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. Terok Nor

    Terok Nor Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The total reinvention of the Klingons for the spin offs never really gelled with the Klingons from Kirk's era. I enjoyed what the writers did with them at first but their culture soon became tiresome and predictable. That doesn't take away from the fact that many of the Klingon characters were excellent despite that. Worf, Martok and Gowron are some of my favourite characters. In a way Gowron in the end became a sort of callback to the original series Klingons when the power went to his head and he became ruthless and without honour.

    I enjoyed the dishonourable Klingons a lot more than the oversimplified Klingons who lived by their honour. Duras, Gowron, Chang, Kruge, Lursa, B'Etor, Regent Worf were all great villains to watch.
     
  2. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Hollywood has a long history of sterotyping nationalities, why should fictional nationalities be any different?
     
  3. Drone

    Drone Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Although his screen time was slight, Korath also fit the bill. I suppose I've never thought about it, but he may have simply been taking advantage of a plum situation as he clearly knew that what the Admiral was asking for was against Federation dictates and so he could justifiably portray that he would deal with her, with his true intention all along being the he would use the situation to his own benefit. Regardless, without honour or not, he was someone that you wouldn't want to tangle with.
     
  4. LadyT'Anna

    LadyT'Anna Commander Red Shirt

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    Does anyone feel that the portrayals of Klingon women are regressive in TOS or DS9? Consider these facts: Mara is Kang's science officer as well as his wife (and look who ends up marrying Worf). Yet Grilka, who is presumably of higher birth, must remarry posthaste to protect her property.

    Interesting . . .
     
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  5. Drone

    Drone Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well Ch'Rega certainly got to live out her wishes in Prophecy, but I don't suppose that's exactly what you're talking about.:lol:
     
  6. LadyT'Anna

    LadyT'Anna Commander Red Shirt

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    (chuckling) Not quite. :)
     
  7. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    Yes - I found it very regressive - and didn't associate Klingons with gender discrimination before that, as we had seen them serving equally in the Klingon Defense Force. I would like to forget it ever happened on screen, but we can't ignore it now.
     
  8. loghaD

    loghaD Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I agree, although it should be mentioned that proof of discrimination against women was present much earlier than House of Quark. For example, in Redemption, Part 1 we learned that women may not serve on the High Council, whereas apparently the bastard son of a traitor might.

    I would have found it very refreshing if the Klingon society, which values qualities that humans consider to be very "macho", subverted our expectations by not being sexist. I feel like Star Trek, in spite of its claims to "infinite diversity in infinite combinations", often treats gender roles almost as though they were universal constants.
     
  9. stardream

    stardream Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ron Moore was responsible for the whole 'women can't serve on the high council' thing. I remember being surprised when I realized this. The same Ron Moore who gave us a female Starbuck?

    Maybe we'll get a Klingon version of 'Profit and Lace' where women will no longer be excluded from the high council...although I hope it's a better written version. ;)
     
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  10. loghaD

    loghaD Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    How I imagine it will go:

    K'tal: The House of Grilka has submitted a petition to end the ban on women serving on the High Council.
    Martok: Wait... That's a thing? Seriously? What is this, the Year of Kahless 700!?
    K'tal: Yeah, it was Duras' idea. He snuck it in as a rider on the Honor & Glory Act. Several of its supporters have admitted they didn't actually read the bill beyond the title.
    Martok: Khest'n forshak... All right, all for allowing women to serve on the High Council?
    Everybody raises their hands.
    Martok: maj. What's the next point of order?
    K'tal: Well, it's about the death penalty on overdue library books...
    Martok ridgepalms.
     
  11. STEPhon IT

    STEPhon IT Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think the goal with TNG was to move far away from the Klingon culture, but for some writers who have limited talent thought re-writing them into the image of Worf was a way to write stories to fit his sense of being. Loud, stupid, and wants to fight whatever he/she sees in front of them. By the time DS9 4th season came around; the Klingons came off as idiotic, blow hard, bullies, rising their chests up for some sort of barbaric, cave men man-hood. They were not interesting anymore but in some strange way, they were more like comic relief on TNG spinoff series. I wish the culture were kept in the manner they were in TOS, and I'm glad JJ Abrams honored them correctly, and hopefully the new series will share that identity for Trek's popular aliens.
     
  12. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Commodore Commodore

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    I don't know... we had seen women serving in the Defence Force, but did we ever see a woman as a ship commander, or a first officer, or as a flag officer? Sexism does seem to exist in the Empire.

    Although this does seem to be a fairly recent development at the time of Redemption, since Gowron offered K'Ehleyr a seat on the council in Reunion. One wonders what would cause them to regress like that?
     
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  13. Longinus

    Longinus Captain Captain

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    @USS Einstein, I get what you're saying but I really cannot agree. Klingons are my favourite aliens in the Star Trek and I think they have been depicted pretty well. I really love that they're ruthless and aggressive feudal traditionalists with a space empire. Yes, at glance that may appear 'irrational' but I say it is a good depiction of an alien culture. These are not supposed to be humans, they have different instincts, different values and different traditions.

    Sure, sometimes this has gone too far, it really makes little sense to use bat'leth in actual combat (I think we saw that happening in DS9), talk about bringing a knife into a phaser fight. It also makes no sense that the leader of the high council can be deposed at any time just by beating him in a duel (why no one did this to K'mpec, it didn't seem like he could have put up much of a fight?)

    However, overall I like how they have been portrayed. Frankly, to me it seems that you want Klingons to be more like humans, whereas I like that they're strange and alien.

    Furthermore, I really don't see what is so great about Abrams' depiction of them. We get just two small glimpses anyway. I really didn't like the coats, they looked too modern and too 'human'. I prefer the medieval inspired scifi armours of the old movies/TNG/DS9*. I really liked the Klingon costumes in ST:Enterpise as well.

    * Granted, there could have been more variety, but this is probably a budget issue.
     
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  14. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    @Longinus: They are my favorites too (although I love the Romulans A LOT too) - and I don't think they are irredeemable in terms of being an interesting culture after DS9. I love the echos of pagan medieval societies, modern isolationist/militarist societies, the Soviet Union, Mongols, Vikings, Samurai, Imperial Japan in their culture. But I really didn't like some of the blow hard cave man stuff in DS9; like the way the bullies who went after Alexander acted, or the chest rising goons from some ENT episodes. Yeah, that might be how many "honor" societies are in reality; full of hypocrites, the tyranny of the majority, and lifetimes of bullying - but I always prefer an admirable villain to a realistic but detestable one. Ironically what you found more exotic, i.e. medievalism, I found less - because such societies are not very distant, often not very admirable, and even still exist in places. In DS9, they became a society we are all too familiar with - another banal macho culture. But what I note about many of the most admirable warrior cultures on Earth is how they did not fit this type; and the best were often pragmatic/practical, not ritualized or macho to the point of absurdity. That is because all societies, no matter how different, share certain things; a certain underlying reality - the Klingons possessed this touch of reality at their best, but lost it when written at their worst. My criticism isn't of Klingons, who I love, but how they have sometimes been written, without this intangible reality; by people who perhaps haven't a very naturalistic view of the world/history/motives.
     
  15. Griffeytrek

    Griffeytrek Captain Captain

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    I think the point with K'mpec was he was too good or cagey of a leader. The other houses would have not tolerated a physical challenge to him. He kept things in balance. That's why Duras resorted to poison. Because K'mpec's standing made it politically untenable to directly openly challenge him. Which always struck me as one of the more nuanced depictions of Klingon politics. Certainly better than Gowron's end. "I killed him, jobs mine to give to who I want". Granted the Council probably breathed a sigh of relief when Worf handed the coat to Martok. The sane man in the room, and the first Klingon General in centuries to not only win, but also bring back almost as many troops as he started with. "Today really isn't the best day to die. I have things planned. Can we maybe schedule something next Tuesday? Better yet how about you all die instead? That way everybody's happy!"
     
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  16. dswynne1

    dswynne1 Commander Red Shirt

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    First, I think your reliance on FASA and other non-canon source (i.e. Memory Beta) doesn't make your argument valid. Secondly, as others have pointed out, the Klingons have always been a simplified race; it just depends on the year that the production crew and writers were depicting them (ie. from Soviet/East Asian analogies to the Biker gang analogies) as to how they were portrayed. Third, IRL, every nation has its cultural pride, from the USA (Baseball, Apple, 2nd Amendment) to the UK ("God Save the Queen") to the French ("Viva La France") to the Russian Federation to China and so on. The Klingons WOULD have pride in their cultural heritage, which is in keeping with the idea of having noble or common "houses". As socialistic/communistic as the Chinese government is, they have no problem wearing their own cultural heritage on their sleeves (which is ironic that they original tried to do away with their history during the Cultural Revolution). Even Nazi German used cultural iconography to rally their people around the idea of creating a Third Reign, as an heir to the Holy Roman Empire. So a government's use of culture to sell their policies is a natural fit.
     
  17. Lieut. Arex

    Lieut. Arex Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'd say the Klingons went off the rails when they stopped being the New Soviet Man in Space
     
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  18. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    @Longinus & @dswynne1 :

    Something I posted elsewhere:

    Klingons arn't any better trained than Starfleet officers.

    We can safely assume that Starfleet is trained extensively in combat; and are kept at peak fitness - we even see it - Picard was in marathon-running fitness - Malcolm Reed was well versed in hand-to-hand techniques - officers in DS9 were able to hold their own against Jem'Hadar - TOS era crew hit the gym and practiced judo - Voyager crew were trained to rappel down rock faces.

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    Starfleet may be peaceful, but it prepares for the eventuality of conflict.

    And Klingons don't seem to be any biologically stronger than a human.

    I know modern culture has sorta acclimatized people to the idea that martial cultures must be inherently ninja-like in their skill, but Star Trek takes the more realistic historical view - which is that there isn't much difference between trained soldiers - other than equipment and discipline.

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    The only time when martial cultures might be slightly better is if, like the Rajputs or Gurkhas or Scots, they are engaged in low-level endemic warfare, and therefore are able to withstand the psychological rigors of a battlefield situation a bit better, due to a courage-based culture developing. But even then, the difference can be negated entirely by "discipline" - hence how time and time again, the British Empire were able to drive off large numbers of attackers from such cultures.

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    This can be seen in countless historical examples, where burly loud 'barbarian hordes' were defeated by superior discipline almost every time - Rome vs the Germans and Celts - etc. Its one of the reasons why in my thread on Klingon's being stereotyped, I pointed out that they were more believable during TOS than DS9 (they were practical and calm). I'm glad the new Klingons in the latest movies are moving back that way.

    The fact of the matter is that for the Klingons to have ever built a colonial empire in the first place, they must have been practical and disciplined, rather than relying on martial arts. So TOS Klingons were quite realistic, whereas some later episodes that tried to depict them as being strong out of ferocity were missing the mark. Empires are inherently quite opportunist, but even discounting that, like Rome, which would dig a trench round a town and starve the enemy rather than rush in, it requires organization rather than fanaticism.

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    Prodigious and scary levels of organization perhaps - Roman troops were able to construct an 18 kilometer long 4 meter high double-wall around Alesia in three weeks, in order to starve the Gauls out. But that is why they were the greatest fighting force of their age - the ability to dig a latrine is more important than yelling loud in empire building.

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    I love Japan (really one of my favorite cultures, if not favorite), but Hollywood (as an example of this idea) has left people with the impression that like a katana is unbreakable and inherently superior to a European medieval sword for example, or that samurai, with their martial ethic, were inherently superior to European knights - this is not the case, and when you read real history it becomes readily apparent that although a katana was a beautifully crafted weapon, it wasn't much different in effect to a mass-produced British or Indian sabre from the 1800s, and that the samurai were not inherently superior to knights.

    So all we are seeing is just Klingons being realistic (ironically; one of the last franchises to have resisted the urge to ninja-ify everyone). There is a place for Star Wars style escapism, and a place for more tactical military sci-fi.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  19. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    It's also worth re-posting this:

    Even this is one dimensional - a society needs to diversify in order to function. Vikings were civilians when not engaged in war and trade. They fished, hunted, and farmed - trading furs, visiting brothels, crafting tools. When their chieftans saw that modern statehood and trade would earn money from taxation faster than from plunder - they adopted Christian institutions (out of a practical desire for trade and access to learning institutions, not any romantic idealism) and the institutions of medieval kingship. By the end of the 'Viking era' the Vikings weren't 'pagan barbarians' at all - most were Christians preying on other Christians - and half of them probably no longer even ethnic Scandanavians, but also including Scots, Irish, English and Slavs.

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    The Klingon state isn't populated by an eternal caste of soldiers, all raised in the Shaolin Temples of Kronos (that would be monumentally ridiculous, as the instinct of all animals is to lead the easiest life possible - and it takes a great deal of cultural propaganda to make people take on duties that are against their best interests). They probably have 'realists' who recognise class divisions, have a cynical view of their politicians, and don't give a shit about military service, as well as 'reluctant patriots' who see collaboration with the ruling state as their best chance of a good life - already two vastly different viewpoints!

    So presumably many of the 'warriors' we meet are engaged in a term of military service, and have lives beyond the Klingon Defence Force - some will be simple blue collar or white collar workers, or civil servants, or work in a Klingon hospital. Some might come from military families, but in real life, this does not necessarily entail fanaticism. They would probably be more like servicemen with a family history in the British armed forces - perhaps having built a good classical understanding of war, and that 'fearlessness' is stupid; service is about doing a professional duty in spite of fear. Dumb fanatics don't make good empire-holders - pragmatists do.

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    Take the example of Klingon armour to illustrate why later depictions of Klingon society are so stupid. Rationality wins wars. Armies are some of the most 'hard rationalist' of organisations. They will make their soldiers do things that might not be glamorous, if it improves the chances of winning and survival. A soldier might have to eat local insect wildlife, in order to survive in conditions where supply lines are poor. Religious dietary requirements and other romantic notions fly right out of the window. They wear practical fabrics, carry practical weapons, and don't do things for glamour. If a Klingon commander tells troops to 'cook' their gagh in order to release more useful protein for digestion, they will have to do it. If they are issued standard bars of field rations, that contain some unpalatable formula, they must eat them.

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    The Romans dug miles of defences around their camps. When besieging a settlement in Gaul, they encircled in in a wooden palisade. So warfare, in the most organised military machine the world had seen, was as much about digging latrines and infrastructure as actual combat. That is why they won. Discipline/coordination triumphs over zealotry/fanaticism. The Battle of Teutoberg forest only succeeded because it was a surprise attack - the romantic hollywood view of barbarians as unstoppable warriors who cut down ten people for every one casualty is poisonous nonsense. If that were true, the casualty rates in wars would be vastly different - the US Army suffered far less deaths than Imperial Japan in WW2.

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    Thus the Klingons from TOS, with their practical uniforms, rationalist behavior, make more sense than the barbarians presented in late-TNG, DS9 and VOY. I rationalise this ridiculous change as having been a social regression - a repealing of the 'Klingon enlightenment' - a Klingon anti-renaissance in which social institutions regressed after Praxis's explosion ruined society, and the Gorkonites had to rebuild. Where perhaps during TOS, the Klingons had adopted the fascist idea of 'class collaboration' to resolve their class war differences, the old bourgeoisie re-siezed power in a corrupt post-Gorkon empire.
     
  20. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    I agree that this must be how Klingon society is really organized - with the equivalent of national service or conscription; maybe with a aristocracy forming much of the officer corps, just like during World War One. And I wholeheartedly agree with you that there must be the equivalent of white collar workers and engineers. Klingon society cannot function without this - some non-canon sources might argue that Klingons 'steal' their technology, but that makes zero sense whatsoever - you need infrastructure and scientific capacity to run any kind of modern state.

    - Perhaps in the 22nd century they still retain elements of feudal service / or a caste system.

    - Perhaps in the 23rd century conscription is introduced with their seeming turn to fascism.

    - Perhaps in the 24th century the state regresses and private loyalties play a bigger part again.

    But it would be nice, perhaps, to just show the odd Klingon talking about their life beyond the military. An engineer onboard a Klingon starship briefly mentioning his volunteering as a nurse at a local hospital in Kormar Provice, or someone being a down-on-their-luck merchant before enlisting, or whatever. You don't actually have to show that Klingon farmer ploughing his field for 45 minutes - just hint at the wider world.