For the sake of continuity, let’s not just ditch the Discovery Klingons redesign completely.
What I love about fandoms is that nothing is ever completely unloved. For every bad episode or bad series in a franchise, there’s always someone willing to defend it. When Star Trek: Discovery changed the look and the feel of the Klingons, I found myself defending the redesign of the Discovery Klingons, and I stand by it.
I’m not going to try to tell you that the redesign was actually great, a work of misunderstood genius, but it wasn’t all bad. The best aspects of it were the non-visual elements, such as the in-universe explanation for why they were now bald. Actress Mary Chieffo, who played L’Rell explained that Klingons shave their heads during wartime, in recognition of their religious figure Kahless the Unforgettable forging the first bat’leth from a lock of his own hair. When a fan pointed out that the Klingons weren’t bald during the Dominion War, she responded that that was over a hundred years later and that traditions change over time, especially after cultural upheavals like the destruction of Praxis.
If this explanation isn’t canon, then it should be. In one Tweet, Mary Chieffo made the Discovery Klingons feel like a part of the Star Trek universe better than Discovery ever did.
I also liked that, apart from their bald heads, there was no convoluted explanation for the redesign. An explanation would’ve been a lampshade, a story element that’s meant to fix a plot hole, but which only calls attention to said plot hole.
In the absence of a canonical explanation, the simplest assumption is that we’re simply looking at a different subspecies of Klingon. The beauty of the subspecies headcanon is that it meant the traditional Klingons hadn’t been retconned out of existence, paving the way for their eventual return. And now that the traditional Klingons have returned to our screens, it means that the Discovery Klingons haven’t been retconned out of existence either. Every redesign just adds to the diversity of the species.
But that’s undermined if we never see the Discovery Klingons again.
So here’s what I propose…
Bring back L’Rell. One of the diplomatic reasons given for the return to the traditional look was that in a character-driven show, they wanted characters who could express emotions, while the Discovery Klingons’ heavy prosthetics made that difficult. This sounds like it could be the set up for the return of the one Discovery Klingons who had a full emotional arc, Chancellor L’Rell. The current arc with the Klingons on SNW concerns a rogue group of Klingon and Federation war profiteers trying to reignite the war; doesn’t this sound like a problem that the Federation-aligned Klingon chancellor could get involved in?If L’Rell looked more or less like she did in Discovery, she could be the avatar for the Discovery Klingons, giving them a presence going forward, without fully going back to the unloved redesign. They could even tone down the prosthetics around her face to make her more expressive.The Klingons of Strange New Worlds have so far been antagonists, but not villains (the villainous ones were rogues, remember.) That’s exactly the role L’Rell played, even saving the day at the end of Discovery season 2. She deserves a return to the spotlight, and Mary Chieffo deserves one, too, if just for that story about the traditions of Kahless.