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Star Trek: Discovery Showrunners Talk That Big Klingon Reveal

This post contains spoilers for the first season of Star Trek: Discovery.

The mask has finally come off.

At long last, Star Trek: Discovery has pulled the trigger on one of its biggest first season mysteries, confirming a long-running fan theory by revealing the true identity of a Starfleet crewman.  

The reveal took place in the series' 11th episode, "The Wolf Inside", the series' second episode to air since returning from a midseason break. The story confirmed what many viewers began to surmise long ago, revealing that the Starfleet lieutenant Ash Tyler—who was introduced being rescued from Klingon captivity in the series' fifth episode—was actually the Klingon Voq in human disguise. 

The episode confirmed that actor Shazad Latif, who is credited as playing Tyler, has been playing a dual role on the series, being done up in heavy prosthetics to portray the alien Voq. 

In an effort to conceal Latif's dual roles, the creative team behind the series decided not to credit Latif for his role as Voq, instead crediting the performance to a fictitious actor, "Javid Iqbal". 

After the episode, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, the showrunners of Discovery, sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to chat about the big reveal and discuss the ways they tried—and ultimately failed—to outsmart their audience with the character twist.

"From the beginning, the dream was that we were going to have just one actor play two roles," said Berg.

"We had always known that we wanted to do a story where a Klingon was modified and turned into a human and was put aboard one of our starships," Harberts said. "As we got to know Shazad and as we started developing the character of Tyler, we just realized that he was the right guy to take on these two roles."

After deciding that Latif would be the performer doing double-duty, the showrunners devised their "Javid Iqbal" gambit. According to Latif, the name of the fake actor was a tribute to his dad.

"That's my father's name," Latif told THR, once the truth was finally out. "He passed away six years ago. He was a big film lover."

"It ended up being a nice story, and a nice thing for Shazad to go under his father's name for a role," added Harberts. "How often does that ever happen? Someday I hope it's a question on Jeopardy."

While the showrunners admit they knew some viewers would pick up on the trail of breadcrumbs, they didn't anticipate the Trekkie hive mind to get everything about the Klingon twist correct so quickly.

"We understand how fervent, devoted and smart Star Trek fans are, so we had a sneaking suspicion that they would be theorizing on everything," Berg said.

"The second that the audience knows that [Tyler is Voq], they start thinking that Michael Burnham is dumb because she's not figuring this out," said Harberts. "And that's the last thing we wanted people to be thinking—that they were ahead of Burnham."

Unfortunately, what happened was that the fanbase got ahead of Burnham very quickly, putting the pieces together many episodes before the writers anticipated they would. As a result, for weeks the show's cast and creative team had to dance around a subject that the audience wasn't meant to know about yet. Journalists and fans alike raised the issue in interviews, and pestered Latif himself with their theories, leaving the actor twisting in the wind in an effort to preserve the mystery, telling half-hearted lies about having met the nonexistent actor at a party. 

"It's very exciting, but it's also very annoying, because I meet with a lot of press and I can't really say anything," Latif said. "That's very hard, but knowing the payoff is going to be worth it, that makes it worth it for me. There's already going to be people who work it out, because Star Trek fans are very smart."

According to Harberts, the series' big twist was always intended to have more to do with character than with plot, with the drama of the reveal meant to hit a more personal level than a big and momentous betrayal might.

"We felt like the audience is probably expecting us to do a Manchurian Candidate story, or a Homeland type story where it's like this guy is a sleeper agent, and he is going to flip the switch and he's going to become full tilt Klingon, and he's going to take over Discovery, and turn the tide of the war in the Klingon's favor," Harberts said. "That's actually not necessarily where we wanted to go. For us, it's more important that this a character who is struggling with his identity. He doesn't know what he is yet. He doesn't know who he is yet. He's got a Starfleet officer's persona inside and a Klingon persona inside, and they both seem to be able to hold equal weight in certain regards. But more importantly, he's in love with Michael Burnham."

With a season two renewal already in the bag, Star Trek: Discovery has four episodes left to go before closing the book on its first chapter. Check out a preview for the next episode, "Vaulting Ambition", down below.