The Motion Picture was the first time Star Trek fans got a look at some of the more exotic alien races that are supposed to be in the Federation. Low budgets on The Original Series had meant that its aliens looked an awful lot like humans.
Responsibility for designing these creatures fell to costume designer Robert Fletcher and makeup artist Fred Phillips, both veterans of The Original Series.
With Gene Roddenberry’s permission, Fletcher not only named the species but provided brief background for each one. After The Motion Picture was released, he shared his notes with Fantastic Films and Starlog magazines in early 1980. (Links point to scanned version of the interviews by My Star Trek Scrapbook.)
Two Aaamazzarites can be seen at Starfleet Headquarters in the beginning of the movie.
Fletcher described them as “Therbians from planet Aaamazzara.” It is unclear if he intended Therbians to be a species with multiple worlds. A planet Therbia was later mentioned in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Chase”.
They generate their own clothing from out of own mouths, like bees making hives. They manufacture everything they use from their own chemistry, from inside their own body, from clothing to furniture.
Their costumes were modeled in clay and cast in sheets of foam rubber.
Arcturians appear in various scenes, including at Starfleet Headquarters and when Kirk briefs the Enterprise crew in the recreation room.
Fletcher designed them to be identical, because they are clones. The only way to tell Arcturians apart is by their uniforms.
Hailing from an enormous planet, the Arcturians are a militaristic race who provide the Federation with infantry.
The costume worn by the Arcturian not serving in Starfleet was made of leather and linen. Fletcher originally wanted to use woven metal tubes for rope decorations.
It was to be silver-plated into a bandolier and also used for decorations on the shoulders and elbows denoting rank and regiment. It didn’t quite work out, so you’ll see very little of it in the film, toned down quite a bit.
Three Betelgeusian ambassadors are walking around Starfleet Headquarters when Kirk arrives and one member of their species, a scientist, can be seen in the briefing scene.
They are humanoid in appearance, but they have eagle and leopard blood.
Derived in evolution from giant leopard-like birds, have claw and bone structure like condor, but walk upright like leopards.
The Betelgeusian ambassador was dressed in an elaborate costume with real gold and silver wrapped around silk thread. His two deputies were dressed in simpler, green-gold robes.
The Kazarites are a shepherd people. On their home planet, they raise great herds of strange beasts — a combination of camels and goats. But don’t let their simple appearance fool you. According to Fletcher, the Kazarites have the power of telekinesis.
Two Kazarites are seen in the movie, both at Starfleet Headquarters.
Fletcher imagined they were on Earth to take care of the planet’s animals. “Really twenty-third-century ecologists.”
They typically carry small pellets with food around their necks.
A Megarite appears at Starfleet Headquarters the moment Kirk’s shuttle arrives.
They are humanoid in appearance, but according to Fletcher their body has a similarity to rhino hide. They are a gentle people, “who communicate in a lyric type of poetry which their four lips alone in the galaxy are able to produce.” Their musical poetry is treasured by other races, but because the Megarites live off marine species found only on their world, few except diplomats ever travel.
The Megarites build almost everything from jade, which their planet has in abundance. Most of their clothes are made from sea animals.
In the real world, Fletcher used indigo blue wool and cast the lower sleeves in plastic to represent graphite steel.
The Rhaandarites were featured semi-prominently. Billy Van Zandt played a Rhaandarite bridge officer and a pair of them appear at Starfleet Headquarters.
According to Fletcher, they are a child-like race that doesn’t reach maturity until the age of 150. They continue to grow physically until they reach 200.
There is little visual difference between the sexes. The women have a spot on their forehead, made of aluminum and black resin.
The Rhaandarites are “considered the country bumpkins of outer space,” which is why their native costume appears rather ragtag.
The Rigellians are the descendants of saber-tooth turtles. A lord and his servant appear at Starfleet Headquarters.
According to Fletcher, the lords (who are taller and wear a helmet) have no real power, except they lay their species’ eggs. It are the servants who control them.
The Rigellians were meant to be unisex.
Their costume, made of molded fiberglass, is not supposed to be armor but rather a manufactured exoskeleton, “because the poor turtles have lost their shells.”
Cedric Taporco appeared far in the background of the recreation deck scene as a Saurian. Fortunately at least one close-up photograph exists, giving us a better look at this lizard people.
According to Fletcher, they have four hearts and can breathe a number of gasses, which makes them very useful as explorers. They have learned to communicate in Earth tongue. Their own vocal language is difficult for others to master.
A Shamin priest can be seen at Starfleet Headquarters. According to Fletcher, they hail from a primitive world known as O’Ryan’s Planet, discovered by Paddy O’Ryan in the twenty-second century. Their culture is similar to that of Native Americans.
The priest’s costume was originally designed for Spock. “That didn’t work out, so the Shamin got it.” Fletcher resisted putting the character entirely in rags, given that he also wore a lot of jewelry, “so this is the compromise we arrived at.”
Zaranites don’t breathe oxygen but fluorine gas, so they have to wear breathing masks on Earth. In addition, they wear a backpack that generates fluorine.
Their costumes were fashioned out of old suedes found at Paramount, left over from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1923).
Three Zaranites can be seen in the recreation room when Kirk briefs his crew on their mission.
Their jewelry, horn-like in appearance, was supposedly made of the horns of the most cultivated animal on their planet, the Berbbotjahaa. In reality it was made from a combination of fabric and liquid plastic. According to Fletcher, the top part (necklace) is a family totem and the lower part a personal designation.
The Zaranite breathing masks were reused in Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI, when similar-looking aliens appear in the Federation Council chamber and at the Khitomer Conference. Star Trek IV Sourcebook Update (1986) describes these aliens as Zaranites, but according to Teresa E. Victor, one of the actors who played them, they were called “Aammazarans” — not to be confused with the spider-like Aaamazzarites.
Sources for this story include: J. Blake Mitchell and James Ferguson, “Interview with Bob Fletcher: Costume Designer, Part One: The Star Trek Costumes,” Fantastic Films 14 (February 1980) 16-19 and Karen E. Willson, “Bob Fletcher: Costume Designer, Outfitting the Crew of the ‘Enterprise’,” Starlog 33 (April 1980) 48-53, 71