“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” screenwriter Davy Lopez explains a major change in the canon associated with the Bugle. Star Trek: The Original Series introduced an alien race known as the Bugle in the classic episode “Arena”, in which Captain Kirk fought one of them on a barren planet on the orders of a powerful alien race called the Metrons. However, since then, almost nothing has been heard about the lizard-like appearance of horns in the Trek franchise (at least from the live performances).
But that Bugler flaw in “Star Trek” has now been largely fixed with the arrival of the new Paramount+ series “Strange New Worlds.” Although the mysterious race has not yet been physically shown in the series, their presence was immediately felt through the backstory of Lieutenant La’an Nunien-Singh, who, as it turned out, survived the Gorn POW camp. Then the Horn was even more actively featured in the episode of the 1st season of “Strange New Worlds” “Memento Mori”, in which hostile aliens attack and damage the Enterprise. It was also revealed to Spock when he teamed up with La’an and shared with her memories of how he was imprisoned by them. since he doesn’t seem to know anything about them in the TOS episode “Arena” (which of course takes place after the events of SNW). Indeed, Kirk and company’s meeting with Gorn in this episode is recorded in the Track’s lore as the official first contact between the Federation and the lizard-like race, but now it seems that this was not the first contact.
This seeming discrepancy is, of course, another example of how the new “Star Trek” played fast and loose with the long-established history of the franchise, sometimes to the chagrin of longtime fans. But in a conversation with Inverse, writer Lopez gave some insight into why he thought it was normal to play with horns and Federation knowledge about them. He said:
Kirk’s idea of Horns is different from what Metrons tell him. The Bugles he meets in the “Arena” do not meet his expectations from them. It was a personal choice that I made in my own headcanon that allowed Me to enjoy writing. This view creates more opportunities for the continuation of stories about the Forge… Maybe Kirk has never seen them, he may even be one of those people who still doubt these stories, or maybe even he has seen them. and they don’t look alike. I think the safest thing to say is that we have no idea what the bugles really are.”
Lopez’s remarks here seem to almost suggest that the Bugles are a race of werewolves or possess some other attribute that makes them incredibly difficult to identify. It is, of course, a matter of opinion whether his explanation really solves the seemingly serious problem of Kirk, who knows nothing about the species at the beginning of the “Arena”. Indeed, it is possible that Kirk himself had never encountered Gorn before fighting him to the death on Cestus III. But the Federation, and especially Spock, must have known about them, as Strange New Worlds has now clearly shown.
But then again, canonical inconsistencies like this are obviously becoming commonplace in Star Trek, and are indeed inevitable as new writers take on the task of creating stories taking place in the Trek universe. The important point with the Bugle is that this is something that casual “Star Trek” fans have heard about before and might be interested in seeing what makes them worthy of being pulled out of mothballs, even if some rework is required to fix the situation. Now it will be interesting to see what new things are being revealed about the bugles — only to seemingly be forgotten – as Star Trek: Strange New Worlds weaves them into the fabric of the Trek universe.