Issue #71
Summer 2006


As the Empire Grows
by KwISt
KwIStYou've heard the many sides of the argument before: This person takes Klingons too seriously. That person isn't nearly Klingon enough. Why don't they learn the language? Why torture yourself getting uniformed? What of culture? What of duty? Where's the party? Clearly, being Klingon means very different things to different people.

When Star Trek first appeared on TV in 1966, it was billed as "the Wagon Train to the stars." In its first season they needed a recurring villain to wear the black hat... and Klingons first appeared in the episode "Errand of Mercy." They were a formidable match for the best that Starfleet could throw at them, and hungry for a fight. But no sooner did open war start than it was stopped by those dreaded Organians.

Klingons weren't much to look at back then, costumed in turtlenecks and bubble wrap. It was a look at the future that would have to change. A dozen years later they'd get a major overhaul in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Impressive ridges and armor, and a language of their own. Two films later they'd be back on center stage as the villains, and have an entire dictionary.

The future came fast three years later when Star Trek: The Next Generation depicted an end of hostilities between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It was a weird paradigm shift - perhaps more radical than the falling of the Berlin Wall. Some think the Klingons themselves changed significantly, all codified with Justice and Honor. Others think it must be the Federation that changed, because the Klingons were no less shocking and repulsive to Starfleet than ever before.

So what the hell happened? Whether Starfleet or the Klingons changed in any significant way PALES to the change in the audience. We finally took a closer look at our monsters and fears, and found our own reflection staring back. Our understanding changed. (Although that's almost like saying "these poor, demonized, murderous villains weren't actually bad, they were just... misunderstood!") The writers were tapping into parts of our own history that we'd sooner forget.

One such writer was Ron Moore, who wrote the lion's share of Klingon episodes. (He later left Trek to make the New Battlestar Galactica.) When asked why he wrote about Klingons so often, he replied, "It's because Klingons are the OTHER HALF of the HUMAN EQUATION... the side that Starfleet is too pristine to embody."

Choosing to be a Klingon, particularly in the old days, meant being VERY different. The obvious protagonists drew countless sheep... but to be Klingon, one would have to be a wolf: an independent thinker. And in those pre-NextGen days, it took being an actor, since adopting the role of the villain demanded surprise and drama.

Those requirements changed as Klingons became more mainstream. Clubs started forming around snail-mail correspondence and fanzines, heralding a new following of Klingon fans. At best, a new counter-culture was growing and new dimensions of art and drama unfolding. At worst, these clubs were paralleling the stupidest aspects of their Starfleet counterparts: paper bureaucracies architected by childish rule-mongers with far more ego than substance. But somewhere in between, Klingondom was gathering momentum.

Soon, ridged heads were replacing pointed ears as the most recognizable trait that says "Star Trek" to a new generation of viewers. Postal lessons allowed students of the Klingon Language "tlhIngan Hol" to be studied internationally. Finally, even Paramount prefabbed a Klingon-in-a-box, eliminating the need for everyone to reinvent the wheel.

KAG was born in a stage spotlight. More specifically, it was formed at the masquerade of the 1989 StarBase Indy. Unlike the other clubs made of paper, KAG took a stand to "put up or shut up." Showmanship was its hallmark......its birthmark.

Through trial and error it grew organically, but it grew in leaps and bounds. Daring visionaries would lead by example, flying by the seat of their pants, and the teams that formed around them would flourish or perish upon the merits of ideas and actions. Some fads, like the Mounted Guard and Rangers, passed quickly... but other trends, like the Navy, Demon Fleet, Marines and Xeno Legion would prove their staying power.

And then email changed everything, again. List serves, CC lists, chat rooms, and web sites have become staples of group communication. Newsletters made on cheap black-and-white xeroxed sheets are now turning into web-only productions. It used to be exceptional for a Ship CO to have email... now it's more the rule than the exception.

But Showmanship continues to be the essence of KAG. Promotions to officer ranks begin when a uniform is demonstrated. Social support is a doubtless benefit to local chapters... but Showmanship is the greatest favor that members do for KAG and KAG does for its members.

Here's where things get wiggy... It's no wonder the question "What is Klingon?" sparks such heated debates. Perhaps that's fitting, since American Sign Language often translates us as the "Angry People."

Ron Moore called Klingons "the other half of the human equation..." but we've not been satisfied with only half. Virtually every other Trek alien is based on a single characteristic of human behavior. Klingons, however, have a lot more ground to cover, from passion to cold cunning, to honor, to guile. The more flat and shallow Starfleet becomes, the deeper our Klingon responsibility to tell the story of our forgotten humanity.

But half is not enough. We continue to expand the Klingons Empire's boundaries. Anything they can do, we can do better... and so there has been little left in human behavior we haven't yet done. Klingons, not to be upstaged, become ALL THINGS to all people. BY MY CURRENT ESTIMATES, WE HAVE NOW CONQUERED 80% OF HUMANITY.

I wish I could say that we've drawn the line at lacy white doilies and pink tutus... but in showing our superior humor, even those lines have been crossed. Klingons simply will not rest until the duty of conquest is completed.

- KwISt
[email protected]