Even the most casual viewer of the Star Trek T.V. or film series can easily recognize the Klingons. Whether it's some of the better known characters like Michael Dorn's Worf, or Robert O'Reilly's bulging-eyed portrayal of Gowron, they are not only the most iconic aliens in Star Trek, but science-fiction as a whole.
Since their debut in 1967, the Klingons have become a fan favorite. They frequently appear at cosplay events, fans pore over Klingon lore with religious fervor, and both fans and scholars study the intricacies of their constructed language. Fans have even translated literary classics such as Hamlet into Klingon.
Like other aspects of the long-running franchise, the Klingons have undergone many changes throughout the years. The species that began as villainous stand-ins for the Soviets are now depicted as honorable, romantic warriors. With that in mind, here are ten developments that have shaped the Klingons as we know them.
10. As Created By Gene L. Coon They Weren't Honorable And Actually Kinda Racist
The Klingons were created by screenwriter and Star Trek show runner Gene L. Coon for the episode Errand of Mercy. According to story editor D.C. Fontana, they soon became the series' recurring villains instead of the Romulans since creating the Klingons' swarthy appearance was cheaper than creating multiple pointy ears.
Created during the Cold War, the Klingons were originally stand-ins for the Soviet Union and Communist China. According to Science Fiction by Adam Charles Roberts, although occasionally shown as honorable, they were usually presented as brutish, murderous, and scheming.
Coon's script for Errand of Mercy described the Klingons as 'oriental-looking' and 'hard-faced'. According to an interview in Cinefantastique, John Colicos, who played Kor , and makeup artist Fred Phillips developed a look for the Klingons featuring dark skin, shaggy hair, beards, and Fu Manchu mustaches. This design leaned heavily on racist Asian stereotypes and would hardly pass muster today.
Fortunately, the greater budget of Star Trek: The Motion Picture meant that the Klingons could be redesigned. Klingons with the now familiar ridged foreheads made their debut in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture.