A humanoid warrior civilization and one of the major powers of the galaxy, the Klingon species originates from the planet Qo'noS (pronounced Kronos), a M-class planet. The Klingons are a proud, tradition-bound people who value honor. The aggressive Klingon culture has made them an interstellar military power to be respected and feared. Klingons believe that they have the instinctive ability to look an opponent in the eye and see the intent to kill.
History and Politics
The Klingon Empire was founded approximately 1,500 years ago by Kahless the Unforgettable, who performed many heroic feats including the unification of the Klingon people when he killed the tyrant Molor. Kahless came to be revered in Klingon society to the point of near-deification, and many aspects of Klingon culture came to revolve around emulation of Kahless's life. (TNG: "Rightful Heir")
The warrior ethos has been an important aspect of Klingon society since the time of Kahless, but the warrior aspects became much more dominant beginning in the early 22nd century. Previously, Klingon society was regarded as fair and balanced, but over time, the warriors gained greater prominence, to the point where the Klingons widely came to be regardes as a "warrior race." (ENT: "Broken Bow", "Judgment")
Because of their aggressive outlook, the Klingons have generally had poor relations with other races after they began to move out into space. Because the worlds of the Klingon Empire are resource-poor, the Klingons have developed an intense belief in the need for expansion and conquest in order to survive. The Klingons' relationship with Humans and the Federation have been rocky at best. Following the disastrous First Contact between Klingons and Humans in 2151, a tense rivalry began that escalated into a full-scale cold war around 2218. (ENT: "Broken Bow", TOS: "Day of the Dove") Tensions finally erupted into the first Federation-Klingon War in 2267, that was quickly ended by intervention by the Organians after only four days of fighting. (TOS: "Errand of Mercy") Over the next several decades, an uneasy peace developed that was broken by brief but fierce skirmishes and conflicts. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) A true and lasting peace finally came in 2293 with the signing of the Khitomer Accords, thanks to the efforts of Chancellor Gorkon and the Human Starfleet officer James T. Kirk. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) Since then, despite several periods of rocky relations (see Second Federation-Klingon War), the Federation and the Klingon Empire have been steadfast allies, especially in the face of Dominion aggression in the 2370s. (DS9: "By Inferno's Light")
The Klingon relationship with the Romulan people is also extremely unstable. The Romulan Star Empire has been typically regarded by the Klingons as a "blood enemy" since at least the 23rd century. Sporadic Romulan attacks against Klingon colonies (see Khitomer Massacre) and interference in Klingon affairs (see Klingon Civil War) have continued to sour relationships between the two people. (TNG: "Sins of the Father", "Redemption, Part II")
Klingon society is extremely complex, considered by some Federation citizens to be primitive in the extreme. It is essentially based on a feudal system organized around traditional Great Houses of noble lineage, to which various parts of the population owe fealty. The Great Houses are traditionally represented in the Klingon High Council, which is led by a Chancellor.
Males traditionally dominate public life in the Empire, assuming the leading roles in politics and the military with only rare exceptions. (TNG: "Redemption, Part I") Women, in turn, traditionally dominate the household and the management of the family's affairs. (DS9: "You Are Cordially Invited...") Klingon women are treated as equals except in politics and matters of inheritance. They are prohibited by law from serving in the High Council and cannot take control of their Houses unless they have the money and no male successors of the lineage. Otherwise, it is expected of Klingon women to exhibit the same physical prowess and lust for blood and honor as the men.
Klingon society functions through a system of family reputation and honor. Tradition is an integral part of their lives and breaking from observances is considered a grievious insult to society that is not forgotten easily, bringing shame to the offender's name for several generations. Bloodlines and relations are also taken very seriously by any true Klingon. Lines comprise of more than mere family members. (TNG: "New Ground")
An integral part of tradition is the various rituals that mark milestones in a Klingon's life or the history of the Empire. Most notable of the rites is the Rite of Succession, which a future leader of the Empire must complete with a valid Arbiter of Succession (Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the case of Gowron) overseeing the proceedings. Before the Rite can begin, there's another elaborate ceremony needed to confirm the death of the previous leader. This is known as the Sonchi ceremony. (TNG: "Reunion") For individual Klingon warriors, they are expected to go through the Rite of Ascension to be recognized as a full adult. (TNG: "The Icarus Factor")
On average Klingons are larger and physically stronger than Humans. They are noted for having no tear ducts, and while most have red blood there are some whose blood is distinctly pink. Klingons suffer from certain allergies, most notably a strong reaction to small furry animals such as Tribbles. (TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles")
Internally, Klingon physiology is markedly different from that of Humans. There is a great deal more multiple redundancy in their organs, a principle they call brak'lul. This allows Klingons to survive severe injuries in battle. They have twenty three ribs, two livers, an eight chambered heart, and even redundant neural function and multiple stomachs. Surprisingly, Klingons have relatively little knowledge of their own biology and their medicine is very poorly developed. This is largely due to their warrior traditions - a Klingon who is wounded is expected to be left to survive or die through his own strength, or to undergo the Hegh'bat, a form of ritual suicide. (TNG: "Ethics")
Religion and Tradition
Ritual is a very important element in Klingon society. The Klingons are not a religious people as such - they do believe that deities existed at one time, but the Klingons slew their gods about a thousand years ago as they were considered to be more trouble than they were worth. They believe that once a Klingon has died the spirit exits the body, leaving behind a worthless shell to be disposed of. (VGR: "Emanations") It is traditional for those on hand to howl into the sky as a warning to the afterlife that a Klingon warrior is about to arrive. (TNG: "Heart of Glory") In some cases a funeral dirge is sung in memory to the deceased, or friends will sit with the body to protect it from predators, a practice known as Ak'voh. (DS9: "The Ship")
Furthermore, a Klingon, who is unable to fight, hence is unable to live as a warrior anymore, has the traditional obligation of committing the Hegh'bat, which is the Klingon ritual suicide. Tradition dictates that a close friend, or eldest son must assist. That person's role is to hand the dying Klingon a knife so that he can plunge it into his heart, remove it and then wipe the blood on the sleeve of the person assisting. (TNG : "Ethics")
The Klingon afterlife is divided into two branches; the dishonored are taken to Gre'thor aboard the Barge of the Dead, a vessel captained by Kortar, the first Klingon. Kortar was the one who originally killed the gods who created him, and was condemned to ferry the dishonored to Gre'thor as a punishment. Once in Gre'thor, the dishonored are watched over by Fek'lhr, a vaguely Klingon-esque figure. It is tempting to view Fek'lhr as the Klingon equivalent of the Human devil, but in fact the Klingons have no devil. (TNG: "Devil's Due", VGR: "Barge of the Dead")
Klingon rituals include the R'uustai, a bonding ceremony which joins two people together in a relationship similar to brotherhood. (TNG: "The Bonding") Klingon tradition holds that "the son of a Klingon is a man the day he can first hold a blade." (TNG: "New Ground")
If a Klingon warrior strikes another Klingon with the back of his hand, it is interpreted as a challenge to the death. Klingon warriors speak proudly to each other; they do not whisper or keep their distance. Standing far away or whispering are considered insults in Klingon society. (DS9: "Apocalypse Rising")
When going into battle, Klingon warriors often sing the traditional warriors' anthem, which is essentially an invocation to Kahless and a pledge to win a good death in battle. (DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire")
Science and Technology
Food and Beverages
- Bregit lung
- Grapok sauce
- Heart of targ
- Pipius claw
- Rokeg blood pie
Klingons were first seen in Errand of Mercy [TOS], and throughout the original Star Trek series. At the time, they appeared as fairly ordinary humans with heavy makeup and mustaches. Beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, improved makeup techniques, and bigger budgets, led to their present elaborate forehead designs. The differences between the two types of Klingons have never been definitively explained on the show, although Worf, in Trials and Tribble-ations (DS9), made it very clear that this is not something the Klingons discuss with outsiders. The issue was further complicated when three Klingons, Kor, Koloth, and Kang, who had appeared in the Original Series with the original makeup design, appeared on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine wearing the motion picture style Klingon foreheads. According to David Alexander, in Star Trek Creator, a biography of Gene Roddenberry, Roc Books, 1994, the Klingons were named for Lieutenant Wilbur Clingan, a friend of Roddenberry who served with him in the Los Angeles Police Department.