Growing up, the cartoon version of “A Christmas Carol” was always a seasonal favorite of mine. But now I’ve found something better. As they’ve done with many other classics, including the Bible, Shakespeare and Gilgamesh, Trekkies have improved Dickens’ Christmas morality tale by translating it into Klingon.
This is actually the fourth year that “A Klingon Christmas Carol” has been performed in the US. The play is performed by the Commedia Beauregard, a theater group based in St. Paul, Minnesota. This year the performance expanded to Chicago, as well. It is the first and only full-length play ever performed in Klingon, which makes me wonder when someone will get around to performing the Klingon version of Hamlet. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Klingon version of Hamlet.)
Although there are only about 40 fluent Klingon speakers in the world, Christopher O. Kidder, the director and co-writer, explained to the Wall Street Journal that you don’t have to know the language to enjoy the play: “It’s like an opera. You know what’s happening because you already know the story.”
Well, sort of. Klingon culture is so different from human culture that they actually had edit the plot a bit to make it work. Instead of helping “Scrooge” become a kinder, gentler old geezer, the spirits help the cowardly Klingon main character get in touch with his inner warrior and rediscover his lost honor. If your Klingon is a little rusty, don’t worry- there are English subtitles also.
So, how well does this work? Scotty Zacher of the Chicago Theater blog calls it “surprisingly successful,” saying:
“I’m not qualified to comment on how good the translation is — they could be repeating “inka binka” for all I know — but the show works well on many levels. A broad acting style, coupled with the unknown language and mask-like makeup give the show an intriguing similarity to Kabuki, the traditional Japanese theatrical genre. The adapted story fits into that convention as well. It’s convincingly foreign and yet familiar. Kevin Alves shines as SQuja’, the Scrooge character, cringing and ducking and crawling under tables.”
To give you a feel for how Dickens translates to Klingon, here are a few Christmas Carol-related Klingon words:
baQa’ (pronounced Bakka): Humbug
tImHom (pronounced Teem chome): Tiny Tim
Squja : Scrooge