General Martok, the head of the Klingon House of Martok, was the most prominently featured Klingon in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) other than Lieutenant Commander Worf. The character’s first appearance on the show was in the episode “The Way of the Warrior.” He was the leader of the Klingon faction stationed at the wormhole to fight the Dominion forces.
Martok and his crew became regular fixtures on the show as the Klingons helped the Federation and Bajoran provisional government repel attacks from the Dominion. During his time at the station, Martok and Worf developed a very close relationship, essentially becoming brothers. Eventually, Martok invited Worf to become part of the House of Martok, cementing their familial relationship.
Martok’s proficiency in battle was legendary in the Klingon Empire and beyond. After multiple victories in the Dominion War, the Klingon Chancellor, Gowron, became nervous that Martok would overthrow him. Gowron took over the leadership of the Klingon forces at the wormhole and forced Martok into some embarrassing defeats. However, Martok’s spirits didn’t flag and remained loyal to Gowron.
Eventually, it was clear that Gowron’s actions were a threat to the Empire, so Worf challenged his leadership. During their battle, Worf killed Gowron, and instead of taking the chancellorship he’d won, he bestowed it on Martok. So, Martok became the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire and appointed Worf the Federation ambassador to the Klingon homeworld Qo’noS.
Martok was Brought to Life by J.G. Hertzler
Hertzler started his acting career in the 1960s, but it didn’t really take off until the 1990s. In 1991, he landed a major recurring role as Alcalde Ignacio de Soto on the popular show Zorro. After that, he got several guest roles on other popular shows before landing his first part on Star Trek.
Hertzler played a Vulcan before he became a Klingon. In the very first episode of DS9, he played a Vulcan captain who spent some time on the space station. As Hertzler told StarTrek.com, he was delighted for the role not only because he got to be on Star Trek, but also because he got to work with Patrick Stewart.
After that, Hertzler auditioned for Star Trek more than a dozen more times, but he never won any of the roles. He’d actually given up acting for the Trek-verse when he heard about the casting call for Martok. The casting director for DS9 saw him outside the studio one day, after an audition for something completely different, and invited him to read for the role of Martok. After a very odd audition, during which Hertzler threw a chair so hard it stuck in the wall and ripped off half a thumbnail, Hertzler finally won his way back into the Trek universe.
Initially, Martok was only supposed to be in a couple of episodes. However, the producers decided that they wanted to flesh out Worf’s character by giving him a close friend. They were so impressed with Hertzler’s performance that they decided to make him a recurring character.
As a Klingon, Hertzler spent quite a bit of time in the hair, makeup, and costume departments. In a panel at Central PA Comic-Con in 2014, Hertzler told fans exactly what it was like to become a Klingon. He said the makeup and hair alone took about four hours. Hertzler said he had to arrive at the Paramount lot at four in the morning. The only other people at work that early were the gate person and his makeup team.
He had several latex prosthetics that had to be glued onto his face. As seen in the video above, once the prosthetics were on, intricate makeup was applied to blend them in. Hertzler also revealed that his costume required not one, but two wigs, which had to be blended in with the makeup as well.
Hertzler said that the Klingon costumes were almost as intense as the makeup. He likened them to football uniforms, saying that the shoulder pads were essentially the same. However, the costume, which was made almost completely of leather and neoprene, was much heavier than a football uniform. Hertzler told the audience that once he got into the costume he couldn’t “do any normal human functions.” The costume was so unwieldy that he couldn’t get it off or on without major effort.
Working in the costume and full makeup was difficult, especially during the long days on set. Hertzler revealed that he’d once done a 22-hour day of filming. Though he said the Klingon actors never cared because they got paid extra to work such long days.
Though becoming Martok was a grueling process, Hertzler has said countless times how much he loved being part of the Star Trek universe. He’s still a regular fixture at Trek conventions, often alongside fellow Klingon actor, Robert O’Reilly.