Vendorians were a species of shapeshifters native to the world of Vendor (TAS episode & novelization: The Survivor) in the system of the same name, within the Romulan Star Empire in the Beta Quadrant. (ST reference: Star Charts, ST video game: Star Trek Online)
In their natural forms, Vendorians were cephalopodic, with six tentacles attached to the body and head. Despite an apparently ungainly form, they had great agility and grace, and reflexes superior to those of a human. They were orange and red in color. The touch of a Vendorian's tentacle (or its hand when disguised) on a human neck could induce unconsciousness for a few minutes, followed by a feeling of dizziness as the victim awoke. They were also strong enough to grapple with.
- It is unclear what causes this unconsciousness, but it seems to be required for a Vendorian to mimic that person's form. The novelization of The Survivor states the Vendorian had seven tentacles; however, only six appeared in the animation.
They had five eyes spaced around their head, each covered by a convex lens and faintly glowing. These gave a Vendorian 360º vision, though it could be limited or lost when shapeshifted into other forms.
Vendorians were also shapeshifters, with the ability to rearrange their internal and molecular structure at will, as if like a liquid (TAS episode & novelization: The Survivor), using the technique of cellular metamorphosis, similar to that of the Antosians. (ST reference: Star Trek Maps)
Frequent shape-changing could be tiring; familiar shapes were easier. The ability was apparently enabled by crossing their arms/tentacles.
A Vendorian could resemble any living creature or object of any shape as long as it was of approximately the same mass. When disguised as a human, they could replicate voice and fingerprints, and a 2260s medical examination found only minor, albeit unusual variations upon the human norm. When disguised as an object, they were capable of functioning as that object, and even conducting a current through their bodies, though complex mechanisms (such as the control circuitry of a deflector shield) required a greater precision of mimicry and could be quite difficult.
For Vendorians, deception was a way of life, and they quite enjoyed using their shapeshifting abilities to mimic other people and objects. A new person or thing to imitate became a subject of great fascination for Vendorians, though its discoverer effectively became its owner, with exclusive rights to it.
To others, their habits seemed silly, even pointless, and quite lazy. However, it was vitally important for a Vendorian to be able to produce something, or to be engaged in a useful task that was of value both to themself and to the one that they were performing it for, and to be of value to another. This was said to be a matter of life or death for the Vendorians.
Human concepts of emotion and feeling were strange to the Vendorians, and they lacked concepts of love, companionship and attachment. Unfortunately, a Vendorian in close association with another person, or wearing their shape, began to take on aspects of that person’s personality and feel their emotions, and not just as a matter of mimicry. Though not total, the effect grew stronger over time, and they could absorb such things as hunger, tiredness, sadness, love, homesickness and even pain and injury; when the other experienced it, the other felt it. They effectively became a part of that person, and they became a part of them. Such an attachment was considered a mental deviation.
The Vendorians were known for their skilled surgeons and advanced medical techniques. They were able to graft skin, regenerate bone, and replace blood and damaged organs for artificial substitutes. By Vendorian custom, following the completion of main surgery, one of their people was assigned to care for the patient until they reached full health. This compassion did not extent to mental health; those called mental deviates and aberrations were rejected by their fellows.
Vendorians shunned and outcast their so-called mental deviates and non-producers, and those who had no useful role or value. These pariahs were effectively denied a useful role in Vendorian society, deemed useless except for the very lowest tasks and they lived as recluses on the outskirts of Vendorian towns. (TAS episode & novelization: The Survivor)
The Vendorian language was quite unusual in that it contained conditional verb forms. (ENT novel: Rosetta) One Vendorian complained that language (possibly their own) made communication frustratingly difficult, that it confused instead of enlightened. (TAS novelization: The Survivor)
At some point, Vendorians were deemed by the Federation to be still psychologically unfit for involvement in the interstellar community, due to their practice of deception and shapeshifting. By several treaties between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire since 2161, Vendor was quarantined, landings there were illegal, and it was forbidden to use its people as spies. Consequently, few in the Federation had actually seen a Vendorian (or knew if they had), and they had never been tried in Federation courts before 2269.
- With the Vendorians' apparent lack of space travel (see Carter Winston's stranding, below) and statement of "still" being unfit, this may be a Prime Directive-based quarantine. The episode implies the treaty was that which founded the Romulan Neutral Zone in 2161; the novelization however says a "number of treaties".
However, throughout the 2260s, the Romulans made regular secret visits to Vendoria with offers of alliance. The Vendorians had no interest in this; they had little reason to work for them, and the Romulans had nothing to offer them. However, the Romulans could offer new lives to Vendorian outcasts, such as the one who posed as Carter Winston.
In 2264, the famous human trader and philanthropist Carter Winston crash-landed his ship on Vendoria after suffering meteor damage and lacking any alternative world to land on. He was badly injured, but Vendorian surgeons healed him and assigned him to the care of one of their number. He lived marooned on their world for some time before finally succumbing to his injuries and dying. In that time, he developed a close relationship with his carer, a Vendorian who would eventually adopt his personality and be outcast for it.
- The episode says that Winston lived for almost a year while the novelization says he lived for four years.
Romulan agents offered this Vendorian a new and valuable occupation and employed him a spy. In 2269, the Winston-Vendorian piloted Winston's repaired ship until it was rescued by the USS Enterprise, whereupon it attempted to steer the starship into the Romulan Neutral Zone and sabotaged its deflector shields so it could be captured by the Romulans. However, due to his love for Winston's fiancée, Starfleet Lieutenant Anne Nored, the Winston-Vendorian used itself to function as the damaged deflector shield components and the saved the Enterprise. It agreed to stand trial for its actions, with its change-of-heart taken into consideration. (TAS episode & novelization: The Survivor)