There are lots of colorful aliens in the Star Trek universe, from the green-skinned Orions to the blue-skinned Andorians to the “yellow-and-spots” complexion of the Tallaxians of the Delta Quadrant. In the case of one of these colorful races, the word “colorful” could also be applied to their backstory. That race, the Bolians, are known for two things: having blue skin, and absolutely destroying human plumbing.
Pay close attention to some of the dialogue in Star Trek: Voyager and other Star Trek episodes from over the years, and you may notice there’s something unusual going on with the Bolians and their digestive system. If you’ve ever wondered what was up with all of those Bolian bathroom jokes, here’s what you need to know.
Bolian Bathroom Jokes Were Comic Relief on ‘Voyager’
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) May 31, 2018
There are a couple of canon references to the Bolian digestive system (and/or elimination system) throughout the course of Star Trek: Voyager. In the Voyager episode 11:59, Captain Janeway references first contact between the humans of Earth and the Bolians, noting that the two species had different plumbing needs. Or, as the Captain put it: “The Bolians express dismay at the low quality of human plumbing.”
In another episode, Bride of Chaotica, Voyager is trapped by spatial distortions, which puts extra strain on the ship’s resources. Neelix notes that the ship is down to four working lavatories for the entire crew of around 150 people, and comments that such a situation was particularly problematic with Bolians on board. While details have never been revealed of a typical Bolian bathroom routine, it appears likely that Bolian waste is more intense than human waste, or the waste of other humanoid species.
Bearing all that in mind, it’s no wonder Tom Paris gets flustered and yells at the replicator in Caretaker shortly after it offers him the option for “Bolian-style” tomato soup. If the theory that Bolians tend to eat (or simply prefer) highly acidic or corrosive foods, there’s a good chance Bolian-style tomato soup is higher in acid than the average Terran bowl of soup. In fact, Tuvok uses this very logic when he assumes that Neelix’s experimental orange juice with “enthraxic citrus peel” and “papalla seed extract” was appealing to Bolian crewmember Ensign Golwat, in the episode Flashback. As Tuvok puts it, “Ensign Golwat is Bolian. Her tongue has a cartilaginous lining. It would protect her against even the most corrosive acid.”
Bolian Bodily Fluids Are Probably Corrosive to Most Other Species
The show seems to indicate that Bolians have particularly demanding waste management needs, but fans are curious what the in-universe explanation would be for such a characteristic. The prevailing wisdom in the fandom appears to be that Bolians, on the whole, are built tougher than other humanoid species. They have special adaptations that allow them to enjoy foods that would not be palatable to humans, such as the cartilaginous tongue lining mentioned offhand in Voyager.
In another Voyager reference to the species, the EMH famously asked Dr. Zimmerman if he had enjoyed intimate relations with a Bolian, as part of his diagnostic questionnaire during the episode Life Line. Dr. Zimmerman was dying of “acute sub-cellular degradation” in that episode, which seems to indicate that one cause of such a disease could be intimate human-Bolian contact. Given that acid can destroy bodies, it’s not a stretch to imagine humans and Bolians having a hard time building a life together because of their vastly different biology.
According to their official species profile on StarTrek.com, not all Bolians are blue, and not all are bald. “Their skin tone ranges from a yellowish green tinge to a blue darker green tinge to medium blue,” according to the official source. The guide also notes that “very few Bolians serve in Starfleet,” though the reason for this is not clearly stated. Perhaps it has something to do with their particular dietary choices or waste removal requirements.
Bolians Have Held a Variety of Jobs in ‘Star Trek’
Den of Geek included the Bolians in their list of the best alien races on Star Trek, and noted that the species has appeared in a wide range of Federation roles over the years, including soldiers and manicurists. The first Bolian to appear on-screen was in the TNG episide Conspiracy, which featured a Bolian ambassador. Throughout the course of TNG, a variety of Bolian barbers were also seen on-screen.
Star Trek: Voyager featured Crewman Chell, a Bolian engineer who was a member of the Maquis before joining Voyager, as well as Ensign Golwat, most famous for liking Neelix’s special orange juice blend in the episode Flashback.
The Deep Space Nine episode Crossfire makes mention of a Bolian restaurant that serves partially decayed meat, which sounds off-putting to most humans. A Star Trek novel even featured a Bolian Starfleet ration, called “Eelshark salad“, that was said to be toxic to non-Bolians, further cementing the ideas that the Bolians can eat, enjoy, and digest foods that other species wouldn’t be able to stomach. Whether that is due to inherent toxicity in the Bolians themselves, or extraordinary protective membranes around their tongues and inner organs, is not known at this time. Sadly, there have not been enough Bolians in Star Trek to get as full of picture of their society and biology as we have for other races, like the Vulcans or the Klingons.