Here’s How Klingons Look in “Star Trek Discovery” & Why It’s a Big Deal

Klingons of Star Trek Discovery to take on a new(ish) look
 
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Chris Obi, Shazad Latif and Mary Chieffo are the three primary Klingons to be cast in Star Trek Discovery.  There’s been a huge amount of speculation over what Klingons will look like in the new series.  Many articles have been written in anticipation of whether or not they would follow the 23rd century or the 24th century Klingon look.

Why is it so important and what makes it such a big deal?  Well, quite literally, without exaggeration, it’ll set the tone for entire the series.  If you think that sounds like hyperbole – we don’t think it is.  Here’s why it’s not, and why it’s so important to us.

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The Original Series Klingons

Klingons, Unfortunately, were "Black Face" in The Original Series
Klingons, Unfortunately, were “Black Face” in The Original Series

In Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), Klingons essentially looked like humans – but with “evil” goatee beards and exaggerated eyebrows to make them look distinct.  They were also often (rather unfortunately) made to appear foreign to humans by their awkwardly brown skin color.  Literally “black face“, brown edition.  This was a cheap way for Star Trek, which was operating on a shoestring budget, to introduce a new alien species.  The Klingons were a warrior race, but looked just like us; well kind of like us, and not in a good way.

Klingons Evolve Post-Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Klingons Had Ridged Foreheads by Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Klingons Had Ridged Foreheads by Star Trek: The Motion Picture

By the time Star Trek: The Motion Picture came around, the forehead had started to take shape in the way we know it.  And by Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock, it had reached it’s final form.  With feature-film budgets, more money could be spent on makeup and costume design.  Klingons took on the look they would have from that point forward.  Best known is Worf, the first Klingon to serve for Starfleet, who exhibited this forehead trait.  Ridging became a clear indication of one’s Klingon-ness.  It also made the Klingon species the most recognizable alien race for fans and non-fans alike.

Bridging the 23rd and 24th Century

Kirk speaks with Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Trials and Tribble-ations
Kirk speaks with Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Trials and Tribble-ations

Then came an episode of Deep Space Nine that made cinematic history.  The crew of the USS Defiant were transported from the 24th century, back to the 23rd century, in the episode titled Trials and Tribble-ations.  The crew of DS9 was literally placed into an episode of The Original Series, thanks to then-modern-day special effects.

Something to keep in mind is that every Star Trek tv series and movie is part of official Star Trek canon.  That means something that has happened or that is true in one episode also reins true in all other episodes of every other series and movie.  A single continuity.

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In Trials and Tribble-ations, the Defiant’s crew was rather bewilder when they were introduced to Klingons that looked rather human-like sans ridges.  Dr. Bashir famously questions “those are Klingons?”  For them, in the 24th century, all Klingons have forehead ridges – it’s a species-defining trait.  When asked why these 23rd century Klingons had no ridges, Worf simply states “we do not speak about it with outsiders“.  Fair enough.  We don’t get to know because only Klingons can know.  Canon was saved, albeit by a bit of a cop-out!

Back to the 22nd Century

Star Trek Enterprise Klingon, 22nd century
Star Trek Enterprise Klingon, 22nd century

Next came Star Trek: Enterprise, a series known for pretty much ignoring canon in an effort to make Trek “cool” and “sexy”. (Yup, they literally tried to describe Star Trek Enterprise in those terms).  Its seeming departure from canon is part of the reason this series rated poorly in my opinion.

Surprisingly, Enterprise explained quite well why the Klingons had ridged foreheads for most of the 22nd century, human-like faces in the 23rd, and again ridged foreheads in the 24th.   The explanation is one of the best things to come out of Enterprise.  There’s very few of those in this writer’s opinion.

The explanation?  The Klingon Augment Virus.  Bear with me for a moment here as I explain just what this means.

In Star Trek: Enterprise, Klingons were initially depicted with their ridged foreheads, just like they were in the Star Trek movies, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and VoyagerThe Original Series was the only franchise in which they didn’t.  That means at some point between the 22nd century and 23rd century, something happened to the Klingons that made them look more human.  And then sometime between the 23rd century and the 24th century, they went back to having ridged foreheads.

Star Trek fans will undoubtedly remember Khan, from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (you know, “Khaaaaaaaan!”).  Khan was a genetic superman, a vestige of the Eugenics Wars on Earth.  The Eugenics Wars left Earth pretty much in shambles, so genetic manipulation of the sort was outlawed.  Well in Enterprise in the 22nd century, someone managed to dig up the old recipe.  The Klingons, in typical Klingon fashion, interpreted this as a human weapon to destroy the Empire.  So they located some of this awesome sauce and applied it to themselves in hopes of giving their species the upper hand.  Unfortunately, because the genetic manipulation was intended for humans, the unintended consequence was that Klingons began looking like humans.  This would plague and embarrass the Klingon Empire for some time to come.  Klingon genetics sciences are hardly on the forefront.

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Essentially, Enterprise did the right thing to maintain canon not only for itself, but to enhance the centuries-long plotline in a fantastic way.

Great, so everything is making sense and the universe is as it should be.  Not so fast!  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Enter Star Trek Into Darkness, where we were once again introduced to another look for the Klingon.

Star Trek Into Darkness Ruined it All

Star Trek Into Darkness once again changed the appearance of the Klingon forehead
Star Trek Into Darkness once again changed the appearance of the Klingon forehead

I personally love the look of the Klingons in Into Darkness.  It’s a better representation of a warrior race in my opinion. But canon for the look had already been established for decades at this point.  Star Trek canon for the Klingon was messed up yet again, this time it was the eyes.  Well, kind of.  That’s because it (Into Darkness) can be explained away as being part of the Kelvin universe.  The Kelvin universe is an alternate universe caused by the time-traveling Romulan named Nero is Star Trek (2009).  So now we have one universe (Prime) where TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT, and all the movies exist – except those after 2009, and an alternative universe (Kelvin) where the 3 newest Star Trek movies take place.

We’ve already been told that Star Trek Discovery will be in the Prime universe, much to the appreciation of most fans.  So at least we don’t have to worry about Klingons looking like those in the Kelvin universe.  Or do we?

What Each Option Could Have Meant

Ridged:  If the Klingons look like those of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and thereafter, canon is likely broken and we’re essentially in reboot territory.  That’s because Discovery takes place 10 years before Kirk’s 5-year mission.  A time-period when Klingons looked like humans.  However there is a caveat: were all Klingons infected with the Klingon Augment Virus?  If not, we can have ridged foreheads without breaking canon.  (Edited to clarify)  It is accepted that not all Klingons caught the virus, and that all Klingons encountered by the USS Enterprise during Kirk’s 5-year mission either had the virus, or were descendants of Klingons that did.

Un-ridged: If they look more like humans, we’re fully within canon.  In that case Discovery isn’t likely looking to rewrite Trek history in ways that Trekkies and Trekkers may not appreciate.  A somewhat safer bet.  However there’s a lot of confines placed on a new canon show thanks to some 900+ episodes of the various Star Trek series.

Ridged – but different: If they look different all-together then we know Discovery is completely charting a new course, possibly rewriting canon in its path.  This would likely receive a lot of lashback from Star Trek fans.  However it’d be similar to the lashback that The Next Generation first received when it aired.  It looked quite different than The Original Series.  Now, TNG is often considered to be the best of Star Trek.  So if Discovery does chart a new course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all is lost.

Klingons in “Discovery” – What They Mean

Klingons of Star Trek Discovery to take on a new(ish) look
Klingons of Star Trek Discovery to take on a new(ish) look

Okay, history lesson of the future is complete.  Now to the Klingons of Star Trek Discovery.  It appears that what we’re getting is that last option – a combination of things.  Yes, these Klingons have ridged foreheads.  But they’re different.  The ridging goes all the way from forehead to the back of their necks.  This is somewhat similar in look to the Klingons found in Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, though those don’t fully go all the way down.  What this means is that we may have a break in canon, but not so significantly that it abandons us all.  It’s something new, but not so terribly foreign to us.  Fresh and as scary as a Klingon should be.

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There has also been an elongation to their heads, though that only appears to be the case for a few of the Klingons standing around in this picture.  Also of note is that they appear to all be bald whereas in all other series, Klingons had hair.

There’s another option that allows Star Trek Discovery to remain canon.  The fact that the Klingon Empire spans many star systems and planets.  Depending on just how long the Klingons have been a spacefaring species, there could easily be Klingons that have evolved differently to match their planetary conditions, per this responding tweet.

That’s certainly another possibility and a very good point.

So what do you think about these new Star Trek Discovery Klingons?  Tell us below.  We want to hear your thoughts.


 

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leave a comment or question below

About Cassius Adams

Cassius Adams is the creator of ncc-1031.com and is a content contributor. He has been a Star Trek fan for nearly three decades. Cassius discovered his passion for the franchise early into TNG's run, and nourished that passion throughout DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. Cassius can be reached by emailing cass@ncc-1031.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @supercass

  • DJ1706

    “New-ish” look?

    “What this means is that we may have a break in canon, but not so significantly that it abandons us all. It’s something new, but not so terribly foreign to us.”

    What pictures are you looking at? The “Klingons” in this pic look like they should be implanted by a facehugger.

    • ncc-1031

      There are certainly differences between these and what we’re used to – no doubt. But they aren’t a whole lot more different than those from Into Darkness when it comes down to it.

      We’re going on record as liking the new look, assuming they are indeed Klingons. Fresh and fearsome.

      • DJ1706

        These are insectoid. It doesn’t really matter if you’re “on record as liking the new look”; this is show is supposedly set in the prime timeline, not the JJverse, or any other.

        Everything that comes out about the show indicates that it’s really, really not, and is probably its own separate universe.

        Chances are, these “Klingons” will have the typical “alien” snot cobwebs all over the place, from the look here, and from the look of their ships seen elsewhere. That would utterly suck.

        This is a complete re-invention of the Klingons. That’s most assuredly not what fans of the prime timeline want, and indeed, it does “abandon” us.

      • Christopher Noyes

        I’m under the impression that the ridges go over the skull and down the neck and back atop a klingon’s spine. Big hair and bulky uniforms keep the skull/neck ridges out of view.

        The best view of this we get can be found during the episode “Ethics” (TNG 5:16), when Worf undergoes surgery.

        So creative licenses aside, if those guys pictured are indeed Klingons, then I’d say they fit.

  • Bifash

    Not all the denizens of the Roman Empire were Roman.
    These Klingons could be adapted to their specific planetary environment as the article speculates, or else they could be another species who are part of the Klingon Empire – it would be good to explore a more nuanced idea of alien cultures here in 2017, rather than portraying all members of an alien race as all looking the same, dressing the same, and speaking the same language.

  • Bifash

    People complaining about the look of these new Klingons were probably okay when TNG changed to look of the Romulans.

    • LogicalLeopard

      Or when TMP changed the look of the Klingons. Or when subsequent movies and TNG changed the look of Klingons AGAIN.

    • Phil

      Yep, I was ok with that and I’m not ok with this. Quite right.

  • The Chadwick

    For whatever reason, the Klingon costumes remind me of the goa’uld from stargate, especially since there are grey costumes and an off white/beige coloured one off to the left. Klingons aside, who is that in the back centre of the picture? Zooming in, it does not look like a Klingon, looks like a red uniform and like that person is wearing a mask reminiscent of the helmet worn in the latest teaser who many people are assuming is Lt. Saru

  • Bill Britt

    I don’t know, they look like Xindi to me. Especially the uniforms.

    • Michele

      They look like generic alien species from modern wiev, I hate it, I prefer some updating and amelioration on the canon style.

  • Don Gaffney

    Much like the design of the Discovery was simply recycled from TMP/Phase II pre-production concept art so are these Klingons. These show a striking resemblance to Robert Fletchers rejected design for TMP in both the scaled armor and bald heads.

    • ncc-1031

      Do you happen to have a reference for those designs?

    • lujho

      I would love to see the designs you’re talking about too. They don’t seem to be easily googleable.

  • SteveRanden

    “Bear with me,” not “bare with me.”

    • ncc-1031

      Thanks for the catch! Corrected.

    • John Morrill

      …unless he’s an evangelical nudist. 😉

    • yonderTheGreat

      and “backlash,” not “lashback”

      you can “lash back” at something/someone, but that doesn’t mean there is “lashback” going on.

  • qurgh

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cbbe27de53680825aae3e45e7b5690b8abb0aafe64729f45c2db8d174d93d376.jpg

    Guy who took the photo admits they aren’t actually Klingons. He just thought they looked like them….

    • Brian Lambert

      Umm then why is every media outlet including the official Star Trek sources referring to them as Klingons?

      • qurgh

        Umm you’re going to have to provide a link to a press release from CBS stating these are Klingons before I believe there have been “official Star Trek sources referring to them as Klingons”. The only semi-offical response I saw was one of the writers saying the guy was fired. All the other “sources” are just blogs and media sites (like this website) that believed the guy at face value and are pushing these as Klingons.

        • Brian Lambert

          Try trekmovie or the Paramount Star Trek website. In the meantime put your mind to better use and ask yourself why the guy would be fired if he didn’t leak something crucial.

          • qurgh

            Trekmovie is a random media site, not an insider source, and CBS (who is making the show, not Paramount) has nothing about it. I checked before I even asked. Again, you made the claim that “official Star Trek sources” has referred to them as Klingons, yet you cannot provide evidence to support your belief.

            He was fired for leaking something from the set and for breaching an NDA. I’m not disagreeing that they are from Discovery, just that they are not a visual redo of modern Klingons.

            Put your mind to better use and ask yourself why, after the guy had been fired, he would try to cover it up? He has nothing to lose at that point, since he already lost his job and broke his NDA. Denying it wouldn’t put the genii back in the bottle and it wouldn’t save him from any kind of lawsuit for breaching the NDA. Only people who continue to work have to worry about keeping things secret (like Obi did when he released a video of him speaking tlhIngan Hol).

          • Brian Lambert

            Well Forrest, you run with those theories. I believe the gentleman’s original post on the internet. CBS is trying too hard to do damage control and play up their plausible deniability angle. As for the guy getting fired at this stage of the game he has zero to lose by telling everything he knows, that much we agree on. But as you said once the genie is out of the bottle you can’t put it back. So unless he’s an absolute idiot he had to have known no amount of cover up or backtracking was gonna save his ass or job, so why bother?

            In short CBS isn’t beyond redesigning or rebooting anything in Trek to draw a newer audience. Look at STD’s new uniforms and ships. They believe retro doesn’t work. And why should they believe it? Rogue One only made $500,000,000 with that formula.

          • qurgh

            Exactly. So why bother, unless it was the truth… Maybe the guy was trying to start something with his original post? Maybe his original post was a joke as he claims? Why believe the original post over his second post? We have no evidence to prove either is right or wrong, so why do you hold so tightly to the first being right and the second being wrong?

            I read an article this morning about how when people are faced with contrasting facts that proves their original idea was wrong, they still cling on (no pun intended) to the wrong ideas. I think this is what is happening with this image. It was the first thing to come out and all the media site jumped on it like it was gospel, but then it comes out that the guy said he was joking, and no body bothers to report it. That’s bad journalism to me. There are obvious grounds to doubt the word of a random extra.

            Discovery looks like it’s blending Enterprise with TOS, while being made much more realistic than TOS ever was. The ships, while original in design, still have that traditional Star Trek look. I’m not suggesting Discovery will look like TOS (ie retro). That would be horrible. I’ve always said it will have it’s own look, but they aren’t going to throw out things that have defined the Trek look for the past 30 years. That’s not a good marketing strategy. Introduce new elements (maybe they are ancient Klingons or an off-shoot), but I believe we will still see traditional (TMP+) Klingons as well. We might even see some smooth-heads.

          • Brian Lambert

            Why do I hold on? Gut instinct and its never failed me. I don’t need this series to be a blending of any of the series. I actually hated Enterprise. I don’t need it to be more realistic. I’m happy with what’s been there for FIFTY years. nor do I need BS about ancient Klingons. As to the article you read that could end up working against you. What if you’re the one clinging to the wrong belief? At any rate I won’t be paying for All Access. I did some work for a friend of mine and he’ll be recording it for me. Quite honestly if the pilot sucks I’m planning on telling him not to bother with the rest of STD, I’ll wait for Axanar

  • Brian Lambert

    No…just no!

    • Red_Stater

      I think, no… just no is spot on. This seems to be an abject lesson in how to destroy a franchise with this new look just being the cherry on top. No… just no, can’t be said loud enough.

      And for those who don’t know what i mean by saying Abject: “…completely without pride or dignity; self-abasing…”

  • The source for the TOS “Mongol warrior” look was none other than John Collicos himself. The makeup department hadn’t done a Klingon, and they received no guidance on any expectations. Collicos chose a Genghis Khan (no relation to the other guy) style that caught on. It was simple, inexpensive, but threatening in the day.

    The ridged forehead look introduced by Mark Lenard (yes, that Mark Lenard) in TMP had explanations going like wildfire. The biggest one for a long time was the multiple species thing. That worked until Kor (Collicos), Koloth (Campbell), and Kang (Ansara, pictured above) showed up on DS9 with ridged foreheads! That plus the first appearance of a Klingon in Enterprise messed canon up completely. To the show’s credit, they fixed it.

    Then Into Darkness had to completely hose everything with its new designs that couldn’t be explained away by Nero’s arrival alone.

    Bottom line: nobody seems to care anymore. Continuity is hosed in both timelines, and you can’t blame a speedster for it.

  • ThePinkPhantom

    Here’s a few other options: They changed the look of the Klingons so they could show off their creativity (since they couldn’t do by creating their own sci-fi universe).
    They did it to create buzz for the CBS overlords’ streaming network.
    They did it because change *always* equals progress.
    They did it so all the DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise would band together to despise the work product of those who claim to love the franchise, but prove they’re either lying or tone deaf.

    They did it to generate new toys to sell.
    They have no vision for Discovery except to make it different from any previous version of Star Trek.

  • Dawn

    no, it must burn.

  • Daniel Beller

    Let me say it in Klingon: Oy, a-brokh!

  • centurion2065

    Okay, here goes: On the Enterprise pilot episode, let’s say it’s an individual Klingon who was augmented. His look is a transition state between a true Klingon appearance (which is the appearance they have in Discovery) and the more human look. But he was just a test. The augmentation doesn’t get into full swing until after Discovery, and by Kirk’s time, 10 years later, they look very human.

  • ThePinkPhantom

    Here’s a few other options: They changed the look of the Klingons so
    they could show off their creativity (since they couldn’t do by creating
    their own sci-fi universe).
    They did it to create buzz for the CBS overlords’ streaming network.
    They did it because change *always* equals progress.
    They
    did it so all the DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise would band together to
    despise the work product of those who claim to love the franchise, but
    prove they’re either lying or tone deaf.
    They did it to generate new toys to sell.
    They have no vision for Discovery except to make it different from any previous version of Star Trek.

  • decypher44

    Those aren’t Klingons. I don’t mean #notmyklingons, but that THEY ARE NOT KLINGON. They are a different species. Different planet. Not Klingon.

  • Malevolent Kiwi

    Good god. No. For god sake. No.

    No.

    No.

    No.

  • I’m going to reserve full judgment until i see the finished show. But the way they should handle it is, only a small percentage of the top warrior’s where infected with the augment virus and thease are the ones we see in TOS but the majority of klingons where never infected so they would look like the klingons we all know and love …

  • Rene

    Is there such a thing as a ‘Friday Night deathslot’ on a streaming service? Because that’s where the new series will be…

  • Lili Jo Harpham

    No, absolutely no! Enough messing with the look of things.

  • Larry Sullivan

    How about we get some actual Star Trek fans to do these shows and movies so they quit f***ING everything up. I’m so tired of it. It was fine the way it was. Quit trying to add your own twist on things. You’re not clever.

  • Jeff Chang

    I liked it better when, in “Trials and Tribble-ations,” Worf said, “We do not speak about it.” I think ENT went too far to try to shoe-horn an explanation into the series. “Into Darkness” messed it up more. Don’t care any more.

  • Grim

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  • Miroslav Bartulovic

    So.. you basically trashing ENT without any good evidence, and trying to defend same things with Discovery….

  • disqus_0PtLV9c2IT

    The original Klingons were not in “black face.” The makeup actually had a strong hue of green included.

  • Debs DiGiorgio

    I have to say that all Klingons are here to entertain us and that if they have a good story, I don’t care that much what they look like. That being said, I would have just kept the TNG style and just used the excuse of TOS low budget but if the creators are not happy and still want to change it up, I don’t care as long as they have great ST story lines.

  • KenMacMillan

    If these are Klingons then CBS has already ruined the show and possibly killed Star Trek. In reality there should be some with the traditional ridges, some without, and some in between like the TMP era movies. to claim that they are some ancient form of Klingon is ridiculous because evolution takes millions of years. With that much time in space they would probably rival the Q. The only way to link them to the Klingons is to make them another race within the empire or possibly the return of the Hur’q.

  • christopherjacques

    How, or maybe more appropriately, WHY would you try to liken make-up of Klingons to “black-face”? That is just dumb and wrong. It’s an alien species. It’s not white people making fun of black people by painting their faces as stereotypes. That is the only true “black face”.

  • André Unger

    There are humans with hair and humans without hair, so I’m not bothered by bald Klingons, LOL!
    Those guys aren’t even wearing shoes, so maybe they’re not fully dressed yet and the wigs will be put on later?

  • Ren

    These Klingons look like they came from Praxis after the explosion! Radiation sickness evolved them into this off branch species! Great Bird of the Galaxy, please let this be a off shoot species and not the Entire Klingon Race in ST Discovery! LOL……. If it is a off shoot race from a system in the Klingon Empire that is okay but if these are the Q’ O’Nos and Borath Klingons it is a Sad Sad day for Klingons.

  • James Elliott

    Years ago, Starlog magazine had an article about this very subject, and they theorized something similar to this articles final point. The Kingon Empire is vast, with many conquered races. Three of the most prominent came from Kronos (Quo’Nos), Kahz, and Klin’Zhai, shifting power between the three frequently.

  • mmendel46

    Why is it so damn difficult for them to just make….a good Star Trek show?! Why do we need new Klingons?! Did CBS learn nothing from “Enterprise”?! Why can’t we just have regular Klingons? That’s all anyone wants.

  • The Derpy Unicorn

    I dont think it looks that bad. Maybe its not even Klingons maybe its a different race. Then again, who cares? Every star trek show had its own atmosphere, so why can’t Discovery have its own thing

  • NikolaiG

    My thought is, don’t get hung up on it. I mean we have shows where one actor replaces another in the same role. People don’t go nuts over it and say this isn’t canon. We have comics where one artist draws the same thing somewhat differently than the other due to their style. I see this Klingon issue no differently. If you need to explain it away with some excuse, then fine, there are Klingons of one ethnicity or another just like humans, and so some look different than others, and maybe some cross bred on other planets. There, now we don’t have to worry about it. Just enjoy. Also, I wouldn’t refer to every skin color darkening effect as ‘blackface.’ Blackface is something done to ridicule and mock African Americans. When an actor is made to look like an alien with darker skin, like the original Klingons which were given a look like Mongolians or Tibetans – to me they looked somewhat silver or grey, not brown – or when an actress like Zoe Saldana darkens her skin to look as much as possible like Nina Simone (not to mock the singer but to emulate her appearance), that’s not blackface.