Tag Archives: star trek: deep space nine

Cold War Paranoia: Star Trek’s Legacy of Secret Klingons

Guest post by Mark Turetsky

Star Trek DIscovery

Star Trek: Discovery has broken new ground for diversity in the franchise, featuring Sonequa Martin-Green as the first woman of color to headline a Star Trek series, as well as Anthony Rapp as the first openly gay TV series regular. Despite this progress made in casting, however, Discovery has revived a harmful trope from Trek’s early history.

Discovery borrows a major plot point of its first season from 1967’s “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Tribbles is a perennial fan favorite episode, regarded as one of the best of the original series and beloved for its comedic tone. This tone, by the way, came courtesy of producer Gene L. Coon, according to The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry, the executive producer and creator of Star Trek, considered broad comedy the domain of shows like Lost In Space. While Roddenberry was away writing a Robin Hood pilot, Coon took advantage of his absence and produced three comedic episodes back to back. The story goes that when Roddenberry returned to the set, he called a meeting with Coon, after which Coon quit the show.

Star Trek "Trouble with Tribbles"

The episode centers around a space station that’s loaded with a cargo of grain bound for a Federation colony on a disputed planet near the Klingon border. Kirk and company match wits with bureaucrats, Klingons, and fuzzy little balls of cute called Tribbles. Kirk and Spock discover that the grain has been poisoned, sabotaged by a Federation official name Arne Darvin. It turns out that Darvin is actually a Klingon spy, surgically altered to look human.

In the original series and the Kirk-era movies, the Klingons were an obvious allegory for the Soviet Union, with the Federation taking the role of The United States. The original Klingons were dark-skinned (literally white actors colored with shoe polish) with wispy facial hair, and speaking in not-quite-Russian accents. In his script for “Errand of Mercy,” the first episode to feature Klingons, Gene L. Coon describes their appearance  as “oriental.”

With this in mind, it’s hard not to see Darvin as an outer space version of a communist infiltrator, worming his way into the Federation government, committing sabotage for his evil masters.

Charlie Brill

Leonard Nimoy referred his friend Charlie Brill, a Brooklyn-born Jewish actor for the role. It’s a curious bit of casting, considering the pernicious association between communism and Judaism, from the Jewish Bolshevism canard that came out of the Russian Revolution, through the Hollywood blacklist of the 40s and 50s, all the way to the antisemitic dog whistle of “cultural marxism” that persists today. Notably, when Darvin returned to Star Trek in the 1996 Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” he had assumed the identity of Waddle, a wandering gemstone merchant, which is, as far as occupations go, not entirely disassociated with Jewish people.

Also, the crime that Arne Darvin commits in “The Trouble With Tribbles” sounds a lot like a medieval libel against Jewish people: well poisoning. In the 14th century, during Black Plague times, there was a belief among Christians that the plague was caused by Jews poisoning wells. This led to the raiding of hundreds of Jewish communities throughout Europe, ending, as such things do, in mass slaughter. This wasn’t just a purely medieval one-off occurrence; the accusation of well poisoning, both literal and metaphorical, persisted through the 20th and 21st Centuries, tying in everything from Stalin purging Jewish doctors for supposedly poisoning Soviet leaders to conspiracy theorizing about Jews causing the AIDS epidemic.

Which brings us to Star Trek: Discovery. While the series is set roughly ten years before The Original Series, it very much reflects the culture and values of today. The cold-war Soviet Klingons of The Original Series have been replaced with hardline religious zealots, who in the first season waged a holy war against the Federation in the name of reclaiming its cultural purity for the glory of Kahless, a figure from Klingon history revered almost as a god.

Into this story comes Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif, an actor of mixed Pakistani and British heritage. Tyler is a Starfleet security officer from just outside Seattle, who escapes imprisonment and torture by the Klingons. The character at first appeared to offer a sober exploration of PTSD, dealing with the trauma of his ordeal, but instead he turned out to be a Klingon agent named Voq, surgically altered (just like good old like Arne Darvin) to appear human. Unlike Darvin, Voq isn’t aware that he’s a Klingon, and actually believes himself to be Tyler. He’s a sleeper agent, somewhat akin to Laurence Harvey’s character in The Manchurian Candidate, but with the sci-fi twist of radical gene-altering surgery and memory transplantation.

What started out as a positive, nuanced portrayal of a character of mixed-Pakistani descent got undercut by turning him into a religious sleeper terrorist. There are enough of those on TV already, in just about every season of 24, or the prestige Showtime drama Homeland. We could even look to an episode from Trek’s first season, “Balance of Terror,” for a better treatment of a similar subject: Spock faces suspicion and xenophobia from members of the Enterprise crew when they discover that Romulans are identical to Vulcans. Stiles, the navigator, accuses Spock outright of being a Romulan spy, only to have Kirk call out his bigotry for what it is, out in the open, right on the bridge of the Enterprise.

There does seem to be hope for Ash Tyler, though. The second season of Discovery has recast him as an intelligence agent for the shadowy Starfleet spy organization Section 31. He’s still a Klingon who thinks he’s human, but the writers seem to want to put that storyline behind them and have it just be another angle to the character’s traumatic past. Of course, it’s television, and I’m sure Tyler will be dealing with buried Klingon programming just as soon, and for as long, as plot demands.

The producers of Discovery don’t get nearly enough credit for the homages they make to the rest of Trek (cue the cries of “Discovery doesn’t care about canon!”), especially with this season’s loving and detailed treatment of TOS’s original, failed pilot “The Cage.” It’s disappointing, though, that they not only returned to this particular well, but poisoned it in their own contemporary way.


Mark Turetsky is a voice actor and audiobook narrator of more than 75 books living in Northern Louisiana. He writes the Star Trek comedy twitter account @RejectedDS9. His work can be found at www.markturetsky.com.

Eaglemoss Offers a 9-Ship Salute to the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

It’s been a quarter century since the debut of the first Star Trek series not set on board a ship called Enterprise and Eaglemoss Collections is giving fans an opportunity to celebrate. Here are nine classic starships that put into port across seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Each is available to own as an incredibly detailed die-cast replica, official authorized by CBS Studios, and at special 25th anniversary savings – either as part of a subscription to the Official Star Trek Starships Collection or as individual purchases from the Eaglemoss Shop or favorite comic shop.

1: Danube Class Runabout

A vital part of operations for the Deep Space Nine crew, able to serve on a variety of different mission types. The ships in this class were named for famous rivers on Earth, including the U.S.S. Rio Grande, the U.S.S. Yangtzee and the U.S.S. Orinoco.

2: Bajoran Solar-Sail Vessel

A relic from the distant past of Bajoran space exploration. Legend had it that it made it all the way to Cardassia itself almost 800 years prior. Benjamin Sisko recreated this ship from ancient plans to see if the legend was true.

3: Cardassian Galor Class

The most-common warships in the Cardassian fleet, they featured heavily in DS9 during the Dominion War. Fighting alongside Dominion ships, they inflicted heavy damage to the combined Federation and Klingon fleets.

4: Akira Class

Built for action, it played a major role in winning back Deep Space Nine for the Federation. Designed to confront threats encroaching on Starfleet’s borders in space, the ship’s layout presented a narrow target, and its saucer section functioned not unlike an aircraft carrier.

5: U.S.S. Defiant

Originally built to defend against a Borg invasion, this relatively small class prototype was the Federation’s very first true warship.  At just 4 decks and a crew of about 40, it nevertheless proved itself as one of the most-powerful and consistent players in the Dominion War’s hard-fought battles.

6: Jem’Hadar Fighter

Commonly used by the Dominion at the front lines of battle, this beetle-shaped attack ship was typically deployed in groups of three. Late in the Dominion War, it was outfitted with an energy-dampening weapon that proved devastating to Federation forces and their allies until countermeasures were eventually developed.

7: Bajoran Raider

Made from spare parts and whatever Bajoran Resistance engineers could scrounge together, this ship was a true underdog, not even capable of impulse speeds in space, let alone warp. But within a planet’s atmosphere, this strike fighter bared its teeth, often attacking in groups, and proving itself faster and more maneuverable than ships that otherwise outclassed it.

8: Romulan Shuttle

In many ways a comparable ship class to the Federation Danube Class Runabout, but with a very distinctive Romulan design and features. It also had a cloaking device that rendered the ship invisible to sensors as well as the naked eye.

9: Klingon Vor’cha Class

This battlecruiser featured heavily in all the defining battles of the Dominion War and was the flagship of choice for General Martok, as well as Chancellors Gowron and K’mpec. Instantly recognizable as a Klingon vessel, years of peace and sharing of technology with the Federation influenced aspects of its design.

The ships of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine forever changed the landscape of Star Trek lore. To commemorate this critically important turning point in Star Trek history, Eaglemoss Collections is making some history of its own. New subscribers to the Official Star Trek Starships Collection will not only get their first ship  – TNG’s U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D – for only $4.95, but also receive the U.S.S. Defiant NX-74205 for half price – both with free shipping (use the code DS9 at checkout) Plus, every subscription includes a selection of free gifts valued at over $90 and additional savings of up to 20% off each ship in the collection.

Non-subscribers can drop by the Eaglemoss Shop to enjoy 10% off the purchase of any or all DS9 ships, including our Deep Space Nine 25th Anniversary Bundle, which includes a special edition Deep Space Nine space station and two ships from Season 2. Or look for them at your local comic shop.