Doug Jones Interview: Star Trek: Discovery Season 3

Screen Rant had the pleasure of speaking to Doug Jones about the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 3, and we delved into the challenges of shooting on location in Iceland while Doug wore Saru’s Kelpien prosthetics, working with Michelle Yeoh, whether Saru or Michael should be Captain of the Discovery, and a little tease about what’s to come in episode 3.

Let’s get into Star Trek: Discovery episode 2. A great episode. So you shot it on location in Iceland?

Doug Jones: We did, indeed. As you can see from the beautiful scenery, Iceland is unlike any place I’ve ever been on Earth before. It is very otherworldly, other planetary-looking, and you don’t see many trees. It finally logged into my mind months later, like, “You know what? There weren’t any trees in Iceland!” That’s why it lends itself so well to looking like the landscape of another planet.

So what was it like being in full Kelpien prosthetics in the raw nature of Iceland?

Doug Jones: Yeah, well (laughs). We were there in July, which is summertime in the Northern hemisphere but they’re so far north, it was still a cool summer. So I was happy to have my prosthetics on, especially when we were walking around the glacier, where it’s icy and cold. But the shoes… the hoof boots are the bane of my existence when I’m not on a completely flat floor. So on that terrain… we were walking around on very uneven terrain, rocky, and icy… Or the sandy beach we were walking on when we had to find the cave to blip out of there… It was quite a challenge, I’m not gonna lie.

And I scared my co-star Mary Wiseman to death because we started that walk-and-talk with the glacier behind us at the very back edge of a drop-off. So right behind us was a plummet to our death had we taken the wrong step. And I always readjust my footing before I start a walk-and-talk like that and when I did that, poor Mary had a heart attack. She thought I was gonna take a tumble. But we got through it.

One of the impressive things about the episode is Saru is very much in command now. Even without the extra [Captain’s] pip, he is the Captain. But on the flip side, you have Emperor Georgiou, and she is a wildcard troublemaker, especially in this episode. What was it like, as two alphas now, what was it like to face off with Michelle Yeoh? She’s a force of nature.

Doug Jones: Well, she’s an enigma to me. (laughs) First of all, Michelle Yeoh is a powerhouse. She’s a force of nature as a person, so as Georgiou, they have very much a sandpaper relationship. She does smarmy barbs at everybody. Saru likes to give them back to her. And he also likes to keep her at arms distance because he’s not forgetting that she comes from the Mirror Universe where his kind was a delicacy to eat, that she doesn’t let him forget. So there’s that.

But also, she’s wearing the face of Prime Universe Georgiou, which was his maternal Captain-figure that brought him up in Starfleet. So I think that’s why he tolerates her. But now, in season 3, without my threat ganglia, I have less fear, I’m not ruled by fear anymore, she can get in my face all she wants, and I’ll just stand taller than her – she’s half my height – and I can tell her I outrank her on the ship so she’s just gonna have to listen to me, isn’t she?

Absolutely. As you brought up, the threat ganglia’s gone and Saru has evolved. Completely night and day story from how it would have been a season ago at this point. And one of the things I really loved about episode 2 was it had this really gritty Old West feel, but it also felt like an Original Series episode. It had a lot of that Kirk cowboy diplomacy going on with the Coridans. And it had that great villain in Jake Weber as Zareh.

Doug Jones: Wasn’t he wonderful?

Yeah, he just controlled the screen. You just felt that he was an enormous threat, even though he was just one guy. Discovery probably could have shot him down. I was thinking about it and if he tried to storm that ship, you have 88 people there who could just take him out. 

Doug Jones: True, true.

But he felt like a genuine threat.

Doug Jones: Yeah, Jake Weber’s great! I’ve been a fan of Jake Weber since before this so when I saw he was our guest star, I was like, “Oh my gosh!” And I told him so. I fanboyed all over him.

In that circumstance in the saloon, Saru wanted to go very much by the book to protect Discovery’s secrets, but do you think he got the understanding from that experience that maybe going by the book isn’t gonna fly because the 32nd century is just dangerous and unpredictable.

Doug Jones: I think you hit it on the head. He’s very much aware that we’re in a new time, a new era with a new set of rules. I still, though, hold that when it comes to life-and-death situations, we are Starfleet, we are who we are, let’s not forget who we are. And that’s why he reminds Georgiou of that rather curtly in the face. “This is not who we are,” he says when she wants to kill the bad guy off. There’s a process to be done here, there’s a proper chain of morals here, and his fate belongs to those he was oppressing, so let’s give it to them.

But also, he’s very protective of his ship, and it was Tilly who said, “We have dilithium!” and she blurted that out. And in the moment, I’m thinking, “Why are you going to give away our valuable resource? Don’t give it away!” At the same time, it was a bargaining chip that she knew that we had. It was probably the last bargaining chip we had in that situation. So there’s some bending of protocols, yes, because we just have to adjust to the future now, don’t we?

Speaking of the future, Michael [Burnham’s] back. Great surprise ending plus the extra twist that it’s one year later for her. 3189.

Doug Jones: Yeah!

So now that she’s back, we’ve gotta talk about the Captaincy of the Discovery, we’ve gotta settle this issue [of whether Saru or Michael should be Captain]. So let’s treat it like the Presidential debate. What’s Saru’s stump speech?

Doug Jones: [laughs] The difference between Burnham and Saru competing for a Captain’s chair and our two Presidential candidates competing for that office is that we love each other. We support each other like a brother and sister and we really want each other to have that position because they’ve earned it. Both feel that way about each other. So it’s win-win, whoever gets the Captain’s chair if you ask either one of us.

I think both of us have been striving, coming up through Starfleet, to have a Captain’s chair one day. And now there’s one available. Of course, we’re eyeballing it. But I trust and know her better than anyone else in Starfleet, let alone our own ship. So I really want her to have that opportunity. But she wants it for me too because I’ve been a First Officer through a musical Captain’s chair – we’ve had a few! And I’ve been Acting Captain several times, so she knows I’m capable as well. It’s an interesting thing.

And Captain Pike wanted to get that settled before he left our ship and went back to Enterprise, and I said, “Let’s get through the wormhole [first], let’s tackle the task at hand, and we’ll talk about the Captaincy later, as I eyeball Burnham from across the bridge. So we shared a moment, we shared a look that meant, “We’ll discuss this after”. So now, that it’s after, now that we’ve found each other, I think episode 3 is when that discussion is gonna have to happen.

We also need to find: Is there a Federation, still? What state is it in if it is existing? Will they have a Captain idea for us? Will they want to assign someone who knows the future better than we do? All those questions have yet to be answered.

Right. My last question for you is about Michael’s arrival at the end. Such an amazing, emotional scene. Saru was the first to notice that not just her hair was different, but there was something more different about her. Because as you said, he knows Michael better than anybody. Can you speak about what it was like to play that scene? Was Sonequa [Martin-Green] on set? Was that against a green screen?

Doug Jones: I don’t remember having her on set for that. I was looking out the front window at a green screen. Because they put all of our communications on that big screen later, so we’re often looking at that big sheet of green. But I think as an actor, we go through our real-life experiences, and we all have that one family member who we haven’t seen in years and years that we would love to reconnect with, and when you do, it’s like it’s been no time at all or it’s been a year.

But for Saru, it’s been a matter of days or hours. So he saw her recently but he can tell that it’s been a long time when he looks at her. So you’re right, it was a really weird emotional conundrum he was feeling. Like, “How could you have changed in the five hours we’ve been missing you?” So there was a great twist at the end there as you’re going through a time jump and you’re apart from each other, you could end up in different places. So I’m just glad we ended up in the same geographical area so that she could find us, even though we finally did arrive a year after her arrival. That was a great twist. And you’ll see her hair evolution in the next episode. They’ll go back and catch us up on that.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Netflix.