Star Trek Guide

Why Star Trek Discovery's Season 3 Kelpien Looks Different From Saru

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is set in the 32nd century, and it appears that the Kelpien race may have evolved so that they no longer look like Commander Saru (Doug Jones). At the conclusion of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) became the Red Angel and led the U.S.S. Discovery into the far future in order to save the galaxy from a rogue sentient A.I. called Control. The 32nd century is farther than Star Trek has explored before and there have been many changes, from the collapse of the United Federation of Planets to the possible drastic evolution of the Kelpiens.

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Saru is the first Kelpien in Starfleet, and Star Trek: Discovery seasons 1 and 2 (as well as the Short Trek titled "The Brightest Star") have delved into the tall and compassionate Kelpien's origin. Saru hails from the planet Kaminar, which was ruled by a race called the Ba'ul for centuries. The Ba'ul required the Kelpiens to ritually sacrifice their lives and they created a restrictive mythology to subjugate the agrarian race through fear. But Saru dreamed of being more and when he made contact with the U.S.S. Archimedes, Lieutenant Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) invited him to go into space with her, although it meant he could not return to Kaminar. Saru chose to leave and he became a Starfleet Officer who eventually rose to the rank of Commander and serves as Acting Captain of the U.S.S. Discovery.

In Star Trek: Discovery season 2, Saru underwent a sudden evolution thanks to the Kelpien biological process called the Vahar'ai. As all Kelpiens were taught, Saru believed the Vahar'ai would lead to his death. But instead, the Vahar'ai triggered a massive change in the Kelpien; he lost his fear ganglia and emerged from the process as stronger, braver, and with natural offensive capabilities. Saru then returned home to Kaminar and led a revolution to free the Kelpiens from the Ba'ul. The Vahar'ai was triggered for every Kelpien so that they also rapidly evolved and gained capabilities they were never even allowed to dream of under Ba'ul rule. By the Star Trek: Discovery season 2 finale, the Kelpiens became a space-faring race in record time and helped the U.S.S. Discovery and U.S.S. Enterprise fight Control's drone fleet in a massive starship battle.

Star Trek: Discovery season 3's trailer revealed that Burnham led her starship to the year 3188, and one of the races that Saru is shown interacting in the future seems to be a Kelpien who has evolved to be much different than Saru and the Kelpiens of the 23rd century. This potential Kelpien tells Saru, "I've always believed that you were out there somewhere, and that we were part of the Federation no matter what." This indicates that Saru has become a legend to his people on Kaminar in the 930 years since he jumped to the future, and that the Kelpiens joined the Federation at some point during Saru's absence.

But the 32nd-century Kelpien is more human-looking than Saru, with a very different facial structure, human eyes, and even hair. There are a couple of possible explanations for these drastic changes: It's possible this Kelpien is a human/Kelpien hybrid. But it could also be that the Kelpien race continued to evolve by leaps and bounds over the last nine centuries and this more human-like appearance is the Kelpiens' current form.

In the 23rd-century Mirror Universe that Emperor Georgiou once ruled, the Kelpiens were even more victimized than in the Prime Universe and they were bred to be eaten. In fact, the Emperor fed Michael Burnham Kelpien ganglia at dinner, which Burnham was appalled by. But thanks to Saru's heroism in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, the Kelpien race was set free and allowed to achieve their full potential - and that may have resulted in the Kelpiens becoming a very different race in Star Trek: Discovery season 3's distant future.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 premieres October 15 on CBS All-Access.

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