a dangerous, inhuman threat, Sarah views her as a useful machine but who lacks emotions or a soul, and John views her as a close confidant, protector, and friend who he'll go to any lengths to protect, just as she would for him.
  • Tomica Hero Rescue Force also averts this trope by having the only human villain die in a display of Redemption Equals Death, while the android Quirky Miniboss Squad manages to survive the whole series.
  • The Tomorrow People (1973) have a barrier in their mind that keeps them from (knowingly) killing. In the second story of the original series, a captive boy says that he could kill Jedikiah by sending him into magma because Jedikiah is a robot so it doesn't count as killing.
  • This was brutally answered in an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959) called "The Lonely". A man who has been exiled to an asteroid for life is left with a female robot by a sympathetic captain. The man eventually falls in love with the robot. During his next visit, the captain tells him he's been pardoned and can come home, but there is no room for the robot. While the man tries to think of a way to take her with him, the captain shoots it in the face, revealing its wires and circuitry. He truly thought that the robot was sentient and harbored true love. It is left open ended if it was truly sapient or if it Corry attributed more to her due to his isolation. Regardless, either he left once the illusion was broken, or he trudges off, denied what he truly wanted.
  • The Ultra Series has several examples. Quite a few of the kaiju are Non Malicious Monsters or Tragic Monsters that force the defense teams face ethical questions, while a number of the alien invaders are occasionally not bastards at all.
    • One Monster of the Week in the original Ultraman was Jamila, an astronaut who became a monster after he was abandoned on an alien world to die. His episode is known as one of the saddest in the franchise as Science Patrol doesn't want to kill him but are requested by their superiors to treat him as just another giant monster.
      • The episode that introduces the Monster Graveyard deals heavily with the ethics of killing giant monsters. In one memorable moment, Hayata transforms into Ultraman in private and holds a moment of silence for all the monsters he's killed after apologizing out loud for what he says is the necessary evil of ending their lives to protect others.
    • Ultraseven episode "Dark Zone" deconstructs the trope by having humanity kill off an entire space city of aliens to save themselves when the space city is on a collision course with Earth — something that Ultra Garrison was deeply reluctant to do. Matters were made much worse by the aliens believing their superior technology meant they had the right to blow up the primitive Earthlings, and a survivor attempts to carry out the plan in revenge.
      • Another episode "Envoy of the Nonmalts" sees Ultra Garrison battle the eponymous marine race, who claim to be the original inhabitants of Earth driven into near extinction by belligerent humans. Thinking of the Nonmalts' claim as a lie to justify yet another alien invasion, Commander Kiriyama has their city destroyed by nuclear missiles, killing all the Nonmalts. While the rest of UG celebrates, Dan and Anne continue to wonder if the Nonmalts really were telling the truth...
    • In Ultraman Gaia, XIG deals with the Earth-dwelling monsters in the same manner as they do with the evil space monsters sent by the Radical Destruction Bringer, but later on, come to the realization that the Earth kaiju deserve to live alongside them in peace and oppose the aliens as much as the humans do. This culminates in the finale when several of the Earth kaiju appear to actively help Ultraman Gaia, Agul, and XIG battle Zogu and her army.
    • Ultraman Cosmos made the point of emphasizing that the giant monsters were every bit as part of the world as humans were. Cosmos would usually spare the Monster of the Week and help them find a new and more peaceful home away from the humans that had agitated them into rampaging. Unfortunately, many of the monsters also became victims of Chaos Header.
    • In the Ultraman Max episode "A Friend from Afar", an alien named Keef comes to Earth after his homeworld is destroyed, but is horrified to find out that humans despise aliens due to the numerous Alien Invasions. He then publicly presents himself to DASH and lets them examine him as a test subject in order to pave the way for positive relationships between humans and aliens. In one particular scene, a DASH scientist casually calls Keef "the alien" and Sean angrily says "His name's Keef".
    • Ultraman X follows a similar idea to Cosmos, with Xio's long-term project being to find a way for giant monsters and humans to coexist peacefully. For pragmatic reasons, they fight the rampaging kaiju, but Ultraman X's Xanadium Ray allows them to turn the monsters into a Sleep-Mode Size to help with the project.
  • Subverted in Victorious when Rex the puppet gets sucked into an incredibly powerful sucking machine, and suffers a serious injury. Everyone is as sad about this as if it were a real person. Played straight with Jade.
    Jade: Am I the only one who finds this bizarre?
  • Westworld: The androids are used as something to kill or have sex with (whether consensual or not within the storyline) by many guests. Some who begin to malfunction eventually realize what happens to them, and want revenge.
  • The more human-like mutants of the week on The X-Files tend to get the harsher treatment, being portrayed as instinctive killing machines (or animalistic predators), to be stopped by any means necessary. However, earlier in the series, this had yet to be established. Eugene Tooms (the liver-eating, hibernating, contortionist mutant from Season 1) was supposedly rehabilitated and released back into society. Similarly, Flukeman from early Season 2 was committed to a psychiatric institution for observation, despite being a radioactively created fusion of Primate and flatworm DNA. In the second case, Mulder argued that the creature did not deserve the same legal treatment that a human serial killer would, because he did not see it as human. Later episodes focused more on ordinary humans with strange gifts or victims of unusual circumstance (many of whom killed by accident) rather than the traditional "mutants." Later in the series, a brain-eating humanoid creature tried living like a human, but ultimately failed (proving Mulder's point). At least he got a sympathetic POV. Interestingly, in the episode featuring a severely inbred family as a Monster of the Week, this doesn't get brought up, implying that the monstrous Peacock Clan is more "human" than (presumably) human-derived mutants like Tooms.


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