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Star Trek: Discovery just explained why the TOS Klingon ships looked so different
Literally none of the Klingon spaceships in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery looked remotely like the Klingon ships seen in Trek canon previously. This doesn’t mean they weren’t awesome, simply that in terms of aesthetic departures, the ships were as different as the Klingon makeup. But one scene in the latest episode of Discovery seems to imply that the Klingon ships in the original series had a decidedly human influence.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 3, “Point of Light”**
Right at the start of the episode, Discovery quickly explains that the classic Klingon battlecruiser, the D-7, will be created by Tyler. “Behold the D-7, future battlecruiser of the Imperial Fleet,” Tyler says to his Klingon cohorts. Effectively, this explains where the D-7 comes from in the canon of the original series, and also why it looks so different from the Klingon ships in Discovery. Basically, because Tyler has a bunch of human mojo, the D-7 looks a lot more like a Starfleet ship than the ships from Season 1.
While this comes a little out of left field, there is a precedent for this in Star Trek canon. In the original series, it really seems like the Klingons couldn't care less about developing technology on their own, and are more than happy to borrow or steal tech from other cultures. In the classic episode “The Enterprise Incident,” we learn that the Klingons traded tons of the D-7 battlecruisers to the Romulans in exchange for some cloaking technology that actually works. Basically, the Klingons aren't that precious about their ships and what they look like, even if L’Rell does say, “My torchbearer will oversee the production of this ship.”
This last comment heavily implies that Tyler designed the D-7. Which is pretty cool insofar as this means that one of the most famous Klingon ships in Star Trek history (second only to the Bird of Prey) is more or less the brainchild of someone with a lot of Starfleet experience. There are just one or two hiccups.
First, why would the Klingons call a ship the D-7? What about D-1 or D-5? Presumably, we’re seeing this through a translation, so it can be explained away, but in later Trek canon — specifically the movies and The Next Generation — this exact kind of ship was called the K’Tinga class. Is D-7 our translation for what the Klingons call K’Tinga? Maybe, maybe not, but it really doesn’t sound like Tyler says “K’Tinga” in this scene.
The other thing that’s weird about calling the ship the D-7 is that the phrase “Klingon D-7 battlecruiser” actually has been uttered on Star Trek: Discovery before. In Season 1, when Captain Lorca is captured by Klingons in the episode “Choose Your Pain,” the computer on Lorca’s shuttle identifies the ship as a “Klingon D-7 Battlecruiser.” (Closed captions on the episode confirm this!) So what gives? How could Lorca have been captured by a D-7 Battlecruiser in Season 1 when Tyler doesn’t even invent them until Season 2?
The wrinkle here is this: We don’t actually see the D-7 cruiser in its entirety in “Choose Your Pain,” meaning it very well could have looked like the classic Klingon ships of old. But if “Point of Light” is establishing that the real-deal D-7 comes from Tyler at this point in time, then maybe Tyler named this ship the D-7 on purpose to confuse Starfleet. If Tyler knows Starfleet thinks that they know what a D-7 battlecruiser looks like, he might have decided it was clever to name the new warship a D-7 to throw them off.
The other option is more complicated. Because Lorca meets Tyler for the first time while he’s imprisoned on that ship (with L’Rell), it’s possible that L’Rell had already started constructing those ships way before she told anyone else about it on the Klingon Homeworld. Of course, this would not explain why the Starfleet shuttle knew the name of that ship ... unless of course Lorca’s shuttle was somehow programmed with secret information from Section 31, who would (maybe?) know about such things. Considering how involved Section 31 is in this episode, it’s not crazy to think they knew more about the design of Klingon ships than all the Klingons did.
Or maybe it's easier to pretend like that computer in "Choose Your Pain" misspoke and really should have said "D-6 Battlecruiser." Yep. That's easier.
So, was the D-7 reference in “Point of Light” an effective retcon? The answer is mostly yes, but now hardcore Trekkies will be wondering not only why Lorca’s shuttle in Season 1 could see into the future, but also, after Tyler faked his death, exactly which Klingon took over production of those wicked, wicked ships. And most importantly, by the time of The Next Generation, is anyone giving Tyler's extended Klingon family royalties on one of the coolest starships ever constructed?