[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers from “Star Trek: Discovery” Episode 3, “Context Is for Kings.”]
After getting diverted en route to a prison mine, coming on board the Discovery isn’t Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) biggest surprise. She’s also shocked to see former Shenzhou crewmate Saru (Doug Jones) is on board, this time as the First Officer. The Kelpien is a brand new alien race that’s been introduced to the series, but not much is known about them except that they’re a prey species.
On CBS All Access’ “After Trek” Sunday night, “Star Trek: Discovery” executive producer Aaron Harberts said that this season wouldn’t delve too deeply into the Kelpien race or their planet, but would reveal certain aspects through the development of Saru as a character. In particular, one part of Saru’s anatomy becomes aroused when he sees the prison ship leave Discovery near the end of the episode. Certain waving appendages rise from the nape of his neck, as if he knows that Burnham is not leaving.
In a sneak peek clip of Episode 4 shown during “After Trek,” it’s revealed that Kelpien piece of anatomy is called the “threat ganglia.” Harberts called it Saru’s “manifestation of his own Spidey sense” and that helps him sense danger, which is essential for a prey species. Harberts also said that Saru is an asset to General Lorca (Jason Isaacs) because “He’s cautious. He understands strategy. Another thing about Saru is he’s by the book. We’ve seen that. If you’re a captain like Lorca, you need someone who’s going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
In a behind-the-scenes clip, Doug Jones also gives insight into two other parts of Kelpien anatomy: their feet and their butts. As part of the costume, makeup, and prosthetic process, he wears special boots that give him hoof-like feet. They add an extra five inches to his already 6-foot-3 frame, and also force him to balance his weight on his toes, which gives him a “supermodel walk.” Jones also noted that usually when he’s wearing a form-fitting costume, some padding is involved to give his slender frame some shape, including his bottom. With “Discovery” though, he convinced the show that it would “serve us better to let [Saru] have the flat ass that I have,” which would make him seem more alien.
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Check out other insights that “After Trek” revealed:
Cadet Tilly: Burnham’s wide-eyed roommate Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) was named after the 2-year-old niece of series writer Gretchen J. Berg. Although Tilly appears to be a goody two shoes, who cares about how she’s perceived and getting ahead, she may have a wild side. When “After Trek” host Matt Mira mentioned that Tilly probably wouldn’t be found at the ship’s bar, Wiseman was quick to correct him. “You don’t know that,” she said with a sly smile.
Burnham and the Beast: The creature that created carnage on the Glenn that Lorca now has on board the Discovery will be seen again. Harberts said, “This creature is vital to our show… is vital to Burnham’s journey… It’s almost a metaphor for Burnham. She’ll be confronting what that means.”
Lorca’s Menagerie: The room full of alien anatomical oddities was created to give Lorca something “other than the ready room to prowl in.” Among the items are a dissected Tribble, Cardassian voles, and a prominently displayed skeleton of one of the Gorn, a race of lizard-like humanoids. Since the Federation didn’t encounter the Gorn until 2267 (“Star Trek: The Original Series” episode “Arena”), Harberts noted, “What does it says that he has one of those [skeletons]? Who does he know? Where did he get it?”
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Lorca’s Admirer: Commander and security officer Landry (Rekha Sharma) seems awfully devoted to Lorca at the end of the episode after stating that she’d do anything for him. Harberts said, “She is a true believer in Lorca. She loves Lorca.” No doubt these feelings will become relevant down the line.
The Real-Life Fungi Fun Guy: Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is based on a real-life mycologist (fungi scientist) also conveniently named Paul Stamets, whom Bryan Fuller had brought to the show’s attention early on by showing them Stamets’ TED Talk titled, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World. The real Stamets appeared on “After Trek” to discuss how panspermia is actually happening, that spores from Earth are traveling through space. He also added, “Some magic mushrooms help you bend time and space.” Jokes!
He also gave a little food for thought on how these spores and molecules connect everything, and what to pay attention to on the show. “I’m networks of molecules that are interfacing with other people,” he said. “Our micro-biomes are exchanging genetic material with other people. I want the audience to really focus in on when Anthony Rapp dusted his shirt. That was not dandruff. He is literally sporulating, which means he is spreading germ plasm. and there’s a very interesting fungus that they referred to called prototaxites. I think you’l see more of that.”
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New episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” and “After Trek” will be available at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET, respectively, on Sundays on CBS All Access.