(covers information from several alternate timelines)
Gorn were a cold-blooded species, with green, rubbery skin, red blood, and an average height of approximately two meters. They tended to be many times stronger than most humanoids, albeit slower and less agile but with greater stamina and, like most cold-blooded species, preferred warmer temperatures. The Gorn had at least two genders: male and female. Despite being reptilian, Gorn females had what appeared to be mammary glands, which were generally found on mammals. (TOS: "Arena"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"; LD: "Veritas", et al.) Gorn could survive exposure to the vacuum of space. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")
Gorn ears were simple holes on the sides of their skulls, while their mouths boasted an impressive array of sharp teeth and their hands and feet possessed vicious claws. In the mirror universe, Phlox quipped that the Gorn were comparable to that of the extinct Velociraptor, based on one Gorn's size and bite radius. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II") Some Gorn displayed eyes that were silvery and faceted, much like the compound eyes of insects, while others had typical humanoid eyes complete with pupils.
They also possessed incredible durability and were able to take an extreme amount of punishment. During a skirmish between Captain James T. Kirk and a Gorn captain, Kirk hurled a boulder at his opponent, only for it to bounce off the Gorn's skin. Later, he caused a giant boulder to roll down a mountain and hit the Gorn captain. Though this temporarily stunned him, he was not injured. Kirk finally managed to wound and disable the Gorn with a primitive cannon comprised of rope-wrapped bamboo as a barrel, with raw diamonds as projectiles and a homemade gunpowder mixture as propellant. (TOS: "Arena")
History and culture
The Gorn's first contact with the prime reality Federation took place in 2267, when the Gorn attacked, with impunity, the Federation colony and outpost on Cestus III. The Gorn saw the strike as a preemptive move, since they regarded the Cestus system as part of their territory. The USS Enterprise pursued a Gorn starship from Cestus III into a previously unexplored region of the galaxy, near 2466 PM. There, both starships were immobilized by the Metrons, who transported Captain Kirk and the Gorn captain to a planet's surface where the two captains were instructed to settle their differences in a "contest… of ingenuity against ingenuity, brute strength against brute strength." Although the Gorn captain was physically stronger than Kirk, Kirk was able to construct a makeshift cannon out of materials on the planet's surface and defeat the Gorn. When Kirk showed mercy to his defeated opponent, the Metrons sent both captains back to their respective ships and transported the Enterprise out of the area. (TOS: "Arena")
In the mirror universe, a Gorn named Slar was a slave master working for the Tholian Assembly. He was in charge of the workers assigned aboard the USS Defiant until the crew of the ISS Enterprise took it over. Slar was seen as suspicious of Terrans and vicious when it came to dealing with them. He was ultimately killed by Jonathan Archer. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II")
As of the late 23rd century, much of the Gorn technology was on par with that of Starfleet. A Gorn ship was almost as fast as a Constitution-class starship, which would have to push its engines to a dangerous point to overtake a Gorn ship.
They had transporter technology and possessed voice duplicator equipment at least good enough to fool a casual listener.
Gorn ground tactical units utilized powerful disruptors, capable of completely disintegrating targets at ranges of between 1,200 and 1,500 yards. Their sensor technology may have been less effective than that of the Federation, as they had some difficulty targeting a landing party during their ambush at Cestus III.
- ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"
- TOS: "Arena"
- TAS: "The Time Trap"
The cast list in the final draft script of "Arena" described the Gorn as "a large (six foot four) lizard-like creature, well-muscled, very strong." When the Gorn first appeared in the scripted events of the episode, the description of the alien read, "It is a lizard, who walks like a man… two-legged, two-armed, a thick glistening scaly hide, the size of a man with outstanding musculature… a wide mouth full of sharp teeth, a ridge of hard plate running down his back, even a prehensile, thick, strong tail. He is wearing a garment like a short robe [....] He does not wear shoes of any sort." Detailing other aspects of the Gorn's anatomy, the script later referred to the creature as having shoulder blades as well as eyes that at one point "glitter[ed]" and the script further stated, "He has two tiny earholes on his head, where a Human being's ears would be." The script also described the Gorn's voice, as heard through his Metron communicator, as "harsh, whistling, hissing" and deemed his strength to be comparable to that of a grizzly bear.
The Gorn's costume was designed by Wah Chang, who also created the M-113 creature (aka the "salt vampire"). (The Art of Star Trek, p. 34; et al.) The Gorn captain in "Arena" was intended to not be particularly agile, with the episode's script stating about the Gorn, "It moves slowly, awkwardly," and referring to the creature as "sluggish" and "lumbering". "He's big and awkward… That all fits the costume," said Bobby Clark, who wore the reptilian suit. "Because the costume was thick rubber, it had big muscles – you couldn't bend your arms. You couldn't walk fast because the feet would hold you back. You couldn't run, because you'd be walking like you had two swimming fins on your feet. And we were walking in brush a lot, so that was tough… [The producers have] said several times that, in their estimation, it was the slowest fight they'd ever seen. Well, yes, it was slow. If it was fast, it would've been the funniest fight they'd ever seen." (SFX, issue #200, p. 135) Michael Westmore attributed the slowness of the alien to the makeup design for what he termed "the lumbering Gorn." Westmore commented, "For all his mobility in Wah's costume and props, the Gorn, because of the heavy rubber appliances and the thick wet suit, is relatively slow and cumbersome […] even though the Gorn was a very advanced creation for his time." (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 43) Dan Curry agreed that the Gorn suit "was very bulky and very hard for the actor to move around in." (Inside the Mirror Episodes, ENT Season 4 DVD special features)
One day shortly before 14 May 2001, someone asked Archer actor Scott Bakula about the Gorn. "I hadn't thought about him in a long time, but oh, my gosh, it was just so terrible," said Bakula, remembering the relatively primitive special effects used to depict the alien in "Arena". (Star Trek: Communicator issue 135, p. 25)
The Gorn were originally to have been featured as the villains in the 2001 Star Trek: Enterprise first season episode "The Andorian Incident". One reason why their role in the story was replaced with the Andorians was that the Gorn, unlike the Andorians, were considered to be unable to talk. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 136, p. 37) Near the end of Enterprise's first season, staff writer Mike Sussman offered, "Before we decided to have the Andorians, we all talked about doing the Gorn [....] But when we looked at the show, it was decided by Rick [Berman] and Brannon [Braga] that it was pretty clear that Captain Kirk's run-in was the first time anyone had seen a Gorn. So, as much as we would love to use them, it doesn't fit with what's been established, so they're kind of off the table for us." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 11, pp. 48-49) Subsequently, Berman didn't, however, completely rule out the possibility of including the Gorn in Enterprise. On the contrary, he declared, "The Gorn are certainly a possibility." (Star Trek Monthly issue 101, p. 18) In fact, prior to the Gorn's appearance in "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", Enterprise's writing staff spent much time trying to find some means of including the Gorn into the series without violating continuity. ("In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" audio commentary, ENT Season 4 DVD) David A. Goodman was one production staffer who spent a lot of time developing a Gorn episode of Enterprise. (Star Trek Magazine issue 118, p. 15)
The mirror universe setting of the "In a Mirror, Darkly" two-parter finally allowed for the Gorn's inclusion in ENT. ("In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" audio commentary, ENT Season 4 DVD) "Yeah, we had to get a Gorn in there," noted Manny Coto. "I always wanted to do a Gorn." ("Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise, Part Two: Memorable Voyages", ENT Season 4 Blu-ray special features) On the other hand, Garfield Reeves-Stevens remembered, "The Gorn is the one [alien] they almost didn't have [in the 'In a Mirror, Darkly' two-parter] and we put on an impassioned plea to have it and Manny capitulated. Manny wondered if it was integral to the story and we mounted a defense for it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 37, No. 2, p. 69)
As described in the final draft script of "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", the Gorn were "giant reptiles" with three clawed fingers and "razor-sharp teeth." Slar was also scripted to be wearing "the Gorn equivalent of an EV undersuit." As for Gorn language, the script commented that, immediately before being shot by Archer, Slar was "cursing at Archer in his own tongue."
Initially, the production crew were perplexed as to how they would create the Gorn required for "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II". Michael Westmore explained, "With the Gorn… in the beginning, they didn't know what direction we were gonna go in. Are you going to put a man in a suit? And if we do, what modifications are you going to make, so it doesn't look like the original one […] which was very bulky and very hard for the actor to move around in? We played around with the idea, and we all came… Basically, all of us came to the same conclusion. If we want to do something that's new and that's still à la Gorn, it's going to have to be an optical – not a man in a suit." (Inside the Mirror Episodes, ENT Season 4 DVD special features) This method of creating the modernized Gorn would allow it to have much more freedom of movement than had been possible with its predecessor in the original series. (ENT Season 4 DVD text commentary)
A starting point for creating the ENT Gorn was concept artwork by Dan Curry. " We looked at the Gorn from the original series," he explained, "and then I did some sketches on how the Gorn might look more reptilian and made anatomical changes in the skin [....] After I did the sketches we turned that over to the makeup department under Mike Westmore's supervision and Earl Ellis sculpted a maquette of the Gorn." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 37, No. 2, p. 69) The maquette created by Ellis – a sculptor in Westmore's makeup department – measured eighteen inches and was made from clay. This potential Gorn design was further developed with input from producers Manny Coto, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. Westmore later echoed their advice, saying, "'Well, maybe it should be a little bit more of this. The shoulders should be a little bigger. Maybe the chest should be a little bigger. It looks too much like a Human. Can you extend the torso?'" As the final maquette was a very useful starting point for the creation of a digital model, the maquette was given to Dan Curry who, in turn, gave it to digital effects supervisor John Teska at Eden FX. Teska was then able to transform the design into a fully animated computer-generated Gorn. (Inside the Mirror Episodes, ENT Season 4 DVD special features)
Meanwhile, footage of Stunt Coordinator Vince Deadrick, Jr., playing the Gorn – dressed in a fitted black leotard outfit that had white grid marks on – and acting alongside Scott Bakula, was filmed. (Inside the Mirror Episodes, ENT Season 4 DVD special features) After the same shots were repeated without Deadrick playing the Gorn, the computer-generated version of the alien was added into the shots, replacing Deadrick's movements. (ENT Season 4 DVD audio commentary; Inside the Mirror Episodes, ENT Season 4 DVD special features)
For close-up shots of the Gorn's alien hands, a pair of Gorn gloves were especially designed by Michael Westmore's makeup effects department. (Inside the Mirror Episodes, ENT Season 4 DVD special features)
Ultimately, Manny Coto had mixed feelings about how successful the Gorn in "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" had been. "I wish our little Gorn had looked a little better than it did," he critiqued, "but I would have loved to have done more Gorn stuff in season five, which would have been fun to explore [....] I think we had talked about doing Mirror-Universe Gorns. Uh, you know, expand that whole thing." ("Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise, Part Two: Memorable Voyages", ENT Season 4 Blu-ray special features)
The Gorn were referenced in an ultimately omitted line of dialogue from the first draft script of Star Trek Nemesis, in which Picard, delivering his best man's speech at the wedding of Riker and Troi, recalled that Riker's bachelor party had included "three Andorians, two Tellarites and a Gorn."
A Gorn was among multiple individuals Barney Burman and his company, Proteus Make-up FX Team, created for Rura Penthe prison scenes in the film Star Trek, footage that was ultimately cut from the movie's final release. Including the Gorn was the idea of Sculptor Don Lanning, who had spent the past year and a half sculpting surgeries for television series Nip/Tuck. "I immediately wanted to revisit the Gorn from 'Arena'," he said, "because I had just spent a lot of time sculpting realistic stuff, so I was ready for some hard-core fantasy!" Hired onto the production in the role of key sculptor, Lanning was permitted his wish of furthering a redesign of the Gorn. This developed into one of two sculptures which he worked on whenever he got some down time, the other being the M-113 creature. "The Gorn was our best effort to revisit the original material," observed Lanning, "and I think it was very successful." Lanning was left with the impression that the Gorn was removed from the film because Director J.J. Abrams and others on the production staff wanted the upcoming film to concentrate on newer aliens. (Star Trek Magazine Special 2014, pp. 135 & 137)
The Star Fleet Battles and Federation Space board games, published by Task Force Games, indicated that a Gorn confederation formed when three separate but nearly identical sentient species, each having developed on a different planet (Gdhar I, Gdhar II, and Gdhar III, presumably in the Gdhar system) joined into a single political entity. The Gorn are a civilized and cultured race. The Star Fleet Battles game universe refers to an initial brief conflict between two hotheaded starship captains over what was then considered a misunderstanding (an indirect reference to the events in "Arena"). This conflict was resolved peacefully and led to the Gorn being a close ally of the Federation. It is said to be one of the few alliances in the SFU that is apparently based on mutual trust, respect, and desire for friendship as opposed to political convenience (see also Star Fleet Universe).
The graphic novel The Gorn Crisis is the story of Jean-Luc Picard's attempt to ally with the Gorn in the Dominion War despite a Gorn civil war. The novel Articles of the Federation followed up on this and stated that the Gorn fought in the Dominion War on the Federation's side. The crew of the USS Enterprise-E helped to convince them to join the fight against the Dominion. In A Singular Destiny, the Gorn joined the Typhon Pact (β) – an alliance including the Romulan Star Empire, the Breen Confederacy, the Tholian Assembly, the Tzenkethi, and the Kinshaya (β) which was set up in competition with the powers of the Khitomer Accords.
Sisko gets to meet the Gorn captain from "Arena" in the short story "Where I Fell Before My Enemy" that was published in the first Strange New Worlds anthology.
According to The Worlds of the Federation reference book, the Gorn homeworld is called Gornar, also known as Tau Lacertae IX.
In the Star Trek: The Original Series - Core Game Book, the Gorn homeworld was called Agornu.
In the twenty-fourth issue of the Star Trek: Ongoing comic series set in the alternate reality, the Gorn return following the events of the 2013 game. The Gorn featured were a more peaceful faction who separated from the Armada during the Milky Way invasion where they settled on the planet Parthenon 559, but came into conflict with a Federation mining team there. After learning the settlers attacked first and that the Gorn only attacked in self-defense, Kirk placed the planet under quarantine, deciding it was best to leave the Gorn alone.
According to the Star Trek Adventures - Beta Quadrant sourcebook, there are multiple species of Gorn. The Ssessekh are the Gorn seen in The Original Series and the Russth are the Gorn seen in Enterprise. Agornu, Garag, Gornar, Koreb, Shekkis and S'sgaron are all names for the Gorn homeworld used by different Gorn species.
The Gorn are playable races in several Star Trek video games. These include Star Trek: Starfleet Command, Star Trek: Tactical Assault, Star Trek: Klingon Academy, and Star Trek Online. The game manual for Star Trek: Bridge Commander mentions the Gorn were allied with the Dominion during the Dominion War.
In Star Trek: Klingon Academy, the Gorn are available as a playable race in Skirmish and Multiplayer modes. According to the game's manual, their government is referred to as the "Gorn Kingdom", rather than the more common Gorn Confederation. They are engaged in a mutual exchange agreement with the Federation, and as such their vessels are equipped with similar technologies, such as phasers and tractor beam weapons. Like the other non-campaign races in the game, the Gorn possess fewer ship classes than the Klingons or the Federation.
The Gorn are also a playable race, and allies of the Klingon Empire, in Star Trek Online. When designing a Gorn character, only the male gender is selectable. Gorn are also the enemies faced during many Federation missions, and some employ a rock-throwing attack reminiscent of the battle between Kirk and the Gorn captain in "Arena". Furthermore, in Star Trek Online, the Gorn engaged in late-24th century war against the Klingon Empire. The Klingons eventually prevailed – allowing the Gorn to maintain their rule over their space – but, in exchange, made allies. In this continuity, the insect-like eyes seen on the Gorn captain from "Arena" are explained as a set of eyepieces that give a tactical heads-up display. The tie-in novel The Needs of the Many reveals that the difference between the Gorn seen in The Original Series and Enterprise is part of a caste system; the silver-eyed, five-fingered Gorn are from a warrior caste, while the gold-eyed, three-fingered Gorn are members of a technological caste.
The Gorn are the villains of the 2013 Star Trek game set before Star Trek Into Darkness, featuring fifteen varieties of male and female Gorn ranging in size, intelligence, and color, designed by Neville Page.  They are depicted as originating from another galaxy which they have conquered by the time they reach the Milky Way Galaxy via a wormhole created by a terraforming device on New Vulcan. The Gorn utilize a mind controlling venom to turn enemies on each other, practice bio-enhancement, and just as in the film, McCoy mentions they are viviparous. He recounts Hikaru Sulu having stunned a pregnant female while on the surface of the Lymax planet, necessitating McCoy's medical intervention to deliver the babies.