Do you take your science fiction with or without aliens? Do you need sexy green alien women to enjoy a good space romp or do you prefer to have your science fiction more human based?
In the movies you obviously have Star Wars and Star Trek firmly in the alien camp. After all, where would the two movie series be without Spock or Chewbacca? Other movies that are more alien orientated include the Aliens series, The Fifth Element, ET, Predator, The Thing and obviously Independence Day.
When you move to the small screen, TV shows such as the Star Trek shows and the original Battlestar Galactica relied on aliens to further the stories. On the other hand though, the remake of Battlestar Galactica and Firefly allowed the humans to dominate the plot without a hint of a man dressed up as an alien.
I think part of the problem of having aliens in a show, such as Babylon 5 or Star Trek, is that due to cost, filming schedule or even just the available technology, a man dressed up as an alien is a lot easier than trying to create something truly inhuman. Dr Who is a long time victim of this, especially when you watch some of the older episodes and see the Doctor running from a man dressed up in cardboard and silver paint.
I am not saying that aliens are not important for science fiction, especially when you consider that the X-Files was a earth based series that dealt with the possibility of aliens. Dr Who, while perhaps over using humanoid aliens, is still a must see show. Without the original Star Trek episodes, science fiction television today would be something vastly different to what we actually have. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy would be a much shorter book/show/movie if there hadn’t been aliens.
I think it is obvious that for some movies, aliens are an essential part of the plot. Rather than just some hottie for the Captain to romance, movies such as Aliens, Independence Day, Starship Troopers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and War of the Worlds are all movies that the aliens are integral parts of the story. Pitch Black is a movie, that without aliens, that would be long drawn out and rather boring. Men in Black would be move akin to Sex in the City if it hadn’t been for all the aliens living in New York.
If I had to rank my favourite science fiction movies, there would be a combination of with and without alien movies; Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Aliens, Serenity. It would be a mix that balanced out around 50-50. If we turned to television however, the first two series, the remade Battlestar Galactica and Firefly would be alien free. Dr Who, Torchwood, UFO and Space 1999 would re-address the balance though and perhaps even tip the scales in favour of the aliens as I add Red Dwarf, Babylon 5 and the X files.
At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters if you prefer aliens in your movies and television or not, as long as you enjoy the science fiction you are watching.