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In Star Trek: First Contact, I know that we learn that Vulcans were the first extra-terrestrial species discovered by humans (or, more correctly, humans were discovered by Vulcans) and I know they have a sort of telepathic ability, but what were the first pure telepathic species encountered (by pure, I mean they solely communicated through telepathy)?

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Your title and question don't seem to match. Are you after a purely telepathic species, or an empathic species? – James Sheridan Mar 26 '14 at 8:03
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The first telepathic alien species encountered by humans is the Talosians of Talos IV, in the TOS episode The Menagerie. In it, the Enterprise under Captain Pike encounter the Talosians, and Captain Kirk's crew encounters them 11 years later.

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Except that they use verbal as well as mental communication. OP is looking for purely telepathic communication; – Valorum Mar 26 '14 at 12:33
@Richard When you see their lips move as they talk, are they really talking verbally, or is this an illusion by the Talosians, used when communicating with non-telepathic beings to help put them at ease? I've always assumed it was an illusion, since you can hear them talk whether or not their lips move. – Ben Miller Mar 26 '14 at 13:13
Perhaps humans communicate exclusively through telepathy using an automatic version of the same mechanism and nobody realizes it. – Dave Mar 26 '14 at 13:51
@BenMiller - If you watch the video the voice sounds different – Valorum Mar 26 '14 at 14:25
@Richard Perhaps that is part of the illusion. Vina's voice that is heard throughout the episode is different than her real voice revealed at the end of the episode, as part of the Talos' illusions. And Captain Pike will be able to "talk" on the planet, despite his crippling injuries. – Ben Miller Mar 26 '14 at 14:30

As far as I can tell, the first wholly telepathic humanoid we see in any of the Trek shows is the Cairn. The main thrust of the episode "TNG : Dark Page" is about Lwaxana Troi attempting to teach them to speak rather than simply using their minds.

That said, Kirk encounters any number of species that are telepathic but most of them are simply presented as monsters.

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There are many beings in the Star Trek Universe that use telepathy, now the first ones that I can remember that I don't see using verbal communication would be the Melkots. Although Richard is correct about Cairns losing their ability to communicate verbally and teaching people how to communicate telepathically, the Melkots were introduced in the Kirk Era.

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The Melkot (or Melkotians) were a telepathic and xenophobic civilization from the Alpha Quadrant. The Melkot used their telepathic powers to punish aliens who encroached upon their space without permission (which, prior to 2268, they never extended).

The Federation made First Contact with the Melkotians in 2268, when the USS Enterprise encountered an orbiting warning buoy. When Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk ignored the Melkot warning to leave their territory and instead, assumed orbit and beamed down a landing party, the Melkotians passed harsh judgment on the landing party, describing them as "aliens" and "disease" and condemning them to death for their trespass.

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Oh that's right! I'd forgotten about those guys! ...wait ... O.O – Matt Mar 26 '14 at 14:02

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