Trek Aliens Could Be Better

Any person who knows me and has ever had to endure my thoughts about Star Trek knows one thing for certain: PDR wishes the aliens in Star Trek were better. I am, in general, a fan of science fiction that presents us with aliens that are weird and imaginative. Classic sci-fi novels have given me a taste of alien minds and I just crave more forever. I feel like if we can expand our minds to encompass the weirdest and most unearthly viewpoints, then understanding our fellow humans gets a little easier. That’s one of the coolest things about sci-fi, I think. Star Trek is the most prominent ongoing source of cool sci-fi ideas that I ingest, so I want the best aliens to be in that franchise. They’re not though.

Star Wars, for example, had aliens that really impressed me as a child. Growing up I very much enjoyed a documentary called Star Wars Classic Creatures: Return Of The Jedi. I’d go do far as to say it was my favourite Star Wars movie. A lot of it is about the design of the aliens in Star Wars and how they brought them to life with puppets and stuff. When I came to be a Star Trek fan around aged ten, one of the first things I did was sketch little alien puppets that I would put on the show if I could. Even then I recognized the “rubber forehead aliens” the franchise was famous for as a weak spot.

But why do they look like humans? Well, the budget is one of the first and foremost reasons. It’s hard to make the actors look like aliens without paying for it. And also, they want those actors to be able to emote and stuff to get things across to the audience. Of course, they’ve given an in-universe explanation for why the aliens in Star Trek are basically just humans, and believe me I’ll get to that garbage in a future Star Trek thoughts post.

As for the desire to make it easy for audiences to connect to the characters? Well, I call that laziness at this point. We’ve got Vulcans and Klingons and Bajorans and literally a hundred other aliens that already can do that. Use one of those if you need to. Any time they create a new race of aliens that looks like humans they are simply being too lazy to work that little bit harder and make the connection to the audience through better writing or acting skill. I’d go so far as to say that if you put that effort in to reach the audience, the connection would actually be stronger.

It’s hard to argue with the budgetary concerns. Star Trek is a show being made to profit some jerks and if those jerks don’t get their profit they stop making Star Trek, with or without cool aliens. But make-up technology has surely gotten cheaper over the years. CGI as well. And puppets are an almost untapped potential for aliens in Star Trek. Also, at this point either one or two ongoing Star Trek shows are animated (the fate of Prodigy is up in the air as I schedule this post). The shows have done a little bit of cool alien design, but they both feel like they are sometimes limiting themselves to humanoid aliens because that feels more like “Star Trek”. I consider Lower Decks especially guilty of this. This animated show has given us aliens that looks just like humans but are orange or have bumps on their head or whatever. Look at the aliens on Rick and Morty, a show that I believe shares some creative DNA with Lower Decks, and those aliens are ALIEN. Lower Decks could do that. But, apart from the occasional exception, they don’t.

The quality of Star Trek’s aliens has definitely improved since I was a child, I don’t deny it. But it also feels like a failure every time they take the lazy way out. And I will complain about it until that changes. I’ve kind of rambled this time, but I can promise now, more of my Star Trek thoughts will be about this, though more focused.

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