CBS has now revealed six cast members for the next Star Trek television series, the CBS All Access pay channel series Star Trek: Discovery. Focusing on another ship of the Starfleet line that flew the friendly galactic skies ten years before the original Star Trek series, USS Discovery NCC-1031 is slated to be available to subscribers sometime in 2017. Supporting many fans’ analysis that the ship sports design elements from Federation and Klingon vessels from the era of the original show, three new cast members were revealed this week–all of them to play Klingons.
Along with word that originally-tapped showrunner Bryan Fuller is no longer part of the production, CBS announced in the past few weeks that award-winning actress Michelle Yeoh, known to genre fans for both her leading role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and as a “Bond girl” in Tomorrow Never Dies, will play Captain Georgiou, but at least at first she will not be leading the Discovery, but a vessel called the Shenzhou. Known for his extensive work in heavy make-up, genre fans were pleased to learn Doug Jones will be featured in the series. Known for roles in Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, DC’s CW Network series, and much more, Jones will play Lieutenant Saru, a Starfleet science officer and member of an alien species new to Star Trek. Anthony Rapp (Psych, A Beautiful Mind, Rent, The X-Files, Twister) will play Lieutenant Stamets, an astromycologist (a fungus expert) and Starfleet science officer aboard the Discovery.
So who are the Klingons? Chris Obi will play T’Kuvma, a Klingon leader set on uniting the Klingon houses. Shazad Latif will play his protégé, Commanding Officer Kol. And Mary Chieffo will play the Klingon vessel’s Battle Deck Commander L’Rell. Obi has worked in series including Doctor Who and American Gods as well as Snow White and the Huntsman. Latif has been seen in series from MI-5 to Penny Dreadful. Chieffo is a relative newcomer to television, known for her “statuesque” 6-foot tall presence.
Love ’em or hate ’em, the Klingons have been a part of Star Trek for 50 years since the first season. The original series make-up design was very low-budget in concept:
We would see Klingons come into their own in appearance in the opening scene of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, followed by Christopher Lloyd’s Commander Kruge and his crew from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock:
That look stayed with only minor changes all the way through the end of Star Trek Voyager. In the third incarnation of the Klingon look, the fifth Star Trek series Enterprise attempted to explain away the change in appearance from the original series to their pronounced forehead ridges, with its own updated look (strangely enough the series used the same costumes as were used in the future alternate timeline in the last episode of Star Trek Voyager taking place years in the future):
Then with J.J. Abrams reboot movies, during the original series timeframe but in the parallel “Kelvin timeline,” the Klingons had another updated appearance:
and a close-up:
So incorporating new Klingons existing before this era begs the question: What will they look like in Star Trek: Discovery? A combination of the Enterprise look–solid prosthetics and costumes that were affordable for a TV series budget–and the Kelvin timeline–which did not add much by way of costume design but introduced jewelry to the ridges with some modern prosthetics updating–seems like the most likely result.
Historically, when Star Trek isn’t sure how to proceed, the writers tend to gravitate back to the origins of the show. Star Trek: The Next Generation borrowed ideas almost immediately from the original series (like the second episode, “The Naked Now”), and Enterprise borrowed heavily from the prior four series. By going back to Klingons again, are the writers out of ideas, or do they figure from a marketing standpoint general audiences are familiar with Klingons so they are a clear, easy choice to begin with for a re-start? And will the actor who played a Klingon in the most episodes, Michael Dorn, be tapped to play another ancestor of Worf? Or his brother Kurn, played by actor Tony Todd?
In case you missed it, this is the trailer from July for Star Trek: Discovery:
Star Trek: Discovery is scheduled for its CBS All Access release in 2017.