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Star Trek race
Star Trek costume - Romulan.jpg
A mannequin of a Romulan, as they appeared in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation
Home worldRomulus

The Romulans (/ˈrɒmjʊlənz, -jə-/) are a extraterrestrial race in the American science fiction franchise Star Trek. They first appeared in the series Star Trek (1966–1969). They have appeared in most subsequent Star Trek releases, including The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise and Picard. They have also appeared in the Star Trek feature films Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and Star Trek (2009). They also appear in various other spin-off media, including books, comics, toys and games.

Writer Paul Schneider created the Romulans for the 1966 Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror". As a basis, he considered what the ancient Roman Empire might have looked like had it developed to the point of spaceflight. Physically, the Romulans were presented as humanoid, but the show's make-up department gave them pointed ears to distinguish them from humans. In the series, which is set in the 23rd century, the Romulans were speculated as having split from another alien species, the Vulcans, in the distant past. In contrast to the Vulcans, who were presented as peaceful and logic-oriented, the Romulans were depicted as militaristic, having founded an interstellar empire. The Romulans were used as antagonists for the series' protagonists, the starship USS Enterprise, her crew, and their fictional government, the United Federation of Planets.

In 1987, the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation—set in the 24th century—again used the Romulans as antagonists of the Federation. The show's designers gave the Romulans new costumes and added a V-shaped ridge on the foreheads of most Romulan characters, though with indications that Romulans without the ridges also existed. In the series Star Trek: Enterprise, Romulans without ridges are depicted as passing for Vulcans (who do not have ridges either). The 2009 film Star Trek depicted the Romulan homeworld, Romulus, being destroyed by a supernova in the year 2387. This film featured Romulans without the head ridges. The impact of Romulus' destruction forms a plot-theme in the series Star Trek: Picard. Romulans in that series have included those with and without ridges, and a line about northern Romulans may have been intended to refer to these two groups.


Original development[edit]

The Romulans were devised for the episode "Balance of Terror". In 2014, "Balance of Terror" was rated the best episode in the franchise by Io9.[1]

The Romulans were reused for the second-season episode "The Deadly Years" and the third-season episode "The Enterprise Incident".

Reintroduction in the 1980s and 1990s[edit]

After the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, the show's writers introduced the Romulans in the final episode of the first season, "The Neutral Zone", which aired in the U.S. in May 1988.[2] The episode was written by Maurice Hurley, who later acknowledged rushing it, putting together a script in a day and a half.[2] In the episode, which is set in the year 2364, the Starfleet ship USS Enterprise-D—whose crew are the series' main protagonists—responds to the disappearance of Federation colonies along the Neutral Zone, fearing that it reflects growing Romulan activity in the region. Investigating, the Enterprise crew encounter a Romulan spaceship; it is stated that this is the first encounter between the two peoples for 53 years. The Romulans reveal that they have had colonies destroyed on their side of the border too, and the two species agree to share information on the issue in future.[3] In later episodes it is revealed that these colonies were destroyed by a previously unknown species, the Borg, whom the show's writers had devised as a new alien antagonist following dissatisfaction with their previous attempt, the Ferengi.[4] Initial thoughts by the script-writers had proposed a multi-episode storyline in which the Federation and Romulan governments would co-operate to fight the Borg; ultimately only certain elements of this idea entered "The Neutral Zone" and the Borg would be introduced not in the first season, but in the second-season episode "Q Who".[4]

For The Next Generation, a new crest was designed for the Romulan Empire, featuring a bird of prey clutching the twin planets of Romulus and Remus.[4]

New costumes were designed for the actors playing Romulans, created by the show's costume designer William Theiss.[5] The newly designed Romulan ship that appeared in "The Neutral Zone" was built as a miniature model by Greg Jein.[4] The ship featured a newly designed Romulan crest, featuring a stylised bird of prey clutching two planets, Romulus and Remus, in its claws.[4] Later in the series, this ship type would be explicitly referred to as a "warbird".[4] In 1989, AMT released a plastic kit of the vessel, alongside other kits for a Ferengi ship and a Klingon bird of prey vessel.[4]

The Romulans were re-used for the second-season episode "Contagion", written by Steve Gerber and Beth Woods and first aired in March 1989. In this episode, the Enterprise-D entered the Neutral Zone to answer a distress call and ends up in conflict with a Romulan vessel, with both spaceships being disabled by an alien computer virus.[6] "Contagion" was the first episode in the Star Trek franchise in which the Romulan ship was given a name, in this case the Haakona.[7] In the third-season episode "The Enemy", written by David Kemper and Michael Piller and first screened in November 1989, the Enterprise-D is depicted rescuing a crashed Romulan ship.[8] The episode introduced the Romulan character Tomalak, played by Andreas Katsulas, who would reappear in three further Next Generation episodes.[8] It also further established the idea of a significant enmity between the Romulans and the Klingons, with the Enterprise's Klingon officer, Worf (Michael Dorn), refusing to donate blood to save the life of an injured Romulan; the scriptwriters had debated whether to include this, with Dorn initially reticent.[8]

Three episodes later, in "The Defector", written by Ronald D. Moore and first screened in January 1990, a Romulan admiral is presented as seeking to defect to the Federation.[9] The episode is the first in the franchise to include images of Romulus itself and introduced the design of a Romulan scout vessel.[9] "The Defector" also includes a reference to the Battle of Cheron, an incident in the 22nd century Earth-Romulan War that was previously mentioned in "Balance of Terror".[9]

Deep Space Nine and Voyager[edit]

For "The Search", the opening two-part episode of the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a Romulan link was introduced. The episode, which was written by Ira Steven Behr, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, and Ronald D. Moore, featured the introduction of a new Starfleet ship, the USS Defiant; the scriptwriters included the idea that it had been equipped with a cloaking device by the Romulans in return for intelligence that the Federation gathered on another alien power, the Dominion. A Romulan character, T'Rul (Martha Hackett), was included to oversee the device's use aboard the Defiant.[10] The show's writers had initially planned on including T'Rul as a permanent fixture on the show but decided that she did not offer enough potential for new storylines.[11]

The Romulans were reused later that season in "Visionary", where they are presented as attempting to destroy the Deep Space Nine space station as part of their plan to collapse the nearby wormhole and thus prevent a Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, the region of space where both the Federation and Romulans reside.[12] Three episodes later, the follow-on episodes "Improbable Cause" and "The Die Is Cast" again featured the Romulans, in this case portraying a joint mission by the Romulan Tal Shiar and Cardassian Obsidian Order to fatally cripple the Dominion by eradicating its leaders, the Founders.[13] For these episodes, new Tal Shiar outfits were designed; Moore related that this was partly his decision, for he "hated, underline hated, the Romulan costumes [introduced in the first season of The Next Generation]. Big shoulder pads, the quilting, I just loathed it."[5] Costume designer Robert Blackman noted that his team created eight new Romulan uniforms, using the same fabric as the old ones but "dyed it down slightly, and we made them much sleeker and a little more menacing".[5]

Reboot: 2009–present[edit]

For the 2009 Star Trek reboot film, the design of the Romulans was significantly altered; although keeping the pointed ears, the V-shaped forehead ridges were removed and various tattoos were added

After Star Trek: Nemesis proved a financial failure and Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled, the franchise's executive producer Rick Berman and screenwriter Erik Jendresen began developing a new film entitled Star Trek: The Beginning, which was to be set during the 22nd century Earth–Romulan War. The project never materialised.[14] Instead, the decision was made to reboot the series by creating a film using the characters of the original Star Trek series but played by new actors. Putting together a script for the new film, the director J. J. Abrams stated that he wanted Romulans to be the antagonists because they had featured less than the Klingons in the original Star Trek series.[15] The film's writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, thought that it would feel backward to demonize the Klingons as villains again after they had been presented heroically in later Star Trek series; they also wanted to use Spock as a central character in the film and believed that the Romulan presence would continue Spock's story from his last chronological appearance in "Unification".[16]

In the reboot film, titled Star Trek and released in 2009, the planet Romulus is destroyed by a supernova in the year 2387. A Romulan mining ship, the Narada, survives and travels back in time to the 23rd century; its commander, Nero (Eric Bana), is committed to destroying the planet Vulcan to punish Spock for failing to save Romulus. The actors playing Romulans in this film wore three prosthetics applied to their ears and foreheads, while Bana had a fourth prosthetic for the bitemark on his ear that extends to the back of his character's head.[17] The film's Romulans lacked the 'V'-shaped ridges on the foreheads, which had been present in all of their depictions outside the original series. Neville Page wanted to honor that by having Nero's crew ritually scar themselves too, forming keloids reminiscent of the 'V'-ridges. It was abandoned as they did not pursue the idea enough.[18]

Picard's reaction to the destruction of Romulus is the backstory and central premise of Star Trek: Picard. The series begins with Picard in self-imposed exile at his French vineyard following his resignation in protest to Starfleet's handling of Romulans and androids. Picard has two live-in Romulans at his estate.[19] At least two groups of Romulans survived: one group formed the Romulan Free State, while the other group was evacuated to the planet of Vashti.

Other media[edit]

The Romulans have been the focus of a number of non-canon books, and have appeared or been mentioned in other non-canon media. Among their key appearances have been:

  • Diane Duane's miniseries Star Trek: Rihannsu, consisting to-date of five books written between 1984 and 2006, is regarded as one of deepest works focusing on the Romulans.[20][21]
  • In Dalla Van Hise's Killing Time (1985), the Romulans use time travel to alter history, which results in James T. Kirk becoming an ensign and Spock a starship captain.
  • A prototype Romulan warbird is the focus of Simon Hawke's novel The Romulan Prize (1993).
  • Robert Greenberger's The Romulan Stratagem (1995) involves Jean-Luc Picard and his crew competing with the Romulan officer Sela to convince a planet to join their respective states.
  • In Diane Carey's Red Sector (1999), Spock and Leonard McCoy try to cure a virus that has infected the Romulan royal family.
  • Josepha Sherman and Susan M. Schwartz's Vulcan's Heart (1999) involved Spock traveling to Romulus to aid the Romulan Commander from "The Enterprise Incident".
  • Captain's Blood (2003), one of many collaborative works between Star Trek lead William Shatner and husband-and-wife team Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, focused on the involvement of Kirk in preventing a Romulan civil war in the aftermath of Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • The Tomed Incident is the focus of David R. George III's novel Serpents Among the Ruins (2003), which features the crew of the Enterprise-B.
  • Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul is a trilogy written by Sherman and Shwartz between 2004 and 2007; set in the aftermath of the Dominion War, it focuses on members of Kirk's original crew becoming involved in a war between the Romulans and a fellow Vulcan offshoot, the Watraii.
  • In Star Trek: Titan premier Taking Wing (2005), the Romulan Star Empire collapses into civil war in the wake of Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • The Star Trek: Titan novel The Red King (2005) opens with the disappearance of a Romulan fleet and features Donatra, the Romulan commander featured in Star Trek: Nemesis, working alongside William Riker and his crew.
  • In the novel Kobayashi Maru (2008) by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, Admiral Valdore attempts once again to cause conflict in the region approximately one year after the incident involving the Aenar, this time using a "telecapture" system, designed to take over and control enemy ships. Using three Klingon vessels, Valdore attacks Coalition of Planets allies hoping to weaken or destroy two enemies of the Romulan Star Empire by provoking a war. Captain Archer is eventually able to provide evidence of this Romulan deception. This is followed by yet another unsuccessful attempt to break apart the alliance which involves using telecaptured Vulcan cruisers against Proxima Centauri (a recent coalition member). In the book, the event that finally sparks the Coalition's declaration of war against the Romulans is the destruction of the Earth freighter Kobayashi Maru.
  • The sequel to the novel Kobayashi Maru is titled The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing by Michael A. Martin. It is set between July 22, 2155 and July 22, 2156, and details the war between the Coalition of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire. The story focuses on the Romulan attempts at taking over the Coalition whilst the Vulcans who are aware they are vulnerable to the telecapture weapon withdraw from the fight early. The other Coalition members withdraw one by one in the face of continued losses, leaving it up to Earth Starfleet to stop the Romulan menace.
  • In Star Trek Online, set in the year 2409, a Romulan surivior "D'Tan" assisted in building a New Romulus after the destruction of the original homeworld twenty-two years prior. As part of rebuilding a new Romulan Republic, he became leader of the Romulan Unification Movement in an attempt to continue Ambassador Spock's work of bringing the Vulcan and Romulan people together.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (October 2, 2014). "The Top 100 Star Trek Episodes Of All Time!". io9. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Nemecek 1995, pp. 59–60.
  3. ^ Nemecek 1995, p. 59.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Nemecek 1995, p. 60.
  5. ^ a b c Erdmann & Block 2000, p. 227.
  6. ^ Nemecek 1995, pp. 79-80.
  7. ^ Nemecek 1995, p. 80.
  8. ^ a b c Nemecek 1995, p. 107.
  9. ^ a b c Nemecek 1995, p. 110.
  10. ^ Erdmann & Block 2000, pp. 160–161.
  11. ^ Erdmann & Block 2000, p. 163.
  12. ^ Erdmann & Block 2000, pp. 216–217.
  13. ^ Erdmann & Block 2000, pp. 224–225, 231–232.
  14. ^ Hughes, David (July 15, 2008). The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made (Revised ed.). Titan Books. pp. 35, 37, 44–46. ISBN 978-1-84576-755-6.
  15. ^ Helen O'Hara (November 14, 2008). "Klingon Subplot Revealed". Empire. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  16. ^ Anthony Pascale (April 30, 2009). "Star Trek Writers Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci". Retrieved May 1, 2009.
  17. ^ Joe Nazzaro (April 6, 2009). "FX artists create new aesthetic for 'Star Trek' franchise". Makeup Mag. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 6, 2009.
  18. ^ Bill Desowitz (May 15, 2009). "Creature Designer Neville Page Talks Star Trek". Animation World Network. Retrieved May 17, 2009.
  19. ^ Couch, Aaron; Goldberg, Lesley (January 8, 2019). "'Star Trek' Boss: Picard Leads "Radically Altered" Life in CBS All Access Series". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 9, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  20. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (2010-02-11). "What Did Diane Duane Think Of Star Trek: Nemesis?". io9. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  21. ^ Gunther, Dan (2011-12-30). "The Empty Chair". Retrieved 2019-01-05.


Further reading[edit]

  • Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages
  • Star Trek: The Magazine vol.3, #10 (February 2003) and #11 (March 2003)
  • Star Trek Enterprise: The Good That Men Do
  • Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru
  • Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War - Beneath the Raptor's Wing

External links[edit]