From Famous Monsters in Filmland magazine-
Star Trek’s Aliens
by David Neilsen
Space. The final frontier…of Hollywood’s makeup and special effects departments. These are the stories of some of the alien creatures encountered by the original Starship Enterprise. Their roughly two-and-a-half season mission: to explore the limits of a modest budget; to seek out ways to depict new life forms and new civilizations using little more than felt, spirit gum, and convenient camera angles; to boldly go where few 1960s science-fiction television series had gone before.
Below are our 10 favorite alien creatures and species from the original Star Trek television series. For clarity’s sake, we have listed them in chronological order, by Star Date.
- Star Date 1513–The M-113 Creature
Our first alien creature is also one of our ugliest. The M-113 creature (from the episode “The Man Trap”) is best described as a sad-faced, human-shaped leech with stringy, grey hair. It is also known as the Salt Vampire due to its socially-awkward habit of killing people in order to suck the salt out of their corpses. It tries to kill Kirk by kissing the salt out of him, a ploy which nearly works because of Kirk ‘s overwhelming drive to make out with anything on two legs.
- Star Date 3045–The Gorn
In the episode “Arena,” a giant lizard man with microphones for eyes beats Kirk to a pulp in the rocky hills north of Los Angeles. And lo, the Gorn became a fan favorite for decades. Maybe it’s the way the Gorn’s head and lips don’t actually move, even when the creature is talking. Maybe it’s the way the episode satiates our lust for hot man-on-lizard action. Or maybe it’s just because the Gorn is a big, green, lizard man. Whatever the reason, we love him dearly.
- Star Date 3196–The Horta
One of the enduring legacies of Star Trek was its subtle commentary on social issues (Remember the one with the guys who were half-white and half-black? Wasn’t that subtle?). In “Devil in the Dark” we meet the Horta, which sort of looks like a lumpy sausage pizza that’s been in the oven too long. But all is not what it appears and the wise and noble Horta eventually teaches the crew of the Enterprise about the evils of strip mining.
- Star Date 3287–The Neural Parasites
In many ways, the Neural Parasites of “Operation – Annihilate!” are the scariest of all Star Trek creatures. It’s not that they’re big, rubber loogies which somehow manage to kill off an entire population while fluttering about like drunk moths. It’s that they hunt in packs and skulk around the dark places of the world. They could be anywhere. In your closet. Under your car. Right behind you…
- Star Date 4211–The Mugatu
More than any other Star Trek creature, the Mugato from “A Private Little War” just looks like the costume and makeup departments were messing with the producers. “OK, OK. How about we put a guy in a white gorilla suit, stick a horn on his head, and give him fangs and big plates down his back like a Stegosaurus? You think they’ll go for it?”
- Star Date 4307–The Giant Space Ameba
Being the Giant Space Ameba from “The Immunity Syndrome” must suck. You’re alone in the void, terrified of coming across a stray comet or a planet with sharp, pointy mountains that could rupture your membrane, and everyone says you remind them of a diagram from their fifth-grade science textbook. Nobody gives the Giant Space Ameba any love. Is it any wonder it goes around eating starships? Wouldn’t you?
- Star Date 4385–The Melkotians
As near as we can tell, the Melkotians depicted in “The Spectre of the Gun” are a race of sentient lamp posts with glowing eyes. But I’m here to tell you that they’re more than that. Much more. Just below those glowing eyes is a three-armed torso with the organs on the outside of the skin sitting atop seventeen writhing tentacles oozing puss and blood. The creature also sports incredibly-detailed tattoos featuring arcane symbols and forbidden knowledge. It’s a pity the production team chose to hide all of that in a fog of red and blue-colored smoke.
- Star Date 4523–Tribbles
You may believe that the lovable creatures at the heart of “The Trouble With Tribbles” are meant as cosmic comic relief–balls of fluff whose only purpose is to annoy Klingons. You’re wrong. They are, in fact, a monstrously horrible biological weapon–deadly pathogens that self-replicate at astonishing speed and can overrun a Starbase in a matter of days, turning all who come into contact with them into mindless zombies. When Scotty beams them all over to the Klingon ship at the end of the episode, he sets off a species-wide pandemic that rewrites their genetic code, scarring the entire species–as evidenced by how different they look less than 100 years later in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Star Date 5630–Medusans
The Medusans in “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” are supposed to be so ugly that one look at their physical form will drive a man to madness. The show originally planned on depicting these horrific creatures of nightmare in all their Godless glory, but fears of hordes of insane Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you prefer) burning down civilization gave them pause. It’s the ultimate dilemma. What’s more important, freedom of artistic expression or the survival of the species? In the end, the producers punted and put them in a box.
- Star Date 5906–The Excalibans
These guys are rock creatures with shape-shifting abilities. Like all rock creatures with shape-shifting abilities, they are interested in studying the cultures of any passing alien species which happens by. In the episode “The Savage Curtain,” they claim to want to learn about human customs and social interaction, so they team Kirk and Spock up with Abraham Lincoln and a hippy Vulcan and make them fight a bunch of killers including the founder of the Klingon race and Genghis Khan. Because that makes complete sense.