If you were to ask the average person to name something to do with Star Trek, chances are good that in amongst them picking Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and the Starship Enterprise, they may also include the Klingons. In the same way that the Daleks have long been synonymous with Doctor Who for the ‘not we’, so the bumpy-headed aliens are an integral part of Gene Roddenberry’s continuing saga.
Perhaps most infamously of all, they were immortalised in the lyrics of the song ‘Star Trekkin’’ as being perpetually on the starboard bow. Yes, the fiercely proud warrior race are a firm part of Star Trek’s DNA in the public consciousness. As a once thinly-veiled allegory for the Soviet Union when they were first introduced, the Klingons have done pretty well to have such longevity, and prove as popular as ever, whether in the role of friend or (sometimes) foe.
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Star Trek fans, of course, love world building, and expanding on the mythos of the series. The Klingons have undergone a transformation since they first appeared, moving away from just being generic bad guys to people of honour and courage, with a rich culture all of their own. The father of the Klingon society – Kahless – turned up in the 1969 story ‘The Savage Curtain’, although there was little with which to really define him at that point.
However, through subsequent series building up the Klingon mythology, as well as featuring the return of the character in The Next Generation’s tale ‘Rightful Heir’, Kahless’ story has over time been expanded upon. His is a true ‘founder myth’, and IDW’s latest one-shot looks at the legend behind his rise to power, filling in the blanks, and showing us in some detail how Kahless came to define what the Klingons are, by going right back to the very beginning of his story.
Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly give us a story which is in the best tradition of the Japanese ronin, which feels rather appropriate given the emphasis placed on the importance of honour in both cultures. Here, Kahless is very much the ‘lone wolf’ character who comes to the very remote settlement of Three Turn Bridge, seeking to set right all the flaws he sees in his people’s ways, by taking on the current power base which he finds there, and – if necessary – the gods themselves.
The artwork of Timothy Green II is bold and energetic, with it constantly finding different ways to break up the usual panel layouts, deploying full and even double-page spreads to give such a great visual impact; using the Klingon trefoil symbol – known as the ‘Heart of Virtue’ – to frame a fight sequence is intelligent and thoughtful stuff, and it works fantastically well on the page. This is certainly one of the most dynamic of IDW’s Star Trek comics, aided beautifully by all the gorgeous work of colourist DC Alonso.
Of course, you have to ask whether there was any real point or function in going back to tell this particular story, as the risk exists of spoiling something by demystifying it in the depiction, rather than leaving it to the imagination; it also follows a pre-determined path to some extent, rather than boldly treading new ground and delivering something more original. To be fair, there are a few neat twists, but it feels as if we already know most of the legend.
Lanzing and Kelly make as good a fist of it as anyone probably could when faced with such an onerous task, but it does beg the question whether their efforts would have perhaps been far better directed elsewhere to focusing upon other species with more scope for exploration and real discovery.
Star Trek: Klingons is out now from IDW Publishing.