Star Trek: Discovery may be trying to pull off one of the biggest twists in franchise history, at least if one fan theory is to be believed.
The theory posits that Lt. Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif, is actually the Klingon Voq in disguise, and the theory is surprisingly credible.
The roots of the theory go back to before Star Trek: Discovery premiered. Latif had originally been cast in a different Klingon role, that of Kol. Kol was eventually recast as Kenneth Mitchell, and Latif was instead given the human role of Lt. Ash Tyler.
Meanwhile, the role of Voq was given to an actor named Javid Iqbal, and Star Trek: Discovery fans have come to suspect that Iqbal may not actually exist. A look at Iqbal’s IMDB page reveals he has no acting credits prior to being cast in Star Trek: Discovery, and no photos beside those of him in his Klingon makeup as Voq. Iqbal also has no social media presence, or at least he didn’t until the Twitter account @RealJavidIqbal appeared, an apparent parody account that fans suspect was set up by someone working behind-the-scenes on Star Trek: Discovery who is in on the joke.
Fans theorize that Iqbal is a cover Latif so as to not blow the twist. Fans noted that Latif was credited in the premiere episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, despite the fact that Lt. Ash Tyler does not appear in the episodes. Voq, on the other hand, does.
Those are all of the behind-the-scenes reason fans suspect something is up, but let’s consider some of the in-universe clues. The last time Voq was in an episode of Star Trek: Discovery was in episode four, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.” In the episode, the devoted follower of T’Kuvma had his leadership of the remnants of T’Kuvma’s house usurped by Kol, who then stranded Voq in the wreckage of the USS Shenzhou at the site of the Battle at the Binary Stars.
Voq was supposed to have been left for dead, but he was visited by L’Rell, his supposedly loyal follower who seemed to have betrayed him to Kol when she suggested this form of punishment. L’Rell told Voq that she had only suggested this punishment so that Kol would not kill him outright.
L’Rell tells Voq that she is originally from the House of Mo’Kai, one of the Great Houses of the Klingon Empire. House Mo’Kai was infamous for its use of espionage to win conflicts, which was considered dishonorable in comparison to open combat.
L’Rell tells Voq that she can help him reclaim his place as the true Klingon Torchbearer, but it that It will cost him “everything.” She provides him with a shuttle that will take him to the Matriarchs of House Mo’Kai, who she says will show him things that he never knew were possible.
That’s the last fans have seen or heard of Voq. Conveniently enough, Lt. Ash Tyler made his debut in the very next episode, “Choose Your Pain,” and the circumstances of his debut further play into the theory that he is a spy.
Captain Gabriel Lorca meets Ash Tyler when they are both prisoners aboard the same Klingon ship, a ship commanded by L’Rell. Tyler has somehow managed to survive as a prisoner on the ship for seven months, which Lorca notes is quite a feat. He claims that he survived because L’Rell took an intimate liking to him.
A sexual attraction between Voq and L’Rell was hinted at in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” which leads some to believe this physical arrangement between Tyler and L’Rell was a phony pretense to give Tyler an alibi. The viciousness with which Tyler assaults L’Rell before escaping the ship is the only beat that casts any doubt on this possibility.
There have been a few other points since then that lampshade the fact that Tyler may not be all that he seems. Admiral Katrina Cornwell questions Lorca’s wisdom when he gives Tyler the position of chief of security on the USS Discovery. She wonders if Lorca actually knows who Tyler is.
In fact, Lorca has done his homework on Tyler, but even he notes some inconsistency when Tyler claims to be from Seattle when he is in fact from a few miles outside of Seattle. Lorca brushes the discrepancy off based on his own habit of splitting hairs, but it could be another clue that Tyler is working off of a script for a backstory that is not his own.
Lastly, there was a moment in Star Trek: Discovery’s latest episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” when Lt. Paul Stamets noted that Tyler is unusually tall. It could be nothing, but it may be a line meant ot hint that perhaps Tyler is tall for a human, but of average height for a Klingon.
The theory is that Voq was sent to the Matriarchs of the Mo’Kai, who revealed to him that they had the technology to alter his appearance to appear human. Since the T’Kuvma creed was to “remain Klingon,” and Voq considered just using Federation technology to be blasphemy, being forced to look and act human would explain what L’Rell meant when she said it would cost Voq “everything.”
If the Klingons do have this kind of technology, then it makes sense for the Matriarchs of Mo’Kai, known practitioners of spycraft, to be the ones who know how to use it. As it turns out, we do know that Klingon possess this type of technology thanks to the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” in which Arne Darvin, an assistant to the Federation’s Undersecretary of Agriculture, was revealed to be a cosmetically altered Klingon sent on a mission to poison a shipment of grain.
The pieces all seem to line up. Here’s what Latif himself had to say about the theories when they were brought to his attention:
“I rarely read a lot of stuff online, but the publicists have been letting me know. It’s fun that there’s a lot of interest — that’s always a good thing. A lot of the theories are crazy. Some people have some stuff right, and some are way off. But it’s just good to see people interested.”
And as for his switching roles after being cast as Kol:
“One of the producers said, ‘Do you want to try out of this [other] role?' I started reading it, and it just fit. It made a lot more sense [for me], and meant less time in prosthetics!”
Fans will have to keep watching to find out if the Voq-Tyler theory proves to be true.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.