The Star Trek: Discovery Character With The Perfect Arc

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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Now that Star Trek: Discovery has wrapped, we are left marveling at how much the different characters have grown over time. Obviously, Michael Burnham experienced major character growth, going from being a disgraced mutineer to being a Starfleet captain who saved the galaxy on multiple occasions. This Star Trek spinoff spends so much time focusing on Burnham that it’s easy to overlook that it was Saru, her former first officer, who had the best arc in the entire series.

Saru’s Sixth Sense

star trek saru

Early on in Star Trek: Discovery, we are introduced to Saru as a Kelpien, an alien who lives in constant fear because his kind are bred to be the prey of the Ba’ul. As Saru ominously tells us in “The Vulcan Hello,” “My people were hunted, bred, farmed… we are your livestock of old.” The one real upside of this is that it gave Saru a kind of sixth sense for sensing the coming of death, which made him a helpful (if constantly paranoid) Starfleet officer.

Speaking of which, the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “The Brightest Star” introduces how Saru left his primitive home-world and came to join Starfleet. The predatory Ba’ul who live on the same planet left behind some technology that Saru eventually uses to send messages to the stars. He always wanted answers beyond what his religious father would tell him, and he is happy to speak to and eventually be recruited by a younger Georgiou, beginning his Starfleet journey.

Cowardly Kelpiens

The memorable Star Trek: Short Treks episode underscored that Saru was already inquisitive (he naturally had questions about his people willingly sacrificing themselves to predators), but as a character, he was still held back by his fear. Nonetheless, he eventually became captain of the and underwent vahar’a, which his people always told him was fatal. 

On his planet, Kelpiens believed in “the Great Balance,” which meant everyone thought that a person undergoing vahar’a was on the verge of death, explaining why such individuals sacrificed themselves to the Ba’ul. After Saru survives his own vahar’a, he discovers the bombshell secret that it was the Kelpiens who were originally the predators and Ba’ul who were the prey. Nearly hunted to extinction, the Ba’ul used their technological advantage to brainwash the Kelpiens and turn predators into prey.

Gratuitous Ganglia

You see, the thing about these meek Star Trek aliens is that (as Saru learns) their “threat ganglia” that allow them to sense danger and death were always meant to fall off during this process, effectively taking their innate fear away. Saru becomes a confident man of action of helps Burnham and the rest of the crew prevent the Ba’ul from killing all Kelpiens. In fact, Saru became a great liberator to his people, ensuring that all of them underwent vahar’a at once and lost their fear of those who had been hunting them for thousands of years.

Action Saru To The Rescue

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Honestly, if Star Trek: Discovery had ended there, Saru already would have had one of the coolest arcs in the franchise. Fortunately for audiences, his story just kept getting better after the show jumped to the 32nd century: first, he helped bond with and partially raise Su’Kal, a Kelpien with special powers who once accidentally ruined most of the dilithium in the universe. Later, he came back to serve as Captain Burnham’s first officer, and he earned the affectionate nickname “Action Saru” for his many heroic exploits.

Galaxy-Saving Negotations

We thought we had seen the last of Action Saru when he became a Federation ambassador and got engaged to the Vulcan T’Rina. However, in the Star Trek: Discovery series finale, Saru takes a shuttle with no weapons to negotiate with (stall, really) an aggressive Breen Primarch. When she gets hostile, Saru threatens to use his official connections to have her secret bases attacked, destroying her power even at the cost of thousands of lives. 

She thinks he is bluffing at first, resulting in a great speech where Saru tells her he is a predator, she is his prey, and she can look him right in the eyes to see if she sees “even the slightest glimmer of doubt.” The Primarch ultimately believes Saru, calling him “insane” before calling off her fleet. This buys Captain Burnham the time she desperately needs, and considering that it kept the brutal Breen from getting Progenitor technology, it’s fair to say Saru might have just saved the entire galaxy.

From Meek To Mighty

Throughout Star Trek: Discovery, Saru has had one development after another that led to one satisfying arc: from prey to predator, from meek to mighty, from timid to downright terrifying. This is a guy who began the series scared of everything the sensors picked up, and he ended the series doing bluffing an entire fleet in a way that would make the bold and brash Captain Kirk proud. We’re going to miss seeing Saru onscreen, but most of all, we wish to congratulate actor Doug Jones on giving the performance of his lifetime and one of the finest performances this franchise has ever seen.

And given his lifetime of killer acting credits, that’s saying a lot.