Excluding one alien bodily possession in Season 1, for almost the entirety of Star Trek: Discovery, Mr. Saru (Doug Jones) has been the steadiest, wisest, and calmest member of the bold Starfleet crew.
That is, until now.
In the sixth episode of Discovery's second season, Saru is forever changed, or as actor Doug Jones puts it: " A lot of crap goes down in this episode." SYFY WIRE talked to Jones right before "The Sound of Thunder" aired and grilled him all about Saru's new path, his future on Trek, and what the heck he knows about the Red Angel.
Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 6, "The Sound of Thunder."
Thanks to the loss of his threat ganglia in Episode 4, in Episode 6 Saru is suddenly the only Kelpien without fear, which results in him yelling at Captain Pike and shooting spikes out of the side of his head. "It's a new color for Saru," Jones told SYFY WIRE. "I am empowered. I think it's like when a kid turns 18 and can vote and go out on their own and can smoke cigarettes legally. I think that's what Saru is going through right now."
When Saru was first introduced in the series premiere of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, Jones said he had no idea the direction the writers would take his character. And so he's very grateful to writers like Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, who have decided not to keep his character "one note." It's an interesting point, too. Although all lovers of fiction know great characters must undergo change, TV characters — including many beloved Star Trek people — often remain pretty much the same from episode to episode.
We all love Riker, or Geordi or Sulu, but it's difficult to truly alter the fundamental truths of many Trek characters without losing what it is people love about them. But with Saru, Discovery is attempting just that. Not only is Saru's personality altered by his newfound confidence, he's also physically changing, too. "He's been very by-the-book before this. So for him to stand up to authority, and angrily question the rules, that's soooo not him," Jones says. "At least not the him that we've known before. Plus, there's a predator to deal with here, which can't always go well."
First mentioned in Short Treks episode "The Brightest Star," the "The Sound of Thunder" finally introduces the Kelpiens' predator species — the Ba'ul — in the flesh, or rather, in the goo. In the episode, we learn that millennia prior, the Ba'ul were once prey species of the Kelpiens, a role reversal that startles Saru. In real life, the creepy black goo-covered alien was played by an old friend and colleague of Doug Jones, fellow creature actor Javier Botet.
"We were both ghost ladies together in Crimson Peak. We also played different versions of the same role in the movie Quarantine. He played the Spanish-language version of the film, called Rec. He is beautiful and brilliant, and in this he had some fingers extensions and some talons on his fingers and a long stringy wig, and all that black goo."
Jones added that the casting of Botet as the Ba'ul meant to him more than just having an old pal on the set. "Javier and I are mistaken for each other all the time in creature makeup. So now, when we were face to face as predator and prey, it was a very poetic moment, I think."
By the end of the episode, the Ba'ul are determined to wipe out the entire Kelpien population, and it looks like the starship Discovery will be too late to stop them. But at the last moment, the elusive "Red Angel" appears and, using an electromagnetic pulse, disables all the Ba'ul's weapons, saving the Kelpiens. In the episode's denouement, Pike tells Tyler that thanks to Saru's advanced eyesight, it's now clear that the Red Angel is actually a person wearing a highly advanced suit. "We know it's someone," Pike says in the episode. But does Doug Jones know who the Red Angel is? He saw it, after all.
"I did not know what or who it is. I have no idea at that moment," Jones said, and explains that like co-star Anthony Rapp, he's asked the writers and showrunners of Discovery not to tell him what happens in future episodes when he gets a new script. "As we get an episode script, one at a time, that's when I learn what's happening next. And I choose that on purpose, because I like to be surprised. So, at this point, I had no idea. Has the Red Angel shown up before? How does it know where to show up at the right time? These are all great questions that remain to be answered this season."
Because Saru is changing so much this season, even a casual fan might wonder if all of this could mean that the character could leave the USS Discovery and go back to live on his home planet of Kaminar. In other words, is Doug Jones trying to beam himself off of Star Trek? Will Saru's changes mean Saru leaves the show?
"For me, this season feels more like old-school Trek. Which is great for me, because I'm an old-school fan. So I'm in for the ride for as long as they keep me alive," Jones says with a laugh. "But as you've seen, anyone can die at any time. And anyone can be revived at any time. So if a poetic death is in the cards for Saru, that's great, too."