Syfy’s ‘Face Off’ Goes Boldly into the Klingon controversy

In Season 9, Episode 6, Syfy’s reality show, “Face Off” is boldly going where no cast has gone before–to the 1960s-1970s type of TV science fiction and into the Klingon conundrum of evolution. Tune in tonight (9/8c) for the episode “Extraterrestrial Enterprise” with special Star Trek guest stars Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn and advice from Star Trek makeup designers.

For those unfamiliar with the Sy Fy series, this is a reality Tv show on the Syfy cable network (also viewable online) which has prosthetic makeup artists competing to create the best looks for several challenges for potential science fiction and horror movies. The show is hosted by McKenzie Westmore who is best known for her role as Sheridan Crane in the NBC TV soap opera “Passions” and is a member of the Westmore makeup artist family. Her father, Michael Westmore also serves as a mentor.

This season, the judges are Glenn Hetrick (“Buffy,” “Angel,” “X-Files,” and “Babylong 5”) and Ve Neill (“Star Trek: The Movie” and “Galaxy Quest” as well as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”) and Neville Page (“Avatar,” “TRON” and “Planet of the Apes”). Hetrick is the owner and CEO of Optic Nerve Studios (“Crossing Jordan,” “The Prestige,” “Heroes” and “CSI: NY”)  Neill has won three Oscars, two Emmys and four Saturn Awards.

Season 9 began on July 28 with 16 contestant and will have a total of 14 episodes. Typically, there is a winner and two runners up.The contestants range in age from the twenties to their forties, with the youngest 22 to the oldest 43. This season, the contestants are competing for a spiffy new economy car, a visit to Alcone makeup facilities and $100,000. At the beginning of Episode 6, there were 11 contestants.

This episode, Enterprise aliens, includes a Foundation Challenge in which the 11 contestants are supposed to create a “retro alien” in the mold of the science fiction TV series of the 1960s and 1970s, including “Lost in Space” (1965-1968),  “Buck Rogers” (1979-1981) and, of course, “Star Trek” (1966-1969)


Each person gets to chose backdrop to inspire their alien. The backdrops are:

  1. Monument Valley desert type of landscape with an orange sun
  2. Glacial cool colored landscape
  3. Purple surfaced land with a green river

Their mentor Michael Westmore judges the retro aliens, because he’s had 18 years with Star Trek, from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to “Deep Space 9” to “Voyager” and “Enterprise” was well as 4 Star Trek movies.  He reminds the contestants that in the 1960s, the makeup artists didn’t have time to do a lot of appliance work so they used patterns and stencils. He tells them to “be imaginative, but paint in broad strokes.” The winner earns immunity for the Spotlight Challenge.

No spoilers here about who the winner is. All of the contestants are then asked to evolve the design to a more modern aesthetic as per the alien in Star Trek that has evolved the most: the Klingons. From the swarthy, bearded flat-foreheaded beings who looks suspiciously like Fu Manchu family members to the football head guy and to the new iteration in the reboot, somehow Klingons have managed to evolve quickly and bumpily while humans and Vulcans have remained relatively the same (despite some space-time continuum anomalies that are never discussed in this episode.

The contestants have three days to make, mold and then paint and finish. Jonathan Frakes appears with Michael Westmore during the clay build up of the faces and makes suggestions about the designs. The contestants then make whatever changes they have time to do before making a mold. The molds must be cleaned and then the material molded and set and finished before applying to their model. From the paint application on real models, they then leave the Face Off work room and go back stage for last-minute finishing touches. Not everything goes smoothly and not all of the contestants finish on time.


Tune in tonight to check out what the contestants come up for possible entries into a Star Trek universe and what the judges say about the finished products. Michael Dorn who played Worf on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” appears as a guest judge.

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