Star Trek: Discovery may be boldly going where no series has gone before, but even its trusty spore drive can’t shake a fan theory now looming over the show. Ever since Lt Ash Tyler (played by Shazad Latif) was introduced to the series, fans can’t stop asking one question: is Tyler actually Voq the Klingon?
At first it might sound ridiculous that Discovery’s latest Chief of Security – and Michael Burnham’s new love interest – is secretly the albino Klingon we saw at the start of the season. But consider this: we know from the original Star Trek series that Klingon spies can transform into humans. And when we last saw Voq, he was speaking to L’Rell – a Klingon belonging to a house of spymasters – who said Voq could defeat Starfleet if he “sacrificed everything”.
Was L’Rell’s plan to transform Voq into a human and chuck him in her ship’s brig ready for Captain Lorca to pick him up during the events of episode five? Does that explain why Voq hasn’t been in the show since episode four? And why Latif was first cast as a Klingon, before being unveiled in the role of Tyler? And what about the fact that Latif’s name appeared in the credits before Tyler was first introduced in episode five? Why did Tyler claim to have been imprisoned by L’Rell for seven months, even though we saw L’Rell stranded on another ship during that time? So many questions…
The show has tried to answer all of them with one very unconvincing answer: Voq is played by Javid Iqbal (III), an unknown actor who has never appeared at press events and is only pictured in Klingon prosthetics on his extremely empty IMDb page.
Not surprisingly, it’s got a lot of people wondering: does Javid Iqbal actually exist? Luckily RadioTimes.com recently had the chance to ask Shazad Latif (birth name Shazad Iqbal) during an interview. Spoiler: it didn’t go well.
At the start of the conversation, Latif approached all questions with a smile and animated enthusiasm – excitedly teasing that he would feature heavily in the show’s next three episodes, including a “sad, cool, dark and special” episode 11. But his face dropped when we asked if he’d ever met Javid Iqbal, as if he was personally offended, and his answer seemed a little nervous and rushed: “Javid Iqbal… I’ve met him, yeah. But we don’t see a lot of people… There are so many different sets that you hardly see…”
It’s then that Captain Lorca himself, Jason Isaacs – the actor who we were supposed to be speaking to alongside Latif – burst into the room, joking “Whatever he’s saying is rubbish!”.
Isaacs – who’s extremely media savvy thanks to years of Harry Potter interviews after playing Lucius Malfoy – then gave us this extremely perplexing answer to the same question: “Sonequa [Martin-Green, who plays lead Michael Burnham] hosted these games nights where the crew get to know each other – but we do it at my house. The first time we did one I hardly knew who [the Klingon actors] were because they normally have their silver heads on or whatever… There are a lot of people you don’t meet… The Klingons… most of their scenes are separate.”
We tried to clarify: did Javid Iqbal appear at one of these game nights outside of his ridge-headed prosthetics? “Yeah, one of the parties, one night—” Latif started quickly, before master-of-deflection Isaacs cut in with an anecdote about how he listened to a scene spoken in Klingon during the show’s first read through: “I said ‘excuse me, do we have to listen to all this?’. They were like ‘sorry sorry, I’ve spent ages learning it!’”
It all felt a little bit Thick of It, with Isaacs the Malcolm Tucker, arriving to remind Latif to stick to the ‘we don’t talk about Javid Iqbal’ party line. And by the time he was directly asked his thoughts on the Voq fan theory, Latif was back on script: “As I was saying to Jason earlier, this is the power of the Star Trek fandom. They’re like detectives. It’s great that they’re interested in the show. I want to retain the mystery so I don’t want to talk about anything until the episode is out… I don’t know why you want to know these kinds of things.”
Things didn’t get much better. When we asked how season two might differ from the first, Isaacs said “Yeah, I know everything that happens,” before shrugging his shoulders. “If you asked comedians what their punch-lines were, you wouldn’t enjoy their act very much. Any time you ask me what’s coming up it seems like a nonsensical question.”
Lesson learned: Jason Isaacs really doesn’t like speculation around the show. But what about Discovery writer Aaron Harberts and Sonequa Martin-Green? Would they be able to confirm that they’ve met Javid Iqbal when we spoke to them later on?
Answer: no. Again, although the pair met other questions with a smile, they went quiet when asked about Iqbal, leaning back and giving each other a wide-eyed knowing look. “Yes, well…” Martin-Green started, before adding confusingly, “I wish everybody could be at every function. We wish that all of us could be around, but not everyone is going to be available for everything…”
It’s then that Harberts stepped in: “What’s really fun is that the people are interested about this sort of stuff. Everything is researchable at this point in our selves. Let’s ride out the mystery and see what happens.”
Harberts stayed away from the topic for the rest of the conversation, but later hinted that there’s a huge twist in the next episode, saying “the back half of the season is all about dealing with what happens in episode nine”. Combine that with Latif’s promise that he had plenty of screen time in episode nine (“I’m in it a lot!”) and there’s plenty to say the Voq=Tyler theory will be addressed in next week’s episode.
Whatever happens, we should finally know the truth very soon. Just don’t ask Jason Isaacs what happens after that.
Star Trek: Discovery continues on Netflix next Monday