There are a few recurring elements in your classic alien abduction story. They tend to feature one or more of: flashing lights, lost time, probing, other weird experiments, strange noises, dark rooms, the victim strapped to a table, and eventually the abductee being returned to their bed without knowing how they got there.
It might be worth noting at this point that relatively common sleep disorders night terrors – characterized by inexplicable terror and panic with an elevated heart rate and a sense of being threatened – and sleep paralysis – being unable to move for a period of time while lying in bed, often feeling that something is pressing down on the sleeper or there is an intruder in the room – have quite a lot in common with common elements of alien abduction stories.
With such well known common features to play with, it’s not surprising that writers have often branched out and done something a bit different with the classic alien abduction narrative. Here are five stories worth checking out…
Major spoilers follow.
5. Stargate SG-1: Fragile Balance
Who’s been abducted? It seems that O’Neill has been abducted and then returned, but 30 years younger than he was the night before.
What’s unusual about it? It turns out that the culprit, who has abducted and experimented on a number of other people, is a rogue Asgard, Loki the Trickster. The Asgard are Earth’s allies and, as O’Neill observes several times, they owe Earth a favor (it involved Carter blowing up a sun). Alien abductors, whether Roswell Greys (as the Asgard are) or not, are not usually friends and allies of the U.S. Government. Well, they might be (see below). When you think about it, the Stargate program is pretty creepy. The youth of O’Neill is also an unusual feature, and it eventually emerges, when the original O’Neill is returned a little later, that this is a clone developed by rogue Asgard Loki.
What happens to the abductee? Regular O’Neill simply carries on as normal. His much younger clone heads off to high school with a promise not to keep in touch.
Hammond: “Are you saying Colonel O’Neill has somehow regressed more than 30 years overnight?”Jackson: “Stranger things have happened.”Teal’c: “Name but one.”Jackson: “Well, there was the time he got really old, the time he became a caveman, the time we all swapped bodies…”
O’Neill: “I just woke up, haven’t had coffee, let alone a pee in seven days, and I find out you stole my ass and made a mini-me! Carter, I should be irked, currently, yes?”
4. Third Rock From The Sun: Dick’s Big Giant Headache Part 2
Who’s been abducted? Harry’s girlfriend Vicki, who heads off for a one night stand, not realizing just how far her new beau is going to take her.
What’s unusual about it? Vicki is seduced rather than abducted, but while she seems happy enough about the “probing,” other aspects of her night with the Big Giant Head conform to alien abduction scenarios, including pulsating lights, beeping noises, and arriving back in her own bed with no idea how she got there. Also, since the Big Giant Head is played by William Shatner, the whole thing is kicked off when she gets beamed up with Captain Kirk, which might be fairly normal for Star Trek, but unusual in a twentieth-century-set sitcom.
What happens to the abductee? It turns out the Big Giant Head has knocked Vicki up and she quickly gives birth to an alien hybrid baby. When no one believes her story because the baby looks completely human, she heads out for a new life in Florida.
Sally: “He took her up to his bachelor pod!”
3. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Schisms
Who’s been abducted? Riker, Worf, Geordie, and some random expendable ensigns are having panic attacks for no reason. Troi suspects alien abduction.
What’s unusual about it? The fun thing about this, which is really just a bog standard story about aliens abducting people to perform weird experiments on them in a dark room, is that the people being abducted live on a spaceship themselves. Indeed, one of them is, from an Earthling point of view, an alien. For this reason, they tend not to use the phrase “alien abduction” to describe what’s happening.
What happens to the abductee? One of the expendables dies, but the crew eventually manage to protect themselves from further abductions.
Troi: “Have you dreamed about scissors lately?”
The episode also features Data’s poem “Ode to Spot,” though that has nothing to do with alien abduction:
Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
2. Supernatural: Clap Your Hands If You Believe
Who’s been abducted? Several people in Elwood, Indiana, including Dean.
What’s unusual about it? Supernatural being a fantasy show, not a science fiction show, it is eventually revealed that the abductions are being carried out by fairies, not aliens. What makes this particularly fun is that, in the days before alien abduction stories, it was abduction by fairies that people told stories about, complete with approaching darkness and feeling trapped and unable to move, strange lights, etc. (because people experienced night terrors and sleep paralysis in medieval times, too). Worth watching for Robert Picardo as the biggest leprechaun you’ve ever seen, too.
What happens to the abductee? Dean is returned, largely none the worse for wear, though with the ability to see fairies, even when exploding them in the microwave.
Sam (who is soulless at the time): “My brother was abducted, so I’m pretty good on the whole proof part.”Sparrow: “Your brother was abducted?”Sam: “Yeah.”Sparrow: “Oh my God.”Sam: “It’s fine. I mean, I’ve had time to adjust.”Sparrow: “Did it happen when you were kids?”Sam: “No, like, half an hour ago.”
1. The X-Files: Jose Chung’s From Outer Space
Who’s been abducted? Two Washington County teenagers, Harold and Chrissy. Possibly.
What’s unusual about it? Well for starters, immediately after the abduction, another spacecraft appears and one Roswell Grey alien asks the other what it is, to which he replies, “How the hell should I know?” This makes sense when you realize they are Air Force officers playing out an abduction scenario. But who or what is the monstrous alien bathed in red light? And did any abductions take place at all, or is Harold covering up for date raping Chrissy? And does Mulder really let out a high-pitched squeal on seeing a dead body?
The X-Files did many alien abduction stories over the years, including a classic standard alien abduction narrative done very well in the pilot episode. However, this episode is a bit different. The multiple perspectives, multiple potential abductions and multiple possible conspiracies make this unusual even by X-Files standards, as well as a joy to watch.
What happens to the abductee? Back home and increasingly confused about what’s happened, Chrissy dumps Harold.
Detective Manners: “That’s a bleepin’ dead alien body if I ever bleepin’ saw one.”
Blaine: “One of them was disguised as a woman, but wasn’t pulling it off. Like, her hair was red, but it was a little too red, y’know? And the other one, the tall, lanky one, his face was so blank and expressionless. He didn’t even seem human. I think he was a mandroid.”