How Long Did it Take to Create ‘Star Trek’s’ Most Popular Aliens?

Makeup artist applying Klingon makeup for "Star Trek"

YouTube Makeup artist applying Klingon makeup for "Star Trek"

Throughout the years, “Star Trek” has introduced some amazing aliens to the world. Species like the Klingons, the Ferengi, and the Cardassians are familiar to people who don’t even watch the shows. These aliens have become a mainstay of popular culture.

Though the writers and producers behind the “Star Trek” series gave these species their characteristics and culture, the talented makeup artists are the ones that brought them to life. These incredible individuals spent literally hours applying prosthetics, wigs, and makeup to create the distinctive look of each alien on the shows.

Each “Star Trek” actor that played an alien spent some amount of time in the makeup chair. However, some were there significantly longer than others. Here’s how long it took to create each of “Star Trek’s” most popular aliens.

Klingons: Three to Four Hours

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Creating a Klingon took an immense amount of prosthetics and makeup. As Klingon actor, J.G. Hertzler told fans at Central PA Comic-Con in 2014, several prosthetics had to be glued directly onto his face before the makeup process even began. Hertzler’s costume also required two different wigs, which had to be attached to his head and the prosthetics.

Once all the accessories were on, the makeup could finally be applied. Several layers of different makeup went onto his face and neck to blend in the prosthetics and give him a believable Klingon visage. Hertzler said the entire process took about four hours.

Michael Dorn, who played the most prominent Klingon in the “Star Trek” universe, Lieutenant Worf, has said that his makeup took a little less time than Hertzler’s. Dorn spent about three hours in the makeup chair each day.

Ferengi: Three Hours

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During an interview with Regis and Kathy Lee in 1993, Armin Shimerman revealed all the secrets behind the Ferengi makeup, including how long he typically sat in the makeup chair.

Shimerman was one of the original Ferengi introduced in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He was one of the first actors to test out the Ferengi makeup, and he helped the makeup artists tweak the process. Shimerman went on to play Quark, the Ferengi bartender in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

Shimerman told Regis and Lee that the entire makeup process took about three hours. However, in an interview with Deseret News that same year, Shimerman revealed that the makeup used to take much longer than that. Though he didn’t specify exactly how long, he expressed his relief that they’d refined the process so it “only” took a few hours.

Cardassians: Two and a Half Hours

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The Cardassians are one of the most distinctive species in the Trekverse. While many of “Star Trek’s” aliens looked fairly human from the head down, the Cardassian’s alien features extended all the way down their necks and shoulders.

In an interview with Trekyards in 2017, makeup designer Michael Westmore explained how king cobras inspired the look of the Cardassians. He also talked about how frequent Trek actor Marc Alaimo’s unique features influenced the makeup design. Westmore was fascinated by Alaimo’s unusually long neck. So, he decided to add makeup and prosthetics all the way down his neck and shoulders. After makeup tests, this design became the basis for all the Cardassians.

According to Memory Alpha, when the Cardassians first started appearing in “The Next Generation,” the makeup process took about three and a half hours. When the makeup got even more complex for “Deep Space Nine,” it took about four hours from start to finish.

The process took less and less time as the series went on. The makeup team finally got the Cardassian makeup down to two and a half hours, though that usually meant using two artists for each actor.

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