In this question, we learn that while the Klingons were originally intended to be Federation members, later on this aspect was retconned and they were just good allies.

Was an in-universe explanation ever given for this discrepancy?

For example, it is possible that due to the slightly different events of Narendra III that the treaty ended up playing out differently, although this seems like a stretch.

  • 2
    When were they ever members of the Federation? Allies, sure, but I don't remember them ever being a member...
    – miltonaut
    Jan 10 '17 at 7:16
  • 2
    Read the question the OP linked to. I never noticed this either, and it did apparently get retconned before it became a noticeable thing in TNG.
    – Steve-O
    Jan 10 '17 at 15:51
  • In my mind, I picture Picard's "That's right" meaning "They joined an alliance with the Federation, but whatever. Stop interrupting me."
    – chepner
    Feb 12 '20 at 14:47


I don't even think the writers themselves realized this discrepancy. I hadn't even noticed it until the last time I'd watched the episode recently.

Rick Berman has stated that Gene Roddenberry was only heavily involved in the first season of Star Trek. After that he was not very involved due to health issues. He had VERY strong opinions about how peaceful and non-confrontational the 24th Century was; there was a running joke that in the First Season, every single encounter with an alien species involved Captain Picard retreating (lol, France, lol).

Supposition follows: TL;DR the Federation had moved into an ideological bubble by Season One, where ceasefires were peace treaties and the lack of credible threats made the Federation almost stand down. To the Federation, a cease-fire/peace treaty with the Klingons was as good as joining the Federation..

It always seemed to me that the Federation, in Season One, had done a great job of insulating themselves in an ideological bubble. In the core of the Federation, there was almost no crime, no scarce goods, very little acrimony. People got along, intergalactic peace was at hand. Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country's Khitomer Accords had the effect of brokering peace between the Federation and their greatest enemy, the Klingons. Romulans had gone into hiding again. Pax Foederatio had taken hold.

Then the Galaxy-class ships came out. With faster speeds and further range, these ships were equipped with the best shields and weapons not because the designers expected them to be used, but because they had energy to spare (and perhaps to mollify the few remaining "paranoid" war hawks). Look at the fleet in TNG: It's mostly Oberth-class science vessels or antique Excelsior-class and Miranda-class ships. The state of the art in the fleet hadn't moved forward for almost a hundred years!

Season One changed all that. Q steps in as a super-powerful force to be reckoned with. "God Like" aliens, who don't really like the Federation much, appear. By season two, it's obvious to the crew of the Enterprise that the galaxy isn't the safe bubble they had thought it was. Eventually there were Romulans causing trouble, the Borg trying to kill everything, and the Cardassians stirring up the hornet's nests.

Klingons remained close allies, but the truth came out quickly; they didn't Join The Federation, they just agreed to stop fighting. To mollify the Federation, they added the Federation Logo to their hails to Federation ships... but that's like the USA putting a foreign leader's country's flag on the motorcade sedan. It's just intended to be a courtesy, but Bubble Dwellers took it as confirmation.

The Federation got so lax that a small Starfleet conspiracy (powered by aliens) almost tore it apart. Even late in the show, a single Captain could almost single-handedly start a war.

This isn't a stable peace, and the Enterprise, being on the front line, served as our view into the "shattering" of the ideological bubble. But it also showed that a peaceful ideology wasn't a bad thing, and that one could keep to high ideals while still being strong enough to defend oneself.

Eventually, this would expand into DS9, where we get to see the rough edges of the Federation far from the "Core Worlds." Jake's unbounded idealism and constant failures to understand the "real world" outside this bubble just goes to show how sheltered the standard Federation citizen is. Even the "seasoned" Starfleet officers eventually realize how sheltered they have been. Julian Bashir is a good example of a character having to come to grips with reality.


According to "Samaritan Snare":

PICARD: Well, I was a young Starfleet officer, not many years older than you are now. Top of my Academy Class. Green as hell. And oh, so cocky. Too cocky, as it turned out.

WESLEY: What happened?

PICARD: Several friends and I were on leave at Farspace Starbase Earhart. It was little more than a galactic outpost in those days.

WESLEY: Was this before the Klingons joined the Federation?

PICARD: That's right.

That is the end of the discussion. The statement that "the Klingons joined the Federation" during Picard's career in Stafleet is clearly established to be a true statement by this dialog. There are many other important parts of Star Trek lore established by only one or two sentences of dialog in a single episode.

It must be true - from a certain point of view of course. It might a correct but incomplete statement.

Imagine a secret alien observer recently sent to Earth talking to another one who has been here for generations. Suppose that the older alien observer mentions some long ago event and the younger one asks if that was before the Humans joined the United Nations and the older one says yes.

It is certainly correct that (some of) The Humans joined the United Nations. It fact the vast majority of Humans are citizens of nations that joined the United Nations in over a hundred separate acts of joining the United Nations.

Or suppose the alien observers dated some event relative to the time that the Roman Empire conquered or annexed the Roman Empire. That would be correct. There have been times with more than one Roman Empire simultaneously. Such a statement would be a bit confusing since there has been more than one time that a Roman Empire annexed another Roman Empire.

Or suppose that the alien observers dated an event relative to the time that the Boer Republic was annexed by the British. Wikipedia lists 17 Boer republics and sometimes there were several different Boer Republics at the same time. Britain annexed one of them, the Natalia Republic, in 1843, and another one, the Transvaal or South African Republic, in 1877.

The Boer ethnic group and the various ethnic groups of their slaves and servants can be compared to the Klingon species and the various species of their subjects. So the various sometimes contemporary Boer republics can be compared to the various sometimes contemporary Klingon empires that may have existed during the course of Klingon history.

There is no more reason to assume that there must be one and only one Klingon Empire than there is to assume that there must have been one and only one Roman Empire or one and only one Boer Republic.

And in fact in "Sins of the father":

PICARD: We're changing course. Set coordinates for the First City of the Klingon Imperial Empire.

This implies that there are so many Klingon empires and other realms that Picard has to use the full official name of the Klingon Imperial Empire in order to be clear which Klingon empire, planet, and city he means.

It seems clear that the Klingon Imperial Empire that K'mpec is the chancellor of in "Sins of the father" is the main successor state to the Klingon state that Gorkon was the chancellor of in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. And the Klingon Imperial Empire is probably much larger than all the other Klingon states combined. For example, the Klingon Imperial Empire might rule a thousand star systems while fifty other Klingon states only rule a single star system each while ten other Klingon states rule ten star systems each for a total of 150 star systems ruled by the minor Klingon empires and other Klingon states.

And clearly at least one of those Klingon states has joined the Federation as a full member or associate member. If that Klingon state kept its military separate from Starfleet as a sort of analogy to a state national guard in the USA, Worf could be the first Klingon in Starfleet.

So there is no logical reason to assume that the later Klingon story arc invalidated the statement that (some of) "the Klingons joined the Federation".

The dancing fingers type, and having typed,

move on: not all your genius nor wit,

has power to retcon half a line,

nor all your tears erase a single word.

Did the Klingons join the Federation?

  • "Farspace Starbase"? Jan 13 '17 at 6:43
  • I'd say it's best to assume Picard is just being formal with the "Klingon Imperial Empire" to make it clear that this is a highly atypical course destination. And that no one proofread the script for redundant terms. Also First city establishes where to park the ship in geostationary orbit Feb 12 '20 at 21:48

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