Star Trek: Strange New Worlds did not use CGI when creating their version of the Gorn
The Gorn seen in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are not CGI, but elaborate puppets and, in adult form, a giant, partially animatronic suit. Yes, digital effects tools are used, but not to build and animate the creatures. Rather, they are used to paint out the on-set puppeteers.
If you watched The Ready Room during Season 1 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, you already knew about the puppetry used to bring the hatchling and youngling Gorn to life. But when an adult Gorn showed up in an EV suit in the Season 2 finale, you might have thought it was computer generated.
Instead, the Stan Winston-trained pros at Legacy Effects built a massive, highly detailed suit that puts the rubber outfit that constituted the original Gorn in the 1967 Star Trek episode “Arena” to shame.
The suit that brings the Gorn into Star Trek’s current era starts with stunt performer Warren Scherer, who has previously worked on Star Trek: Discovery, The Last of Us, X-Men: Apocalypse, and more.
At 6″7.5′ tall, he has the strength and frame to carry the giant suit—by some estimates weighing up to 100 pounds—which was designed and built specifically to fit his body. Structural “cheats” are used to hide Scherer’s human anatomy and make the Gorn look even larger and more alien.
This includes an elaborate head rig, elements of which (like jaw and lip movements and intricately detailed eyes) are remotely controlled by off-camera puppeteers.
This is covered by a custom-built Gorn EV suit helmet—a piece of equipment never seen before in Star Trek.
Add an elaborate neck that allows the performer to see and the contraption is ready to fit over Scherer’s head.
The resulting character is even more tall and imposing than the performer inside, making this Gorn the most intimidating yet. (It’s on a platform in the shot below, but still, it’s big.)
Then, because this is Star Trek, of course the entire scene takes place in zero gravity. So Scherer, in this heavy, highly detailed Gorn suit, has to be connected to wires and hung from a rig at the top of the set.
Reimagining the Gorn for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has taken the work of dozens of artists, designers, sculptors, painters, riggers, puppeteers, engineers, and craftspeople, and the results are terrifying.
We’ll never think of a “guy in a lizard suit” quite the same way again. The Gorn are just one example of the care and artistry that have gone into making Star Trek: Strange New Worlds one of the most amazing, fresh, and innovative Star Trek series ever.
As the “big bad” of the past two seasons, the reptilian creatures have wreaked bloody havoc on the crew of the Enterprise and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Season 3.
You can stream Seasons 1 and 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds right now on Paramount+.