Did Klingon culture become too stereotyped by the end of DS9?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by USS Einstein, Jan 14, 2013.

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Did Klingon culture get over-simplified in later eras of Star TreK?

  1. Yes

    60 vote(s)
    63.8%
  2. No

    34 vote(s)
    36.2%
  1. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    Thought I would post what I was saying in another thread:

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    Sometimes what is unsaid matters more than what is said; it's better to leave possibilities open than to close them - so the idea that we must fill in every gap in Star Trek history, and explain every part of a culture, can be a destructive impulse, that closes down speculation, exploration and opportunity.

    Often, in attempting to describe an alien society, people fall into the trap of over-describing it, over-simplifying it and ossifying it - I think Klingon culture became this way in the later eras of Star Trek.

    Writers did not leave enough room for opportunity - they tried to fill in absolutely every question about Klingon culture with the type of answer that closes all further speculation. You can consequently find more interesting examples of Klingon culture in older books and games, from before the time when Klingons became like this. In Star Trek: 25th Anniversary for example, the Klingon government subjects one of it's own colonies, Hrakkour IV, to lethal doses of radiation, in order to put down a rebellion - something that fits perfectly with the fascist period of their society seen in TOS, but which does not jive with the technologically inept barbarians that are sometimes presented:

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    In some works, every avenue of Klingon culture was explained away systematically and obsessively - but not in a very naturalistic, practical or organic way - leading to a really monolithic and simplistic society, which even the smallest nation on Earth, would seem diverse in comparison to. Take a tiny culture from the Caucasus on our own planet, and it has a hugely diverse history. Sometimes, with the Klingons, it was like the Wikipedia outline article on a culture had been taken as the law on how to write for that culture.

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    I really like what little we have seen of JJ Abrams Klingons - going back to a less comprehensively understood society, which acts more naturally like TOS Klingons. They are not obsessed with honour, glory and religion - no society on Earth, not even the most obsessive theocracy, would have citizens or military servicemen constantly drop Kahless, honour, bat'leths, etc, into every conversation - it's not natural.

    Talk to a soldier from a perticular nation, and they won't name drop Jesus, Mohammed or the Buddha into every line of conversation; medieval Japanese culture for example did not solely consist of samurai obsessed with their katana. Even the Vikings and Mongols were more than just conquerors; the diversity of their society rivaled the Roman Empire or United States, and their kingdoms became centers of trade and learning.

    Sometimes people writing about the history of a culture, suffer from a kind of 'bridging syndrome' (for lack of a better term). They try to bridge ideas from one era to another as a logical progression, when history often isn't. The idea that the period between two events must present a logical gradient - a ship or phaser made in between two other models, must look like a hybrid of the two. Also the idea that certain designs will romantically repeat themselves, is not rational - for example, the idea that because there is a ship with four warp nacelles in one era, there must be a similar class in every era.

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    That is just NOT how technology or culture develops.

    Sometimes this works okay, when done occasionally - the Ambassador class looks like a lovely intermediate step between Excelsior class and Galaxy class. But other times, it's taken as a fundamental principle, rather than an exception, and undermines what really determines the look, feel and technology of any era - practicality and logic. With Klingons, this manifests as a stagnant culture that is stuck in repeating patterns of thought - obsessive barbarians is taken to be the sole defining trait of Klingon design - rather than the moral logical process in which designers think 'what would be practical and natural for this species'.

    Trying to bridge things like a gradient, or romantically repeat them in cycles, can create an autistic view of history, which is all about symmetry, continuity, and is very stifling to creativity. For example, it's unlikely that Klingons would wear furs and impractical armour just out of romanticism for the past - any rational society worth a damn (and certainly one capable of running a space empire, having warp field theorists, producing complex alloys, etc), would go with practical fabrics, materials and technologies. Especially one where the military plays a big part. The reasoning that they have warrior traditions, impulsive romanticism for the past, etc, is not compelling enough, when any army's first impulse is to equip their troops with the tools to win, not to look stylish.

    So the new Klingons, with their military-issue Soviet-style greatcoats (for Rura Penthe's weather, perhaps), and their emphasis on gleaning military intelligence from Nero, make more sense. So do TOS era Klingons. As someone said to me recently:

    "...the one dimensional 'warrior caste' as they came to be portrayed throughout TNG and beyond, became very tedious. Looking forward to seeing a little more intelligent and diversity from them..."

    I've always rationalized Klingon history something like this:

    - 22nd Century: They started out as a colonial empire in space or medieval feudal state in space (which had become vastly inefficient by Archer's time - barely held together by coercion - suffering constant instability).

    - 23rd Century: They went through a political revolution of some sort (comparable to the rise of fascism in Span or Italy) in the time after ENT and before TOS. The Klingon Empire was modernized into a centralized military state, abolishing primitive feudalism/levies/landholders, and replacing it with more modern forms of coercion such as conscription, propaganda, a prison system, a technologically improved military, etc.

    - 24th Century: They reformed after Gorkon's peace initiative, into a more open society, but the old noble families, medieval ideas, etc, came back to some degree. Romanticism for the past was increased due to the stagnation of society.

    As a diverse culture, it also easily explains why some of their architecture looks more like medieval Tibetan mountain-top architecture, and some looks more like an industrialised city with aspects of Turkish or Russian architecture in other scenes - and also why the next movie may have a slightly different looking architecture again, if the trailer depicts Qo'noS as some people say:

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    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
    Six of Twelve likes this.
  2. wonderstoat

    wonderstoat Lieutenant Premium Member

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    I couldn't agree with you more. I think it's symptomatic of Trek's tendency to distil all Alien cultures down to one characteristic. Not sure how they'd go about changing that though, I suppose through the history of ST they've always decided to show the breadth of alien species rather than drill down into any comparison of cultures in one race. I suppose the Dominion/Xindi at least tried to do something a bit more diverse.
     
  3. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    I'm hopeful that JJ Abrams approach might solve the problem - simply by showing Klingons on screen for a few minutes, that don't act in the stereotypical way, it acts as a antidote to all those years of bad portrayals.

    I don't know if you saw the deleted scene set on Rura Penthe, from Star Trek XI, but the Klingons in it behave very differently from the stereotype. That's all that's needed really - not necessarily a really in depth exploration of their culture, but a few appearances that leave a lot unsaid - but which present a different view :)

    I don't mind if the Klingons still represent a simple artistic concept, like how in the original series, they were a general symbol for authoritarian or militarist states like the fascists of the 1930s, and the Romulans represented a sort of Imperial Japan or Ancient Rome. Just as long as the writers don't go about simplifying them into a one-track people, as many have done.
     
  4. Anwar

    Anwar Vice Admiral Admiral

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    DS9 showed us the Klingon Chef and the Klingon Lawyer. I don't think those guys fit the usual stereotype.
     
    jaime likes this.
  5. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Really, they became the "biker gang" stereotype beginning with TNG's Redemption.
     
  6. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    The lawyer was cool - but still, DS9 was perhaps the worst offender in some ways, for showing a society moribund with obsession about a single philosophy - no culture on Earth, not even the Nazis, were as obsessed with one idea as much as the Klingons were depicted as being about 'honour, glory, sex, death and bloodwine'.

    The poll was 4 Yes, 0 No, but is now 4 Yes, 2 No - I would love to hear the opinions of all involved :)
     
  7. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    How come this forum, about one of the most popular franchises in the world, is so dead?

    I remember when TrekWeb used to have people posting in every thread once a minute.

    Could it be the absurd joining time?
     
  8. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In terms of the poll question, "Did Klingon culture get over-simplified in later eras of Star Trek?" I would have to answer: No...they were always that simplified. Like almost every non-Earth race in Trek ever.
     
  9. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    TOS Klingons were not simplified - they just were not explained.

    There is a world of difference there; one leaves interpretation open, one closes it entirely.
     
  10. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think the exploration of Klingon culture started and ended with "Heart of Glory". Everything after that is an endless repetition of what was shown in that episode.
     
  11. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    It's like they took the Klingon culture from Heart of Glory, and a couple of other TNG episodes, and used it like a Bible on their culture - explaining every part of Klingon culture as being within that framework :(
     
  12. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think that's exactly what they did. Which is why Klingon culture since then has become "HONOR! BAT'LETH! BLOODWINE! Oh wait did I mention HONOR?!" over and over again.

    It's interesting that people talk about the deleted scene from Star Trek as offering something different, because when you watch it, you realize that what seems so different is that the actor is speaking in a calm voice, and that's enough of a diversion to make the whole thing seem completely fresh.
     
  13. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    Exactly - and it's also more natural, because raging barbarians don't make good physicists, physicians, biochemists, etc - and don't run empires that require antimatter powered starships :)
     
  14. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You're both correct. :) But the true irony, in my opinion, is that by accentuating those aspects of Klingon culture, the writers were completely missing the point that was made in "Heart Of Glory" itself: namely, that the three Klingon renegades discovered by the Enterprise D were retrogressives who wanted a return to 'traditional' Klingon values. The implication we're left with in that episode, therefore, is that 'modern' 24th century Klingon culture is not so obsessed with HONOR and GLORY.

    The next episode to do anything with Klingons (S2's "The Emissary") pretty much stuck true to the message given in "Heart Of Glory". It really only began going wrong from "Sins Of The Father" onwards, where (wilfully or not) staff writers like Ron Moore seemed to misunderstand, instead drawing the entire Klingon Empire as being exactly like the renegades seen in "Heart Of Glory". :wtf:
     
  15. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    Yes, well spotted, I also noted that irony - the Klingon commander sent to fetch them hardly cared about 'traditional culture' until prompted.

    I do sometimes wonder if Ron Moore isn't perhaps responsible for some of the worst things in Trek, even though he is considered a great creative talent for BSG.
     
  16. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    If the Klingon homeworld at the time of "Heart Of Glory" truely is anything like that seen in most of TNG (and all of DS9), then the three renegades shouldn't have any complaint about the empire at all. Except for the treaty with the Federation, which they openly dislike.

    The clear implication in the episode is that the renegades are social outcasts for their views about 'the glory days'. Worf's joining them in traditional death rituals and the like is depicted more along the lines of him humoring them, it wasn't supposed to be the way the Klingons behave 24/7!

    An excellent opening post there, by the way. I enjoyed reading it immensely. :bolian:
     
  17. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    Thanks :)

    I hope that we do get some better portrayals in future.
     
  18. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Really interesting opening post - what do you think of John Ford's The Final Reflection what I found to be far more interesting than anything we saw on TNG/DS9.
     
  19. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed. TFR's Klingons were fantastic.
     
  20. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Klingons ended up a lot less simplified at the end of DS9 than at the beginning. By the end DS9 portrayed them as hypocrites and politicians who use honor to their advantage when it suits them and ignore it when nobody's watching.

    DS9 era klingons believe in honor the same way republicans believe in family values. They talk about it a lot, they tell a lot of stories that cherish it, but only a handful of them actually practice it.