In the over-50-year history of the Star Trek franchise, ship designs change, special effects and uniform styles change, and even the way stories are told change. But one thing that’s remained constant since The Original Series is the alien member of the crew. If you look back, you’ll see that there are always one or two non-humans on the bridge. Spock, Worf, Jadzia are just a few. Discovery is lucky to have two non-humans serving — Saru and Linus.

If Saru is the “Spock” Star Trek: Discovery, then who is Linus? Many Trek fans think he’s like Morn — both mysterious and full of humor.

The person who brings Linus to life is David Benjamin Tomlinson, who took on the Linus role in Discovery’s second season, after serving in many different parts in season one. Tomlinson took becoming a Saurian very seriously, studying both reptiles and Cedric Taporco, who played the first Saurian in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Tomlinson becoming Linus. Image courtesy of StarTrek.com
Tomlinson becoming Linus. Watch a time-lapse video on StarTrek.com of the full transformation.

Getting mentally prepared to play lizard-like Linus might be a little easier than getting physically ready, due to the lengthy makeup and prosthetics. But for Tomlinson, transforming into another character is both “exciting and visceral.”

Becoming Linus takes anywhere from one hour and forty-five minutes to two hours, which seems like a long time, but I’ve gotten used to it,” says Tomlinson.

“Plus, I’m in the hands of some of the best prosthetic artists in the industry who take great care of me and are extremely fun to spend time with, even if it’s 4:30 a.m. It takes about half an hour to remove the prosthetic at the end of the day and get cleaned up.”

Tomlinson grew up in Palgrave, Ontario, which is north of Toronto. It was in Toronto where he got into acting originally and joined an improvisational theatre (improv for short). Through improv, he learned to be a performer.

“I experimented with a lot of different storytelling and performance approaches,” says Tomlinson. “I continue to write a lot. Creativity is always part of my day in one way or another.”

“I quickly got fascinated with sketch comedy, and was a part of Glyph, the first queer sketch duo in Canada,” says Tomlinson.  

From comedy, Tomlinson moved into the theater world, where he performed in queer indie productions. He produced and wrote in ways that pushed him to be creative in new ways.

“I experimented with a lot of different storytelling and performance approaches,” says Tomlinson. “I continue to write a lot. Creativity is always part of my day in one way or another.”

While working in the theater scene in Toronto, he performed and directed productions and created shows of his own. Eventually, he began to appear on television in various supporting roles. That lead to his working on the CBC show, The Writers’ Block from 2015-18. At this point, Tomlinson got to test out his acting and producing on a television show, which he also co-created.

“Having the writing and producing jobs on your plate in addition to the acting job makes for a very full meal if you catch my drift,” says Tomlinson. “I’m really proud of The Writers’ Block; in the end, doing all of that work was hugely satisfying.  

“It’s a very different animal spending time in a creative world you have built as opposed to a world that has been built by someone else. I don’t know that the experience made me a better actor, but it showed me I can juggle a lot successfully.”

When Tomlinson joined the Discovery cast, he found that this team was ready to create a fantastic show. He appeared in both Discovery’s first season and on Short Treks as different characters. Tomlinson wants everyone to know that togetherness that the crew shows on-screen is actually the way things are off-screen as well.

Thanks to countless hours in the makeup chair before and after shoots, Tomlinson feels a unique kinship with Saru himself — the great Doug Jones.

“The talent, the camaraderie, the affection, the cooperation … it’s a remarkable group of people,” says Tomlinson. “It’s rare to find a group of people working on a set as big as this one fostering an environment of support and acceptance and delight and professionalism.”

“Sonequa [Martin-Green] is astonishing,” says Tomlinson. “She is truly a wonderful leader.”

While working with the Discovery crew has been an incredible experience for Tomlinson, he found that he bonded with that other alien on the bridge. Thanks to countless hours in the makeup chair before and after shoots, Tomlinson feels a unique kinship with Saru himself — the great Doug Jones.

“Doug has become a terrific friend and ally; when we’re together, we’re constantly hugging, or sitting quietly together, or lending each other support,” says Tomlinson.  

“I love being on set with him; those are always some of my favorite days. He is a remarkable talent, and extremely generous with his energy and insights and attention.  

“Working in the prosthetic makes it challenging to connect with people between takes, because even simple conversation takes a lot of extra energy which you want to save for when the cameras are rolling,” says Tomlinson. “Sitting in silence with someone who is having a similar experience can be a powerful thing.”

Now that he’s Linus on Discovery and not a Klingon or other character who may appear in just one episode, Tomlinson feels a sense of pride and duty to the role.  

“I like having Linus as my anchor, he’s a great place to get to go back to, and continue to get to know him and explore who he is,” says Tomlinson. “In preparation for the role … I worked with a movement coach to finesse his physicality, and Doug had some sage insight; it all came together during the filming of the infamous elevator scene.”

It was that scene, from the Season Two episode “Brother,” which put Linus on the map. Linus sneezed on a fellow crewmember in the turbolift. For some reason, that scene has stuck with people.

The now-famous sneeze scene for Tomlinson as Linus. Courtesy of CBS
The now-famous sneeze scene for Tomlinson as Linus. Courtesy of CBS

“There were a lot of laughs; at one point, I sneezed out my prosthetic teeth in one of the takes, which you can see in the Season Two gag reel,” says Tomlinson.  

While Linus has had other memorable scenes since and plays an essential part as part of Discovery’s bridge crew, Tomlinson admits that not even he knows what the future holds for Linus.

“I’ve certainly fallen in love with the character, it was actually kind of love at first sight for me and him; when I walked into the prosthetics trailer for my first Linus camera test, the prosthetic was sitting on the counter, and I saw it and gasped,” says Tomlinson.

“It’s exciting to see fans connect with the character and have the same kind of affection for him as I have; I’m incredibly grateful for all the enthusiasm and support.”

“The best thing about Linus is that playing him makes it easier for my Mom to figure out who I am on the show, he’s so distinctive!”

Tomlinson enjoys board gaming, video games, slacklining (which is similar to tightrope walking), and working on writing projects in his spare time. Lately, Tomlinson has been appearing in virtual Trek conventions and will take part in Coolwater Productions’ upcoming InHouse-Con on Saturday, August 8.

Tomlinson is excited to take part with his fellow Discovery cast members, Hannah Spear and Sara Mitich, as well as Michael Krawic (who appeared in DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise), but is also thrilled that the world finally knows the date for the release of Discovery’s third season — October 15.

“I’m stoked for everyone to see Season Three because the show has continued to grow and evolve, and it’s in a really exciting place,” says Tomlinson. “I obviously can’t say anything specific about what lies ahead.

“But to whet your appetite in terms of what to expect, let me just quote the title of a classic Dr. Seuss book… ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go!’”