Star Trek’s Most Underrated Show Almost Lost Its Best Character

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Captain Kirk’s fight against the Gorn in The Original Series episode “Arena” transformed that alien into Star Trek’s most recognizable creature, which is why it’s so surprising we didn’t get any other major Gorn storylines until Strange New Worlds. As it turns out, there were plans among the Enterprise writers to make the Gorn more of a going concern by making them the villains in the episode that became “The Andorian Incident.” That might sound cool, but here’s the thing: if the writers had gone with this idea, we would likely have never gotten the fan-favorite Andorian character Shran.

The Andorian Incident Almost Looked Very Different

To help you understand why it would have been so bad if Enterprise replaced the Andorians with the Gorn in this episode, we need to revisit what “The Andorian Incident” was all about. The ep (which was directed by Star Trek: Voyager legend Roxann Dawson) featured the Enterprise crew visiting a Vulcan monastery, but Andorians led by Commander Shran quickly captured an away team. The Andorians are suspicious that the Vulcans are using this monastery to spy on their interstellar neighbor, and in an incredible plot twist, it turns out the Vulcans really are spying on the Andorians with a high-tech sensor array.


Since he is a man of honor, Archer (after getting dramatically rescued by his crew) lets Shran go with firm evidence of the Vulcan espionage. Shran, also a man of honor, tells Archer that he is now in the Starfleet captain’s debt. He soon pays that debt back in “The Shadows of P’Jem” by rescuing Archer, kicking off a bromance between the two characters that would last through the very end of the show.

Jeffrey Combs Greatest Star Trek Character

Had the Enterprise writers made the Gorn the villains of “The Andorian Incident” instead of the titular blue meanies, we might never have been introduced to Commander Shran. That would have done more than robbed us of a few cool stories; it would also have kept us from getting a Jeffrey Combs performance that many fans believe is his very best in the franchise. Fortunately, the Enterprise writers quickly gave up on the idea of using the Gorn for a hilariously simple reason.

The Gorn

star trek gorn

Going back to their first appearance, the Gorn didn’t speak, at least not in any way that Starfleet could understand. That’s part of why Kirk had to go toe-to-claw with a Gorn captain so viciously in “Arena:” he really did try some Picard-style diplomacy with the creature, and they only began fighting because there was no real way to communicate. 

Considering how much the plot of the Enterprise episode “The Andorian Incident” relied on communication between Archer and Shran, the writers of the episode ditched the idea of using the Gorn because there was no canonical way for Archer (who had much less knowledge and much more primitive technology than Kirk) to talk to this alien creature. Another compelling reason they didn’t use the Gorn is because “Arena” makes it clear Kirk is the first officer to encounter one of these reptilian villains. Strange New Worlds would retcon this in a big way in “Memento Mori” while also revealing the Gorn do communicate, at least ship-to-ship, via light signals.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Use The Gorn Correctly

star trek strange new worlds gorn

As a fan of both Enterprise and Strange New Worlds, I have mixed feelings about the abandoned idea of replacing the Gorn with the Andorians. Part of me wouldn’t trade Jeffrey Combs’ Shran character for the world, but part of me would love to have seen Captain Archer and crew fighting off some SNW-style Gorn. Still, these scaly scumbags eventually got their day in the sun by becoming the Big Bads of Strange New Worlds

It ultimately took over two decades since “The Andorian Incident” for the franchise to really focus on the Gorn again. As Enterprise fans might say, it’s been a long road, getting from there to here, for Star Trek’s most iconic alien.

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