In its first season, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reinvented one of the franchise’s oldest alien adversaries, the Gorn. They gave this classic antagonistic species an upgrade by injecting some blood from two of cinema’s most deadly extraterrestrials. We’re talking about Gorn inspired by the xenomorph from the Alien franchise and the Predator. In the season two finale of Strange New Worlds, “Hegemony,” the Gorn returned. And these aliens destroyed a Federation starship, along with most of a human colony. So how did Strange New Worlds update this alien race once thought of as a silly product of its 1960s time? First, we’ll tell you all about Star Trek‘s Gorn and why they haven’t appeared much for five decades.
Who Are the Gorn, Star Trek‘s Race of Reptilian Aliens, and Where Have They Been?
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. The Gorn popped up briefly in CGI form on Star Trek: Enterprise in 2004 and in the 2013 Star Trek video game, for which the Gorn and William Shatner reunited for a silly promotion.
Strange New Worlds Reinvents the Gorn
But Strange New Worlds changed everything about these aliens, making the Gorn intergalactic boogymen. In the episode “Memento Mori,” we learned that La’an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong) 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 on Star Trek, 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 Star Trek 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 Strange New Worlds season one, episode nine, “All Those Who Wander,” we truly saw the Gorn for the first time in this Star Trek series. And they owe their newest incarnation to two classic sci-fi adversaries, the Xenomorph and the Predator.
The Gorn Become Terrifying Foes in Star Trek‘s World
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 in the wreckage. Despite initial scans showing nothing unusual, the Gorn eggs were hatching inside one of the aliens.
Just like in Ridley Scott’s Alien, the hatchling busted out of the victim’s body and scampered off. Two others then emerged from the body of another victim. The four hatchlings quickly became two as they killed the others and fought 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 when they fought the Gorn. The Gorn hatchling spit a type of venom onto Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horack), similar to the Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park. But this was 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 him. In the two separate episodes of season one, they did not show a full-grown Gorn.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season Two Reveals a Full-Grown Gorn
In season two’s “Hegemony,” the Gorn attack the human colony world Parnassus Beta, and decimate most of the population. Only a few survive. They also destroy the U.S.S. Cayuga. The episode shows that the Cayuga’s Captain, Marie Batel, has been infected with Gorn eggs. We finally see an adult Gorn in this episode, in a space suit no less. Unlike their Star Trek: The Original Series counterpart, this Gorn has a tail. Although Spock kills this particular Gorn, at the end of the episode, the Gorn Hegemony has the upper hand over Pike’s Enterprise, leaving us with a massive cliffhanger ending.
Of course, this sets up certain continuity issues. Technically “Arena,” the episode where Captain Kirk fights the Gorn in The Original Series, takes place about eight years after Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Spock and Uhura don’t seem to know anything about the Gorn in The Original Series, which doesn’t make much sense. You’d think with their experiences in these Strange New Worlds episodes, they would have a few thoughts about this particular enemy. But it’ll be interesting to see how Strange New Worlds deals with this all of this, as we are no doubt going to see the Gorn continue to be a significant threat to Pike and his crew as the show continues to unfold.
Originally published on July 1, 2022.