The View from My Chair: Klingon Ridges and continuity
My Buddy Berin Kinsman recently had a question about Klingon head ridges. For the uninitiated, in the original series Klingons had no head ridges. Star Trek: The Motion Picture showed minor head ridges on the Klingons. The Klingon make-up evolved throughout the movies and TNG until we have the bumpy heads we’re familiar with today.
The real world reason for this apparent discrepancy is the fact that budgets for make-up during the original series run was miniscule. Make-up budgets for the movies was a lot higher. Make-up techniques and budgets had improved enough by the 1980’s that a weekly TV show could afford what a cash-strapped TV show in 60’s could not. When a TV show as long-lived and as successful as Star Trek is internally inconsistent it can drive fans of the show just a tick crazy.
Trekkers have often wondered about the visual discrepancy between Klingons as depicted in the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s as these differences were never addressed on-screen. Theories abounded that there were two main races of Klingons, bumpy and non-bumpy headed. Other theories stated that Klingons had themselves surgically altered themselves so they could better infiltrate the dominate facial structure found in the Alpha Quadrant. Gene Roddenberry himself stated that Klingons “always” had head bumps, it was just the there wasn’t enough resolution in the cameras of the 1960s to capture the details.
Roddenberry’s theory seemed to be borne out in the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath”. In this episode the three main Klingons from the original series; Kang, Kor, and Koloth (Kor is shown above in bumps and no bumps) show up on DS9 in full modern Klingon makeup. The theory of there being two different races of Klingons was shot down with this episode giving the edge to Roddenberry’s explanation.
The producers of DS9 thought about keeping the actors in the makeup they used in TOS but decided not to so as not to “confuse the audience”. Micheal Ansara (Kang) asked why his (and the others) makeup was different then it had been in the 60s. He was told that Klingons were very long-lived and the head ridges were a natural part of the Klingon aging process. Nice theory, except that Worf’s son, Alexander was shown with ridges.
Up until this point there was nothing that required a convoluted explanation. Roddenberry’s theory is still the best.
O’Brien, Bashir, Worf, and Odo are sitting in the bar looking at all the Klingons. The waitress mentions the Klingons. Odo, Bashir and O’Brien ask, “What Klingons?” and then look at Worf. Worf explains that Klingons do not talk about the changes in appearance from the 23rd to the 24th century. Roddenberry’s theory of camera resolution is dealt a fatal blow as the characters themselves bring up the difference in appearance.
Once again, continuity raised its ugly head.
Star Trek Enterprise bursts into millions of homes. The setting is the 22nd century. The first image we see is a bumpy headed Klingon running through a cornfield in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. “What th****?” millions of Trek fans ask. Why does the Klingon have bumps? Braga, the man who hates continuity and Trek fans, and doesn’t give rats patoot about maintaining an internal consistency mandates that Klingons on Enterprise will HAVE bumps. Why? because he assumes the audience will be confused by smooth headed Klingons.
What does this mean? If you’re going to produce a continuity heavy TV show, never assume your audience is stupid. Also if you’re going to be the executive producer of said series, don’t hire a day-to-day producer that despises your fanbase.
As my fellow Klingons would probably say, “Continuity, pfah. Let us do battle.”