Star Trek: The Gorn Continuity

Posted: 2022-12-26
Word Count: 2275
Tags: fanfic star-trek tv

Table of Contents

Since I’m on a Star Trek kick lately, I decided finally to watch the last two episodes of Strange New Worlds. One of those doubled down on the Gorn as space monsters, only this time Alien’s xenomorphs crossed with Jurassic Park’s velociraptors.

The Gorn Conundrum

While I still believe canon isn’t real, it’s a little worrying that the copyright holders can’t agree on the basics of such a popular yet little-used starfaring species. Checking with Memory Alpha1 I count the following depictions:

I’ve listed these in airing order. In Star Trek continuity, these series span the following years3 (CE):

Century Year(s) Series
22nd 2151-2155 ENT
23rd 2256-2257 DIS (season 1)
2259 SNW
2265-2270 TOS, TAS
24th 2380-2381 LD
2383-2384 PRO

A Gorn Synthesis

For my own amusement I decided to unify these depictions with a sketchy historical, biological. and social history. This also borrows from Gorn in the Star Fleet Battles universe, the Gorn from the MMO Star Trek Online (set in 2410), and other “non-canon” sources mentioned in this video.

Government

Due to difficulties in translating the Gorn language – a series of hisses, tongue taps, and inhuman throat sounds with an equally humanoid-unfriendly lexicon and grammar – the Gorn government has been known as the “Gorn Hegemony”, “Gorn Confederacy”, and briefly the “Gorn Theocracy” due to mistaken beliefs about the Elders. Even the name “Gorn” comes from other species’ names for their (presumed) home planet, Romulan “Gornu” or Tellarite “Gornar” (probably from the Romulan). Their unpronounceable names for themselves and their planet translate, respectively, as “People” and “Home World”.4

Much remains unknown about Gorn space. Gorn5 are highly territorial, and resent intrusions into their space or even questions about their lives. Except for Cestus III and a minority of immigrants in human space in the 24th and 25th centuries, most Gorn prefer to live on worlds populated entirely by their own kind. The Federation and Gorn share only the world of Cestus III and Outpost 28, and Federation authorities believe the Gorn carefully choose who lives there to minimize incidents and present an acceptable image.

Much of what follows is speculation based on intercepted transmissions, peaceful interactions with the Gorn after Cestus III, a handful of medical scans performed on wounded Gorn, and characteristically inscrutable answers to direct questions.

Elders

Federation Intelligence, and information obtained from Klingon and Romulan sources, indicates that a generation of “elders” runs the Gorn’s government, science, military, and all other aspects of their society. Intelligence indicates that these Elders are at least 75 Earth-years old, and may live two or three centuries. These elders stay almost exclusively on the Gorn homeworld, or in well-established colony worlds within Gorn space.

No one knows whether the original Elder Gorn grew up from Breeders or came from an older species that created the Breeders.

Adults

All “adult” Gorn have approximately the same appearance: large pseudo-reptiles at least two meters high with smooth green or green-gray skin6 and wide jaws with rows of sharp teeth. Some details vary depending on the adult’s origins:

Behavior varies by the Gorn’s origins as well:

Other sapients can’t tell the origins of any given adult Gorn, apart from the physical and behavioral cues above and clothing. (Breeders prefer furs and skins from past kills, others prefer synthetic clothing designed more for warmth than style.)

Encounters with the Species

The Gorn sighted during early disastrous encounters between Gorn and other species have been retroactively termed Breeders. Xenobiologists regard their lifecycle as unique among sapient beings, while those who’ve been reluctant witnesses have termed it “horrific”:

Even a Gorn at adult size and with a full-sized brain isn’t considered an Adult in Gorn society. Such creatures, who developed in a matter of weeks, have no language, no knowledge, and no control over their animal instincts. Adult Gorn corral these proto-adults, “break” them, and start teaching them all the things members of a starfaring species need to know.

Improvement of the Species

After the Treaty of Cestus III, forced on them by the Metrons, the Elders had to consider that they could not seize new colonies forever. Breeders excelled at turning new worlds into Gorn worlds, but unleashing them on a Federation world would bring swift reprisals, if not from the Metrons then from the large and well armed Federation. Their only other neighbors, the Romulan Star Empire, had already “negotiated” a border through merciless ship-to-ship battles and a scorched planet policy.

To their credit, the usually conservative and deliberate Elders decided that the greatest risk to both truces was the Breeder life-cycle itself. They therefore began engineering what Federation xenobiologists call the Neotenes: Gorn whose intellectual development kept pace with their (slowed) physical development, like most humanoid species.

After some trial-and-error, Neotenes proved far better citizens than Breeders. Despite their longer “childhoods”, Neotenes absorbed knowledge easily, and if a young Neotene lost control of their instincts, they were at least smaller and weaker than a grown but immature Breeder. By the age of twelve a Neotene was not only ready for Adulthood, they were ready to interact with other species.

The main flaw with Neotenes is that each had to be conceived in a lab. The original process modified Breeder DNA in a Spindle, then gestated it in a non-sapient animal or, later, in a quantity of nutrient gel. Scientists later reused modified DNA to create clones, and eventually refined the process to avoid the Spindle stage entirely.

In the late 23rd century Gorn Elders evacuated all remaining Breeders from Cestus III, dropped a population of Neotenes on the eastern half of the main continent, and invited Federation colonists to the western half. After some due dilligence by Starfleet, and trepidation from early colonists, the two species coexisted uneasily but without major incidents. By the mid 24th century both colonies thrived, and Gorn and humans mingled occasionally in a few border towns.

Once cloning technology matured the Elders experimented briefly with specially engineered Gorn castes. The “warrior” caste proved too large and aggressive for 24th century combat, the “technician” caste proved useful on starships but often used their wits for less socially acceptable activities, and the “citizen” made a nice control but not a model citizen. Subsequent generations of Neotenes combined warrior strength, citizen temperament, and technician manual dexterity into a unified Adult form.

Reinvention of the Species

Having decided on Neotenes as the template for a new Gorn species, the Elders decided to solve the problem of reproduction the same way evolution had on virtually every other known world: male and female Gorn.

Gendered Gorn received the X/Y sex determination system used by humans and other humanoids, rather than the Z/W system of Earth birds and reptiles. Some evidence suggests that Gorn scientists adapted human genes directly, since female Gorn develop noticeable but non-functional breasts. (All young Gorn eat only meat.)

As difficult as the genetic hurdles might have been, the cultural ones must have seemed insurmountable. “Instead of spitting at prey, you want us ‘males’ to do what to a ‘female’ Gorn? And then the spawn come out of where?” Elders tried their best to acclimate these new Gorn to a new yet absurdly common life cycle, even importing traditions from human societies like weddings and nuclear families. In the end they succeeded only in creating a generation of female Gorn ashamed that they were “hosts” and “prey” of the males, and many males who took advantage of their shame. Successive generations recovered from the culture shock, but even in the 25th century males ventured out of Gorn space, and females mostly stayed home.

All three species of Gorn – Breeders, Neotenes (now called Neuters), and Gendered male and females – exist in Gorn space. Even Breeder Adults considered safe to leave Gorn space wear the same clothes as Neuters and Males, making the three species indistinguishable. As the number of new Neuters dwindles and the Breeders run out of prey, the Gendered may one day inherit the Hegemony.


  1. Warning: this site has way too many video ads. ↩︎

  2. Identical to the Gorn starship model used in a remaster of “Arena”. ↩︎

  3. Excluding flasbacks, flash-forwards, time travel, etc. ↩︎

  4. Their original word for non-Gorn sapients translated roughly as “New Prey”, but after the Treaty of Cestus III authorities began using a term meaning “Outer People”. ↩︎

  5. The word “Gorn” is both singular and plural, and it denotes the species, the language, and the culture. ↩︎

  6. Some Gorn have rough or bumpy skin that can be mistaken for scales. ↩︎

  7. Unlike Klingon honor, this “pride” or “dignity” seems to be an expectation of respectful treatment, perhaps grounded in primal instincts. Violence usually stops if the offender removes himself or makes a gesture of submission, and then, after the Gorn is rational again, a suitable apology. ↩︎