No wait! Come back! I don’t mean the look of the Klingons, that was atrocious. Abrams made them look like weird lizard people with forehead ridge piercings. That was just fucking stupid. Why not just give them tribal tattoos while you’re at it, those are tough right?
No, when I say that I think J.J. did something right with the Klingons, I don’t mean the look – I mean the idea of them. Klingons are the bad guys! At least in the original Star Trek they were, and that’s what this is supposed to be a reboot of isn’t it? You see people used to know this, even before the species had a makeover when TOS transitioned into the film era. But then something- actually, someone happened.
The era of Worf. Michael Dorn. You know the man, or you should at least. Over the course of 15 years he appeared a total of 281 times in Star Trek series and movies. During that time, we were presented with a complex character who allowed us with an opportunity to explore Klingon culture. It was fun and we all learned a lot (even Riker). In fact, it went so well that halfway through Next Gen’s run, the final TOS feature film ushered in an era of peace with the Klingons. Pay attention to that: the last thing the original Enterprise crew ever did together was bury the hatchet with the Klingons. All was good.
Perhaps a little too good?
According to the Star Trek EU (those other “Star” guys don’t get a monopoly!) and a brief mention in the TNG episode “First Contact” we’ve been told that when the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire first met it was a disaster. It was such a disaster that first contact rules had to be revised to ensure nothing like that meeting ever happened again. Even still, the tension between the Federation, who pride themselves on fostering relations with all lifeforms, and Klingons escalated to a boiling point. The only thing that stopped total intergalactic war was the intervention of a God-like race (not the Q) that forced both sides into armistice.
Remember, Starfleet has a mantra of: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” However, in this case they were ready to just throw down and vaporize every last one of those smirking, goateed bastards. The point I’m trying to get across here is that there was, and always should be, some serious beef between the Federation and the Klingons for anything pre-Undiscovered Country.
This seemed to be a pretty well known and undisputed rule. That is, until Enterprise came along.
Dammit Enterprise, just dammit!
Remember how I said that perhaps things had gotten too good? Well you see, by the time the pilot for this show came around the Klingons had been presented as lovable but cranky scamps (among other things) for quite sometime. Even Star Trek: Voyager had a main cast member who was half-human, half-Klingon.
So yeah, I believe that Enterprise ended up suffering from this. It was the last Star Trek television series, which actually came first chronologically, and there were too many ideas of what to do with a collection of warrior space-aliens who had become relatable. I’m not to saying that they had to be grunting monsters with no history or personality, but it was well over 100 years prior to Space Gods forcing them to not shoot every Federation officer they saw. A bit more aggression would have been nice.
Really, the clocks should have been turned back on all of the progress made by Kirk and crew through the era of Worf. But that didn’t happen, and what we got instead was an attempt at compromise. The producers tried to present (no pun intended) the best of both worlds with the Klingons. They wanted them to be tough, but weren’t willing to pull the trigger and make them the true bad guys we knew the Empire was capable of being. With this, the Klingons became little more than a nuisance, falling behind other villainous races such as the Suliban or the Xindi and the overall threat of the Temporal Cold War. I know, “the who and the what now” right?
So let’s return to the present and take a look at what happened when the reboot crew met the Klingons in Into Darkness. They were shot at, forced out of the sky and into (a pretend) surrender. When they tried to appeal to the Klingon’s sense of honor to help them find “John Harrison”, Uhura was almost choked and stabbed to death because she happened to be the one speaking at the time.
Say what you will about the Abrams films. For all of the liberties (good and bad) they took with rebooting the series, they did do this one thing right. We were given back the real villains of Star Trek, and while they may not have been the immediate threat faced by the crew of the new films, the Klingon Empire was once again made into what feels like a clear and present danger.
And that’s a very good thing.