What happened to the Klingons' foreheads?


    They used to be fairly normal-looking human types with snotty attitudes and the poorly hidden cowardice that underlies the facade of all bullies.
    Now they are very alien-looking warriors with a strong sense of honor and great physical courage.
    How do we explain this transformation?


Reality check...

    Okay... We first saw the Klingons on Star Trek, a 1960's network television series with a limited budget. The regularly seen species of aliens on the show needed to have simple make-up that could be applied easily and would allow the actors to employ facial expressions. A little work on the ears, eyebrows, complexion, and haircut, and you'd have your Vulcan, Klingon, or Romulan ready to go. And you'd still be able to recognize this week's guest-star behind the costume.
    A decade later Star Trek was being revived. First it was supposed to be the flagship series for a "fourth network", but when that didn't come together, the work continued for the sake of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Now the creators had time and budget to go hog-wild on their Klingons who would be seen only breifly in the film, and would do limited emoting. So, starting from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we got Klingons with enlarged, ridged or spined foreheads, large brownish teeth, and other make-up features.
    Eight years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced the character Worf. A Klingon who'd grown up among humans and become a Federation Starfleet Officer, but struggled to understand and adhere to his Klingon cultural roots. Naturally, Worf provided the series an avenue for expanding the fictional world of the Klingons. And that wouldn't have been much fun if the Klingons were just the simple bad-guys they'd been in the original series.


Beyond reality...

    The continuity of the various Star Trek series and films has acknowledged the change in the Klingons, but never explained it. We do have some clues from the series though...

Clue:    We know that in the mid 23rd Century (as depicted in Star Trek) all the Klingons we saw interacting with the Federation were basically human-looking with odd complexions, tufted eyebrows, and usually Atilla the Hun facial hair. They were sneaky and dishonorable enough to attack Federation interests by poisoning grain stores. Although it was possible for these Klingons to pass for human with a little cosmetic alteration, they were physiologically different enough from Earthlings to be detected with a quick pass of a medical tricorder.

Clue:    We know that by the late 23rd Century (as depicted in the original cast Star Trek movies) all the smooth-head Klingons had dissappeared. In their place were the ridge-skulled Klingons who were bigger, tougher, and lived for battle.

Clue: We have reason to suspect that sometime between the mid and late 23rd Century there was an exchange of military technology between the Klingons and Romulans. In the mid 23rd Century, the Klingons had weaponry roughly similar to that of Federation starships. The Romulans had a less even development of technology, with a slow-moving plasma-ball cannon as their primary offensive weapon and apparently no defensive shields, but an advanced cloaking device. By the late 23rd Century, the Klingons had cloaking devices, and the Romulans had more diverse technology.

Clue: In the first half of the 24th Century (as recalled in Star Trek: The Next Generation), a state of War existed between the Klingons and Romulans.

Clue:    When 24th Century Klingons cloned their great leader Kahless from genetic material many centuries old, he was a ridge-skulled Klingon.

Clue:    When asked about the difference in appearance between mid 23rd Century Klingons and 24th Century Klingons (in the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode where the crew time-travelled into the old Star Trek 'Trouble with Tribbles' episode) Worf affirmed that the smooth-head Klingons of the old show "ARE Klingons". He also says "It's something we don't discuss with outsiders". We also see that tribbles react negatively to both smooth and ridge-headed Klingons, while reacting pleasantly to almost everyone else. This suggests that the smooth and ridge headed Klingons do share some otherwise uncommon physiological aspects.

    Soooooo... We know that Klingons of the distant past were ridge-headed. Somewhere between the time of Kahless and the mid 23rd Century, people with smooth heads were known as Klingons, and they were apparently exchanging technology with the Romulans. By the late 23rd Century, the Klingons were ridge-headed again, and they were about to go to war with the Romulans. We also know from Worf's reaction that the smooth-headed Klingon period is a point of embarrassment to the ridge-head Klingons.


A storyline to fit the evidence...

    It is only natural that the ridge-headed Klingons of Kahless' world would use space travel technology for conquest as soon as they developed it. Perhaps the early spacefaring Klingons entered a star system and found two planets at war. By striking an agreement with one planet (declaring its smooth-headed warriors to be "Klingon Brothers"), the Klingons gained a convenient ally which enabled them to easily overpower the other planet... Adding both worlds to the fledgling Klingon Empire.
    The smooth-headed people of the ally planet were shrewd politicians, and used their "Klingon" status from the alliance treaty to maneuver themselves into positions of power within the Empire. Naturally, they used marriage to make familial connections, which were very important in Klingon politics. In so doing, they introduced certain tribble-triggering physiological traits into the smooth-head population.
    In the early 23rd Century the smooth-headed Klingons managed to get control of the Klingon High Council through some underhanded political intrigue. Although the real, ridge-headed Klingons deeply resented this, they were bound by their own honor to accept smooth-head control. Nevertheless, the smooth-head leaders thought it wise to keep the ridge-heads away from their dealings with the Federation.
    In the latter half of the 23rd Century the smooth head Klingons traded technology with the Romulans, hoping that cloaking devices would give them the edge in their conflict with the Federation. Little did they know that Kirk and Spock had done some successful espionage and aquired a cloaking device for Federation study, so cloaking technology would not be as effective against Starfleet as the smooth-heads had hoped! (As depicted in the original series Enterprise Incident episode.)
    With their new military technology, the Romulans turned on the Klingons. As soon as the Romulans used technology provided by the smooth-headed Klingons against the Klingon Empire, the ridge-headed Klingons had justification to declare the smooth headed leaders Traitors Against the Empire, and to exterminate them... Which they gladly did.

    That's my explanation. Let me know if you've a better one.


On November 7, 2002, ShadowPhantom sent me the following email... But, when I replied, my message got bounced because he has his junk mail filter set to accept mail only from folks on his list.
I know junk mail is a PITA. But if you email me, please put me on your list so I can reply. If I become a pest, you can always take me off the list later. {G}

Dear Dave:

     Your theory is very good and well thought out, however there is one glaring incident that your hypothesis leaves out. Koloth, Kang and Kor all showed up on Deepspace Nine as ridge-headed Klingons yet they all lived in Kirk's time as smooth-headed Klingons.

     I'm thinking that there was a cadre of surgically altered Klingons that were thought to be capable of dealing with humans better than the more alien looking ridge headed Klingons. It was discovered that these "stealth" Klingons were not having any special success against the Federation and the experiment was discontinued and the surgery was reversed.

     One thing that this explanation doesn't cover is the fact that ridged headed Klingons were in contact with Star Fleet in the time of Captain Archer. So that any attempt to make Klingons seem less alien to humans in Kirk's time would be doomed to failure.

     The Mystery continues!!!!!


ShadowPhantom,

Your theory is very good and well thought out

     Thanks... My, but you made it into the bowels of the old website, didn't you? {G}

however there is one glaring incident that your hypothesis leaves out. Koloth, Kang and Kor all showed up on Deepspace Nine as ridge-headed Klingons yet they all lived in Kirk's time as smooth-headed Klingons

     The smooth-head Klingons who show up in the 24th Century as ridge-heads could fit into my storyline if...

(A.) They were of the smooth-headed race, but realized that the smooth-head Klingon leaders were going in a doomed direction with their Romulan alliance, so they had themselves surgically/genetically altered to be ridge-headed and firmly took sides with the ridge-headed Klingons before the fecal material initiated contact with the proverbial rotory device.

(B.) They were originally ridge-headed Klingons who were surgically altered to infiltrate the smooth-heads back in the TOS era. Perhaps they even helped gain the evidence the ridge-heads needed to justify exterminating the smooth-heads.


     Still seems sort of odd to me that Klingons would be so long-lived. What's the point of a long potential life-span in a species so dedicated to early, violent death?


I'm thinking that there was a cadre of surgically altered Klingons that were thought to be capable of dealing with humans better than the more alien looking ridge headed Klingons. It was discovered that these "stealth" Klingons were not having any special success against the Federation and the experiment was discontinued and the surgery was reversed.

     That's a possibility... And we know that there were some Klingons altered to pass for human completely for espionage purposes. But it doesn't seem likely that they'd alter whole crews of Klingons, most of whom were not expected to ever meet humans face-to-face. Especially when you consider that ridge-headed Klingons tend to find humans rather ugly. (Stated in the TNG episode where Riker serves aboard a Klingon ship, and in a movie where Klingons can see through LaForge's "eyes".)

Klingon Strategist: "We want to alter your appearance to be more human-like"

Klingon Warrior: "Are you out of your mind? I don't want to look like one of those soft, pallid, weakling humans! BLECH!"

KS: "But it may give you a psychological advantage when dealing with the humans."

KW: "When I ram my blade into someone's guts and give it a nice twist, I have all the #^(*!%@ psychological advantage I need! Try to alter my face and I'll show you EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN!"

KS: "Hmmm. Now that you put it that way, maybe this plan ain't so hot after all."

One thing that this explanation doesn't cover is the fact that ridged headed Klingons were in contact with Star Fleet in the time of Captain Archer.

     Yeah... Of course, the whole ENTERPRISE series conflicts with established continuity so much that you have to pretty much consider it to be in an alternate universe from TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY...

     I figured the smooth-heads were in charge only briefly, during the TOS era... Can't imagine the ridge-heads would have put up with them running the show for very long.

     One story that isn't canon, but should be, is ISHMAEL, a 1985 Star Trek novel that says the Klingons were only a pre-industrial civilization when they were absorbed into an earlier interstellar empire... That they are a great example of what happens without the Prime Directive. A barbaric culture suddenly empowered with space flight and planet-smashing weapons.

     It makes sense. Can you imagine a bunch of Klingons figuring out how to generate anti-matter, magnetically channel it into controlled collision with matter, then focus the released energy through a crystal matrix and use it to create a stable warp field? These are friggin' cave-men who knife-fight for fun we're talking about!

-DAVE.            

...Live long, and prosper.




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