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Marc Okrand about Into Darkness

During the preperation of the 12th klingon language meeting in Saarbrücken called qepHom, which took place in november 2013, its teacher Lieven L. Litaer had the opportunity to talk with the inventor of the klingon language, Marc Okrand. He revealed the new words from the movie and gave us an interesting insight in the making of the Klingon dialogues for Star Trek Into Darkness.

Lieven Litaer (LL): Mister Okrand, when a Klingon dialogue is needed in a new movie, do the producers just call you and say something like "We need klingon?"

Marc Okrand (MO): Yepp!

LL: Okay, that was a really short Klingon way of answering a question. Before talking about the latest movie, can you give us the Klingon lines from the 2009 movie?

No, because they were not part of the movie. The lines I gave them were never going to be in the movie. They had many changes during the making of the movie, so when I talked with them after a couple of weeks, I asked "What else do you need?". And the answer was, "Never mind, the lines got cut from the movie completely".

image of Marc Okrand

But Anyway, the stuff I had submitted had no new material, except for one half new word, which was jaSHa', meaning "similarly".

LL: Did it work better with Into Darkness?

There are a lot of new words in Into Darkness. If anyone says they could understand all the Klingon lines in there, they're lying. He can't possibly, because it's filled with new words.

For Into Darkness it was the same procedure as the 2009 movie: they sent me the lines, I made up the Klingon version and sent them back on MP3 files. I was not on the set, there was Britton Watkins who worked with the actors to make sure they pronounced it correctly.

Many months later they called me and said that in the process of editing the film, they had recut that scene so much, that what was there originally didn't make sense any more. So they were making new subtitles. But they knew that people would understand the Klingon so they wanted that the subtitles matched with what Uhura was saying and they wanted me to make a new Klingon dialogue that they could dub in.

quote: All the Klingon scenes had to be redubbed.

It was the same situation as it was thirty years ago in Star Trek III [1984, The search for Spock], except that the first time I did it, I could make up nonsense, because nobody never heard it before. Now, people will understand. I had to come up with new words, but I had to make sure the grammar works.

So they sent me the scene with new subtitles. I had to make new words to match the new meanings and the old mouth movement. That's why there are so many new words.

LL: Where you involved in the Klingon music?

It sounds very cool, but I don't know anything about it. For Star Trek VI [1991, The Undiscovered Country] I did work with the composer for the chanting in Klingon; they sing taH pagh taHbe', and some other things too. For Into Darkness, I never talked to the composer. So I don't know what he was up to.

image of Marc Okrand

LL: Did you work with the actors?

I worked with four actors: with Zoë Saldaña when they redubbed it, but not on the set. I worked with the voiceover actors, the ones who were doing all the shouting and the screaming while the battle is going on. We recorded the same twenty or thirty lines in different voices and different kinds of shouting and then mixed these. But they're not subtitled.

I did not work with that one Klingon who takes of his helmet [Sean Blakemore], they did that on their own. As a result, let's say he comes from a different part of the Klingon planet.

I also worked with one actor in the opening scene with those red trees.

quote: I made up a language which is not there any more.

In the original script, there was this main guy who talks and sings. That's not Klingon, that's something else. But all the singing never made it in the initial cut and the little bit of conversation also got cut out. But I made up a language for that. It's just ... not there any more.

LL: Would you give us the Klingon phrases?

No - I won't do that. But I can give you the words, and then you can figure it out.

image of Marc Okrand

LL: Thanks a lot for talking to us, say hello to Maltz.

MO: You're Welcome. Say hello to everyone at the qepHom!

Lieven has talked with Marc Okrand using Skype on 10 october 2013.