Interview: Doug Jones Talks “Dignified” Change For Saru In “Sentimental” Final Season Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

(Paramount/Getty)

Star Trek: Discovery star Doug Jones was one of the presenters at Sunday’s Saturn Awards. TrekMovie had a chance to speak to him on the red carpet about what’s next for Saru in the show’s upcoming fifth and final season as well has his thoughts on possibly returning for the Starfleet Academy series.

Have you come to grips with Discovery ending?

Well, I kind of had to. I had no choice, right? There’s a part of me that’s melancholy that it’s the fifth and final season. Nobody wants to hear “final,” but at the same time, I think in this day and age to get five seasons is really good with television the way it is now. But the other part is a bit of relief. I was just talking about memorizing large blocks of science fiction dialogue. That’s very difficult and so I don’t have to do that anymore. “Oh, yay!” And also the rubber bits. I love Saru. He is a part of me now. But he also comes with a look that’s glued onto me and taking that off for the last time was like, “Oh, oh that’s good. I don’t have to wear that again.”

But then you did have to wear it again…

Oh when we came back, yes. We did come back to do a short epilogue that’ll be tacked on to the end of the last episode to give you some closure on the entire series. Yes.

[Showrunner] Michelle Paradise has talked about how season 5 has a pivot in tone to something more fun and adventurous. Did you feel that shift when shooting it?

Yes. It was especially different for me too as Saru. Saru has gone through so many changes throughout the entire series. My rank has changed, it’s gone up, up, up. My title and position on the bridge, or not the bridge, it’s been all over the place. In season 5 even more changes are afoot for Saru—a very dignified change for him. I can’t tell you what I’m going to be or do but the tone for me personally, yes it changed intensely. Also, this has a very sentimental vibe to it, more than the other seasons have, especially as we come to the end.

Season 5 cast photo (Paramount+)

The synopsis for the first episode was released and it makes mention of Saru getting a special “offer.”

I get an offer for a position within Starfleet. And what will that be? Will I accept it? Those are questions you have to find out in that first episode.

How many captains can you have on one ship?

Right? That was my personal dilemma. We have a Captain Burnham and we have a Captain First Officer. Is that the best use of the captain within Starfleet?

You said you are somewhat relieved, but they are making another show. Would you put the makeup on again for Starfleet Academy? Like, what if they wanted Professor Saru to show up?

Starfleet Academy, I hear it’s in our same timeline. So that’s the one show that I could cross over. I guess any of us could. Will we? I don’t know what the writers have in mind. But I think Saru would have a lot to offer a class of kids, wouldn’t he? With his wisdom and his instructional ways. He’s been that way on the bridge of starship Discovery anyway.

It’s interesting as Saru had a mentoring relationship with Tilly, but then she left for the Academy last season, but now she’s back for season 5. So is he still mentoring her or is she past that?

Well, she doesn’t need me to be a mentor in that way. I think they still have a kind of father/daughter relationship, anyway. It’s very sweet. He’s very proud of her and she’s come into her own now. She doesn’t need to lean on him as much as she did.

Embed from Getty Images

Thanks, and since this is the red carpet, love the outfit: Can you tell us anything about it?

It’s a 1980s vintage tuxedo with a short waist that I’ve kind of accented a bit…

You kind of look like you are from the Mirror Universe with that sash… 

I do, yeah! [laughs]. Either that or a bellhop. Someone is going to ask me to carry their luggage before this night is over, I’m sure.

More to come from the Saturn Awards

TrekMovie spoke to more Star Trek presenters, nominees, and winners at the Saturn Awards, including some non-Trek (yet) celebrities like Nicolas Cage, so come back for more interviews and updates.

Discovery season 5 arrives in April

Paramount+ announced the final season of Discovery will debut in April around the world, but they have not yet set a specific date. A clip was released at CCXP last month.

Discovery seasons 1 through 4 are currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and Austria. Seasons two and three are also available on the Pluto TV “Star Trek” channel in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel.


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Haha, damn! There’s confirmation for anyone who didn’t already assume it based on the announcement blurb that SFA is set in the Discovery era.

Good catch. I’ll admit I was trying to not make that assumption, because you could plug an Academy series into any point in the timeline, but it looks like Jones spilled some beans.

It is a win-win for Paramount+. Will be cheaper than Discovery to make. No major new investment for the new show. Younger actors. For sure Discovery characters could join as special guests.

Agreed. As a fan of DSC, I would love to see Saru or Stamets pop up on occasion. It would also give the writers a chance to actually build on the 32nd century.

Not to mention presumably far fewer FX shots in space…

And, I expect far fewer viewers. In the redditsphere of Trek subs, I see very little interest in this show.

Even less than LDS?

This was already hinted at the initial announcement: 

https://trekmovie.com/2023/03/30/breaking-star-trek-starfleet-academy-series-officially-annnounced/

“Admission is now open to Starfleet Academy! Explore the galaxy! Captain your destiny! For the first time in over a century, our campus will be re-opened to admit individuals a minimum of 16 Earth years (or species equivalent) who dream of exceeding their physical, mental and spiritual limits, who value friendship, camaraderie, honor and devotion to a cause greater than themselves. The coursework will be rigorous, the instructors among the brightest lights in their respective fields, and those accepted will live and study side-by-side with the most diverse population of students ever admitted. Today we encourage all who share our dreams, goals and values to join a new generation of visionary cadets as they take their first steps toward creating a bright future for us all. Apply today! Ex Astris, Scientia!”

The phrase “For the first time in over a century, …” was probably the biggest clue of this.  

Drat.

Is that really news? Didn’t we hear already that Tilly was going to be on SFA? Or did I dream that?

If Sylvia Tilly goes anywhere near that show…
Damnit, Paramount! *Legacy was right there!*

Nonsense reply.

It is nonsense. I’m as hopeful for some kind of 25th century/Picard spin off as the next fan but all the legacy talk is starting to turn into tunnel vision. “Legacy” probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but it doesn’t mean other cool things can’t happen in the meantime.

Anyway, a lot of us are kinda assuming Tilly will be associated with the show based on where they left the character last season, but in truth, we haven’t heard a thing. Back in the day when Michael Pilller was carving the script for Voyager’s pilot on a stone tablet, there were all kinds of Voyager casting rumors and none of them came true, so who knows.

I can’t disagree with this and I really want the Legacy show too. But hopefully this other stuff will be interesting on its own.

As for Tilly they made such a big deal of her leaving Discovery to be part of Starfleet Academy last season and why people thought she was going to be part of that show. But it sounds like she is back on the ship next season, so yeah who knows?

I don’t understand the negative fan reaction to the character of Tilly. I mean, other than the “Silly Tilly haunting plot” in the first half of the second season (which at least had some humor to it), what about the character has been unlikable? She’s highly intelligent, she’s warm/caring, she’s funny, and awkward at times. I would love to see a more mature version of this character. Yes, being put in command temporarily at the end of S3 was a stretch, but Mary Wiseman was a series regular. The actors playing the bridge officers are not.

Also, I don’t think Legacy was *right there.* Yes, many of us want it, and I think we will eventually get it in some fashion, especially after the Saturn award wins for Picard.

I didn’t love that the only humor in Discovery season 1 (and Picard season 1, come to think of it) came from a quirky awkward woman being quirky and awkward. It just made her feel very forced and unnatural.

I understand what you mean. I feel the same way. She feels unnatural and somewhat annoying imo.

I think Mary Wiseman is a wonderful actress who plays a character that is very human and genuine, flaws and all.

She’s a woman. Sci-fi nerds hate women.

Except for Jeri Ryan and Chase Masterson of course. ;-)

I don’t think we have, at least. But it’s been deeply connected to the guesses, for obvious reasons.

They didn’t say that Tilly is in it (yet), but the log line description of the series is that it is about Starfleet Academy rebooting after being shut down for hundreds of years, which also describes the episode of Discovery where Tilly goes to teach at the Academy. The assumption is that that episode of Discovery was essentially a pilot for the new series, the same way that season 2 of Discovery was a pilot for Strange New Worlds.

It has to be. They are using the same sets. With the current “deficit” in the streaming industry, this is the only reason we will have the academy show.

The irony for me is that’s partly why I am excited about SFA in the first place and that it takes place in the 32nd century and Discovery is literally my least favorite show in the franchise. It is currently dead last.

But I really do want Trek to take some real chances and try something new. They have an opportunity to do something really unique and explore this period in a way Discovery never could since they were basically outsiders to the whole Burn thing. But now we will have characters who are both new to Starfleet and learning what the Federation is since it barely existed in the last century.

If the show was based in the 23rd-25th century it would just be kids going to school. Can still be good but not as interesting IMO.

Good take on this, Tiger2. You have always wanted to go further, to explore this time period. Very good perspective and approach. I enjoyed so much to see Voyager J, USS Nog. That awe moment when Discovery arrived to the Federation Headquarters. The Emerald Chain development, Ni’Var including both Vulcans and Romulans, and Kaminar now being part of the Federation due to the one and only, Captain Saru. More stories like these could move forward. More mixed races. Following up, how is the Federation reconnecting with member planets and now Emerald Chain colonies.

The Borg, wonder what are they doing? Still alive? Even Agnes could still be alive watching the anomaly, LOL. :D

You know me so well Jay lol. Yeah, even with my issues with Discovery itself, every time they focus on anything 32nd century related, I’m really glued in. There was a lot of interesting elements in season 3 I thought were great which you mentioned like NiVar, the development of Kaminar, the new Federation headquarters and planets feeling a lot more final frontierish again like the 22nd/23rd centuries. Unfortunately we didn’t get enough of it. And season 4 even less so.

But it’s fun to me to hear/see things like the Bajorans and Cardassians are now allies or seeing a Xindi in a shot. With the Academy show, all these species could be explored in more detail again and just see how different they have developed. Would be cool if one of the new students is a Changeling, etc.

As far as the Borg, I do remember they made a reference last season about them. I can’t remember what it was (I’m sure someone will know lol) but it did sound like they were still around but not seen for centuries. And I refuse to believe they were all wiped out in the 25th century by Picard and the gang. And yes there are the Agnes versions out there too.

One good thing is that in the Discovery era, Earth isn’t that important. So I am imagining that Starfleet Academy is like DS9, but with teenagers, and even more species diverse.

There could be an argument for not basing Starfleet Academy on Earth, given that Earth just rejoined the Federation at the end of DSC season 4. But they may still go for it to save on production costs. Then again, even Earth should not simply look like present-day Toronto in the 32nd century.

True, it’s ironically kind of like 22nd century/Archer’s era when few people ever heard of it Earth. Maybe that will be explored as well and we see Earth slowly gain more influence in the Federation again.

There are just so many fun and interesting ways they can take it. I have to give DIS credit on that, they did set up a really interesting period to tell great and unique stories in; I just think they failed to do it overall sadly.

I didn’t think that was ever in question. How else would you interpret the academy being open for the first time in over a century? The Burn seems a likely culprit.

We did come back to do a short epilogue…”

A “short” epilogue ?
What a proper ending !

We don’t know what he means by that. It could be two minutes, it could be 20. He might think the real ones warrant a full episode (which, fair).

Compared to a ten episode season, yes, I’m sure it is relatively short.

I rather have a short epilogue than that awful season 7 of TNG. 5 seasons is the right amount of time to end a show.

I always think it’s wild that the only Emmy nominated season was the one with Masks and Sub-Rosa in it.

It depends on the show. In season 6 of DS9, for example, there were some good episodes, especially at the beginning. In my opinion, season 5 and 6 are the best of this show. However, it’s also true that the first half of season 7 has slackened a little. What’s more, the series didn’t really get going until season 4. (Season 3 was also a bit better (than 1 & 2), but filled with more boring episodes.)  

Doug Jones is such a treasure. Thank you for your service to Star Trek, dear sir! I hope we see you again soon.

Exactly. Agree 100% on this.

Ambassador seems most logical. Maybe Admiral?

Captain of the Enterprise !

I would totally be down for a Saru/Enterprise show. I guess they would have to invent a new alphabet by then since they were already on the J in the 26th century lol.

It just makes no sense that Tilly and now Saru would be offered instructing positions at Starfleet Academy. They’re from a thousand years in the past. It’d be like someone from the year 1100 being offered a teaching position at a modern-day university.

Depends on what they are teaching. Courses on Command, Application of the Prime Directive, Federation History, etc.

And that dude from 1100 would be great to teach elective history courses in the Academy’s History Department on The Norman Conquest and The First Crusade.

They are in the present not the past. You’re not making any logical sense.

Normally that would be true, but Discovery made it clear that Starfleet had forgotten some of what used to make it great, so people from the past who were from a time when it WAS great might be just the instructors the Academy needs.

That’s rather like saying, “welp, the American military has forgotten some of what used to make it great; if we could only bring in some Vikings to impart leadership skills.”

The whole time jump was ridiculous and ruined the series.

I’m not wild about the time jump, either, but Discovery’s crew does seem to have some traits that could be useful.

That’s a faulty analogy given all that was lost in The Burn.

A much better analogy would be Roman engineers from the 4th Century showing up in the 10th century to re-teach engineering and science — and they would be more advanced in those areas. In this case, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire which brought on the Dark Ages was “their Burn” in that millennium.

That’s a great analogy!!! Yes, this is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of. The Federation has lost some of what it used to know, but the Disco folks still know it.

No none of it makes a lick of sense, but we’re discussing Discovery, that’s not a shock. ;)

So I just re-read the article in case I missed something. Where does it say Saru would be offered a position at Starfleet Academy. Maybe he’s getting his own ship? Maybe he’s becoming an admiral? Maybe he’s joining the Federation Council? There’s a number of ways he could pop up on SFA without actually being an instructor. Cadets do go on training missions. Tilly was a cadet when DSC began. Uhura was a cadet during the first season of SNW.

As I mentioned above, the overall situation is analogous to Roman engineers from the 4th Century showing up in the 10th century to re-teach engineering and science — and they would be more advanced in those areas. In this case, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire was “their Burn” in that millennium.

Some fans who are not getting this simply do have a very good understand of REAL history, and have a simpleton’s viewpoint that advancements are always linear through millenniums of history. They are far from linear.

I am continually amazed how ignorant most Star Trek fans are concerning history. And that’s not a shock…lol

For once, I agree with you. Your analogy is 100% correct.

Thanks

Making Silly Tilly or even Saru Academy instructors is about as ridiculous as making Fratboy Kirk a Captain after being on a starship for the first time for 3 days. This is what happens when you have h-a–c-k-s writing for Star Trek.

Hopefully that’s not what they are doing with Saru.

But Tilly already was one which was already ridiculous being she’s only been a Starfleet officer herself for just three years. It’s already bonkers in the 23rd century, it’s even more so the 32nd century. 🙄

Well, maybe they are teaching a 23rd century history class!

But seriously, the qualities that make a good officer are not just technical know-how even though Trek pushes the idea that every ensign is a genius (Wesley’s entrance exams were kinda nuts). They’ve established that Starfleet lost a step since all the Dilithium blew up, so these officers would be great role models.

Saru is the new Spock. Expect to see him again on Star Trek for many years to come.

It’s be just like Prof. McGonagall! I can’t wait!

That seems doubtful. Discovery is off in its own alternate reality essentially. They have effectively cut it off from the rest of Trek continuity.

Well he can still be in any thing in the 32nd century as long as they continue stories in that timeline.

Teacher in the Academy would definitively be a good fit for Saru and I hope it happens. I don’t mind SFA being in the same timeline as Discovery and except for a few annoying and useless bridge characters, I welcome the possibility of a few of them making appearances in the new series.

Saru, my favorite Discovery character. Four seasons and Discovery only showed us only a quarter of his full potential.

Great actor, excellent character! Hope we can see more Saru on the new show.

I’m pretty certain we will see him on the show.

Yes. I think Doug is just hinting the possibility. I really hope so. Saru is one the most interesting characters since day one. He stands out from the crowd. Doug makes his character so real.

If he is heading to Starfleet Academy, really hope we could have the opportunity to see more stories about him as the star of the show. Not showing up to be the special guest of few episodes.

THRUSTERS ON FULL.

5 is a good run these days yeah… but netflix was paying paramount 100 million for the intl rights to the show which paid for the entire budget… it could have gone on longer. it was all paid for. but paramount then ends the deal… they announce how they are proud to have discovery back in the fold all to themselves… then cancel it before s5 even airs. paramount is a mess. hopefully the new owners will be trek happy

Yeah they were trying to make P+ more ‘appealing’ by making DIS exclusive to that service…didn’t work. Instead DIS gets cancelled a season later and no one knows how long P+ will even be around.

The irony out of all this, Discovery may be back on Netflix in a few years anyway if whoever owns Paramount next pulls a HBOMax and just start licensing all their big IPs again to third party streamers. Seems to be working out for their pocketbooks.

yeah. trek excusivity never made sense… you need to have people find the show in multiple locations and not just for pay. i wonder how many intl viewers they lost when paramount pulled the plug last minute on season 4 overseas… so many fans had the rug pulled out from under them. i was personally sending people downloads of the eps. they shot themselves in the foot trying to build their p+ brand when they didn’t have the infrastructure yet. they should have been more patient.

Even today, Paramount+ certainly isn’t available in all the markets that Netflix is.

Oh god, a “sentimental” final season. Even more crying, hugging, declarations of love. One final attempt to sledgehammer the unearned fact that these characters supposedly adore each other,

Oh god, another whiney post from Emily. Look, others do like the show. I am surprised you don’t especially since they have tried something different. They left nostalgia and fan service behind. They broke away from the whole “before Kirk & Spock” thing. The only “nostalgia is in the names of the ships you saw… which is normal with the navy in this day. And it is only minor. They even don’t mention Spock or anyone from the past. The only ties you have to the past are some of the aliens, Starfleet and the ships – but even the ships are redesigned and don’t look like something rehashed. I would have thought, with all your hate for nostalgia and fan service, this would be your number one Trek show.

I’m delighted Discovery is charting its own path, I’m thrilled that it has the courage to do something new instead of relying on cheap fan service like every other show.

…I just think it’s rubbish.

Yep it truly lost the plot after season 2

…that’s when I bid it farewell.

I think Strange New Worlds could do a story with Siranna, Saru’s sister.

What a fantastic idea!

I wish Commander Peria appeared in Starfleet Academy. As a teacher.

Doug Jones is a treasure. Just about the only thing I will miss about this series is Saru. That said, I don’t care about Discovery cameos. Please don’t set Starfleet Academy in the 31st century. Just let the Discoverse quietly die already.