Spoilers for the first five episodes of Star Trek: Discovery ahead. (In fact, if this theory turns out to be correct, we could be spoiling future episodes too, so consider yourself warned.)
Star Trek: Discovery is a show where half the cast seems to be hiding an ulterior motive, but now it seems that the show’s creative team may be engaging in a little deception of their own. A fan theory that has been gaining traction over the past several days suggests that Javid Iqbal, the actor who plays a Klingon named Voq, may not actually exist. Instead, the theory posits, “Javid Iqbal” was invented to cover up a major plot twist: that a different actor, Shazad Latif, plays both Voq and the human Starfleet officer Ash Tyler, who was introduced in the fifth episode, “Choose Your Pain.”
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw over at the Daily Dot has put together a compelling case for the theory, which seems to have originated on Reddit, using substantial evidence both from Star Trek canon and the real world. The biggest tip-off is that “Javid Iqbal” seemingly has no online presence—Discovery is the only credit on his IMDb page—and that he has been mysteriously absent from any promotional events. Latif, on the other hand, appears prominently in Discovery’s opening credits, which is a little odd if he’s only playing a character who wasn’t introduced until five episodes in. When Latif’s casting was first announced, he was supposed to be playing a Klingon officer named Kol, but when he finally did make his Discovery “debut,” it was as a human character … who has been held in a Klingon prison for months. Hm.
The Klingons on Discovery are so covered in prosthetics and makeup that it’s near-impossible to distinguish the actor underneath, so it’s perfectly plausible that Latif is pulling double duty and that the U.S.S. Discovery’s newest addition, Ash Tyler, is actually Voq in disguise. Klingons have canonically experimented with biological alterations in the past that could make a Klingon look human, and the last time we saw Voq, he was promised an opportunity to fight the Federation, but warned that it would require great sacrifice—for instance, he might have to give up his forehead ridges?
This “Ash Tyler is Voq” theory holds water, but it also creates a lot of additional questions: Did the Klingons delibrately let Captain Lorca escape the Klingon prison so that Tyler could infiltrate the U.S.S. Discovery? How could the Klingons invent a Starfleet officer without anyone realizing it was a ruse? Or was Ash Tyler a real person that Voq is taking the place of? In that case, what happened to the original Tyler?
If the theory does turn out to be true, it shows an impressive level of dedication on Discovery’s part to keeping the secret. As for Voq-turned-Tyler, one thing is certain: Disguised or no, he should be very wary of the Tribble in Lorca’s ready room. Those fuzzy little creatures are known to hate Klingons.