Aliens were some of the otherworldly things that first got me addicted to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whenever the opening credits came blasting onto the screen with Patrick Stewart intoning, "space: the final frontier," my first thought immediately jumped to what kind of extraterrestrials would exist on the upcoming episode. Would they be hairy? Fanged? Shape-shifting? Amorphous? Blue?
TNG ventured into many human issues, and while many denizens of other planets played a vital role in defining these issues through alien metaphor, there was a lighter side to the next generation of aliens crawling across TV screens from the late ‘80s through the early-mid ‘90s. Some of them could morph into monsters if you so much as blinked. Some of them had strange requirements, like being contained in a tank of boiling ooze with absolutely no furniture anywhere. And—admit it—some of them were just downright weird.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the show that took us on a journey through uncharted space, and did so with big hair and shoulder pads, boldly go into these 11 alien TNG species that range from simply strange to nightmare fuel.
Don’t get on the wrong side of an Allasomorph, or you may find yourself encountering something resembling Bigfoot, like an unfortunate Wesley Crusher did when he found out exactly what his teenage crush Salia was hiding under her human face. Of course, that was only because her Allasomorph chaperone caught them making out, and morphed into something else red-eyed and extremely hairy. Apparently they can make themselves pass for a horror movie extra by warping their molecular structure. The irony is that the true form of these shapeshifters is an incandescent, vaguely humanoid shape more like a fairy than an ogre.
There is no Star Trek and Star Wars mashup in the known universe, but if there was, these fish-heads would be distant cousins of the Mon Calamari. Except they’re even weirder than Admiral Ackbar and his squid-like kin (see what I did there?) because their aversion to spaceflight has them arriving in a self-induced catatonic state in Season 2 Episode 19, "Manhunt." No wonder Lwaxana Troi remarked that the last time she saw something like that, it was being served on a plate. The amphibious assassins smuggled ultritium in under their reflective robes to vaporize an entire Federation conference, so Lwaxana was actually that close to ending up on a plate herself.
At the very edge of what you would call humanoid are Benzites, with their blue complexions and bizarrely formed faces. They look kind of like moving rocks, because they first emerged from geostructures that were pretty much a mirror image. While we can’t fathom living without oxygen, Benzites have to wear a respirator on a simulated Earth environment like the Enterprise. Whatever is in that respirator is probably just as likely to kill us as oxygen and nitrogen are to choke them. Enterprise to scientists forever scouring other planets for life as we know it: you may be missing out on potential poison-breathing creatures.
If all the cinematic creatures of the '80s were somehow part of the same mythical genome, then these would be the scarier version of the Fieries in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. Even things that can unscrew their heads seem downright tame compared to fire-skinned, fire-haired alien warriors who were totally fine living on a planet that had long since erupted into the chaos of anarchy. That’s what happens when a species goes anti-government. They can’t survive for more than several days without food, but that’s also no problem because they can just devour any humanoid in sight—so don’t let them go hungry on the Enterprise.
Don’t let this sparkly snowflake fool you. This enormous electromagnetic collector can travel at warp speed and devour anything alive crawling around on a starship—or planet. Meaning, if this thing ever got to Earth, our already depleted natural resources would be at about zero after it was done with us. We wouldn’t even have so much as a microbe left. As if that isn’t enough, it leaves a toxic cocktail of bitrious matter and hydrocarbons, lanthanides and nitrates in its wake to make sure nothing is going to start moving again anytime soon. The only way to make your ship or planet impenetrable is rock lined with kelbonite and fistrium. Good luck finding that.
Just because every Trek fan knows and loves (more like despises) the Ferengi, that doesn’t make them any less bizarre (or treacherous). This big-eared race that spawned on TNG already has the kind of face that could get mistaken for a permanent Halloween mask on Earth, but what makes them especially creepy is their craving for the sensual ear massage otherwise known as oo-mox. That’s right, an ear fetish. An unfortunate Lwaxana Troi finds that out when she goes too far with a Ferengi in ménage à troi. The things you do to escape being someone’s captive Jezebel on an alien ship.
These amorphous life-forms float around in a neon rainbow ooze that absolutely has to be maintained at 302 degrees Fahrenheit, and the only way for them to stay aboard the Enterprise long enough to attend (if you could call it that) the Legaran Conference is in an enormous bubbling vat of the stuff that is supposed to smell like death. These things may be impossible to actually see, but are apparently so sensitive to protocol that they can’t stand being around furniture or decor of any kind, so everything on the floor and the walls must go if the 93 years Sarek spent getting the meeting together are going to be worth it.
Never mind that Nausicaans could pass for a zombified Slash or Alice Cooper, with facial ridges that look more like rotting flesh than anything alive, but the scare-meter is only amped by their horrible tempers. It doesn’t take rocket science from the future to guess that they were often used as bouncers or bodyguards. Who would even want to try getting past one of these things? The moment one opens its mouth and flashes those tusk-like teeth, you’d probably figure you’re better off beaming to another bar on another planet instead of shuffling around for your ID. They also talk like they permanently work at a haunted house.
Just because it looks humanoid, doesn’t mean it’s human. Satarrans can hijack the appearance of anyone (and wipe the victim’s memory) for their own ends, which happened to be using the Enterprise to launch an all-out war against the Lysians. Just imagine watching a Starfleet doppelganger give out potentially lethal orders while you stand there dazed, having no idea how you ever ended up on a Galaxy-class starship. At least you can zap through to the ugliness beneath with your phaser, and it is ugly—their true form isn’t too different from an Egyptian mummy that’s been mummifying for the last 3,000 years.
You might find it strange and unsettling enough to be trapped on a planet with no way to beam back onto your starship, but make that twice as unsettling when you encounter a dinosaur-faced alien who speaks in cryptic phrases and is armed with a knife. You actually have to understand that the language of this species is pretty much like reciting The Odyssey to explain an overseas trip—as in, they communicate with nothing but lines from their own myths and legends. I lost count of how many times Dathon had to repeat Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra and As the walls fell before Picard finally got it.
Conehead aliens are nothing new; but conehead aliens that sparkle are an entirely different species. Picard only thinks he can enjoy his vacation on pleasure planet Risa in Captain’s Holiday when he gets an eyeful of these things. Vorgons have an oddly shimmery terracotta complexion streaked with red and blue and some sort of undefined sparkly scales on either side of their heads. Whether those scales actually have any function besides an instant “I woke up like this” glitz factor is unknown. Seashells inspired TNG makeup artists to bring these coneheads into being using a planet’s worth of latex and iridescent paint for that youthful glow.