Klingon Scientists Get No Respect

The people of the Planet of Hats can adopt any of a thousand different hats as the one that their society values above all others. However, someone has to put on the "hat-maker" hat for the rest of the society to be able to wear their chosen hat. After all, Klingon warriors will need scientists to design their weapons and starships. Yet, despite making the Planet of Hats possible, the Klingon Scientists Get No Respect because they aren't on the battlefield swinging a bat'leth.

No one wants to know a wizard... until they have a problem. Then it's different
—Max Schreiber, Gotrek and Felix

It's not just a case of where someone takes on a thankless job because Someone Has to Do It, this trope is about culture. The Klingon Scientist is ostracized for having talents outside of what is approved by the culture regardless of them enabling their culture to function how they want it to in the first place. To further rub in the injustice, the Klingon Scientist probably neither believes My Species Doth Protest Too Much nor yearns to be a Cultural Rebel. They may genuinely buy into their culture's values and knowingly choose the thankless job to support their people. That said, the scorn and alienation they experience no doubt tinge their world view into Jade-Colored Glasses.

Despite the name, this trope can be expressed a lot of ways: a warrior culture may disdain the blacksmith who makes their weapons, a society of pure thinkers may consider all engineers menial laborers putting their high thoughts to work, while a people of artists could see those who produce their art materials as unskilled proles (and all of the above can even be reversed!). If this trope is part of An Aesop, then Vetinari Job Security will kick in when the oppressed Hat-Maker takes a holiday.

Examples of Klingon Scientists Get No Respect include:


  • Inverted by the Aiel in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series. They are a warrior society, with their blacksmiths being the people who make their society work. Instead of being ridiculed, the blacksmiths are held in high regard and are protected in battle. When raiding other Aiel septs, harming a blacksmith is unheard of and brings great 'toh' upon yourself. Blacksmiths are also the last to pick up arms in battle with outsiders even though they know how to fight.
  • Larry Niven's Kzinti are like this. A species of felinoid who are NOT naturally gregarious, they can only remain banded together in a civilized state by being obsessed with status and rank (and frequent duels to the death). The shlubs who do whatever work can't be done by slave races are at the absolute bottom of the totem pole.
  • This trope raises its head several times in the Star Trek: Typhon Pact series. Most notably, the Talarian genders have very different social roles, and are liable to underplay the importance of the other gender's work. Given that politics and leadership is a male role, this is most notable and extreme when the male government neglects their people's feminine sphere, leading to unrest in one novella. The Gorn seem to have shades of the same problem; emphasizing the warrior component of their culture and disregarding the equally important non-military aspects. In their case, rather than a gender division it's a matter of caste; the Technologist caste appears to be looked down on by the warriors. As an interesting extension of the idea, the Political Caste seems to have such fear of the warriors' tendency to promote themselves above other Gorn that they've deliberately undercut their power by giving them only a single breeding world.
  • In "Strikebreaker," an Isaac Asimov short story, the man in charge of waste disposal is treated as a pariah, as is his family. How vital he is becomes obvious when he goes on strike demanding to be accepted as a part of normal society.
  • This comes up with the Warrior caste in The Forerunner Saga. The society has ideals of nonviolence, so Warriors are pretty low class, but the Warriors are obviously necessary to save the citizenry from any threats others might pose.
  • Played With in Animorphs—Andalites have a society where males are all supposed to be warriors, but female scientists and artists seem to be highly respected too. There are problems for those like Aldrea who want to step outside their role, but a few years into the war there's an idea that a good warrior should also have rounded skills, and by the main events of the series there are a few female military cadets as well.
  • Averted in Labyrinths of Echo: one of the most hat-heavy nations is Ukkumbi, concerned mainly with the "sea hunt". Generally there are three main tiers of status: pirate captains, common pirates and all those poor souls on the shore barely worth a mention. The exception are the few who become shipwrights - they are treated as demigods. Of course, an Ukkumbian shikka is the fastest ship in the World of Rod. Also, each one is at least somewhat sentient, bound to its captain with blood to the death (captaincy commonly is transferred when a challenger kills the previous captain, spills his blood on the deck, then spills his own on top) and won't go anywhere without the captain. The tradition of building these ships may be tricky.

Live Action TV

  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Suspicions", Ferengi scientist Dr. Reyga who wished to be taken seriously by the scientific community, and also had to fight against his own people's mindset, invents "Metaphasic shielding" and is then murdered. Initially, only Dr. Crusher and a small team of visiting alien scientists realize just how valuable his discovery was. Later Dr. Crusher uses the same metaphasic shields to escape and later defeat the Borg...by hiding in the corona of a Star..
    • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, another Ferengi, Rom, was horrible at business but a skilled engineer and handyman.
      • Seeing the scorn his father went through for not making a profit, despite his skill with machinery, gives Nog the inspiration to sacrifice some of his Ferengi beliefs as he strives towards, and succeeds at, becoming the first Ferengi in Starfleet. He may not make much profit for himself, but he learns to adapt his cultural upbringing (trying to get people what they want, by any means necessary) to the Federation's more open-minded conservative ideology (making sure that his Captain gets exactly what he needs to keep his crew happy and productive and to keep his ship running as well as it can by trading things that they didn't need).
    • Klingons themselves seem to have a case of Depending on the Writer in regard to this trope. Deep Space Nine gives us a (villainous) Klingon Lawyer, who saw the court as his battlefield, and was apparently well regarded for it, as he tells Sisko when Sisko attempts to invoke the trope to rile him up. Worf's grandfather, seen in Star Trek VI, was himself a lawyer, and according to the Expanded Universe gain numerous ranks and honors through his legal acumen (He's a colonel in the film, novels mention he attained the rank of General through his legal kickassery).
    • On the other hand, episodes of Deep Space Nine also features Klingon administrative aids who are looked upon with contempt.
      • Klingons don't really care what you do, as long as you treat it like a fight and find a way to use it to put the hurt on someone. Heck, DS9 features a Klingon restaurant where the owner will play the Klingon accordion to patrons.
      • In Star Trek: Enterprise, a Klingon doctor and medical researcher finds a cure to bioweapon being used dishonorably by his superior. He considers being executed for delivering the cure equivalent to a warrior sacrificing himself to win a great battle. The idea seems to make him very happy.
    • Averted with Leck, a Ferengi "Eliminator" (read: assassin, he "eliminates competition") who's in it for the killing and combat, not the profit. Other Ferengi are too afraid of him to show any disrespect.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise had a Klingon Lawyer represent some of the crew, and he lamented how the Warrior Caste was bullying the rest of the population.
  • Farscape has a few examples. Peacekeepers look down on "techs" as inferior because they spend their time fixing the ships and weapons instead of fighting with them. In on episode a planet called Litagara is featured, which is run by lawyers, the 5% of the population that isn't lawyers are treated as second class citizens.
  • The Big Bang Theory has a running joke about Wolowitz being the only non-Ph.D. in the group. This reaches its peak with:

Doctor Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D.: Engineering: where the noble, semi-skilled laborers execute the vision of those who think and dream. Hello, Oompa Loompas of science!"

    • Of course, Howard does show that he's the only one of them who has, thus far, made tangible contributions to the world.
      • As part of Sheldon's ongoing characterisation as a Straw Vulcan sticky-taped to an Insufferable Genius, these contributions are simply not recognised by Sheldon, thus reinforcing this trope.
  • Todd the Wraith from Stargate Atlantis, who is more akin to a scientist. Unlike other Wraith, he recognises that foolishly gorging on human worlds means their food supply runs out faster and only leads to in-fighting between the Hives. In the last season, Todd even accepts the Atlantis team's help to find a way to rid his people of their dependency on having to feed, being one of the few Wraith to admit that it is a weakness thats impeding their growth as a species. There is a reason why Todd is over 10,000 years old. That said, he is backstabbed by his own people numerous times, either directly or indirectly.

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40,000, Ork Weird Boyz are treated with suspicion by other orks for being... well... weird. Also Storm Boyz, who get tired of being told to do whatever they want all the time and so go looking for a place where they can wear uniforms, march in synch, take orders, and strap huge rockets to their backs (though this discipline fades away as soon as they get a look at the enemy, since they are Orkz.). Then there's Burna Boyz, who like fire. A lot. A lot of Boyz who aren't "orky enuff" are looked at this way by their fellow orks, but they're kept around because they're useful.
    • On the other hand, the actual scientists of the lot (for a given definition of "scientist"), Mekboyz and Painboyz, are respected. A Big Mek can even be a leader, while Mad Doks are one of the few things Orks fear.
    • Also occurs in the Imperium: humans with psychic powers are regarded as abominations but Astropaths are vital for faster-than-light communication through The Warp, and trained psykers can become incredibly powerful assets on the battlefield.
    • Averted with the Tau though, who despite their caste system view every profession with equal respect. In practice, though, the Ethereal leaders are more equal than the others, of course...
  • Aslan in Traveller are a subversion. Females are expected to do all the jobs besides war and politics and esoteric specialties that can be considered related to these, for war and politics are the jobs of the males. All the same, female Aslan get no lower status because of this arrangement.

Video Games

  • Krogan scientists in Mass Effect. So rare that the other races don't even think they're smart enough to have them. In the first game, Urdnot Wrex (himself a Warrior Poet who feels My Species Doth Protest Too Much) sarcastically asks the Player Character when the last time s/he saw a krogan scientist was. In the second game, we actually meet two: Okeer, a warlord whom pretty much every other krogan speaks of with revulsion and disdain (but nevertheless succeeded in creating the most Badass krogan since Wrex himself) and Urdnot Fortack, whom Wrex assigns duties such as medicinal engineering and crop genetics. Fortack laments this by saying that krogan scientists are supposed to make things that explode.
    • The revulsion and disdain for Okeer seems to be less because he's a scientist, and more because other krogan consider the nature of his experiments to be monsterous.
    • Another krogan example from Mass Effect: The krogan mechanic on Tuchanka, who complains that he never gets any respect for what he does, even though everything would fall apart if he wasn't there to fix it. Krogan mechanics working on other worlds do seem to get respect though.
    • The Krogan do at least try to subvert this trope. Their ritual for joining a clan involves extreme danger and requires great warrior skill. However, they acknowledge that not everyone can be a great warrior. So they have a system where a Krogan can seek a warrior as a sponsor (called a "Krant") to help them in the ritual. The idea being that if a warrior says that this non-warrior has something to contribute to the clan, and is willing to fight for him, then the non-warrior must have something to contribute.
    • In a bit of a subtle hint...it's averted in the First Game...Saren has a Krogan Scientist in his employ, but the scientist tragically gets no lines other than pleading with you not to destroy his work.
    • And they aren't exactly out of shape nerds, either. Fortack mentions how he had to kill his predecessor to get his position as Clan Urdnot's scientist, as shown in the page quote.
      • It's implied it was less that he had to kill his predecessor and more that he chose to kill him as part of the same overly belligerent mindset that Wrex is actually striving to change.
    • Krogan shamans and ambassadors avert this significantly. The shamans undergo horrific rites to gain their position, rites that kill many Krogans, and so are worthy of respect. Ambassadors represent the strength of their clan and so must themselves be mighty warriors lest their clan be viewed as weak.
    • The straightest example of this trope actually comes from Mordin, who was recruited into the party for his own scientific expertise. During one conversation about the genophage, if Shepard asks him whether krogan adaptation to it could be because of krogan scientists making a breakthrough, he disdainfully replies that he's never met a krogan scientist worthy of the title.
  • From a Metagame perspective, Newman Fortefighters/Fighmasters and CAST Fortetechers/Masterforces in Phantasy Star Universe.
  • Nords in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim who take up magic. Farengar Secret-Fire, the court mage in Whiterun and Onmund at the College of Winterhold are two who have to put up with this attitude. Onmund has it particularly rough since his own family practically disowned him when he told them he wanted to study magic.
    • Averted with the Restoration school, as warriors do like healers.
    • Redguard Mages were portrayed this way in Oblivion. Trayvond, a student at the mages guild in Cheydinal, lampshades this:

Trayvond: I'm Trayvond the Redguard, Mages Guild Evoker. Surprised? Yes, you don't see many Redguards in the Mages Guild. We don't much like spellcasters in Hammerfell. Wizards steal souls and tamper with minds. If you use magic, you're weak or wicked.

    • The Nords also like using enchanted gear. The College's resident Enchanter is a little irritated by their hypocrisy, but takes comfort in his belief that the College will always be accepted as long as the populace wants magical bling and weapons.
  • The general populace in the Dragon Age games fear mages. But magic is extremely useful, and mages were vital in halting the Qunari's previous crusade. So much so that even the magic-hating Qunari have started putting their own mages to good use.
  • Pretty much any noncombatant is widely disdained by the Aurorans in EV Nova. Ironically, the Auroran house that most fulfills the Proud Warrior Race Guy trope, House Heraan, is also the house that is most likely to avert this trope. That's why they get cool starships like the Argosy and Thunderforge: they actually pay for scientific research.
  • The Quaggan in Guild Wars 2 hate showing their more violent (and uglier) side and frown upon those who aren't ashamed of it and become exceptional fighters as a result, yet their peaceful lifestyle is constantly threatened by their Krait enemies and many more hostile forces that gradually accumulated over time, and they definitely need the help of capable fighters to defend them and guarantee their safety. In their defense, very few Quaggan can remain focused when enraged and refrain from harming their own.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Nilenirans in The Movolreilen Saga extend this to any girl that doesn't complete her training, even if she still becomes a warrior (These warriors that failed their training are called "Secondaries", and make up the bulk of the Nileniran military strength).

Western Animation

  • King of the Hill examines this in certain aspects of Southern US culture. In an episode dealing with rodeos, we see that rodeo clowns (a legitimate part of the act) are mocked and scorned by the cowboys and ranch hands for being utterly useless. In another, Bobby gets a job as towel manager for a football team, to find the athletes and coach (who are revered at school and in the community) are perfectly free to treat him like crap. When Bobby quits, the team's lack of clean towels cost them a win, yet they still blame him for it.

Real Life

  • Janitors, garbage collectors, and occasionally even other unglamorous laborers like plumbers are often regarded as jobs to be avoided, the kind of thing you get stuck doing when what you want to do doesn't work out. However, if any of these groups should go on strike, civilized life tends to grind to a halt as trash piles up in the streets. Just ask these guys.
    • Of course, it isn't at all unusual for the unglamorous plumbers and maintenance workers to be making a lot more money than the average office drone who looks down on them. It may be dirty and highly physical work, but it's also highly skilled labor with a high demand.
      • Not to mention you've got pretty good job security; after all, management doesn't want to take out the trash or sweep the floors.
  • Also true of a number of white-collar jobs. Most people dislike lawyers, politicians, bankers, etc., but very few would want to live in the sort of society that doesn't have them.
    • As lawyers and law students are wont to point out, Shakespeare's famous line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," in Henry IV is not an Evil Lawyer Joke, but rather part of a scheme to create chaos and disorder to allow the villain to establish a tyrannical regime. The same is more or less true of pretty much every kind of widely-disliked white collar profession (politicians, bankers, accountants, bureaucrats...).
  • See: Hard on Soft Science.
  • During Japan's ancient Edo period, artisans were considered to be lower in society than peasants. This in spite of the fact artisans produced many necessary goods, such as clothes, cooking utensils, and woodblock prints. Merchants had it even worse, being considered leeches and parasites of the productive classes and not given much status. Regardless, they garnered so much wealth and prosperity from their activities that their restrictions from the highest classes of Samurai and Daimyo were lessened.
    • This likely had to do with how vital the goods each class produced were: peasant produced food, the most basic of necessities needed to live (also the base of the koku, the main high-value trade unit; one represented enough food to feed one person for a year); artisans created everything else not quite as essential, and merchants produced nothing (except wealth by trade, but feudal Japan, like other feudal societies, had a hard time admitting to themselves how important that was).
  • The people who worked in gutting sheds in Victorian England (mostly women) were often seen as filthy and immoral for working in such bad conditions, even though the pay was very good, especially when compared to the average wage of a worker.
  • Jews in medieval Europe were virtually forced to be moneylenders and bankers, due to laws preventing them from owning land and forbidding non-jews (e.g. christians) to get into these professions due to their perceived immorality. Building an economy without some kind of lending system in place is nearly impossible, but the lenders were almost universally despised. This was likely the start of the Greedy Jew trope.
  • Teachers who work with pre-school aged children are often looked down upon as compared to those who teach older children or adults.
  • Executioners were seen as one of the lowest forms of employment. Which would make sense to those who don't believe in the death penalty. Except that being a judge was of course a high prestige job.