Star Trek: Discovery could offer a new explanation for one of the franchise's biggest discrepancies: why do the Klingons in The Original Series look human? Star Trek: Enterprise already introduced the Augment Virus, which took away the Klingons' ridged brows; this was meant to explain TOS' Klingons'. But a new answer might just be the former Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler, who is also the Klingon named Voq, and the surgical process that turned him human.
Discovery season 1's Captain Gabriel Lorca told Michael Burnham that "context is king" and in season 2, Captain Christopher Pike noted that "context can change our perspective". As a prequel to TOS, the CBS All-Access series looks to be adding context to Star Trek and Ash Tyler could be a different explanation for the physical transformation of the Klingons.
Many fans instantly disliked how Star Trek: Discovery changed the design of the Klingons, but this actually isn't the first time the warrior race was retconned. 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture changed the Klingons without explanation, with that revamp becoming the most popular version. It then became something of a running joke that TOS' Klingons appeared and acted more human; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine winked at the controversy when Worf stated: "We do not discuss it with outsiders!" The Augment Virus was introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise but those events happened about a century before Star Trek: Discovery, which has made the Klingons even more alien. Therefore, Ash Tyler may be the first instance that the warrior race has begun surgically altering themselves.
Voq Was A Klingon Surgically Altered To Become Ash Tyler
It's possible Star Trek: Discovery season 1's transformation of Voq into Ash Tyler is the forerunner to why the Klingons Captain Kirk faced in The Original Series didn't have the ridged brows and wild hair of later Klingons. Voq was the former Torchbearer of T'Kuvma who underwent surgery to become human in a horrifically painful process that damaged his mind. His lover L'Rell oversaw the procedure to turn Voq into Ash Tyler, a Starfleet Lieutenant who was captured during the Battle at the Binary Stars. Voq ended up believing he really was Ash and fell in love with Michael Burnham but his inner Klingon kept fighting his way to the forefront.
After Ash/Voq murdered Dr. Hugh Culber, he finally left the Discovery to find a new life for himself on the Klingon homeworld Qo'n'oS as the Federation installed L'Rell as the High Chancellor to end the Klingon War. However, both L'Rell and Ash/Voq will return in Discovery season 2.
Ash Tyler Could Be The First Of The Original Series' Klingons
By the time Captain Kirk faced the Klingons for the first time in the Star Trek: The Original Series' episode "Errand of Mercy", the warrior race looked and behaved human, albeit with darker, exotic skin. Kor, the Klingon Commander, even told Kirk "our races aren't so different". He meant that both humans and Klingons are war-like species, but his words could also now have a deeper context: the Klingons have 24 Great Houses and it's possible this group of Klingons underwent the same (perfected) procedure that turned Voq into Ash Tyler. Kor later appeared in DS9 with ridged brow and wild Klingon hair - could he have had surgical alteration during the TOS era and later regained his Klingon form?
Despite their savage demeanor, the Klingons obviously possess sophisticated technology and some of TOS' Klingons were known to turn themselves human to become spies. Arne Darvin in "The Trouble With Tribbles" was revealed to be a Klingon spy working to sabotage the Federation and when he reappeared over a century later in DS9, Darvin remained trapped in his human form. Surgical alteration into another race later became commonplace; Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Jean-Luc Picard became Romulan in "Unification" and DS9's Captain Benjamin Sisko and his crew turned themselves into Klingons in "Apocalypse Rising".
Star Trek: Discovery now provides a possible answer to one of Star Trek's oldest mysteries: Ash Tyler/Voq may be the start of TOS' humanoid Klingons. And then, within a decade, the Klingons perfected and continued surgical alteration into human form as part of their methodology for galactic conquest, which helps explain why the Klingons Kirk met during his five-year mission looked unlike any other Klingons before or since.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays at 8:30pm on CBS All-Access and internationally the next day on Netflix.