Saturday, January 1, 2011

Life on Other Worlds: Limited Only by Imagination and Production Budgets

This post isn't about Star Trek. On the other hand, the original series' first words are a pretty good introduction: " explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations...."
(Star Trek opening narration, via

Life Out There: Some Science, Some Fiction

Life on other worlds isn't a particularly new idea. For example, practicing Catholics have been forbidden to claim that there can't be life elsewhere in the universe. Since the 13th century. (A Catholic Citizen in America (April 19, 2010))

During the 20th century, the idea of life on other worlds got popular: particularly among editors, authors, artists and readers of science fiction magazines.

The results were, occasionally, somewhat well-thought-out.

(from Tales of Future Past, used w/o permission)

Don't laugh: that 1939 illustration was made four decades before a robot would land on Mars, long before we realized that Martian air was really thin, and that Martian water was frozen. Given what serious astronomers knew and guessed at the time, a human on Mars might need a pressure suit - but creatures like that big-eared Martian might find it comfortable.

An imaginative, informed, writer and artist wouldn't have much trouble making pictures of aliens like that 'Hugo Gernsback' Martian.

Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dead Martians

A casting director for a television series like Star Trek? Human beings come in a relatively narrow range of shapes and sizes: and special effects technology is a tad more pricey than dipping into a studio's wardrobe for a suit of clothing appropriate for some 'real' setting.

Which is a major reason why, in the Lemming's opinion, Star Trek's 'aliens' looked so remarkably human.

(from Ephemeral Isle, used w/o permission)

The first Star Wars movie (1977), raised the bar a little. But even then, most of the aliens in the famous cantina scene looked like people in alien suits. Which, for the most part, they were. Budget and technology again.

(from Wookipedpia, used w/o permission)

Then you've got your science fiction convention folks.

(Robert Sorbo, via Reuters, used w/o permission)

That's a photo of folks going to a VIP party for the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, back in 2004, by the way: perhaps not quite a science fiction convention.

Not all television and movie science fiction portrayed aliens by putting funny clothes and makeup on actors. The plot of "Quatermass and the Pit," AKA "Five Million Years to Earth," for example, involved Martians who were very sincerely not human.

(from Tales of Future Past, used w/o permission)

No doubt about it: that fellow in the foreground isn't human. At all. Producing a screen drama with characters who were strictly special-effects work may have been more practical, since the 'Quatermass' Martians spent most of the 97 minutes being very, very dead.

Space Aliens: Seriously?

Remembering the 'flying saucer' silliness of the 50s, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Three Stooges in Orbit, the Lemming might be expected to dismiss the idea of real, live space aliens as 'science fiction:' outlandish, impossible, but good enough for 'escapist fiction.'

The sort of thing in the original Lost in Space series, Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Plan 9 From Outer Space? The Lemming does not take those 'aliens' very seriously.

What we may find on Titan, under the surface of Mars or Ceres, or circling another star? The Lemming sees no reason to assume that Earth is the only place with creepy crawlies - well, creeping and crawling.

And that's another topic.

Posts about aliens, silly, serious and somewhere in between:
More related posts, at


Brigid said...

Paragraph break problem: "some 'real' setting.
Which is a major"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Got it. I'm learning how to keep the new 'smart' Blogger AI from messing up my posts: but it's taking time.

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