Tellarites have been a part of the Star Trek franchise almost since the beginning. This unique-looking race of aliens debuted in the original Star Trek of the 1960s, and they are an important part of the United Federation of Planets. Somewhat pig-like in appearance, Tellarites have been seen in nearly every Star Trek TV series, and even some of the films. Sometimes they are named characters with a lot of importance to the plot, while in other installments, the race tends to be used as background extras.
Sadly, little is known about this pig-like race of aliens, despite the fact that they’ve cropped up in multiple episodes and Star Trek films over the years. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about this alien race, we’ve compiled an essential guide of every critical fact a Star Trek fan should know about the Tellarites. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Tellarites Didn’t Appear Until the Second Season of ‘Star Trek’
In "JTB," Spock is all "we come to serve" in front of Sarek and Amanda until Kirk asks if he'll see his parents while they're at Vulcan.
— TrekCore.com 🖖 (@TrekCore) February 24, 2018
The Tellarite race has been a part of Star Trek since its earliest incarnation in the 1960s, though it took until the show’s second season for the race to appear. The first appearance of the Tellarites occurred during the second season episode Journey to Babel, which features a Tellarite ambassador on board the Enterprise, along with Kirk, Spock, and Spock’s ambassador father, Sarek.
Since their initial appearance, Tellarites have appeared in other Star Trek spinoffs, both live-action and animated. The Tellarites appear on both Star Trek: The Animated Series, and on the newer series Lower Decks. In the case of the latter series, a Tellarite is actually a captain of a Starfleet vessel. His name is Captain Durango, and he featured prominently in the Lower Decks episode Moist Vessel.
In the Star Trek universe, the Tellarites are known as an argumentative species, with Sarek noting in Journey to Babel that “Tellarites do not argue for a reason, they simply argue.” That trait was expanded upon in later Trek media, perhaps most notably in the game Star Trek Online, where the argumentative nature of the Tellarites plays into in-game character traits. Their “pig-headedness” gives them resistance to certain attacks.
2. Tellarites Were a Founding Member of the United Federation of Planets
The United Federation of Planets is an alliance of various planets, committed to peaceful communication and exploration. The Federation is at the core of the politics in nearly every Star Trek series. When the Federation was first founded, there were four member planets. The original founding members of the United Federation of Planets were Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar, home of the Tellarites.
Despite being around from the beginning, the Tellarites have changed their appearance a bit over the years, as is common among some alien races on Star Trek, such as as the Trill. Part of the change is simply down to advancements in makeup prosthetic technology, which has evolved by leaps and bounds since the 1960s. Ex Astra Scientia has an excellent visual breakdown of the minor and major changes to the Tellarite makeup look over the years.
Star Trek: Discovery makeup artist Glenn Hetrick told TrekMovie.com that he took some inspiration for the re-designed Tellarites from non-Trek sources.
“We went back to the original, and how can we try to get that ‘thing’, that feel back into this but not make it look like it did then,” Hetrick explained. “So I really looked at Stan Winston’s work on The Island of Doctor Moreau, now almost a lost film, the Val Kilmer version. So many of those anthropomorphic forms, animal heads, were so beautiful and that is where we took our inspiration.”
3. A Tellarite Once Kidnapped Captain Archer
The look of the Tellarite Captain Durango in the #StarTrekLowerDecks episode "Moist Vessel" is very much based on the Tellarites as they appeared in seasons 2-4 of Star Trek Enterprise. pic.twitter.com/0uACRMFmlF
— Jörg Hillebrand (@gaghyogi49) January 31, 2021
Tellarites played a pivotal role in the original 1960s Star Trek, but they also played an important role in Star Trek: Enterprise, the prequel series that aired after Star Trek, but technically takes place before the time of Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. Yes, technically there were multiple vessels that carried the name “Enterprise” in the world of Star Trek, which doesn’t help to prevent confusion.
In the case of Archer’s Enterprise, the NX-01 (not to be confused with Kirk’s Enterprise, or the NCC-1701-D Enterprise captained by Jean-Luc Picard), Archer and crew crossed paths with the Tellarites several times. The first was in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode Bounty, where a Tellarite named Skalaar kidnaps Captain Archer in the hopes of handing him over to the Klingons for a major bounty.
Later in the Enterprise series, Captain Archer and his crew are an important part of the proceedings to created the United Federation of Planets. In the episode These Are the Voyages…, the founding of the Federation is an important moment, albeit one that takes place years after the main events of Star Trek: Enterprise.
4. Female Tellarites Are Seen Less Often Than Their Male Counterparts
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) August 9, 2020
Star Trek can be…odd about gender, at times. While there are some species that defy binary gender expectations, such as the Vissians, other races adhere to a male/female binary. There are certain binary alien races fans see regularly on screen, but the characters from those races are almost always male. One such example are the Malon, a race frequently encountered by the Voyager crew in the Delta Quadrant. In all of the episodes where the Malon were featured on Voyager, not a single one featured a female Malon.
There are also the Jem’Hadar of DS9, but that race was genetically engineered by the Dominion as a race of super soldiers, which explains the lack of female Jem’Hadar on screen, to a certain extent. Yet another example are the Pakleds, a race mentioned in various Star Trek series over the years. Memory Alpha has a handy list of all the named Pakleds who have appeared on the franchise over the years, and not a single named Pakled character was female.
The Tellarites are cut from the same “all-male” cloth as these other Star Trek races, at least when it comes to named characters. Memory Alpha also has a database of all named Tellarite characters across all Star Trek media, and as with the Pakleds, not a single named character from that fictional race is a female character. That being said, an unnamed female Tellarite was seen on screen in the mirror universe. They do exist, but there has yet to be a female Tellarite in a speaking role on any Star Trek series.
5. The Original Tellarite Makeup Was Designed ‘Overnight’
Most Star Trek fans know that the original series was filmed on a shoestring budget. But not every fan knows just how rushed the character design was for some of the alien races, including the Tellarites. In an article in Cinefantastique, Vol. 17, No. 2, which has been digitally stored at Archive.org, fans got inside information about how makeup artist Fred Phillips created the iconic look of the Tellarite race.
“For the mix of intergalactic ambassadors gathered on the Enterprise for happy hour, Phillips was given virtually no advance notice and had to fashion the wolf/pig faced Tellarite ambassador and the white-haired annatennaed Andorian overnight,” the publication noted.
“I pulled it outa [sic] my hat,” Phillips told Cinefantastique, in reference to the iconic looks he created for Tellarite Ambassador Gav and Andorian Ambarassord Shras in the episode Journey to Babel. Who would have thought that, all these decades later, such a hastily-arranged prosthetic makeup would still be a source of endless fascination to Star Trek fans.