Culture

Star Trek's Gorn turns 50, and it's not easy being green

The big alien lumbered after Captain Kirk a whole half-century ago, and he's since become a sci-fi icon.

What do you get a big green reptilian alien for his 50th birthday? Better shop fast, because 50 years ago this week, on January 19, 1967, Star Trek fans first met the Gorn.

StarTrek.com is celebrating the Gorn's impending AARP membership (Luke Perry feels his pain) with a photo essay.

The lumbering green guy appeared in the original series' 18th episode, "Arena." The episode was based on a short story written by Frederic Brown and published in Astounding magazine back in 1944.

Happy birthday, Gorn. We suspect you're much older than 50, but that'll have to do.

StarTrek.com

In the memorable Star Trek version, Captain Kirk is transported to a rocky planet (aka California's alien-appearing Vasquez Rocks) to duke it out to the death with the Gorn captain. We won't give away the ending in case you're saving all the original episodes for a rainy day or something, but let's just say that there is not one thing about the Gorn that is not awesome.

There's the Gorn's broken-toothed costume, designed by legendary Wah Chang, who also designed Star Trek's tricorder and communicator. (The Gorn is possibly related to the Sleestak from "Land of the Lost," which gave many a Gen X kid serious nightmares.) He's rocking a multicolored tunic and multifaceted eyes, because it was the 1960s. It's like if a dinosaur could stroll around like a human and shopped exclusively out of the Penney's catalog.

The Gorn showed up front-and-center in a 1973 episode of "Star Trek: The Animated Series."

StarTrek.com

There are the Gorn's portrayers -- Ted Cassidy, best known as Lurch from "The Addams Family," voiced the character ("This is your opponent, Earthling. I have heard every word you have said") and stuntman Bobby Clark wore the costume.

And there are the Gorn's, um, mobility issues. "Regardless of what the critics say about the fight with Bill Shatner, I think the Gorn was pretty interesting," Clark told StarTrek.com in 2011. "I was supposed to be cumbersome, I was supposed to be awkward and I was supposed to be slow. That was the reptilian nature of the Gorn."

It's Kirk vs. the Gorn captain in the brawl for it all.

StarTrek.com

Don't forget the Gorn's longevity. He keeps showing up in Star Trek lore, from an almost-cute appearance in "Star Trek: The Animated Series" in 1973 to a more serious visit to "Star Trek: Enterprise" in 2005, not to mention book and video game appearances.

But maybe the Gorn's best recent starring role came when he and William Shatner revisited their fight-based friendship in a 2013 commercial for "Star Trek: The Video Game." When Shatner doesn't feel that his fellow captain has his back in the video game, they re-stage their old fight sequence, this time in a fully furnished living room. Guess what? Yeah, they're both too old for this. Be sure and stay tuned for Shatner's dig about "over-acting."

Happy birthday, Gorn captain, and all your Gorn buddies. Maybe you'll find a new tunic among your presents.

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