There’s a whole group of alien demons or what have you that are gaining a bigger following in popular culture. We’re talking about shapeshifters, the once-marginalized beings of cult sci-fi stories and mythology. Maybe it’s the new uncertainty, maybe it’s just that our culture is more open but shapeshifting and body morphing are becoming ever more prevalent themes in popular culture.
Stories about shapeshifters remind us how unpredictable people can be. A woman who once was loving and giving suddenly becomes cold and stingy. A person you trust betrays you. You look in the mirror and see wrinkles, a bald spot. On the bright side, imagine if you could change your appearance at will. You would be immortal because you could stamp out the dying cells, regenerate a lung, fix that stiff knee joint- forever. Instead of wishing you were starting quarterback, you could be that quarterback (after kidnapping and/or killing the real one, that is). There’s no controlling other people, of course, but what if the changeling was evil, not good, as you undoubtedly would be?
Well, if the changeling was a she, and she was hot, that would probably be okay too. Pop culture has caught on to the allure of shapeshifting. Although shapeshifters exist in the folklore of all world cultures, today the alien shapeshifter and the were-human (human to animal changelings) tend to dominate the human imagination. Below is a list of some of the best body morphing belles out there.
15. Kelinda from the original Star Trek
In “By Any Other Name,” Captain Kirk and his crew encounter the Kelvans, who hijack the Enterprise so they can voyage to a distant planet. The Kelvans have taken on human form to better interact with their unwilling hosts. Kelinda, played by Barbara Bouchet, adopts the guise of a Twiggy impersonator with an updo. As is his custom, Kirk attempts to seduce the good-looking frail, but this time he does it for the sake of saving his ship and crew from the super-rational race of brainiacs. Kelinda doesn’t fall hard, but she falls enough to make her Kelvan boyfriend lose control of his plan and ultimately of the ship. Lust wins again in the Roddenberry universe. The beauteous shapeshifter theme is a popular one, as you will see when you read on.
14. Maya from Space: 1999
Do you like your shapeshifting gals to be brilliant scientists, have long auburn hair and wear go-go space boots? If so, Maya from Space: 1999 is the shapeshifter for you. In the second season of the British sci-fi classic, Maya is rescued by Commander John Koenig and company and becomes chief scientist of Moonbase Alpha. Another in the line of shapeshifting aliens, Maya could change her molecular structure at will, though she could hold the shape only for one hour. Maya possibly was intended to be Space: 1999’s version of Mr. Spock. Unlike Leonard Nimoy, actor Catherine Schell rocked glittery diaphanous gowns and cosmic tennis dresses.
13. Dee’Ahn from Star Trek: Enterprise
In the most recent of the Star Trek series, not including the one coming up (so excited!), the sexy shapeshifter theme takes on a problem that some devotees of biomorph beauties must contend with: what if, ultimately, the babe is a dude? In the episode “Two Days and Two Nights,” two male thieves take on female forms in an extreme version of the big con. Even for the bi curious among alien fetishists, the thieves in their male form aren’t cute. Not only that, they end up being unimpressed by Tucker and Reed’s incomes and steal their clothes. In any event, the actor who plays Dee’ahn, Donnamarie Recco, is very cute.
12. The Female Wraith from Star Trek: Enterprise
Say whatever else you will about the series, Star Trek: Enterprise liked pretty shapeshifters. In the episode “Rogue Planet,” Stephanie Niznik plays a Wraith, one of the sentient species on a planet that has left its orbit. Another sentient species, the Eska, like to hunt animals on their planet to pass the time, and it turns out that they think the Wraiths are huntable. The Wraiths beg to differ. To help their cause, one Wraith morphs to look like a woman in Captain Archer’s imagination, a woman inspired by Archer’s memory of the W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Song of the Wandering Aengus.” Poetry is good for something, folks, see?
11. Santánico Pandemónium from From Dusk Till Dawn
In Robert Rodriguez’s 1996 cult film and later TV series, Santánico Pandemónium vamps on stage in human form, but when she takes her culebra (cobra) form at dinner time, this queen of the night turns in a scaly snake woman. In the film, Salma Hayek plays Santánico, and in the TV series, Eiza González takes on the anti-heroine role. Which of these two brunette muchachas is sexier is a matter of taste, but both look good dancing in a bikini with a snake. The series currently airs on Rodriguez’s El Rey network in the US and also streams on Netflix.
10. Sil from Species
Sil, as performed by heart-stopper Natasha Henstridge, is a complicated shapeshifter. She is a human-alien hybrid who normally looks human, but she can adopt her ancestral form when the need for tentacles and fangs arises. She has also acquired the ability to look like other female humans to fulfill her dream of mating with human males. Her dream is to spawn a race of alien-human hybrids that will subsequently dominate the locals. In other words, Sil has forgotten where she came from. Although Sil dies in the first film, actor Henstridge, her beauty unscathed, returned in two sequels as the character Eve.
9. Constance from Decoys
The Syfy film Decoys adds to the tradition of alien shapeshifters who try to mate with humans to propagate their species. In the case of these aliens, however, the goal is to impregnate the fellas. The aliens accomplish this by shoving their freezing-cold tentacles down men’s throats. The aliens get away with murder for quite some time because they shapeshift into impossibly alluring young women that the college boys can’t say no to. This film has spawned a sequel, Decoys 2, that contains another set of space seductresses to play havoc with the hearts of horny scholars. Canadian actor Kim Poirier appears in both films as Constance, the gorgeous alien with a heart of gold, er, ice.
8. Nora Sergeant in Being Human
Werewolves are shapeshifters with limited control over their shapeshifting. Once the full moon is up, out come the claws and grey fur. Werewolves tend to be filled with bloodlust, so many werewolves end up dead, traditionally by a silver bullet shot by a vengeful normal. As the American version of Being Human took pains to point out from 2011 to 2014, werewolves are, for the most part, human. Nora Sergeant, played by Kristen Hager, is a nurse at a hospital who loves her werewolf husband and who does all the things healthy young people do. She ends up becoming a werewolf too despite everyone’s best intentions. The series ended with the werewolf family surviving a fiery inferno and getting on with their lives, an unusually happy fate for werewolves in pop culture.
7. Irena Gallier from The Cat People
The tagline for this 1982 remake of the 1942 original film is “An Erotic Fantasy for the Animal in Us All.” The sexuality of actor Nastasha Kinski constitutes the film’s central theme. The animal part of this fantasy is the shapeshifting of human into black panther. The erotic part of the fantasy is the relationship between shapeshifting, the sex act, and Irena. Certainly there is incest and bloody murder, so the film is also a horror film. Nevertheless, Kinski wanders naked through part of the film, so it is also not a horror film. Actually, we’re not sure anyone really knew precisely what it was supposed to be.
6. Margo Lassiter from Supernatural
In the long-running series Supernatural, the shapeshifters, or shifters for short, are one of several races of monsters that harass the human race. In season nine, a side-story about Chicago mobsters was part of a proposed spin off called Bloodlines that never came to pass. Margo, played Danielle Savre, becomes the de-facto head of the Lassiter clan after her brother Sal is killed. That he is not killed under the circumstances that she claims to her long-estranged brother David is one of the many kinds of shifts that this lovely shifter seemed prone to. In Supernatural, the shape-shifting is more visceral than the smooth digital morphing of most screen changelings: shifters shed their entire bodies and leave a pile of flesh and gristle behind. Doesn’t seem worth the trouble unless you have some major plans, which, of course, Margo and her fam had. Why Margo would shift out of actor Danielle Savre’s form would need some explanation.
5. Martia from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The sixth Star Trek film, and the last to feature the entire original TV cast, contains a subplot involving a shapeshifting Iman. The supermodel and spouse of David Bowie plays a hard-edged alien incarcerated in a Klingon prison with Kirk and McCoy, who have been captured by Klingons. Martia turns out to be untrustworthy, as many shapeshifters tend to be, and when she doesn’t get her way, she takes the form of James T. Kirk. Once again, the world witnesses a fight between Kirk and his evil double. Martia sports a caveman chic look that contrasts nicely with Iman’s angular face and body.
4. Sheena from Sheena
For two seasons, Baywatch alumnus Gena Lee Nolin played a warrior woman abandoned in the jungle as a baby and is raised by a female shaman. Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was a comic book character from the 1930s who had her first TV series in the 1950s. The pre-war and post-war Sheena was more of a lady Tarzan. The 21st century Sheena can morph into the shape of any animal she makes eye contact with. Invariably, her leather bra and loincloth morph with her, making a naked Sheena impossible. Frankly, though, Sheena’s normal clothing doesn’t leave much to the imagination anyway.
3. Melona from Queen’s Blade
Melona is a servant of the Swamp Witch and is made of a pink goo that she can manipulate into any shape she wants. Normally, she goes along with the aesthetic of the other characters in this manga and anime series: big breasted and scantily clad. With her witchy sisters, Melona attempts to stop the Queen’s Blade tournament. She deploys her shapeshifting for the kind of sneakiness that shapeshifters are known for. This particular servant takes sexy shapeshifting to its logical conclusion: her breasts can get very large. She often covers up her nipples with her grabby hair, which demurely forms into hands that cup her breasts.
2. Daphne Landry from True Blood
Were-humans are shapeshifters with a limited repetoire of transmutation. In True Blood’s inaugural season, Daphne Landry was a were-pig; admittedly not a glamor animal. When she was not a were-pig, however, she looked like actor Ashley Jones and worked as a server at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill. As is often the case with were-animals, Daphne was killed. Unlike other were-animals, her heart was subsequently cooked up in a soufflé. Apparently even though she was a shapeshifter she was unable to save herself from being a mains.
1. Mystique from X-Men
Marvel’s comic book Mystique has always been a blue-scaled babe with curves in the right places. Rebecca Romijn played the Brotherhood’s best assassin in Bryan Singer’s first three X-Men films, the equivalence of Raven Darkholme, a.k.a. Mystique, with hotness that was irrevocable, as this cinematic incarnation preferred to walk around naked. Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique isn’t so much hot as cute, kind of if your emo kid sister merged with a lizard and got all rebellious but was basically good-hearted. Romijn’s mutant has the genuine badness of a true supervillain. In real life (that is, in the comics version), Mystique is Nightcrawler’s mom. Talk about a MILF.