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Developed by screenwriter Gene L. Coon in for the original Star Trek TOS series, Klingons were swarthy humanoids characterized by prideful ruthlessness and brutality. Klingons practiced feudalism and authoritarianism , with a warrior caste relying on slave labor. With a greatly expanded budget for makeup and effects, the Klingons were completely redesigned for Star Trek: The Motion Picture , acquiring ridged foreheads. In subsequent television series and in later films, the militaristic traits of the Klingons were bolstered by an increased sense of honor and strict warrior code similar to those of bushido.
Klingons are recurring antagonists in the s television series Star Trek , and have appeared in all subsequent series, along with ten of the Star Trek feature films. Among the elements created for the revised Klingons was a complete Klingon language , developed by Marc Okrand from gibberish suggested by actor James Doohan.
Spoken Klingon has entered popular culture, even to the extent that some of the works of William Shakespeare and parts of the Bible have been translated into it. A dictionary, a book of sayings , and a cultural guide to the language have been published. According to the Guinness World Records , Klingon is the world's most popular fictional language as measured by number of speakers. The Klingons were created by screenwriter Gene L. Coon , and first appeared in the Star Trek episode " Errand of Mercy " The swarthy look of Klingon males was created with the application of shoe polish and long, thin moustaches; budget constraints limited creativity.
The Klingons took on the role of the Soviet Union with the fictional government the United Federation of Planets playing the role of the United States. For the first two seasons, no Klingon ships were seen despite being frequently mentioned. This was because of budget constraints; designer Matt Jefferies did not have the money to create a Klingon ship until the third season.
When the episodes were remastered beginning in , Klingon ships were digitally inserted into shots earlier than their original appearances. To give the aliens a more sophisticated and threatening demeanor, the Klingons were depicted with ridged foreheads, snaggled and prominent teeth, and a defined language and alphabet.
Lee Cole, a production designer, used red gels and primitive shapes in the design of Klingon consoles and ship interiors, which took on a dark and moody atmosphere. The alphabet was designed as angular, with sharp edges alluding to the Klingons' militaristic focus. Certain elements of Klingon culture, resembling Japanese culture with honor at the forefront, were actually first explored with the script for the planned two-part "Kitumba" episode for the unproduced Star Trek: Phase II series. Writer John Meredyth Lucas said, "I wanted something that we had never seen before on the series, and that's a penetration deep into enemy space.
I started to think of how the Klingons lived. Obviously for the Romulans we had Romans , and we've had different cultures modeled on those of ancient Earth, but I tried to think of what the Klingon society would be like. The Japanese came to mind, so basically that's what it was, with the Sacred Emperor , the Warlord and so on. For the third generation of Klingons, the heavy, cragged head ridges of The Motion Picture were redesigned and made less pronounced.
While Fletcher was happy with the original film uniforms, more had to be created as the old costumes had been lost, destroyed, or loaned out and altered irreparably. New costumes were fabricated, retaining the air of feudal Japanese design; Fletcher thought it was an important part of the Klingon authoritarian attitude.
The release of a new television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation , prompted a further revision in the depiction of Klingon culture, though Gene Roddenberry had wanted to avoid re-appearances of races from the old series.
Makeup artist Michael Westmore needed a consistent reference to base the Klingon look on, as each individual Klingon was to have distinct head ridges. He found what he was looking for in a book of dinosaurs: observing dinosaur vertebrae laid out flat, Westmore cut the designs in half and modified them to suit each Klingon. Westmore designed his Klingons' beards to be Elizabethan , combining prehistoric and aristocratic elements to give audiences a feeling of depth from the appearance.
Over time, Westmore and the other makeup artists designed different sizes of prosthetic headpieces which could be quickly applied and modified to save time; the amount of preparation to turn an actor into a Klingon decreased from around three hours to one. While important characters had custom headpieces, background actors used pre-made masks with minor touchup around the eyes and mouth.
Curry, a collector of weapons, was annoyed by fictional weaponry that was designed to "look cool" but could not be handled practically. Curry combined elements of the Himalayan kukri , Chinese axes and fighting crescents to create a two-handed, curved weapon that has since been widely used in the franchise. The culture of the Klingons began to resemble revised western stereotypes of civilizations such as the Zulu , the Vikings , and various Native American nations — as a proud, warlike and principled race.
The final Star Trek film to feature the entire cast from the original television series, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country served to bridge the original series Klingons at war with the Federation to the time of The Next Generation , and presents a subtly different treatment of the race. At the time of the film's development, the Soviet Union was collapsing, and with the advent of glasnost , the old allegory of Klingons as Russians was becoming obsolete.
The Klingons in the film liberally quote Shakespeare, a trait stemming from director Nicholas Meyer 's comparison of the Empire's appropriation of Shakespeare to the Nazis' similar attempt in the s.
Meyer also felt it was apropos for Shakespearean actors such as Christopher Plummer and David Warner to speak the lines. Dorn described playing a Klingon as simple, joking that after hours sitting in a makeup chair, actors were highly motivated to get the dialogue right the first time. When O'Reilly and Dorn's character had a confrontation, makeup artists wiped spittle off each between takes, a consequence of the harsh-sounding language.
When filming The Undiscovered Country , Christopher Plummer asked director Nicholas Meyer to adapt his character's look, feeling the heavy forehead appliances looked rather fake.
Instead, Plummer's character, General Chang, was made bald with subdued ridges and an eyepatch bolted to his skull. Plummer felt that the unique appearance helped "humanize" the character.
For Star Trek: Discovery , the Klingon appearance was once again modified with more extensive facial and teeth prosthetics and elongated craniums. The new Klingons were initially bald, in contrast with the previous depictions, but this was retconned in season 2. The lack of hair was said to have been ceremonial during the time of war with the Federation, harking back to the tale of Kahless having cut off a lock of hair to forge the first bat'leth. According to the official Star Trek web site, the Klingons' varying appearance was "probably the single most popular topic of conversation among Star Trek fans".
Simple theories that the different Klingons were different racial breeds were complicated by the fact that the characters of Kang , Koloth , and Kor appeared with smooth features in the original series, yet had a ridged appearance in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , and that Worf acknowledged the difference in appearances when the crew of Deep Space 9 returned to the 23rd century in the episode " Trials and Tribble-ations ," but offered no explanation, saying merely, "We do not discuss it with outsiders.
A canonical explanation for the change was given in a two-part storyline on Star Trek: Enterprise , in the episodes " Affliction " and " Divergence " that aired in February Attempting to replicate experiments by humans to create augmented soldiers, Klingon scientists used genetic material from human test subjects on their own people, which resulted in a viral pandemic which caused Klingons to develop human-like physical characteristics. Phlox of the Enterprise formulated a cure for the virus, but the physical alterations remained in the populace and were inherited by offspring.
Phlox indicated that "some day" the physical alterations could be reversed. They were a deliberate blending of Klingon genes with those of other races in an effort to gain an understanding of, and thus advantage over, the other races.
Human fusions were chosen for service on the Federation border due to the high number of humans present in the Federation. Fusions of both types were considered inferior to pure strain "Imperial Klingons" and were segregated.
In a chapter called "The Ultimate Klingon", the player character travels to the planet H'atoria in the Korvat System to infiltrate a secret Klingon research facility and discovers Amar Singh, a descendant of Khan Noonien Singh , has merged Klingon, Augment, and Gorn DNA to create a ferocious, mindless monstrosity the player must destroy. Singh is arrested and imprisoned at Facility Klingons possess a robust and enduring biology as well as large and muscular statures.
Klingons have been seen on multiple occasions possessing physical strength equal to or superior to that of Jem'Hadar and Hirogen , two other races possessing immense strength, and the half-human B'Elanna Torres proves more than a match for a Vulcan. Their anatomy is redundant and supernumerary; every organ has a backup, including an extra set of kidneys, an eight-chambered heart, a third lung, a secondary brain stem, as well as an extensive and hardy skeletal structure.
This redundancy is evident even at the cellular level; for example, the Klingons have back-up synaptic networks in their nervous systems, allowing them to grow a new spine, as was demonstrated with Worf when his spine was surgically removed and replaced with a transplanted, genetically cloned new one. Their rapid metabolism allows injured Klingons to heal quickly. All of this makes Klingons extremely hardy and difficult to kill, as necessitated by their aggressive nature, and resistant to physical trauma, environmental exposure, and illness.
Klingons alone have a natural resistance to " the Phage ," which plagues the Vidiians of the Delta Quadrant. Like Cardassians , they avoid cold temperatures. Klingons also have a heightened sense of smell as suggested in "Birthright, Part II" in The Next Generation , when Worf and a Klingon boy go hunting and can track an animal by scent.
Klingon children are fierce and aggressive by nature; from as soon as they can walk, they are instructed into honing their hunting and combat skills, strengthening their physical prowess and agility.
Like humans, they go through a form of puberty, which, as Picard puts it in Star Trek: Insurrection "hardly does it justice" and includes sudden bursts of hair growth, extreme mood swings, violent tendencies, and the Klingon equivalent of acne called 'Gorch' in Klingon.
In comparison to The Original Series , Klingon culture is thoroughly examined in later series' episodes, part of a larger movement by Star Trek writers to deepen viewer understanding of the alien races of the franchise. Their society is based on war and combat; ritual suicide is often preferred over living life as a crippled warrior, and may allow a warrior to die with honor. To be captured rather than killed in battle brings dishonor to not only the captive but his descendants.
Death is depicted as a time for celebration, not grief. Klingons are depicted as a spiritual people. According to their legends, Klingons slew their own gods. Those who do not die in battle may not enter Sto-Vo-Kor; relatives undertake quests to guarantee their deceased comrades entry into paradise.
Despite believing in an afterlife, the Klingons perform a form of last rite. This consists of spreading the eyes open, humming in anticipation of the final breath and roaring skywards when the warrior dies, warning the dead a Klingon warrior is coming as shown in " Heart of Glory ".
Yet Klingons have no burial rites, and dispose of corpses by the most expedient means available, considering them "empty shells". The Klingons' spiritual leader is Kahless , a messianic historical figure who established early codes of honor and was the first Klingon emperor.
His fabled weapon, the Sword of Kahless, is depicted as a unique bat ' leth that serves as the Klingon equivalent of the Holy Grail. The Klingons have their own language that was developed for the feature films, often described as "guttural".
Okrand was presented with a difficult task of contriving a language that sounded alien, while still simple enough for the actors to pronounce. He chose the rarest form of sentence construction, the object-verb-subject form: the translation of the phrase "I boarded the Enterprise ", would be constructed as "The Enterprise boarded I.
Adjectives do not strictly exist; there is no word for "greedy", but there is a verb, qur , which means "to be greedy". Okrand went back and revised the phrase to " taH pagh, taHbe' ", roughly meaning "whether to continue, or not to continue [existence]".
Okrand persuaded Pocket Books to publish The Klingon Dictionary in ; in it, Okrand elaborated on the Klingon language's grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. While Okrand expected the book to only sell as a novelty item, eleven years after publication it had sold , copies. While Paramount initially tried to stop the Institute from using its copyrighted language, the company eventually relented. From time to time, Okrand has amended the "official" list of Klingon vocabulary due in part to requests from the Institute and other groups.
The Klingon language's prevalence is not limited to books; a three-disc video game, Star Trek: Klingon , requires players to learn the language to advance. The popularity of the language meant that in it was considered the fastest-growing constructed language, ahead of other languages such as Tolkien's Elvish or Esperanto. In , the language learning app Duolingo added a Klingon language course. Okrand himself is not fluent, and the actors who speak the language in the Star Trek series are more concerned with its expression than the actual grammar.
As the Klingons are portrayed as a warrior culture, Klingon starships are usually depicted as warships , heavily armed with a variety of particle beam weaponry and antimatter warheads. Many Klingon ships also make use of cloaking technology to hide the vessel from view.
The first Klingon ship design used in The Original Series , the D7-class battlecruiser, was designed by Matt Jefferies to evoke a predator's shape akin to that of a manta ray , providing a threatening and instantly recognizable form for viewers.