Warning: Major SPOILERS for Star Trek Discovery season 1, episode 11 ahead
This week, Star Trek Discovery finally confirmed a fan theory that has been floating around since the very early episodes of the show: that former prisoner of war Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) wasn't really a prisoner at all, but is in fact the Klingon Voq - "reduced" down to a human form so that he could infiltrate the Discovery and get close to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The revelation came after Ash met with the Mirror Universe version of Voq, who is also known as the Fire Wolf - leader of the multi-species rebellion against the Terran Empire. Coming face-to-face with his doppelganger triggered another violent outburst, causing Ash to attack Voq while yelling in Klingon, and sending him down the path to remembering his true identity.
When Michael confronted Ash about his behavior, it triggered further flashbacks - firstly, memories of having sex with the Klingon L'rell (Mary Chieffo). "I feel something for her," he admits. "A reverence. An allegiance. Maybe an affection. And when she speaks, I'm forced to listen, and her words - they tell me who I am." Michael tells him that it's just the result of brainwashing, but Ash insists that it's "more than that." He then proceeds to have flashbacks of lying on an operating table - both in his human form, and as Voq - and finally reaches the revelation that "Lieutenant Ash Tyler" doesn't really exist.
The exact details of how Voq was turned into a human are unclear, but Ash says that they "reduced" a Klingon body into a human one using surgery. "I have the human's face, but inside I remain Klingon," he says, lapsing into Voq's more guttural voice, and revealing to Michael that he killed Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz). She remains uncertain, until he reveals details about her fight with Voq that he couldn't possibly know unless he was there. Ash/Voq then attempts to kill Michael, but is interrupted by the guards and dragged away to his execution. Instead of beaming him into space and leaving him to die, Michael transports Ash/Voq to the Discovery, where he is taken to the brig to await a proper trial.
Many fans saw this twist coming a mile away - especially after it became obvious that the same actor was playing both Voq and Ash. But the revelation of Ash's true identity raises some interesting questions, starting with the question of whether "Ash" is real. After all, Ash says that he fell in love with Michael, and this was what allowed him to resist L'rell's influence for a while. "I resisted by thinking of you," Ash tells Michael. "The one I want to be human for. My love." Is it possible that there was a real Ash Tyler, whose body or mind were somehow used in Voq's transformation? Does "Ash" still exist, or has he been erased now that Voq has rediscovered his identity?
The revelation creates an interesting dynamic within the romantic pairing. After all, both Ash/Voq and Michael are people who are torn between two species. Ash/Voq is a Klingon who was turned into a human, and Michael is a human who was raised by Vulcans. Moreover, the Mirror Universe version of Voq is one of the good guys, indicating that the Prime Universe Voq may also have a capacity for goodness (he's at least more sympathetic than many of the other Klingons featured in the show so far). Could Voq's arc eventually bring him back around to the side of the angels - perhaps even joining the Discovery's crew in order to aid their fight against his fellow Klingons?
Perhaps that's a long shot, but Voq is certainly more complex than the average TV villain, and it's doubtful that Star Trek Discovery will simply toss aside his messy relationship with Michael, or the revelation that he fell in love with her. Can Voq be redeemed, or will he take his place as Star Trek Discovery's "Big Bad"?
Star Trek Discovery will continue next Sunday with a new episode available on CBS All Access.
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