Star Trek’s Biggest Retcon Fixes Its Most Mysterious Villains

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Star Trek Strange New Worlds

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is often a very lighthearted show, but one thing this series always treats deadly seriously is the Gorn, the reptilian raiders who played a central role in that nail-biting Season 2 cliffhanger. As great as these episodes are, however, some fans were annoyed that the show has done a huge retcon regarding The Original Series lore that nobody had ever seen a Gorn before. Here’s the thing, though: while retcons can be annoying, this one fixes what amounts to a huge plot hole going back to the very beginning of Star Trek.

The Goofy First Appearance Of The Gorn

star trek gorn

This fearsome alien race was first introduced in The Original Series episode “Arena,” and William Shatner’s battle with the Gorn (a goofy-looking lizardman) quickly became the stuff of pop culture legend. It would be decades before we saw another live-action Gorn onscreen, and this episode established the surprising lore that Kirk had no idea what these aliens looked like before the episode. 

No One Knew What A Gorn Was

star trek gorn

He takes the Metrons’ word that this is “a creature apparently called a Gorn.” Considering that Kirk was the captain of the Federation flagship and would have access to all kinds of top-secret information, it’s reasonable to assume that if he doesn’t know what a Gorn looks like, pretty much nobody in Starfleet does. 

The Strange New Worlds Glow-Up

star trek strange new worlds gorn

So far, so good, so where does the plothole part come in? Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a show that takes place a little less than a decade before The Original Series, has characters constantly encountering the Gorn. In fact, it’s fair to say the show has made these scaly bad guys the primary foes of Captain Pike and his erstwhile crew.

The Federation And The Gorn

This naturally leads to a simple question. If Captain Pike, the earlier captain of the Federation flagship, kept having encounters with Gorn and knew exactly what they looked like at different life stages, then why would future flagship captain Kirk have no idea he was looking at a Gorn in “Arena?” To add salt to this particular plothole-shaped wound, we even discover that James Kirk’s younger brother Sam has even seen the Gorn before, forcing us to wonder why his older and more highly-ranked brother would have no idea what he was seeing a few years later.

The Simplest Retcon

This Star Trek prequel tries to massage the inconsistencies away, explaining that because the Gorn never leave survivors (La’an is a very rare exception because she survived Gorn captivity), the Federation officially counts these aliens as a race they have never properly encountered. La’an also clarifies that “plenty of people have seen the Gorn,” but “they just don’t live long enough to talk about it.”

Kirk And La’an

None of this explains, of course, why famous Star Trek hero Kirk would not have had a single visual record or survivor description, even if La’an was the only one who could have provided it. By the way, if this Gorn plothole hasn’t driven you crazy yet, get this: Strange New Worlds tried making the younger Kirk and La’an into a “will they, won’t they” couple. It looks like that potential relationship door has now closed, but we now must consider that future Kirk had no idea what a Gorn looked like despite developing a close friendship earlier in life with the one Starfleet officer who could have told him what these aliens were all about.

Arena Has Been Retconned

star trek gorn

As Star Trek fans, we can only conclude that Strange New Worlds has effectively retconned Kirk’s earliest encounter with the Gorn, and we’re supposed to ignore Kirk’s ignorance the same way we ignore the countless times that this “there’s no money in the future” franchise has characters talk about getting paid. However, to our own mild surprise, we’re perfectly fine with this retcon. We already have to accept that Earth went into an interstellar war against the Romulans without ever seeing what they looked like, and having to accept Starfleet’s ignorance about yet another alien race is a bridge too far.

The Fearsome And Vicious Gorn

star trek horror

By the time of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode where Kirk first fought the Gorn, these aliens had made numerous attacks against the Federation, had been fought and killed, and had practically the entire crew of Pike’s Enterprise (including Spock, Kirk’s future best friend) see what they looked like. It makes absolutely no sense that Starfleet would have no idea what these aliens looked like, and we’re frankly glad Strange New Worlds is leaning into the retcon and doing some exciting things with what used to be the franchise’s goofiest-looking creatures.

Closing Wisdom From Spock

star trek

Before anyone starts yelling about what is and isn’t canon, we’d like to modify a bit of the wisdom that Spock once shared with Valeris when discussing the limits of logic. Canon is only the beginning of wisdom and not the end. If you can’t enjoy a show that has practically been built on retcons from the very beginning, then it might be time to replicate some grass and touch it immediately.