"Those are Klingons?!"
So said Doctor Julian Bashir when he encountered the strange, smooth-headed Klingons of The Original Series era, and many fans found themselves echoing his incredulous question when they saw this leaked photo from the Star Trek: Discovery set. The picture, which was posted by an extra on his Facebook page, was swiftly taken down, seemingly at the request of the showrunners. Of course, nothing can ever be truly deleted from the internet and copies of the photo were soon making the rounds.
Just as we suspected, the Klingon crew are wearing the silver uniforms shown in the #StarTrekDiscovery behind the scenes trailer. But while these uniforms suit the Klingons down to the ground, there's something very eerie about the new makeup and prosthetics.
Redesigning The Canon
The Klingons look more alien than they ever have before, with exaggerated facial features and ears that disappear into their skulls. Forget comparisons to The Original Series, these Klingons are more reminiscent of the revised design from the J.J. Abrams movie Star Trek: Into Darkness.
The Discovery Klingons are also notably bald, a fact which goes against the established canon — Klingons value long hair as a symbol of virility and power. Redesigning the Klingons to be bald isn't just an aesthetic choice: The Discovery production team are rewriting a key part of #StarTrek's worldbuilding, which is aggravating.
Attention to detail is a sign of quality in long running franchises, and we have to wonder whether the Discovery team even realized that by removing the Klingons' hair, they were also removing a chunk of established Klingon culture. After the amount of time The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine spent developing and exploring the Klingon way of life, brushing this away in a redesign choice seems brash to say the least.
However, that's not to say that canon-altering, radical redesigns have never happened before in Star Trek — especially with the Klingons. Discovery had a tricky challenge ahead of it when coming up with a Klingon design, as the Klingons of this era — ten years before The Original Series — lacked those recognizable forehead ridges.
This is not an easy problem to solve. Previous series have tackled it: Enterprise (also set prior to TOS) included an elaborate plot to explain the difference in the Klingons' smooth-forehead appearance, revealing that this was actually the symptom of an Augment Virus, designed to help Klingon warriors become more powerful. (That's a drastic oversimplification of the plot, which was convoluted at best.)
Before that, Deep Space Nine dealt with the issue in a far more humorous way. When the crew traveled back in time to The Original Series episode "Trouble With Tribbles", Worf was questioned about why these Klingons look so different. His response was priceless.
It seems the Star Trek: Discovery production team has taken a radically different route, redesigning the aliens so that they look distinct from both The Original Series and the Next Generation era shows that featured the well-known forehead ridges. This redesign is a bold choice, and so far the fan response hasn't exactly been favorable — which is unsurprising considering the similar Klingons in Into Darkness were fairly unpopular.
But before you start worrying that this Klingon redesign means Discovery is set in the Kelvin Timeline (y'know, the one J.J. Abrams created when he decided he didn't want to play ball with the Trek canon), there's nothing to fear — at the 2016 SDCC, ex-showrunner Bryan Fuller confirmed that Discovery is Prime Timeline-bound. Phew!
The leaked photo does prove one thing though: That the Klingons will play a significant role in Discovery. According to Entertainment Weekly, one plot point that will be explored is recurring character T'Kuvma's mission to unite the Klingon houses, an admirable goal that will no doubt be interesting to explore throughout the show.
What do you think of the new Klingon design for 'Discovery'?
[Source: Entertainment Weekly. Poll image credit: CBS]