From the moment the first images of the Klingons in Star Trek Discovery were revealed the questions of their relationship to Star Trek canon began to fly…
They are canon.
Before the release of the Star Trek: Discovery pilot episode, The Vulcan Hello ever aired many fans were already up in arms as we got our first look at the redesigned Klingons, as the first images were released we were shocked to see bald heads, and a somewhat more organic look to armour and weapons.
As fans clamoured for answers then show runner Brian Fuller and his crew were in damage control mode, or so it seemed. With care fully constructed statements within didn’t exactly get answers, it was more like ideas. We were first fed the idea that this change was ‘necessary’, or ‘creative’ and the narrative that canon had fluctuated with the Klingon redesign between The Original Series and the movies / The Next Generation.
I now believe that this was a carefully constructed misdirection, one which has in many ways backfired on the Discovery creative team, and that the season two ‘shift’ to ‘a more canon design’ was in fact always planned.
How can these “Klingons” be canon?
Let’s begin with what we know. The original series design was largely due to budget constraints, they simply couldn’t afford to go all in on makeup and prosthetics for the Klingon villain of the week.
The updated look we came to know with characters like Worf would later be reticoned through the Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribble-ations and the Enterprise episode Divergence where we would discover that the change of look was caused by the Klingon Augment virus which had been caused by a misadventure involving genetically engineered human embryos.
We also know from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Rightful Heir that when Kahless united the Klingon Empire he forged the first of a new weapon, the bat’leth by cutting off his own hair, placing it in lava and twisting it by hand into a blade.
"I promise one day I will return.” Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, “Look for me there, on that point of light.”– Kahless the Unforgettable"
Forging what we know into canon
The followers of T’Kuvma see him in many ways as Kahless reincarnated, and this is no accident. They refer to him as T’Kuvma the Unforgettable, he stands at the beacon, a ‘point of light’ in the sky, he even goes as far as to say he is the reincarnation of Kahless.
"“[Klingons] stand as one under Kahless, reborn in me, T’Kuvma.”– T’Kuvma"
So we have a group of dedicated followers of an almost religious, reincarnated icon with a more organic look to their weaponry which leads me to the conclusion that they have forged these weapons from their own hair (I’d imagine a point of light beacon capable of being mistaken as a Star from as far as Vulcan outputs at least as much heat as lava).
Add to that the 24 houses are in a constant state of war, and it becomes reasonable to assume Klingons simply cut their hair during war.
Why didn’t they cut it during the Dominion War?
Simple, Gawron was a poor leader, he felt threatened by Emperor Kahless II (clone), and later by General Martok. As the Emperors official role was to bring back the teachings of the original Kahless, a threatened Chancellor wasn’t going to lead his people right into Kahless’ wheel house by following his example and cutting off his hair.
Aren’t you forgetting something?
Not exactly, yes the former show runners did say last summer that the shaved heads were needed to expose ‘extra sensory receptors’ in their heads. And while this may one day prove to be true in some way I will not, at the moment, consider the musings of former show runners occurring off-screen as canon.
Everything we need occurred on-screen, and over several series.
What about the human augment virus?
Yes, 10 years later we see all Klingons infected with that virus, but remember at this point the houses are split. It’s not hard to believe the rest will become infected following full unification
Star Trek: Discovery Klingons are canon.