Elite Dangerous Lore: The Thargoids

Posted by on Jan 6, 2017 in Lore

This is one of a series of guides to the Elite Dangerous Universe. You can read the others here.

The Thargoids need little introduction to those well versed in Elite lore, but not all players of Elite: Dangerous may be au fait with their complete background. What I have attempted to do below is summarise information on the Thargoids and set it in context within the known game Lore (Elite, FE2, FFE and ED). There is a lot of fan produced content on the Thargoids, and I have deliberately not referred to it here. What is below is, as far as I’m aware, established canon. I reserve the right to edit this if I’ve missed something, or new information emerges.


2850 – Unconfirmed suggestions that some kind of covert war was started with Thargoids, ostensibly by a trigger-happy Fleet Commander.
3125 – Thargoids alleged to be ‘ripping’ ships out of witchspace and destroying them. Thargoid ‘warzones’ widespread
3200 – Thargoids reportedly retreat from human occupied space for reasons unknown
3255 – Reason for Thargoid retreat was reported to be down to human-engineered ‘Mycoid’ virus which impacted their hyperdrive capability
3302 – Reports of curious wrecks of unknown vessels.
3303 – 8 sided alien ships rip CMDRs out of witchspace (hyperspace high wake)

First Appearance, the year is 3125.

captureIn the original game of 1984 the Thargoids appeared to be the classic villains of the piece, the indefatigable evil of the spaceways, plucking ships out of witchspace and despatching them far from the safe zones of human habitation. The year is 3125. The Thargoids make their first appearance in the original game manual, and are referenced as “Thargoid Invaders”. Later on we are informed that their “Captains have had their fear glands removed.” and are thus fearsome combateers.

An encounter in the original game was fast and brutal. You were lucky if you survived the experience. Thargoids ships were fast, heavily armed and deployed remote controlled ‘Thargons’ to supplement their fire power.

There were, reportedly, 50 war zones between humanity and this “insectoid” race. They were also believed to be able to “hover” in witch-space, ambushing human spacecraft whilst using their hyperdrives to travel between systems. It was speculated that they existed as a “group mind”. Thargoid spacecraft were large, swift and powerful with multi-axis symmetry. They had no obvious drive outlets as still required on human vessels, leading to speculation that Thargoids had mastered inertialess drive technology, otherwise known as the ‘spacedrive’. It appears that Thargoid technology was significantly more advanced than ours. In-game, Thargoids tended to ambush human players during hyperspace transits, pulling them out of witch-space and attempting to destroy you with no preamble. They attacked on sight. Throughout the original game it was claimed we were “at war” with the Thargoids. Incidentally, it is alleged that ECM technology was reverse engineered from captured Thargoid ships and many other technologies may have also been Thargoid derived.

There was also another race mentioned in “The Dark Wheel”, known as the Oresrians. These were portrayed as a peaceful offset of the Thargoids, but very similar in overall appearance, albeit with a warning to Commanders to “Check the thorax markings and the shape of the fourth joint on each hind leg before jumping to conclusions.”

75 years later. The year is 3200.

Curiously, by the time of the second installment of Elite (Frontier: Elite 2) the Thargoids appear to have retreated from human space almost completely. The only reported sightings of vessels within this timeframe were captured Thargoid vessels held at secret research bases across the galaxy. Other than these tantalising hints, it appeared that the Thargoids were gone. There was no record of them. They retreated from the war, they stopped ambushing ships. They had abandoned this area of the galaxy completely. We had no idea where they came from, what they wanted, where they had gone, or what they even looked like. They remained a complete mystery.

Another 50 years passes. The year is 3250.

Nothing new was heard of the Thargoids until the launch of the next game in the series, Frontier: First Encounters (FFE). Records indicate that the disappearance of the Thargoids might have been down to a covert operation undertaken by the Intergalactic Naval Reserve Arm (INRA). They had been infected by a virus and a particular type of virus at that. It was known as the ‘Mycoid’ virus, and it was produced by humans. The Thargoid hyperdrive technology was rendered useless (the virus attacked plastic polymers in the system) and there are indications that the Thargoids were also impacted, as their exoskeletons were composed of polymer like material. There were accusations that INRA committed genocide on the Thargoids. Regardless, the Thargoids disappeared. The report was dismissed as a conspiracy theory by leading political leaders.

53 Years later. The year is 3303,

Whilst alien wreckage had been spotted in various locations within Elite Dangerous, it wasn’t until January 5th that n encounter with an ‘live’ alien vessel occurred. Are these new ships the ‘Thargoids’ of old? Their similarity in behaviour, form and function to the old stories cannot be denied, but there are major differences too. Perhaps they could be the warlike Thargoids, the Oresrians, the Klaxians… or something else?

The alien vessels in question were able to interdict a human vessel directly out of witchspace (hyperspace high wake) and disable them. The alien vessel directed a beam of energy at the beleaguered human ship which appeared to move it backwards and possibly scan it. The alien vessel then departed, employing an unknown form of hyperspace technology, rotating rapidly as it did so.

What we know

  • Thargoids are insectoid and if it is true that they come from ammonia-based planets, their physiology is dramatically different from humans. For example, ammonia boils at -33 degrees C. Thargoids may well be acclimatised to temperatures far lower than humans.
  • Thargoids have demonstrated some kind of instantaneous long distance jump technology, which may allow them to move rapidly across the galaxy, across otherwise impassible rifts in space, or perhaps even between galaxies.
  • Thargoids can interdict vessels in Witchspace (hyperspace high-wake) and disable them at will
  • Thargoids are universally female.
  • Thargoids have been in space for ‘Millennia’.
  • The so called ‘war’ was likely a ‘skirmish’ from the Thargoid’s perspective. Thargoids are divided into more than one group. We know of the Oresrians and the Klaxians.
  • T. James official book “Out of the Darkness” gives the following brief (and only known canon) description of the Thargoids: “Low calibre weapons do no damage to Thargoids, even at point blank range. They have six ‘legs’ and two ‘arms’ and are strong enough to dismember a human with only their claws.”
  • Whilst their true technological capabilities are unknown, it is safe to say they are more advanced than humanity.
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  1. Great read, thanks for putting everything together like this to make it nice and easy. I only have about 550 hours of flight time so I knew some of this but not all, specifically the back story on the various races, etc. One question – why do you say they are all female? Not arguing but where has that been stated or confirmed?

    • This was confirmed by Michael Brookes in one of the original Dev Diaries. Check out the Frontier Youtube channel. 🙂

      • They should update the Thargoids to also have males or make them unary (no specific gender). Because if Thargoids have only 1 gender then it is a Unary species (asexual reproduction) or hermaphrodites )two genders in one entity).

        • I think the intention was to have a species more akin to insects, with female ‘drones’ and males kept back at base somewhere for ‘breeding’. Nothing further has emerged other than Michael’s original statement I’m afraid.

          • Thanks for the backstory, I too looked it up and found that you were, surprise surprise, correct on all Thargoids being female, at least that we’ve encountered thus far. I got snatched by one about an hour ago while jumping around in the Pleiades. I play in VR and have to say that experience was far and away the coolest/creepiest thing I’ve seen in VR to date. I used to say it was the Capital Ships but the Thargoids take it to an all new level.

  2. “There was also another race mentioned in “The Dark Wheel”, known as the Oresrians.”*ahem* I KNEW IT! RED UP=ORESRIANS.

    • Maybe all the Thargoid things we have interacted with is Oresrian, which is why they haven’t been strictly hostile? They guided us to merope to help us prepare for a potential attack by the Klaxians and to counter act the negative effects their technology had on ours, since they are good? Also the barnacles have the O shaped symbol maybe that is the symbol for the Oresrian race, that way we could “Check the thorax markings and the shape of the fourth joint on each hind leg before jumping to conclusions” so to speak later on?

    • In the first edition of Elite the Thargoids invaded Anesbi, also inhabited by an insectoid race known as the Anesbians. I helped to defend Anesbi with great succes.
      I have been sucked into hyperspace by Thargoids many times. They always attacked on sight without hesitation. So, I don’t think this interceptions that happened last week were done by them. But of course, I can be wrong

      • Do you have a source for this? I haven’t come across Anesbi in my research.

        • Not anymore since I have no Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer + game anymore. There was a mission in the game where Anesbi was invaded by Thargoids. In it the player was asked to enter the planetary system under heavy attack, try and get to the station and fire a missile into it to blow the whole thing. Which I did. That’s all I remember.
          This is what I found about Anesbi in a quick search with google.

  3. Anything about their ships being alive or composed of living material? That has been hinted here and there, and your article says nothing about this.

    • It was mentioned in thargoid technology is a sort of polymer technique involved. Its the part who tells us that INRA had build the micoid virus that affected this polymer structures in their fsd drives and also the thargoid themselve.

      Polymers are natural or guild synthetic an are used in our own body to build up many things, for an example.

      So this leads to the conclusion that thargoid technology is indeed based on organic engineering.

  4. Does anyone know what the name of the mothership was that the thargoids fled in? I’ve looked everywhere. I’m convinced there is a connection between the name of the mothership and the statement “winter is coming”

    • Yeah it was called the Jon Snow -_-

      You realize he was just making a Game of Thrones reference right?

  5. …”or perhaps even between galaxies”

    So can we hope/assume we could see in the far future an “Elite:Dangerous – Andromeda” season ?

  6. Lock and Load Ladies. Its The End Of The Bubble As We Know It

  7. Hey Drew,
    excellent read and ver comprehensively put together. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for the plug, Drew. 🙂 Good luck with the Shadeward saga, and as Galactic Chronicler.

    A nice, informative piece.

    • T. James book is excellent btw folks – well worth a read regardless of Thargoids. 🙂

  9. Hi Drew thanks for putting this together, very informative. Is there any systems or nebulae apart from Pleiades that is related to the thargoids?

    • The Polaris system is very much linked to historic Thargoid law, but it remains permit locked at present and there seems no way to gain access…

      • Thanks for that, will keep an eye on it for future exploration jaunts. All the best.

  10. Hi Drew, is the spelling Oresians or Oresrians? I see both variants in your article.

    • It’s Oresrians. I’ll fix it. Thanks for the spot. 🙂

  11. Hey Drew! Great work on this article, very informative. Thank you for your continued support to this game franchise and keep working on that lore. Reclamation made me appreciate Elite universe quite a lot more than only the game by itself. I just wish there was more of it in-game aswell. How have FDev not thrown money at your doorstep just to keep writing for them! Anyway, im eager to read (listen rather, as i love to listen to your books during my exploration runs) your next book. Thank you and fly safe out there!

    P.S. I really enjoyed your article about your visit to Jacques, Colonia Nebula. Can we expect more of your in-game experiences and adventures from you? I would read and watch all of it.

    • Hi Esso! Frontier did commission me to write Premonition, so I think they’re pretty keen. 🙂 As for more in-games experiences. I’m currently heading out to the rim to a place players have nick-named “Wagar’s Reach” 😉 – I will do a write up once I arrive.

      • Awesome! Cant wait to see what comes from that. 🙂 Excited now! ><

  12. In the original BBC version of Elite, during the briefing for the second mission (Thargoid Documents), the Thargoids are specifically referred to as Beetles.

    • Interesting. I’d like to see a screen grab of that.


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