This Sunday, Star Trek: Discovery revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lt. Ash Tyler was actually the exiled Klingon Voq in (heavy) disguise. Fans had long theorized and the previous episode “Despite Yourself” appeared to directly confirm that Tyler was, in fact, Voq who’d undergone extensive plastic surgery and some kind of psychological manipulation. But this week’s episode, “The Wolf Inside,” saw Voq’s personality shake off its human overlay completely and reveal himself to Michael Burnham.
After losing control after coming face-to-face with his Mirror Universe counterpart, Tyler attacked the other Voq in a fit of purist Klingon rage. After narrowly salvaging the deal she’d just made with the mistrustful insurgency, Burnham confronted Tyler in her quarters back aboard the Shenzou. And then we watched Ash Tyler confess his love to Burnham one last time before finally being overwhelmed by Voq’s once-dormant personality. Given the implications of this disclosure, the ensuing confrontation was nothing short of electric. That said, as revelations go, this wasn’t that… revelatory.
Before the events of “Despite Yourself,” Discovery had dropped a series of Tribble-sized breadcrumbs throughout the first season that had fans speculating he was an imposter. His appearance coincided with the disappearance of Voq, supposedly one of the show’s principal characters, his bloody flashbacks looked like they had more to do with surgery than they had to do with torture, his escape from L’Rell’s ship very, very conveniently coincided with the arrival of a Starfleet captain, not to mention L’Rell’s obsession with keeping him safe. This is all not to mention the curious case of Javid Iqbal. The idea that Tyler was actually a spy has been telegraphed by nearly every major entertainment outlet, so, long story short – it wasn’t hard to connect the dots. But maybe that was the point?
One could accuse the showrunners of engaging in some pretty obvious writing when it came to the secret of Tyler’s identity, and, to be fair, it’s probably true that viewers didn’t need quite as many hints as they got to work out what L’Rell and Voq had done. However, that’s discounting the subtle, but significant impact those clues had on the overall experience of the narrative. If we were completely in the dark about or even only slightly suspicious of who Tyler was, most of Season 1 would’ve been spent on a sweet, but tedious romance and a pretty one-dimensional war. But with the added layer of the knowledge that a Klingon sleeper agent was head of security and became Michael Burnham’s first love, everything we watched took on greater depth.
Burnham opening up her heart for the first time was beautiful to watch, but then it became something disturbing when we started to consider the inevitable outcome. L’Rell’s desire to defect seemed genuine, especially considering the reality of her circumstances, but we couldn’t discount her treachery considering she’d orchestrated Tyler’s entire mission in the first place. If you’re in the “Lorca’s been from the Mirror Universe all along” camp, Voq’s presence aboard the Discovery becomes the captain’s one, extremely dangerous blind spot. By consistently (if obviously) reminding us that Ash Tyler wasn’t what he appeared, Discovery managed to give nearly every single one of its storylines some additional dimension. Not to mention having the added benefit of reminding the Star Trek audience that the final frontier is far from a safe place.
Discovery’s made it a point to play up the dark side of exploration. While Star Trek typically romanticizes traveling to the far reaches of the universe, it’s also notorious for ignoring how utterly terrifying and dangerous the unknown can be. But by setting most of this season against the backdrop of a Klingon time bomb, Discovery distinguished itself by illuminating the rewards and perils of boldly going where no one has gone before.
Written by Lisa Randolph
Directed by T.J. Scott