October 29 was National Cat Day! I love cats. On Planet X, I celebrate National Cat Day by putting together a list of the furriest, most purrrfffect characters, stories and moments in my other love – science fiction! Because, believe it or not, cats and sci-fi go together like wet food and a ball of yarn. So, without further ado, in no particular order, here’re the best feline moments in sci-fi.
Ripley was the last survivor of the Nostromo right? Wrong! She had company. Jones (or Jonesy) the ship’s cat also successfully escaped the alien’s clutches. His most memorable moment was when Brett, the ship’s engineer, tries to call Jones to him but Jones is too distracted by the thing that’s slowly creeping down from the ceiling behind Brett. The camera switches from the alien snatching Brett to a closeup of Jonesy’s face. The 1979 film ends with Jonesy relaxing on Ripley’s lap as she gives her final report before going into stasis.
Isis the Cat
Does it surprise you that Spock has an affinity for cats? Me neither. The last episode of Star Trek‘s second season, “Assignment: Earth”, has the Enterprise traveling to the past to research Earth’s history only to discover a mysterious man with a cat has energized aboard the ship. That man is agent Gary Seven, a human raised on another planet who’s mission is to travel through time to prevent other agents from altering Earth’s history. His constant companion is a cat named Isis who possessed the ability to take on a human form and to communicate telepathically. Originally “Assignment: Earth” was intended to be a backdoor pilot to a spinoff series about Gary Seven, his cat, Isis and his assistant Roberta Lincoln but it never got off the ground. However, their further adventures are told in the Gary Cox duology The Eugenics Wars.
If your a child of the eighties like me, chances are you may remember watching this show at some point. Created by the ironically named Ted “Tobin” Wolf and airing from 1985 to 1989, ThunderCats revolved around a group of feline humanoid aliens – each resembling a species of wild cat – fleeing their doomed planet Thundera and. The group consisted of central protagonist Lion-O, Cheetara, Snarf, Tygra, Panthro, and the siblings WilyKit and WilyKat as they fight the Mutants of Plun-Darr and adjust to their new lives on Third Earth. As you may have guessed, there was a toy line.
Lion-O and the gang weren’t the only cats to rule the airwaves. The wildly popular He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) had Prince Adam/He-Man’s faithful pet/steed Cringer, a green and orange tiger who was a scaredy-cat (literally) and could turn into a fierce, bridled tiger with the help of He-Man’s sword. He also was immortalized in toy form.
Next to Wonder Woman, DC’s Catwoman (Selena Kyle) is one of comics most recognizable and inspirational characters – even if her reputation is unsavory. She’s been around since 1940 and is still going strong. She’s been portrayed by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway and Carmen Bicondova. She’s also been voiced by Adrienne Barbeau, Grey DeLisle, Eliza Dushku and others. IGN ranked her at number 11 on their “Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time” list.
Not to be outdone is DC’s other “cat burglar” Catman, who was really Thomas Blake, a hunter turned criminal who often went cowl to cowl with Batman. Like his more famous female counterpart, he’s been retconned into an anti-hero involved with the Secret Six. Under the pen of Gail Simone, Catman has gained more recognition.
Cat People (1942)
Considered to be the definitive Val Lewton film, this horror classic tells the story of a young Serbian woman’s fear that she will turn into a deadly black panther if she’s ever sexually aroused or angered. Her fears come true when she falls in love with an American man… The film is famous for its low budget and its cinematography.
The Cat Returns (2002)
From Studio Ghibli comes a coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl named Haru who finds herself in a “cat kingdom” as the unwilling bride-to-be for their prince. It up to the dashing Baron von Gikkingen, his aide Muta and a bird named Toto to infiltrate the palace of the Cat King and free Haru. The English dub of this Japanese film included the voices of Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle and Tim Curry.
Dinah and the Cheshire Cat
How could I leave Alice in Wonderland off this list? It boasts two iconic cats: Alice’s cherished cat, Dinah (who acts as a beacon of hope to the lost, confused Alice) and of course, the Cheshire Cat, who has all the best lines in the book. Dinah was based on the Liddell’s family’s (who were close friends of Lewis Carroll) tabby cat while the Cheshire Cat is based on the expression “to grin like a Cheshire cat.” Cheshire was also Carroll’s birthplace.
Aslan, Son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea
The creator and king of Narnia. He is a alternative version of Jesus Christ and is the only character to appear in all seven books of the Narnia series. He’s loved by all Narnians and feared by all his enemies. He is not a tame lion.
I haven’t read this 1985 book by Tad Williams but I remember an illustration of a Toothguard by Wayne Barlowe. Anyway Fritti Tailchaser is a sentient feral cat who sets out on a quest to find a missing friend. Rumor has it, there will be an animated adaptation in 2018 (CGI unfortunately).
To Visit the Queen
A 1998 steampunk time traveling adventure by Diane Duane in which an evil entity travels to Victorian England to introduce nuclear weapons (ahead of schedule) to the British Empire and assassinate Queen Victoria along the way. It’s up to four cat “wizards”, their dinosaur ally, and a young Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to stop “The Lone Power” from destroying the world.
Muuurgh the Togorian
A character that appears in A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, Muuurgh was a feline humanoid that was assigned as Han Solo bodyguard on the planet Ylesia. In reality Muuurgh was looking for his mate-to-be Mrrov, who had gotten tangled up with a shady cult. Muuurgh and Han Solo become good friends (remember, this is before Han met Chewbacca) and help free Mrrov and other members from the clutches of the “cult”. Han later serves as Muuurgh’s best man at Muuurgh and Mrrov’s wedding and the happy couple become parents to three kits. And while we’re on the subject of Star Wars…
Spot the cat
Data the android always wanted to learn what it was like to be human. One of those ways was to own a pet, which turned out to be his cat, Spot, who was an orange tabby. Spot appeared in many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Data loved her dearly.
The Catfantastic Series
Rowwrrr! How could I have forgotten this on my list. A collection of fantasy stories about Man’s Best Friend (admit it) edited by Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg. The first book was published in 1989 and it’s fourth and final sequel was published in 2009.
Meow! Agree with my list. What other cat related titles, characters and stories have I missed. Sound off in the comments and maybe I’ll add them.
For an added bonus, here’s some pictures of your favorite SF/F authors with their felines.
Ursula K. LeGuin
Philip K. Dick