The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







This page is about the race. For the language, see Klingon language.
Founded: circa 900 C.E.
Chancellor: Martok (2375)
Capital: First City, Qo'noS
Official language: Klingonese, (see: universal translator)
Currency: darsek

Klingons (tlhIngan in the Klingon language), are a race of humanoids in the fictional Star Trek universe. They were the main antagonists in Star Trek: The Original Series and later became the uneasy allies of the United Federation of Planets. They were introduced in the episode Errand of Mercy.

Some believe that the Klingons were written to resemble what Westerners of that time commonly believed the Empire of Japan and the Samurai to be like: belligerent, mannerless, and lacking finesse. Like the Japanese, the Klingons would later become cultural icons admired by Westerners and the United Federation of Planets. Others believe that the Klingons were an allegoric representation of the Soviet Union, which was aggressive and unreasonable.

It would seem now that Klingon culture mirrors that of modern-day militant Muslims.


Klingon biology

Roughly humanoid in appearance, Klingons typically sport long manes of luxuriant hair, and for males, mustaches, and beards. Perhaps their most prominent external feature is their ridged forehead. These intricate, bony patterns vary by family line and are an evolutionary remnant of their prehistoric forms, when Klingons had a more extensive exoskeleton and a decidedly crustacean appearance.

Most body functions incorporate multiple redundancies, such as redundant stomachs, lungs, livers, an eight-chambered heart, and twenty-three ribs. This characteristic, known as "brak'lul," makes Klingons incredibly resilient. The character Spock once said Klingons lack tear ducts, although Klingon myth states that Kahless once filled the ocean with his tears. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country depicts Klingons having violet blood (based on the metal ion manganese according to some unofficial sources) similar in appearance to Pepto-Bismol, but all other depictions of Klingon blood have been red, like human blood. The Klingon lifespan is at least 150 years. Interbreeding is possible with humans (B'Elanna Torres, K'Ehleyr) and Romulans (Ba'el ).

Human-looking Klingons

From the year 2154 until sometime after the events of Star Trek: The Original Series about a century later, Klingons had external features resembling Humans and wore their hair in a more conservative fashion than that seen later (and previously). There also appear to be two different "races" of the "original" Klingons, some who were pale with neatly groomed hair and others much darker with thick eyebrows. The two never appeared together. The differences in the two phenotypes may explain, in part, Dr. McCoy's immediate lack of knowledge of Klingon anatomy when he tried to save Chancellor Gorkon in 2293.

Fan speculation

Over the decades, several non-canon novels and comic books attempted to suggest reasons for the change, including the suggestion that the human-like Klingons were a different race. The early-1990s DC Comics graphic novel, Debt of Honor suggested that the human-like Klingons were discommoded (a concept introduced in TNG). However, several Klingons who appeared human-like in Star Trek: The Original Series made appearances on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager with full ridges. It has been suggested that the character of General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, whose features are less severe than other Klingons, might be a remnant of the human-like Klingons.

The Star Trek Role playing game published by FASA in the 1980s (also non-canon) suggested the Klingons of the original series were actually human/klingon 'fusions' (hybrids) based on the premise that Klingons took 'know thine enemy' to its logical extreme in that incorporating human DNA and presumably human characteristics into Klingons would make them much more effective in combating them. The 'movie' Klingons were 'Imperial Race' Klingons, i.e. purebred.

In the real world of Gene Roddenberry and other Star Trek story-makers, the change was said to actually be an attempt to make the Klingons more alien, as an ongoing set of characters whose race was nearly identical to humans was considered too unrealistic. This change took place, initially, during the Star Trek movies, when the new Hollywood budget first allowed a much more alien race, but talking about the reasons behind it was treated as a sort of friendly taboo by people associated with the series.

The cause revealed

In February 2005 a two-part storyline on Star Trek: Enterprise, "Affliction" and "Divergence", explained canonically why the Klingons changed their appearance.

In an earlier series of episodes, the Augments, humans grown from genetically engineered embryos from the Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century, were defeated by Captain Jonathan Archer and the Enterprise (NX-01) in Klingon space. The Klingons gained access to the genetic material of the human Augments, and wanted to adapt this genetic engineering to augment their own species. The experiment did not work correctly; at first, subjects did gain increased strength and intelligence, but their nervous systems could not handle the strain and they died. One of the test subjects had a virulent flu, which—combined with the genetic changes wrought by the experiment—became a deadly, airborne plague that spread rampantly among the Empire, from world to world, causing the physical changes to change them into the human-looking Klingons of Kirk's day.

Dr. Phlox of the Enterprise NX-01 formulated a cure for the virus, however not before millions of Klingons were physically altered. And due to the genetic nature of the virus, these alterations were passed to succeeding generations of offspring.

The Klingons were apparently so embarrassed by the fallout from this disaster, that they absolutely refused under any circumstances to discuss the incident with outsiders in later years. There is also evidence (illustrated by the ignorance of members of the Deep Space Nine crew who encounter human-like Klingons during time travel into the past) that knowledge of the change might become lost over time to humankind. The Enterprise storyline also indicates that an early form of the Starfleet intelligence service Section 31 was somehow involved in the transformation of the Klingons.

Phlox indicated that "someday" the physical alterations could be reversed.

The episode "Divergence" revealed that not all Klingons were affected by the virus. No canon explanation has yet been offered to suggest why only the human-like Klingons were seen in The Original Series, save for statements made in "Divergence" that the genetically altered version of the race would be stronger and more intelligent, suggesting they may have been desirable soldiers in later Klingon/Federation conflicts. The Klingons in Star Trek: The Motion Picture were the first Klingon crew that was shown to be dealing with something other than the Federation, so there is no evidence proving these particular Klingons had ever been afflicted.

However, the ridge-development cure must have been developed prior to 2293, the year of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback", which depicts events that took place in 2293, shows the Klingon Kang with ridges, though he had none in the original series episode "Day of the Dove."

It can be calculated, therefore, that the human-like appearance of the Klingons lasted for at least 125 years, since Enterprise takes place approximately 110 to 115 years prior to The Original Series, and the reversal mentioned by Phlox could have happened prior to Star Trek: The Motion Picture which takes place in the early 2270s, but definitely happened by 2293.

Klingon religion

According to legend, Kortar, the first Klingon, along with his mate, destroyed the gods who created them and turned the heavens into ashes. This event is recounted in marriage ceremonies.

Klingons value honor above all else. Those who die honorably are said to join the spirit of Kahless in Sto-Vo-Kor. The honored dead are not mourned, but celebrated, and the body is viewed as an empty shell to be disposed of. Dishonorable deaths hold the destiny of the underworld of Gre'Thor, guarded by Fek'lhr. Gre'thor is reached by passage on the Barge of the Dead, eternally piloted by Kortar, over the River of Blood.

There are parallels between Klingon beliefs and Norse Mythology; such as the belief that the afterlife will be a warrior's paradise with daily battles, and nightly feasting, drinking and revelry. There is also a parallel to the Muslim religion - worthy deaths in battle guarantee a warrior a place in Sto-Vo-Kor.

History of the Klingon Empire


Little is known of the Klingons prior to the establishment of the Empire. Klingons being a prideful race with a closed society, they are averse to sharing their secrets. Being violent, belligerent, and anti-intellectual, it is hard to imagine that the Klingons developed their high level of technology and science (including warp drive) by themselves. Klingon religion also states that the first Klingons destroyed the gods who created them. Klingon physiology with its redundancies and great strength is also ideal for military operations. Based on the available information, some have theorized that the Klingons originated as a vassal race. They were possibly bred or genetically engineered as "shock troops", and then turned on their masters.

1st Millennium

The Klingon Empire was founded around 900 CE on the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS by Kahless the Unforgettable.

The Empire went through several dynasties of rulers, experiencing a period between the 2nd and 3rd known as the "Dark Time," a 10-year experiment in democracy.

Around the 14th century, Qo'noS was invaded by the Hur'q, who pillaged many treasures, including the sword of Kahless.

The Klingons eventually expelled the Hur'q, which is the Klingon word for "outsider," from their homeworld. It is likely the Klingons stole the invader's technology, including their warp drive and weapons systems, and used them to expand their empire into space. If Klingon designs were in fact stolen, and not developed on their own, this might explain why Klingon technology seems to advance so little during the ensuing centuries compared to other planets, such as Earth.

By 2069 the High Council was formed, eliminating the position of Emperor until 2369.

22nd century

Around the early part of the 22nd century, the warrior class begins exerting a greater influence throughout Klingon society, corrupting, notably, the justice system.

In 2151, a faction in the Temporal Cold War from the 28th century attempted to alter the timeline by using the Suliban Cabal to incite unrest within the Klingon Empire. This resulted in the first contact between Klingons and Humans.

23rd century

Around 2218, relations between the Empire and the Federation degenerated substantially, with intense hostility lasting until 2293.

In 2266, war between the Federation and Klingon Empire is stopped before it can begin by the interference of the Organians. The Organian Peace Treaty forced on both sides holds each to a non-aggression pact and an establishment of a neutral zone in which each side must nonviolently compete for trade agreements with any planets. The Organian influence completely disappears by the time of the Khitomer conference, for reasons that have yet to be explained.

In 2267 it is believed that the Klingons and the Romulans forged a military alliance and the Klingons traded several D7 battlecruisers in exchange for some cloaking devices. (It's more likely that the Romulans – whose ships were far slower than those of the Klingons and the Federation – stole the ships from the Klingons, and the Klingon counter-stole the cloaking devices. This would support the hostility that exists between the Klingons and Romulans) The basis for this alliance was grounded in real-world economics; the script of the episode "The Enterprise Incident" called for a Romulan ship to appear, but the original Romulan ship model was not available so rather than go to the expense of building a new one the Klingon D7 model was substituted.

In 2293 the atmosphere of Qo'noS was contaminated when Praxis, one of its moons, exploded. This event was a turning point in relations between the Klingons and the United Federation of Planets, as the Klingon Empire couldn't afford to maintain their excessive military activities and deal with this new problem (parallels with the breakdown of the Cold War, the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl, and the relationship between the United States and the cash-strapped former Soviet Union were obvious). Thus the two entered into an alliance which was maintained for many years until it was suspended for a couple of years after 2372 due to the issue of the Cardassian invasion. It has yet to be explained how the alliance with the Federation saved Qo'noS, however the planet is shown to still be inhabited and still the Empire's seat of power well into the 24th Century.

24th century

In 2342 the Klingons and Romulans began a violent war after the Romulans attacked the Klingon outpost Narendra III. The Enterprise-C cemented friendly relations between the Klingon Empire and the Federation by sacrificing itself to protect the outpost from the Romulans.

In 2357, Worf (played by Michael Dorn), Son of Mogh became the first Klingon to enter Starfleet Academy and in 2364 he was assigned to the Enterprise-D as relief conn and tactical officer. (Rank: Lieutenant j.g)

In 2367 the Klingon Civil War began after Chancellor K'mpec was murdered. Prior to his murder, K'mpec had named Captain Jean-Luc Picard his Arbiter of Succession. Gowron was selected, but the House of Duras opposed this decision and the war began. It was later revealed that the Romulans were backing Duras and Duras quickly lost all support, ending the war and leaving Gowron as undisputed leader of the empire.

In 2369, the position of Emperor was reinstated, when the clone of Kahless inherited the throne with the blessing of the Chancellor and High Council. Titled Kahless II, the emperor became titular ruler of the empire at a time when the empire needed a figurehead. The bulk of power, however, remained in the hands of the High Council.

In 2372, relations between the Klingons and the Federation soured over the issue of the Klingon invasion of Cardassia. When the Federation refused to support the Klingon invasion, Chancellor Gowron withdrew from the Khitomer Accords. For the next year, relations between the two powers were hostile. In 2373 fighting broke out between the two powers. However when the Federation and Klingons discovered that they were being manipulated by the Dominion, an uneasy cease-fire was declared. In mid-2373, when the Cardassians and the Dominion became allies, the Cardassians drove the Klingons from their space. Captain Sisko was able to convince Gowron to reinstate the Alliance.

Again allies, the Klingons and Federation turned their attention to the Dominion and the Cardassians as war against them became inevitable.

When the war began, both the Federation and Klingons fought side-by-side against the Dominion, even though the odds were against them. However, once the Romulans joined them the tide eventually turned against the Dominion. In 2375 the Federation-Romulan-Klingon fleet defeated the Dominion with the assistance of the Cardassian fleet during a final assault on Cardassia Prime. Despite the refusal of Sisko and Ross to drink bloodwine with Martok in the Cardassian Central Command, the two powers remained strong allies after the war.

Shortly before the end of the Dominion War, in 2375, Gowron took direct control of the Klingon fleet (a position held up until that point by the successful General Martok) because he was concerned that Martok was becoming too popular among both the troops and the civilian population from his wartime success. Since new Chancellors usually ascend to that position by killing the former Chancellor, Gowron feared that Martok would challenge him for his position. Since Gowron was much more of a politician than a general, the Klingon fleet began to take unnecessary losses that Gowron manipulated to appear to be the fault of Martok. Commander Worf, disgusted with Gowron for using bad tactics in the war simply to hurt Martok's political position, challenged the Chancellor in a meeting to ritual combat and defeated him (killing Gowron in the process). By the traditions of the Empire, Worf had the right to become the next Chancellor if he wished, but instead granted the role to Martok, having no desire for a political position himself, although Martok would later have Worf become the UFP's ambassador to the Klingon Empire. Ironically, Martok never had any designs on Gowron or his position, even accepting the unpopular position in which Gowron had placed him without questioning his orders.

Possible Future

In Daniels' timeline, the Klingons join the Federation by about 2554.

Klingon leadership

  • Molor
  • Kahless the Unforgettable (Founds Empire c. 900)
  • Emperor Reclaw (last of the 2nd Dynasty)
  • "Dark Time" (10-year democratic period between 2nd & 3rd dynasties)
  • Emperor Reclaw [II] (last of the 2nd Dynasty)
  • Emperor Sompek
  • Chancellor M'Rek (2154)
  • Chancellor Gorkon (died 2293)
  • Chancellor Azetbur (beginning 2293)
  • Chancellor Mow'ga (2nd Empire)
  • Chancellor K'mpec (died 2367)
  • Chancellor Gowron (2367-2375)
  • Emperor Kahless II (ceremonial ruler from 2369 coregent with chancellor)
  • Chancellor Martok (beginning 2375)

Arbiter of Succession

The Arbiter of Succession is a Klingon legal practice designed to ensure a stable succession for the Chancellor. Although it is a Klingon custom, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a human, is the first person within the Star Trek canon known to have this role.

To gain leadership of the Klingon Empire, a Klingon must gain control of the Klingon High Council. The council itself is made up of the strongest families of the Empire, a more violent example of the British House of Lords. Because a candidate must gain support from the other families, leading to factions, it is the Arbiter's job to resolve the possibility of a stalemate to decide matters of honour relating to the Challenge, and to choose a Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.

Klingon Ranks

(around ~2300's)

Klingon Rank Translation Equivalent Starfleet Rank
mangHom Cadet Cadet
ne' Yeoman Ensign
lagh Ensign Lieutenant j.g.
Sogh Lieutenant Lieutenant
la' Commander Commander
HoD Captain Captain
'ech Colonel Commodore
totlh Brigadier Rear Admiral
Sa' General Vice Admiral
'aj Admiral Admiral
la'quv Supreme Commander Fleet Admiral

Klingon hand weapons

To many Klingons, battle is sacred, and treated with much ceremony. Therefore, many advances have been made by Klingons in the field of weaponry.

  • Disruptor Pistol This is the main weapon all Klingons carry. It has a power cell and fires a bolt of pure energy at a target, vaporizing it. Whether sneaking into enemy territory or going to the market to buy some heart of targ, this is a tried-and-true choice.
  • Disruptor Rifle Disruptor rifles are used mainly by Klingon shock troops, but are also favored by weapons merchants and terrorists due to their point-and-shoot simplicity. These deadly weapons are essentially larger versions of the disruptor pistol.
  • betleH (bet-LEKH - Eng: bat-LETH) The Bat'leth symbolizes the Klingon Empire to much of the quadrant. Made of a crescent with four points, the Bat'leth is an imposing two-handed sword. This weapon has been receding from use in open battle, but is still used in "modern" times for ceremonial rites and challenges of power or authority. The first Bat'leth was said to have been made by Kahless from a lock of his own hair which he forged in a river of lava.
  • meqleH (mek-leKH - Eng: mek-LETH) By all accounts, the Mek'leth is similar to the Bat'leth in many ways, but it is not so much a sword as a large knife. It has a curved blade approximately 30 cm long, and is an imposing sight. Another staple of the average Klingon's weapons closet, this is a formidable blade.
  • Daqtagh (dak-TAGH) The Klingon D'k tagh is a small knife by Klingon standards, mainly used in ceremonies, but also employed as an easily concealable weapon. It has a 20 cm blade length, with two small blades that snap out of the sides at the push of a button. It can also be thrown.
  • 'oy'naQ (oi-NAKKH - Eng: Painstick) The Klingon painstick is a rod about 1 meter in length. It has a grip on one end and a port on the other end to discharge energy. It is also mainly used in ceremonies of endurance, but is sometimes used for torture. It does not incapacitate an enemy unless used repeatedly. It must be placed very close to the target (essentially touching) to work.
  • chonnaQ (chon-NAKKH - Eng: chon-NAK) Not much is known about the archaic chonnaQ. It is a hunting spear once used in the great Klingon wars; it predates the original Kahless in age.
  • jejtaj (jedge-TAHJ) The jejtaj is a weapon wielded like a pair of brass knuckles. However, with enough practice, one can parry bladed attacks with it and use it as a rudimentary throwing star.

Extent of the Klingon Empire

Planets and moons currently considered to be, or to have been, under Klingon jurisdiction include Elas , Khitomer, Morska , Narendra III, Neural , Nimbus III (jointly held with the Romulan Empire and the United Federation of Planets), Praxis, Qo'noS, Rura Penthe, Ty'Gokor , and Troyius . Little is known about much of the Empire's holdings, but it is believed to extend almost as far as that of the Federation.


  • Tribbles (a small furry alien animal) shriek in the presence of Klingons, as demonstrated in an original series episode. Conversely, Klingons are also allergic to tribbles. The Klingons went on to exterminate the popular pet throughout the galaxy and into extinction.
  • A fanon name for the Klingon homeworld Qo'noS is 'Klinzhai'.
  • The larger, ridged forehead Klingons (of the movie era and after) are sometimes unofficially referred to as Imperial Klingons.
  • Klingon (tlhIngan Hol) is also the language spoken by the Klingons, created by Marc Okrand. See Klingon language.
  • There is also a programming language based on Klingon called var'aq.
  • Klingon and Klingonsmith are also last names. Usually seen in Utah.
  • Klingon Fire Wine is a Klingon alcoholic beverage, once called "fancy European stuff" by a character in a holodeck.
  • Klingon Blood Wine is also an alcoholic beverage, and is renowned for its flavor and potency. Whether it actually contains blood is unknown to Trekkers. Since some Spanish wines have "Sangre" (blood) in their names, it's possible the Blood Wine contains no blood.

See also

External links

Last updated: 08-13-2005 04:15:00
Last updated: 08-16-2005 16:10:03