The most recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Choose Your Pain,” revolved around the capture and rescue of Captain Gabriel Lorca from a Klingon prison. While Lorca escapes and is later rescued by his crew, he is only able to do so after receiving help from another Starfleet prisoner, Ash Tyler. Yet despite his helpfulness and valiant, loyal demeanor, the shows newest member may not be all he seems.
There are plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Tyler, while there are also just as many not to be, but let’s start with the basics. Even our gallant captain didn’t trust Tyler completely after some time with him.
When Lorca asked him how he survived in a Klingon torture prison for seven months, Ash’s response was that “I’m tougher than I thought.” A statement Lorca immediately countered with “Or a liar.” Either way though, Lorca trusts him enough to bring him on the Discovery by the end. But what if that was the purpose of kidnapping Lorca all along?
In episode four of Star Trek: Discovery, we see Voq’s second in command, L’Rell, seemingly abandoned Voq to die aboard the wreck of the U.S.S Shenzhou following a mutiny led by Kol. However, she beams herself on board the Shenzhou to share Voq’s fate, simultaneously having a plan as to why she did so. This scene is the last we see of Voq and is set seven months before the event of the recent episode. Yet L’Rell appears as the head of the torture ship in “Choose Your Pain.”
So what happened to Voq? The theory is that Ash Tyler is actually Voq in disguise. It wouldn’t be the first time that a character in the Star Trek universe received a surgical alteration as a means of looking like another alien race to perform espionage. The first instance of this can be seen in season three (“The Enterprise Incident”) of the original series, when Captain Kirk (William Shatner) becomes a Romulan in order to steal a cloaking device.
All of this is made considerably more plausible based on backstory revealed about Voq’s second in command. When speaking to Lorca about why she could speak English during the torture scene, L’Rell told him she is a descendant from the spies of House Mo’Kai, Klingons known among the empire as “watchers,” “deceivers,” and “weavers of lies.” Given this, she has plenty of experience molding herself into different personas to perform her deceitful duties, so it shouldn’t be too hard to turn Voq into Ash Tyler.
One of the most important bits of information that supports this theory can be seen in the subtle hints and body language regarding Tyler and L’Rell’s relationship. Tyler mentions that a good reason he has survived as long as he has is that L’Rell had taken a liking to him. This implies that they have a romantic relationship. Throughout the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, everything has pointed to Voq and L’Rell having a romance as well. When Tyler and Lorca are escaping the prison, we see a brief confrontation between the two, with L’Rell saying “Did you really think you could leave me after all we have been through.” The look on Tyler’s face can be interpreted as one of distraught and anger. But it’s not for the reason we are made to believe.
At first glance we can interpret his anger as hatred for L’Rell, seemingly implying the romance was a one-way street, with Tyler simply using her to survive. But in reality, Voq is simply wrestling with the fact that he has to attack L’Rell as a means of making the whole thing believable, something necessary to gain Lorca’s trust. And it worked, but unfortunately his Klingon lover (assumption) gets her face burned in the process.
At the end of that episode of Star Trek: Discovery, we see Tyler beamed aboard the ship with Lorca, welcomed to join the crew for his efforts helping the Captain escape, assumedly gaining access to their secrets. All of this, the capture, the escape, it was all apart of L’Rell’s plan (all except taking a phaser to the face). Everything that has been shown about her character reinforces that she is smart enough to come up with this too. It would make sense as Voq himself praised L’Rell as a thinker earlier on in the season.
The biggest question in this is how, or if even if, will Ash Tyler be exposed as Voq. Insert the Tribble. Avid Star Trek fans noticed this fluffy little creature in Captain Lorca’s ready room earlier this season. To the casual fan, the Tribble may seem like nothing more than a decorative item on his desk. But aside from being known for their prodigious reproductive rate, and emitted cooing sounds while touched – which had a tranquilizing effect on the Human nervous system – these creatures also react violently to the presence of Klingons, surgically altered or not.
Only time will tell if the theory holds weight, as like I said before there are plenty of ones that contradict it as well, including rumors that Tyler may be a possible love interest for Burnham down the line. Honestly though, maybe Voq falls for Burnham, that could certainly be interesting. He may have to apologize for the whole killing and eating her captain thing though…and the war.
Tune in Sunday after the show airs on CBS Acess each week for reviews of every Star Trek: Discovery episode after it airs.