Star Trek: Discovery season 3 can finally fix the show’s portrayal of the Klingons. First introduced in The Original Series, the Klingons are a warrior race inspired by a viking-esque culture of violence, honor and domination. The Klingons quickly became Star Trek‘s premier race of villains, and The Next Generation expanded on their mythology, introducing one of the species onto the bridge of the Enterprise with Michael Dorn’s Worf. The Klingons are integral to the landscape of Star Trek and their wrinkly-headed design is as iconic as Doctor Who‘s Daleks or the Stormtroopers of Star Wars.
Spearheading a new wave of Star Trek TV projects, Star Trek: Discovery debuted in 2017 with Klingons at the heart of the story from the very first episode. However, initial excitement quickly dampened when the new Klingon design was revealed – a far cry from what audiences were familiar with, and a more radical change than simply modernizing the classic appearance. Not only did Star Trek: Discovery‘s Klingons seem visually incompatible with the past, but the show also meddled with the species’ fictional history, adding a huge war with Starfleet only a decade before the beginning of The Original Series. Additionally, the Klingons of Star Trek: Discovery are far less concerned with honor then their predecessors (or successors, canonically) and have an entirely new set of spiritual beliefs. They were Klingons, Jim, but not as we know them.
After backlash from fans, Star Trek: Discovery tried to make amends in season 2 by explaining some of the discrepancies. The lack of hair was written off as a Klingon tradition, the different facial structure was chalked up to genetic modification, and less focus was placed on Star Trek: Discovery‘s additions to Klingon religion, but the criticism from viewers continued. Fortunately, Star Trek: Discovery season 3 represents a perfect opportunity to finally get the Klingons right.
Following the Red Angel storyline, Star Trek: Discovery finds itself in the far future in season 3, centuries ahead of the series’ timeline thus far. Since none of the Klingon characters followed the Discovery to the future, the 32nd century offers a clean slate in terms of how the race are presented in Star Trek: Discovery. The modern Klingon redesign was a huge risk, and after the new look debuted, Star Trek: Discovery was stuck with something fans didn’t like. Despite the criticism that followed season 1, Star Trek: Discovery couldn’t simply overhaul major Klingon characters such as L’Rell ahead of season 2. The Klingon aesthetic was in place and it was too late to go back. Star Trek: Discovery could only try and compensate by adding hair and providing explanations for any broken continuity.
Moving 900 years into the future erases those problems. With such a massive time jump, there’s no precedent for how Klingons will look or behave in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, giving the show freedom to redesign the entire species. Klingons introduced in season 3 can now be modeled on the classic Next Generation style without raising questions or resorting to a visual retcon. Star Trek fans will no doubt be delighted to see more familiar, angry Klingon faces when Star Trek: Discovery returns, and the old-school Klingons have already been reintroduced into the modern era by the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks.
As well as going back to the classic Klingon look, the 32rd century is also free from the restrictions of canon. Had Star Trek: Discovery been set in the far future from the beginning, the vastly different Klingons might’ve been better received, since much of the criticism revolved around the new Klingons being inconsistent with the old. Over the span of 900 years, Klingon culture and society would’ve evolved, so Star Trek: Discovery can make tweaks and changes without treading on the toes of canon. With a more recognizable design and an empty sandbox to play in, Star Trek: Discovery season 3 can finally get the Klingons right.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premieres October 15th on CBS All Access.