Star Trek Generation
unused, from 1994
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The Klingons were created by screenwriter Gene L. Coon, and first appeared in the 1967 episode "Errand of Mercy". They were named after Lieutenant Wilbur Clingan, who served with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in the Los Angeles Police Department. In the original television series (TOS), Klingons were typically portrayed with bronze skin and facial hair suggestive of Asian peoples, and possessed physical abilities similar to humans (in fact, Coon's only physical description of them in his "Errand of Mercy" script is "oriental" and "hard-faced"). The swarthy look of Klingon males was created with the application of shoe polish and long, thin moustaches; budget constraints would not allow any further creativity.
For Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Klingons appearance and behavior radically changed. To give the aliens a more sophisticated and threatening demeanor, the Klingons were depicted with ridged foreheads, snaggled and prominent teeth, and a defined language and alphabet. Costume designer Robert Fletcher created new uniforms for the Klingons, reminiscent of feudal Japanese armor.
The release of a new television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, prompted a further revision in the depiction of Klingon culture. Set a century later than the original series, the USS Enterprise-D featured a Klingon crewmember, Worf. Makeup artist Michael Westmore needed a consistent reference to base the Klingon look on, as each individual Klingon had distinct head ridges. He found what he was looking for in a book of dinosaurs; observing dinosaur vertebrae laid out flat, Westmore cut the designs in half and modified them to suit each Klingon.
According to the official Star Trek web site, the Klingons' varying appearance was "probably the single most popular topic of conversation among Star Trek fans". While the real reason for the discrepancy between The Original Series Klingons and their feature film and later television series counterparts was a lack of budget, fans took it upon themselves to contrive an acceptable canon reason for the sudden change. These theories postulated that TOS Klingons were in fact humans raised as Klingons, similar to Janissaries; that for cosmetic or diplomatic reasons, Klingons removed the ridges via surgery; or that TOS Klingons were in fact hybrids with a more human species. Simple theories that the different Klingons were different racial breeds were complicated by the fact that the characters of Kang, Koloth, and Kor appeared with smooth features in the original series, yet reverted to a ridged appearance in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and that Worf acknowledged the difference in appearances when the crew of Deep Space 9 returned to the 23rd century in the episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," but offered no explanation, saying merely, "We do not discuss it with outsiders."