Star Trek: Discovery has won over a sizable audience since it first debuted on Sept. 24, but one character aboard the U.S.S. Shinzou has already been referred to as the best part of the series — and also its Jar Jar Binks.
[Warning: The following contains some spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery’s first two episodes.]
Lieutenant Saru is the first Kelpien alien to be introduced on a main Star Trek series. The Kelpien are an interesting race that exist as either predator or prey on their home planet. Saru is prey. The mentality he carries over from time spent on his home planet affects his judgement aboard the Shinzou. He’s far more cautious than the rest of the crew and butts heads with Commander Michael Burnham over her more reckless decisions.
The sibling-like relationship between the two characters is played up in the first two episodes, with Saru acting as the cowardly lion to Burnham’s risk-seeking go-getter. If Burnham is the more serious of the two, Saru’s light-hearted and quick-witted banter acts as Discovery’s comedic relief. Saru is one of the smartest people on board the U.S.S. Shinzou, but awkward and kind of pathetic.
“When we're on the bridge and there's something afoot, I can sense it kind of like a gazelle does when there's a lion coming,” actor Doug Jones said in a behind-the-scenes featurette. “When the rest of the crew is boldly wanting to make a courageous decision, I'm like, 'Errrg, should we really do that?’”
It’s because of these attributes that people have decided to either cling to Saru’s character or denounce him as one of the worst things to happen to the Star Trek universe. There have been comparisons to Star Wars’ Jar-Jar Binks and The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper.
OK, the new Star Trek has my attention, even though the Keplien, Saru, is all a bit Big Bang Sheldon.— Tim (@TimForde) September 25, 2017
First impression of #startrekdiscovery: Love Burnham, hate Saru.— Mason Radcliffe (@masonrad) September 26, 2017
Only 2 episodes in and Saru is already the most annoying being on the bridge.— Kendra (@halifaxfilmgal) September 25, 2017
Saru is the worst character on Discovery. Obviously meant to be a foil, but his actions were upsetting. Lensflares as a humanoid person.— RoosterCastille ☥ (@RoosterCastille) September 27, 2017
Despite some of the negativity surrounding the character, a number of Star Trek: Discovery viewers have argued that Saru is one of the only enjoyable characters on the show. An entire thread dedicated to discussing how vital Saru is the series at large has popped up on the official Star Trek subreddit, with viewers proclaiming how enamored they are with Jones’ character.
“After my rewatch of the premiere of this fine show, I found myself just enamoured with Saru,” one user wrote. “I predict this guy will become my new favorite ‘alien’ in all of trek. Everything about his [sic] was cool. His species, his posture, his personality. I especially loved his relationship with Michael. They had some great dialogue together that reminded me of a good mix between Spock/Bones and O'brien and Bashir. I am really excited to see where he goes in the course of the show.”
Much of the adoration for Saru stems from his relationship with Burnham, something the producers were adamant about including in the series.
“We love the dynamic of Georgiou and Burnham and Saru as this family unit, where you've got two Type A, overachieving entities, who are always competing for their mother figure and Captain Georgiou's attention and approval,” producer Gretchen J. Berg said in the same behind-the-scenes video.
Saru was one of the main characters we were introduced to in the first two episodes, but we’ll get to know the rest of the crew as the season progresses. Saru may be the worst — or best! — character for now, but that may change.
Star Trek: Discovery airs Sunday nights on CBS All Access.