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Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe

Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 14, 2009 2:27 AM (edited 4/13/09 10:27 PM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
I have, in an effort to both mix up my tv watching and return to some sci-fi roots, been watching old Star Trek movies on a fairly regular basis. First I watched all of the Next Generation movies and now I am embarking on the original series movies.

Having just watched Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock, I have to ask: What the fuck is up with Klingons?

Klingons are meant to be the prototypical warrior society. They are focused on honor and strength. Yet, apparently, they were the ones who invented the sneak attack with cloaked vessels and such. Furthermore, all of their ships have a crew of five or so, and despite ostensibly being built for only one purpose (battle) they routinely get their asses kicked by Federation ships, whose primary purpose is cataloging all the Pokemon in the galaxy and which have all the structural integrity of a Twizzler. Why, as the straightforward, honor loving, strength-seeking race, do they not have giant fucking ships with a billion guns and a crew of highly trained combatants? Why aren't they the race with Star Destroyers as their standard ship? Why are we assuming that they were able to reach space while still, culturally having a level of organization on par with a Los Angeles street gang?

Also, let's get to the fact that the only black race is portrayed as inherently more bestial than all of the other races. They're invariably crushing shit with their barehands, eating disgusting things with their fingers, and casually slaughter any of their coworkers who fuck up the smallest little thing (which leads to ridiculously high turnover rates when you have a crew of five). Also, they invented warp drive and cloaking devices, but have yet to invent a light bulb above 45 watts. Why is it always so dim on their ships? One could argue that they evolved on a world with less direct sunlight and therefore are adapted to a darker atmosphere (better night vision, etc.). But then why do they have so much melanin in their skin? Ok, now I'm getting a bit snarky - the darker skin can be sci-fi babbled away as another explanation (high levels of obsidian in their blood make them even more badass!). Which can all be true (or as true as any of this ever is) but doesn't change the fact that in the societal language it was being portrayed in Klingons are effectively black people as seen by white's during the time of Jim Crow laws. It's a miracle their not portrayed as being intent on raping the Federation women whenever they get a chance.

So, seriously, wtf? Star Trek couldn't do better than this?

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 14, 2009 11:57 AM (edited 4/14/09 7:57 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
I'd always thought the Klingons were supposed to be the Russians as seen by post WWII America.

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Why in the world is your title "Ambassador of Good Will"? Is it some attempt at the Guiness Record for Irony?
--Balerion
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 14, 2009 12:02 PM (edited 4/14/09 8:02 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
I don't think there's anything inherently dishonorable about a sneak attack, at least depending on your definition of honor. I mean, the most stereotypically honor-obsessed society in the real world was the one that attacked Pearl Harbor.

Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 14, 2009 12:30 PM (edited 4/14/09 8:31 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
Although, according to Wikipedia,
Someone wrote...
Admiral Yamamoto originally stipulated the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States he considered the peace negotiations at an end.
(see wikipedia article) although in point of fact, this message did not arrive before the attack. Not saying it wasn't a sneak attack, just that there was some rain dancing around their honor involved.

(edit)Also, we're dancing dangerously close to a Godwin's Law invocation here, tread carefully.

_________________________________________________
Why in the world is your title "Ambassador of Good Will"? Is it some attempt at the Guiness Record for Irony?
--Balerion
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 20, 2009 1:44 PM (edited 4/20/09 9:44 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
Even if there is nothing dishonorable about a sneak attack it is completely out of the scope of all of their other combat actions. Everything they do is a contest of brute strength and courage, subtlety and guile aren't really part of their schtick.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 1:13 PM (edited 4/22/09 9:14 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Necroposting FTW!

I think a lot of your problems come from the misunderstanding that Klingons invented cloaking technology. They didn't. They were given the cloaking technology as part of a treaty by the Romulans who were the real race to invent the technology. In exchange, the Romulans received the plans for a bad ass Klingon warship. Later on, the Romulans broke the treaty with a pair of sneak attacks which sparked a war between the two, and eventually the Klingons won.

There are a few possible reasons it seems as if the Federation always has way more firepower than Klingon ships. For one, most Star Trek series follows enterprise class star ships, which are the biggest baddest ships the Federation has, but I believe they are also the fewest in production. This is in contrast to the Klingon ships where everyone made is a challenge for the enterprise class Federation ships. Further, the Federation is a conglomeration of the highest technology of numerous alien races where I always saw the Klingons as more scavengers for technology with very little scientists. So in that light, it makes more sense that the best Federation tech is better than the Klingons best.

Try watching the Deep Space Nine series. I think it's almost as good as TNG, and it has a long running 7 series plot as opposed to episodic content. In that series, the Federation gets smacked down pretty hard by the Klingons while they're at opposite sides of a war.

Edit: And subtly and guile has always been a part of the Klingon culture, just not part of Warf's personality. See any political Klingon episode in TNG.

Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 1:28 PM (edited 4/22/09 9:28 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
I have seen the Klingon politics episodes in TNG, and if that's your idea of subtlety and guile then I have a bridge near my home that I would like to sell you.

I'll take your word for it about DS9, but even if it's true then all that implies to me is that the writers realized the same thing I did about earlier Star Trek series and made an attempt at retconning it.



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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 1:44 PM (edited 4/22/09 9:44 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
I'm not really familiar with the original ST series, but is there really ever an episode where a single federation ship is just ripping through klingon ships that I don't know about? In TNG I can't recall anything like that. I can only think of fairly close 1 on 1 battles.

Also, DS9 is full of win. The main plot revolves around the first stable wormhole being found that links to the Delta quadrant where an evil version of the federation, called The Dominion, lives. Once the Dominion finds out about the wormhole on their side, they come into the alpha quadrant to take it over. At one point, the Federation is losing so bad they have a think tank of super geniuses (who make Data look like a special ed kid) come up with a war strategy. Their best hope for wining is to surrender immediately because the inevitable underground rebellion that will take place in a hundred years will have the best chance of wining with only a few million dead.

And speaking of DS9 and Klingons, there's a great episode where the DS9 cast goes back in time and they're put into The Trouble With Tribbles episode. They use the original footage from the episode and really came together well. At one point they ask Warf what's the deal with how the Klingons look to which Warf just replies "I don't want to talk about it."

Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 1:51 PM (edited 4/22/09 9:51 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
Oh, I've got nothing against DS9, I'm just unlikely to get around to watching it anytime soon. Maybe one day though.

And the fights were relatively even . . . with the Klingon ships starting out cloaked and getting a few potshots in first. If they're built up to be the big tough race how come their ships are such pansies that they need a sneak attack to level the playing field?

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 2:04 PM (edited 4/22/09 10:04 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Well, like I said before, the Federation tech is the best in the Alpha quadrant because it's the result of a huge pool of a lot of races where as most other non Federation races are developing by themselves. So in a 1 on 1 fight between the best Federation ship and the best Klingon ship, I would expect it to be a close fight even with the cloaks. Then there's the fact that you're following the epic Federation captains who are awesome go up against red shirt Klingon captains. You don't really hear about how well red shirt Federation captains do against epic Klingon captains until DS9 (Spoiler: They do poorly. Very very poorly).

And, again, they never asked for Cloaking tech. The Romulans offered it to the Klingons because the Romulans needed the Klingon's bad ass warships. And the Klingons were smart enough to say "Hey, we're neighbors with a race of sneaky bastards who can be invisible. We better be able to go up against that just in case they attack us." Which of course the Romulans did. And the Klingons won that war. This was all established as past history in TNG, but I don't think it happened in the original series.

I just don't think the Klingons see the cloak as an underhanded tactic. I think they see it more as "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight." The difference is, Romulans will use the cloak tech to start a fight against someone they have an alliance with, where as Klingons won't attack someone without officially declaring war first.

Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 2:10 PM (edited 4/22/09 10:10 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
First off, DS9 is pretty great. Definitely worth a watch.

As to the topic at hand, I really don't see anything sneaky or underhanded about cloaking. In war, you use what advantages you have - hiding your forces from the enemy is a fundamental tactic that dates to the beginning of time. Attacking without warning is another one. Foregoing a huge advantage to prove you have balls is stupidity, not honor. What would be dishonorable is attacking civilians, attacking under false pretenses, attacking neutral targets without justification, etc. I mean, are stealth bombers "dishonorable"?

Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 2:10 PM (edited 4/22/09 10:10 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
I think the point about judging them vs. the Enterprise is a strong one. The Enterprise is the flag ship, and consistently other Federation folks are commenting on how badass it is. There's a parallel time line episode in season two (I think) which shows the Federation getting their assess handed to them by the Klingon empire, with the (battle focused) Enterprise being the only ship that can really stand up to them.

That being said, I've always had the impression that ship to ship combat was something the Klingons tolerated as a necessary prelude to boarding and entering into hand to hand combat, so maybe they don't focus on it as much.

And as far as I can tell, Klingon guile consists of saying "I'm not going to stab you" and then slashing you instead.

_________________________________________________
Why in the world is your title "Ambassador of Good Will"? Is it some attempt at the Guiness Record for Irony?
--Balerion
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 2:11 PM (edited 4/22/09 10:11 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
Yes, stealth bombers are dishonorable, but not because of the stealth part.

_________________________________________________
Why in the world is your title "Ambassador of Good Will"? Is it some attempt at the Guiness Record for Irony?
--Balerion
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 3:05 PM (edited 4/22/09 11:05 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Talraen wrote...
First off, DS9 is pretty great. Definitely worth a watch.

Yes, yes it is. I always found DS9 to be comparable to Babylon 5, and don't tell Dowd but,
Click here to show spoilers
I much prefer DS9 to Babylon 5.
I understand you're not going to get to watch DS9 for a while, but since you're on a huge ST recap kick, you would be very remiss to not end with watching DS9. Especially if you're interested in finding out more about the cultures of the non Federation planets. DS9 gives you the best background for Bajorans (the race of people of Lieutenant Ro that was in one season of TNG), Ferengies, Cardasians, and Klingons. They even spend a number of episodes in DS9 following Warf being a first in command on a Klingon warship.

And if it seems like I'm trying to sell DS9 too much, it's only because talking about this now makes me really really want to watch DS9 again Frown

Talraen wrote...
As to the topic at hand, I really don't see anything sneaky or underhanded about cloaking. In war, you use what advantages you have - hiding your forces from the enemy is a fundamental tactic that dates to the beginning of time. Attacking without warning is another one. Foregoing a huge advantage to prove you have balls is stupidity, not honor. What would be dishonorable is attacking civilians, attacking under false pretenses, attacking neutral targets without justification, etc. I mean, are stealth bombers "dishonorable"?

And this is what I was trying to say before. Romulans cloaked and attacked the Klingons without declaring intent, and their targets were a science space station and a civilian population. That's why the Klingons consider the Romulans to be the most dishonorable race in all the land, not because of their cloaking technology. Really, every major race besides the federation has cloaking in the Alpha quadrant, so it's not really dirty fighting to use it.

Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 3:14 PM (edited 4/22/09 11:14 AM)
Balerion (1224 posts) Elite Powergamer
Rating: Not Rated
Yeah, the problem with these arguments is that they require knowledge from a completely different series, and doesn't change the fact that with none of this explained in the original series or next gen, the representation of Klingons in those series is fraught with contradictions.

So far the only argument you've made that I find convincing is that we see things from the Enterprise's point of view, and it is an exceptional vessel on the Federation's side. But even there, if you're not portraying the Klingons as whooping ass in those encounters then you're not portraying them as the martially fixated race that you're claiming they are. Doesn't matter if they would whoop ass with other, hypothetical ships - what's being shown are encounters in which they invariably attack first, usually just after uncloaking when the other ship is unprepared and then still fail to win the encounter.

If Klingons are to be represented as superior warriors (and if they aren't superior warriors then their whole culture is suffering from Big Fish Little Pond syndrome) then they need to be represented as actually kicking ass. This is what red shirted ensigns exist for, and they're still rarely taken advantage of here.

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I really think the three “!”s really captures the exuberance that Clair must have been feeling when he almost said it. -Cuzzo
Re: Klingons - the sad, racist joke of the Star Trek universe – April 22, 2009 3:30 PM (edited 4/22/09 11:30 AM)
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Well, I keep bringing up DS9 because it's the only series where you see the Klingons in open war with anyone so it's the best source to pull support from. Also, the first half of DS9 aired simultaneously as the back half of TNG, so it's the from the same time period/writers. However, all of things I was saying about the Klingon/Romulan war was all established in TNG. I could be forgetting something, but really, how often do Klingons attack the federation in TNG? They're allied by that time, so aside from seeing a few renegades attack the flag ship, what examples are you pulling from? The TNG consistently shows Warf to be the best fighter on the Enterprise, does that not count toward showing Klingons are badass fighters? And I know they're a bit messed up in the original series, but don't they ever appear in like... 2 episodes total?



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