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In TOS, they were total smug jerks who, if they wanted to oppress you, they did it, and showed no regard for anyone. They thought they were superior to the Federation and Romulans.

Yet by 1987, they changed to be honorable warriors.

Why the major change in the Klingons?

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    Are you asking about in universe or out of universe reasons? – GendoIkari Sep 4 at 19:50
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    I took a stab at editing your question because I think there's an interesting idea here that may end up being about a shift in cultural sensitivities, but I don't like the un-cited assumptions in the original. – GGMG-he-him Sep 4 at 20:37
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    The original Klingons were based on the USSR – Rob Jackson Sep 4 at 22:06
  • So is this an attempt at making a point, not asking a genuine question? Unfortunately, right or not, questions here don't serve that purpose. (I did upvote your other questions) – M.A.R. Sep 5 at 9:21
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    For sure the Soviet Union was in trouble in 1987, and countries like Poland had protest movements like Solidarity but as someone who was a teenager in the 80's I can definitely state that it didn't feel like tensions were easing between the West and the USSR. TV was full of nuclear war dramas like Threads and The Day After. – iandotkelly Sep 5 at 15:22
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Why writing changes . . . I could almost write a novel, but the Klingon Warrior race was implied in TOS, at least once. It's true that mostly they were just "the enemy" and there was little examination into their society or beliefs, but in the episode Friday's Child, some of the Klingon views were made clear.

Kras, the Klingon, said to Teer, the leader of the tribes:

What do Earth men offer you? What have you obtained from them in the past? Powders and liquids for the sick? We Klingons believe as you do. The sick should die. Only the strong should live.

In the movies as well, the Klingon Warrior race was explored prior to TNG. Star Trek III, which came out 3 years before TNG featured the new Klingon Look and indicated some warrior aspects to their society.

Not wanting to re-watch the movie, I remember off hand that Christopher Lloyd played the Klingon Captain with a distinctly combative personality, having a ferocious pet that his subordinates were afraid to feed as one example and I'm vaguely remembering him choking a subordinate as well, so in both TOS and in the 3rd film there were indications in that direction.

It's also clear, in TNG that the Klingons aren't always honorable. They say they are, and they're warriors, but they lie, there's a point where one tries (unsuccessfully) to bribe data, they conspire. There's an episode where the Klingon leader is being poisoned and he asks Picard to investigate and find out who's doing it.

The big change is that TNG goes into the Klingon society in far greater detail, but I don't see the inconsistency that you see. There's indications that they're a warrior race prior to TNG and there's evidence that they are not always honorable during TNG.

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I would argue that this didn't happen. Aside from Worf, many of the Klingons we see aren't really that honorable. They're short-sighted, violent, dishonest, and stupid. Worf, on the other hand, learned to be a Klingon from books. He turned himself into the Klingon ideal, not knowing that real Klingons don't often behave that way.

  • But the uptight feelings of racist superiority only were around in the TOS not in TNG – Rob Jackson Sep 10 at 0:05
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    Maybe they're like white supremacists, just keeping their mouths shut until a leader comes along to embolden them again? – Stephen Collings Sep 10 at 0:06
  • They had that uptight smugness about them. TNG Klingon were just proud and loud for the most part. Easily offended. Showoffs. But they totally were a different group from the ones on TOS – Rob Jackson Sep 10 at 0:14
  • Plus another difference is that, due to the traits, TOS Klingons are just purely unlikable. TNG Klingon are the complete opposite. Their worst flaw is just don't get on their bad side. – Rob Jackson Sep 10 at 0:15
  • Believe me if the Klingons remained what they were originally, the Cardassians would not have said "Cardassians have nothing in common with Klingons" like they said in TNG – Rob Jackson Sep 10 at 0:17

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