Star Trek makeup artist Michael Westmore did a Q&A with the University of California about his role in creating many of the aliens in the iconic franchise, starting with The Next Generation. The Cardassians, Bajorans, Borg, Jem’Hadar, and Species 8472; he’s responsible for just about all of them.
Many of the aliens on Star Trek are classified as humanoid, meaning they look and act a lot like humans, thought that’s mostly because the TV series needed to use human actors IRL. But on the series, it’s because many aliens share a common humanoid ancestor from about four billion years ago. However, if the makeup inspiration is any indication, the humanoid ancestors may not have strictly been human.
Westmore said he used animal physiology as inspiration when he created the aliens, like snakes and turtles. One of the first resources he turned to for his designs was a dinosaur book, which he ended up using to not only create the Jem’Hadar, but also the iconic foreheads that grace many a modern Klingon’s face.
“I had discovered a book of dinosaurs that showed the skeletons,” Westmore said. “It showed the vertebrae in all these different dinosaurs, whether it was a T. rex or a brontosaurus, and I literally used the dinosaur vertebrae as my research for the different foreheads.” Does this mean Klingons and Jem’Hadar are possibly related to dinosaurs, even distantly? Maybe.
Dinosaurs who become intelligent bipedal aliens aren’t an unfamiliar concept in the Star Trek universe, or something restricted to Earth. The Voth from Voyager are a saurian species, which was originally taken to mean a specific type of reptilian alien. However, in the episode “Distant Origin,” it turns out that they’re descended from the Hadrosaurid, a Cretaceous Period dinosaur.
Any of us who saw Jurassic Park know that dinosaurs likely evolved into birds, not reptiles, so that could mean many reptilian-looking aliens (like the Jem’Hadar) might be more closely related to dinosaurs.
Of course, in the end it’s all about appearances. Westmore designed the aliens to look like dinosaurs and other animals because those were easy frames of reference. But on in the reality of the series itself, it proves that dinosaurs were more than something in a Godzilla film. Because even in Star Trek, life finds a way.