When extraterrestrial life forms start monitoring our airwaves, they may get strange ideas about what life on Earth is like. They might think we've mastered faster-than-light travel, Laura Roslin is our president, or giant multi-colored puppets walk the streets of New York. In science fiction, aliens frequently mistake fiction for fact, with generally amusing consequences. We list some aliens who could use a lesson in telling truth from television.Thermians (Galaxy Quest): The Thermians lack any concept of non-truth. Not only can they not lie, they have no understanding of fiction. So when they intercept broadcasts of the popular science fiction series Galaxy Quest, they misinterpret it as historical records of a group of bold space explorers.
The Aliens of Theta VIII (Star Trek: The Next Generation): When a NASA ship called the Charybdis crashes on Theta VIII, the only survivors are Colonel Stephen Richey and a trashy paperback called Hotel Royale. Hoping to let Richey live out a normal human life, the planet’s aliens recreate the novel, one that Richey ironically detested. Another alien race, the Iotians, also created a society based on a book, but it was a historical record of Chicago mobs, giving them an accurate, if limited, idea of a particular sliver of human society.
ALF (ALF): Stranded on Earth, the alien ALF takes solace in all manner of minor vices: television, gambling, and tabloid magazines. When he reads in the Weekly Inquisitor that another cat-loving, large-snouted extraterrestrial is living nearby, ALF believes it and demands to go to the alleged alien’s home. Of course, plenty of humans make the same mistake all the time. Harry Solomon (3rd Rock From the Sun): The explorers of Ohio’s favorite alien sitcom family may be advanced, but they tend to miss the nuances of human society. TV-addled Harry is especially vulnerable to taking things at face value. He interprets an ad for skin cream – claiming it is “the fountain of youth” – literally, and becomes distraught when he learns his mall’s Santa isn’t the real Saint Nick.
The Goths (Nemesis the Warlock): Influenced by the Earth’s earliest radio broadcasts, the Gothic Empire models itself on Victorian Britain, creating a strange mesh of English culture and alien technology. But there little distinction is made between actual 19th century culture and the fictions invented then. Although many of the people, place, and events found in the empire are real, such as Queen Victoria and the Whitechapel Murders, others are fictional, such as Professor Frankenstein and the Rue Morgue.
Martians (Spaced Invaders): When Orson Welles broadcast the alien invasion drama War of the Worlds over the radio, many humans mistook it for a news broadcast of an actual invasion. In Spaced Invaders, the Martians prove no less gullible, intercepting a rebroadcast of the drama and mistaking it for their marching orders. They land in Illinois and attempt to take over the world, but soon find they can’t even take over a small town. Glagoliths (Alien Adventure): The Glagoliths travel the universe, seeking a new home planet. They send a team to Earth to scout it out, but the team first encounters Adventure Planet, a new amusement park. They mistake the fake alien setting for a real human city, and ride the rides to learn more about Earth’s culture.
Photonic Aliens (Star Trek: Voyager): Voyager crewmen Tom Paris and Harry Kim like to partake in a retrofuturist holodeck program called “Captain Proton.” But when a group of photonic aliens from another dimension land in the holodeck, they mistake the roleplaying game for reality. Unfortunately, in some ways it is; the program’s evil characters perceive the aliens as a threat, and their light-based weaponry, which is harmless to meat creatures, proves fatal to the accidental photonic tourists. The Hierarchy (Star Trek: Voyager): Voyager employs the trope a second time when the ship’s Emergency Holographic Doctor tweaks his own programming to allow himself to daydream. A technician from a Hierarchy spy ship intercepts the daydream stream instead of Voyager’s factual broadcasts, misinterpreting Voyager’s workings through the Doctor’s imagination. The Master (Doctor Who): Even Time Lords are susceptible to some fictional misinterpretation. In “The Sea Devils,” the Master finds himself mesmerized by the “alien creatures” on the television, only to learn that he is watching the popular children’s television show The Clangers: