STAR TREK: DISCOVERY’S DOUG JONES ON THE BA’UL, THE RED ANGEL, AND TAKING THE CAPTAIN’S CHAIR
The Saru actor contemplates how the latest episode has affected his character
Doug Jones’ Saru took center stage in Star Trek: Discovery’s latest episode, “The Sound of Thunder,” as the Kelpien first officer returned to his homeworld to face his peoples’ long legacy of oppression under the heel of the scary predators known as the Ba’aul.
The story followed on recent developments for Saru which saw him lose his “threat ganglia” as he evolved beyond what he, and his fellow Kelpiens, believed what was possible for their species. I spoke to Jones this week about these latest developments for Saru, and what they might mean for the character moving forward. And also about whether or not he might finally become captain of the Discovery next season. Read on for the highlights from our chat (and read our review of “The Sound of Thunder”)!
Full spoilers follow for Star Trek: Discovery.
Saru’s All Grown Up Now
Jones says that he sees the vahar’ai — the evolutionary process Saru went through in Episode 4 this season — as essentially being just a transition from adolescence to adulthood. As a result, the Ba’ul have been stealing the adulthood from the Kelpiens for centuries, if not longer.
“I’m angry,” he says of Saru’s state of mind. “I’m angry, and I don’t have fear any more. So, that could combust.”
Indeed, it does combust as the Discovery is drawn back to thge Kelpien/Ba’ul homeworld of Kamina, where one of the season’s mysterious red signals has been activated. He disobeys Captain Pike’s orders to face the Ba’ul himself, with the intention of saving his people, and indeed by the end of the episode — and with the Discovery crew’s help — he does just that, creating a new power structure on the planet as every single Kelpien goes through the vahar’ai as well. But the question is, is Saru the same person now who we’ve grown to love over the past season and a half?
“I see it as no different than myself,” says Jones. “You know, I’m 58 now, but when I was 18 I was a different person. That’s the difference I see with Saru. He still has his innate qualities, he’s still a gentleman, he’s still as smart as he is, he can still speak 94 languages, he has quite an allegiance to Starfleet after all they’ve done for him. And after all he’s done for them, too; it’s been a great relationship. So I don’t think he’s gonna trash that with his newfound freedom. But he does need to test the waters. He’s dipping his toe in this fearless world and he’s kind of like, I like it! But I think the gentleman in him will keep him in check. … The changes you’ll see is when it comes to his decision-making.”
The Oppressed People of Kaminar
“The Sound of Thunder” is clearly not just about the Kelpiens and the Ba’ul but also a metaphor for oppressed peoples everywhere who are kept down in society through fear, superstition and violence. It’s a classic Star Trek concept to explore, but Jones says that he doesn’t put current-day politics into his work.
“But what’s great about art — and this counts for all art, whether it’s a sculpture, a painting, a movie, a TV show — is that when that art is made and is up for display, the viewer can look at it and find whatever they need out of it,” he says. “And that’s what’s great about this show. And Star Trek has a history of this. And, you know, people oppressing other people is part of the world’s history for ages and ages. It’s not just this year, right? So this is a constant running theme of when authority is getting it wrong, what can we do to stand up to that?”
Of course, this episode has a twist to it in that it turns out it was once the Kelpiens who were the oppressors, and the Ba’ul simply flipped the script at some point in history.
“It seems like [the Ba’ul] are being insensitive and controlling and abusive to these Kelpiens who have been duped into thinking that this is the Great Balance, and that they’re doing their fair part,” continues Jones. “Which is in fact not the case; they’re finding that out. So this has happened in many societies, in many cultures over many years. So instead of finding anger and negativity out of it, I’m ready to find some hope for a brighter future out of Saru’s story, if anything.”
Red Angel… or Time-Traveler
During the climax of “The Sound of Thunder”, Saru has a moment where he sees the so-called mysterious Red Angel which is at the center of Discovery Season 2’s main story arc. It seems that the entity is less supernatural or unfathomable as was previously thought, and may actually be a humanoid using advanced tech of some kind to flit around the galaxy… saving the day. Of course, Ash Tyler and Section 31 are suspicious of the Red Angel’s motivations, but Saru is a true believer now.
“it’s still a mystery,” says Jones of the entity. “I think mystery, it’s still the main world of all of Season 2. But now here we are. We were obviously looking at our world about to be destroyed, but the Red Angel appears and it’s not destroyed. So I think the Angel might be up to something good, is what Saru things. And where will it appear next? It’s anticipatory and mysterious, is what I would say.”
Some fans have theorized that the Red Angel could actually be Spock himself, who is another focal point of this season and is played by Ethan Peck. Only time will tell if that particular theory pans out (seems a stretch!), but Jones does confirm that he will have scenes with Peck/Spock once the character does finally make his debut.
“Oh, Yes. Spock will be showing up, and when he does, we all have interaction with him at some point,” says the actor. “Oh my gosh. Spock is such an iconic cultural icon. Not even just for Star Trek, but for all of pop culture. And to see a younger version of him, and to see this as a backstory that happens 10 years before we meet him in The Original series — what an honor it is to be part of this little moment in new history. And Ethan Peck just plays the heck out of him. He does such a beautiful, subtle job of playing Spock that is just gorgeous.
Star Trek: Discovery has established a cycle so far of having a new captain each season. First it was Lorca, now it’s Pike. Time will tell who it’ll be in Season 3, but the fact is Saru is the second-in-command on the Discovery and has even struggled with the notion of being captain in the past. Could he actually get his shot at the center seat next season? Jones isn’t saying, but he does believe his character would have some competition in that area.
“Saru might be ready, but others on the ship also might be ready,” he says. “Because I share a rank. I’m Commander Saru. [Sonequa Martin-Green’s] Michael Burnham got her status back as Commader. We also have others that have been given promotions and whatnot. And once we get through Season , you know, who will have earned that? But Saru, yes. That’s the big mystery for Saru personally now. I was acting captain for a minute at the end of Season . On our way to Vulcan to get a permanent captain assigned to us, we were intercepted, so now we have a temporary captain with us. So he can’t be with us forever, he’s got to get back to the Enterprise at some point. So where does that leave Saru is the big question. We’re gonna find out. We’re gonna find out, I believe!”
Star Trek: Discovery is currently available on CBS All Access in the U.S., on Space in Canada, and on Netflix in many international territories.
Original article at IGN