Gorkon was the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council in 2293. In this capacity, he notably pursued peaceful relations between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets. He was murdered just prior to the start of the Khitomer Conference, however. Only a full explanation of a conspiracy behind his murder allowed for successful negotiation of the Khitomer Accords, which eventually normalized relations between the two governments after years of hostility.
In 2293, the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis forced the Klingon Empire to reassess its position towards the United Federation of Planets, as the Empire simply could no longer afford to maintain its massive military budget and deal with the devastating effects of the explosion on its economy. Gorkon approached the Federation via Captain Spock and opened negotiations that would see the military outposts on both sides of the Klingon Neutral Zone dismantled and a new alliance forged between the two cold war enemies.
Gorkon's peace initiatives were met with open arms by the Federation Council, but there were those on both sides who objected. A plot was forged between individuals associated with the Federation, the Romulan Empire, and even General Chang, Gorkon's chief of staff. Gorkon traveled to rendezvous with the USS Enterprise-A aboard his flagship, Kronos One, and attended a formal dinner aboard the Enterprise with Captain Kirk and his crew. While there, Gorkon expressed his hope for the future – which he termed "the undiscovered country" – and for peace between the Empire and the Federation.
Gorkon was back aboard Kronos One when, later that evening, the vessel was disabled by two photon torpedoes. They were fired by an experimental Bird-of-Prey which was under the command of General Chang and had the unique ability to fire while cloaked. As Kronos One drifted out-of-control, two mysterious assassins from the Enterprise beamed aboard, their faces hidden by helmets they wore. The fact that Kronos One was crippled by a lack of artificial gravity made it easy for the intruders, equipped with gravity boots, to systematically kill Klingons en route to the Chancellor. Indeed, they were able to easily injure a floating and defenseless Gorkon with a phaser shot to the chest, mortally wounding him. After Kronos One had restored power, Captain Kirk and Doctor Leonard McCoy beamed aboard to provide medical assistance. McCoy attempted to resuscitate Gorkon and was able to briefly bring him back to consciousness. With his dying breath, Gorkon motioned for Kirk to approach him, pleading, "Don't let it end this way, captain." In the wake of his death, Gorkon's daughter, Azetbur, was elevated to the position of Chancellor. She continued to champion her father's ideals of peace, even in the face of resistance from her own cabinet. The conspiracy was eventually uncovered by the crew of the Enterprise, enabling the continuation of the peace talks.
During his lifetime, Gorkon owned a bone cane and a silvery necklace that he occasionally wore, the latter of which was inherited by Azetbur when she succeeded him as Chancellor. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
|Leaders of the Klingon Empire|
|Emperors||Kahless I • Reclaw I • Reclaw II • Sompek • Mur'Eq • Kahless II|
|Chancellors||2151 Chancellor • 2153 Chancellor • M'Rek • Mow'ga • Gorkon • Azetbur • K'mpec • Gowron • Worf • Martok|
Gorkon's name was devised by Denny Martin Flinn. (audio commentary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) DVD) It was crafted as a blending of the surnames of Mikhail Gorbachev and Abraham Lincoln. (; audio commentary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (2009 DVD)) Flinn and director Nicholas Meyer initially worried that the thinly-veiled allusion to Gorbachev was too "on the nose," but they ultimately found that these concerns were uncorroborated by audience reaction. (audio commentary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) DVD) Meyer later referred to Gorkon as being "as close as Denny dared come to the name Gorbachev." (The View from the Bridge - Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood, hardcover ed., p. 203) Gorkon's personality was also based on Gorbachev. "For sure, Gorbachev was the model," Meyer emphasized. ("The Perils of Peacemaking", Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Blu-ray/Special Edition) DVD) According to Make-Up Department Head Ken Myers, the director additionally wanted Gorkon's actual motives to be somewhat vague. "He wanted there to be uncertainty about Gorkon's true intentions. Did he want peace, or was something sinister in his mind?" (Cinefex No. 49, p. 50)
Another facet of the character that was conceived by Nick Meyer was Gorkon's assassination. ("The Perils of Peacemaking", Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Blu-ray/Special Edition) DVD) Speaking of himself and Denny Martin Flinn, Meyer recalled, "We had created Gorkon and then, in effect, extrapolating from what we read in the newspapers or saw on television, [we] imagined his likely fate." (The View from the Bridge - Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood, hardcover ed., p. 224)
In the screenplay for Star Trek VI, Gorkon is described as "tall, splendidly barbaric." The script also shows that his dying words were originally to have been asking Kirk, "Are you all right?" 
Casting and physical presence
It would not have been seemly possible for such an eminent politician as Gorkon to be clad in the military attire of an ordinary Klingon warrior. Partly due to this (and also because there was not enough Klingon uniforms already available for the entire film), Costume Designer Dodie Shepard especially designed a set of new Klingon uniforms for Gorkon and his staff. (text commentary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) DVD) One aspect of Gorkon's backstory was intended to be implied by a certain prop; his bone cane was meant to be from a form of vicious animal he had once killed. (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 128)
Leonard Nimoy, the actor who regularly played Spock and who served as one of Star Trek VI's co-writers, was in agreement with Nick Meyer over the casting requirements for the part of Gorkon. Noted Meyer, "Nimoy [...] saw the logic of a name actor of talent and presence to play Gorkon." (The View from the Bridge - Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood, hardcover ed., p. 211) Jack Palance was Nick Meyer's original choice for the role. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 141) However, Palance proved to be extremely costly to hire as well as slightly hesitant to accept the part. (Star Trek Movie Memories, p. 297) David Warner was ultimately cast in the role and, being an acquaintance of Nick Meyer, he did not have to audition for it.  Stated co-producer Steven-Charles Jaffe, "There were some people we wanted that we couldn't afford. In the long run, it may have actually worked out for the best, because I think David Warner is extraordinary in the movie, which would have been totally different from Jack Palance." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 22, No. 5, p. 48; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 141) Fellow co-producer Ralph Winter likewise commented, "David Warner does a great job for us [...] and he fit the role." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 22, No. 5, p. 38)
It was Nick Meyer's intention that Gorkon physically resemble Abraham Lincoln. "When I started to work with David Warner on his characterization as Gorkon," remembered Meyer, "that's when I got this Lincolnesque idea of making him look like Lincoln in some way." ("The Perils of Peacemaking", Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Blu-ray/Special Edition) DVD) This concept was addressed by the character's makeup design. (The Art of Star Trek, p. 264) Richard Snell – who designed and fabricated the film's Klingon, Vulcan and Romulan prosthetics – offered, "Nick told me, 'When people look at Gorkon, I want their brain cells to go, 'Abe Lincoln!' The resemblance is almost subliminal." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 22, No. 5, p. 34) Captain Ahab was another, less powerful influence on how Nick Meyer wanted the character to look. (audio commentary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) DVD; Cinefex No. 49, p. 50) "Incorporating those two images was really genius on his part," enthused Ken Myers. The makeup design reflected the director's desire that Gorkon's allegiances be not immediately apparent. "From his appearance, it was impossible to tell whether he was friend or foe," observed Myers. "Subliminally, there were aspects of both." Due to the lengthy duration it took to apply the makeup for Azetbur, Myers was forced to hand over his other assignment, the prosthetics for Gorkon, to Margaret Bessara. (Cinefex No. 49, p. 50)
David Warner found that playing Gorkon was fairly easy and that the combination of influences between Abraham Lincoln and Gorbachev was "the fun thing" about the role. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 118, p. 66) Though Warner had known next to nothing about Klingons before portraying Gorkon, another factor that attracted him to the role was the chancellor's rare Klingon benevolence. "He wasn't the evil master Klingon; he was actually trying to make peace [....] So he was a good Klingon, I suppose," Warner mused. "And, of course, he suffered because of that."  Despite normally having to arrive as early as 3 a.m. to have his makeup applied (prior to a regular shooting start of 10 a.m.), Warner did not feel that the makeup had any relevance to the way he played the character. He also didn't believe that the mixture of historical figures embodied in the role effected his performance. "That didn't alter the dialogue or anything," he said. (Star Trek Magazine issue 153, p. 47)
David Warner recognized that the role was not a particularly large one, stating, "I just sat there for one scene and then got killed! [....] In a way he's a kind of device. Which is fine – I don't have a problem with that. It's exposition, setting it all up." (Star Trek Magazine issue 153, p. 47) On the other hand, Nick Meyer theorized, "If the movie had been a biography of Gorkon, you might have witnessed the evolution of his thinking, the emancipation of his mind." ("The Perils of Peacemaking", Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Blu-ray/Special Edition) DVD)
Gorkon's ability to be forward-thinking was elemental in the portrayal of the character. "With David Warner as Gorkon," Nick Meyer recalled, "I said, 'Picture yourself as the only man with imagination in this room. The other people are flat, boring. They don't know what's going on. They can't, you know, think around corners.'" ("The Perils of Peacemaking", Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Blu-ray/Special Edition) DVD)
Stuntman Greg Gault filled in for David Warner during the stunt scene and several second unit and insert shoots. (Star Trek VI - 2nd Unit Shooting Schedule)
Among the costumes which were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay were Warner's costume,  his distressed costume,  his gauntlets,  and Greg Gault's costume.  Gorkon's necklace was sold at Christie's 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction.  At least one of the Gorkon distressed costumes ended up in the possession of Star Trek collector Brett Leggett, who said of the outfit, "This is a neat piece, you know, very aesthetically, displays well." ("Collecting Star Trek's Movie Relics", Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Blu-ray/2009 DVD))
In the Star Trek: Vanguard novels (set at the beginning of Kirk's five-year mission), Gorkon is a member of the Klingon High Council. He is described as an ex-battle fleet general and an expert with a Klingon war club. It is unclear whether he suffers from the augment virus like most Klingons seen during the TOS series era.
In the DS9 novel Warpath and the Star Trek: Mirror Universe novel The Sorrows of Empire, it is revealed that his mirror universe counterpart was the Regent of the Klingon Empire from 2288 until at least 2295 and that he was responsible for the formation of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance which conquered the Terran Republic, the successor state of the Terran Empire, in 2295.
In the PC video game Star Trek: Klingon Academy, Gorkon and Chang's relationship before the events of Star Trek VI are shown. In that depiction of their acquaintance, Gorkon is the chief of staff for Chancellor Lorak (Lorak at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works) and Chang is shown as trying to prevent the ascendancy of his friend, Gorkon, to the chancellorship, because of the danger Gorkon would make peace with the Federation.
The Star Trek VI novelization establishes that Gorkon expected something to happen to him during the peace mission to the Federation and so therefore used his influence with his supporters on the High Council to make sure that they would install Azetbur as his successor. It is hinted that he suspected such an attempt in the movie; when Kronos One was being "attacked" by the Enterprise, he ordered someone to find Chang, hinting that he suspected Chang of being part of this betrayal.
In "Mirrored, Part 1", an issue of IDW Publishing's Star Trek comic, a Gorkon from the alternate reality's mirror universe following the Terran defeat of the Klingons. Gorkon prefers to be executed than to be enslaved, so Sulu decapitates him. This Gorkon is depicted with green skin and a helmet based on the prison guards in deleted scenes from Star Trek.
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