Sunday’s Star Trek: Discovery premiere debuted its newly redesigned Klingons, but while many fans were caught up arguing about the merits or failures of the new look for Klingons, they may have missed the importance of how Star Trek: Discovery is showing fans the moment that the Klingons found religion.
The Klingons as portrayed in past Star Trek series have been very proud, even defensive, of their culture, but they have not been particularly religious. The Klingons did have gods who created the Klingon race, but the Klingons are said to have then killed those gods because they were more trouble than they were worth.
However, while the Klingons of past Star Trek series may not have been religious, they did have many ritual ceremonies and a devotion to a messiah figure named Kahless, and Kahless, or at least his teachings, seems to be playing a major role in the story of Star Trek: Discovery.
Kahless is a mythic figure said to have been the first to unify the Klingon Empire and become its first Warrior King and Emperor. He is the platonic ideal that Klingons strive for and gave them many of the laws they still live by. Many Klingons await his return.
However, despite Kahless’s title being “Kahless the Unforgettable,” the Klingons of Star Trek: Discovery, save T’Kuvma’s house, seem to have little memory of him. T’Kuvma claims to be bringing Kahless’s teachings to the Klingons. What audiences seem to be witnessing is the installation of the reverence of Kahless as a means of uniting the Klingon Empire.
The way Klingon history appears to play out is that as Star Trek: Discovery claims, humanity has had little to no contact with the Klingon Empire for a century as the series begins, but that the Empire is believed to be in a state of disarray.
What the first two episodes show from the perspective of the Klingons backs up this idea that the Klingon Empire is more or less broken.
Perhaps this is because the Klingons are still dealing with the ramifications of the actions taken by the Suliban Cabal as part of the Temporal Cold War, as seen in Star Trek: Enterprise.
Either way, the Klingon Empire is adrift at the time of Star Trek: Discovery, but fans know that it will be strengthened by the time the events of Star Trek: The Original Series take place ten years later and that it will be a true force to be reckoned with by the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a century later.
Star Trek: Discovery appears to be telling the story of how the Klingon Empire as fans know it from past series, came to be. It is the origin story of the "modern" Klingon.
The preview for rest of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery suggests that the great Klingon house will begin struggling to decide on the direction of the newly reborn Klingon Empire.
Star Trek: Discovery seems set to reveal the origin of all that pent-up tension seen between Starfleet and the Klingons during Star Trek: The Original Series.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays at 8:30 pm ET on CBS All Access.