Star Trek's vicious Gorn are among fans' favorite villains and have been in the franchise almost from the beginning.
Depending on which Star Trek fan you ask, the Gorn are either one of most formidable groups of foes the franchise heroes have ever faced, the funniest, or both. First appearing in the 1967 original series episode “Arena,” the lizard-like creatures haven’t proven to be the most prolific of Trek antagonists, but they’re undoubtedly one of the most memorable.
IN STAR TREK, THEY ARE PART OF THE GORN HEGEMONY
Like the Federation, the Gorn have their own interstellar collective called the Gorn Hegemony. The philosophies of the United Federation of Planets are governed many of the franchise’s defining qualities: peaceful co-existence, tolerant understanding, and asking every question possible first before even considering firing. In these ways and more, Star Trek’s Gorn are the polar opposite of the Federation.
The Gorn are merciless hunters both on the ground and in space. They employ planetary nurseries to raise their young — depositing captives from other species to serve as food, breeding sacks, and sport.
Lt. La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the sole survivor of a colony ship that is attacked and captured by the Gorn. Its passengers are used for a planetary nursery.
In political matters they strike first and strike hard, attacking anyone they perceive to be intruding upon their sphere of influence. The Gorn do not like outsiders and have seemingly little official contact with the Federation or any of the other major Trek powers.
Canonically speaking, they are occasionally mentioned, rarely seen, and so far have failed to be major narrative players after the events of Star Trek: The Original Series.
THE GORN ARE POWERFUL AND RUTHLESS
In “All Those Who Wander,” the penultimate Season 1 episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, we learn that Gorn reproduce through parasitic eggs implanted in humanoid hosts by way of venom.
Within hours of hatching — and of course killing their host in the process — Gorn hatchlings are already exceptionally strong, fast, and capable of hunting down full-grown humanoids. They are extremely aggressive upon birth and will usually fight one another to prove which one has dominance.
The Gorn are also difficult to impossible to detect through standard scanning technology.
As we see in Star Trek: The Original Series, full-grown Gorn are slower than hatchlings, but much smaller. In “Arena,” the Gorn Captain is able to withstand James Kirk’s (William Shatner) strongest blows without being phased while being strong enough to lift and hurl massive boulders.
If the Gorn have any Achilles’ Heel, it’s the cold. The heroes of Strange New Worlds use the cold to drive the Gorn hatchlings where they want them, and the last surviving hatchling is killed by a blast of super cold air.
THE FIRST GORN WAS TECHNICALLY IN THE MIRROR UNIVERSE
Going chronologically by narrative, the first Gorn we meet is actually in the Mirror Universe. In the two-part Star Trek: Enterprise story, “In a Mirror, Darkly,” the U.S.S. Defiant is transported to the Mirror Universe where it’s taken captive by the Tholian Assembly. The Tholians employ a Gorn named Slar to make sure their captives from the Prime Universe behave.
We don’t get long to get to know Slar. Shortly after the crew of the ISS Enterprise take over the Defiant, Slar plays some cat and mouse with the Terrans but he’s ultimately killed by the Mirror Universe version of Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula).
Still, he remains noteworthy for being the only Gorn in the narrative we see willingly working with another species.
THEY APPEARED ON STRANGE NEW WORLDS
In “Memento Mori,” Star Trek: Strange New Worlds gives us the kind of Gorn battle we haven’t yet seen until that point: an episode-long ship duel. The Gorn leave a damaged ship as bait for the Enterprise, and bring the ship and her crew to utterly desperate straits.
The heroes are finally able to escape the Gorn’s clutches when they figure out their enemies’ flashing light system of communication and duplicate it to trick the Gorn into attacking one another.
Throughout all of “Memento Mori,” we never see one of the Gorn in person but that changes in “All Those Who Wander.” Investigating a distress beacon activated by the U.S.S. Peregrine, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and an away team find a dead crew and a couple of survivors, one of whom winds up being the home of 3 Gorn hatchlings. The alien dies as the Gorn burst from him, and Pike and his team are forced to fight to the death.
A couple of minor characters are slaughtered by the Gorn, and Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) sacrifices himself for his friends. Knowing he has been infected by the Gorn venom and would otherwise soon spawn more dangerous hatchlings, Hemmer chooses instead to throw himself to his death down a cliffside.
STAR TREK’S FIRST CONTACT WITH THE GORN WAS IN THE ORIGINAL SERIES
In the Star Trek episode “Arena,” one of Starfleet’s legendary heroes, Captain James T. Kirk, finally comes face-to-face with an adult Gorn. The Enterprise is tricked into visiting Cestus III at the edge of Federation space, where they believe they’ve been invited as guests, but the invitation is a trick devised by the Gorn. The reptilian aliens attack Kirk and his away team on the ground while their ship attacks the Enterprise in orbit.
Kirk pursues the Gorn only for both ships to be stopped by the powerful (and pretty judgmental) aliens the Metrons. Disgusted by the violence they witness, the Metrons transport Kirk and the Gorn captain to the surface of a nearby world to battle one-on-one, promising the winner’s ship will be set free and the loser’s ship will be destroyed.
Kirk ultimately defeats the Gorn captain by figuring out a way make gunpowder out of materials he finds on the planet, but not before we witness the Gorn’s power. All of Kirk’s attempts to put a dent in his opponent in hand-to-hand combat are laughably useless in more ways than one.
“Arena”, as remembered by Tor, is infamous as a Star Trek episode that delivers perhaps the most obvious and ridiculous fight choreography in the battle between Kirk and the Gorn. The Gorn’s swipes at Kirk are so slow as to make you wonder if he’s awake, and no direction manages to make Shatner’s blows look like anything but love taps.
By release, “Arena” Star Trek’s introduction of the Gorn, though in the canonical narrative it is so far their last major appearance.