Romulans and the Depiction of Green Blood

The appearance of Romulans has been limited by their being portrayed by human actors (in blatant Federation propaganda, no less), but something I have long been obsessed with is their green blood and how you would go about portraying a person with green blood. A lot of the redness in human skin is due to the redness of human blood, and areas that are more heavily vascularized like mucous membranes (ex: lips, genitals, etc) tend to be a lot redder than the surrounding areas in fairer skinned humans. Some of the red-ish color in human skin can be due to pheomelanin, but this is generally more of an orange color (like the color of freckles) than what you get from the blood visible in the more highly vascularized areas. Darker skinned humans still generally have a reddish undercast to their skin, because of their red blood, but darker skin is less translucent because of the role of melanin and other pigments in protecting the skin from UV so the blood is less visible. But even the darkest humans have red tongues and gums. Of course, then, very fair skinned Romulans would have a lot of green in their cheeks, green lips, green nipples, etc. And even the darkest skinned Romulans with lots of pigmentation with not a lot of visible vascularization would have green tongues and gums. A portrayal like this is what I consider the “ideal” or “true” portrayal of a Romulan, and the standard against which I personally judge all makeup on human actors portraying Romulans.

In TOS, they do put green makeup on the Romulans (and Vulcans); mostly eyeshadow (for some reason), and I think they generally tried to cast more naturally olive-complexioned humans so they wouldn’t require as much makeup to cover any redness in their faces. No redness visible in the cheeks, they seemed careful to avoid that. Curiously, they never opted to cover the redness in the actors’ lips in TOS, so the lips look pretty incongruous. But, given a lot of the limitations in the makeup technology of the time, it does a decent job at portraying the *idea* of a green-blooded people.

In TNG, they definitely got a lot greener in many respects, and again they seemed to preferentially cast more olive-complexioned people so they wouldn’t have as much redness to cover up. But curiously, red lipstick was often applied to the actors, which seems simply absurd to me. If Romulans (and Vulcans) used cosmetics, they would paint their lips green – of course. I like to joke that Romulans and Vulcans went through a period of fashion where everything Human and Earthling was hip and just the coolest – so painting your lips red became all the rage (“Look at me, I’m a human!”) of course I don’t actually believe this. Simply more evidence of the limitations of Romulans being portrayed by humans – why they don’t just hire Romulan actors to play Romulan characters already is beyond me.

Starting with around DS9/Voyager era, makeup technology had improved, but also that was when (I think) the makeup artists really started putting a lot of effort into imagining a truly green-blooded person. They even cast fair skinned Romulans (like Letant and Vreenak who are both very fair; and as a great detail Vreenak even seems to have that green “Romulan Flush” going in the scene where he is drinking kali-fal), but they blotted out all the redness in the actor’s cheeks and lips and around the eyes with a neutral skin tone to wash it out, and then went back over it with green wherever there was red. It is really impressive. All the Romulans and Vulcans now have a generally green undercast to their skintone, and no more red lipstick! Vulcan women in DS9 paint their lips green, and it looks fantastic. It ranges from more brown-green to a more vibrant green, same as with Earthling cosmetics (where lipstick can range from red-brown to very red). It also makes sense because Romulans with lots of orange pheomelanin (lips are an area that can have more pheomelanin) would probably have those areas coming out looking more brown, due to the green blood undercast on the orange surface pigment. And in an interesting attention to detail, Romulan women in DS9 appear not to use cosmetics. This is portrayed consistently enough that I think it was intentional – to highlight some of the cultural differences between Vulcans and Romulans. Vulcans have more rigid and prescribed gender roles, and Romulans have looser gender roles. Vulcan women use lots of cosmetics, Romulan women use none. An interesting way to use theatrical cosmetics and “show, don’t tell” and execute some situational storytelling.

But then, starting with Enterprise onward, we’ve been getting progressively less green Romulans and Vulcans. In Enterprise it is like a callback to the kind-of-green but with red lips, which I understand it takes place before TOS so the aesthetic choice may have been intentional in this regard. Well maybe the Human makeup fad was going on then, I don’t know 😉

Picard Thoughts (Spoilers)

The new Picard series has thus far been mediocre for me. I think it is brilliantly acted, I love all the characters, and it is very beautiful and polished – cinematic, even. But all of the episodes have felt uncharacteristically shallow for a Star Trek show.

I knew going in that they would retcon a ton of Romulan canon – that was inevitable (like there having explicitly been Romulan cybernetics researchers in TNG and Romulans converted into borg drones in Voyager), but it isn’t even really the retcons that bother me (for I have trained my mind to simultaneously accept two contradictory canons). It is how the whole show seems tonally dissonant with other Star Treks. It is more like an action hero movie with huge grandiose battles where the heroes are in no danger whatsoever as they effortlessly mow down hundreds of faceless bad guys. The Tal Shiar are now apparently the Stormtroopers of Star Trek, and they line themselves up politely for the heroes to pick them off one by one.

And what a strange choice for enormous hordes of faceless baddies to square off in combat with! The Romulans invented an assassination device which can be injected into the skin undetected, and remain dormant until the subject uses a teleporter. Then it scrambles the victim’s signal and they die. Subtle, clean, sinister. This is the sort of style we have come to expect from the Tal Shiar. And since the people in Picard apparently use teleporters all the time (to go all around the globe instantaneously), it seems an obvious choice in the arsenal of the Tal Shiar. But no, in Picard the Tal Shiar’s main strategy seems to be to send 50 guys in through the front door with guns blazing for every situation. Very disappointing.

Previous series have shown us that the Romulans tend to shy away from boots-on-the-ground combat, and will only engage as a last resort. If a goal can be reached via cunning trickery or quiet arts, they will absolutely go that route. This is a point of pride for them! They ridicule Klingons for simply throwing waves of men at a combat problem until it is solved. And yet that’s all they seem capable of now.

Beyond this being a terrible fit for Romulans (and the Tal Shiar especially), it doesn’t mesh with other Star Treks. I understand the sort of appeal of the Kung Fu hero who fights of waves upon waves of opponents and remains standing. It shows the hero is larger-than-life, mythic, powerful. But Star Trek isn’t for that, and historically the combat they have shown have tended to be small desperate chaotic skirmishes – more fitting for the tone and subject of humanity coming together collaboratively to be greater than the sum of its parts. I know that it is a silly trope these days about “redshirts dying” and perhaps their deaths are pretty cheap, but at least it does show that these skirmishes are not to be taken lightly as there are going to be casualties on both sides. I don’t think action films with the mythic hero are bad, but I do think the trope doesn’t fit in Star Trek.

As for the plot, it has been pretty shallow and absurd thus far. The Romulan Bulterian Jihad is silly and unconvincing, and doesn’t even come with all the cool what-if workarounds to AI like we got to see in Herbet’s Dune. And they have apparently crafted their entire society around the Butlerian Jihad to the point that the anti-AI police have a staggeringly limitless budget. For a ridiculous goal. I can believe that the Romulans might have prohibitions on AI (you could say they got skittish about it after the Borg War, or after Mars, or any number of things), but you’d expect the enforcement of this to be meted out by some regulatory office like the FDA. Not the Super Duper Ultra Tal Shiar. And not to be some ancient defining aspect of their entire culture (that somehow never came up before now). And WHY would people tell stories about this to scare children? What child would be scared by this? “Now Billy, be good, because the Super Duper Ultra Tal Shiar has placed several strict limitations and sanctions on AI research!” It is just so silly.

Before it started, I figured that Picard wouldn’t have the oomph of Deep Space Nine (big shoes to fill), but I think it doesn’t even manage to capture the depth of an average Next Generation episode. So I’ve been mostly disappointed by the overall blandness and mediocrity of the story, alas.

Stuck in a Bureaucratic Gilliamesque Hellscape

Recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a bureaucratic Gilliamesque hellscape. First, I got a bill from California DMV for a bounced check. A check that I never wrote, to register a car I’ve never owned. That was a nightmare getting that sorted out.

In the middle of handling that, I got a citation from Sacramento County for displaying expired registration on a car which I had sold (a long time prior to the citation being written). That has actually happened to me before with a previous car I had sold (it seems very common for the DMV to take a bajillion years to update the registered owner info in the database) but let’s just say that this one came at a very bad time.

So I took out my anguish in be best way I could think of. I sent Sacramento County an invoice for the price of the postage stamp that they forced me to buy and use. That just seemed like the final injustice. I had already spent hours on all of these messes (none of which were my fault, by the way), and then I am forced to use a postage stamp which I bought in order to prove to Sacramento County that they were the ones who fucked up and were punishing an innocent person for no reason.

My Invoice I Sent to Sacramento County

Allow me to give you an idea of where my mind was at the time. I received that $400 bill for the bounced check I never wrote to register a car I never owned. I called the DMV dishonored check unit, and explained the situation to them. They said that it must have been fraud, and that I would have to go down to a DMV in person and ask for an investigator who would analyze the signature and determine whether I had actually written the check or not. I said that I suspected that it was a simple clerical error, and that if they would just look at the check image, that would become clear to them. They said that the check was not in the system yet, and therefore they could not look at the image of the check. They promised that they would call me when the check image was in the system.

Meanwhile I got letters from the DMV threatening to send me to collections (which, they made a point of mentioning, would be bad for my credit rating) for this check I never wrote to register this car I’ve never owned. It started seeming more and more that DMV could just invent any random sum of money they wanted to collect, and send a bill to any poor unsuspecting victim, and extort them endlessly with threats of ruined credit until they just paid the DMV off to avoid the devastating consequences.

Everybody was asking me to prove that I never wrote this check, but how the heck would I even prove a negative? And why was the burden of proof on me, anyway? Surely they should be able to look up the car that the check was meant to register, and see that I wasn’t even the registered owner.

I looked up the license plate and VIN of the stupid car I’ve never heard of (they were included in the extortion letter), and it turns out it was a 2012 Fiat. I have never even been inside a Fiat, nor touched one, nor owned one. These points I made sure to tell every DMV employee I spoke with over this time period.

“Did you tell the person you sold it to that you would take care of the registration?” They asked me.

“I’VE NEVER OWNED IT!!!!!!!” I was beginning to fray at the edges. Perhaps even worse than being extorted by a corrupt government, I was being billed by an incompetent one. I was not fitting into the frame of reference that the employees had, and they were therefore having trouble understanding how to deal with me. Other than to, you know, encourage me to pay up.

My fantasy of being extorted by some evil greedy big brother almost seems preferable, since I suppose that would indicate that the government was actually accomplishing what it meant to. Instead, here I was an innocent victim trapped under some glitch in paperwork, and without producing the paperwork to show that the other paperwork was a glitch, the soulless bureaucracy machine would continue crushing down and down.

About two weeks later, I actually received a call from the dishonored check unit, saying “Hi Christine, YOUR check image has been uploaded, so now you can go down to a DMV field office and be sure bring your ID. Then we will fax over the check image for you.” (emphasis mine – they still believed firmly that it was my check).

I was super anxious to get this stupid thing taken care of, so I left work and went straight down to the nearest DMV field office. I gave the person at the desk my case number (that was given to me by the dishonored check unit), and explained the situation to them. They said that they could do absolutely nothing until I brought in the extortion letter which the DMV had sent me. I asked if they could just call the dishonored check unit like they said they would in the voicemail, and they insisted that the DMV was so large that they couldn’t just find the right place by looking up my case number or name. They said it was impossible without the original letter.

I almost started crying in frustration. I didn’t have the letter, because I had left it at home not knowing I would get that call, and I had received the call while I was at work.

“Just come back in with the original letter, and it will be easy!” they assured me.

“Well, it hasn’t exactly been easy thus far!” I quipped venomously and stormed out. I felt terrible about this, as I always make it a point to be extra polite and nice to employees that have to interact with me, but I was angrier and more frustrated than I have been in a long time.

Then on my way back to work, I stopped by my mailbox, and in there was… you guessed it! A citation for the Saturn I had sold in August (when I got my Leaf). The citation had been written in November. I immediately called the number listed on the citation, and explained the situation. Now, where the DMV employees all seemed sympathetic (if ineffectual) to my plight, and all acted like they believed me, this Sacramento County employee was cruel and cold and nasty. They kept snapping at me, and telling me that I was liable unless I could prove that I had sold the car, and they were very abrupt with me. Can you believe that, compared with this person, all the DMV employees I had interacted with seemed like incredibly kind and compassionate souls?

So I asked them what would happen if I didn’t do anything. They weren’t sure if they had heard me right.

“You know, what happens if I just… don’t do anything? If I don’t send you my copy of the release of liability? Does the car get towed? Get booted? I don’t think that would be so bad, since it isn’t my car.”

“If you cannot prove that you had sold the car before the citation was written, you will still be liable, and could be sent to collections.”

Well, godamnit. That is the government’s favorite extortion tactic, it would seem. Why couldn’t it just be, “we’ll impound your car”? WHYYYYYY?

I was incredibly upset, and the call with Sacramento County wasn’t particularly illuminating as to how I was supposed to prove it wasn’t my car. I called Nissan Infiniti of San Francisco (who I had sold the car to), and they talked me through which documents to send, and they said that if I had lost the documents I could go down to the dealership and they’d give me another copy (provided I brought my ID). Luckily they were incredibly helpful, and calmed me down a lot.

Then when I got back to work, I called the DMV dishonored checks unit again, because they seemed to be better at this stuff than the field office had been. And because, now, with this additional bullshit citation for yet another car I didn’t own, I felt more pressure to clear it up before more weird stuff got piled on me.

They immediately started going for the fraud angle again, but then I suggested we at least check if it was my check. I told them who I banked with.

“Huh. Strange,” they said, “this check isn’t from that bank. Have you ever banked with anybody else?”


“Huh. I wonder how this check got linked to your name, then. And it appears to be one of those temporary checks, so unfortunately there’s no name or address printed on it.”

I suggested perhaps the check had been written by a person with a very similar name to mine, but they dismissed that as an improbable reason. Then they had a spark of inspiration.

“Do you own a car?”


“Let me look up your car’s VIN or plate #”

So I told them my car’s VIN (since my plates still haven’t arrived and I therefore did not know my plate number), and that’s when the dishonored checks unit employee discovered that my Leaf had indeed been assigned a license plate number, and that it was one letter off from the Fiat’s license plate number.

“You see, they have the plate number hand written here on the check, and you know how sometimes a written Y can look like an X…” I was so relieved that this was solved. “Now I have enough information and proof to put together a report and submit a request for correction on this. You don’t have to do anything else, because it isn’t your fault, and you will stop getting those letters.”

At that point, the DMV dishonored checks unit seemed like heroes to me. They actually did work and use ingenuity to figure out how I had been wronged, and put the effort in to correct it. Unlike Sacramento County. They don’t care if I owned the car or not, they just want to squeeze and squeeze until they get blood from a stone. They would not even lift their little finger if that was all it took to prove me right.

These were the thoughts swirling in my head after I gathered all the documents together proving that I did not own the Saturn at the time the citation was written. I was struck by how unfair it was that I was still out the cost of that stamp required to send in the documents (not to mention all the hours clearing these things up), and that employee had been so cruel and nasty to me on the phone and really made me feel like shit, so I drafted up my little invoice for $0.49, or the cost of a postage stamp. Which, naturally, goes up $346.00 if not paid by 1/7/2015. Because that is exactly the same shit they tried to pull on me.

It is just as a cathartic joke, I don’t actually expect any checks any time soon. But maybe it will also get some of the employees there to think about how dehumanizing and callous they are with people who are wrongfully charged, and maybe they will start to at least pretend to be more compassionate with them. Plus it felt really good to drop that sucker in the mail. My secondary (far less likely) fantasy for this invoice, is for the person who handled my phone call to see it, and feel terrible about themselves as a person. A girl can dream.