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What is a Klingon?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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If you’ve ever watched a Star Trek episode, you’ve likely encountered the invented race known as Klingons. In the original Star Trek series, a Klingon was a member of a humanoid race, roughly resembling a person of Mongolian ancestry. They were often subtly intelligent, but scheming, and were depicted as archenemies of the humans and the Federation. They specifically referenced the cold war relationship between the US and USSR that existed when the first series was made.

As Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek developed the series into feature films, and later into Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), he significantly changed the appearance of Klingons, giving them a bumpy ridged forehead and a dark complexion. What delighted fans most, was the complexity of the Klingon world, its culture, and its people that Roddenberry built into subsequent Star Trek films and series. Today there are ardent fans that can even speak Klingon, and love to dress as their favorite characters for Star Trek conventions.

While the Klingon was still seen as a nemesis in early Star Trek films, Roddenberry significantly departed from viewing the race as “the bad guys,” by developing the character of Lt. Worf, a Klingon raised by humans, who serves the Federation under the command of Captain Jean Luc Picard, in the TNG series. Much of what we know about Klingons now, comes from this expansive and wonderful character, who presents the conflict of serving a Federation at variance with his own people’s views.

From the later films and TNG, we learn that Klingons do tend to rule by violence, and their warrior’s way could be roughly compared to that of the Samurai. Honor through battle and right behavior is vastly important. If you are traitorous or disgraced, this carries to your whole family, who are then judged as lesser people. In fact, for years, Lt. Worf suffers from the disgrace his father brought on the family, and is treated as a second-class citizen.

Klingon women are notoriously tough, quite willing to combat with their husbands or suitors if necessary. In fact, they choose their own mates. A few have held political office and many gain control of their families, which are often structured into houses. In matters of marriage, Klingon women are considered much tougher than men, and according to Lt. Worf, men quickly learn to duck thrown objects. Men are portrayed as the gentler sex, but this by no means makes them gentle creatures.

It’s clear Roddenberry, and other Star Trek writers had a great deal of fun imagining the Klingon world. The gruff and rough exterior of the Klingons, with their emphasis on battle and skill at arms is contrasted with a love of opera and poetry. They’re not appreciated by all other races, and only Klingons can drink blood wine without severe intoxication. Yet they’re certainly imaginative, and make a wonderful addition to the pantheon of races created for the Star Trek universe.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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