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Special effects makeup artist Glenn Hetrick, creature designer Neville Page and actress Mary Chieffo talk to USA TODAY’s Bill Keveney about transforming actors into Klingons in ‘Star Trek: Discovery.’
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — In Star Trek: Discovery, the Klingons stand out for the richness, detail and variety of their appearance. 

As with real species, the latest depiction of the Star Trek aliens didn’t happen by accident. Think of it as evolution via producers,  makeup and design experts teaming up for the first Star Trek series in a dozen years, which premiered Sunday and is now available weekly on CBS All Access.

MORE: 5 things to know about ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

During an exclusive USA TODAY visit to Alchemy Studios, where Klingons and other Discovery aliens are created, Glenn Hetrick, a creature and makeup effects designer for the series, and creature and concept designer Neville Page — joined by Mary Chieffo, who plays Klingon battle deck commander L’Rell — explain how they explored form and function in designing the warrior species, which has had wildly varying appearances during a half-century of TV shows and films.

MORE: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ review

First, “respect the canon and the franchise. The Klingons need to look like Klingons.” And yet, Page says, “I thought this was a good opportunity to expand on it. The Klingons have ridges on their heads for a reason. What is that reason?”

Page and Hetrick, with former executive producer  Bryan Fuller, imagined biological reasons for the Klingons’ appearance, with bony, protruding foreheads — especially among males — explained as the result of head-butting; and bald heads, arrayed with ridges and a long line of python-like sensory pits running from forehead down the back of the head, thought of as one large sensory organ. 

“That was born out of Bryan saying he wanted them to be able to see, quite literally, behind themselves,” says Page (Star Trek films, Avatar). 

The prosthetics and…