'Star Trek: Discovery': We ask Shazad Latif about the theory 'Trek' fans are obsessed with

Shazad Latif as Lieutenant Ash Tyler in Star Trek: Discovery. (Photo: Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive)

Buckle up, Star Trek fans: We’re about to … engage with a new fan theory about the latest Trek series, Discovery, that’s been inflaming the collective imagination of the internet. The person at the center of this hypothesis, first proposed on Reddit and later picked up and expanded on by the Daily Dot, is British actor Shazad Latif, who plays Starfleet officer Ash Tyler. But as the theory goes, Latif is also playing the Klingon officer, Voq, a role currently credited to an actor named Javid Iqbal, whose existence some fans are starting to question. Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Latif earlier today and asked him about all the off-camera speculation. “I rarely read a lot of stuff online, but the publicists have been letting me know,” he explains. “It’s fun that there’s a lot of interest — that’s always a good thing. A lot of the theories are crazy. Some people have some stuff right, and some are way off. But it’s just good to see people interested.”

Let’s pause for some more historical context for the non-Trekkies among us. When he first boarded Discovery during the show’s lengthy preproduction process, Latif was originally cast as Kol, the Klingon leader who craves more power within his fractious society. That role subsequently was recast with Kenneth Mitchell, while Latif moved over to the Federation side of the equation. “One of the producers said, ‘Do you want to try out of this [other] role?'” says Latif. “I started reading it, and it just fit. It made a lot more sense [for me], and meant less time in prosthetics!”

Latif was originally cast as Klingon warlord Kol, a role now played by Kenneth Mitchell. (Photo: Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive)

Although Latif was part of the Star Trek: Discovery‘s pre-premiere press tour — and had his name in the opening credits from the series premiere — Tyler didn’t make his first appearance until the fifth episode when Discovery captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is captured and locked up alongside Ash and Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) in a Klingon prison. The two then escape and make their way back to Lorca’s ship. But could that jailbreak have been orchestrated by their captors with the intention of putting Tyler on Discovery? His past is already a bit of a mystery, and he’s already confessed to being on semi-decent terms with his captors. Turning prisoners into spies is also a wartime tactic that the victory-minded Klingons wouldn’t hesitate to use.

And this particular prisoner-to-spy transformation may prove to be more elaborate than we ever imagined if the main brunt of the fan theory about Voq and Tyler being the same person proves true. In Episode 4, Voq — who previously swore allegiance to T’Kuvma, the Klingon warlord who disgraced Starfleet officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) at the end of Episode 2 — was left for dead by Kol, but found a savior in another T’Kuvma disciple, L’Rell (Mary Chieffo). L’Rell promises redemption for Voq, while also warning him it will come at great personal sacrifice. As the Daily Dot outlines, that sacrifice might involve a Klingon-to-human transformation. Interspecies disguises are an established piece of Trek canon going back to The Original Series, and the prequel series, Enterprise, even devised an explanation for why TOS Klingons looked more human than their ancestors and descendants: the Augment Virus. So it’s very possible that Latif really has been part of the series since the first episode… and had to spend some time in those dreaded prosthetics after all.

Voq is the last Klingon on the right; it’s a role credited to Javid Iqbal, but the fan theory has it that Latif is both Voq and Ash Tyler. (Photo: Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive)

There’s one final piece in this puzzle: Javid Iqbal, the actor the Discovery credits list as playing Voq. As many online have noted, Iqbal has been conspicuously absent from the show’s promotional campaign, leading some to wonder whether it’s just a fake name the show’s producers invented to keep the twist hidden. When we asked Latif whether he’s heard that fans are speculating about whether Iqbal is a real actor or not, he responds, “Well, yeah, if you check IMDb he’s an actor on Star Trek: Discovery.” That’s true … but it’s also true that Discovery is also Iqbal’s only IMDB credit.

Then we asked Latif whether he’s ever had a chance to meet Iqbal — and that’s when the CBS publicist cut in with a cheery, “Sorry, we’re out of time!” before the actor could answer.

The plot thickens…

Star Trek: Discovery releases new episodes on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS All Access.

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