Klingons have ridges and Cardassians have spoons. A lot of aliens don’t even have that. The Centauri only look alien because their entire population, at least the men, have had bad dreams. Unless you factor in their… high numerical value… there isn’t much difference. The reason for this is obvious, casting persons are limited to hiring humans. A trip out of the solar system is a little beyond the budget of most television programs.
Actors like Andreas Katsulas do a great job in presenting alien characters. CGI just wasn’t up to the task back then. Even today it struggles with presenting characters. I don’t need to say the name do I? The film, the infamous film, and its sequels? It will remain nameless, was released 15 years ago. 15 years ago! Goodness me I’m old! I’m old enough, or rather was young enough at the time, to actually think the film was good.
Real actors are therefore the way to go. Film makers though are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I apologise to my writing teachers for employing a cliche – but damn it it’s true. Film makes either have an actor in prosthetics or fake looking CGi.
Consider the Gorn. In Arena the Gorn was played by a man in a suit and in In a Mirror Darkly Part II it was CGI – it is arguable which is worse.
I’ve just been reading Doors into Chaos, the third book in the Gateways series, and featuring the Gorn. I found it hard to imagine them. I kept seeing the CGI blob of their Enterprise appearance and not the ‘real’ creature. Perhaps this is understandable as I’m dealing with a creature I know from TV. However this seems to happen to me even when it is an entirely original piece of work. Yes, I think my mind is defective. When I try to imagine an alien in a novel my mind seems to bring up what it would look like if it was having to be put together for a film – stupid brain.
Sometimes I wounder if having humanoid aliens isn’t the best choice – even in books. If you have an alien that is very different from humans it is difficult to keep track of. You might be left thinking ‘Are they the ones with twelve tentacles or the ones with eighteen fingers the size of cocktail sausages.’ Maybe I just have a short… squirrel.
I’ve used that joke before. I don’t think it was funny then either.
From a story perspective aliens have to have some connection to humans. If we are too different, biologically, culturally, technologically, then there would be little or no interaction. If the aliens require arsenic to live we’re probably not going to enter into a dispute over planet everything-here-can-kill-you. Unless arsenic is of use to us in someway I don’t know – I don’t know a lot of things.
I was going to end with a great quote. It’s late and this is not a university essay so I’m not going to worry too much about exactitude. I’m going to attribute the quote to Dyson, not the vacuum cleaner man, the physicists. The quote is this: ‘Intelligent aliens may not only be stranger than we imagine; they may be stranger than we can imagine.’
I don’t know where you live so it could be any.