Star Trek: Discovery Was Wrong About Klingons From The Very Beginning

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

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When Star Trek: Discovery first came out, fans had many problems with how the Klingons were portrayed. Most of these were aesthetic problems: Season 1 presented these warriors as completely bald, though they got their hair (if not their groove) back in season 2. However, the show had a more fundamental problem with the Klingons from the very beginning because it effectively retconned the most important plot point of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Check The Continuity

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To understand what Star Trek: Discovery got wrong about the Klingons, you need to know about a key line in Star Trek VI. That movie was famously about ending the conflict between the Federation and the Klingons. We know exactly how long that conflict had been going on because of a line from Spock that such peace would bring an end to “almost seventy years of unremitting hostility.”

That movie takes place in 2293, so that tells us that the Federation has been fighting the Klingons since about 2223. How does this tie into Star Trek: Discovery getting its facts about the Klingons wrong? As with all things relating to this show, it all goes back to Michael Burnham.

War Or Peace?

Star Trek Discovery battle at the binary stars

In the Star Trek: Discovery pilot episode “The Vulcan Hello,” the major plot point is that Burnham accidentally kicks off a full-blown war between the Federation and the Klingons. Multiple characters throughout the episode mention how the Federation has barely had any interactions with the Klingon Empire for one hundred years. Rightly or wrongly, Burnham gets blamed for getting the Klingons to stop ignoring the Federation and instead launch into an all-out war.

You can probably see where this is going: Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek VI are telling completely different stories about the Klingons. In Discovery, this warrior race seems to have spent a century in relative isolation. In The Undiscovered Country, however, they have spent the last seven decades in a state of “unremitting hostility” with the Federation.

The Math Isn’t Mathing

Star Trek Discovery Michael Burnham

Don’t worry: you don’t have to crunch the numbers because, like Tilly, we’re going to demonstrate “the power of math, people!” Star Trek VI took place in 2293, and Discovery begins in 2256. If Spock is right (which only seems logical), then the Federation would have spent more than three decades fighting the Klingons (since around 2223) by the time Burnham gets the blame for starting a war that was already in full swing.

Forgetful Writing Or Deliberate Retconning

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That means we are left with two possibilities regarding how Star Trek: Discovery treated conflict with the Klingons, and both of them are pretty bad. The first possibility is that the writers were simply unaware of this major plot point regarding their season 1 antagonists, which would lend credence to the frequent criticism that this writing stuff never really understood Star Trek.

The second possibility is that Discovery is deliberately retconning The Undiscovered Country, which is pretty unforgivable…like, did Paramount really retcon one of the best Star Trek movies ever made just to create a forgotten-after-season-1 story for a brand new character?

Several Misfires

Star Trek Discovery

For the record, we generally liked Star Trek: Discovery more than we disliked it, but the show had several misfires regarding major franchise elements like the Klingons. On paper, Season 1 was meant to contextualize Kirk’s later fights with this warrior race in The Original Series, but the pilot episode of Discovery effectively erases the driving force of Kirk’s most important movie. And that storytelling decision leaves a bad taste in our mouths that no amount of Klingon bloodwine can erase.