Gallifrey Ancient CivilizationsTypically in our sci-fi confrontations, every alien race is pretty much on equal footing technologically, giving the appearance that they evolved more or less contemporaneously. But once in a while, we get glimpses of aliens that are much, much older than any others in the setting–our Precursors, typically, although whether they’re worthy of the title is often up for debate. These aliens have tech that’s practically equivalent to magic compared to what everyone else is wielding, and often times fighting over their leftovers is a major plot point. We rarely get to see them in their heyday, but when we do, they’re incredible. Here are 4 of these ancient alien civilizations, among the oldest in their settings, who really had some amazing abilities, some of whom remain a formidable presence to this day.

4. The Omec–Defiance

Omec Defiance Ancient Alien Civilizations

If only they had one eye and one horn…

The Omec were the first of the Votan races to achieve spaceflight. They didn’t exactly, uh, use that technology responsibly, given their reputation for devouring sentient species and enslaving the rest, but the sheer force that the legends of their exploits held is proof enough of how powerful they were. Even by the time they arrive at Earth, they’re still lightyears ahead of the other Votans and Humans in technology, as evidenced by the capsule transport technique used to travel between their ship in orbit and the planet’s surface. Their tech just gets more impressive, with things like the mentally controlled drones, and their apparently wormhole-driven faster-than-light starships, but let’s not forget their greatest achievement–synthesizing an ENTIRE RACE in the form of the Indogene, cybernetic scientists like Doc Yewll. They also likely had a hand in the creation of the Volge, although that was never explored on the show, unfortunately. And while the other Votans do fear them, there’s an element of respect as well, with the Omec language functionally equivalent to the role Latin played in Europe.

Comparisons to Rome are very common in these ancient alien civilizations, for obvious reasons, but for none more so than…

3. The Ancients–Stargate

Stargate Atlantis Ancient Alien Civilizations

Yes, that’s a SPACESHIP. One that can travel radically faster than light.

The Ancients were one of the Four Great Races, but they were also by far the most impressive of the four. Having originated in the Ori Galaxy, they eventually left for the Milky Way, where they proceeded to develop the Stargate network and launch the Destiny, an FTL ship so hardy it was able to travel for millions of years without so much as maintenance robots aboard to fix it. They then headed for yet another galaxy, the Pegasus galaxy, where they proceeded to accidentally create another sentient species in the form of the Wraith and intentionally in the form of the Asuran replicators. They lived there in the huge city-ship of Atlantis, itself an amazing piece of technology that is still a marvel even in the present when the SGC stumbles across it. The Ancients had a huge impact on humanity, inspiring Arthurian legend with their adventures and apparently providing the basis for real Latin, based on the use of terms like “Astria Porta” and by having names like Janus. But by far their most amazing achievement was Ascending, not just individually, but as a civilization. Now that’s saying something.

2. The Time Lords–Doctor Who

Doctor who Gallifrey Ancient Alien Civilizations

Sometimes it looked more glorious than others.

From the moment the Doctor first stepped onto our screens, fans wondered about his people. He never liked to talk about them, and there had to be a reason why he spent so much of his time apart. Visiting his homeworld of Gallifrey was all but inevitable, and well, it wasn’t a particularly flattering view of them once we did. But looking at them independently of the Doctor’s point of view, the Time Lord society is still very awesome. They were among the first intelligent life forms to evolve, and their mastery over time and space is so thorough that even a beat-up clunker like the Doctor’s TARDIS is capable of things that other races can hardly even dream of. They effectively devised their own system of immortality in the form of Regeneration, and the Master’s many “permanent” deaths prove that it’s all but impossible for a Time Lord to die for good. The true awe-inspiring power of the Time Lords on display in the Last Great Time War was so incredible that it was decided it could never be accurately depicted on screen.

1. The Iconians–Star Trek

Star Trek Deep Space 9 Ancient Alien Civilizations

Oh? Paris? From the Gamma Quadrant? Well why not?

One of the most mysterious and ancient alien civilizations in the Star Trek canon is the Iconian Empire, a long-gone people who created the Iconian Gateways, a Stargate-like technology that allows for instantaneous transportation to a huge variety of places, even those tens of thousands of lightyears away (including Earth). Their technology was only encountered twice–once on TNG, and once on DS9, but it’s immediately clear that even gaining access to one of these gateways could radically shift the balance of power in the Alpha Quadrant, with both Picard and Sisko deciding it’s too dangerous to allow to exist. The Iconians supposedly went extinct, but even from these two brief glimpses, the imagination of the fans was captured, and there’s no shortage of appearances of Iconians or Iconian technology in the expanded universe. After all, it’s not hard to believe that a civilization capable of instantly transporting from one quadrant to another could find a way to flee before their civilization fell entirely, especially since their entire empire was allegedly destroyed by orbital bombardment of their homeworld. Can anyone seriously believe that no Iconians escaped through these gateways?

Perhaps it’s just due to the mystery surrounding them, but I personally find the Iconians and the opportunities they present to the franchise extremely fascinating.

That’s all for this week. Any ancient alien civilizations you think deserve a spot on this list (but not on the History Channel)? You can let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @RetroPhaseShift.