‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Analysis: How Should They Deal With The Moral Quandary Presented By ‘Vyler’?

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.

The two sides of “Vyler”

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.

Tuvix was a new person created by a transporter accident combining two crew members from Star Trek: Voyager

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.

Jadzia Dax is put in front of an arbiter to see if she’s responsible for Curzon’s misdeeds.

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.

The ancient Vulcan ritual to transfer a Katra

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.” 

Worf “kills” his brother Kurn by erasing his memories

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.

Seven of Nine had to come to terms with being a human and having assimilated others.

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.” 

Maybe love will find a way?

 


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.

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55 Comments on "‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Analysis: How Should They Deal With The Moral Quandary Presented By ‘Vyler’?"

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I hope they explain what the whole point was to turn Voq into Tyler and then have Voq blow his cover the first chance he gets.

The show already explained it, so no need to.

L’Rell wanted a spy aboard Discovery….. it’s already been stated.

It’s pretty handily explained in the series already, the prayer didn’t work as it was supposed to, and they are in the mirror universe. Basically Tyler got triggered incorrectly and Voq was able to come out full stop in an uncontrolled situation that basically made it all have to come out to Michael because there’s no way anyone will trust him after he attacked mVoq.

The question is, how much of Tyler is there and is he at all able to establish control?

@MysticalDigital — well that explanation only works if we make a huge assumption that the reason Voq was suppressed with Tyler’s consciousness on top was because Voq was such a hothead, he couldn’t be trusted as a spy, and probably shouldn’t have been given the assignment. We also have to assume that since Voq’s consciousness was suppressed, that he was not aware of anything that had previously been going on, and therefore, wouldn’t have access to Tyler’s memories either, making him a rather pointless spy. We further have to assume for any of this convoluted, and IMO, stupidly handled plot point to work, that L’Rell has a way to extract Tyler’s memories from Voq, so she knows what’s been going on, since Voq has no idea — which makes him a rather useless spy, such that should anything important happen, Voq won’t be aware of it, or be able to alert anyone about it (as spies do). And is Voq really that stupid that he couldn’t contain himself and try to explain his outburst on the planet, rather than just spill the beans? Was Voq even aware of the plan he was part of, or did L’Rell just cook this up on her own and do this to Voq without telling him? Just the number of questions this whole concept raises points to how ridiculous this storyline is.

Only true love can save Tyler, who will redeem himself by saving Michael and Lorca from the Emperor Georgiou. Love conquers all!

I have Two theories how this Done One Theory IS Taylor IS More Then Meets The Eye that He is Still a Klingon in Disguise Witch and that they implanted the Memory of The Actual LT Taylor in him through a Devise Called the Mind Shiftier Witch was in a Star Trek Novel and a Star Trek New Voyage Episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFjikVnvypg Second Theory To get pass the DNA to Show that he is Human they used Taylor himself and places Voqs Memories in him But that one might be proven wrong I think More of the First one more but we may see in the next Episode Tomorrow

You nailed it with the Mind Sifter. But its actually the Mind Scanner. Since in the book the Sifter is just a modded version of the Scanner. And it is V’oq with Tylers personality layered over top of his own. The real Ash Tyler is now dead. That is V’oq we have been looking at this whole time.

Can someone please answer this….wasn’t Voq exiled? How did he get welcomed back in by the klingons? Did I miss something?

In the short story from the 70s, published in Bantam’s first NEW VOYAGES book, the story is CALLED Mind-Sifter, and Kor is the one who used it on Kirk in an attempt to access the Guardian of Forever before Kirk winds up in a 1950s nuthouse. Still one of the rarest of TREK stories, that makes me tear up every single time I reread it. (then again, I also cry at a certain point near the end of Tom Clancy’s CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, when Ryan tells a dying chopper pilot that all of the man’s kids will be going to college on his dime.)

Are you confusing mind-sifter with mind-shifter? The former was based on a 1970s novella, itself derived from the mind-sifter mentioned but not shown in ERRAND OF MERCY.

In “Errand of Mercy,” it’s called both a mind scanner and a mind sifter. (The previous poster got confused when he said “mind shifter.”)

I thought it was called the mind scanner Kmart? Or am I just remembering Errand of Mercy wrong? Wait now that Im thinking about it wasnt there a mind ripper?

What’s the quandary? He’s on a permanent spacewalk…

You may have missed the last 2 minutes of the last episode….

Fal-tor-pan! Fal-tor-pan! Fal-tor-pan! (for more information, see the Burger King collectible glass)

you need another body for the refusion to work

Is that insane asylum from TOS a thing yet? Probably a good place for him… er, them.

yes be cool if Voq turned good and see how Michael and Federation is good and not out to hurt anyone. Have Tyler and Voq coexist 🖖

It is just completely unbelievable that the medical computer (and Culber) would mistake a wide-ranging “organ swap” for the results of torture, especially knowing how vastly different Klingon anatomy has been portrayed as in Star Trek before (duplicate organs). Even today’s technology could identify such changes (if they are even possible).

I liked the idea that Voq was really Tyler (i.e., a human transformed into an albino Klingon without his knowledge), much better – knowing that, again nicely backed up by canon, Klingon physicians are not exactly high up the ladder in the Empire and medical treatments, let alone examinations, are looked down upon. A fake Klingon would be much easier to hide in the Empire than a fake human in the Federation, especially in times of war where spies must be expected everywhere. This whole story just makes both the characters (especially Culber und Lorca) and the whole of Starfleet look incompetent. Again, this is Discovery sacrificing character integrity, plot logic and real world relevance (PTSD) for the sake of a twist – one we saw light years away coming, so what was the point again?

Ouch! I hadn’t really thought about the PTSD plot thread. Now that I think about it, Lorca had a similar thread going. If the Mirror Lorca theory is to be true, that would further jeopardize any message they were trying to send with regard to PTSD.

I agree. I don’t have a problem with the twist, but you’re right. The other option made so much more sense. And yeah, it makes you rethink earlier plot points, like the sincerity of the whole PTSD storyline.

Vylor? Or Tvoq?

I prefer Voqler too

I prefer TyVoq.

I like Voqler better lol

Personally I see two outcomes of this situation: First Tylers situation will be used to somehow solve the Klingon conflict and second his appearance change might somehow lead to the Ridgeless, human looking Klingons from the Original Series.

The ridgeless Klingons from TOS were already explained on Star Trek: Enterprise. No further explanation is necessary. In fact, if Tyler were to become the explanation, that would cause a major continuity issue.

I don’t see how they have to be mutually exclusive.
If Voq was first infected with the Augment virus to get the general anatomy changed and then later “internally adjusted” and receive skin transfer or whatnot to make him match the records Starfleet would have had on Tyler (within the variance that could plausibly explained by months of turture), it would fit perfectly within established canon.

@Dana — the stupid Augment explanation aside, I don’t even see how Tyler could be the explanation for the broad population of ridgeless Klingons. He’s a one-off, surgically offered. His DNA would presumably create more Klingson looking offspring. Unless the explanation is the Klingons engaged in mass surgery to intentially turn their race into humans, then I can’t imagine what @alphantrion was thinking.

Well, I was just theorizing but after the latest episode, I am not sure how this situation will go. Still I don’t think Voq is fully gone from Tyler and this situation is definitely the same as Arne Darvin. Perhaps he was a follower of Voq, perhaps it will lead to the formation of some kind of a separate faction or cult who kind of worships Voq and his sacrifice so they want to look him.

Considering how much DSC does acknowledge canon, I’m sure the “smooth” Klingons are already a thing. I was actually quite disappointed when they didn’t use the Augment virus as part of the transformation (though perhaps they did and we just didn’t see that part).
The existence of the smooth Klingons does fit quite well into the timeline we can extrapolate from what we’ve seen on DSC so far:
The Klingon Empire has been in disarray for 100 years, and no one has seen a Klingon in that time (which fits EXACTLY with the end of Enterprise).
A widespread affliction that radically changes the appearance of a proud warrior race would most certainly cause a lot of internal disruption.
What if the “smooth” Klingons in this time period treated as a lower caste, barred from military service? It would also explain the current look of the Klingons: They shave their hair to proudly show that they are “true” Klingons.
It ties in with T’kuvma’s hatred for the Federation, perhaps he believed the augment virus was a Federation plot to destroy the Empire?

@Hauke — lets just hope they’re ignoring that unfortunate bit of canon gestated during the Berman/Braga era …

Tyler is evidently just a more throrough version of Arne Darvin. TOS Klingons and TNG Klingons are just different make up. ENT should be treated like TAS, taking the best ideas for canon, and discarding the stupid ones.

Well, the Augment virus was a BIT on the contrived side, but it is canon now, so DSC has to work around it. This is a consequence of DS9 though. If the DS9 crew had just ignored the Klingons looking different, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
Tyler is likely exactly the SAME as Arne Darvin, or a previous instance of that same process. Doesn’t get picked up in standard scans, but if you know what you’re looking for, standard TOS medical tricorder can pick it up. Actually makes a lot of sense for Starfleet to kinda know about this after what happened with Tyler/Voq, if that is the first time they encounter this type of undercover Klingon operative.

Maybe Tyler will ask Mirror Voq to take his hand and resurrect peace in the PU?

Well, let me say straight off that coming up with a name like Count Voqula, then discounting it in favour of something an anodyne as Vyler, is sufficient evidence to call your judgement into question.

Was quite pleased with that one, thanks. And I’d put no faith in my judgment whatsoever

LOL–I thought the same thing.

Instead of mutilating Voq’s body and adding a Tyler personality overlay, why didn’t they just place Voq’s mind/soul into Tyler’s body?

IKR? It sure seems a lot easier.

I agree with you there. Using the augment virus as a plot device or having Voq’s mind placed in Tyler’s body makes A LOT more sense than sawing down bones and removing organs to make Voq human. And how did they reconstruct Tyler’s face?! It is a weird choice they made.

Culber explained it to Tyler. A new complete personality (Tyler) cannot be placed under the original personality (Voq), but above it. This is necessary to get around the Manchurian test, which can unveil foreign mind engrams.

And so the surgery was necessary. Voq above Tyler wouldn’t have had a chance to stand among humans undetected. He would have made cultural errors

But yes, from a view of story telling Voq hiding inside Tyler would have been more convincing.

Sounds like a bunch of crap they just made up

That’s what I keep saying. This route was so much more convoluted in terms of the different plot explanations to get here. But I’m holding out hope that the real Tyler is still out there and will play a role. Only that would justify this decision.

How true !
I was wondering the same thing.
I am sure they will cough up some sort of rationale for this, eventually.

David Alexander Harrison

This reminds me of Total Recall; perhaps in the end the Ash Tyler persona will completely override the Voq persona, like the fabricated Doug Quaid defeating Carl Hauser’s allies & continuing to exist in his body.

@DAH — yeah, that’s about the only hope they have left.

Tyvoq: Reference to Tuvix.

Didn’t Tyler bring events to a head when he went to Dr Culber and asked for a more thorough medical exam?

I may have misunderstood what was happening, but I thought that they changed Voq into Tyler’s appearance and overlayed Tyler’s personality into Voq’s mind. This would mean either Tyler is still captive, or most likely eaten.

There should be no moral quandry when it comes to Voq, who is literally masquarading as Tyler.

That’s the way I understood it but it seems like too much work. Just brainwash Tyler to think he’s Voq or put Voq’s personality into Tyler.

for sure

Wouldn’t it just have been easier to brainwash Tyler to think he’s Voq. Seems better than painful surgery.

Ah, but not nearly so graphic or torturous.
I hope that’s not the only reason they did it that way.

So, assuming they survived, maybe Mirror Sarek performs a Fal-tor-pan between Tyler/Voq and Mirror Voq.