Inhabitants of the Galaxy
Welcome to a Star Trek 101 article.
With forty years history including 31 seasons of television, thirteen film, and innumerable novels & comic books, Star Trek can appear intimidating for newcomers.
This series is being written for those interested in the roleplaying game Star Trek Adventures, potentially for those who have friends interesting in playing the game, but have no idea what “The Star Trek” is.
This article is the third entry in the series designed to serve as an introduction the world of Star Trek, with intent of making the setting less daunting.
In the first part of this series I discussed the history of the TV show and the universe. In the second part I discussed the galaxy itself and the technology found there. Part 4 suggests a few episodes for viewing. In this third part I will briefly describe some of the assorted alien life forms found in the galaxy.
Of the hundred-plus members of the Federation, only a small handful have received noteworthy representation in the series. While not a wholly inclusive list, here are a few common species.
A founding member of the Federation. Andorians have antenna on their head, vibrant blue skin, and white hair. Presented as ancient antagonists of the Vulcans, Andorians are emotional and passionate. Their homeword is the frozen moon of a large gas giant.
Notable Member: Commander Shran from Enterprise
Almost identical in appearance to Humans, the distinguishing feature of Betazoids is that their eyes have black irises. Betazoids are telepathic and capable of reading the minds of most humanoids, enabling them to hold entire mental conversations. Because of their telepathy, Betazoid culture embraces honesty and eschews white lies.
Notable Member: Counselor Troi from The Next Generation
Blue skinned, Bolians are bald with a ridge running up their face and along the top of their head. Bolians are friendly and sociable, enjoying working as part of a team. Bolians are a common background race, with most examples being extras and minor characters.
An old ally of Humans and Vulcans, Denobulans are the standard “bumpy forehead aliens“, which are so common to Star Trek. They have a large circular mass in the middle of their forehead and bumpy ridges down the sides of their faces. Being a late addition to Trek, Denobulans lack a distinct “hook” and are really a collection of odd quirks designed to be comedically “alien”. Their culture is communal, owing their planet having a single continent, limiting personal space. As such, Denobulans find solitude uncomfortable.
Notable Member: Doctor Phlox from Enterprise
A founding member of the Federation. Tellarites are vaguely porsine, especially in earlier appearances. Short, gruff, argumentative, and sporting pronounced beards, Tellarites are basically space dwarves. Tellarites are known for starting conversations with a complaint or, if lacking something to complain about, they just begin with an insult.
Trills resemble humans but had rows of spots (like a leopard’s) running down their bodies from temple to ankle. Initially a “bumpy headed alien”, the appearance of Trills was altered when they species became featured species on Deep Space Nine (for reasons). The Trill have a symbiotic relationship with another native of their planet (known as a Trill symbiote). Symbiotes live centuries and during their lives can be joined to numerous hosts, sharing the memories of past hosts with their current one. The stabilizing effect of the symbiotes made Trill society peaceful, and they were a planet of intellectuals and not warriors.
Notable Member: Lieutenant Dax from Deep Space Nine
A founding member of the Federation. Vulcans look a little like space elves, with pointy ears, angular eyebrows, and dressing in long flowing robes. Vulcans suppress their emotions and act based on pure logic, avoiding displays of humour or attachment. Hailing from the desert planet Vulcan, the species has physical strength three times that of a human and many have minor telepathic abilities.
Notable Member: Commander Spock from The Original Series, Lieutenant Tuvok from Voyager
Bordering the Federation are a number of other alien empires of varying degrees of hostility.
Introduced early in The Next Generation, the cybernetic Borg famously claim “resistance is futile”. A mixture of humanoid beings and mechanical implants, the Borg have a hive mind and think as one being, lacking all emotion or interests beyond serving the Collective. (They’re effectively robo space zombies.) They are primarily interested in seizing the technology of other species to add to their own, but assimilate species (making them into Borg) when necessary. Borg ships are massive cubes of metal wiring and pipes, many times larger than the biggest Federation vessel.
Notable Member: Seven of Nine from Voyager
Initially an alien-of-the week, the Cardassians are grey skinned with bumpy ridges along their their necks and around their eyes. Almost comically, they have a spoon-like crest in the middle of their forehead. The Cardassian Union is a smaller empire, but has a sizable military. Cardassians lack the simple “hook” of other adversaries, being somewhat rounded as a people, albeit a military oligarchy. When the Cardassians were first introduced halfway through The Next Generation, it was established they had been at war with the Federation until very recently.
The Cardassians regularly appeared in Deep Space Nine, being one of the primary antagonists of that series.
Notable Member: Garak and Gul Dukat from Deep Space Nine
The Dominion is an empire from the far side of the galaxy (the Gamma Quadrant in the northwest corner of the Milky Way). The Dominion is a dark reflection of the Federation: subjecting worlds and forcing them to join their empire, but employing the strength of its member. Worlds that accept rule (or join voluntarily) are well treated and given power, while those who rebel suffer great reprisals. The military of the Dominion is the Jem’Hadar, who are scaley reptilian warriors, genetically bred to be unquestionably loyal soldiers. The bureaucrats of the Dominion are the Vorta, who were also genetically bred to be administrators, diplomats, and scientists.
The longtime enemies of humanity and the Federation is the Klingon Empire. Klingons are typically portrayed as an species of honourable warriors fond of bladed weaponry and a fixation on dying in battle. Klingons have a large empire that shares a lengthy border with the Federation.
The appearance of Klingons has changed over the years. Originally, they were actors in blackface with goatees, but they gained a bony ridged forehead and longer hair for the movies (although most Klingons were still white actors painted brown). Klingons retained their movie look for the subsequent series but were redesigned for Discovery, gaining a elongated head and losing their hair.
While common antagonists through The Original Series and various movies, the Klingon Empire and Federation are allies in The Next Generation. The Klingons have not joined the Federation, however, and the two empires are politically distinct, but peacefully cooperate.
Notable Member: Lieutenant Worf from The Next Generation
The Romulan Star Empire is dominated an offshoot of the Vulcans that rejected a growing pacifistic movement and fled offworld; while Romulans and Vulcans look alike, Romulans are not logical but instead suspicious and manipulative.
As their name suggests, Romulans are inspired by imperial Rome (space romans) with the empire led by a senate while centurions serve on their ships. Romulans are known for their cloaking devices, which render their ships invisible (technology they shared with the Klingons).
In addition to the major powers listed above, there are a number of other species and small factions in the galaxy.
The people of Bajor are deeply spiritual, and recovering from a violent occupation from the Cardassians. Bajorans look human save the bridge of their nose has a series of raised ridges. The series Deep Space Nine takes place by the planet of Bajor. While not a member of the Federation, the planet is affiliated with the Federation, who are helping it recover.
Notable Member: Ensign Ro from The Next Generation and Major Kira from Deep Space Nine.
Mercantile and greedy, Ferengi are shorter than humans with bulbous heads and massive ears. The Ferengi are driven entirely by a desire for wealth and generating profit. The Ferengi Alliance is run more like a corporation than a nation. Generally, Ferengi businesses are laissez-faire, and what few regulatory agencies exist in the Alliance run on bribery and graft.
Notable Member: Quark from Deep Space Nine.
Resembling green skinned humans, officially Orions are neutral in galactic politics. Orions continue to use slave labour, capturing people from ships that pass by their space and placing them on a slave auction. Orions society is run by females, who use their pheromones to influence and control the larger males.