For a long time now I’ve contemplated writing an article on what has come to be called “The Klingon Forehead Problem”. I’ve held off, mostly because it’s so heavily covered elsewhere that there is very little I can add about it. In case you haven’t heard, the problem is summed up as this : In TOS, Klingons looked much like Humans because Roddenberry lacked the money for a big makeup job. In The Motion Picture he had the cash to do a much more alien look to them, giving each Klingon an identical forehead crest. This look was then refined for ST III and beyond, giving each Klingon a unique set of ridges.
It was widely stated that this is how Roddenberry had always wanted Klingons to look and that the appearance we saw in TOS should be written off as naver having happened – Klingons ‘really’ looked the way we saw then in ST III all along. This was backed up by the fact that, in TNG for instance, Worf’s statue of Kahless had ridges, as did the version of Kahless cloned from his original blood. DS9 seemed to settle the matter once and for all when it brought in three of the Klingon characters from TOS, all of whom had ridges.
So far so good. Denying what we saw onscreen in TOS goes somewhat against the grain for many fans, but you could grit your teeth and bear it if you had to. Unfortunately, Deep Space Nine then did the equivalent of dropping an atomic bomb on the argument. In the episode ‘Trials and Tribble-ations’, our heroes travel back in time to the TOS era and interact with Klingons. Bashir and O’Brien are very surprised to see their Human-like appearance, and question Worf about it. Worf famously replies that it is “something we do not discuss with outsiders”. In that one sentence, the whole argument changed. Because now Klingons officially did not always look that way. Now the Human look was confirmed as canon.
Enterprise was widely criticised for having ridged Klingons when many thought they should have had the TOS look. In fact this is one of the few things Enterprise did right, because TNG had already confirmed that Klingons had ridges before TOS – Enterprise just narrowed the window for the change down.
Fans go crazy with speculation over this issue. Few of the suggested explanations fit the facts – many explanations tried to say that the Klingons had always been smooth headed, then became ridged due to whatever the fan wanted to invoke. This doesn’t work, because Kahless had ridges.
Some said that the Klingons created smooth headed versions as spies. Doesn’t work, why would they go around on Klingon ships calling themselves Klingons if it was a spy thing? Most of the explanations fail because remarkably few people seem to keep TMP in mind – Klingons did not go from ridges to smooth and back to ridges, they want from ridges to smooth and then to crests and then back to ridges.
And really successful explanation must explain the following :
1 Klingons used to have ST III style ridges.
2 At some point after Enterprise season 1 they went to smooth Human-looking foreheads.
3 By TMP (2271) they had crests.
4 By ST III they had ridges which varied from person to person.
5 There are individuals such as Kang who went from being smooth to being ridged – this is a change that happened to individuals not the species as a whole.
This, then, is the Klingon Forehead Problem.
My humble opinion was that the show should avoid this issue like the plague, because it was so convoluted that anything they tried as an explanation was going to leave holes, or make things worse.
And along comes Affliction. Manny Coto’s so far pleasing “TOS at every turn” approach to Enterprise has gone where angels fear to tread. His explanation is that the Klingons captured some Augment DNA after the recent Augments arc, and created their own Augments. The DNA got into a virus, and it’s now infecting everybody. One of the side effects of this disease is that your forehead ridges dissolve away, making you look Human. It’s about as good an explanation as any I guess – it covers points 1 and 2 above and should manage 4 and 5. How successful it will be at covering 3 remains to be seen, and the success of the arc will depend somewhat on that.
As if messing with the KFP isn’t enough, rumour has it that Enterprise is now going to delve into the aspect of Star Trek that I personally loathe and despise more than any other – Section 31. I sincerely wish I could throw heavy objects at the writer who created this organisation. I won’t go on about something I’ve ranted about before in DS9 reviews – suffice to say I regard S31 as being the very antithesis of one of the most important things that Star Trek is supposed to be about. Having a secret gang of Federation agents who break the rules because the ends justify the means is like having a secret gang of Federation agents who keep the coloureds down because white folks are just so damn superior. The only way I ever want to see Section 31 in another Star Trek episode is if we can have one where every single member of the organisation is slowly skinned alive. (Wow, and I said I wouldn’t go on about it!)
Anyway, so as far as I am concerned the episode had one medium and one gigantic factor weighing against it from the beginning. So much for the grand sweep... how about the episode itself? It’s hard to rate most of the stuff in this episode, because it seemed all to be set-up. There’s hardly one single aspect of it that does anything but suggest that something interesting might be about to happen in the next episode, or suggest that there’s a strange turn in events here that might or might not be explained next time. I know that’s part and parcel of these trilogies, but Affliction suffers from it more than most.
In no particular order, then : I’ve never liked how long they have kept Columbia in dock – remember the first season talk of three more ships already building and more to come? Seems pretty silly now that the actual production rate looks to be a ship every three and a half years or so. So it was nice to finally see the ship launch. I’m wondering if it will make regular appearances for the rest of the season, and I’m wondering if the writers will be able to resist the urge to blow it up (writers just love blowing stuff like this up because ooooh, if the new bad guys can destroy Columbia then Enterprise just might be next!) I like the Captain, especially in her talk with Trip about his engineers trying to transfer out – not blaming, just gently probing to see if there is a real problem here and how he is going to react to it. I hope we see more of her in future. In fact wouldn’t it be nice to see an episode set on Columbia, with no involvement from Enterprise at all?
Also nice to see T’Pol doing a mind meld, though I was rather staggered to see Archer helping her because of his memories from Surak. What else does he remember? Reed in the brig, can anybody realistically trust him again? Dominic Keating does an excellent job showing a few cracks in his stiff upper lip. Linda Park rocks taking on the attackers, yes she was beat down but can you imagine the woman from Fight or Flight even trying?
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