By Mike Medeiros
Qapla’! Honorable Warriors of the Empire!
Welcome to the Spirit of Trek, a weekly column where we identify and celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s vision by discovering how its messages have started to permeate throughout humanity’s collective consciousness by looking for it on the Internet and within popular culture. Throughout Star Trek’s long history, it has shaped our culture, transformed how we view the world, and given us hope that we can overcome the challenges that we face today to realize our potential for the future. However, there is one aspect of Star Trek that has emerged from the screen and has become its own entity complete with its own language and culture. I am referring to the Klingon Phenomenon!
The Klingon species was introduced in The Original Series episode Errand of Mercy, where Kirk faced off against Kor over the planet Organia, which led to an uneasy peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Since then, Klingons have made appearances in every Star Trek series and in most of the films. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the species was redesigned to include forehead ridges and later for The Next Generation, Michael Westmore, who passed away recently, expanded on their appearance for the character of Worf. Klingon language, culture, society, and religion was explored in TNG and in Deep Space Nine, where we discovered that Klingons are a complex and passionate race that values honor, treats life as a battle, and faces every challenge head on. For a fictional race, it inspired Star Trek fans in ways that no other single race has. Its culture, language, and values have crossed over and have asserted itself among fans that find value in their philosophy of living life to its fullest and acting in an honorable fashion.
For instance, the Klingon language, tlhIngan Hol (the warrior’s tongue), is the fastest growing language in the galaxy. It was created by Marc Okrand specifically for Star Trek, but has since expanded many times over the years through the films, novels, and even at various conventions where Okrand attended and added more words to its vernacular. The language has its own Dictionary, Encyclopedia, and language institute that seeks to bring together, educate, inform, and expand on the Klingon language. In 2005, the University of Texas at Austin offered a course on invented languages that featured Klingon.
The Klingon Language Institute (KLI) has helped with the translation of many literary works into the warrior’s tongue including: Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Gilgamesh, and Tao Te Ching. Some of its members have even written original novels completely in Klingon. I came across one such book earlier this week from Qov, also known as @CanadaAviatrix on twitter. KLI has also assisted the Chicago Theater Company’s presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by translating the play into Klingon. And to quote General Chang from Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” Below is a video of Hamlet’s monologue in Klingon.
Language is probably one of the most important cornerstones for any society as it will bring people together, give rise to literature (as we’ve already discussed), film (the Klingon Proverb in opening credits of Kill Bill), and music. No matter what your musical preferences are, there are those brave and honorable warriors that have taken the Klingon culture to the next level through music. Il Troubadore is a group of musicians that has released a number of Klingon folk songs. But, there are other artists and musicians that are bring the Klingon culture forward with Klingon versions of modern songs, such as the hit Klingon Style by Comediva and Klinginem’s SuvwI’pu’ qan tu’lu’be’. Check out all three of the videos below.
The influence of Klingon culture has spread further than just to our music and literature. It has also started seeping into our entertainment. The video at the top of the article was from Star Trek: Klingon, a PC game put out by Simon Schuster Interactive in 1996. Some other notable Klingon-inspired games include Klingon Academy, Klingon Honor Guard, and the Klingon faction within Star Trek Online. Then, there are the board games such as Monopoly Star Trek: Klingon Edition, and then, of course the ever-popular Klingon Boggle as seen on the television show Big Bang Theory – keep your Klingon Dictionary handy.
Speaking of television shows, here’s Frasier saying a prayer in Klingon at his son’s bar mitzvah.
But, the most amazing part of the Klingon Phenomenon is the people. If Star Trek fans are passionate, Klingon fans are fanatical. From the ridged foreheads to the elaborate costumes and weapons, Klingons are some of the proudest and most honorable in Star Trek fandom. Rob Uhrig, also known as Thought Admiral Korath, and his friends helped raise over $200,000 for diabetes by riding a stationary bike while dressed full Klingon regalia. They were members of the Klingon Assault Group (KAG), an international Star Trek fan organization that celebrates the Klingon Empire. However, I don’t think anything quite compares to the dedication that some fans portrayed at Destination Star Trek London when a couple were married in a traditional Klingon wedding ceremony.
Now, if you’ll excuse me a moment while I indulge myself and state that I’m a fan of Star Trek’s Klingons. As such, I am the executive producer of the Gates of Sto’vo’kor, a Klingon-focused audio drama / podcast for Star Trek Online’s Klingon Faction, where I also play the character of Korrath. For our show, @Deyvid_KDF is our Klingon language expert and has offered his translation services not only to us, but also to Foundry authors, fan productions, and anyone interested in learning more about the Klingon language and culture.
While Star Trek is slowly transforming our society, the Klingon culture has emerged amongst the most dedicated and passionate of Star Trek fans. They have taken fandom to a whole new level. Klingons value honor and glory and strive to live life to its fullest, treating every moment as their last with the hope of earning enough honor to ensure their entry into Sto’vo’kor (the Klingon afterlife). I believe the Klingon phenomenon embodies the Spirit of Trek, in that those that follow the warrior’s way are honorable, fearless, and are willing to live their lives to their fullest, because today is a good day to die.
The time has come to wrap up this week’s column. Thank you for joining me on this journey to discover how the Spirit of Trek has started to permeate throughout our culture with the hope that one day, Gene Roddenberry’s vision for humanity’s future will become a reality. If you come across something that you believe embodies the Spirit of Trek on the Internet or within popular culture, please do not hesitate to share it with me. I may discuss it in a future article. Live long and Prosper.
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