As Star Trek: Discovery warps toward its September release date, we're getting more information about the mysterious prequel series and its characters from the cast and crew. Perhaps the most visually striking cast member in the series' initial trailer was Doug Jones' Lt. Saru, whom the actor describes as Discovery's iteration of Star Trek icon Spock.
Information on Discovery's cast has been scarce. We know the series' protagonist is Commander Michael Burnham (played by The Walking Dead's Sonequa Martin-Green), and veteran TV actor James Frain will be portraying Spock's father, Sarek, but for the most part the rest of the cast is simply a list of names at this point.
New information about the show's obligatory alien bridge officer is finally starting to come out. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, co-showrunner Aaron Roberts discusses the mysterious abilities of Saru's species (a new one to Star Trek) that were hinted at in the series' teaser trailer:
“What we can tell you that adds the context to that clip where he says he can sense the coming of death is that he comes from a planet where he’s a ‘prey species.’ He’s the first of his kind to make it to Starfleet.”
Jones goes so far as to compare Saru to two of the most popular characters in Star Trek's long history - Spock and Data:
[Producers] said Saru is the Spock of the series, he’s the Data of the series — and those are beloved characters that I always connect with whenever I would watch the past incarnations of Star Trek. On Falling Skies, I played an alien species who came to Earth to help the humans fight back the bad aliens who’d taken over, and I was intelligent, well-spoken, had a lot of answers and science-y smart. Saru is all of those things and then some.”
Jones is no stranger to genre fiction, having portrayed Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies and played similar creature roles in several of director Guillermo del Toro's other films (including, the upcoming The Shape of Water). The Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was also brought to life by Jones. He is, however, setting a pretty high bar for Saru.
Spock's relationship with Captain Kirk in the original series was the show's defining dynamic, the two men representing cold, considered logic and raw human emotion, respectively. Similarly, the android Data's personal journey to find his own humanity is perhaps Star Trek: The Next Generation's most enduring storytelling legacy. Discovery's visuals may be impressive, but the show will have to do some serious narrative heavy lifting for Saru to stand shoulder to shoulder with those characters.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres September 24 on CBS, before moving to CBS All Access for further episodes.