Sometimes it seems like we’ve got so many fictional alien races in our media, that if the real ones ever finally come down to say hi, at least one of the species we’ve dreamed up is bound to be something like the real deal. Even if that doesn’t prove to be the case, maybe we can have some fun showing the E.T.s what we thought they might look like. Maybe we can start with these seven — our choices for the best alien species ever to appear on television.
7. Alien Bounty Hunters (The X-Files)
It is genuinely stunning to learn that in the entire run of The X-Files, Brian Thompson — a man with one of the most unique faces in screen acting — only made nine appearances. With about the same amount of dialogue as Boba Fett enjoyed in the original Star Wars trilogy, Thompson nevertheless created one of the most memorable X-Files villains, the Alien Bounty Hunter.
We don’t have a name for the Alien Bounty Hunter species — we just know when that face shows up in The X-Files, someone’s about to disappear for good. They’re physically powerful and like Marvel‘s Skrulls have the ability to make themselves look like pretty much anyone else.
6. Klyntar Symbiotes (Spider-Man)
Sure, as far as live-action goes the Klyntar Symbiotes like Venom and Carnage have shown up only on the big screen, but there have been plenty of animated versions on TV. In Marvel cartoons like Spider-Man: Unlimited, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Avengers Assemble, the alien symbiotes have made themselves very busy.
Part of what makes the Klyntar Symbiotes so cool is that their backstory has been expanded so much in different media, that they represent limitless storytelling possibilities. They’ve gone from being random alien goo to a malevolent species to obedient children of an all-powerful space god.
5. Melmacians (ALF)
The year 1986 saw the reactor explosion at Chernobyl, the scandalous Iran-Contra affair, and the crash-landing of the Ewok-sized Melmacian named Gordon Shumway into the suburban garage of the Tanner family on the premiere episode of the sitcom ALF. The name stood for Alien Life Form, and it was the name that the Tanner family used for the furry guest.
If the rest of the Melmacians are anything like Gordon, then while you probably wouldn’t want to live on Melmac, it would be a funny place to visit. Just don’t bring your cats, unless you want to find Gordon or another Melmacian trying to hypnotize it to convince it that it’s a snack.
4. Cybertronians (Transformers)
There are Autobots, Decepticons, and a bunch of other ___obots and ___icons, but they’re all Cybertronians — one of the coolest alien species ever.
How could they be anything else? They’re sentient alien robots who can turn into cars, jets, giant guns, tape decks (less convincing now than they were in the 1980s, granted), dinosaurs, gorillas, birds, bulldozers, and pretty much anything else. What isn’t cool about that?
In that first 1980s cartoon their aim was so bad they could’ve been stormtroopers, but so what? They can still turn into the truck from Over the Top and pancake your head.
3. Jawas (Star Wars)
I know that right now you’re wondering how, in all of the grand mythos of Star Wars, I might have the gall to pick the shrieking glowy-eyed Jawas as one of the best alien species. But I swear I’m not trolling; there is a reason for my madness.
You remember what honey badgers don’t do? Jawas don’t do it either.
It’s the second episode of The Mandalorian that cemented my admiration for these hooded aliens.
You’ve got armor and guns and sweet little killer explosive darts that spin out of your arm and you want the stuff we stole back?
Tough. Oh you’ve turned a full quarter of us into ash? Tough. You want your stuff back? Go get us the giant Cadbury egg. We’re Jawas. There’s no free meal here, Captain Helmet.
2. Mandalorians (Star Wars)
Like the Klingons of Star Trek, the Mandalorians of Star Wars abide by a sacred code of honor. As we learn in The Mandalorian, they don’t all agree on how that code works, but they all have it.
But perhaps my favorite thing about these aliens is what sets them apart from similar fictional warrior races: what does and does not make you one of them has nothing to do with your species. Even Din Djarin, the lead hero of The Mandalorian, is not native to Mandalore but instead was made one when he was what they call a “foundling.”
Mandalorians, in other words, don’t care about what you look like, whether you’re from the same planet, or whether you’re the size of a volleyball and have massive green ears. All they care about is what you do.
1. Trill (Star Trek)
Other than the spots on their bodies, what sets the alien Trill of Star Trek apart from other species is that a small percentage of them are joined with slug-like symbionts, some of whom are centuries old. When the Trill host dies, the symbiont is joined with another Trill host, with each new personality that arises being informed by the ones that preceded it.
Klingons and Vulcans are no doubt more popular, but there’s so much more untapped potential in the Trill. A joined Trill could experience hundreds of years of history, and while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine mined some great stories from that concept, it seems like they could’ve done so much more.