By Dayton Ward
Sure, the Klingon Empire wasn’t always one of the first places travelers typically listed as a prime vacation scene. However, decades of treaties and alliances, to say nothing of teaming up to defend the entire quadrant from the likes of the Borg or those nasty bad guys from the Dominion, tend to help bring people together. It’s a bold new galaxy out there, and worlds which at one time were listed as “off limits” or carried various flavors of travel advisories are now welcoming visitors with open arms.
Well, some are.
Qo’noS, the home world of the Klingon Empire, has been somewhat slower to accept an influx of tourists, but the planet’s rich history and culture has made it one of the premier travel destinations. Because of the always evolving yet apparently strengthening relations between the Klingons and the Federation, the High Council has endeavored to promote a somewhat welcoming atmosphere in response to non-Klingons wanting to visit Qo’noS and other prominent imperial worlds.
To help you with your pre-trip preparations, our travel team has interviewed hundreds of Klingon citizens, and come away with this list of sevenquestions they’re tired of hearing from the rest of us. During your trip to Qo’noS and other worlds within the Klingon Empire, you’d do well to avoid asking any of the following:
7. “Did you really kill all of your gods?”
This one comes up a lot, particularly when visiting any sort of military or war memorial. Like most bits of Klingon mythology, there’s at least a degree of truth to even the most outlandish claims. Many historians believe that this legend may have been spawned by the arrival millennia ago of an unidentified, malevolent alien race possessing technology so advanced as to appear godlike. The resistance and eventual slaying of their would-be oppressors likely gave rise to the idea of ancient Klingons vanquishing their gods. It’s worth noting that modern Klingon faith and spirituality takes on many forms, most of which is never discussed with outsiders, so it’s a topic best left unexplored.
6. “Is there anything on your menu that doesn’t move?”
Insulting Klingon cuisine, however inadvertently, is a good way to have your day ruined. Forever. Like so many other things in Klingon culture, it’s the difficulty of the challenge that makes any endeavor worthwhile. This often includes eating, which some Klingons view as its own form of battle, and that means occasionally taking a bite out of something before it can do the same to you. However, there are plenty of indigenous foods which aren’t served or consumed while still wriggling, and there’s a definite increase in the number of establishments catering to non-Klingon palates, so you won’t starve.
5. “Is there a mattress I can use?”
Klingons take great pride in testing their bodies at every opportunity, and that includes while sleeping. Soldiers in particular will tell you that they loathe the very idea of “softening their bodies” by sleeping on any sort of pad or cushion. In the larger cities and other areas which have been quicker to adapt to the planet’s growing tourism industry, you’ll find hotels and inns catering to offworlder sensibilities. However, if you’re visiting one of the smaller provinces or outlying areas, you should get used to the idea of sleeping “Klingon style” atop a flat rock or metal shelf, or even on the ground. Of course, if you’re camping you’ll have to be prepared to deal with aggressive insects and various predatory animals which might come wandering around searching for food.
4. “Where is your bathroom?”
Actually, most Klingon merchants and proprietors really only hate this one when the questioner (almost always a human) emerges mere seconds later from said bathroom, asking about toilet paper. Before traveling to Qo’noS, tourists are encouraged to learn about the proper use of the nagh DIr when engaging in this activity. Doing so will go a long way toward preventing embarrassing personal injuries to sensitive areas, depending on your species’ particular anatomical quirks.
3. “May I see your bat’leth?” / “May I hold your d’k tahg?”
One surefire way to irritate a Klingon is to ask them to let you play with their weapons. In particular, the bat’leth and the d’k tahg almost always carry deeply personal meaning for the owner. The bat’leth has been a key component of Klingon culture for thousands of years. Kahless the Unforgettable is said to have forged the first bat’leth in order to vanquish his enemies before founding what would become the Klingon Empire. As for the d’k tahg, this smaller, dagger-like weapon, like the much larger bat’leth, is usually handed down from father to son. It’s often the blade of choice when settling disputes that involve personal combat. Such weapons are rarely surrendered while its owner still lives. As with the bat’leth, you’re not likely to find d’k tahg blades for sale in retail shops, as most Klingons refuse to sell any representations of these sacred weapons to offworlders.
2. “Didn’t Klingons used to look more like humans?”
Want to kill the conversation and the mood in just about any Klingon establishment? Ask about that time a couple of centuries ago when the Empire was plagued by a virus that robbed many a warrior of their beautiful, prominent cranial ridges. Though the contagion was eventually stopped from wiping out the entire Klingon race, those exposed to the infection had to endure with the permanent genetic effects. Those affected by the disease were soon called QuchHa’, or “the Unhappy Ones,” and most did their best to live up to their new moniker. The impact of the disease was felt for the better part of a century, as the genetic mutations caused by the virus were passed to offspring. While there have been occasional rumored sightings of QuchHa’ who supposedly remain alive even after all this time, the official consensus is that the last of them died decades ago, and most Klingons today prefer to leave the Unhappy Ones to their despondent past.
1. “Is today a good day to die?”
It is now. Seriously, stop asking this one. We mean it.
Though travelers will encounter their share of Klingons who genuinely welcome outsiders into their midst, travelers are advised not to mistake this for universal acceptance. Following these and other tips as well as gaining a basic understanding of Klingon culture and societal mores is essential for an enjoyable, injury-free and even non-lethal vacation.
Happy traveling, and Qapla’!
Dayton Ward is the New York Times bestselling author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories, including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often working with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. His latest work, Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire, will be published by Insight Editions on July 11th. As he’s still a big ol’ geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward.