What Is Up With the Klingons in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’?

Drew Dietsch
Streaming TV
Streaming TV Star Trek

The Klingons have been a staple of the Star Trek universe since the original series. A fierce warrior race that has often been in conflict with the Federation, they will be key antagonists in Star Trek: Discovery. But, what we’ve seen of the Klingons has us a little confused.

Why Do They Look Different?

star trek discovery klingons l'rell
Mary Chieffo plays the Klingon commander L'Rell.

The Klingons have been redesigned during the course of the Star Trek franchise. But, the Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery look radically different than any Klingons we’ve seen before. Their skin color is more purple than brown. Most appear to be bald (even Klingon women) whereas in the previous Trek TV series many had long hair. They also are wearing ornate armor that doesn’t seem to reference any time period in Klingon history that fans are familiar with.

It turns out that’s on purpose. The creators of Star Trek: Discovery wanted to redesign the Klingons. There had to be a narrative reason to do so. That’s why these new Klingons are utilizing ancient Klingon technology. Their families might even be isolated from regular Klingon life.

That’s where the leaders of this Klingon faction come into play.

The Leaders

star trek discovery klingons kol
Kenneth Mitchell plays Kol.

This group of Klingons is lead by T’Kuvma. T’Kuvma is a proud but zealous Klingon warrior. He follows an ancient and puritanical way of Klingon life. He believes he is the reincarnation of Kahless, the founder the Klingon Empire. The Klingons view him as a near-deity. It seems that T’Kuvma is leading a radical splinter group that the other Klingon houses are wary of.

T’Kuvma is joined by his second-in-command, Kol. Kol is from the House of Kor. Kor was one of the first Klingons introduced in the original series. It sounds like this will link up to the Klingon race that we’re familiar with.

There is also L’Rell, T’Kuvma’s battle deck commander. Klingon culture is a patriarchal society and L’Rell is an ambitious female Klingon. It’s likely that her assertive personality will clash with T’Kuvma and Kol.

The Ship

star trek discovery klingons
Chris Obi as Klingon leader T'Kuvma.

T’Kuvma’s ship is unlike any in the Klingon Empire. It’s 200 years old and is partially constructed out of Klingon sarcophagi. This is an interesting twist because Klingons normally do not preserve their dead. Once a Klingon has died, their body is considered trash.

T’Kuvma’s ship will give us a peek into ancient Klingon ways of life. Along with the bizarre ship, we’ve also seen a new kind of Klingon suit called “torchbearer.” It seems to be a space suit. Exactly how often we’ll see the torchbearer suit is unknown.

star trek discovery klingons torchbearer suit
The Klingon torchbearer suit is incredibly ornate.

Exploring Strange, New Worlds

There is a lot that’s shocking about what we’ve seen of the Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery. It might seem jarring to fans, but Star Trek is a franchise that has always challenged expectations. Hopefully, this new take on the classic alien race will boldly go where no Star Trek series has gone before.

Star Trek Discovery premieres on CBS and CBS All Access September 24 in the U.S. and on Netflix in the U.K. the following day.

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