Star Trek: Discovery’s Naughtiest Scene Was Improvised

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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The naughtiest moment in Star Trek: Discovery was the very explicit sex scene flashback involving Voq/Ash Tyler and L’Rell. It featured nudity for the first time in the franchise, allowing us to see a bit more of Klingon anatomy than we were expecting. However, that history-making Star Trek scene might never have come about if not for L’Rell and Voq’s actors’ improvising a scene much earlier in the season.

A Scene Most Fans Wish They Could Forget

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This is a franchise that often uses time travel to tell stories, so it’s only fitting that we need to start with the ending and work our way backward for this strange story involving Voq and L’Rell. In the episode “Into the Forest I Go,” Ash Tyler reveals to Michael Burnham that he had to have sex with L’Rell when he was a captive aboard a Klingon prison ship. That led to a very explicit flashback where she was topless, but it wasn’t the sight of alien nipples that had most fans talking.

Undercover Klingon

When this episode first came out, much of the fan discourse was about whether or not Tyler was assaulted in this scene. On the surface, that answer seemed obvious…after all, this was a human Starfleet officer forced to have sex against his will by a captor who could kill him if he said “no.” However, the later Star Trek: Discovery episode “The Wolf Inside” revealed that Ash Tyler was really the Klingon Voq, someone who loved L’Rell and willingly worked with her on a plan to infiltrate Starfleet by making himself look human.

Making Use Of A New Toy

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Needless to say, this recontextualized the whole sex scene between Voq and L’Rell, and questions about what happened and how he felt about it ran rampant among Star Trek fans. However, we might never have gotten this explicit sex scene if not for a completely different moment in a much earlier episode. In “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” we see our first real intimacy between these characters in a moment that was improvised during production.

In that episode, there is a scene where L’Rell has to motivate Voq to go to the wrecked Starfleet ship Shenzhou and get a dilithium processor. L’Rell actor Mary Chieffo later clarified that the script called for her to “inspire” her fellow Klingon but gave no indication of how to do it. Meanwhile, Chieffo had recently received prosthetic Klingon hands and was eager to put them to use.

Acting Through Mounds Of Makeup

According to her, director Olatunde Osunsanmi suggested using those hands to effectively seduce Voq, kicking off what would become a full-blown romance between these two Star Trek characters. It began simply enough, with her putting her hands on the other actor’s neck. This effectively began their onscreen love affair, and both actors were delighted to discover how much they could portray their sexual chemistry despite being under so many layers of makeup and prosthetics.

Building On The Unexpected Connection

All of that improvised onscreen intimacy built to a head in the later sex scene between Voq and L’Rell that set the Star Trek fandom on fire. For better or for worse, that scene of these two Klingons making the targ with two backs would never have happened if not for a simple moment of improvised intimacy in an earlier episode.