The way the Klingons are handled in reboot is just more evidence that Abrams doesn’t know the canon, doesn’t know the traditions, and doesn’t care. It’s all labels to him - so for villains, we have “Khan”, “the Romulans”, “Klingons”. These are not the characters as established, they’re the baddies that are needed to be opponents for Kirk.
The writers have some vague notion that Klingons are all about honour, so they throw in a line about that while making them act like a rabble of pirates.
I know that the reboot is about shaking up the franchise and changing the expectations, and that the new team want to make their own mark by doing things their way, not the way it’s always been done, but they haven’t managed to hit the mark on “same but different”.
Going back to TOS, where the Klingons are originally the aggressive warrior species (and we don’t get the development that we see in TNG and the movies: in TOS, for example, Kahless is a villain: “Kahless the Unforgettable, the Klingon who set the pattern for his planet’s tyrannies”, and not the hero of legend he becomes in later Trek), even there, there was an attempt to make them at least two-dimensional, to give them a reason for their aggressive, violent, warlike tendencies.
From “Day of the Dove”, the Klingon Science Officer and wife of Captain Kang:
MARA: We have always fought. We must. We are hunters, Captain, tracking and taking what we need. There are poor planets in the Klingon systems, we must push outward if we are to survive.
So the Klingons are a hunter-gatherer species, who act as conquerors because their home system lacks resources and they must colonise other worlds or die out.
Reboot Klingons? They’re violent because they’re violent. That’s their thing.
But quite apart from that, what drove me crazy was that - as you say - we see the “Enterprise” team sneaking up on a ship to do a hit-and-run operation on a deserted province of Qo’noS.
Now, okay, there are war-torn, abandoned areas of Earth in our own day. Let’s say this is a place analogous to the Pacific atolls used for military testing and then abandoned.
But for goodness’ sake, you can’t just fly a spaceship - even a small one - down to an inhabited planet of a spacefaring civilisation - and not just any planet, the HOME WORLD, and tell me that it won’t ping the radar somewhere.
Okay, we’ll stretch our suspension of disbelief to the snapping point. Maybe the idea is that Kirk’s smuggler’s ship is supposed to be along the lines of the small aircraft smuggling drugs in our own world, that nip in to deserted airfields and remote rural locations staying under the radar and avoiding all attention. Fine, I’ll bite there.
But then a Klingon patrol shows up, is shot to hell, and the “Enterprise” lot manage to make it out with NO PURSUIT?
That’s what kills me in the reboot movies: there seem to be no other spaceships than the “Enterprise” and whatever craft she is battling at the time - the “Narada” in the first movie, the “Vengeance” in the second. I cannot seriously believe that there is no sign of a Klingon fleet or Klingon pursuit vessels of any kind investigating what is going on with (a) the loss of a patrol squadron and several ships in the province (b) an unidentified craft fleeing off-world with no flight plan or other explanation (c) a Federation starship parked right smack bang in the neutral zone between Klingon and Federation space (not to mention (d) another Federation starship showing up on the perimeter).
The same way there appear to be no ships on or around Earth when the “Enterprise” and the “Vengeance” do their whole ‘burning up in the atmosphere crash-and-burn re-entry’ bit. Granted, we know Starfleet’s fleet took a pounding from the “Narada”, but come on: there are no civilian planetary space defence vessels, no police, no other authority that could send out craft to investigate the “Vengeance” that is fighting with the “Enterprise” while both of them are not alone within the Solar System, they’re within the orbit of Luna????
It’s like they have no idea how military security or the various branches of the armed forces and the civilian authorities of government work on Earth of the present day, let alone in two centuries’ time.
This is why we get the civilian populace of San Francisco calmly strolling around the streets, going about their normal lives, with no indication that anyone attempted an evacuation or even a warning about “Look out, yet another spaceship is falling out of the sky on top of you after the last one!”
Argh. I like space opera, and if they just come out and admit that reboot Trek is space opera with the labels of old Trek slapped on, I wouldn’t mind - but even space opera can’t get away with being plain stupid.
So yeah, that was my big gripe about the big scene between the “Enterprise” and the “Vengeance” as they fought in the atmosphere over Earth: where the heck are all the other spaceships?????
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I brought that up yesterday because it bothered me too - after what happened with the Nerada in the last movie, Earth still has absolutely no planetary or system defences? Surely Admiral Marcus doesn’t need to bother trying to incite a war, the Klingons could just hop over and obliterate Earth while its people run around screaming -rolls eyes-
I’m not only annoyed that within its own new rebooted universe Into Darkness doesn’t make sense, but doubly so considering they rebooted everything so they could shake things up - but so far they haven’t even managed to do that?
You know what would shake things up? The Klingons allying with the Federation against a common foe over a century before they did in the prime universe. THAT’D shake things up.
Or hell, a huge actual not just cold war between the Klingons and Federation, THAT’D shake things up.
Even the destruction of Vulcan in the last movie, which was supposed to shake things up and show us how different everything is in this universe amounted to absolutely bugger all in Into Darkness!
Fair enough they want to ‘make things accessible to new audiences’ (nevermind that all of us were, once upon a time, a new audience and we managed to get into Trek just fine even with 5 series and 10 movies to watch) but so far it’s just been used as an excuse to make something that vaguely resembles Star Trek without actually having any serious - or interesting - ramifications for the characters or universe they’re in.
And you’re absolutely right, so far precisely none of the villains have had any sort of depth or development. They’re all just ‘bad guys’ for Kirk to beat without even having any real motivation or consistency.
What’s really striking is when you compare the Klingons of Into Darkness with the first appearance of the Klingons in TOS’s Errand of Mercy.
They’re both fairly problematic stand-ins for real-world foreign enemies; Errand of Mercy’s as much about the Cold War as Into Darkness is about terrorism. But the difference in how that allegory turns out… in Errand of Mercy, the Klingons are, like Marcus claims in Into Darkness, supposed to be this great existential threat to the Federation. We go along with our (white) heroes as they fight back against the Space-Soviet menace… but then the twist; the Organians don’t want our ‘liberation’, can’t even see the difference between Federation and Klingon warfare, and Kirk ends up realising he’s arguing for war just as much as Kor is.
But Into Darkness doesn’t have any twist; the Klingons are implacably violent, negotiation with them’s a waste of time. They don’t even get the dignity of being the main villains; they’re just there build up the real villain of the story. The Original Series goes with a message that those foreign alien threats are more like us than they’re different. Into Darkness, instead, goes for a message that the rest of the world is scary and different, but weak and irrelevant.
Ohhhh my goodness this is just a PERFECT analysis, you’re absolutely right!
Another classic Klingon episode comes to mind ‘The Day of the Dove’ - where the crew of the Enterprise and Kang’s crew spend most of the episode fighting, but ultimately have to work together to get rid of the alien entity that’s convincing them to fight with each other.
The message of that episode, that two enemies can find a way to work together for the good of themselves and their people, is pretty clear.
Even the comedic ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ doesn’t end with the Enterprise blowing Koloth’s ship out of the sky - and while the Klingons are scheming against the Federation, they aren’t just mindless, violent brutes.
Which is why it’s so frustrating that that’s all they were reduced to in Into Darkness. They really were just minor villains, serving a similar purpose many claim Worf had in Next Gen - to get beaten up to prove how tough the bad guy was.
Except at least Worf had personality and plenty of stories that focused on him, these Klingons don’t even get names!
I really thought, while watching the movie in the cinema, that Khan was going to turn out to be a good guy in this universe, rather than the villain. But reflecting back on it now, I’m really wondering why he was even there at all, and really do think that the story would have been better served by focusing on Marcus and the Klingons - and sending out a positive message by having them work together to stop him, and maybe even forming an alliance!
That at least would have been more like the Star Trek we know and love.