The redesign of the Klingons for Star Trek: Discovery was a flop. Now that they’re gone, we can acknowledge that it wasn’t all bad.
When it was announced that Star Trek: Picard season 3 would reunite the entire Next Generation crew for one last adventure, one awkward question lingered, what would Worf look like? Worf’s appearance in Picard would mark the first time a Klingon had been seen in live-action Star Trek since Star Trek: Discovery season 2. Their absence was due to Discovery flubbing their redesign of the Klingons so badly that no one really knew how they should be represented. Well, thankfully Worf looked exactly like you’d expect him to. And now that the Strange New Worlds season 2 trailer has been released, we’ve seen it features Klingons looking like they have since the beginning of the TNG era. So, I guess that’s the end of the Discovery redesign Klingons.
We hardly knew ye.
I did try to like the redesigned Klingons, I really did. But they just didn’t work. The problem was simple, it was too drastic. It was indicative of Discovery’s insistence that it wasn’t your grandad’s Star Trek, this was cool new Star Trek. Thankfully, the course correction was swift, and the new Trek series are no longer plagued with this novelty-above-all attitude.
Let’s talk about what was good about the Star Trek: Discovery design…
The head-to-toe latex prosthetics weren’t a bad idea. It accentuated the Klingon look, turning it up to 11. If only it hadn’t been accompanied by stuff that directly contradicted the classic Klingon look, like the bald elongated heads, weird skin tones, pointy fingers, and baroque ships. That’s the line that they shouldn’t have crossed, redesigns are a fact of a franchise that’s nearing the sixty-year mark, and sometimes they’re essential. But they should never contradict what’s gone before. Accentuate, exaggerate, reinterpret, but never contradict.
The other thing I liked about the Klingon redesign was that there was no convoluted explanation for it, they were simply a separate subspecies. Contrast this with the four-episode arc that Enterprise came up with to explain why the original series Klingons looked different from the TNG-era Klingons. Don’t get me wrong, it was a cracking story, but it was a very long answer to a question that no one asked.
(Besides, Deep Space 9 addressed the inconsistency with a single jokey exchange, and it’s one of my favorite Star Trek moments).
Of course, there was a 100 percent improvement in Discovery season 2, when the Klingons grew their locks back. The hair really made a difference, giving us something that was new, but still recognizable.
The great thing about the subspecies explanation for the redesign is that it means that even if we never see the Discovery Klingons again, they haven’t been retconned out of existence. They share the world, with the traditional Klingons; they’re just kicking back, looking scary as all get out, while the traditional Klingons do shots with Spock.