In years to come, when fans look back on Star Trek: Discovery and line it up against its forebears, one aspect will be instantly noticeable. One might argue that Star Trek: The Original Series developed week by week, while Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise all got off to relatively slow starts, accelerating towards top gear in their third seasons and beyond. Not so Discovery, which hit the ground running. Discovery gave us a sleek, streamlined arrow of a story in its first season, and along with it a cast of fascinating, mold-breaking characters markedly different to those who have gone before, with one very welcome exception – the alien outsider. In TOS, it was Spock, while in TNG we met Data. DS9 brought us the alien outsider Odo, Voyager the holographic Doctor and Enterprise the cool Vulcan, T’Pol. On Discovery, that character is Saru.
He had quite the opening season since we first met him aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou in “The Vulcan Hello,” and as the season unfolded so did Saru. We watched him face his fears, loose control Spock-style, deal with the disappointment of betrayal, face the burdens of command and rise to – even rise beyond – the occasion. To celebrate the birthday of Saru’s Earthly alter ego, Doug Jones, here, and in no particular order, are Saru’s 7 Best Moments... So Far.
1 – “Choose Your Pain”
One of the continuing themes early in Discovery’s first season is the disappointment Michael Burnham engendered in her former Shenzhou crewmates, none more so than Saru, who valued Michael as a colleague and friend. In this moment from “Choose Your Pain,” we see Saru open up to Burnham, telling her how he felt cheated not to have the chance to become Captain Georgiou’s first officer, to learn from a great captain and be more prepared. Michael makes it very clear how proud Georgiou would have been of Saru, giving the Kelpien the captain’s telescope. It’s the moment that largely breaks down the wall that has grown between them, and a key scene.
2 – “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”
What is it with Star Trek and planets that alter people’s personalities? Another smart Gene Roddenberry way of showing us just how connected we are to Mother Earth perhaps? Either way, this is the episode where we learn that as much as the control of emotion informs Spock’s character, so the presence of fear dictates Saru’s. Without fear, he becomes a fearsome and powerful enemy. Maybe those Mirror Universe folks had a point…
3 – “The Wolf Inside”
As Ash Tyler/Voq is beamed into space and then saved by Discovery, Saru explains why the rogue Klingon wasn’t left to freeze in the vacuum of space. It’s another moment that not only develops Saru as a compassionate but firm commander, but shows once again just why the ideals of the Federation are worth fighting and dying for.
4 – “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for The Lamb’s Cry”
“My ganglia remain unconvinced.”
Ahhh, Saru’s already legendary ganglia. A Mirror Universe delicacy, the Kelpien version of the hairs standing up on the back of your neck and quite possibly very tasty with Wasabi sauce (but don’t tell Saru we said that).
5 – “Choose Your Pain”
Once again to Discovery’s fifth episode, where Saru questions his leadership capabilities and researches other great captains. For no other reason than giving us all a nerdgasm as locations like Space Station K-7 and Rura Penthe flash up on the screen, you have to admire Saru for his diligence as he looks at the command decisions of captains Jonathan Archer, Matt Decker, Phillipa Georgiou, Robert April and Christopher Pike. Keen to live up to his responsibilities as acting captain, he elicits the advice of the ship’s computer, which suggests removing the random variable that has entered the equation – Michael Burnham. “Not an option,” states Saru, bringing the thaw between them another degree closer. And as for that honor roll of Starfleet captains past and present, who knows, season two might just bring him face-to-face with one of them.
6 – “Context Is for Kings”
Six months after the Battle of the Binary Stars, and Michael Burnham arrives on the U.S.S Discovery. Understandably, Saru is less than thrilled, making it clear he associates her presence with danger and that, if pushed, he would do a better job of protecting his captain than she did hers. Awkward, measured and full of intent, it set the tone for early Saru/Burnham interactions, but gave the Kelpien a great chance to pleasantly bite back as Burnham addresses him as “Saru.” “First Officer Saru” he replies.
7 – “What’s Past Is Prologue”
"It is well known that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death. I do not sense it today. I may not have all the answers. However, I do know that I am surrounded by a team I trust, the finest a Captain could ever hope to command. Lorca abused our idealism. Make no mistake: Discovery is no longer Lorca's. She is ours. Today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform, and we will not accept a no-win scenario. You have your orders. On your way."
That stirring speech represents the moment Discovery became the most Star Trek a show could possibly be and a marker for all seasons to follow. It proudly nailed its Star Trek colors to the mast and arguably gave Saru his greatest moment in the debut season. If you were in any doubt that Discovery is pure, joyful, thrilling, unstilled Star Trek, then this speech is for you.
Mark Newbold has been an avid Trek fan since the 1970's, when TOS was shown on UK TV, but it was the original cast movie series and TNG era that sealed the deal. Mark is a writer for Star Trek The Official Magazine, is editor-in-Chief of Star Trek: The Neutral Zone and was a stage host at Destination Star Trek Germany in 2018. At heart he's a Niner. Follow him on Twitter.