What happened to the missing Martians from the 1990 movie Total Recall? I'm not asking about the newer remake, as it deviates greatly from the Schwarzenegger film. Does the answer lie in the Phillip K. Dick story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"? If so, what happened to them?

  • 4
    There are no Martians in the PKD short story, past or present. That stuff was apparently made up for the movie.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 0:24
  • I always assumed that they made the reactor for us, before leaving the planet.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 11:22
  • If Quaids memories were fabricated, then there were no Martians to begin with...
    – RonJohn
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 2:21

2 Answers 2


Well, considering that the last martian turned off the atmosphere before leaving one could assume they all left. If they all died their would be no reason the last one would shut it down before it died. If it was left on there wouldn't be enough power/fuel left for Quaid re-engage it. So in all likelihood they left Mars and probably the Solar System.

Since the atmosphere requires the turbinium reactor in the mines either the martians originated on Mars and created the reactors to preserve martian life or they came from elsewhere and used the reactors to terraform Mars. Most likely Mars was terraformed by an outside force and when they no longer had use of the planet they mothballed the reactors in case a day came that they needed them again.

Either way the movie does not explicitly spell out what happened to the martians. Either they left or died, and they may or may not have been native to Mars.

  • Maybe the air-conditioning went into power-saving mode when it detected that no users were present.
    – bp.
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 10:46
  • Maybe they terraformed Mars to use it as a research base to observe the habitable planet nearby as not to disturb existing life on it. Perhaps they left when they realized an intelligent species was evolving among the Earthian life forms and were getting at risk of being discovered. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 8:46

I read the novelization many years ago, which explains an awful lot more than the movie. As memory serves, towards the end Quaid had a brief moment of downloaded memories which tells him about the ant-like aliens slowly dying while trying to save the world, dying just before finishing their project. Again, I haven't read it in years, but I think the implication was that Mars was a colony of theirs- which makes sense as one would assume that a native Martian would be fine with the habitat of the planet.

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