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Lance June 18 2013 07:13 AM

Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in TNG?
 
From a TNG article in sci-fi magazine SFX about a year ago, Moore elaborates about his early assignments on the series:

Quote:

Ronald D. Moore wrote:
Michael Piller asked me to write him a memo about who the Klingons were and who the Romulans were, because he was still trying to get his feet underneath him, and I was a fan of the Star Trek universe and knew all this. So I had to sit down early on and just tell him who the Klingons were and who the Romulans were. In that memo I said that the Klingons were in my view a cross between Vikings and samurai, or at least the pop cultural idea of Vikings and samurai. They were partiers and bikers and bigger-than-life-heroes. Yet there was this very finely tuned sense of honor and ritual, and honor meant every thing to them.

I think this is the true genesis of the 'modern Klingon'. In so interpreting them that way, Moore effectively gives birth to everything that we now perceive to be true about Star Trek's most well known enemies. :klingon:

For the sake of comparison, here's what the prevailing 1960s attitude was of Klingons, as taken from Stephen Whitfield's The Making of Star Trek:

Quote:

The Making of Star Trek wrote:
the Klingons are less admirable characters [than the Romulans]. Their only rule in life is that rules are made to be broken by shrewdness, deceit, or power. Cruelty is something admirable; honor is a dispicable trait.

The Making of Star Trek, by contrast, opines of the Romulans:

Quote:

The Making of Star Trek wrote:
Romulans are highly militaristic, aggressive by nature, ruthless in warfare and do not take captives. [...] It is hard to hate Romulans completely as they often show enormous courage. Although members of a warrior society in which the strong alone survive, they live their beliefs with great integrity.

This is all bourne out with what we see of them on-screen in The Original Series. Klingons are repeatedly willing to create conflict where ever they go, despite the alleged Organian Pace Treaty with the Federation. They are also duplicitous. They'll say one thing then do the opposite. Romulans, on the other hand, are often shown as honorable opponents. The Romulan captain seen in 'Balance of Terror' is ruled by his own sense of integrity, and shows great pride and a distinct code of honor. The same can be said of the female captain in 'The Enterprise Incident'. She offers Kirk and Spock the chance to explain themselves, but treats them with dignity and respect (even as they outwardly treat her with none).

By the TNG, these traits seemed to have been flipped. The Romulans were traitorous even among their own, highly secretive, and often played other species for their own benefits. As Lieutenant Worf repeatedly tells us, "Romulans are WITHOUT HONOR". The Klingons in TNG are effectively ruled by ancient codes and ethics that they were duty-bound to uphold (even if, again, behind closed doors they often don't, cf. the Duras saga).

What do you guys think? Do you reckon the TNG writers room misunderstood these races as they were portrayed in TOS? Was Moore pehaps wrong to have swapped their attributes? Or do you think it was maybe a good thing, to show these races in a different light than TOS portrayed them?

LobsterAfternoon June 18 2013 08:19 AM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
I don't think it's so much a misunderstanding as an opinion/evolution.

Charles Phipps June 18 2013 08:29 AM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Also, it kind of shot the Romulans in the foot when they made Cardassians since they're that way too.

So Romulans have no real culture that's unique.

Lance June 18 2013 01:22 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
^ It's funny you should say that Charles, I was only thinking the other day about how the production team originally thought the Ferengi were going to be "the new Klingons"... on some level I actually think maybe the Cardassians were more like an update of the TOS Klingons than any other adversary. Black hat villains who took great pleasure in simply 'being' the Big Bad. And they served that function exceptionally well in both DS9 and in their sporadic TNG appearances. :)

Charles Phipps June 18 2013 02:15 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Quote:

Lance wrote: (Post 8263405)
^ It's funny you should say that Charles, I was only thinking the other day about how the production team originally thought the Ferengi were going to be "the new Klingons"... on some level I actually think maybe the Cardassians were more like an update of the TOS Klingons than any other adversary. Black hat villains who took great pleasure in simply 'being' the Big Bad. And they served that function exceptionally well in both DS9 and in their sporadic TNG appearances. :)

"Well the Ferengi failed, we need a culture that can actually talk like they're possessed of an IQ above 100. What shall we base their culture on since capitalism failed?"

"Nazis?"

"Sounds good."

stj June 18 2013 02:29 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
The Klingons in Star Trek are unpleasant because most Klingons stories are about making peace. Making peace with nice people is easy. Whereas, most Romulan stories are about the humanity of our wartime enemies. That requires a more rounded portrait.

If Moore didn't get this, he was rather obtuse. Also, if he didn't understand that the passage of time or a broader sampling of alien characters permitted variations, he was rather obtuse. He seems to be thinking that being of a species means there is a certain character, a kind of supernatural essence, expressed in all members. That is a deeply reactionary idea. Combined with Trek's tendency to treat species as a metaphor for race, it shades into downright bigoted.

Charles Phipps June 18 2013 02:33 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
I disagree in the fact they're a metaphor for nations and a different culture. They also serve as serial drama villains versus characters.

Timo June 18 2013 02:56 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
I have no idea where this "Romulans are honorable" thing comes from. In all their TOS appearances, they were deceitful, backstabbing, cowardly murderers who performed sneak attacks from under a cloak of invisibility and failed to listen to reason!

After the nameless Romulan commander in "Balance of Terror" admires Kirk as an opponent, he tries to blow him out of the sky with a hidden IED. After the Klingon commander who readily identifies himself to Kirk in "Errand of Mercy" admires Kirk as an opponent, he pardons him from immediate execution, and subsequently challenges him to a hand-to-hand fight!

Timo Saloniemi

Sran June 18 2013 03:10 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Quote:

Lance wrote: (Post 8262718)
What do you guys think? Do you reckon the TNG writers room misunderstood these races as they were portrayed in TOS? Was Moore pehaps wrong to have swapped their attributes? Or do you think it was maybe a good thing, to show these races in a different light than TOS portrayed them?

Great topic! It's hard to know if the writers misunderstood the races as TOS depicted them. Any civilization can change significantly over a period of nearly one hundred years, so any changes in the behavior of either race could easily be explained by the passage of time and whatever events affected them in the interim.

As one who tends to prefer the Romulans as they appeared in TOS, I don't necessarily mind their transformation prior to TNG. Both TV series are written from the perspective of humanity. It's not surprising that the Klingons would be cast in a more favorable light, especially with Worf serving on the Enterprise. Had Roddenberry decided to use a Romulan character, it's possible no changes would have happened.

At any rate, the Romulans' duplicitous nature gives me that much more of an appreciation for the members of their society who don't behave that way, just as the Klingons' insistence on honor and integrity causes me to look down on those who don't practice what they preach. The problems caused by the Duras family represent Klingon culture at its worst, but I wonder whose behavior I find more objectionable: Duras for blaming Worf's family for his father's crime, or the High Council for allowing it in the first place.

--Sran

Khan Harrison June 18 2013 03:14 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Peter David wrote a small bit in one of New Fronteir novels that somwehere between TOS and TNG the Klingons and Romulans swapped places, the races switched honor for treachery with each other.

Jeyl June 18 2013 03:15 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
I think the idea that Klingons were so obsessed with the warrior culture became such a basic outline for their culture that it's impossible not to wonder how they could develop technology that the Federation as a whole couldn't develop without the aid of the Romulans. There's nothing with having a Klingon wanting to be a warrior with honor, but I do so miss the TOS Klingons who had a variety of personalities while still undoubtably being Klingons. Like General Chang from TUC on how he values literature and meeting foes who can be his equals.

As for the Romulans, well. I just wish the number one treatment of them didn't solely rely on them acting like complete, close minded jerks.

Sran June 18 2013 03:19 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Quote:

Charles Phipps wrote: (Post 8262850)
Also, it kind of shot the Romulans in the foot when they made Cardassians since they're that way too.

So Romulans have no real culture that's unique.

Completely disagree with this. Both Romulans and Cardassians tend to be arrogant and xenophobic, but that's where the similarities end, IMO. The Cardassians have a much more casual brutality about them than the Romulans, whereas the Romulans tend to be much more secretive and suspicious, even when it comes to dealing with their own people.

--Sran

BillJ June 18 2013 03:19 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
When Ron Moore wrote the memo, I don't think he had written any Klingon episodes yet. Heart of Glory, A Matter of Honor and other episodes with minor Klingon details had already been written in seasons one and two before he joined the show.

The memo was likely based on those details.

Christopher June 18 2013 03:30 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Quote:

Lance wrote: (Post 8262718)
This is all bourne out with what we see of them on-screen in The Original Series. Klingons are repeatedly willing to create conflict where ever they go, despite the alleged Organian Pace Treaty with the Federation. They are also duplicitous. They'll say one thing then do the opposite. Romulans, on the other hand, are often shown as honorable opponents. The Romulan captain seen in 'Balance of Terror' is ruled by his own sense of integrity, and shows great pride and a distinct code of honor. The same can be said of the female captain in 'The Enterprise Incident'. She offers Kirk and Spock the chance to explain themselves, but treats them with dignity and respect (even as they outwardly treat her with none).

By the TNG, these traits seemed to have been flipped. The Romulans were traitorous even among their own, highly secretive, and often played other species for their own benefits. As Lieutenant Worf repeatedly tells us, "Romulans are WITHOUT HONOR". The Klingons in TNG are effectively ruled by ancient codes and ethics that they were duty-bound to uphold (even if, again, behind closed doors they often don't, cf. the Duras saga).

What do you guys think? Do you reckon the TNG writers room misunderstood these races as they were portrayed in TOS? Was Moore pehaps wrong to have swapped their attributes? Or do you think it was maybe a good thing, to show these races in a different light than TOS portrayed them?

You're right that the Klingons and Romulans had pretty much undergone a reversal by the TNG era, but it doesn't make sense to blame Ron Moore for that, since he came along after it had already happened. It began with The Search for Spock, in which the villains were originally written as Romulans -- flying Birds of Prey with cloaking devices and talking about honor -- but then got switched to Klingons without the script being substantially rewritten at all. That was the beginning of the association with Klingons and honor.

Later, when TNG came along, Roddenberry initially resisted reusing any TOS races, but his co-developers convinced him (IIRC) that he should include a friendly Klingon among the crew in order to show that the Organians' prediction that humans and Klingons would one day make peace had come true. So Worf was conceived, and episodes like "Heart of Glory" and "A Matter of Honor" would flesh out the idea of a Klingon culture that was admirable because of its commitment to honor. By the time Ron Moore joined the staff in season 3, that redefinition of Klingon culture was well-established.

As for the Romulans, "Heart of Glory" established in passing that Romulans had killed Worf's parents, and the rest seems to have grown out of that -- it led to the writers giving Worf a grudge against Romulans, and since he and his people had come to be defined as valuing honor above all, it followed that he would consider the people he hated to be without honor. As for the treachery the TNG Romulans did, in fact, show, that may be partly influenced by Worf's opinion of them, or it may have simply been because, with the Klingons friendly and the Ferengi a bust, the Romulans fell into the role of the series' primary villains and thus had to be evil enough to fit. But again, this was already established by the time Ron Moore came along. He didn't create it.

Sran June 18 2013 03:33 PM

Re: Did Ron Moore get the Klingons / Romulans the wrong way round in T
 
Quote:

Timo wrote: (Post 8263738)
I have no idea where this "Romulans are honorable" thing comes from. In all their TOS appearances, they were deceitful, backstabbing, cowardly murderers who performed sneak attacks from under a cloak of invisibility and failed to listen to reason!

Backstabbing in what way, exactly? They had no peace treaty with the Federation. Only a tentative armistice signed at the end of the Earth-Romulan War kept both sides from engaging in further conflict. It's hard to know the motives of the Romulan crew in "Balace of Terror," but their Commander was an honorable man who genuinely cared for his crew and learned to respect Kirk during the incident.

Quote:

Timo wrote:
After the nameless Romulan commander in "Balance of Terror" admires Kirk as an opponent, he tries to blow him out of the sky with a hidden IED. After the Klingon commander who readily identifies himself to Kirk in "Errand of Mercy" admires Kirk as an opponent, he pardons him from immediate execution, and subsequently challenges him to a hand-to-hand fight!

Different methods for different societies. The Romulan Commander had no choice but to destroy the Enterprise before Kirk destroyed his vessel. Recall that he attempted to return to the Neutral Zone without a confrontation but was forced to fight once he realized that Kirk could track his movements.

Quote:

Jeyl wrote: (Post 8263843)
As for the Romulans, well. I just wish the number one treatment of them didn't solely rely on them acting like complete, close minded jerks.

I do, too. I blame this on poor writing and a lack of effort put into developing Romulan characters. Tomalak was as one-dimensional a personality as I've ever seen, always threatening to destroy the Enterprise and wage war against the Federation. His colleagues in the Empire weren't much better, save for select individuals like Jarok, Cretak, or Donatra.

--Sran


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