This week were leaked several photos from the next Star Trek movie, depicting Spock and Uhura in combat with the movie’s villain.
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The producers of the Star Trek reboot winked at
Kor, 23rd Century (left), Kor, 24th Century (right)
People think that the Klingons really took off as an alien species in the movies and in TNG because they had fancier make-up. And they also “developed” the angle of Klingons as these awesome warriors, but they were always warriors, right? Well not really. All of this business about Klingons being warriors was based on one line from “Day of the Dove” where Spock says the Klingons have “maintained a dueling tradition,” which is an unimportant detail from the Klingons’ origins.
In the spinoff shows, we see Klingons as this warrior race (which is fine) who value honor (which is also fine) to such a degree that it frankly became preposterous (which was preposterous). According to depictions on screen, a Klingon could suffer execution or lifetime dishonor (which could often lead to suicide) for any of the following transgressions:
- Getting captured
- Accidentally destroying a ship you were ordered to shoot
- Treason (this one makes sense)
- Making a suggestion to a superior officer
- Being descended from someone guilty of treason
- Virtually any crime
- Being descended from someone who got captured
- Being deemed cowardly by a subordinate (who murders you and takes your place)
All of this creates a race that’s so absurdly fixated on capital punishment that you can’t imagine that they’d ever run an interstellar empire or develop warp drive or ever even get out of the Middle Ages. Obviously the original version for the Klingons was not stupid bloodthirstiness. In one episode of DS9, O’Brien compares a Klingon crew to “a gang of ancient sea pirates” – confessing how silly the race had become.
Almost as silly as the nickname "Scotty" for a Scottish person
The Klingons in ST3 are renegades led by a truly evil warlord, a character completely unlike those depicted in classic episodes, seen as follows:
“Day of the Dove” Kang and Kirk become fast friends by the end of the episode after allying against (spoiler alert) Melllvar. Kang’s wife says she’s heard the Federation abuses their prisoners – showing that both sides use propaganda against the other.
“The Trouble With Tribbles” Kirk permits Klingons to visit station K-7 as a sign of friendship under the Organian Treaty. While Kirk is irritated with the Federation bureaucrat and the unscrupulous businessman, he and Koloth are practically flirting with each other throughout the episode (“My dear Captain Koloth” / “My dear Captain Kirk”). When a fight breaks out between Klingons and Starfleet, Kirk punishes his own men because he knew they’d started it!
“A Private Little War” A parallel to the Vietnam War so obvious that Kirk comes out and says it, this episode shows the Federation supporting one side of an arms race while Klingons support another. Yes, the Klingons started it, but the message is we can’t judge our enemies too harshly because we use the same tactics they do most of the time.
“Errand of Mercy” Kor really is a bad guy in this: torturing Spock and ready to murder Organians by the thousands. As the character who put his feet in the wet cement of the Klingon race, Kor is truly magnificent to behold. And this clip here shows the idea “the Klingons (and by extension the Russians) are just like us” better than anything else in the franchise.
Despite TNG already being five seasons into messing up Klingons by 1991, Nick Meyer and Leonard Nimoy understood the race’s core premise when they did Star Trek 6: Klingons and Humans (and even a Vulcan!) were conspiring together to murder and even start a war.
So here’s the message for JJ Abrams and his friends doing Star Trek 2/12. If you use them as villains, remember that Klingons work best when they’re Klingons, not space vikings.