Captain James T. Kirk stands triumphant in a rocky desert plain. Before him lies his defeated enemy, the reptilian captain of an opposing starship. Just seconds ago, Kirk planned to kill his opponent by driving a sharp rock through his heart. But at the last second, compassion overtook Kirk, the realization that the Captain may have just been defending himself, just as he or anyone else would have done.
“You’ll have to get your entertainment somewhere else,” Kirk shouts at the skies, defying both the godlike being who brought him there, and even us viewers.
For decades, we got our entertainment not by watching Starfleet members kill the captain’s monstrous opponents, the Gorn, but by making fun of them. The Gorn only appeared in one episode of The Original Series, season one’s “Arena,” but they quickly came to represent everything wonderful about Star Trek‘s first run. Between the flimsy rubber suit and the obvious foam rocks, the glacially-paced battle that highlighted Kirk’s signature two-handed chopping attack, and the philosophical resolution to the encounter, “Arena” captured a television series ambitiously telling complex stories, despite the limitations of its budget.
Since “Arena” aired in 1967, the Gorn remained iconic but rarely appeared on screen. One showed up on an alien council in an episode of The Animated Series, the evil Mirror Universe version of Jonathan Archer and the NX-O1 battled a CG Gorn in Enterprise, and Rutherford interrupted a Gorn wedding in Lower Decks, but the species was never taken as an important player in the mainline Star Trek universe.
But as seen in the trailer for the finale of Strange New Worlds season two, the Gorn are about to have their day. The trailer promises the beginning of a Gorn war, as the reptilian creatures invade an Earth-like planet where Captain Batel is investigating. With the exception of noted ship-flyer Erica Ortegas happily flying her ship, the trailer emphasizes the death and destruction wrought by the Gorn.
This more destructive take on the Gorn has been teased throughout Strange New Worlds‘ two seasons, as the aliens are an important part of La’an Noonien-Singh‘s backstory. In addition to being a descendant of the infamous Khan Noonien Singh, La’an survived living on a Gorn breeding planet, where other species were hunted and used as incubators for Gorn eggs.
La’an’s experience on the Gorn planet has been a runner in the series, explored most thoroughly in the penultimate episode of season one, “All Those Who Wander.” That episode found the Enterprise crew fighting against a single Gorn hatchling, a battle so severe that it cost chief engineer Hemmer his life. The season two premiere hinted at a coming war with the Gorn, but the conflict has been put on the back burner while the delightful season indulged in Spock hijinks and musical numbers.
Will the Gorn War live up to the hype, giving Strange New Worlds the best second season in Trek history? Or will we walk away disgusted, forced to get our entertainment somewhere else?
Season two, episode ten of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds premieres on Paramount+ on August 10, 2023.