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I've been re-watching Enterprise and there are 2 episodes that contradict each other:

In season 4 (ep6) one of the augments say:

PERSIS: I've disabled the internal sensors. It should be some time before anyone notices one of the escape pods is missing. (Soong climbs in.)

SOONG: Be careful, he might suspect you. (He kisses her hand, she closes the hatch and the little pod drops into space as the bird of prey warps away.)

but in season 1 (ep14)

HOSHI: What about escape pods?

REED: I don't know about the structural integrity of Klingon escape pods. My guess is we're better off in here.

T'POL: It's irrelevant, Lieutenant. Klingons don't use escape pods. It would be considered an act of cowardice to abandon ship.

So the question is do the Klingons use escape pods or not? as these 2 episodes seem to completely contradict each other

I am discounting the 'K'Vort-type escape pod' from DS9 as it seems to be a result of the Dominion war rather than a standard feature.

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    In "Sleeping Dogs" the crew is relying mainly on Vulcan scientific records rather than any direct experience with Klingons. This would be the same Vulcan science directorate that says time travel is impossible... – Cadence Nov 20 at 23:47
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    There's also a difference between a ship not having escape pods, and and the crew just not using them. They could be there, but the Klingons might be unwilling to use them. That would resolve the contradiction in the quotes, but it begs the obvious question of why bother installing them if no one will use them. – Alarion Nov 21 at 0:16
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    @Alarion I could see the Klingon High Command and the heads of the KDF deciding that a warrior who survives is more of an asset than one who died with honor. But it's like putting seatbelts on a school bus: no one wants to be ridiculed for using them. – Shawn V. Wilson Nov 21 at 15:52
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    Klingons might use escape pods outside of combat: "Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. I went to him and asked what he was doing. "I am not afraid," the man said. "I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me." I honored his choice and went inside. The next day, the storm came, and the man was killed. The wind does not respect a fool" ~ Kahless, TNG S06E23 "Rightful Heir" – Chronocidal Nov 22 at 1:20
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    @Alarion when a Klingon’s mission is do deliver a freight or important person, there might be honor in putting it or them into an escape pod while staying at the ship and holding the enemy until the escape pod reached a safe target. We could also see it that way: there is no honor in staying at the ship when you have no choice. Staying at the ship and keep fighting when you could have used an escape pod instead, is another thing. – Holger Nov 22 at 8:33
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This is addressed in the Klingon Bird of Prey Owners' Workshop Manual. In short, Klingon vessels do have escape pods that can be used when the ship is on the verge of destruction and the escaping crew have no more purpose being on the ship.

Contrary to popular belief Birds-of-Prey are routinely fitted with escape pods. The Klingon’s willingness to die in battle should not be confused with a death wish. In the words of Kahless, it is better to win a war than to lose a battle gloriously. This is not to say that Klingons use escape pods lightly. In fact, a Bird-of-Prey is equipped with only enough escape pods for 24 people, two thirds of a standard crew and there are strict conventions governing their use.

In combat, the ship must already have sustained heavy casualties and there must be no realistic prospect of the ship itself surviving. The classic scenario envisioned by the Klingon Defense Force, at least ten crewmembers will have been lost and the ship must be in imminent danger of being destroyed or boarded. In this situation, the ideal tactic is to program the computers to ram the nearest enemy vessel while the surviving crewmembers use the escape pods

The intention behind warriors using the escape pods is for warriors to survive to fight again, not to be taken prisoner, so in order to prevent the pods being retrieved by the enemy, they are fitted with a small matter/anti-matter charge that can be activated by the pod's users if it is tractored or beamed into an enemy ship. The resulting explosion has a far lower yield than a photon torpedo, but sufficient to likely damage a ship. If the occupants are beamed straight out of the escape pod the primary duty is to to return to the fight so they will allow themselves to be taken prisoner. Suicide is not considered an honorable option as long as there are enemies still to fight or hope of escape. If the Bird-of-Prey is not in combat and has suffered a catastrophic systems failure such as a warp-core breach, a serious radiation leak or a life-support failure, then it is acceptable for everyone except the engineering staff to use the escape pods. The engineers are expected to stay on board until the last moment doing everything possible to save their ship. The Klingons reason that a serious malfunction must be the engineers’ fault. If they can remedy it then they deserve to live; if they cannot it is right for them to die. No engineer who allowed his ship to suffer such a serious malfunction that it was destroyed would ever be allowed to serve on a Klingon ship again, and most Klingon engineers would rather die than suffer the humiliation of abandoning a malfunctioning ship

The pods themselves are designed to accommodate two people, and can provide life support for a total of 18 days for two or 36 days for one. They are fitted with a small impulse engine that uses a fusion reaction to propel the escape pod away from the ship. The engine has enough fuel to fire a second time to send the pod into the atmosphere of a nearby planet. The shielding is sufficient for the pod to survive re-entry. The pod is fitted with RCS thrusters that allow for some manoeuvrability but otherwise it is at the mercy of solar currents. Every pod is fitted with a subspace transceiver that starts automatically transmitting a short-range distress signal as soon as it is launched. This can be deactivated by the occupants if they are concerned about attracting enemy attention. The pod also carries a supply pack that consists of emergency rations, a hand disrupter and a d'k tahg. The subspace transmitter can be removed and turned into a portable unit and the thrusters can be converted to heaters.

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    @DavidW - Soooooo many OCR fails. I thought I'd got them all, but evidently not. – Valorum Nov 21 at 19:04
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    It's really hard; there's a point where you've see enough of them your brain starts trying to help you out by fixing what you're reading. When I was 2nd-round proofing on distributed proofreaders there were always things that slipped through. – DavidW Nov 21 at 19:18
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    "The engineers are expected to stay on board until the last moment doing everything possible to save their ship." That's so klingonian – BlueWizard Nov 22 at 22:12
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While I'm not sure about 22nd-Century vessels, later Klingon vessels did indeed have escape pods. During The Dominion War (specifically in DS9 S07E17 "Penumbra"), Worf spent several days adrift in an escape pod launched from the IKS Rotarran.

The comment about Klingons actually using escape pods, however, may be accurate. Use of an escape pod would be limited to very specific situations in which survival was still considered honorable, such as your ship being destroyed due to a natural event (plasma storm or something), rather than combat.

  • +1 but I dismissed that example in the question as it was destroyed in combat (and other Klingon's tried to evacuate too, the damage was honorable so no need to evacuate. Its also possible the Federation convinced them to retrofit the ships as they did by getting them to change attack strategy. Either way that ship seems to be the exception. Plus it was a cargo ship so it would be easy to add pods in the cargo sections to make it battle ready – Matt Nov 21 at 0:55
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"Do Klingon ships have escape pods?"

"Yes, it's where we keep the cleaning supplies."

  • Old joke, my wording, original source unknown to me

Any answer is going to be heavily era, source material and ship class dependent.


TV & MOVIES

Enterprise tv show - Klingon escape pods exist, they are used

You have noted in your question that in Enterprise there appears to be conflict. In ENT 2.25 and 4.06, Enterprise rescues people in Klingon pods, one Klingon, one human.

In 1.14, it is noted that at least some small Klingon ships don't carry escape pods.

Star Trek (original) tv and films, Star Trek Animated - no information either way

In film and tv media through the '60s through '80s, I don't recall any mention of a Klingon escape pod and haven't found any references they exist.

Deep Space Nine - Klingon escape pods exist, a Klingon once used one for its intended purpose, their acoustics are very good for Klingon opera

There was one in 1999/2000 in DSN 7.17 as noted in another answer. The Klingon was Worf, and I think he was the one who said they had good acoustics. This doesn't definitively tell us that Klingons used escape pods--for anything other than singing--but given the often utilitarian nature of Klingon equipment, it doesn't seem likely that Klingon ships would have them if their only purpose was "plot device" or "let Star Fleet officers survive" especially as ship designs often predated alliance with the Federation.

Voyager, Next Generation - no information

I haven't found any reference to Klingon escape pods.


PRINT MEDIA

FASA RPG - inconclusive that they exist and are used but plausible

No escape pods are shown on the D7 blueprints released by role playing game publisher FASA.

  • given the size of a D7, lack of space is unlikely to be an in-universe reason for omission which would suggest escape pods don't exist and aren't used.
  • Unfortunately, this is not definitive because:
    • the FASA Enterprise deck plans also omit escape pods.
    • A large Federation ship like Enterprise lacking escape pods is seriously at odds with our expectations for a Federation vessel, so much so that we have to regard the omission as an error.

The Klingon Ship Recognition manual notes that the D7 command pod (the bit at the front of the boom including the main bridge) existed as a form of life boat that could be jetisonned and which could keep the crew in it alive for a year. (The deck plans shows engines at the rear of the boom, not the pod, which is at odds with its described ability to propel itself.)

  • This is repeated for several Klingon ships.
  • Escape pods are not mentioned.
    • But that they have a mechanism to detach a life boat section says that escape pods aren't inconceivable.
  • Klingons value personal survival.

Allied with the notion of conflict as a positive experience is the basic need for survival. ... Common beliefs [held by Federation citizens] notwithstanding, the typical Klingon does not fight and die simply for the sheer sport of it.

"Klingon Psychology", Klingon Intelligence Manual, FASA

Especially following the emergence of The Next Generation, FASA's Klingon innovations, largely inspired by the novels of John Ford, and the rest of the FASA work was ignored or altered and--if you happen to believe that Paramount or CBS or whoever can declare things to be canon--declared non-canon.

Star Trek John M Ford Klingon novels - Klingon escape pods might exist, if they do they are used though sometimes their use may arouse suspicion

“We have one who is not forgotten,” Krenn said. “His name was Kahless. When his ship was dying, he had his hand bound to his Chair, that no one could say he left it, or that another had been in the Chair at the ship’s death. Then all his crew could escape without suspicion, because Kahless had taken on all the ship’s destiny.

The Final Reflection, John M Ford

The above states that Klingons escaping a crippled ship was completely acceptable to them if someone stayed behind. That it was "without suspicion" indicates that other times crew might escape with suspicion--but that's still escaping.

A careful skim through the book tells me that that passage is the whole of all mentions of Kahless in the novel besides using his name as an oath "Kahlesste kaase" (Kahless's hand).

Other sources (notably FASA) say Kahless died in battle but there's no indication in the novel of where the battle took place but it was before transporters were used.

  • Kahless is considered to have died long before the novel is set (at least two centuries before the Five Year Mission).
  • The novel relates events just before Kirk is born.
  • In the novel, transporters are so new that the Klingons don't know:
    • if the Federation have yet invented them (they haven't), or
    • if the Federation has learned that the Klingons have.

As it was a "dying ship", and assuming it was during a battle, it doesn't seem likely that:

  • the ship landed on a planet so the crew could disembark or
  • there was time for other ships to dock (not that it seems likely Kahless died while he had allied ships around anyway, it seems like a one-Klingon heroic last stand).

There aren't enough shuttles on ships to carry the entire crew complement,

  • but there may have been heavy casualties so only a few shuttles were needed.

Shuttles or escape pods are the most likely means of escape. Escape may arouse suspicion (cowardice? waste of resources?) normally but this tells us that escape was an option, even if one generally frowned upon.

ADB Star Fleet Battles - Klingon escape pods exist, they are used

In Star Fleet Battles, there are four Klingon Fast Attack Ships. It is standard for fast attack ships to have escape pods.

Last Unicorn Games RPG - Klingon escape pods exist, they are used

Yes, Klingon ships of the TNG and TOS era were listed as having four-Klingon escape pods, enough for all the crew I think.


I reget not having had the Klingon Bird of Prey Owners' Workshop Manual at hand when I started this yesterday but since I have extensively added to and reformatted I'd ask you to please see the accepted answer for details, the short version of which is: "exist and used".


OTHER

Fandom - Don't exist, or, Exist but not used for escaping

According to some fans and a trope website (looked for it to reference but couldn't find it again), many fans say they don't exist because they're non-Klingon, Klingons would rather perish in battle. My comic answer at the start which says they aren't used as escape pods is a joke that arose sometimes in the 90s at latest, again the idea being that escape pods are un-Klingon.

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There is no contradiction between those quotes.

The second one only tells us that Klingons don't use escape pods (as a matter of course), not that their ships do not possess any.

The first one confirms that their ships possess escape pods, as they can't be missing the one Soong took if there were none to take.

I will also add that T'Pol couldn't possibly be an expert on every aspect of Klingon culture and it is possible that she was simply wrong, or out of date, anyway.

Counterpoint: Starfleet officers tended not to use the transporter in the early days, but Enterprise still possessed one capable of organic transport.

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    Counter counterpoint: They didn't avoid Enterprise's transporter out of personal distaste, but because it was genuinely unproven technology. It beamed that one redshirt back with leaves embedded in his skin! – Cadence Nov 21 at 18:25
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    @Cadence Counter counter counterpoint: The Klingons had simply never used an escape pod before, which were thus genuinely unproven technology. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 21 at 21:16

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