All About the Klingons

 The Klingons are the most popular villains and one of the most popular alien races in the Star Trek universe. Let's go over the background and history of these noble and powerful warriors.

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The Federation's Greatest Enemy

The Klingons of the Original Series
The Klingons of the Original Series. Paramount/CBS

The Klingons have long been a major enemy to the Federation. The Klingon Empire is one of the most powerful alliances in the Star Trek Galaxy. In the Original series, the Klingons frequently clashed with the Enterprise during missions. In later series like The Next Generation, the Federation and the Klingon Empire held an uneasy truce and later alliance.

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The Klingons are Warriors

Klingon warriors
Klingon warriors. Paramount/CBS

The Klingons are most recognized for having aggressive, war-like behavior. Combat is their defining characteristic. They developed a bladed weapon called the bat'leth, and their culture values victory in combat above all else. Their greeting and even mating is all about violence and brutality.

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The Klingons are the Enemy

Klingon battlecruiser
Klingon battlecruiser. Paramount/CBS

From their first appearance on the Original Series, the Klingons have been a representation of hostile nations. More specifically, the Klingons began as analogs of Cold War enemies such as the Russians and the Chinese. This allowed the conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire to echo hostilities between the United States and communism during the Cold War.

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Rituals and Honor

Klingon Death Ritual
Klingon Death Ritual. Paramount/CBS

Though the Klingons can be brutal, they're more than just beast-like thugs. The Klingons can be a noble race with an emphasis on honor and ritual. The Klingons are a feudal society with numerous ancestral Great Houses that govern through the Klingon High Council.

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The Most Popular Klingon

Worf aboard "Deep Space Nine"
Worf aboard "Deep Space Nine". Paramount Television

One of the most popular Klingons is Worf, played by Michael Dorn. Worf served as the security officer aboard the Enterprise-D on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show often highlighted his struggle to maintain his warrior ethic in the peaceful ethics of the Federation. He later made appearances in the movies, and reappeared as a regular character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

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Klingons Have Ridges

Typical Klingon Male
Typical Klingon Male. Paramount/CBS

Physically, the Klingons tend to have dark skin, sharp teeth, and long hair. In the Original Series, the Klingons looked like humans with Fu Manchu mustaches and bushy eyebrows. With Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Klingons changed to include prominent forehead ridges. The ridges look like armor or vertebrae running along their heads. They make the Klingons instantly recognizable among aliens. 

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Why Do the Klingons Look Different?

Kor from the Original Series
Kor from the Original Series. Paramount/CBS

With the introduction of the ridges in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, people began asking the question, why do they look so different from the Klingons in the Original Series? Of course, the reason is that they couldn't afford complex makeup on the original series. But a two-part episode of Star Trek: Enterprise answered the question in-universe. They established that Klingon scientists tried to use human DNA to enhance their species. In the process, they accidentally created a virus that removed Klingon forehead ridges in its victims.

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The Klingon Language is Real

Klingon Language
Klingon Language. Paramount/CBS

The Klingon language has become the most popular fictional languages in the world. It began as a few simple words developed by James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty on the Original Series. It was later developed by Marc Okrand in a more complex language. An official Klingon dictionary was published, and fans have learned to speak it, and even translated books such as Hamlet and The Epic of Gilgamesh into Klingon. 

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Trek Fans Love Klingons

Klingon Cosplay at Motor City Comic Con 2015
Klingon Cosplay at Motor City Comic Con 2015. Getty Images/Monica Morgan

Klingons are one of the most popular aliens in the Star Trek universe. The Klingons have appeared in all the Star Trek TV series and almost all the movies. Fans often dress as Klingons at conventions, and have learned their language

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The Klingons Are Reborn

Qo'nos Patrol Officer
Qo'nos Patrol Officer. Paramount Pictures

In the new movie trilogy starting with Star Trek in 2009, the Klingons have been reimagined. Their forehead ridges have become full armor with piercings as well. Little is known of the new Klingons from the movies, but hopefully we'll see more of them in the future. 

Final Thoughts

The Klingons continue to be a beloved and feared group of aliens on Star Trek. We're all looking forward to more of this proud and deadly species.