This week’s episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds finds the crew facing off against those villainous aliens known as the “Gorn” who, for franchise continuity reasons, we never actually get to see (spoiler alert: they look like dudes in off-brand Godzilla costumes wearing sequined leotards). The Gorn, of course, have a long history in the world of Star Trek; first appearing in the iconic 1967 episode “Arena” – known to more casual fans as “the one where Kirk battles a slow-moving rubber lizard monster with paper mache rocks.”

But this classic episode nearly didn’t make it to air. “Arena” was the first script turned in by Star Trek legend Gene Coon, who would go on to create the Klingons, and much of what people love about the franchise in general. While the show was desperately “running out of scripts” (a problem that also led to the canonization of Captain Pike) Coon agreed to “lock himself in a room” over the weekend and “not emerge” until a new script was completed. 

Unfortunately, his results were soon flagged by the show’s researcher for its similarities to a 1944 pulp science fiction short story by author Fredric Brown. While the “enemy” of the story was a giant sentient alien sphere (not an unconvincing lizard-man), the set-up was still pretty much the same. Coon was “horrified” to discover that he’d inadvertently ripped off a story that he’d read when he was younger, but since the show was hard-up for ideas, they couldn’t afford to lose this one. So Star Trek’s producers contacted Brown, claiming that they wanted to adapt “Arena” for the show (while not revealing that they’d already done so by accident). 

Luckily the author was “thrilled” to have his work adapted for Star Trek and happily sold them the story. This is why, more than 50 years later, the Gorn are still showing up in TV shows … and, to a lesser extent, awkward video game commercials.

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Top Image: Paramount 

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