Do you know what a Trill looks like? Are you sure? The appearance of this alien race from Star Trek has changed significantly over the years. The Trill race was not featured on Star Trek: The Original Series, although a Trill was eventually retconned into the TOS timeline, thanks to the infamous Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribble-ations.
These fictional aliens were developed later in the franchise’s history, first appearing on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and later becoming more popular when one of the leads on Deep Space Nine was made a Trill. Over time, the appearance of this alien race has changed, and completely different makeup techniques have been used by Star Trek makeup artists. Here’s what we know about how and when the appearance of the Trill race changed on Star Trek.
The Original Trill on ‘TNG’ Had Romulan-Like Foreheads
OTD, the #StarTrek #TNG episode "The Host," which introduced the Trill species (although some Trill facts, like the transporter being dangerous, changed when Jadzia Dax came along in #DS9). The episode's working title was was "E Pluribus Unum," Latin for "out of many, one." pic.twitter.com/9y6jAPx0IJ
— TrekMovie.com (@TrekMovie) May 13, 2020
Trill were not a regular fixture of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which may be why so many fans forget that the Trill originally looked quite different. The very first appearance of a Trill was on the TNG episode The Host, where Riker briefly becomes a host in order to save the life of a Trill symbiont, which had previously lived within Trill Ambassador Odan. Both Odan and Kareel, the female trill who became host to the symbiont after the ambassador’s death, were portrayed with forehead appliances, and no spots along the temples or down the neck and body, which would later become the trademark appearance of the Trill during the DS9 era.
TNG-era Trills have a forehead that’s not unlike a Romulan, although even that comparison is a tricky one to make, given that the Romulans themselves looked less “alien” in TOS. Looper reports that, during the filming of the TOS Romulan-heavy episode Balance of Terror, only two of the Romulans on-screen even had prosthetic ears. Forehead appliances became more common in TNG-era Romulan episodes, and continue to be seen on modern Trek shows like Picard.
One clear distinction between TNG-era Trills and Romulans of the same era comes down to ear shape. While both races (at the time) had “blocky” foreheads, the Trills didn’t appear to have Romulan pointed ears. That being said, both the male and female actor who played Trill hosts to the symbiont in The Host had long hair, which was styled to cover their ears. If they had pointed ears in their original appearance, it was hard to see under all that big, early 90s hair.
The Appearance of the Trill Was Changed for ‘Deep Space Nine’
In an interview with StarTrek.com, actress Terry Farrell reminsced about the early makeup tests for her Trill character on Deep Space Nine. Farrell was cast by the time production had begun, but the makeup department took a while to settle on a look for Trills on DS9. The final look used for Jadzia Dax, with heavy spots along the temples, neck, and down the body, is the same general look of Trills on the more recent series like Star Trek: Discovery.
“If I remember, pretty much everything else had been shot and we had to shoot my stuff because I was the last person hired. Then they changed my makeup,” Farrell recounted. “I guess I had a forehead and they didn’t like how that looked. So Michael Westmore came up with the spots and took out the forehead. So we had to re-shoot.”
Westmore is a legend in the makeup community, and among Trekkers. He did makeup on multiple Star Trek shows over the years, including TNG, DS9, Voyager, and even Enterprise. Westmore has also appeared as a mentor on the SyFy reality competition series Face Off. In 2014, Westmore and Farrell reunited onstage for a fan event they called “Dax 359“. The event took its name from the number of times Westmore had applied the Trill spots to Farrell over the years, with the live makeup demo the duo arranged in public marking the 359th time Westmore had done Farrell’s signature look. Some early makeup test shots of Farrell in both the old Trill forehead, and with a different style of facial spots, can be seen on Ex Astris Scientia.
As for in-universe explanations of why Trills look so different over time, one fan theory (allegedly supported by Terry Farrell herself) argues that the “forehead Trills” and “spotty Trills” come from the same planet, but from different regions on that planet. Other fans believe that the spots were chosen for Farrell in order to show off her natural beauty, which would have been otherwise hidden behind a heavy forehead prosthetic.
Other ‘Trek’ Aliens Have Changed Over Time, Too
“I can’t watch it because of how the Klingons look different” pic.twitter.com/W3uvGghKMR
— Swear Trek (@swear_trek) January 27, 2018
As previously mentioned, both the Trill and the Romulans have undergone appearance changes on Star Trek over the years. But the alien race that’s seen the largest change and biggest variety over the franchise’s history has to be the Klingons. In fact, their appearance changed so radically, it’s even been mentioned in-universe, by members of Starfleet.
The fan-favorite episode Trials and Tribble-ations features DS9 characters who are flung back to Kirk’s Enterprise in the TOS era. As Star Trek fans know, TOS-era Klingons lacked the prominent forehead ridges seen in later series, including on Worf in TNG. When Worf himself traveled back in time in this episode, it prompted the following exchange with his crewmates:
Doctor Bashir: [about the appearance of early Klingons] Those are Klingons?
Odo: Mister Worf?
Worf: They are Klingons, and it is a long story.
O’Brien: What happened? Some kind genetic engineering?
Doctor Bashir: A viral mutation?
Worf: We do not discuss it with outsiders.
For years, fans were tantalized with the inherent mystery of this exchange. It wasn’t until years later, in the Enterprise episode Affliction, that fans finally got an answer to the question of “Why don’t TOS Klingons have forehead ridges?” In that episode, Dr. Phlox is tasked with fighting a Klingon plague, a disease that has the side effect of diminishing the appearance of cranial ridges. However, an alternative theory has also been proposed, which argues that the TOS-era Klingons might have been the descendants of Ash Tyler.
The appearance of the Klingons was also radically changed post-Enterprise, both on the silver screen in Star Trek Into Darkness, and on the small screen in Star Trek: Discovery. In the case of the latter, the producers made an interesting choice for the Klingons to have no hair. According to co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman, “in a time of war, the Klingons all shave their body hair. It’s a version of saying ‘We are committing to war’ and that was the logic for them not having hair.”
As for the cranial ridges in the Discovery era, show insiders have stated that they wanted to explore why the Klingons had the ridges in the first place, which lead to some interesting costuming and makeup choices. According to a feature on the Klingons in USA Today, show insiders “imagined biological reasons for the Klingons’ appearance, with bony, protruding foreheads — especially among males — explained as the result of head-butting; and bald heads, arrayed with ridges and a long line of python-like sensory pits running from forehead down the back of the head, thought of as one large sensory organ.”
With that in mind, the baldness of the Klingons in the first season of Discovery makes more sense, as hair might have interfered with their sensory perception, and that would have been more dangerous than normal during a time of war.