Listening to the Universe: The El-Aurians
Hailing from a star system beyond Federation space, the El-Aurians are a humanoid species known for their “listening” ability. After their homeworld was destroyed by the Borg, the few survivors became nomads, scattered throughout the galaxy.
A Race from a Faraway Star
The planets in the system around the star El-Auria were home to the El-Aurian race. Their outward appearance is much like that of humans, but they age much more slowly. The lifespan of an El-Aurian covers many centuries, with some recorded as living past 700 human years.
El-Aurians are known as “Listeners.” They are highly perceptive, possibly empathic. Some El-Aurians appear to have an awareness of the fluctuations of time and space. Because of this, as they’ve traveled through the galaxy, El-Aurians have often served as counselors, bartenders, and peacekeepers, with a few using their talents to ill effect as conmen.
Circa 2265, the El-Aurian system came under Borg attack. Though they resisted, most of the El-Aurians were assimilated or killed, with fatalities numbering in the millions. Their cities were destroyed, and the handful of survivors were forced to flee.
In 2293, a group of 415 refugees headed for Earth hailed the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-B for help after encountering a mysterious ribbon of energy, known as the Nexus. During the rescue mission, the Nexus destroyed their transports, but the Enterprise was able to beam 47 El-Aurians to safety. In the process, the Enterprise lost its former captain, James. T. Kirk.
One of the El-Aurians rescued by the Enterprise was a female named Guinan, who was around 500 Earth years old at the time. She had spent her earlier adult years traveling and had been away from her homeworld at the time of the Borg attack. Guinan even spent some time on Earth in the 1890s, hiding out from her father, living among the humans. She also encountered a Q in the 2160s and began an adversarial relationship with him.
Guinan was aboard the S.S. Lakul when it was caught up in the Nexus in 2293. While the ship was being torn apart, Guinan and the other refugees were trapped in the ribbon. Inside the Nexus, time is not linear, and everything one desires can become real. Though she was rescued, an echo of Guinan remained in the Nexus. Following the incident, she developed what one might call a “sixth sense.” She was able to perceive different timeline disparities and detect vortices.
In 2365, she was invited by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to come aboard the Enterprise as the civilian hostess of the Ten-Forward lounge. Guinan once said their relationship went “beyond friendship and beyond family.” She spent many years on the Enterprise, listening to crew, providing advice, synthehol, and alcohol. She was forced to face – and reconcile – her hatred of the Borg when Hugh, a Borg cut off from the collective, joined the Enterprise in 2368.
Guinan was said to have been married 23 times, mother to several children, and an expert marksman.
Return to the Nexus
In 2371, another survivor of the Nexus disaster, Dr. Tolian Soran, was rescued again by the Enterprise, this time, the NCC-1701-D, when the Amargosa Observatory was attacked. Soran had been working with trilithium to develop an explosive strong enough to destroy the sun in the Veridian system. This would change the course of the Nexus, enabling him to reach it from the planet Veridian III. He was desperate to return to recreate a life with the family he lost when the Borg attacked the El-Aurian system.
On Veridian III, Soran battled Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard and succeeded in blowing up the sun. Picard entered the Nexus, where he met an echo of Guinan, who guided him to Captain James T. Kirk, who had been trapped in the Nexus since the 2293 incident. Because of the way time worked in the Nexus, the captains were able to exit to a time before Picard entered – and before Soran destroyed the sun. In the battle that followed, Soran was defeated, resulting in his death and the actual death of James T. Kirk.
Around the same time Soran was enacting his plan to return to the Nexus, another El-Aurian, Martus Mazur, opened a club on space station Deep Space 9. A con man, he rigged games and swindled his customers. He was arrested by the station’s Constable Odo.
The other surviving El-Aurians led quiet lives, rarely making history.
Behind the Scenes
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry named Guinan after vaudeville actress Texas Guinan, who ran a speakeasy in New York City during Prohibition.
Whoopi Goldberg has said that seeing Uhura on the Bridge as a child in the ‘60s showed her that she could be anything, and she instantly became a lifelong fan. She lobbied for a role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the producers didn’t believe she was serious. Finally, she personally contacted Gene Roddenberry. He rewrote the part of Guinan for her, and she joined the cast in season two.
When Goldberg made her first convention appearance at Star Trek Las Vegas in 2016, Guinan’s unique wardrobe came up. Goldberg referred to her outfits as “tents” and told the audience that her trademark large hats were designed to resemble the ship’s saucer section, prompting the other cast members to call her “shuttle head.”
Guinan’s relationship history with Captain Picard has always been a mystery, but at the convention Goldberg shed some light on it. She said Roddenberry wanted Guinan to be very old and perhaps an ancestor of another character: "I always assumed that Picard was one of my great-great-great-great-great grandkids.”
Guinan almost had another maternal relationship. In the DS9 episode, “Rivals,” producer Michael Piller originally planned for Martus Mazur to be her son and for Guinan to appear in the episode. Goldberg wasn’t available, however, and the script was changed. He remained an El-Aurian, but all references to Guinan were removed. Piller had additional plans for Martus. He considered making him a recurring character to spar with Quark.
Goldberg left the series in season six, with Star Trek Generations coming out a year later in 1994. Guinan made one more, very brief appearance at the wedding of Will Riker and Deanna Troi in the 2002 film Star Trek Nemesis.
Robin Berla Meyers is a NYC-based writer and TV producer specializing in pop and geek culture. Her work has been seen all over the world, on things like BBC America, AMC, and The Verge. Her mom introduced her to Trek when she was 3 years old, and she never stopped watching.