Star Trek Marks a Turning Point for a Secret Sci-Fi Legend

Even if you’ve never seen Doug Jones as Mr. Saru in Star Trek: Discovery, you know who Doug Jones is. Or rather, you’ve seen Doug Jones movein some TV show or film. From the creature in The Shape of Water, to The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, to the Baron in What We Do in the ShadowsJones has made an impressive career playing Silver Surfers, ghouls, and for the past five seasons of Discoverya Kelpien, who walks as though he has hooves inside of his platform boots.

“After this, I’m going to be a bit more selective about what’s being glued to my face,” Jones says with a laugh. But, he’s also not kidding. As Saru in DiscoveryJones has had one of the most difficult jobs of any science fiction actor, ever. Not only was he encased utterly in his Kelpien makeup for five seasons of Trek, he also was, essentially, the second major protagonist of the show, second only to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). If she’s the Kirk of DiscoverySaru is very much the Spock.

As Discovery airs its series finale, Inverse caught up with Doug Jones to get his thoughts on his entire Star Trek journey, why he was missing from the middle of Discovery Season 5, and what’s next on his own continuing mission. Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5.

Saru (Doug Jones) and former Enterprise crewmember Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) prepare for a dangerous mission in the finale of Star Trek: Discovery.

Paramount+

More than perhaps any other Star Trek character to date, Saru has had a lot of different jobs throughout the story of Discovery. From Season 1 to Season 3 alone, he went from science officer to first officer, to captain. “I was the captain of the Starship Discovery in Season 4!” he says with a grin. “But, then when Burnham had taken the captaincy, I decided to act as her first officer. But the question was, how long do keep a captain in the first officer position?”

Jones suggests that in between Season 4 and Season 5, it was clear to him and the writers that “a promotion of some sort” was needed for Saru. But, because Saru has a “big heart for finding small planets and helping them grow,” it was decided that he would become a Federation ambassador in Season 5. “It just made sense,” Jones says. “It was a good professional fit, and it enabled him to see his now-fiancée, President T’Rina.”

In-universe, this meant that Saru was absent for pretty much the middle of Discovery Season 5, returning for the last two episodes to tell off the Breenand, ultimately, to get married to his Vulcan love, T’Rina. For a character who began as a cowering “prey species,” in Discovery Season 1, the notion that Saru would finish strong, as a gentle warrior, full of romance, is something Jones is very proud of, and he felt that Season 5 was the perfect place for Discovery to stop, at least for his character.

“When we were promoting the earlier seasons, when journalists would ask me what I wanted to see in Saru’s future, I’d always mention I’d love for him to have a romance storyline,” Jones says. “To see that come to fruition was glorious for me. He went from living in fear to living a life of courage and confidence. He’s a badass when he wants to be, but he’s also still ever the gentleman he always was. When we were filming the wedding scene for Season 5, I thought: I don’t know where Saru goes from here, because he’s really happy right now. So, when they said that that was our final season, I was like, well, I’m satisfied with where Saru is.”

The wedding of T’Rina and Saru is part of Discovery’s happily-ever-after, ending.

Paramount+

Jones also explains that his absence from the middle of Discovery Season 5 was to give himself a much-needed break from the rigorous process of playing the character.

“I was able to have some doctor visits. I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” he says with a wave of the hand. “But when you’re in your sixties and if you’re in Canada and not using your own health insurance for many months at a time, it’s nice to come home for a bit. And during that time I was able to promote Hocus Pocus 2 and shoot a human character for a show called Destination Heaven. It was a stress-free light load. And then, I was able to return to Discovery after having had that rest.”

Jones also says he filmed his final scenes for What We Do in the Shadows during his Discovery break and mentions that it was strange to be working on two final seasons of TV shows at the same time. He also mentioned that as the ancient vampire known as The Baron, his look on What We Do in Shadows has changed several times. But, the most recent version, as the Baron was revitalized, was without any makeup at all. “I’ve been through four looks on that show, and the last one of course is me with a wig,” he says with a laugh. “I love it. Just love it.”

While Jones knows he’ll forever be associated with Star Trek, and calls the fans “a gift,” he is, nonetheless, ready to be out of makeup, and uniform, for a while. It’s been a long journey for Discoverybut clearly, Jones has earned a much-deserved break. “I’d be open to playing a human character on another Star Trek,” he says. “It would just be a question of, what’s the character? What’s the commitment? But now that I’m in my 60s, I’m exploring more human characters than ever before.”

Star Trek: Discovery is streaming on Paramount+.

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