Montréal-based voice and dialect coach Rea Nolan has been helping out the Star Trek: Discovery cast all season – from helping British actors Jason Isaacs and Shazad Latif dial in their American accents, to working with Ken Mitchell and Mary Chieffo to master the art of the Klingon language – and recently she had a nice conversation with CBC Radio host Mike Finnerty about her role on the show.

NOLAN: Klingon is one aspect of the job; teaching the actors who are playing the roles to intone the language. We have a translator who is actually a fabulous Klingon speaker – she’s from Canada, she’s from Vancouver – Robyn Stewart, she is considered to be one of the best Klingon speakers walking and talking today.

The language was developed by linguist Marc Okrand, and people who were interested in it just sort of took it and ran with it. Eventually established what’s called the Klingon Language Institute, and Robin is an active member of that Institute. She does the translations. She gave me an in-depth intensive in the linguistic structure; I read the works of Marc Okrand, and it’s now my job to sort of be the interpreter between the written word and what the actors intone.

Your voice is basically muscles moving breath, so the way you move your muscles informs how you sound. It’s unconscious. We spend a lot of energy in early life trying to figure it out. But it very quickly becomes what we call second nature, you don’t think about it.

[Regarding Klingon], some people are natural born talents and other people really have to work at it. “What do you mean, ‘How is my tongue moving?'” So you do specific exercises to get them aware. I might choose a consonant that’s articulated at the back of the tongue, like ‘ga-ga-ga,’ or at the front of the mouth like ‘da-da-da,’ and you know, just even doing those simple things… if you can really feel into how you’re moving your tongue that helps.

Nolan’s entire interview (above) runs about ten minutes, and is a very interesting listen, also touching on working with Isaacs and Latif on their character’s American accents for the show.

A further exploration of Nolan and Stewart’s contribution to the Klingon language aspects of Star Trek: Discovery can also be found in this recent MarketWatch report.

Keep coming back to TrekCore for more Star Trek: Discovery news!

Novel #1:
"Desperate Hours"

Novel #2:
"Drastic Measures"

Novel #3:
"Fear Itself"

  • Thomas Elkins

    It doesn’t sound easy, especially for the Klingons. Their makeup and false teeth make it sound like they’re constantly chewing marshmallows while they read their lines.

    • Its not the teeth, if it was you would see it in English, which you do not.

      • Thomas Elkins

        I still think they sound a little muffled, even when speaking English. It might not sound as bad, but doesn’t sound natural either. Klingons should sound like this…

        • They sound like TMP klingons, this is how it was meant to sound. I agree it could be faster, but this was the way it was designed to sound. And they spoke at the same pace in English, they same “stilted” style.

        • Quintillion Tesla

          Captain Klaa is probably my favourite Klingon – and I love how naturalistically he delivered his lines.

          • Thomas Elkins

            Exactly and he can actually emote. He sounds authoritative, bored and excited all in one scene. Because of the way the Discovery Klingons are muffled, they often come off as super monotone. It makes the Klingon scenes incredibly dull, IMO.

    • pittrek

      I would say it’s the fault of the really badly designed make-up. It looks like they have a physical problem to speak. The 24th century Klingons never sounded like that, they did have the fake teeth too, but they had the lower half of their faces free.

  • Locutus

    While I could do without all the spoken Klingon, I appreciate the effort and work that is going into making them truly alien. I will admit though that when the universal translator kicked in last night, I was like FINALLY!

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    • GIBBS v2

      Bingo. It would be more palatable if they spouted it faster. I’m like come on, cooooome on…

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  • Tone

    Sorry, but as far as the actors speaking Klingon is concerned, it’s bloody terrible to……speak……like……this……all……the……damned……time…

    They totally dropped the ball with the so called Klingons in this so called Trek series. Every aspect of them has been butchered.

    But saying all this, this latest episode actually felt to me like I was watching Star Trek for the first time in years. I won’t hold my breath for it to continue though. This series has been all over the map so far, good and bad, mostly bad.

  • Scott Gultz

    Discovery has been a great disappointment thus far. I have been looking forward to a new Trek series for over a decade, but what we finally received bear’s little resemblance to Star Trek. I’m also tired of the argument of episodic television vs. serialized television. Babylon 5 and the last seasons of Deep Space Nine pulled off serialization brilliantly. I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. With Discovery, I feel like they are doing it because they think they’re cool and more intelligent than the viewership (which in fairness in 2017 may be true). This show needs to start felling like Star Trek. I want to give a damn about the characters, but honestly at this point I don’t. Stop with the PC nonsense and focus on good story-telling that feels like the Trek universe. This feels like the J-verse with Trek references thrown in for the “fans”.

    • SpaceCadet

      What “PC nonsense” are you referring to?

      Serialization is par the course for modern television and the most successsful series on TV and streaming are serialized, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, House of Cards, etc. It’s largely what the viewership wants and yet I’d say Discovery hasn’t pulled of episodic stories within the larger arc of the war.

      This show doesn’t feel like Star Trek? The discovery of the spore drive and tardigrades, first contact with the Parvans, the multiple universes, the time loop episode – none of that feels like Star Trek to you?

      • A_Warrior_of_Marley

        I’m also curious about what sort of things make DSC “PC nonsense” and how the series doesn’t “focus on good storytelling”. It seems to me that since before this series aired or even was deep in production, some people have been trying to force the show into a PC Propaganda Box.

        Midnight’s Edge, for example, in attempting to score another coup with predicting a movie/show’s demise, went down this route, and we’ve seen how that worked out for them. Now all they’ve done is try to double and triple down on this narrative rather than admit that they were wrong.

  • Jason Isaacs’ American accent is really impressive. I don’t know how much of that is due to Ms. Nolan and how much to Mr. Isaacs, but well done!