The Gorn are one of Star Trek’s very earliest alien species. The Gorn first appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series season one episode nineteen, “Arena,” written by Gene L. Coon with a story by Fredric Brown. Since then, they have had appearances in episodes of other shows, including Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Lower Decks. The reptilian species has also appeared in many Star Trek books, comics and video games. Now, the crew of the USS Enterprise will be encountering the Gorn once again on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
If there’s one thing we learned from Patingi the Tellarite (Robert Gilbert) in the Lower Decks episode “Mugato, Gumato,” it’s that it only takes five books on an alien species to become an expert! With that infallible premise in mind, here are five books that will make you an “expert” on the enigmatic but infamous Gorn.
The Monsters of Star Trek
David Cohen’s The Monsters of Star Trek was published in 1980. It was part of a series of books the author wrote about the topic of monsters. Other titles include Science Fiction’s Greatest Monsters and The World’s Most Famous Ghosts.
The introduction for The Monsters of Star Trek makes it clear that Gene Roddenberry’s approach meant a different approach to the world of “monsters.” It notes that Roddenberry wanted to make it clear that “to be different is not necessarily to be ugly.” It also notes that many of the “monsters” on Trek “seem to act in an evil way until one understands why they act as they do.”
In terms of the specific entry on Gorn, The Monsters of Star Trek mostly focuses on a plot synopsis of the episode “Arena.” An alien race called the Metrons forced Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) to fight a Gorn captain one-on-one after the Gorn destroyed the Cestus III Outpost. The Metrons are impressed when Kirk shows mercy and spares the Gorn’s life. At the end of the episode, the Metrons send both the Enterprise and the Gorn ship on their respective ways with the crews of each unharmed.
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (1996) #1
In Marvel Presents Paramount Comics’ Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (1996) #1 by Chris Cooper, Chris Renaud, Andy Lanning, Jim Novak, and Kevin Somers, readers follow the adventures of a batch of recruits at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. The main cast includes Matt Decker (descent of Will Decker, played by Stephen Collins in Star Trek: The Motion Picture). It also features Cadet Nog, the first Ferengi in Starfleet (played by Aron Eisenberg on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
As part of Omega Squadron, both recruits take part in a holodeck simulation that is meant to simulate first contact. However as is apt to happen with the holodeck, program anomalies occur. The cadets encounter the Gorn! To appear to the territorial nature of the Gorn, the cadets make it clear that they lay no claim to the “land, sea, or air.” The holodeck then changes the Gorn to the “Gorn 4.0.” These holograms subsequently attack the cadets.
But that isn’t the only example of holodeck combat in the issue. When we meet Kamilah Goldstein, she’s fighting in a recreation of 1967’s Arab-Israeli War. As she explains to T’Priell, she regularly takes part in the simulation. But she alternates between fighting for each side to remind herself that her ancestors fought on both sides of a conflict that was eventually overcome and reconciled.
Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts
The 2000 book Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts by Michael Westmore, Alan Sims, Bradley M. Look and William J. Birnes provides a behind-the-scenes look at the famous extraterrestrial reptile. Created by Wah Ming Chang, the Gorn costume in “Arena” was inhabited by Bobby Clark and Gary Coombs.
The costume was made out of latex poured into plaster molds, then painted with a combination of “rubber cement, colorant, and thinner that Wah air-brushed on.” A neoprene diving suit jacket was used to make the Gorn’s body.
The full Gorn costume was only used for the full-body shots when shooting the episode. When a close-up of only part of the Gorn’s body was shown only that part of the costume was worn. In order to solve the problem of visible costume seams, William Ware Theiss outfitted the Gorn in a tunic and gauntlets.
Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: The Gorn
IDW’s Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: The Gorn (2007) by Scott & David Tipton, David Messina, Sara Pichelli, Paolo Maddaleni and Chris Mowry follows a Starfleet shuttlecraft from the USS Reliant that crash-lands. Little do they know they’ve found themselves on a savage planet designed to test the mettle of young Gorn warriors!
Knowing the Gorn’s history with Kirk on Cestus III, the Gorn want to balance the scales. They send a rescue party after the Starfleet crew. But the Starfleet Officers remember Kirk’s encounter too. It causes them to make an incorrect assumption about the intentions of the Gorn and attack.
By the comic’s conclusion, the miscommunication has been resolved. The Starfleet Officers meet the Gorn as allies. However, a final panel reveals a conversation between two Gorn soldiers. They admit they are pleased the humans are leaving since “mammals give [them] the creeps.”
Star Trek: Villains
In the 2021 Star Trek: Villains, a collection of articles and interviews from twenty years of Star Trek Magazine, several features on the Gorn appear. First up is an interview with Clark (an original, uncredited Gorn actor from “Arena”). He revealed that he landed the acting gig thanks to a pre-existing relationship with the episode’s director, Joseph Pevney. Clark, who passed away in 2021, also got emotional reflecting on the relationship he developed with Trekkies over the decades he appeared at conventions thanks to his role as the Gorn.
Star Trek: Villains also includes plenty of additional facts about the Gorn. These include that a third actor, William Blackburn, appeared under the Gorn mask for close-ups.
Plus there are recommendations for further reading if these five books aren’t enough to sate your thirst for Gorn knowledge. There’s The Gorn Crisis, a 2001 graphic novel from WildStorm Comics written by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta that introduces the idea of a caste system amongst the Gorn. There’s also the novel Seize the Fire by Michael A. Martin. This sees Captain Riker’s Titan encountering the Gorn and develops the caste system further.
A blurb on the role the Gorn play in Star Trek Online includes quotes from game writer Christine Thompson. STO storylines see the Gorn Hegemony being incorporated into the Klingon Empire. In STO, the Gorn also like to raise reptilian creatures they train to attack foes.
Strange New Worlds
The Gorn play a significant role in the backstory of Lieutenant La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) on SNW. In the first episode of the series, we learn that she watched the Gorn attack people close to her.
Some of La’an’s loved ones were even used as breeding sacs while they were still alive. La’an only survived because of a Gorn ritual that sees a single survivor being sent out into space on a raft. She compares this to the human ritual of throwing a fish back.
The experience has caused her to become isolated from others. But as Captain Pike (Anson Mount) tells her, “Even in space, growth – sometimes remarkable growth – is possible.”
If you want to keep up with all the latest developments on the reptilian extraterrestrial, be sure and check out the new episodes of the series, released for streaming each Thursday.
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