All may not be as it seems aboard the USS Discovery.
For those who may not be aware, an interesting fan theory began making the rounds on the internet about two weeks ago, in advance of the episode, ‘Choose Your Pain‘. The theory, which first emerged on Reddit, posits that Lt. Ash Tyler, a Starfleet officer who meets Captain Lorca while both are held prisoner aboard a Klingon ship (as seen in the aforementioned episode) may, in fact, be a Klingon spy. But not just any Klingon. Specifically, the idea is that Tyler is, Voq, the torchbearer and would-be successor to T’Kuvma, who we last saw exiled to the wreck of the Shenzhou in the series’ fourth episode. This ties to a line spoken by L’Rell, who offers Voq a chance to redeem himself and unite the Klingon houses, though it is one that will require him to “sacrifice everything.”
Seems a bit out of left field, right? Well, some of this hinges on the fact that Shazad Latif, who plays Tyler, was originally cast as a Klingon (though not as Voq) back when those announcements were first being made. At the time Latif was cast as Kol, who has thus far served as a rival to Voq (the role has been filled by Kenneth Mitchell in the wake of Latif’s recasting as Tyler). Interestingly, though, when the when the initial announcement of Latif’s casting was made, the role of Kol was described a “protege of T’Kuvma”. Now that doesn’t sound much like the Kol we’ve seen on the show, but it does sound like Voq.
Of course, these are all just fan theories, something that this writer seldom takes with less than a full shaker of salt. Interesting as it may be, there are any number of alternate explanations. Latif could have simply been recast because the producers deemed him a better fit for Tyler. Likewise, Kol’s early resemblance to Voq could simply be a result of names being shuffled around or of the character’s role being redefined. This is especially the case given the show’s notably long and tempestuous development. In fact, according to Latif, that is more or less what happened. Says the actor: “One of the producers said, “Do you want to try out for this role?” I started reading it, and it just fit. It made a lot more sense, and meant less time in prosthetics!”
You might think that would be the end of it. Not quite. You see, this is where things start to get conspiratorial. Because there is one thing that could cut this theory off at the knees: the fact that there is an actor credited with playing Voq, namely Javid Iqbal. Iqbal, an unknown prior to ‘Discovery’, has been notably absent from the show’s promotional campaign. This has lead fans (or at least those who buy into this theory) to question whether he is a real person or a name the producers picked to throw viewers off the scent. Such things aren’t unheard of (Joss Whedon famously wanted to include Eric Balfour in the opening credits of the first episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, so as to make the character’s death more shocking), though they are rare. When this possibility was suggested to Latif, he replied: “Well, yeah, if you check IMDB he’s an actor on ‘Star Trek: Discovery’.” No argument there. Though it is interesting that Iqbal is such an unknown that not only is ‘Discovery’ his only credit, but the only photos on his IMDB page feature him in full Klingon makeup…
Again, take all of this with a grain of salt. The possibilities are interesting, both in terms of the narrative implications and the real-world gamesmanship, but so far that’s all they are: possibilities. To be sure, though, this wouldn’t be the strangest thing that ever happened on ‘Star Trek’. As Captain Janeway once observed: “We’re Starfleet officers. Weird is part of the job.”
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Shazad Latif, Mare Wiseman, Jason Isaacs, and (maybe?) Javid Iqbal. New episodes drop Sundays at 8:30pm Eastern on CBS All Access.