The Klingon Empire is ruled by a Chancellor with the support of the Klingon High Council. Shockingly, a Klingon's close combat skills seem to be the main qualification for the Chancellor's office, rather than any political skills. If the reigning Chancellor is killed in a duel with another Klingon, then the killer has the right to claim the Chancellor's position. If a Chancellor dies under other circumstances (poison, disease, or in a battle, for example), his replacement is chosen by an Arbiter of Succession. The Arbiter chooses from eligible candidates (usually Council members themselves) in a process called the Rite of Succession, based on rules established in Klingon law. A Chancellor with some foresight can decide who will be the Arbiter of Succession after his own death.
Family honor is important in 24th-century Klingon society, and children inherit both the honor of their parents' heroic deeds and the dishonor of their cowardly transgressions. Given the value assigned to personal and family honor, it should be no surprise that dueling is still an accepted method of resolving disputes under Klingon law, particularly when one party's honor has been insulted. Klingon duels are typically fought in an official arena with government officials present as witnesses. All known duels have been fought with hand-to-hand weapons like bat'leths, swords, and daggers.
Klingon society is moderately misogynistic. Property is typically controlled by Klingon males, and female Klingons are not allowed to serve on the Klingon High Council (in the 24th century, at least). Female Klingons, however, have considerable control over their marital status, being able to marry or divorce a male with just a ritual statement before witnesses. Females can also serve in the military without prejudice, and in the absence of a male heir, they can gain legitimate control of a household's property and resources.
Klingon physiology makes them considerably tougher than humans; many of their major organs have redundancies that allow them to survive injuries that would kill a human. Klingons tend to be physically stronger than humans, but this is probably more a result of widespread martial training than a genetic trait. Klingons have a reputation for violence that is widely considered genetic, although it is just as likely a result of the culture of militarism that has become dominant in Klingon society.
The Klingon Empire controls a large volume of space that shares borders with the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets. The full extent of their territory is unknown, but it is probably not substantially greater than that of either of its neighbors. According to a Star Trek website (which might be inaccurate), the Klingons have some 500 conquered worlds and 100 member worlds.
The Klingons are one of the most formidable military powers in the Alpha Quadrant. Martial traditions are so widely revered in Klingon society that almost every Klingon has at least basic military training. Similarly, virtually every Klingon has personal weapons and body armor, and attaining any sort of political influence requires a good military service record. Klingon technology is comparable to that of the other major Alpha Quadrant powers, and they invest heavily in military assets.
Notable Klingon-Human Hybrids
- With their make-up makeover in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Klingons established the "bumpy forehead aliens" trend in later Star Trek.