Spock. Data. Odo. Tuvok. T’Pol. Every Star Trek show needs that aloof, nonhuman member of the team to comment on the weirdly human things that happen to them in life on a Starfleet vessel, and Discovery is no exception—say hello to Lieutenant Saru, Doug Jones’ freaky new Trek officer.
One of the weirdest moments in Discovery’s first trailer involves Saru—near the end, where he casually tells Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham that his species can “sense the coming of death” (and that, of course, he can immediately sense it coming right now). It’s not only one of the weirdest, grimmest things you could happen to say to someone in the middle of what is presumably a tense, potentially life-threatening scenario, but this “death sense” is apparently a major part of Saru’s species.
Revealed by Entertainment Weekly today, Saru is a Kelpian, the first of his kind to make it into Federation space and enlist in Starfleet, where he’s a science officer aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou. The reason Saru is the first is because on their homeworld, Kelpians are a “prey species,” constantly being hunted by the planet’s other major species, to the point that Kelpians evolved to have heightened survival instincts, including the ability to sense immediate mortal peril. If that wasn’t a shitty enough existence, apparently Saru also faces a tough social climate in the Federation, which apparently looks down on prey species like the Kelpians as being cowardly. So much for those evolved utopian ethics!
According to Jones, when he’s not creeping people out by telling them that DEATH IS COMING, Saru is pretty much Discovery’s equivalent of Spock, the smart, collected alien character who’s there to tilt their head puzzlingly at an anomaly and then explain it to both his fellow bridge crew officers and the viewers:
[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.
Considering the first trailer seemed to imply some pretty grim stuff is gonna go down in the early episodes of Discovery, it’s seems more likely that Saru’s going to spend most of his time telling everyone about their impending demise than doing much Science Officer-y stuff, though.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres on CBS and CBS All Access September 24th. It arrives on Netflix in the UK the next day.