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The 25 greatest alien worlds of the last 25 years

Contributed by
Jun 8, 2019

Here at SYFY WIRE, it’s no secret that we enjoy celebrating the things that we love. Sometimes that takes the form of unranked lists. To us, that’s love.

Join us as our entire staff celebrates anything and everything in genre through our series of “25 Greatest from the last 25 years” lists. They are all unranked, because all of the people, movies, shows, comics, props (and so on) have equal standing for us.

If there’s something science fiction films and comics have given us, it’s a vast array of worlds to explore, often yielding wonders beyond our imagination … and some terrors, too. These 25 represent those and more. So strap in, we’re about to take off for 25 destinations that have played a prominent role in the genre over the last 25 years.

Abydos – Stargate

If the inhabitants seem to “Walk Like an Egyptian,” it’s because they do. The desert planet, with its standing pyramid, is the first planet visited when the Stargate network was reopened. Imagine the Earthlings’ surprise when they came across … other Earthlings, albeit ancestral humans. Kidnapped by Ra, who outlawed any reading or writing, these people have made their home on this planet for thousands of years. But all good things must come to an end, as Abydos is eventually destroyed, but not before its inhabitants can ascend to the next plane of existence.

Ahch-To - Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

There’s no telling exactly how old this ancient bastion of the Jedi has been around, but it’s existence is definitely a secret to almost everyone. It’s where Luke Skywalker chooses to go off and “die” (his words), and if we ever needed to just get away from it all, this planet (and that one Jedi island in particular) would do the trick. There’s the Jedi tree (or what’s left of it), the Caretakers, the Thala Sirens, and most importantly— PORGS.

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Apokolips - New Gods/Action Comics/Superman

Apokolips! Doesn’t that have a pleasant, lovely ring to it? If by pleasant you mean fire-pits, kidnapped and broken citizens from other parts of the galaxy forced into slavery, and located somewhere between our dimension and hell, then yes. (You might be alone in calling that “pleasant.”) Oh, and it’s ruled by the proclaimed Embodiment of Evil, Darkseid. The upside? It’s separated from us (along with New Genesis and the Fourth World) and can only be accessed by Boom Tubes. You might say the Embodiment of Evil likes to make an entrance.

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Caprica – Battlestar Galactica

When they want to kick off your plan to wipe out your human creators, what better place for murderous Cylons to begin than the world of Caprica, the federal capital of the Twelve Colonies? The modern architecture and peaceful lifestyle on the planet are only glimpsed before nukes destroy the world, making it nearly uninhabitable. The good things we got from Caprica: most of the cast. The bad thing about losing Caprica: We’ll never see a proper Pyramid game played by the Caprica Buccaneers.

Centauri Prime - Babylon 5

A central location and place of many important plots, Centauri Prime has seen its share of riches, as well as more than its fair share of destruction. It was originally home to two races – the Centauri and the Xon – neither of which knew of the other, as they existed on opposite sides of the planet. When they did discover each other, the ominous-sounding War of 20 Million Deaths broke out, ending with the extermination of the Xon race. The throne of the Centauri Republic is on Centauri Prime, with the Emperor’s Palace along with 51 temples and shrines surrounding it. A true jewel of the universe, it was nearly wiped out in a war that it was framed for causing.  

Cybertron – Transformers

Large, metallic, and populated by sentient robot life forms … to say Cybertron is unlike any of the other planets on the list would be an understatement. At the center is the All-Spark, the source of all life. Obviously, this would be a highly sought-after object, which would explain its 4-million-year civil war between Autobots and Decepticons. Although the best-known inhabitants of Cybertron were relocated to Earth, they occasionally find themselves drawn back to their homeworld to find new allies and enemies and take another shot at capturing the All-Spark. A world that produced a multi-story-tall robot that can transform into a gun is a good place to end this list and, ahem, roll out.

Desert Planet (M6-117) - Pitch Black

Orbiting three suns makes it impossible for night to fall, but who needs sleep, especially when the light-sensitive underground creatures, called Bioraptors, are constantly popping up to kill you and your fellow stranded shipmates? Unfortunately for the poor souls who crash-land on the surface after passing through the tail of a comet, there is a total eclipse every 22 years, aka, now. But, fortunately, among the survivors is the stone-cold warrior named Riddick, who can see in the dark. So remember, if you ever want to visit planet M6-117, bring sunscreen and a muscle-bound guy with night vision, and do it only every 22 years. And you thought the rules for Gremlins were strict!

Ego - Guardians of the Galaxy/Marvel

When you hear someone’s got a big head and their ego is inflated, it’s usually metaphorical. Well, in this case, it’s literal. Ego The Living Planet is a literally sentient world. That’s a huge head, the bearded shape it often takes the form of. But like most egos, this one gets really emotional when defeated. And emo-Ego isn’t pretty. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ego appears in the form of the dashing Kurt Russell when it wants to go about the galaxy making babies, including Star-Lord.

Gallifrey - Doctor Who

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, good luck finding the home planet of the Time Lords. With its red grass, silver-leafed trees, and a domed capital city that would make Oz a deeper shade of green with envy, Gallifrey has bounced all over the universe in time and space — fitting, given that it’s the home of The Doctor, who does exactly the same thing. It’s been burned, rebuilt, war-torn, always at peace, and all sorts of conundrums, not the least of which was being shoved into a pocket dimension. One thing is known -- no matter what shape Gallifrey is in, The Doctor can never go home again, so maybe it’s playing an intergalactic game of hide and seek.

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Ilus - The Expanse

Ilus IV (its formal name), or “New Terra” (its name given by human colonists — we just love to name things, don’t we?), is a 2-billion-year-old planet and home to the first human colonists outside our solar system. Earthlings weren’t the first to reach it, though, as shown by long-buried structures … oh, and alien technology systems. It only took humans coming and living there to eventually trigger said systems and create a tsunami that nearly destroyed them all. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Klendathu - Starship Troopers

Here’s a world you don’t want to be caught dead on if you have arachnophobia. On the flip side, you probably WILL be dead in a matter of moments if you land on it. Don’t let its desolate, blue-desert terrain fool you – this place is filled with spiders traversing underground tunnels. Not your average, swat-with-a-rolled-up-magazine spiders, either – enormous, man-eating Arachnids. And boy, are they good at defending their homes. They’ve been known to kill as many as 10,000 soldiers in a single day. Leave it to humans to want to go to war with them on their homeworld. Will we ever learn?

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Kobol - Battlestar Galactica

The original home of humans – and their gods, the Lords of Kobol – this planet was also where humans created the first Cylons. It was also from here that the Thirteen Tribes fled after something called “The Blaze.” It’s much like Earth, though the fallen architecture is Greco-Roman. Fitting that it’s also the home to the Tomb of Athena, where Starbuck finds the Arrow of Apollo, the clue that can guide the surviving colonists of the Twelve Tribes of Kobol to the location of the Thirteenth Tribe’s planet: Earth. It sounds like a lovely place to visit, but with Cylons all around, you wouldn’t want to live there.

Krypton – Superman

Poor Krypton; we hardly knew you before you went and blew up. But at least your greatest scientific mind (who warned you, but you didn’t listen) managed to craft an escape pod for his only child and sent him off-world with moments to spare. With this planet’s red sun, Kal-El would have grown up to be a normal kid, but thanks to his father’s plan, he landed on Earth, where our planet’s yellow sun made him something super. Thanks to a prequel series set on the planet, we’re finally getting to know more about it too! What have we discovered? Well…it wasn’t exactly a paradise. Genetic rules, and twisted politics made this place (Kandor, in particular) a haven of backstabbing and intrigue. Despite some inhabitants that we’ve really come to love, the destruction of this planet might have been for the best. 

LV-223 – Prometheus

Ever wonder where we came from? The Big Bang? Creations of God? The product of giants on a far-away moon called LV-223? Guess which one the characters in Prometheus think is right. If you guessed LV-223, you’re correct. But are THEY? According to the gigantic creatures found there, known as Engineers – who happen to have the same DNA as humans – they might be. But LV-223 isn’t a very pleasant moon, filled with biological weapons, toxic air, killer black fluid, and infectious aliens. Most of the crew sent to examine their origins die there, but not before discovering a map that leads straight to Earth, as well as the knowledge that the Engineers came here from their own homeworld, Paradise. Why they would flee a lovely-sounding place remains a mystery, but what they may have unleashed isn’t – just as the remaining survivors escape, a xenomorph (the titular Alien) bursts from an Engineer’s chest. There goes the neighborhood. Again.

Magrathea – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy

Need a planet made of dreams? How about one with sentient coconuts? Rumbly rubber worlds? There’s an entire planet devoted to making OTHER planets just for that very purpose (Not certain about the coconut one, but probably). Magrathea was such a world, until it got so wealthy from making other planets that the rest of the Universe became incredibly poor. To save the rest of the Universe, the inhabitants went to sleep and Magrathea disappeared, believe it or not. We wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t (even though you’re reading this on a Magrathean-made world).

Mann – Interstellar

Interstellar has its share of head-scratching and surprising twists (Cooper talking to his daughter through time via a tesseract in a black hole? Imagine that pitch meeting!), but one of the most shocking was the revelation that the crew of the Endurance found on the icy tundra-planet Mann. Each of the three planets had been named after scientists sent out on a mission nearly a generation earlier, but Mann’s was still transmitting a beacon. The surprise the planet hosts isn’t that it’s freezing and probably not viable for human embryos -- it’s that the eponymous Dr. Mann is still alive. Not only was his beacon a lie (it was a call for rescue, not a successful mission), but Mann the man proves to be as deadly as his namesake planet, trying to kill Cooper. That’s just cold.

Miranda - Firefly/Serenity

Miranda is a lovely enough place, remote and civilized, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Well, the citizens didn’t know that until the Alliance did a planet-wide science experiment to try to make humanity "better," evolutionarily. The result? 90% turned peaceful to the point of sloth, which didn’t help them against the 10% it turned into cannibalistic, mindless creatures known as the Reavers. Discovering the secret the Alliance tried to cover-up, Mal Reynolds gives a Browncoat-y speech that sums up the true mission of the Serenity and its crew: “A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people ... better. And I do not hold to that. So, no more running. I aim to misbehave."

Mogo - DC Comics

Not to be outdone by Ego, Mogo was created as a sentient planet with an attitude. He/It evolved, however, to become integral to the Green Lantern Corps. Mogo, it turns out, is responsible for sending Green Lantern rings to new members when one has fallen. More than just planet-sized HR, Mogo is part of the Corps him/itself, occasionally sporting a Green Lantern-like ring around the planet’s equator.

Naboo - Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace

Say what you will about the Gungans dwelling underwater, but every planet has its good, bad, and ugly parts. The good: it’s the birthplace of Padme Amidala, mother of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa (by way of the man who would become Darth Vader, but sometimes we can’t help who we fall in love with). The bad: Sheev Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, aka The Emperor, was also born there. I guess it proves The Force does provide some balance. As for the ugly, we’ll let you talk amongst yourselves …

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New Genesis - New Gods/Action Comics/Superman

Where there’s evil, there must be good, right? That was the origin of the New Gods and their planet, New Genesis. The exact opposite of Apokolips, New Genesis is flush with life - human, flora, fauna, and animals. It’s ruled peacefully from a floating city (designed not to squash any of the natural beauty surrounding it) by the Highfather. Like Apokolips, it’s only accessible to Earth by Boom Tubes, although they almost always come in peace.

OA - Green Lantern

“If there’s a bright center to the Universe …”, wait, wrong Universe. But Oa IS at the center of the DC Universe, and headquarters of the best police force in the galaxy - the Green Lantern Corps. Oa is inhabited by the Guardians of the Universe, these little balding blue humanoids who hand out rings to those who would become Green Lanterns. It also houses the Universe’s largest energy source: The Corps Central Battery. It’s seen its fair share of destruction and rebuilding through the years, but then again, if you’re going to at the center of everything AND that powerful, you’re kinda asking for trouble.

Pandora – Avatar

When Avatar debuted, one of the things most marveled at was the moon of Pandora. It was strikingly bright and colorful, with inhabitants living in harmony with the planet, itself. So, when humans showed up (to mine the cleverly-named “unobtanium”), we knew things would go bad (see: Ilus). Fortunately, Nature (the moon having an atmosphere toxic to humans) and Pandora’s native blue-skinned Na’vi drove back the mining forces, kicking most of the humans back into space, leaving the unobtainium unobtainable. Sound like a place you want to visit? Through the wonders of amusement park entertainment, you can! Just follow the rules, and you won’t get kicked out of there too.

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Ring Station - The Expanse

Wanna see the sights of the galaxy? Look no further than Ring Station. Surrounded by 1,373 wormholes controlled by “Rings,” the Ring Station is the hub for your journeys. Just don’t expect much from the station, itself, by way of marvels, unless you like shiny, blue, metallic surfaces. The upside is, it can open up and let you wander around to get your bearings before you choose which of the 1,373 destinations you want to visit. Basically, it’s the coolest rest stop in the galaxy.

Sakaar – Thor: Ragnarok

In the Planet Hulk comic story, this was the planet where Hulk was abandoned after he was deemed to extra for Earth. Thor: Ragnarok decided to use some of that material, and introduced a different spin on the planet when Thor got lost himself. Less of a desert and more of a trash planet, the Sakaar of the MCU appears like something out of an old Super Nintendo game. The best thing of all? It’s mostly ruled over by Jeff Goldblum. It’s a Jeff Goldblum planet. That’s enough to sell anyone on Sakaar.

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Thanagar - DC Universe

Raise your hand if you don’t want Nth metal? What’s Nth metal? A substance found only on Thanagar, a planet populated by hawk-people, that lets you fly, heal fast, endure the elements, and be generally very cool. Also, can we go back to the part where the planet is home to hawk-people? Shut up and take our money!

Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which alien worlds that were a big deal in the last 25 years you’d put on your list? And check out our complete "25 Greatest" lists here.

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