'Star Trek: Discovery' Star Doug Jones Discusses How "The Sound of Thunder" Changes Everything for Saru

Tonight's episode of Star Trek: Discovery, "The Sound of Thunder," brought major revelations for Saru about the truth of The Great Balance on his homeworld of Kaminar. In an interview with ComicBook.com, actor Doug Jones discusses what those revelations mean for Saru going forward.

SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 6, "The Sound of Thunder," follow.

Two episodes ago, in "An Obol For Charon," Saru underwent and survived the Kelpien biological process called "varahai." Saru believed it was impossible for a Kelpien to live through varahai, but he came out of it by losing his threat ganglia and many of the fearful impulses believed inherent to Kelpiens.

In "The Sound of Thunder," Saru returns home, disobeys Starfleet protocols, reunites with his sister, and upends the status quo on his homeworld. What does this mean for Saru's future with Starfleet? Is this new attitude temporary or here to stay?

ComicBook.com spoke over the phone with Doug Jones, who plays Saru, to find out.

Star Trek Discovery The Sound of Thunder Saru

ComicBook.com: This was a pretty huge episode for Saru, and it really redefines the character. When you were first developing the character, did you have any idea that the “predator-prey” dynamic that was such a big part of his character last season would lead in this direction?

Doug Jones: I did not know what was coming. I'm kind of an episode-by-episode actor. When I get a new script is when I'm surprised with it, just like the audience is when they watch it one week at a time. So I did not see this particular turn of events coming. And in Season One, when I hinted about I come from a binary system -- there was either predator or prey and nothing in between -- I kind of pictured us like cattle, maybe, like being herded and slaughtered at some point, but in a very subservient kind of way.

I did not know that it was so layered with The Great Balance, and that the Ba'ul were controlling with technology. And all of the backstory that we saw in “The Brightest Star,” my short film, showed all that in a way that I did not expect, exactly, and that our lifespan comes to a point where our threat ganglia start to swell and get painful, and we call this vaharai, and we either are driven to madness and die or are mercy killed by the Ba'ul. That's what we've been led to believe all this time. That was a scenario that I didn't see coming exactly.

What I really didn't see coming was those ganglia falling out and just denoting that my adolescence is over, and now I'm an adult, and I've got a long lifespan ahead of me. That I did not see coming at all. This has been quite an evolutionary ride to go on with Saru.

When you found out all of this unexpected information about Saru and Kelpiens, did you have to go back and kind of rebuild your understanding of the character, or did it feel like a pretty natural evolution for him?

Of course, the character was established as a fearful character. He lives in fear. That is his constant running theme in life, is that he's afraid of everything and he has to overcome that, and we saw him overcome it on his own terms and with his own strength last season when he had to take the captain's chair a couple of times, and he did very well and was very proficient with that. So I know he has the strength within him, but having the fear now fall off of his neck, because it's not there anymore, I didn't see that coming and it did make me have to reassess, “OK, well now without fear, how does he meet his other crew members and how does he respond to authority above him, like Captain Pike now?”

In episode 6, we see him actually take a stand. He goes face to face with Capt. Pike in one moment. That was a bit of a surprise because he's very respectful of authority, very respectful of by-the-book what happens in Starfleet. He's a rule follower. But now he's got a huge conflict facing him. He knows too much about his species and about what's happening on his planet. He wants to fix that, but he's forbidden by General Order One to go back and tinker with his pre-warp society. So it's like, oh my gosh.

Without fear, though, that brings out another color that we did not see coming for Saru. And for me, that was quite a challenge to play, yes, because, in real life, I'm more like the old Saru with fear and all. So to pick myself up and to stare somebody down the eye and tell him what's going to happen instead, that's so not my M.O. usually.

This new swagger of Saru’s, is that here to stay? Or will we see that become more tempered as the effects of varahai wear off?

I see it, honestly, as the same thing as we as humans go through. When we're teenagers and we're kind of going through our growing pains both physically and emotionally and mentally, and our intellect is growing, and we think we know everything at 18, and then now that I'm 58, I realize, oh my gosh, I didn't know a thing. But we were a bit more reckless at 18, right?

I think that's the stage Saru's in right now. He's now been given the pass between adolescence and adulthood, and now he realizes there is an adulthood ahead for him that he didn't know he had before. He didn't know that Kelpiens could live that long. I think he's exploring his newfound freedom as an 18-year-old does when they get to leave the house for the first time or they're on their own, they go into college. So yeah, I might make a mistake or two. I don't know. But without fear as a factor anymore, so the evolution continues.

So, to hear you describe it, it sounds kind of like Saru has gone from an older, wiser Starfleet officer, to almost a teenage Starfleet officer?

In his moments, yes. But what I love about Saru is that he is so intelligent, and he does have a certain wisdom about him because he's been through life and death. If you talk to any human who's lived through life-and-death situations, like cancer patients who have survived, they come out of that with a great wisdom and a great take on life and what it means and their choice-making takes on a different color. I think Saru's in that place, too, so it's not just recklessness. There's a certain wisdom that comes with his new turned page.

Now that Saru knows the truth about Kaminar and also that General Order One may have stopped him from helping his people, does that change his perspective on Starfleet? Create tension or trust issue, maybe making him less by-the-book?

Therein lies the conflict, really, because he does want to save his home people, absolutely. But also, Saru will never forget the blessing that Starfleet has been to him. He was picked up out of a very primitive society where death was imminent for him, and he was salvaged from that and given this opportunity that he used very wisely by being the smartest in his classes and learned 94 languages and climbed the ranks through Starfleet and now he's a First Officer. So he's done very well for himself, and Starfleet's been very good to him. So he's not going to pooh-pooh that over this one decision. But he is faced with a huge decision with, “Now that I know what I know and my home people are in peril.”

And then there's the heartstrings being tugged at, too, with his family. He has a sister that he left, never said goodbye to, and they were so incredibly close. He hasn't seen her in how many years? Teens of years, maybe. How do we reconnect with that? He's faced with a lot of conflict.

This all gets explored in episode six, and I think that the best outcome happens from it, I hope.

Saru’s relationship with Burnham has been central to Discovery. They have a very sibling-like relationship. How does Saru reconnecting with Siranna change his relationship with Burnham?

This brother-sister sibling theme has been quite prevalent between season one and two, both with Burnham and Saru. We found each other as surrogate siblings. We've kind of taken that role on with each other. Everything from being competitive and hissy with each other to now, after you saw us in episode four, we've been through a life-and-death situation together, and that bonded us closer than we've ever been before. This sibling relationship that we have kind of mirrors the siblings that we're missing. She's been missing Spock all this time; I've been missing Siranna all this time.

Now in season two, you're going to see us both reconnect with our actual siblings. There's a lot of mirrors and parallels happening within this whole storyline, and it's really a beautiful thing to see, that she meets my sister and sees the role that she's been playing, but do I stay in a relationship with Siranna from now on, or does Burnham find out, like OK, that's what he's been missing and now I know how to be a better sister to him here on the ship? And likewise, when I meet Spock, I see the brother that she's had all this time and that she's been missing and what they have, and now how can I step up and be a better brother to her on the ship here? Because how long do these characters stay around for us? We don't know.

Saru has really become a fan-favorite character and this episode brought a seismic shift for him. Is there anything you can tell fans about where he’s headed next?

Well, I think social media has been a blessing and a curse, of course, to all of us. The blessing part of it, though, is that so many fans have been able to say to me directly that they're rooting for Saru to be in the captain's chair one day. They love it when he takes the captain's chair, and they love the outcome and how he's been stepped up and taken the challenge. Even with Capt. Pike on board now for this season, we have him temporarily. He's got to get back to the Enterprise at some point. So that's the big question that remains. When we do lose Captain Pike back to the Enterprise, what happens on our ship? Who's going to be in charge, and what rank happens? Because, you know, when we ended season one we were headed to the planet Vulcan to be assigned a new captain. So what happens with all that? Do we go back to that original plan, or have we been through enough that our captain is within our own ship?

These are things that the fans want to know and that I want to know, too, to be honest with you. Since I unfold one episode at a time and really don't want to know what happens too far ahead, I'm on the same ride the fans are. So this is, “Let's hold hands and find out together.”



New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS All Access.