Unless you’ve been on a deep space assignment, then you know that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has brought The Original Series villains the Gorn back in a big way. They first appeared in season one, and after headlining the season two cliffhanger, it’s safe to say they are the first real Big Bad this show has had. While some fans dislike all the ways these new Gorn misadventures retcon what little we knew about the aliens before, the truth is that the return of these lethal lizards is the best thing for the franchise as a whole.
“The truth is plenty of people have seen the Gorn… they just don’t live long enough to talk about it.”La’an Noonien Singh in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
The first reason we dig Star Trek taking the Gorn out of mothballs is the fact that Strange New Worlds has done the thing that fans always say they want from a reboot or a retcon, and that’s to make the original thing cooler than it was before. Kirk’s struggle against the Gorn in The Original Series episode “Arena” may be the stuff of pop culture legend, but it also serves as an example of how cheap and basic early Trek could be.
Hell, William Shatner is throwing obviously foam rocks at a guy in a cheap lizard suit, and to casual audiences, this is much likelier to evoke laughter than fear or excitement.
Original angry aliens The Klingons have been reimagined as both Spock’s drinking buddies and even a boy band in the musical episode, and new characters like Captain Angel are too busy being arch to be scary.
Now, though, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has reimagined the Gorn as something much scarier: to most of the galaxy, they are like boogeymen, especially because the general myth is that nobody has ever seen what they look like. But as La’an Noonien-Singh casually and chillingly reveals, “The truth is plenty of people have seen the Gorn… they just don’t live long enough to talk about it.”
Everything about these aliens is genuinely spooky for the first time, and Star Trek bringing the Gorn back also means that Strange New Worlds finally has a suitably scary foe. We love the show, but the writers have leaned so much into its casual, fun-time vibe that villains aren’t scary.
[B]y having the Gorn pop out of crewmates like the xenomorph’s iconic chestburster, we get the same paranoia of movies like Aliens and The Thing that make us worry about who might be secretly infected.
Original angry aliens The Klingons have been reimagined as both Spock’s drinking buddies and even a boy band in the musical episode, and new characters like Captain Angel are too busy being arch to be scary. The franchise needed bad guys that could instantly make an episode into serious business, and the Gorn fit that bill perfectly.
It’s also worth noting that Star Trek bringing back the Gorn means the Paramount franchise chose the safest possible vintage baddies to reinvent. Most races (including Klingons and Romulans) have been so fleshed out by other shows and movies that they can’t be dramatically reimagined beyond what the show has already done, but if the writers came up with a completely new Big Bad, jaded fans would ask why we never heard about such aliens in The Original Series (which takes place less than a decade later).
The Gorn only appeared in a handful of times across three different Star Trek series, so they could safely get a glow-up without contradicting all that much of what came before.
Plus, the changes Star Trek made to the Gorn have helped Strange New Worlds add some of the paranoid aspects of other franchises to their own stories. For example, by having the Gorn pop out of crewmates like the xenomorph’s iconic chestburster, we get the same paranoia of movies like Aliens and The Thing that make us worry about who might be secretly infected.
Strange New Worlds even leveraged this paranoia with a cliffhanger episode where we don’t know if Pike’s girlfriend Captain Batel is going to survive her own Gorn adventure, and this was enough to have us sweating even worse than Pike. Ultimately, Star Trek is a franchise that needs more thrills and chills, and these cold-blooded carnivores are delivering the goods, one red shirt at a time.