To mark the arrival of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new sci-fi comedy Paul – about two friends who discover a friendly, slacker alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) at Area 51 – Declan Cashin picks up the telescope to look at 10 other extra-terrestrial beings from movies and TV that came in peace…
*ET – The Extra-Terrestrial:
A being so peaceful and full of love that ET could be called the Gandhi of movie aliens, or, for that matter, Jesus (which is an interpretation of Steven Spielberg’s tale popular with chin-stroking film nerds).
Out-of-this-world strengths: Making bikes fly; resurrection; psychic connections with humans; handy with makeshift telecommunication devices.
Mere mortal weakness: Can’t hold his liquor
What else is Kal El but a being from another planet, dispatched by his father from the exploding Krypton to Earth to save the world as only true heroes can: by becoming a journalist? Oh, and that whole ‘faster than a speeding bullet’/ ‘Man of Steel’ thing helps too.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Flying; super-human strength; looks good in a tight vest.
Mere mortal weaknesses: Not great on disguises, opting only for a pair of glasses and slicked hair for his civilian get-up; Kryptonite; appearing in shoddy sequels.
*Spock, Star Trek:
Half-human, half-Vulcan, full-on Nimoy, Spock is the logical, rational member of the Starfleet. Pointed-of-ear, and capable of almost supernatural detachment and calm, Spock is the Barack Obama of pop cultural alien life (although right wing groups in the US are now eager to prove that Obama himself is an alien from the Planet Africa).
Out-of-this-world strengths: Brains; dab hand with a phaser; progressive views on opposite sex interaction; reported ability to stop out-of-control Monorail trains in Springfield (didn’t he?).
Mere mortal weaknesses: Not powerful enough to out-ham William Shatner. Then again, no mortal is.
*Celeste in My Stepmother is An Alien:
Other-wordly being Celeste is sent down to Earth on a secret mission to find out if humans had anything to do with a gravity-sucking attack on her home planet. She becomes involved with a widowed father and his young daughter (played by Willow from Buffy) and goes on to discover all manner of earthly pleasures.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Looks like Kim Basinger; magic purse that can create diamonds and fancy gowns.
Mere mortal weakness: Acts like Kim Basinger; has sex with Jon Lovitz.
*Ford Prefect, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Mistaken for an out-of-work actor, Ford is actually an alien (Betelgeusian race, if you’re wondering) who came to Earth to research a travel feature for The Hitchhiker’s Guide. After 15 years, he accompanies his human pal Arthur Dent on the Vogon constructor ships back to the galaxy, explaining much of the weird goings-on to Arthur along the way.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Has managed to stay sprightly for a 200-year-old; at one point took the form of Mos Def.
Mere mortal weakness: Not able to pronounce his own real name, which caused his father to die of shame.
It’s easy to forget that this perpetual time-space-continuum-botherer is an alien who has regenerated into different human forms on 11 occasions.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Magic police phonebox-type transport known as the TARDIS; ability to attract a bevy of beautiful assistants including the singer of ‘Because We Want To’ and, erm, famed chav teenager Lauren.
Mere mortal weakness: Friendship with one of Earth’s most annoying specimens, John Barrowman.
*The Solomons, Third Rock from the Sun:
A team of four alien researchers come to Earth to investigate human behaviour, posing as a loft-living family in Ohio. They take human form in the form of Earth-renowned scenery chewer John Lithgow, Amazonian blonde Kristen Johnston, adorable nerd (then and now) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and some other guy who serves as a channel to communicate with their alien overlord, The Big Giant Head (William Shatner, again, wahay!).
Out-of-this-world strengths: Collectively strong on physics and engineering.
Mere mortal weakness: Basic human interaction; teen hormones.
*Gordon Shumway aka ALF:
Ginger-furred Gordon – aka ALF (Alien Life Form) – crash-lands on Earth and is taken in by the Californian Tanner family until he can fix his spaceship to return to the planet Melmac. Bored hiding out, and curious about the world, Alf is constantly committing japes and pranks, eating the Tanners out of house and home, and pursuing his death row dinner: Lucky, the family cat.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Has eight stomachs and a heart for a brain (apparently)
Mere mortal weakness: Cats; bad relations – in reality – with his human co-stars.
*Roger the Alien, American Dad
*Rescued from Area 51 by military dad Stan Smith, effete, camp, sarcastic, selfish, amoral Roger ostensibly lives in peace on planet Earth, but he’s also known for his temper, capacity to hold grudges, and occasional dictatorial tendencies. He’s also led the most fascinating life, having done everything from fighting for the Viet-Cong in the Vietnam War, and killing Notorious B.I.G.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Gifted at role-playing and conjuring disguises to an almost sociopathic degree.
Mere mortal weaknesses: Alcohol; drugs of every description; junk food; TV.
*Mork, Mork and Mindy:
Nanu-nanu! Arriving on Earth in an egg-shaped pod from the planet Ork, rubber-faced alien Mork is on a mission to investigate Earth and report back to his superior Orson, all through the prism of his adventures living with dorky brunette music shop owner Mindy.
Out-of-this-world strengths: Comic voices and impressions, including an uncanny Robin Williams.
Mere mortal weakness: Mork would eventually become a naturalised citizen and go on to make Patch Adams. Shazbot