Doug Jones Talks Saru Testing His Freedom And Being Ready For Captain On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Thursday’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery showed how much the character of Saru has changed since going through the Kelpien process of Vahar’ai. Saru actor Doug Jones discussed the “The Sound of Thunder” and its future implications for the character and the show in some post-episode interviews, and we have gathered together some of the highlights.

Saru is testing his freedom, but still a gentleman

Doug Jones was the guest on this week’s episode of The Ready Room where he talked about shooting “The Sound of Thunder” as well as what it means for the character of Saru, who has been going through some changes. The actor uses an analogy to explain how a Saru without fear will deal with the rules of life as a Starfleet officer, saying:

It’s like when you turn 18 but you are still living at your parent’s house. This is kind of like what Saru feels like now: “I can vote, I can smoke, I can do porn! I am old enough for all those things.” But he is still living under his parent’s rules. So, there is some tension there. Is this going to make him do a complete 180 and change personality altogether? You don’t know. I think of it like I think of me personally. When I was 18 I was a much different person than I am now at 58. I think Saru is going through the same kind of change. It is the same person with the same morals, the same ideals, but with a new found freedom. He is testing that freedom, I think. He has freedom from fear.

However, Jones indicated that the conflict we saw with Saru and Pike in “The Sound of Thunder” was unique to the situation:

He has courage he has never felt before, mixed with anger because of what he knows about this home planet. So, standing up to Captain Pike is something out of character for him. But it feels right in the moment. “I am not afraid of anything. I disagree with you, I am going to say so and I am taller than you so I am going to be intimidating.”

Saru got into with Pike in “The Sound of Thunder”

Jones also talked about the moment when Saru demonstrated his new spike-firing ability, and what that implied about the history of the Kelpiens and the Ba’ul:

I am angry and looking at the predator and this instinctively comes out and shoots at him. I didn’t orchestrate that, it happened on its own, kind of like any animal in the wild does instinctively, that just happened. And it was kind of like “where did that come from?” And that is the first time we realize, this is what the Ba’ul have been trying to prevent from happening for all these centuries and generations. They have been afraid of us. The tables must have been turned back in history and they in technology built themselves up to a place where they can control that. That is very eye-opening. It takes the anger and puts it into perspective. Okay, they had a reason for wanting to oppress us, because we were a threat. We were a big threat before.

But again, Jones clarified that this new Suru is not controlled by the changes, saying:

I still think Saru is still a gentleman. I don’t think he will ever turn vicious. I think he will need to keep his newfound instincts in check….The immediate change you will see in him; he will not make decisions based on fear anymore. He will make his decisions on “why not? Let’s give it a try.” He’s got more of that coming out.

Saru’s new spikes

Jones also provided a lot of info on the shooting of the episode including how he had to run “Kelpien classes” and why he turned down the offer to play the Ba’ul, a role which then went to his friend Javier Botet. Watch the video below…

Captain Saru?

Speaking to IGN, Doug Jones talked about the possibility of promotion:

Saru might be ready, but others on the ship also might be ready. Because I share a rank. I’m Commander Saru. [Sonequa Martin-Green’s] Michael Burnham got her status back as Commander. We also have others that have been given promotions and whatnot. And once we get through Season 2, you know, who will have earned what? But Saru, yes. That’s the big mystery for Saru personally now. I was acting captain for a minute at the end of Season 1. On our way to Vulcan to get a permanent captain assigned to us, we were intercepted, so now we have a temporary captain with us. So he can’t be with us forever, he’s got to get back to the Enterprise at some point. So where does that leave Saru is the big question. We’re gonna find out. We’re gonna find out, I believe!

Saru took his time giving up the captain’s chair to Pike in “The Sound of Thunder”

Behind the scenes on Kaminar

CBS also released a behind-the-scenes video from the filming of “The Sound of Thunder” with more commentary from Jones.

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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I recognized Saru’s motivation. Burnham was just plain insubordinate.

Yeah good point.

Because she’s a woman right?

A34 what kind of question is that

A perfectly valid one. Burnham had a motivation for her insubordination, too: Her mind meld with Sarek, which told her that the only way to resolve the Klingon situation was firing (the “Vulcan hello”).

The real difference is that Burnham physically attacked Georgiou. But if it’s only insubordination you’re worried about, then yes, it’s a sexist double standard.

She didn’t mind meld, it was just a conversation. Your point still stands though.

Michael Burnham’s mutiny was thought out but was well written by the writing staff. When people suffer a massive trauma in their past it is hard to get over. It takes many people years of therapy to get to a point where they are healthy enough to deal with the effects of the issue and push through it with rational thinking.

In the case of Burnham she never got what she needed to deal emotionally with what she experienced when her parents were murdered by Klingons. Instead she was brought into a whole different way of thinking, Vulcan logic, that did separate her from her grief and guilt. So then for years leading up to “The Vulcan Hello” she masked those feelings with her Vulcan training. And then she ran into Klingons and almost died as a result. It dredged up her childhood trauma with a vengeance, and the only thing she had to try and cope with things was the Vulcan way. The problem that Michael ran into was that she had never faced what happened to her parents, she shut it away because of what Sarek wanted to do to prove that humans could be just as logical as Vulcans. Don’t forget, Michael’s story ark in season 1 was her emotional healing, culminating in their visit to Qo’nos and talking to Ash about what happened the night her parents died. She finally makes the principled, rational choice because she was finally emotionally healthy enough to.

Saru had a different motivation. He recently learned that his whole foundation of belief was a lie. He broke down and got emotional on the bridge because of his anger and, in many ways, grief because of all the Kelpians he knew who had been culled by the Ba’ul, something he now considers needless. He was verging on insubordination, but not mutiny. Pike made him leave the bridge, similar to what we have seen with other captains in past shows. Had he tried to take over the ship Saru would have been guilty of mutiny.

Bottom line, both the actions of Burham and of Saru on their respective bridges were out of line, she took it a step too far in her instance, and Saru came close but did not. They both had legitimate emotional motivations to act the way they did even though their actions were wrong.

Fwiw, I totally agree, Mike. A masterful analysis.

Yes, very very good, Mike. I only differ with you in that I feel Saru’s passion and hurt should have been channeled into a private conversation with the captain.

Pike should have [been able to] invite him into the Ready Room to express his feelings. Pike could have empathized there and made his decision accordingly.

I just felt the captain was dis-served in this scene. Probably because they had to cut 10 seconds off the time or something.

It was way out of line for Saru to address the people the captain was dealing with … even if they were the murderers of his people.

I wish Pike could have just called the Ba’ul back in 5. LOL.

Valid point but aren’t humans meant to be better, more highly evolved in Star Trek, I believe that would include recovering from trauma much quicker. (In the ideal world that Trek represents)

Lukas, tell that to Picard in reference to his trauma with the Borg. The whole ready room argument between him and Lilly (“where were your evolved sensibilities?!”) goes over just that. Humans in Trek are more enlightened but even deep trauma isn’t easily overcome.

Yeah Mike , great breakdown of Michael and Saru!

It was a mental contact, based on Sarek’s long-standing connection with Michael from their mind-meld when she was 12. So it was KIND of a mind-meld. And kind of a conversation.

Sarek can be pretty cold-blooded. “The Vulcan Hello” and the near-genocide of the Klingons [which Cornwell is often solely blamed for].

But, desperate times and desperate measures. Perhaps the Vulcans had terrible dealings with Klingons in their past, thus the “Hello” … and in the Klingon war storyline, after nine months without Discovery, the Federation may have been about to topple. I call The Device their atom bomb project.

Temarc, Oh, is THAT what he was talking about. Whew! Thought I had missed something in Ep 6

Saru was insubordinate as well. It could have been written so Pike takes him into the Ready Room for discussion of his outburst, Saru says why he feels so passionately and speaks of the centuries-long oppression and culling of his people. Pike could say he understands the passion but not the insubordination … but no, they had to do that in the middle of the bridge while Pike was talking to the Ba’ul?! WTAF, it made Pike look like a wuss. On second viewing I wasn’t as offended, but I thought Pike went awfully easy on Saru.

When was Burnham insubordinate?

They seem to have their staff meetings on the bridge, LOL

Burnham was insubordinate when she commandeered the Shenzhou in season 1.

I think Saru was given something of a pass because part of the reason for his behaviour was that his fear response was impaired. Not holding back in challenging authority would be a fairly classic way for someone with a problem like that to behave.

Saru is the best character on this show. Burnham is downright insulting.

I second that Saru is the best. Stamets is the most improved character. Pike is the best new character, although Reno is pretty good, I’m hoping for more of her. I wish they would show more of the bridge crew as well.

I love them all. And I loved sassy Stamets. His interactions with Lorca were some of the best moments in Season 1.

And before anyone says, “but, your reaction to Saru” Lorca consulted Stamets in Engineering as the expert in his field and Stamets strongly worded his answers. Stamets’ and Lorca’s mmmm, discussions were not on the bridge, and Lorca always won. Sadly, as it turned out. But it was good conflict and good writing.


A34 why not? Saru and Captain Pike are fantastic, well written characters with great actors involved.

To call a character insulting — ANY character —, that’s insulting, right there.

Even Neelix?

Salvador Nogueira Michael Burnham is a flawed character in a horrible way. I’m sorry, her mutiny was insulting to the federation during the Klingon war. I like her relationship with her brother Spock.

Her mutiny was before the actually war. Her actions was to prevent the war. So no shame. She was trying to prevent loss of life. It didn’t happen but her life experience and Vulcan upbringing made her make a decision to commit mutiny. She received her punishment, although it was off screen, she was enduring it before she was seen on Discovery. Also there’s nothing wrong with flawed characters, I appreciate them, after all we are imperfect beings thus can be prone to poor judgment and decisions. If fact, I think that why I enjoyed all the characters of Discovery because they seem realistic imperfect.

Salvador, Very true. Why attach such statement to fictional character?

Professor Spock, You are missing out on great character! Also why are you offended? There’s nothing insulting about character of Michael.

I know from the comments I’ve seen in reviews of the latest episode a lot of people did not like how Saru’s actions impacted on Pike’s ability to command and the lack of blowback after the incident.

But I actually think it strengthened my views of Pike as a leader and my affinity for the character.

I think Pike understands that Saru is both undergoing a biological change affecting his behavior, but also Saru is the equivalent of an escaped slave. To have to listen to the oppressors of your species, the murderers of your father, not only threaten your sister but also demand you be returned as property, would be a hard pill to stand silently and swallow for anyone, with or without threat ganglia.

The fact Pike doesn’t feel the need to stroke his ego by some show of reclaimed dominance over Saru says a lot about how he’s secure in his own abilities and confidence to lead.

Agreed, it shows Pike as a mature and understanding leader.

I agree also, Ed. You’ve nicely described both Saru’s and Pike’s perspectives. I’d like to add a word of defense of Burnham to CmdrR, who I guess was referring to her actions in the series first episodes. Yes, she was insubordinate, because she had been trained on Vulcan to think with supposedly dispassionate logic. So when Sarek tells her that Vulcan policy toward Klingons is to shoot on sight, she can’t accept Georgiou’s decree that “Starfleet doesn’t shoot first.” (I wonder about Vulcan dissent from Federation policy.) Note that Georgiou feels she had been arrogant to think she could facilely make Burnham human again. Maybe Burnham feels Vulcan logic makes them (and her) superior to emotional humans. Anyway, that’s her internal conflict that the writers set up and that we’ll apparently see reprised in her forthcoming interactions with her brother.

Pike doesn’t have a ego. He’s just a strong leader.

Pike is human, thus he has a ego. Maybe you mean that he is humble, and has good discernment?

Yep. And remember that Pike knows a thing or to about enslavement from his experiences with the Orions and Talosians.

Right, but strangely enough Pike seems to be okay with the enslavement in both cases. He is Thomas Jefferson of the Stars.

But the Orion’s women are not the slaves but the masters

Okay, I get that. It’s a good view of what I considered a weak bit of writing. I wish the scene had been structured differently, is the main thing.

Pike did come through more strongly on my second viewing. Probably because my friends and I were not watching together, saying “Oh no he DIDN’T!!”

And yes, his calm when he faced Saru at the end of the confrontation was very rooted in his confidence as a captain.

Some good points here…

I keep reminding myself that Pike is a temporary Captain of the Discovery, and that Saru has more than the usually ExO responsibility to deliver the ship for the captain to lead. ‘Shared patenting’ is Pike’s vision of the situation.

Pike is no Jellico. He’s got a role to play in healing the crew from Lorna’s pathological leadership, but he’s not going to achieve that by riding roughshod over the first officer who is mentoring and managing the crew.

So, some delicacy was in order in challenging his first officer’s recommendations and arguments. Especially as there are no standard pych assessment tools for Kelpians that could be used to say Saru should step aside from that role.

But in neither of the two situations – the initial confrontation over the landing party, or the later one with the Ba’ul, did Pike’s expression or body language indicate he was okay with the confrontation.

I’m really surprised by the lack of mention of Pike’s expression as Saru left the bridge. I read Burnham’s following of Saru to be a response to a non-verbal order in that look.

I myself have been hoping for season two to end with Michael Burnham’s promotion to Captain of Discovery. If that season ends with Saru’s promotion to Captain and Burnham’s promotion to First Officer, then fine.

Me, too, though I suspect some new character might appear as Disco captain, or even Number One (who may have a longer service record than either Saru or Burnham). On the other hand, this season started with Discovery going to Vulcan to meet its new captain. We’re apparently going there now, so perhaps we’ll get some further clues about this question.

It’s a bit hard to tell how much time is passingly on DSC, but the originally assigned Captain could have been reassigned in the meantime.
I doubt Burnham is going to end up as Captain of the Discovery anytime soon, her being promoted in the final episode would make a perfect bookend to the start of the series, perhaps one season with her as Captain at the end.

If they continue with captain of the year it should be Number One. Otherwise, it’s time to promote Saru.

Who was the Captain of Miranda class ship in ST:VH. She was a female black captain?

Would love to see “Captain Saru”, more than a Captain Burnham.

That would also make for the first main character alien captain in a Star Trek series which would be excellent.

I’d like to know the ‘canon’ reason as to what happened to the Kelpiens post Discovery? They’re not seen or mentioned in any of the other series.

I know its a new show and all, but it’s the same issue I had with Phlox’s species from Enterprise.

Having said all of this, Saru has grown on me and has definitely become my favorite character on the show.

Saru is an absolutely wonderful character. I love him from his hoof-feet to the top of his cartilage-plated head! His walk is graceful and alien, his being [up til Ep 6] very diplomatic. I enjoy the expressions Doug Jones manages to make under the makeup, and Saru’s appreciation of snark. I really love Saru’s compassion, and the look on his face when he expresses it.

I also think Saru will make a fine leader. He was during the Mirror episodes, for sure!

Why limit the aliens in Trek to only those mentioned in TOS?

PIke did get shorthanded in this episode, but it wasn’t the acting, or the writing. The wide-screen shots didn’t give time for the editor to “punch-in” a cut of Pike considering how to react to Saru’s changes. Did the director make such a shot? We will never know. Probably they were afraid such a moment would “slow down” the action. That’s what we want, to slow down the action. But they have what they want. We keep guessing.

It is really too bad they didn’t include such a shot. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so infuriated :^)

Directors miss coverage shots all the time.
Or, they may have got that shot but a continuity glitch may have prevented them from using a Pike reaction shot. It could be poor editing.There is a considerable amount of pressure to get the episodes in the can in the time allotted.
I felt Pike got a little run over in this episode.

I’d hate to play darts against Saru.


Yeah, I think O’Brien and Bashir would lose

Doug Jones is such a treasure! How he can act SO WELL through all that latex … he’s just amazing. And in interviews, he comes across as a very sweet person with a nice sense of humor.

Part of me has been sad since Leonard Nimoy died, but I think I have a new Trek actor to adore. :-)

That’s makeup not latex.

@Professor Spock – I think you mean that it’s silicone not latex. Both materials are used with makeup and are referred to as being part of “movie makeup” in general.

No, I misspoke, and it’s SILICONE, not latex. :-)

Saru’s great and all, but NuSaru looks less ready for captain than ever. Sorry ;)

Saru doesn’t have fear anymore Vulcan Soul. Very Vulcan of him.

Yes, but now he is overly emotional, aggressive and doesn’t respect the chain of command anymore. Well, at least that should put him that much closer with Michael Burnham ;)

I love star trek. It doesn’t matter what the plot line is or the development of character. I love all of them.
Having said that, the latest episode, the sound of thunder was all about Israel and Palestine conflict, History of Jews in Germany in WW2. Discovery as an Americans force and the doctrine of manifest destiny embody as a technologically advances red angel embed itself into history to justify change and universal dominance. So is Saru a Jew or Palestinian in this storyline? Only someone who has no understanding of global history doesn’t see the pattern in this storyline. But hey, Star Trek discovery pride itself promoting stupidity and ignorance about the world we live in. yes?

pipper you talking about Jews, Hitler, Nazis, the Holocaust, Israel and Palestinians at war, World War 2. Mass genocide on a big scale, ethic cleansing. History had some dark times but we can create a better future. Star Trek is a hope for a better tomorrow. American history is even worse. I love Star Trek. Star Trek Discovery is a product of the world we live in.

But in Episode 6, Discovery showed us that we may be able to overcome the past through negotiation, mutual respect, and forgiveness.

I love Star Trek. All of it.

I suspect it’s more likely that the writers did not intend to make an analogy with any specific human conflict, but started with the idea of unexpectedly reversing the roles of predators and prey and went from there. Be that as it may, I wish there was some kind of online Prime Directive to resist making claims like, “Only someone who has no understanding of [fill in the blank] doesn’t see [what I see].” The anonymity of the Internet seems to encourage adversarial assertions and imho there’s more than enough conflict in the world. Peace and long life.

Totally agree, Elrond. This is how Discovery should have been from the beginning, promoting peaceful co-existence rather than putting oil into the fire of division with its tone-deaf vilifying of positions the writers dont personally share (which they KIND of did again unfortunately by tieing isolationism into the Ba’uls’ general aggressiveness. Has it been isolationists or interventionists who have ruined America through their wars of aggression?)

Hey, VS! Guess I didn’t see any tone deaf vilifications, so I find it hard to follow your last sentence. Sorry.

Season 1: Discovery staff/writers were comparing cannibalist mass-murdering Klingons to isolationists and genodical, mass-murdering Mirror Lorca to border security proponents. Can’t get more vilifying and tone-deaf than that!

An episode like this one that advocates dialogue and peaceful coexistence with a 2000 year long oppressor and near-genodical race feels like a different series in comparison.

I found the whole scene pretty ridiculous, Saru was insubordinate and looked like he was about to assault his CO, only reason he stopped was because Burnham stepped between them. Should’ve been charged.

I have an issue that all Starfleet captains in starships are human centric