A New Saru
Season 2, Episode 4 of Star Trek: Discovery brought around major changes for Saru’s character. And you’d never guess what ended up happening.
WARNING: This article includes spoilers for Star Trek Discovery Season 2, Episode 4. Do NOT read ahead unless you want spoilers.
A quick recap before we begin. Saru, played by the always fantastic Doug Jones, is a Kelpien. Actually, it’s a bit more than that, Saru is the first Kelpien to join Starfleet, a major honor. The Kelpien are a humanoid species that are also pre-warp. They have a very low population, thanks mostly to the fact that they are a prey species. A species called the Ba’ul have been harvesting them for centuries. Despite this, Saru is the first of their species to leave Kaminar, the Kelpien home planet.
Every prey species has its own way of handling things. Rabbits become hypnotized when turned on their backs – scientists believe that this is a way of imitating death, in hopes that they predators leave them alone.
In the case of the Kelpien, they’ve almost adapted to becoming prey, accepting their roles in their environment. It’s a bit counterintuitive for many, but nobody has tried to break the cycle yet.
Every Kelpien goes through a stage in their life called Varahai. It’s at this point that they typically are expected to give themselves up to the Ba’ul as food. Varahai is a physical condition, not just a mental one. First, it exhibits symptoms of a cold, but it progressively gets worse. Finally, the threat ganglia becomes inflamed.
It’s believed that Varahai causes a slow and painful death. That’s the reason why the Kelpien are so willing to give themselves up to the Ba’ul. Better a quick death than a slow one.
During the course of this episode, Saru exhibits all of the classic signs of Varahai. Understandably this causes significant turmoil amongst the crew. Saru can’t go home but also doesn’t want to die a slow death. So instead he begs Burnham to end his life quickly. But something strange happens before she can follow his request.
While Burnham does agree to his request – it’s the human response, after all, she doesn’t really get a chance to follow through. Saru’s threat ganglia fall off with little effort, leaving Saru healthy. Better than healthy, actually. Saru is free of the heightened fear and prey instincts he’s known his whole life. Suddenly he realizes that Varahai is nothing like what he had assumed. Perhaps one day he’ll even return home to tell the rest of his kind.
This was quite the development for Saru’s character. What do you think of it? Does it fit in well with the series? Or was it all too much?