The Canonicity of Star Trek: Discovery

It has always been an unwritten rule of Klingonists all over the world that only words written or approved by Marc Okrand are regarded as canon (i.e. regarding Klingon). Marc Okrand did not work actively on Star Trek: Discovery. He maybe did provide some new words (which were released at qep'a' 2017), but the major translation job was done by Robyn Stewart, and the producers have "gone to great lengths to be incredibly accurate in our Klingon." (1)

The same counts for the Klingon subtitles on Netflix, which were provided by Lieven L. Litaer. Okrand did contribute some new words for the subtitles, but he did not supervise the translation of the entire phrases.

Okrandian vs. Star Trek canon

Since the Klingon language in this show is not made by Okrand, it cannot not be "Okrandian" Klingon per se. One can be sure that all of it will be in a good quality, but sticking to the definition, these translations are no different to any other expert works like The Klingon Hamlet, Qo'noS QonoS or The Little Prince.

The argument that this Klingon must be canon because it is spoken during an official Star Trek show, is invalid. We have seen several other Star Trek shows using Klingon which was not okrandian Canon either (like the obvious nonsense P'kar tel Durg Le Frakn'l in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Melora" (2)). There is a difference to be made between "Star Trek Canon" and our "Okrandian canon". Parallel to this, from a point of view of the Star Trek wiki named Memory Alpha, the okrandian Klingon is not part of their canon, as they only accept on-screen used things.

Although most Klingonists agree that Robyn Stewart is probably the best person to do this job, after all she's just a person hired for working on the show like any other authors they have had before.


The used phrases in Star Trek: Discovery are definitely worth analysing and being watched at. They are good Klingon.

But: As long as Okrand does not confirm that he has controlled and approved all the translations, the Klingon used on the show is considered as not okrandian canon. So these should not be added to any dictionary or collection of examples to use for teaching. Or, if doing so, they should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. If a phrase spoken on Discovery seems awkward, it should not count as an example sentence. It may be possible that Okrand could retrofit any mistakes as being ancient Klingon (no' Hol) (3) and ask Maltz to explain them.

Comment on using words and expressions from Discovery

David Yonge-Mallo, who keeps track about canonicity very carefully due to his dictionary app boQwI', wrote a quite useful guide on the mailing list: (4)
I think there's a useful difference between, say, Okrandian canon (comes from Okrand) and Okrandian Klingon canon (Star Trek canon which uses Okrand's Klingon).

Okrand himself specifies the rules for generating noun-noun constructions and compound nouns, for example, in TKD. Since poH qut has been used in Star Trek now, and its meaning is fairly unambiguous from the components, I see no reason not to accept this as the "canon" way to say "time crystals". (TKD even allows such words to be written without a space, like *poHqut.) I'm much more likely to use poH qut than jolvoy' (since Discovery is currently on-air), and also be likelier to be understood. poH qut is Okrandian Klingon canon, even if it isn't Okrandian canon.

Similarly, Okrand gave us rules for understanding how and why Klingons in the shows and movies sometimes say things which aren't quite right, according to the known Okrandian sources at the time. Klingons have multiple languages, regions, and dialects. Klingon sometimes uses special grammar in certain contexts. We can't conclude that SIch(5) can *always* be used the way L'Rell used it, but Okrand has given the readers of KGT license to always be able to reconcile what's on screen with what he describes. In this case, the reconciliation is obvious: SIch can be used in this way in L'Rell's dialect. And since she's Chancellor, well, if I'm speaking to a Klingon in the Discovery universe at the time of Chancellor L'Rell, I'd be pretty comfortable using SIch in that way, too.

I can virtually guarantee that if someone were to show that line to Okrand with the explanation that L'Rell spoke it on Discovery, he'll confirm that it is correct. Again, it's fine to distinguish between "it comes from Okrand" and "it was approved by Okrand" (as some of K.R.A. DeCandido's words are), and it's fine to wait until he does confirm it and not just assume he would (though he has a lot of things to do, and I've never known him to contradict on-screen Star Trek canon). But I think there's also a danger, in absolutely refusing to interpret a word in any way except as illustrated by an existing canon example, of being more Klingon than Kahless (I think the Earth expression is "being more Catholic than the Pope").


1 : SDCC17: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Panel Gives New Character And Story Details on, by Christine Rideout, July 22, 2017

2 : Klingonese on Memory Alpha

3 : Klingon For the Galactic Traveler, p. 12

4 : Message to the list of April 22, 2019

5 : There has recently been a discussion about the different possible meanings of the word SIch.

See also

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