Watching old Doctor Who stories that I haven't seen in decades, I noticed that the third story with Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor, "The Ambassadors of Death" (1970), includes aliens that need to be dosed with radiation to survive and thrive. That actually seemed very similar to a plot point from the First Doctor's second story, "The Daleks" (1963); the daleks were also revealed to need radiation exposure to stay alive.

As a practical matter, needing exposure to ionizing radiation is absurd (although certainly no more absurd that some other things feature on Doctor Who). However, it does seem like a natural thematic element for science fiction from the post-war Nuclear Age. However, I suspect that "The Daleks" probably wasn't the first work to feature the idea of aliens (or perhaps monsters of some other nature) that needed regular radiation exposure. So what was the first, and was this already a well-know science fiction trope by 1963?

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    Apparently it was in 1959 that it was mentioned for the first time that Superman gets his powers from a special kind of radiation (yellow sunlight), but then he did not need it to survive (just to get super powered), plus I am not sure that sunlight is quite what you have mind when you say "radiation" (because e.g. humans need sunlight to survive, so that would be a very broad answer). Mar 2, 2022 at 23:04
  • There should be a hard cap of 1895 (when X-Rays were discovered, and Curie started investigating Uranium). There's also going to be an obvious boom in the 50s.
    – OrangeDog
    Mar 3, 2022 at 10:49
  • Although it's a bit later, the Sector General series by James White features a telepathic gestalt of creatures that need hard radiation to survive. Made it a bit tricky treating them! First book, Hospital Station, was published in 1962.
    – sueelleker
    Mar 3, 2022 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


One possible answer to this is Godzilla from 1954. Per Wikipedia Godzilla is: "an enormous, destructive, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation." (emphasis mine). The question (going back to what Eike noted above is whether 'empowered' is sufficiently the same as 'required to stay alive'.

I would suggest it does and the most recent movie adaptations seems to support at least some level of radiation requirement to stay alive and/or at least heal from injuries. Specifically:

Godzilla King of the Monsters " Via submarine, the team locates Godzilla's lair, which is highly radioactive. They deduce it will take too long for Godzilla to heal on his own and decide to detonate a nuclear warhead to speed up the process."

and in Godzilla vs. Kong the following seems to imply a radioactive power source of some kind powering Godzilla: "...Godzilla's kind and a glowing axe made from another Godzilla's dorsal plates. As they identify the power source, the Apex team sends its signature back to their Hong Kong base..." and "Godzilla charges Kong's axe with his atomic breath".


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