Last night’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery gave us a deep dive into Saru and his home world of Kaminar as well as offering some more intrigue with the season’s Red Angel arc. To get some more insight into “The Sound of Thunder,” TrekMovie had a chance to ask some questions via email with Discovery co-producers Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, who wrote the episode.
This episode revealed a lot about Saru and Kaminar, can you talk about the story development process and how much of this was worked out early on?
While we had established the existence of a prey/predator dynamic on Saru’s homeplanet in Season 1, we never had much of a chance to expand on that premise. From the very start of the Season 2, though, we knew we would be visiting Saru’s homeworld, and that’s when we truly sat down to build out the world of Kaminar, what the Kelpiens’ lifestyle was, and who the Ba’ul were. Once we settled on the concept of Vahar’ai, we knew it would take more than one episode to introduce the idea, which is how the Saru storyline in 204 came about. We also wanted to use “The Brightest Star” to establish the mindset of the Kelpiens – that questioning the status quo is taboo – as a way of hinting that there is likely more going on between Kelpiens and Ba’ul.
How has Doug Jones changed and informed the development of the story of the Kelpiens and Saru?
We cannot speak highly enough about how much Doug Jones has brought to this character. His idiosyncratic mannerisms are just the start of it. For one thing, the innate gentleness that comes across informed the idea that Kelpiens (pre-evolution) are perfectly satisfied with a peaceful lifestyle – which is one of the reasons they put up with the culling, to “maintain the Balance.” Another aspect of his performance is his drive to succeed by following the rules. This speaks to how diligently he has had to work, as the only Kelpien in Starfleet, to make it as far as he has – harder than virtually everyone else around him.
So, is the Saru we see in this episode the new Saru, a more in-your-face kind of guy who will continue to butt heads with Captain Pike?
Yes, as a result of Vahar’ai, not just Saru’s biology but also his neurochemistry has changed; this is a new, bolder, no longer fearful version of Saru. That said, the slightly more aggressive behavior was the result of the highly personal nature of this mission. At his heart, Saru is still a highly empathetic and thoughtful character.
Were there any real-world inspirations for the history of Kaminar?
Certainly, we referenced various instances of oppression, and the repression (or attempt at repression) of cultural memories as a way to gain power over another people. One example was the Japanese occupation of Korea, and in particular, the systematic oppression that occurred over the course of 35 years that ultimately shaped Korea and how Koreans behave today.
Is there a reason the Ba’ul kept the Kelpiens around and built this whole elaborate system and mythology instead of just wiping out the potential threat?
While the Ba’ul were nearly hunted to extinction by the Kelpiens, it doesn’t mean they wanted to commit genocide. They have coexisted on this planet with the Kelpiens for thousands of years, and in a twisted way, this is the “Balance” that they have preserved via culling.
As big fans I know you often discuss other Star Trek episodes when developing new stories, were there any that you drew from for this?
We did find ourselves bringing up the Cardassian occupation of Bajor quite a bit, both in terms of the oppression of one species by another, and with regards to General Order One.
Can you make the case for how interference with Kaminar culture on this massive scale fits within General Order One? And does the Federation now have an obligation to stick around to ensure the peace?
The decision to trigger Vahar’ai was indeed a drastic one. We were not able to explore every facet of the argument on screen, but ultimately, it was a decision made by Captain Pike, who was willing to accept responsibility for it. Discovery, through its pursuit of the Red Angel mission, had unintentionally triggered events that put both Saru and Siranna’s lives on the line once they exposed the truth; at the same time, Pike was receiving a request from two Kelpiens to help their people achieve their true, natural evolution, which had been blocked against their will for longer than they could remember. (It was important that Siranna, as the Kelpien priestess, be involved in this decision.) This was the moment where, after millennia of the Kelpiens being silenced, Saru had a chance to give a voice back to his people. Given all of this Pike agreed to help him. And yes, considering the scale of consequences this decision could have, the Federation would help if Kaminar requested it.
Visually, fans are likely to see a similarity between the Ba’ul and Armus, the creature that killed Tasha Yar. Is there any connection?
The resemblance to Armus is merely coincidental.
The Red Angel mystery got a lot of attention. Should we assume that the suppositions discussed are correct and the Red Angel is a time-traveling humanoid wearing a futuristic mechanized suit?
Stay tuned to find out!
We got to see more of Airiam in action. Are we going to learn more about her origin story?
Keep watching to see more Airiam!
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.