Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2 Klingon Hair Explained

Look closely at the new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 unveiled at this year’s New York Comic Con and you’re likely to spot a major difference between the upcoming episodes and the series’ first season: the Klingons have hair.

Even L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), the follower of T’Kuvma who arranged for Voq’s transformation into the Starfleet infiltrator Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), can be seen in the trailer with a full head of hair, suggesting there’s more to the Klingon’s transformation in Season 2 than simply the introduction of new, well-coiffed Klingons.

klingon-star-trek-discovery-season-2-trailer A Klingon with hair, seen in the new "Star Trek: Discovery" Season 2 trailer. CBS All Access

lrell-star-trek-discovery-season-2 L'Rell, now with luscious locks. CBS All Access

Some explanation was provided at the NYCC Star Trek: Discovery panel, with Trek Movie documenting how the cast and crew explained the updated Klingon look.

“You might have noticed in the trailer, there is a bit of a new aesthetic going on,” Chieffo said, attributing the hair to Discovery ’s makeup effects department head Glenn Hetrick. “He was inspired by Season 6, episode 23 of The Next Generation, ‘Rightful Heir.’”

In “Rightful Heir,” Lieutenant Worf feels spiritually adrift and makes a pilgrimage to the Temple of Boreth, where witnesses a miracle: the return of Kahless, the first Klingon emperor and guardian of their afterlife, prophesied to return and lead the Empire once more. Worf eventually learns this Kahless a clone created by overzealous priests. It is the Kahless clone who tells the legend that inspired the Season 2 redesign:

“I went into the mountains, all the way to the Kri’stak Volcano. I cut off a lock of my hair and thrust it into the river of molten rock which poured from the summit. The hair began to burn, but then I plunged it into the Lake of Lusor and twisted it into a sword. And after I used it to kill the tyrant Molor, I gave it a name: bat’leth, the sword of honor.”

“In the spirit of Discovery, we took that one little beautiful seed that was planted from an earlier iteration and expanded on that. We see that in a time of war, the Klingons would shave their heads and, in a time of peace, we start to grow it back out,” Chieffo said. “I really love the symbolism of that.”

Though some fans cheered the more familiar Klingon designs, not everybody was quick to buy the explanation for the updated look. When one fan tweeted at Chieffo about the presence of Klingon hair during the Dominion War (seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), she was ready with a response:

That’s a lot of knowledge dropped at once, but Chieffo is primarily alluding to the events of 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In that movie, over-mining results in the explosion of the Klingon moon, Praxis critically endangering the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS and destabilizing the Empire. The Klingons sue for peace and, at the movie’s end, prepare to sign the Khitomer Accords that have made the Klingons and the Federation off-and-on allies throughout the 24th century of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

But even without a specific rationale, it’s easy to forget the sheer scale of the Star Trek universe, which spans hundreds of years and thousands of star systems. Multiply the diversity apparent on Earth by billions and you begin to scratch the surface of how much variety is possible within the Klingon Empire. Hair, no hair, as long as they’re swinging a bat’leth and guzzling bloodwine, they’re still Klingons.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 will premiere on CBS All Access on Jan. 17, 2019.

Join the Discussion