Thargoids: More Than Just Klingons?

Someone’s had an encounter with what appears to be a Thargoid ship over one of the mysterious ‘Barnacles’ scattered about the Galaxy:

Fascinating. And a beautifully eerie experience, I imagine, given that the Thargoids are being teased so cautiously in the game.

(By the way, the guy who flies in shouting “I’m going to ram it!” appears, based on a later YouTube comment, to mean he was on a collision course when his ship shut down, and was afraid he was going to ram it. It wasn’t that he decided to.)

But, see, this… this is what the Thargoids should be, to my mind. A mystery. The subject of rumour, and urban legend, and the occasional bizarre sighting like this. They’re aliens, of a sort, and they should, to my mind, be alien. That is – and I admit we’d have to disregard some previous Elite lore that’s had humans in conflict with Thargoids several times already – they shouldn’t just be humans with insect faces. Now I love Star Trek as much as the next geek, but in Star Trek, for the most part, the ‘aliens’ are essentially no more than different sets of human beings. But that was the point: Star Trek’s galactic politics and conflict have always served as a reflection of humanity’s own. The Federation’s rivalry, and occasional outright warfare, with the Klingons – right from the species’ earliest appearance in the Original Series all the way through to Star Trek VI – quite explicitly stood as a metaphor for Cold War I.

The Klingons – and the Vulcans, the Cardassians, the Romulans, et al – were ‘alien’ in the sense that they provided an ‘other’, a rival or ally suitable for the setting. They only needed to be mildly different in appearance or culture to serve their narrative purpose, and they were never presented as anything other than a representation of some aspect of humanity. The Vulcans were humanity’s logical, cold rationality, with all the advantages and disadvantages that can stem from that aspect of us. The Borg were an exploration of the concept of collective thought: our willingness to ‘assimilate’ into a group and then follow it without question, and how that could bring great efficiency but also lead to serious moral deficiency.

vulcans

None of these peoples were ever presented as truly alien because that wasn’t what Trek was ever really about. The Federation – intended as the viewers’ point-of-view political entity – was shown interacting with many different alien nations; but what we were watching was a sort of dissertation on the best and worst aspects of humanity, and seeing how differences can not only be overcome but actively embraced and turned to our collective benefit.

Star Trek, in short, wasn’t telling stories about aliens. It was telling stories about us.

Elite: Dangerous, though, offers us the Thargoids as more than just insectoid humans. Or, at least, it seems to be doing that. I’m only saying ‘insectoid’ because that’s established in the lore of the previous games: as far as I know, no-one’s seen a Thargoid in E:D. Not yet. But we’ve had strange signals: graphical messages embedded in the spectra of audio bursts. We’ve had the ‘barnacles’; those strange monumental structures standing silent and enigmatic on the surface of airless planets. We’ve had the ‘hyperdictions’: ships being pulled out of witch-space. And we’ve had sightings of the ‘flower ships’, not least in the compelling video above (that sound!). It’s all very eerie and intriguing.

And players are debating the meaning of it all. What are the Thargoids – if these encounters are indeed the Thargoids – up to?

flowership

Speaking personally, while I quite understand the desire to figure it all out, I very much hope that Frontier are willing to go all out to make these aliens alien. And that, as far as I’m concerned, should mean that however hard the player base try, the purpose and method of the Thargoids should be ever beyond our reach. What are the barnacles? Was the ‘flower ship’ in this video refuelling? Was it depositing data? Was it beaming someone or something up or down? Why didn’t it attack the players nearby? Why have the Thargoids been interdicting us? What’s their plan? What do they want?

If Frontier imagine the Thargoids the way I would, then the answer to each of these questions is, and will always only ever be, “Werl, it’s Thargoids, innit?”

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