What Have They Done To The Klingons?

The new Star Trek series from CBS was off to a rocky start, but they’re finally in production. A new trailer for the show, meant to chum the waters for the release of the show on the CBS All Access service, shows us glimpses of the new ship (called the Discovery) as well as some quick teases of some of the set pieces and some costumes for some alien race. Just the other day, a “leaked” photo of a group of actors wearing those same costumes appeared on Instagram.  What they show is masterful costume design of the like we have not seen on Star Trek in a very long time.

Unfortunately the caption beneath the photo read, “Hanging out with my new Klingon Crew today on set of the new #startrek.”

These are Klingons.

They are hairless, and the ridge meme has been taken to an extreme. The ridges now go all the way over the tops of their heads and down their backs, and the functional uniforms have been replaced with what looks like enormous fish, skinned and turned inside out to form the pieces of what looks like dainty little waistcoats.

Why Klingons Matter

How Klingons are meant to look only ten years before Kirk’s time. “Star Trek: Discovery” Klingons in dainty little fishbone waistcoats. How do we get from here to there and still make any sense?

The Klingons have been a major story element throughout the Star Trek franchise. This is pivotal stuff. They’re a warlike alien race, with an extremely detailed history including the personal sagas of many Klingon scientists, diplomats, house leaders and warriors. You could say that the Klingons are the arch-villians the Federation needs in order to be the Good Guys. So, it does make sense to make the Klingons as dark, violent, evil and as alien as they can be made. That’s probably the reason the new Klingons more closely resemble the Miskatonic University Swim Team than anything we would recognize as Klingon.

But here’s where we think CBS has jumped the shark, if you will: one of the things we expect from Star Trek is that events and information presented in the various series actually makes sense. One thing leads logically to the next, and there’s a reason for everything. In the Trek series Enterprise, there was a rather brilliant explanation as to why there was a period in which Klingons had smooth foreheads. With a single image, though, Discovery demonstrates that they may not fully understand their own material, and have pushed the concept of Klingons so far out of shape that they don’t fit canon anymore.

How Klingons looked in James T. Kirk’s time.

The attitude of CBS is that it’s their franchise to do with as they please, and the fans are just going to have to adapt if they want more official Star Trek. While there’s little room for discussion there, the fact that they think these progenitor Klingons have any kind of logical or aesthetic connection with what the last fifty years of Star Trek has already laid out demonstrates a certain tone deafness with respect to their own franchise. What this does is degrade the integrity of the franchise, seeming to make the public statement, “the Roddenberry era is over, and Trek no longer has to make complete sense, and we’re doing as we please, buy this product or move along.”

Now, keep in mind that the period of Star Trek that Discovery is supposed to be covering is about ten years before the events of the original Star Trek series, “covering an event in Star Trek history that’s been talked about but never been explored.” Which would probably be the Battle of Axanar, a major clash between the Federation and the Klingons – which completely explains why CBS wanted to kill the fan film Axanar at all costs, possibly because the Axanar production team had gotten to their story line first, and was showing signs of doing a better job on it than CBS was doing.

Here’s the new CBS trailer:

And here’s Prelude to Axanar, the 20 minute short film meant to whet the appetites of Star Trek fans for a feature length fan film which will now, alas, never be made, at least not as originally envisioned.

Klingons are the heart and soul of both Axanar and the new series, and both Axanar and STD appear to be dealing with the same story arc. That’s why in CBS’ eyes Axanar had to die. The fan film would have seriously undermined what CBS wanted to do with the arch-villians of the Star Trek franchise moving forward, and they were concerned that fans wouldn’t accept what they were doing. Now we have photographic evidence that shows that they were right to be worried.

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About Gene Turnbow

President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., radio personality and station manager of Krypton Radio. Part writer, part animator, part musician, part illustrator, part programmer, part entrepreneur - all geek.

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