So, Star Trek: Discovery’s worst-kept secret is out. Tyler is Voq. Once you get past the confirmation of the fan theory, you start considering the implications of what we have seen. Besides being an enemy Klingon combatant, he’s guilty of espionage, Culber’s murder, and Burnham’s attempted murder. Or is he? It depends on who you think he is. As we’ve seen, Tyler/Voq (Vyler? Toq? Voqler? Count Voqula?), let’s call him Vyler for convenience’s sake – has not one, but two personalities.
If Vyler was a straightforward enemy agent masquerading as human like Arne Darvin or Seska, it would be a simple matter of treating him as you would any prisoner and let the Federation legal process handle him. However, what we’ve got here is a more complicated version of the “Tuvix” situation. Voq is the Torchbearer and loyal follower of T’Kuvma, who “sacrificed everything” to have his body altered to look human, and specifically to look like Lt. Ash Tyler. And Ash Tyler was a real Federation officer captured at The Battle of the Binary Stars. The Klingons took his mind (or possibly a copy of his mind) and somehow transferred into Voq’s transformed body. So, what we have is two minds in one body, leaving a bit of a moral dilemma.
What should they do with Vyler?
At the end of last week’s episode, Saru informs Vyler that the Federation lives by the rule of law and doesn’t practice summary executions like Klingons or the Terran Empire. At that moment he seems to be speaking to the Voq part. But there is more to him, literally. If we assume that the Tyler personality is some kind of mind transfer from the original real Tyler, then he too is alive. He is a victim, trapped in a Klingon body, transformed to look like his old body.
How to deal with two separate consciousnesses in one body is something Trek has touched on before, but not like this. Obviously, there’s Tuvix, and examples of a human host carrying a Vulcan’s Katra, as well as numerous examples of possession. But how to deal with a merged personalities when one is innocent of a crime? The closest analogy may be the DS9 episode “Dax,” which questioned whether Jadzia could be held accountable for a crime alleged to have been committed by her previous host, Curzon.
Dealing with moral quandaries like this is par for the course in Star Trek. There are some precedents, but no clear indication as to what direction they will take. As noted before, assuming they are not simply going to treat Vyler as if he were just a Klingon prisoner, there are some possibilities, each with their own ethical, and possibly legal, implications.
Find a new home for Tyler
It may be possible to remove Tyler’s mind from Voq’s body, leaving Voq to the tender mercies of the Federation legal system. Star Trek is more than capable of coming up with technobabble ways of doing this – transporters, radio isotopes, even some version of a mind meld – but then what to do with the personality they remove?
Should they locate the original Tyler, and he be effectively brain dead (thanks to the use of a Klingon Mind Sifter), that would solve the problem. Another possible vessel could be Mirror Tyler, who is presumably out there somewhere. Could he have a convenient accident, meaning his body’s going spare?
There could always be the possibility of another body for Tyler. Obviously Stamets isn’t looking too good at the moment, but his consciousness is still out there chatting to the consciousness of his mirror self somewhere in the mycelial network. Maybe they could find an artificial body or cybernetic body. We’ve seen consciousness placed in them before on Trek (TOS “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” springs to mind). Or maybe they could place Tyler in a computer (Ira Graves did this in TNG “The Schizoid Man”), perhaps temporarily. And what about the mycelial network? If Stamets is in there, maybe they can put Tyler in there too. Anything’s possible.
Destroy the Voq personality
By destroying the Voq personality, they would be giving the body to Tyler. This would please a lot of fans, allowing a popular character to stay in the rather handsome form of Shazad Latif. However, this can be problematic. Visiting Talos IV aside (which, let’s face it, is a little harsh), the Federation has no death penalty, so they can’t legally execute him. That being said, it’s certainly not clear that this moral issue would stop Lorca, and we’ve seen Janeway effectively murder someone (Tuvix) to restore Tuvok and Neelix.
On the other hand, it isn’t clear if Voq would object to this. When he was returned to the USS Discovery in “The Wolf Inside”, he told Saru that he should have let him die as a warrior. So, giving Voq a warrior’s death may not be the Federation way, but it is the Klingon way and couldn’t they justify it by seeing it as honoring his culture? Worf acquiesced to his brother Kurn’s desire to die with honor. His method of giving his brother what he wanted was to wipe his entire memory, creating an entirely new Klingon personality named “Rodek.”
Find common ground
It is also possible – and we have seen some hints of this on the show – that Vyler’s two personalities could be combined into one. Therefore, it’s always possible they could leave him that way and that some event could see him re-integrated back into the crew. Could something, such as a new enemy, or a visit to yet another dimension/time cause Voq to abandon his hatred of the Federation and work with his former enemy, and likewise for Discovery’s crew to say “all is forgiven?”
Under the right circumstances, it’s possible that Vyler might be able to combine the human and formerly human-hating parts of his personality. Perhaps his time with the humans in Starfleet has taught him the lessons that he can bring back to the Klingons so they can understand and possibly learn to at least tolerate living next to the Federation.
There is something intriguing and very Star Trek-like about this possibility. It would allow the character to develop and learn to combine two conflicting sides of his personality. This is a great Trek option, as we’ve seen characters struggle with their personality, like Spock. Perhaps an even better character comparison is Voyager’s Seven of Nine. Seven had to come to terms with not only being human after having been a Borg most of her life, but she also had to start to come to grips with the guilt of being involved in the assimilation of millions.
Vyler’s fate may be coming soon
As of now, there is no clear indication which way it will go, but hopefully the show will explore the various moral issues related to “Vyler.” Then again, this is Discovery, it’s confounded expectations so far, so they may well have ideas we haven’t even considered.
Latif sums it up pretty well when he describes Vyler’s immediate future to Inverse.com:
“With Tyler/Voq, that’s all coming to a head in the next episodes. It gets crazier. It gets more emotional. It’s a four-way love story going on at the moment, happening in three bodies. There’s a lot of conflicts to resolve. It’s madness. But, brilliant madness.”
Star Trek: Discovery is available on CBS All Access on in the US and airs in Canada on the Space Channel. It is available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.