Star Trek: Strange New Worlds just reinvented one of the franchise’s oldest alien adversaries. And they’ve given this classic antagonistic species an upgrade by injecting some blood from two of cinema’s most deadly extraterrestrials. We’re talking about the xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and the Predator. So what did SNW do to this alien race once thought of as a silly product of its 1960s time? First, we’ll tell you all about the Gorn, and why they haven’t appeared much for five decades.
First appearing in the original Star Trek series episode “ Arena,” the Gorn Hegemony was a warlike reptilian race who decimated a Federation outpost on the planet Cestus III. When Captain Kirk chased the enemy Gorn ship deep into space, an advanced species called the Metrons forced Kirk and the Gorn captain to fight for survival on a remote world. This fight scene, with a man in a very fake-looking alien lizard suit, became the subject of parody. It was even parodied in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Perhaps because of that, Star Trek has seemingly almost totally avoided the Gorn, beyond cameos and name drops across different series. They popped up briefly in CGI form on Enterprise in 2004, and in the 2013 Star Trek video game, for which the Gorn and William Shatner reunited for a silly promotion.
But Strange New Worlds has changed that, making the Gorn intergalactic boogymen. In the episode “ Memento Mori,” we learned that La’an Noonien Singh had some serious PTSD based on her childhood trauma of surviving a Gorn massacre. During her childhood, the Gorn attacked and captured the SS Puget Sound, a colony ship, and left its crew on a Gorn breeding planet. The survivors, including La’an, were hunted for sport, or eaten alive by their newborn hatchlings. Only a young La’an Noonien-Singh survived, and told her tale to Starfleet. This was the first documented encounter with the Gorn, although it was not considered an official first contact. As La’an says, “many people have seen the Gorn, but few live to tell about it.”
In “Memento Mori”, the Gorn only appeared in their space vessels. We don’t actually see them in the reptilian flesh. Their vicious ways were only spoken of by Lt. Noonien Singh. In fact, they are described and treated as the shark in Jaws. When La’an described her childhood encounter with the Gorn and their lifeless eyes, it’s almost like hearing Quint talk about the shark that killed his crewmates on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. But in SNW episode nine, “All Those Who Wander,” we truly saw the Gorn for the first time in this series. And they owe their newest incarnation to two classic sci-fi adversaries, the xenomorph and the Predator.
When the Enterprise responded to a distress beacon from a crashed Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S. Peregrine, they found the ship in shambles on an ice world, and the crew of 99 officers dead. The logs showed that they had picked up three stranded refugees, all infected with Gorn eggs. They found a human girl (shades of Newt in Aliens) and an unknown alien among the wreckage. Despite initial scans showing nothing unusual, the Gorn eggs were hatching inside of one of the aliens.
Just like in Ridley Scott’s Alien, the hatchling busted out of the victim’s body and scampers off. Two others then emerged from the body of another victim. The four hatchlings quickly became two, as they killed the others and fight for dominance. The POV shots of the Gorn hatchlings looked extremely similar to the heat signature vision of the alien hunters from the Predator franchise. Their reptilian appearance was also like the Predator, although that predates the movie, as the Gorn first appeared in 1967. Like the xenomorph from Alien, the Gorn matured at an exponential rate, but the Enterprise crew managed to kill it before it grew to full size.
But the Enterprise crew took a heavy casualty. The Gorn hatchling spit a type of venom onto Chief Engineer Hemmer, similar to the Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park. But this is more than venom. La’an revealed that this is how the Gorn lay their eggs. Hemmer took his own life before allowing the Gorn to take hold of his. So far, in two separate episodes, we’ve yet to see a full-grown Gorn appear. But right now, they are definitely setting them up to be Starfleet’s most terrifying enemy since the Borg.
Of course, this set up certain continuity issues. When Captain Kirk fights the Gorn in “Arena” that takes place about eight years after SNW. Spock and Uhura don’t seem to know anything about the Gorn in TOS, which doesn’t make much sense. You’d think with their experience in even just these two SNW episodes, they would have a few thoughts about this particular enemy. But it’ll be interesting to see how SNW deals with this all of this, as we are no doubt going to see the Gorn continue to be a great threat to Pike and his crew as the show unfolds.