KINO: Klingons In Name Only

klingon in name only

Whether fans love or hate or fall somewhere in between Star Trek: Discovery, one thing that nearly everyone agrees with is that the re-imagined Klingons are a bad misfire. In fact, many consider them to be the show’s biggest flaw. As the main villains in the latest Star Trek TV show, these Klingons bear little resemblance to the traditional mighty Klingons seen in previous Star Trek TV shows. They deviate so much that they can only be considered Klingons In Name Only (KINO) and this is a problem since they are the main adversaries in Star Trek: Discovery.

From Cold Warriors To Gruff Allies 

Klingons have had a long history with Star Trek going back to the first season of the original show. When they were first introduced, they were supposed to be a mix of Nazis and Soviets and their conflict with the peaceful Federation represented the Cold War going on at the time. Due to limited budgets, the makeup of the Klingons was simplistic: swarthy, greasy complexions with arched eyebrows and goatees. Needless to say, they could pass for humans.

kor and kirk

Later when Star Trek became a film series, increased budgets allowed for the aliens’ look to be enhanced. They were sported browed ridges on their foreheads and wore durable and elaborate body armor. They were bulky, formidable warriors that were more than a match for any human opponent. As the films progressed and new TV shows premiered, the Klingons were better developed until they became a rich alien culture with their own distinct language. This gruff, heavy handed tongue became so popular with fans that it is now the most spoken fictional language in the world today.

The alien race had evolved from simplistic Cold War stand-ins and became a complex civilization with a fascinating back story. They even became allies of the Federation, though the culture clashes remained. Of course, there was the continuity issue of how the classic Klingons looked more alien than the human-like ones from the original show. This was solved in the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise where it was shown that the Klingon race contracted a virus that mutated them into having a more human appearance. It was outlandish, but it worked.

classic klingons

By this point, the Klingons were perfected. Yet, for some reason when it came time to reboot Star Trek the iconic Klingon look was changed. In their only full appearance to date, Star Trek Into Darkness, they didn’t have any hair and looked more alien. They still came off as savage, bloodthirsty warriors, but weren’t as hefty or burly as classic Klingons. The reaction to them was mixed, but everyone knew the reboots took place in an alternate reality, so the new look could be overlooked by some.

One of the most enticing details about Star Trek: Discovery was that the show would take place in the Prime Star Trek Timeline. This excited many fans who felt alienated by the action-oriented reboots. Then images and clips started appearing which discouraged fans. In addition to the advanced technology and contradictory plot details, the Klingons received yet another unwanted makeover.

Meet The KINOs

Everything about them looks different except for the browed ridges that now  are more prominent since they are hairless. Their skin tone is either purple, black or white with super flared nostrils. The KINOs wear ugly uniforms that looked more like bony dresses than armor and aren’t as formidable as real Klingons. What is worse is that brusque and clipped Klingon tongue sounds different, more unnatural. Maybe it is the makeup but now the Klingons sound like they have something in their mouths and it is difficult to listen to them. At no point in the episodes shown have we heard their famous battle cry “Qapla!”, meaning “Success!” Instead we get long, drawn out speeches that is hard on the ears and ponderous to read with all the subtitles.

It can be argued that these could be another unseen-til-now faction of Klingons or something along that line. But this is a needless revision. There wasn’t anything wrong with the classic Klingon look. Why did the showrunners feel the need to meddle with not only the look, but the complex culture of the beloved aliens? If the argument is to be different and update their look then why stop there? Why not update the Vulcans? As aliens go, they are not remarkable in this day; pointed ears and arched eyebrows. Not the most exciting look, but to try to change it would be blasphemy at this point.

klingon burial

What is probably worse for the KINOs is the way they are portrayed in Star Trek: Discovery. They do not seem very bright for vaunted military types. In the episode “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry” the Klingons led by Voq are stranded near an abandoned Federation starship for six months. Voq boards the enemy starship to scavenge for parts, but if they were marooned for six months why didn’t he and the other Klingons scavenge the starship sooner? Then the way they perceive death is radically different than with classic Klingons. Both do the death cry when one of their own dies to warn the afterlife of a coming Klingon soul. However, once a Klingon is dead the corpse is casually discarded because the body is just a husk. These KINOs instead put their dead into elaborate sarcophagi and transfer them onto a special funeral ship. Huh?  Even their ships and weapons bear little resemblance to the iconic Klingon battle cruisers, birds-of-prey and bat’leths.

For a Star Trek show that is allegedly set in the Prime Timeline these Klingons are the best argument that this is not so. But debating about timelines and canon is pointless and would not be so heated if the Klingons were better realized. Frankly, whenever these KINOs appear onscreen the pace of the episodes comes to a screeching halt. There is an interesting subplot about uniting their separate clans to become a major power again. But that gets lost in the slow pace of their poorly written scenes. They simply are not as intimidating as classic Klingons. One attempt to make them frightening is to have them eat dead humans, which comes off as sickening.

Star-Trek-Discovery-Klingon-Kol

Even more distressing is that the showrunners are blind to the negative reception to their version of Klingons and are intent on doubling down on them throughout the season. Maybe this is not the final word on the Klingons, we can only hope that something is done about these KINOs. Until then the best we can do is either re-watch previous Star Trek shows to get our classic Klingons or fastforward Star Trek: Discovery whenever they appear or at the very least stuff cotton into our ears when they open their mouths to talk.

José Soto

 

 

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Star Trek: Discovery Launches Trek’s Return To TV

For one night only, Star Trek returned to TV. On CBS, Star Trek: Discovery premiered, but for one episode only. Want to see the rest? Then you have to subscribe to CBS’ streaming service CBS All Acess, which will leave many frustrated, especially with the way the first episode ended.

Sonequa-Martin-Green-Star-Trek-Discovery-screen-grab

Titled “The Vulcan Hello”, the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery introduced viewers to a new slate of characters starting with Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the first officer of the Federation starship Shenzhou (the starship Discovery does not appear in the first two episodes). As the main character, she is rather mysterious and has an interesting back story that was only partly revealed in the first episode. After her parents were killed by Klingons, the Federation’s arch rivals, Burnham was raised by Sarek (James Frain) in the logic-oriented Vulcan culture. Now a grown woman, Burnham is having trouble balancing her human and Vulcan upbringing. By the way, yes, this is the same Sarek that is Spock’s father.

In the pilot, the Shenzou comes across an ancient-looking artifact on the edge of Federation space and Burnham volunteers to investigate it. Her curiosity quickly escalates a tense situation that brings the Federation to the brink of war. What is worse is that her actions afterwards are what make war more and more likely.On the whole, this was a solid and enjoyable episode. There were many issues with it, but most open-minded fans will be pleased with Star Trek: Discovery. What’s good to great about it? First of all, unlike the J.J. Abrams reboot films (except Star Trek Beyond), this feels like Star Trek, only modernized. There are many references and adherences to Star Trek lore that should satisfy hardcore fans.

Time is taken to explore characters and themes. The driving one in this episode is about how cultural misconceptions can be disastrous. This has been explored in other Treks, but this issue is still relevant given today’s fragile political climate.

The production values and special effects are absolutely stunning and rivals what you see in theaters. Yes, that includes the Star Trek reboot films. Every dollar spent is up there on the screen. The show is just beautifully filmed.

“The Vulcan Hello”, which was directed by David Semel, does a good job of building a sense of unease and tension thanks to liberal usages of Dutch angles and editing. You truly feel that this crew on the Shenzou is out there on their own. This creates a barely concealed uneasy feeling among them and us. The character that best expressed this anxiousness was Lt. Commander Saru (Doug Jones), a lanky and cowardly alien who is the first one to recommend that the Shenzou hightails it out of harm’s way.

Star Trek: Discovery takes place in the original Star Trek universe and is a prequel to the very first show. But being a prequel presents the show with many problems that comes with being a prequel. While the technology is stunning eye candy, it looks more advanced than even the later Star Trek shows so how can this be a prequel to the original Star Trek with its clunky sets and limited technology? This gives critics a good argument that it doesn’t take place in the Prime Universe and is more at home with the Abrams reboots. But that is just nitpicking.

The bigger flaws with Star Trek: Discovery lie with its script and some execution. The dialogue is often stiff and clunky, unlike the show’s new rival, The Orville. Most of the time, when characters speak, their speech comes off as wordy and does not feel natural. This is a problem because it sometimes brings the show’s pace to a grinding halt and it happens whenever the Klingons appear.

psuedo klingon

Scenes with the alien race are probably the biggest stumble for Star Trek: Discovery. All their dialogue is spoken in a clumsy tongue with tiring subtitles. Honestly, they are nothing like the violent and popular Klingons of previous Treks. Even their look is different and downright ugly, and not in a good way. Previous Klingons appeared imposing and hulking with their brow ridges and fur-covered armor. These new Klingons lack hair and wear hideous, bony tunics that Liberace would have loved. They look more like the poorly received Abrams version of Klingons, which were also disappointing. It makes you wonder why producers keep insisting on changing the classic look of the Klingons. They were perfect, why mess with the look?

Issues aside, “The Vulcan Hello” heralds an auspicious beginning for the latest incarnation of Trek. For too long, we waited for new Star Trek and now we have it. But there is a big catch.

In order to keep watching Star Trek: Discovery it will literally cost you since it’s on a streaming service. Outside of North America it is streaming on Netflix, so if you have not subscribed to the service then it is worth doing so to continue watching the adventures of Commander Burnham.

But in the U.S. fans are being forced to subscribe to CBS’ own streaming service. This begs the question, is this show worth a subscription? Sadly, the answer would have to be no. As good as “The Vulcan Hello” was, it did not hit it out of the ballpark. Plus, the cliffhanger ending, which forces viewers to subscribe to find out how the story ends, will infuriate fans. Sure, some will say just spend the six to ten dollars a month. But for just one show? Seeing the commercials for the other programming on CBS All Access is enough to convince me it is not worth the money. Frankly, I have no interest in watching CSI: Insert an American City or Survivor. Not only that but it usually takes three to five episodes of a series for me to decide if it warrants continued watching. One episode simply is not enough to convince me to subscribe to another streaming service. If you are that much of a hardcore Star Trek fan and have to get your fix, then go ahead and subscribe to CBS All Access. I can wait to see the entire show on a later date. After all, I have the other Star Trek show to watch, The Orville, and I do not have to spend extra money to do so.

José Soto

 

Star Trek: Discovery Teaser Trailer Beams Aboard

 

First officer michael Burnham

This may be the month of the start of the movie blockbuster season and the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, but today all attention is on TV. Or rather the CBS All Access streaming service. That’s because the first teaser trailer for this fall’s Star Trek: Discovery has been released.

First impressions: The Star Trek: Discovery trailer is actually good. It grabs our attention and makes us want to find out more about its premise. There are some quibbles which will be covered in a bit, but the overall look is impressive though it is a bit too reminiscent of J.J. Abrams’ version of Star Trek and less like the retro look of the original Star Trek. But these days, TV shows have to impress with out-of-this world special effects and production values. So though, we love the rubber alien suits and cardboard sets of the original Star Trek, to make it these days, Trek had to upgrade and even outdo the shows from The Next Generation era. The result is a cinema-quality look to the show.

Speaking of those versions of Star Trek, the start of the trailer calls to mind Star Trek: Enterprise with its announcement that Star Trek: Discovery takes place ten years before the original Star Trek. But thankfully, the Star Trek: Discovery trailer switches gears and introduces us to brave new worlds and beautifully rendered space shots. More importantly we’re introduced to the show’s main character, First Officer Michael Burnham, played by former cast member of The Walking Dead, Sonequa Martin-Green. She looks terrific in her blue Starfleet uniform and she gives the impression that she is a Starfleet officer. Then again by the trailer’s tone we have to wonder if that is her true identity. This trailer gave her a mysterious presence, there were even times when we have to wonder if she has some Vulcan heritage though that’s unlikely.

From the bits and pieces revealed, the Discovery ship itself looks much better than in that cheap-looking teaser released last year. It must be pointed out that the full shot we see of a starship early in the trailer is probably a different ship. The aliens look cool except for the Klingons. Their redesign lacks the fearsome and imposing quality of the original Klingons with their ridged foreheads and body armor. This was a perfect look for the Klingons that was ageless. Why mess with perfection? Hopefully the other alien races won’t be as butchered in their designs.

But nitpicking aside, it is beyond great that Star Trek is back on TV, er, home media where it belongs with episodes to truly explore themes, characters and the infinite worlds and races of Star Trek. Now as to whether or not Star Trek: Discovery will be worth spending extra money on to stream is another question.

Waldermann Rivera

Top 10 Star Trek Enemy Races and Groups

 Star Trek has a rich trove of enemy alien races and organizations that have plagued our heroes throughout the many films and TV shows. Aside from being formidable, many of the opponents featured in the beloved sci-fi franchise were actually more complex and layered, which is why they resonate so much with fandom. These are the best of the lot and hopefully we’ll see some of them again when Star Trek: Discovery premieres next year.

The Breen with the Dominion

10. The Breen Confederacy: Little is known about this warlike, enigmatic race who wear fully enclosed refrigeration suits. Even their speech is undecipherable. Often mentioned in Star Trek shows they never appeared until the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Indiscretion” and later allied with the Dominion in the war against the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. This resulted in a Breen attack on Earth that destroyed Starfleet headquarters and set back the Federation war effort against the Dominion. This alone proved the Breen are a deadly adversary to be reckoned with.

Species 8472

9. Species 8472: The nearly undefeatable Borg met their match and then some when they tried assimilating Species 8472. In their first appearance in “Scorpion, Part I” (Star Trek: Voyager), the three-legged aliens shocked viewers when they easily wiped out entire Borg cubes. As one of the most alien-looking enemies featured in Star Trek, Species 8472  stand out due to their weird physiology and use of biotechnology; plus the fact that they kicked the Borg’s collective butts.

8. The Xindi: Made up of five distinct races, the Xindi inflicted a 9/11-type of attack on Earth in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Expanse”. The crew of the Enterprise entered Xindi space in a season-long storyline to prevent the race from destroying the Earth.

3 Xindi racesThe Xindi can be thought of as a prototype of the Federation due to the diverse makeup of their member races: reptilian, aquatic, insectoid, primate and arboreal. Eventually, we learned that they are just as diverse in their beliefs in that some factions are more warlike while others are more reasonable. This enabled Captain Archer and  the Enterprise crew to win over some Xindi members. But others continued with their final attack on Earth and had to be stopped.

7. Terra Prime: An unfortunate fact is that even in the near-paradise future of Star Trek the worst enemy is us, humanity. Many Star Trek stories dwelled on evil humans and organizations, whose antagonistic belief system ran counter to the more enlightened humans in Star Trek. Out of the many nefarious examples like Section 31, the Mirror Universe inhabitants, and rogue Starfleet officers the worst of the bunch is Terra Prime.

John Paxton and Terra Prime

Led by John Frederick Paxton, they are a xenophobic terrorist group in the 22nd century that wanted to isolate Earth and humanity from the galaxy and keep out all alien influences…sounds familiar? Terra Prime only appeared in “Demons” and “Terra Prime”, which were among the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. If the show had continued they would have made a perfect adversary as Earth began its first steps towards forming the diverse Federation.

6. The Vidiian Sodality: If anything the Vidiians are the grossest looking enemy aliens to appear in any Star Trek. We never saw much of them in Star Trek: Voyager. but they were still unforgettable when they did show up. First introduced in the episode “Phage” the Vidiians are a race suffering from a deadly disease that ravages their bodies. In order to stay alive they graft onto themselves body parts from other races, which explains their hodgepodge look.

Vidiians

What makes them so scary is that they just see other races, including us, as resources to cull. Most of them do not think twice as they carve up their victims and distribute their body parts to other members of their race. To them, the fact that they are saving other Vidiians easily justifies their actions while it horrifies everyone else.

5. The Romulan Star Empire: On the whole, the Romulan Star Empire are the go-to totalitarian enemy in Star Trek. Stories dealing with them are basically commentaries about the Cold War in that the Romulans are bitter rivals of the Federation. An uneasy stalemate existed between the two powers as both were equally matched, but there is something more about this race of Vulcan offshoots.

Romulans in Star Trek: Nemesis

This was seen in their very first appearance (“Balance of Terror”, Star Trek), as we met an unnamed Romulan commander who played a cat-and-mouse game with Kirk and the Enterprise. He was Kirk’s equal in terms of cunning, but was sympathetic due to his weariness about war and devotion to duty. Throughout their many appearances in the Star Trek shows, the best episodes about them were the ones that had them as fully fleshed out people who weren’t quite evil but happened to be on the other side.

4. The Cardassian Union: Once highly enlightened and cultured, the Cardassians became militaristic and harsh in order to survive. Their totalitarian ways led to conflicts with other space-faring powers like the Federation. Their prejudiced beliefs about other races also justified their brutal occupation of the planet Bajor as they stripped that planet and its people of its resources.

Cardassian in Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Although they first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Wounded”), the Cardassians were fully developed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as one of the main adversaries. What set them apart from other villains was their love of intrigue and desire to regain lost glory, as well as their distinct look with grey and scaly skin. That show’s best stories showed that Cardassians had deep, nuanced and complicated viewpoints as they struggled to find their place in the galaxy.

3. The Klingon Empire: Arguably, the most popular alien race in Star Trek, the Klingons are the perfect antagonistic foil for the peaceful Federation. They first appeared in the classic Star Trek episode “Errand of Mercy” and like the Romulans, they are supposed to represent the West’s Cold War rivals. Known for their harsh and warlike demeanor, the Klingons actually have a complex code of honor and a rich culture. Backing up their brutish reputation, the Klingons are a militaristic match for the Federation with a fearsome fleet of warships and they are all too eager to prove their mettle against anyone.

Klingons

Even though they were the opposite of the Federation, the Klingons eventually became solid allies by the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came along. In the Star Trek spinoffs, more aspects about these noble savages were explored and we realized there was more to them than their love for fighting. That is why they have become so popular to the point that a real-life subculture has emerged that emulates the Klingons.

2. The Dominion: In many ways the Dominion can be considered the dark version of the Federation. They are composed of several different races, the most prominent being the shapeshifting Founders, the deceitful bureaucratic Vorta and the battle-hungry Jem’ Hadar–the thuggish muscle of the Dominion. But unlike the benevolent Federation, the Dominion are brutal conquerors, who only see other races as adversaries to defeat.

dominion

Their presence was alluded to in early episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the Federation began exploring the distant Gamma Quadrant. This raised interest among viewers as to who they were, and they got their answer in the episode “The Jem’Hadar”. From the start the Dominion (represented at first by the reptilian-like shock troopers) demonstrated their ruthlessness and mantra to win at all costs. The Dominion soon proved that they were superior to Starfleet in battle tactics and weapons. When war eventually broke out, the Dominion decimated both the Federation and the Klingons. The fact that they came so close to nearly conquering the Federation is why the Dominion rate so highly on this list.

1. The Borg Collective: Ever since the cybernetic race first appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Q Who?” they have thrilled and terrified fans. What is so frightening about them is their cold, adaptable nature. They forcibly assimilated other races they encounter and add their distinctiveness to their collective in a goal of achieving biological and technological perfection.

Borg

The Borg made an instant impact in their first appearance in how they quickly outmatched the Enterprise and would have assimilated the crew if not for the fact that Capt. Picard had to eat crow to get Q to save them. They are a relentless threat and what makes them more terrifying apart from the other Star Trek races is encountering them means a loss of one’s identity. Whenever they assimilate their victims and forcibly graft cybernetic parts onto them all traces of their personality are gone. By transforming victims into mindless zombies, the Borg turn anyone against their former friends and colleagues. This is something that the Enterprise crew grappled with when Captain Picard was assimilated and used Starfleet’s tactics against the Enterprise and the Federation.

Waldermann Rivera

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Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 2: Episodes 11-30

 Star Trek collage wallpaper

As many reading this know, this year marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s actually an event that will happen in less than three months from now as celebrations will most likely hit fever pitch among fans who delighted in the space-faring adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the starship Enterprise crew. Continuing our countdown of the 50 best episodes from the original Star Trek series, we will start with the 30th best episode…

30. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” The starship Enterprise and its crew time travel to the 1960s and rescues a U.S. Air Force pilot (Roger Perry) who isn’t allowed to return home and report on what he has witnessed.

Tomorrow is Yesteday

29. “The Conscience of the King” Excellent scripted lines and stellar acting by Arnold Moss as a tortured former dictator turned Shakespearian actor highlights this episode.

Conscience of the King

28. “The Devil in the Dark” Captain James T. Kirk and Spock investigate killings at an underground mining facility by a monstrous rock-like creature. But there is more to the story…

Devil in the Dark

27. “Journey to Babel” The Enterprise transports diplomats to a peace conference; among the passengers are Spock’s estranged parents (Mark Sarek and Jane Wyatt). Complicating the occasion are the strained relations between Spock and his father and an onboard secret agent trying to wreck the conference.

Journey to Babel

26. “Assignment: Earth” In this backdoor pilot, Kirk and Spock time travel to Earth in the 1960s and meet the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a human sent by aliens to Earth to keep humanity from destroying itself. However, his mission is hampered by Kirk and Spock who suspect Seven is up to no good.

Gary Seven Assignment Earth

25. “The Empath” Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are captured and tortured by callous aliens. During the ordeal they meet Gem (Kathryn Hays), a mute woman who has the power to heal others and is also under study by the aliens to see if her people are worthy of salvation. Helping make the episode so memorable were Hay’s magnificent and expressive performance and a beautiful score.

The Empath

24. “Amok Time” Spock must return to his home planet Vulcan and mate or else he will die. This episode was the first one to lift the veil on the enigmatic Vulcans and revealed much about their logic-based culture. The Vulcan travelogue and cultural exploration were punctuated by a nail-biting duel between Spock and his friend Kirk for the hand of Spock’s betrothed.

Amok Time duel

23. “The Enemy Within” A transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two halves. One meek and indecisive, the other lecherous and primal. This oft-used trope of the evil twin actually worked well because the script (by Richard Matheson) thoughtfully examined how dual aspects of Kirk’s personality, including his savage side, were essential to his survival and capability as a leader.

Kirk the Enemy Within

22. “Friday’s Child” On a planet with a primitive and brutal society Kirk, Spock and McCoy are embroiled in a tribal power struggle involving Klingons. After the head of local tribal leader is killed the trio must escort his pregnant wife (Julie Newmar) to safety while avoiding the leader’s successor and his men. Meanwhile, McCoy has to deal with an uncooperative patient and Spock, who is clueless around infants.

Friday's Child

21. TIE: “The Cage”/”The Menagerie, Part I &II” The very first Star Trek pilot “The Cage” about telepathic aliens imprisoning Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), a previous Enterprise captain, was rejected by NBC, but the network allowed series creator Gene Roddenberry to produce a second pilot. However, footage from the original pilot was recycled into a classic two-part episode of the regular series as Spock undergoes a court martial for helping his former commanding officer.

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