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File:Star Wars Nonhuman 9288.jpg


Donkey: Hi, Princess!

Princess Fiona: It talks!

Shrek: Yeah, it's getting him to shut up that's the trick!

When a work has an ordinary setting, your cast is going to be... well, ordinary. Your basic Five-Man Band, maybe with a Token Minority, or a Token Girl.

But when you're the author of Speculative Fiction, authors can make the cast as interesting as they want. Enter the Token Non-Human to spice things up. He (or she; this is a Unisex Trope) could be a Rubber Forehead Alien, a Robot Buddy, a Funny Animal, a Civilized Animal, a Partially-Civilized Animal, or all of the above at once, but one thing is for sure. They aren't human.

Even Demi Humans like elves can count as examples of this trope.

A Token Non-Human is not the Team Pet -- the team pet is, well, a pet that belongs to the team, but the Token Non-Human is a sapient being who stands on more-or-less equal footing with the humans.

Unlike other token what-have-yous, a token nonhuman is not there to attract a Periphery Demographic. Probably. A Token Non-Human instead serves the purpose of exploring the possibility of other species with radically different natures than our own, incorporating beings with cool superhuman abilities, showing that the main cast is not practicing Fantastic Racism, and exploring the question What Measure Is a Non-Human?. If nothing else, the Token Non-Human can serve as the Amusing Alien for comic relief.

Because Most Writers Are Human (to our knowledge), you'll likely not see more than one Main Character who isn't human, hence the "token" part of "Token Non-Human". If there is more than one nonhuman character, you'll most likely see a cast full of nonhumans, with a Token Human.

Token Heroic Orc is this trope meeting Token Enemy Minority. See also Fantastic Sapient Species Tropes, and Not Quite Human. Compare and contrast Team Pet. Contrast Not Even Human. Inverse of Token Human and Unfazed Everyman.

Examples of Token Non-Human include:


Anime and Manga


Film


Literature


Live Action TV

  • Spock half qualifies, as he is half-human.
    • In The Next Generation, three out of the starring cast of seven or eight were non-human. While human-looking Troi was less obvious, both Worf and Data qualify as Token Nonhumans.
    • Averted by Deep Space Nine, which is set on a space station that's mainly made up of non-humans, and there are multiple aliens in the starring (Kira, Odo, Quark, Worf, both Daxes) and recurring cast.
    • Voyager averts this trope as well, with Neelix, the holographic Doctor, Tuvok, Torres, Kes, and in later seasons former borg Seven of Nine. The nonhuman main cast slightly outnumber the human main cast members (Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, and Kim).
    • T'Pol and Phlox in Enterprise.
  • Doctor Who has the Doctor as this a lot of the time.
    • Though during Peter Davison's era this was inverted, with Tegan Jovanka serving as the token human in a TARDIS full of aliens
  • Teal'c from Stargate SG-1.
    • Subverted, averted, and inverted (possibly) in Stargate Atlantis - the Pegasus galaxy is full of humans, but almost none of the the non-Terran humans work for the Atlantis expedition, but then by the end of the pilot, the flagship exploration team adopts a non-Terran member.
  • Trip in Power Rangers Time Force.
  • ~Blake's Seven~ has Cally, an Auron with limited telepathic powers.
  • Though the cast contains several examples of not quite human characters, including the titular protagonist, Angel has Lorne as the only visibly demonic main character who is unable to alter his appearance in any way.


Video Games


Webcomics


Western Animation

  • Bender is the token robot of Futurama and Zoidberg is the token alien.
    • And Leela is the token mutant. The only fully human characters in the delivery crew are the Martian, the 160+ year old man, the human popsicle from a thousand years in the past, the bureaucrat, and the janitor. Actually, the main cast is mostly full-on humans.
  • Men in Black: The Series has The Twins as the Token Aliens of MIB. In the fourth season, sci-fi affirmative action causes MIB to hire an alien field agent and alien scientist.
  • Inverted in the Teen Titans television adaption, where Robin is the token "regular" human, though he's still the most adept of the Titans.



Anthropomorphic Animal Examples

Film

Live Action TV

  • Red Dwarf had The Cat. Arguably, he could also be construed as Team Pet, as he was descended from Lister's cat Frankenstein, but let's count 3 million years of evolution to his credit.
  • SeaQuest DSV had a dolphin that could talk.

Video Games

Webcomics:

Western Animation

Notes

  1. We're... not sure what Gogo is
  2. or over, for strict enough definitions of "human"
  3. Born with horns in their heads, though Garnet's was surgically removed
  4. Which, in this setting, are basically living dolls
  5. Son of a probably pure blooded fae lord and a highly powerful witch who probably also has many fair ones in her family tree
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