Sep 20 2010 3:00pm

Lizard-People Gone Wild! The Top 10 Hottest Cold-Blooded Sentient Reptiles of All Time

“…occasionally you meet a nice one, Starman, ET…but usually they just turn out to be some kind of big lizard!” —Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters 2

Lizard-People are definitely up there in the domination of the anthropomorphic SF world, neck and neck with Cat-People and Insect-People, and it’s easy to see why. Actual lizards were pretty much in charge of the planet way before we ever came along, so it makes sense science fiction and fantasy would have a whole slew of hissing, scaly creatures populating books, comics, movies, and television. And because of their slithery ubiquity across the world of SF, I’ve decided to narrow down the pantheon of Lizard-People to the greatest hits. I give you: The Top 10 Greatest Lizard-People of All Time!

10. Reptile (Mortal Kombat)

This guy may have looked human, but wait until he took his face off! Right. Big-time lizard-person. Later on, Reptile was upgraded to include actual claws and even a tail in some more contemporary incarnations of the video game, though I think we’ll always remember him for that acid-attack/taking off his human face action.


9. The Voth (Star Trek: Voyager—“Distant Origin”)

In bars lately, I’ve been hearing this voice saying “you know Voyager wasn’t that bad. There was this awesome episode with intelligent dinosaurs!” Then I recognize that voice. It’s mine! This is a great episode—intelligent dinosaurs who left Earth so long ago that they don’t longer remember even being from there (here?). Not only that, but in their culture it's blasphemy to suggest it! What’s not to love?


8. Lithians (A Case of Conscience by James Blish)

In keeping with a sort of religious theme, James Blish’s Hugo Award-winning novel depicts a race of intelligent reptiles living in a seemingly perfect utopian society. But the space-faring Father Ruiz-Sanchez is worried about the souls of these Lizards, and wants to quarantine their whole planet! As with Bradbury story “The Fire Balloons,” the notion of religion in space is handled deftly in a compelling narrative.


7. Dracs (Enemy Mine)

Like a lot of Lizard-People in SF, we’re ultimately taught something about humanity through our affection for some cold-blooded creatures. I don’t know about you, but whenever this one was on in my house, everybody cried. My mom the most. If a list of tear-jerking lizards were complied, Jerry would easily win.


6. The Lizard (Amazing Spider-Man)

Sometimes Lizard-People are human people who become Lizards. Such is the case with Dr. Curt Connors in the Spider-Man comics. To me, The Lizard was always one the best of Spidey’s baddies. And while both Green Goblin and Doc Ock were the results of experiments gone wrong, The Lizard seems to have more perfect symmetry as a foil against Spider-Man. Plus, I hear he’s about to make his Broadway debut!


5. Dragons (The Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey)

Okay, so they’re not Lizard-People. They’re mythical creatures living in a science-fictional setting. But they have to be on the list! They’re intelligent reptiles who can communicate telepathically with their riders. They can also teleport sometimes! They may not be bipeds, but these scaly beasts are some of the most memorable.


4. Silurians (Doctor Who—Various Episodes)

Like The Voth, homo-reptilia were on Earth way before we got here. Unlike The Voth, they never left. The great thing about the Silurians in the grand scheme of Doctor Who monsters is that they’re not aliens. The fact that the Silurians have the same claims to the Earth is one of the best uses of Lizard-People in terms of creating a great moral quandary for the audience. Though I sort of wish they had tails.


3. Visitors (From V)

They look like people. But then they rip off their faces and proceed to eat mice just like the snake in your third-grade science class. If they didn’t have such stiff competition, they’d be number one on this list.


2. Medusa (The Greeks)

Like the Dragons from the Pern series, this is not exactly a Lizard-Person. But let’s not split (snake) hairs here. Without Medusa the Gorgon, we might not have Lizard-People in popular fiction. She’s the scariest and most classic reptilian-human thing ever. Unfortunately she’s going to lose the top-spot to a guy in a rubber suit.


1. The Gorn (Star Trek—“Arena”)

When one hears the phrase “Lizard-Person” (which if you’re lucky, is every day) this is what springs to mind. Bar none, this guy is the quintessential Lizard-Person. It was only ONE episode and The Gorn are still going strong. Remember when Scott Bakula wrestled a CG Gorn on the bizzaro-universe episode of Enterprise? Of course not! Because it wasn’t near as cool as the original design. This is what should have happened: Sam from Quantum Leap leaps into the Gorn that Kirk is fighting in “Arena.” Talk about an “oh boy” moment. In any case, the fact that Kirk spares the Gorn is the ultimate proof SF tends to depict Lizard-People as a sort way of feeling guilty about all the bad things we humans do.

This is something I understand. When I was nine, my father told me that not only do lizards grow new tails, but that severed tails in turn, grow new lizards. After accidently stepping on a lizard’s tail, my guilt compelled me to take the tail inside and keep it in my room to ensure a new lizard indeed grew back.

I’m sworn to secrecy as to what happened after that.

Ryan Britt’s writing has appeared with, Clarkesworld Magazine, Opium Magazine and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn and knows for a fact that the Narn from Babylon 5 are actually not Lizard-People, but more similar to Space-Marsupials.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden
3. pnh
How could anyone write so many words on this subject without even mentioning the important contributions to Lizard People Studies by former BBC newsreader David Icke? I ask you.
Story Cottage
4. Story Cottage
Like gaijin, I kept waiting for Sleestaks - which were the first lizard men to come to mind for me. I do appreciate the Voth inclusion as that was one of the most interesting ideas in Voyager.
Paul Weimer
5. PrinceJvstin
Sleestaks: Exactly. You can't forget Enik! Only lizard-person to dabble in time travel...
Ryan Britt
6. ryancbritt
For some reason "Land of the Lost" didn't make the cut in my mind. This is probably an oversite, or maybe a bias on my part.

Also-I thought about David Icke, but wanted to stick with SF. Though I suppose many could consider his stuff SF! ;-)
Joshua Starr
7. JStarr
Ah yes. But these were the lizard-persons most prominent in my early reading:

Allow me to excerpt:

"Draconians are created through the use of a powerful and undetailed spell, the exact workings of which are unknown; all is known is that the process requires the spittle of a Chromatic Dragon, an evil Arcane spellcaster and a Cleric of Takhisis (who cast the spell in tandem) and the egg of a Metallic Dragon."

Also, I am very amused by the length of that wikipedia article.
Story Cottage
9. digitalsharky
What about Trandoshans from the Star Wars Universe, with bounty hunter Bossk as a prime example?
james loyd
10. gaijin

Yes, Trandoshans. Nice catch.

I would also add the Jem'Hadar, but the Gorn are much more deeply ingrained in, and therefore more representative of, the Star Trek gestalt.
Story Cottage
11. Fenric25
Glad to see the Silurians made it here, though I do prefer the classic series look for them to the new series one, wobbly heads and red third eye and all. Being such a long-running series, its not surprising there were other reptilian species in the show-the cousins of the Silurians nicknamed Sea Devils, the Draconians, the Foamasi (which wound up looking more insectoid than reptilian but whatever). There's also the Ice Warriors from Mars, whose look was rather good for episodes from the mid-sixties. Of them all, though, the Silurians did have the most compelling background story, IMO, so good choice.

Liked the list, (glad the Gorn won, always one of my favorite lizard people) these kinds of things are always fun to read. Could care less about the Sleestak, having never seen Land of the Lost...
Ken Walton
12. carandol
Can't talk about cool lizard-men without a mention of the Yilane from Harry Harrison's "West of Eden" and sequels. Probably the most believable, scientifically speaking, plus they have bioengineered ichthyosaur submarines!
Story Cottage
13. Your Mom
Fun to read. Everyone is an expert though. I thought you did a great job but then I have a close personal relationship with you. Thanks for including me.
Story Cottage
14. Christopher Johnstone
Hm. Ok, so I'm pedantic, but I kept thinking 'dinosaurs aren't lizards!' Really, dinosaurs are birds. Or Archosaurs. But they're not lizards nor even vaguely lizardy. It seems likely that at least some were endotherms so calling them cold blooded is way off the mark too...

Ah well. I know this is just a bit of fun, but still. I keep crying it out in my head.

I've also always been annoyed by the very unimaginative (and I think implausible) representation of what an 'evolved' raptor that was adapted towards intelligence might (conjecturally) have looked like (its the image on the front page). What has always bugged me is that it looks like the people who designed it decided that intelligent = hominoform without thinking through the possibility that raptors represented a different but equally functional morphology. Why would such a creature ever lose its tail through a process of evolutionary selection? Its tail was used for balancing (presumably) and was probably very important. Apes presumably are descended from a common ancestor along with monkeys that may not have had a prehensile tail and thus the two lineages solves the problem of a useless appendage in different ways.

I'm ranting and I'll stop now. I know. I know. It's all a bit of fun, but my biologist brain keeps on bothering me.

Story Cottage
15. lagomorph_rex
What about the Serpent men from Robert E. Howard's King Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom". Which from what I've found were the earliest "Reptoids" in fiction apart from the ones from Classical Mythology.
Soni Pitts
16. sonipitts
What about the Tharks of Barsoom? Surely they should rate at least a mention.
Story Cottage
19. Gorbag
Then there's Robert J. Sawyer's Quintaglio Ascension, with its wonderful nanotyrannosauroidal rex ... I loved it when I came across it one day last millennium; and they have a connection to Mother Earth, although they live on a satellite orbiting a Jovian, and are steadily losing orbital position preparatory to being swallowed up by said Jovian ...

A most enjoyable read. Recommended.
Story Cottage
20. Al Harron
A very... eclectic list, if I do say so myself. If sentient dragons count as "sentient reptiles," why not include
Smaug and Glaurung, surely more influential than even McCaffrey's
dragons? I definitely think Howard's Serpent Men deserve inclusion, they're practically the archetype for "shadowy reptilians disguised as humans" stories. V and David Icke owe a lot to REH's Serpent Men.
Story Cottage
21. flibbertigibbet
The K'Chain Che'Malle and K'Chain Nah'Ruk from the Malazan books are what came to my mind. They're deadly killing machines but so much more, too!
james loyd
22. gaijin
" looks like the people who designed it decided that intelligent = hominoform..." -Christopher Johnstone

More likely they thought hominoform=easier to identify with and the earlier TV productions almost inevitably thought hominoform=cheaper to build costumes.
Story Cottage
23. das_aug
wait, what? 22 comments in and still nobody mentioned the Narn from Babylon 5?
Story Cottage
24. alreadymadwithlizardmen
Uhh.. Prince Xizor from Shadows of the Empire?
Story Cottage
25. tom nackid
Didn't come to mind! Come on! "Beware of Sleestak." is right up there with "Don't Panic" and "There aint no such thing as a free lunch." ;)

Christopher, I thought the same thing when I first saw that "evolved dinosaur" illustration some years ago on the cover of a science magazine. There is no reason for an intelligent dinosaur to have a human/ape-like body unless it spent a large part of its evolution swinging from branch to branch. And why would something already eveolved for high speed running do that? Failure of imagination. As for being pendantic, one of my favorite t-shirts from an SF conventions said: "I'm not arrogant, I'm pendantic. There is a difference. Let me explain it to you..." ;)
Story Cottage
James Patrick Kelly's "Think like a Dinosaur" has some extremely intelligent Lizard people always thinking of "balancing the equation".

Don't forget the merchant aliens who visit the solar system in Bruce Sterling's "Schismatrix". Heard about the cicada queen?
Story Cottage
27. Gorbag
@14.Christopher Johnstone
Sorry to rub your nose in it, since I agree, dinosaurs are not reptiles - though they aren't birds either: birds are dinosaurs, part of the archosaur lineage along with crocs and alligators, gavial and caiman ... sauropods and therapods ... or to get even more pedantic, birds are therapods, in the lineage of allosaurus and tyrannosaurus: watch that hen ....

But in the theme of - publically-considered reptiles - sapient dinosaurs, there's a group of language- and tool-using dinosaur hunters in Stephen Baxter's Evolution. I wish I could remember the species name, but sorry, it's slipped my mind - but I think he's probably done the best sapient dinosaur species currently written.
Story Cottage
28. sofrina
the cardassians of st:tng/ds9 didn't make the cut? lemek, geset, gul dukat, and for god's sake, garak the "tailor?" their entire society is cold-blooded.

"what you call genocide, i call a day's work."

"you'd stab a man in the back?"/"it's the safest way."

"random and unprovoked executions will keep your workforce alert and motivated."
Story Cottage
29. SciFiSiren
Definitely Cardassians. Definitely.
Story Cottage
30. A-J-2
I'd like to hear more of these about science fiction aliens from you! Especially the one about canine-creatures: off the top of my head, K.D. Wentworth's Hrrin books are the only ones I can think of.
Story Cottage
31. Greenblade
Um, Outer Limits beat Star Trek to doing "Arena" by 3-4 years and the human guy's antagonists were definitely lizard/retile people.
Story Cottage
32. dilsnik
The Predators are reptilian...

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment