Mary Chieffo in Star Trek: Discovery (Photo: Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive)

We learned a while ago that Star Trek: Discovery will take place 10 years before the events of The Original Series, and within the original Prime timeline (sorry, J.J. Abrams). Recent dispatches out of the Alpha Quadrant have concerned the Klingons, whose newly shorn appearance has baffled fans who wonder why anyone would ditch those glorious manes. The inspiration behind the new look has been revealed and, like so many Trek-related things, it’s some sexy science.

Trek Movie reported on a recent actors panel at Star Trek Las Vegas, where Mary Chieffo and Kenneth Mitchell, who play Klingon commanders L’Rell and Kol, respectively, touched on the detail and authenticity they’ll bring to the roles. They discussed speaking in Klingon throughout the production, though subtitles will be provided for those not fluent. The panel also introduced a first look at Kol, who comes from the house of Kor. Mitchell, along with Discovery alien designers Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick, broke down Kol’s outfit and bearing, which led to the revelation that Discovery will feature 24 Klingon houses, whose members will have varying looks.

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Page suggested that these revisions are more an expansion than anything: “The Empire is very big. [The Klingons] don’t all grow up on Qo’noS. They don’t all live on the same planets and certainly those different planets would have different environments. So how would the cultures have evolved differently?” He continued, “We tried to come up with cultural axioms for each house so each looks different and they bear a cultural patina like our cultures do here on Earth.”

As for the follicle-free heads, they’re a matter of practicality. Discovery will provide a genetic reason for the forehead ridges, which the Klingons developed as “apex predators.” Apparently, there are extra-sensory receptors in those ridges, which the Klingons would rather not dull with a ‘do. Chieffo inadvertently touched on the “sexy and vital” angle when she referred to some the “pheromones” produced by the ridges. But in all this talk of alien phrenology, no mention was made of the Klingon Augment Virus, a failed medical experiment that had the unintended effects of wiping out their forehead ridges, and almost taking out the entire civilization. But maybe it’s just as Worf said—they didn’t want to discuss it with outsiders.

[via io9, which, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]

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