Ever watch an episode of Star Trek that makes you feel like you’re watching Return of the Jedi? Don’t adjust your set–you’re probably looking at the Breen, a mysterious race of aliens that inexplicably look like Princess Leia’s Boushh disguise. These aliens remain mysterious because they are rarely heard from and even more rarely seen (both by Starfleet and by audiences), but we’re here to uncover the mystery with our definitive guide to Star Trek’s most aloof aliens.
Star Trek’s Breen were first referenced way back in 1990 in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Loss.” We say “referenced” because this episode kicked off what would become a trend in this Paramount franchise: characters would occasionally bring up the Breen, but we wouldn’t see them onscreen. This helped build up the mystique of these mysterious aliens until we finally got a glimpse of them in the Deep Space Nine episode “Indiscretion.”
The Breen Revealed (Sort Of)
Interestingly, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Breen were something of a punchline in that episode, but it was only the writing staff who was laughing. The writing staff had frequently treated these aliens as red herrings that Starfleet and other entities would often suspect of nefarious activity before discovering the real culprit. By having the Breen actually be the bad guys in this episode (they had kidnapped Gul Dukat’s daughter Ziyal), audiences would finally get a chance to see these aliens… or so they thought.
When the time came for Star Trek to finally show us the Breen, the infamous aliens were concealed behind masks that hid their true visage from the rest of the galaxy. You might think that this was a creative choice designed to preserve the mystery of the aliens, but it was actually a creative shortcut on the part of writer/producer (and eventual showrunner) Ira Steven Behr. As he later explained, he didn’t feel like creating an exotic new alien race from scratch, so the show ended up hiding them behind masks.
While that may have been a creative shortcut on the part of Star Trek’s writers at the time, it ended up sticking, and we never did get a glimpse of what was underneath those Breen helmets. This helped to preserve the intrigue of the aliens among audiences while also causing rampant speculation within Starfleet.
Characters frequently discussed theories about these aliens, but the Breen were generally reclusive enough that there were rarely chances to prove or disprove these rumors.
One very persistent rumor that Worf states in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Til Death Do Us Part” is that nobody has ever encountered the Breen and lived to tell the tale. If he really believes that, though, it just means he didn’t spend enough time around his Bajoran colleague Kira.
She ended up stealing a Breen uniform on two different occasions, and she presumably got a good look at what the aliens look like under their uniforms (outside of the show, Assistant Director Lou Race once commented he thought they must look like Donald Duck due to the beaky helmets).
Aside from rumors and speculation (both from Star Trek’s characters and the writers), what do we actually know about the Breen? Their homeworld is also called Breen, and while many characters think the world must be frozen, Dominion agent Weyoun once claimed the world is quite temperate. The race can become pregnant at a young age, and no Breen has any blood.
Historically, Star Trek portrayed the Breen as powerful isolationists: they mostly wanted to stick to their corner of the Alpha Quadrant, and when they did have contact with other aliens, the Breen would typically kill them or abduct them to serve as slaves in their mining operations.
The Breen In The Dominion War
The Breen are quite mighty, which the Second Klingon Empire discovered when they sent a fleet of warships to invade the Breen homeworld which was never heard from again. Unfortunately for Starfleet, the Breen eventually ended their political neutrality and joined the Dominion.
In the Star Trek: Deep Space episode “Til Death Do Us Part,” it is revealed that the Breen had joined the Dominion in their war against the Federation, and soon afterward, they led an attack on Earth that devastated San Franciso.
In “The Changing Face of Evil,” we see the Breen have developed special weapons that can drain the energy of Starfleet and Klingon vessels, allowing them to destroy the original USS Defiant. While Starfleet eventually developed a countermeasure, this technological advantage offered yet more proof of what a powerful foe the Breen could be.
The Breen On Lower Decks
After the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we didn’t see the Breen again until the Lower Decks episode “Trusted Sources,” in which they were fierce foes to the crew of the USS Cerritos on the ground and in space. They are quickly dispatched thanks to an automated Texas-class starship designed by the evil Vice Admiral Les Buenamigo. While that was their last onscreen appearance, we are confident that we haven’t seen the last of these enigmatic aliens.