Celebrating geek TV's iconic foreheads

Feature Louisa Mellor 25 Jan 2013 - 07:04

We salute 10 of geek TV’s most iconic foreheads, with help from Star Trek, Doctor Who, Buffy and more…

As the invaluable resource of Wikipedia will tell you, the forehead is the fore part of the head.

Chaucer liked them shiny, Elizabethans liked them high and powdered, racist Victorians explained all manner of nonsense through their lumps and bumps. Around the world, the Incas artificially flattened those of their offspring due to reasons anthropologists now believe include ‘for a bit of a laugh’, and it’s where Hinduism places the third eye. Jupiter even gave birth out of his, the flashy bastard.

But it’s Gene Roddenberry and co. who are to be most lauded for services to the common forehead. Without Star Trek’s inexhaustive parade of prosthetic ridges, flaps, distensions and wrinkles, we’d never know that aliens basically look exactly like us, just with the foreheads of people suffering from various tropical diseases.

Join us then, as we salute live-action sci-fi and fantasy TV’s ten most iconic squama frontalises…

Aamin Marritza – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 

Species: Cardassian

As pointed out by many a larking Starfleet ensign, were they to remain still enough, the Cardassian forehead would serve particularly good use as a spoon rest, hence the species' derogatory "spoonhead" nickname.

The distinctive ridge ‘n’ oval hollow here is sported by Star Trek: DS9’s Aamin Marritza, though it could just as well be any of his fellow species. This particular example of forehead topography has undergone plastic surgery to achieve its look, though Marritza didn’t go under the knife in search of a rejuvenating nip and tuck, but as part of a self-punishing plan to impersonate a war criminal and bring him to justice. Along with Quark's squeeze Natima Lang, this makes Marritza - and admittedly, this is a case of tallest dwarf - one of the nicer Cardassians.

The Cardassians are just one in a long line of bumpy forehead sporting Star Trek alien friends and foes, which includes the Klingons, Talarians, Romulans, Kazon, Vidiians, and to a lesser extent, the Trill, but merit inclusion here as particularly choice examples of the trend.

Herman Munster – The Munsters 

Species: Stitched-together reanimated corpse

We all know the sixties were a time for high concepts (honks comedy horn, activates spinning bow-tie), and few came higher than The Munsters “a traditional family sitcom… but with monsters!” pitch. “What, like the forthcoming ABC series, The Addams Family, based on those thirties comic strips you mean?” said everyone “No, nothing like that” said CBS, “We’ll have a hot vampiric wife, an unpredictable ghoulish grandparent, and a Frankenstein’s creature-y one!” “Huzzah!” said everyone, “that absolutely sounds different!”

As it turned out, Fred Gwynne’s peppy, childish Herman (The Munsters’ Frankenstein’s creature-y one) shared but stature and pallor with Ted Cassidy’s laconic Lurch (The Addams Family’s Frankenstein’s creature-y one). Even their foreheads told them apart, as Lurch’s boy band fringe all but obscured his prominent brow, while Herman Munster’s Boris Karloff-style frontage was the main event.

As a Universal production, The Munsters was able to use the copyrighted Karloffian make-up as sported by Boris in the studio’s 1931 Frankenstein for Herman Munster, down to the asymmetric scar and neck furniture. Yes, it’s a geek TV forehead that wholesale nicked its iconic look, but it’s an iconic one all the same.

George Francisco - Alien Nation 

Species: Tenctonese Newcomer

Before anyone starts writing us a strongly-worded letter, we admit that George Francisco’s actual forehead is relatively human-looking. Technically speaking, it’s the camelopardic, Trill-like hairline area that distinguishes him as Alien Nation’s most famous Tenctonese Newcomer.

Kenneth Johnson’s one-season Alien Nation series arrived a year after Graham Baker’s 1988 film of the same name, followed up by a string of TV movies completing the Francisco family story. A geek TV stalwart having created The Six-Million Dollar Man, the original V and The Incredible Hulk series, Johnson’s plan was to use the advent of alien ‘Newcomers’ in modern-day America to explore the contemporary reaction to minority groups.

Francisco then, along with his family and Det. Sikes’ paramour Cathy, were representative of a new immigrant class in the light-hearted sci-fi show, though one that could pass for the establishment with the help of a decent hat.

Grey - The X-Files 

Species: Zeta Reticulan (though that rather depends on whom, or if, you believe)

Like The Spice Girls, these critters are designed for optimum silhouette recognition when partially obscured by bright lights and dry ice. Unlike The Spice Girls, the Greys’ plan for world domination doesn’t involve platform heels, worshipping Margaret Thatcher or selling Pepsi, which makes them roughly one hundred times less terrifying than the nineties girl group.

The Greys’ distinctive Mekon-like foreheads are so bulbous, it’s no wonder their lot turned to cloning for reproduction. The lady greys must have held a symposium or something and outlawed natural birth as a barbaric practice. (And before anyone gets up in our grill about there being no such thing as a lady Grey, then answer me this: who do you think makes that tea?)

Greys don’t just appear in The X-Files of course but throughout sci-fi TV, film, literature, and depending on whom you ask real life. Dark Skies had a bunch, and Stargate SG-1 had some just adorable ones, but for sheer recognisability, Mulder and Scully’s ETs deserve to wear the ‘iconic’ crown.

Angelus/Angel – Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel 

Species: Vampire with (intermittently) a soul

Those who’ve seen Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer film will know that the earlier incarnations of Buffy’s mythological foes came sans forehead wrinkles, instead sporting a pale, toothy but more or less au naturel look. By the time John Vulich’s Optic Nerve and make-up artist Todd McIntosh got to the TV series though, this built-up ridged appearance, reminiscent of a demonic Shar Pei puppy as modelled here by Angel, was the fashion.

If any of you are pondering why we’ve chosen Angel, Buffy’s original vampire-with-a-soul, to represent this iconic frontage, then perhaps it’s time to revisit your box-set. Granted, The Master’s permanently wrinkled bat-like brow might encapsulate the essence of Vulich and McIntosh’s Buffy make-up, but David Boreanaz’ Angel was defined by his forehead in and out of the prosthetics. Dubbed “Captain Forehead” and “Tall, dark and forehead” by rival vamp Spike, Angel’s brow was long a source of consternation for the character. Even Doyle, in Angel’s season one episode Rm w/a Vu, noted the “overhanging” quality of his friend’s above-the-eyes area.

Quark – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 

Species: Ferengi

With their rampant misogyny and unscrupulous thirst for profit, the Ferengi are the Star Trek species perhaps best represented by this arse/head mash-up. A mischievous bunch whose potential as villains was lost as soon as audiences clapped eyes on their adorable bum cheek heads, the Ferengi are here represented by DS9’s Quark.

Why the Ferengi instead of one of Star Trek’s many other prosthetic forehead-wearing races? It’s the iconic monobrow transverse ridge that sold it for us - a proud feature, though one that makes it particularly difficult for Ferengi to look good in glasses.

Beldar Conehead - Saturday Night Live 

Species: Remulak (from France)

No celebration of sci-fi foreheads would be complete without mention of Dan Aykroyd’s Saturday Night Live characters: the Coneheads. These distended foreheads do more than just case the grey matter too, they also double up as an erogenous zone for the Remulakian people. 

Spoofing TV sci-fi’s reliance on forehead bumps on otherwise humanoid aliens, the Coneheads first arrived on SNL in the late seventies, before going on to star in their own, somewhat ill-received spin-off movie fifteen years later.

Rimmer – Red Dwarf 

Species: Hologram (human)

Arnold Rimmer’s face furniture is such an iconic piece of UK sitcom costume, a single glance at Chris Barrie’s in-costume forehead and you know exactly where you are. It’s also, with the help of a Post-It note, a pencil and a ruler, a remarkably cheap and hassle-free Halloween costume.

Regular Red Dwarf viewers are able to use the various H iterations much as a boy scout would moss growing on a tree, to deduce their precise position. Over the ten series, Rimmer’s humble letter morphed from a blocky sans serif to Red Dwarf X’s slimmer, shinier, hologram-about-town look, not to forget the circular symbol he sported on board the Enlightenment Holoship.

Like Buffy’s Angel, Arnold Rimmer’s distinguishing feature also made him the butt of jokes and unflattering nicknames of the “goalpost” and “alphabet head” variety. 

Davros – Doctor Who 

Species: Kaled

Introduced in 1975' The Genesis of the Daleks, Doctor Who's Davros is about as iconic a TV sci-fi villain as they come, and we like to think his forehead plays a key part in that. Granted, Doctor Who is no stranger to alien species with notable foreheads (there's the horned Judoon for one, as well as Zygons, Silurians, The Forest of Cheem, the Sycorax, The Ood and The Silence...) but Terry Nation's (recently contested) design beats the bunch.

It’s the central blue lens that makes Davros’ forehead such an iconic one. Installed as part of his Six-Million-Dollar-Evil–Scientist life-support system, the lens aligns the Kaled genius with his creations’ characteristic Cyclops-on-a-stick look, replacing the vision he lost in the accident that left him disfigured.

Lt. Worf – Star Trek: The Next Generation 

Species: Klingon

Like Doctor Who’s Cybermen, who began life as little more than a pair of grey tights and some silver duct tape, Star Trek’s Klingons vary wildly in appearance through the ages. Early Klingons looked more akin to extras in an Am Dram production of Cats than the later, more familiar representatives of the warrior race.

TNG’s Worf, played by Michael Dorn, is the Klingon we’ve spent the most time with, and thus he finds his way to the top of this list, though even his iconic forehead has gone through its own version of continental drift, forming different peaks, valleys, and to be frank, labial protrusions over the years.

An exhaustive, knowledgeable gallery of sagital ridges entitled The Evolution of Klingon Foreheads, was created by Bernd Schneider and Jörg Hillebrand, from which I take the following quote on Worf’s changing look during Dorn's TNG tenure: “The lateral bones of his forehead prosthetics were raised, and the wrinkles were toned down. Most visibly, the transversal rib-like wrinkles were flattened out for the second season. Later on in the series the previously rather thin central ridge was widened and modified to exhibit more peaks and wrinkles.” So now you know.

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Disqus - noscript

What about Teal'c (or any Jaffa) from Stargate SG-1?

Cardassians are probably the most interesting looking of all Star Trek races.

Yeah no Jaffa here? Sooooooooo disappointing, would have thought a TV show that lasted 10 seasons would have gotten note over a one off episode in the X-files

Sometimes I really wish I worked for you guys.

hey, the alien nation character's forehead looks remarkably like a *narn* forehead from babylon5 - ambassador g'kar for instance..

:-) this is exactly why im a big Den-fan. thx guys.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that.

What bout the Vinvocci Spikey aliens in Doctor Who. Or The Thilaxions (Neelix) in Voyager

iconic: the internet's new overused word

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