Creatures are a given in sci-fi. You can’t have Star Trek without aliens, right? And in those aliens, we see a little of ourselves – especially in pre-CGI Trek when almost all of the aliens required an actual human to be covered in plastic, latex and fabric in order to look other-worldly.
But whether the “look” of the alien involves pointy ears or a complete rubber suit, it’s usually enough to suspend disbelief and allow both actor and audience to really go places and think deep thoughts. Usually.
For Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG), many of the alien looks were the creation of master make-up artist, Michael Westmore, who earlier this month spent time at UC Santa Barbara sharing insights into where he found inspiration create so many new species.
Among the information shared about his time on Trek, Mr. Westmore explained that he used animal physiology as inspiration when creating the aliens. That animal physiology included taking a very close look at dinosaurs:
“I had discovered a book of dinosaurs that showed the skeletons,” Westmore said. “It showed the vertebrae in all these different dinosaurs, whether it was a T. Rex or a Brontosaurus, and I literally used the dinosaur vertebrae as my research for the different foreheads.”
An exhibition of Mr. Westmore’s work will be at UCSB through December 4th. To add to the fun, attendees are encouraged to show up in make-up and costume.
(NOTE: If you go, please share some pictures and we’ll add them to this post.)
But while we’re talking aliens, we’ve got to mention the “weirdest” aliens from the original series (which includes my personal favorite, the Gorn – shown above). You’ll find a complete description of each alien here, but suffice to say, there’s plenty discuss when it comes to ranking TOS aliens. To get things started, here are the top 5:
- The Horta (from “Devil in the Dark”)
- Commander Loskene (the Tholian from “The Tholian Web”)
- The Gorn (from “Arena”)
- Kollos (the Medusan Ambassador from “Is There In Truth No Beauty?”)
- Yarnek (the crab-clawed rock monster from “The Savage Curtain”)
Yarnek? Really? I suppose you can justify this list by saying these were the “weirdest” aliens, but Yarnek is on my list for lamest aliens. Even the flying fried eggs from “Operation: Annihilate!” were cooler and weirder than that lump of latex. Personally, I was a bigger fan of the talking brains with a betting problem on “The Gamesters of Triskelion” and creepy Clint Howard (who’s still kinda creepy looking) from “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
I’m sure Clint is nice guy, but I was just a little kid when I saw “The Corbomite Maneuver” for the first time and that dubbed invoice was freaky.
But whether it’s the aliens from TV or the movies – no matter the decade – many of the same basic rules apply. In the most recent film, Star Trek Beyond, there were fifty new alien life forms on screen (in honor of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary). And one, Jayla, played by Sofia Boutella was a featured character.
The alien makeup design was created by designer Joel Harlow and makeup artist Richie Alonzo – here’s a video feature that’s included with the Star Trek Beyond DVD for those Trekkies interested in either cosplaying as Jayla (for Halloween or cons).
There’s probably no better visual representation of Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of celebrating “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” (IDIC) than the hundreds of aliens species who have shared screen time with the members of Star Fleet as adversaries, allies, spouses, children, friends, lovers and – of course – Tribbles. It’s part of why we love Star Trek.
Tell me what your favorite alien species is and why in the comment section below!