— The midseason premiere of Star Trek: Discovery – the Jonathan Frakes-directed “Despite Yourself” – confirmed one of the show’s longest brewing rumors, revealing that the titular Federation starship has unexpectedly found itself in the Mirror Universe following a malfunction of its experimental spore drive.
So, Star Trek Discovery came back for the second half of the first season, and it’s a doozy. The show has turned itself a full 90 degrees from the first half of the season. At the end of episode nine, the crew of the USS Discovery found itself stranded in some unknown place among the war relics of old Klingon ships, and their transportation system (LT. Stametz) was incapacitated.
It turns out that they’re in the Mirror Universe first encountered in the original Star Trek series. If you remember, Scotty, Uhura, and Kirk, and McCoy got trapped in that universe after a transporter incident, and had to try to find a way to get back home. They also encountered a goateed Spock in that universe, and discovered that every human in that universe was evil. The Mirrorverse is an alternate reality that contains copies of most of humanity from the Prime universe ,except everyone is their worse possible self.
Out of the entire franchise, The Next Generation crew is the only one that never visited that universe, and the episode “Through a Mirror Darkly”, from the show Enterprise, was the last time we visited. So getting to see Lorca, Tilly, and Michael navigate this universe is especially fun and interesting, but still really intense, and I was totally captured.
I’ve been fascinated by the Mirrorverse since that very first episode. It was so well written ,and the backstory on that universe, and its characters was deeply intriguing. (For the record, the original universe episode occurs about a hundred years after Discovery.) Not only is there a great backstory, but it has a well chronicled future, as well.
In the Mirrorverse there is no Federation. There’s something called the Terran Empire, and humans are complete and utter despots. They are paranoid, xenophobic, vicious, and untrustworthy, and that’s just towards other human beings. Imagine if the Nazis had taken over Starfleet, only worse. Humans are so evil that they make the Klingons look like good guys, and they, the Vulcans, and every other non-human race with access to spaceship technology, have formed an alliance to destroy them.
Imagine a universe in which the only way to get ahead, in any venture, is to kill one’s predecessor, any emotion outside of anger and rage is considered a weakness, everyone carries knives on them at all times because they are required to do so, people are tortured for the slightest mistake, or infraction, and there are special pain booths built just for the purpose.
All the human women of this ‘verse (and the men too) use sexual wiles to get ahead, as well,, and the men expect those favors, and hope they survive the encounter, because the women of this universe are not to be trifled with, or underestimated. They are just as vicious and mean as rabid dogs themselves. From time to time, alliances and loyalties are formed, but only until one’s goals are reached, and if the other person’s goals happen to align with yours. The only reason humans have formed alliances among themselves, is so they can conquer everyone who isn’t them.
There’s been a lot of Nazi allegories happening in the genre lately, most of it is horrible and badly written claptrap, written by men who do not understand any of the psychology behind such beings. But This! This is how you write a Nazi allegory, (in such a way that you don’t realize its an allegory, until you are well involved in the episode), and with the understanding that such a regime is scary as fuck. There’s is nothing about this universe that inspires a person to want to live in it, except the morbid curiosity of what kind of person you would become. (Probably dead.)
There is nothing about these humans that’s at all admirable, beyond their sheer ruthlessness. The ones who aren’t mean and vicious, are fawning, bootlicking sycphants. There’s no way to woobify these characters, (although fans came pretty close with Spock, but he’s a special case.) These people are not meant to be liked. They are deeply unlikable.
Now pair all this information with images of the likable, sweet, bumbling Tilly, the logical practicality of Michael, and the brave timidity of Lt Saru, and you’ve got some seriously juicy drama about to happen. What’s going to happen to them and How far will they have to go to fit into this universe?
The first test of the Discovery is to convince another ship, The Cooper, that it is indeed the Mirrorverse version of the Discovery. (The Discovery that was once in the Mirrorverse has switched places with them and is now in what I like to call the Prime universe.) To do that they need to speak to the Captain, and guess who that is…
Watching Tilly put on her gameface is one of the great joys of this episode, and hilarious (also, watching that actress play Captain Tilly is kinda scary.) It really is kinda like seeing a cute little bunny viciously bite someone. She also gets one of the best lines in the entire episode. Earlier in the season, Stamets, while caught in a mycelium fugue state, called her Captain, and their time in this universe may have been what he glimpsed. This episode, he spends most of his time yelling senselessly about a palace, and imminent danger. What that means for future episodes is anyone’s guess.
Captain Lorca gets to be unexpectedly funny when he has to coach Tilly through her first conversation as a Captain. Somewhere, somehow he has met Scotty, because when he is finally asked to speak, he puts on a flawless Scotty accent. Lorca is totally hard core. His counterpart in the Mirrorverse is in the wind, so he pretends he’s been caught by Michael, who is presumed to have died in pursuit of him. To lend authenticity to Michael’s story, this guy head- butts himself against a bulkhead. So yeah, this universe is definitely gritty enough to make him happy.
Michael’s first act, as the Captain of The Shenzhou, is to kill the current acting Captain, a man she saw die in the Prime universe, and wonders if this is what all of this will be like for them, constantly running into dead people. To find their way back home, she and Tilly need to be their worse selves, and they both rightfully worry about how this will change them in the future. Lorca tells all of them that their focus needs to be on returning home, and to do, and say, whatever is required to get back there alive. For his part, he willingly walks into a situation that will require him to be tortured in a pain booth.
Michael’s relationship with Ash Tyler has progressed to love making, and I got a bad feeling about this drop, because Ash has some problems, and may in fact be a brainwashed Klingon, named Voq, who has since disappeared since we saw him the first two episodes. I think Ash has been genetically, and surgically, altered to look human, which I really hope not. Lorca assigns him to be Michael’s personal guard, because that’s how this universe rolls, and Ash has totally dedicated himself to this job ,which was kind of nice to see, but this is tempered by the fact that he is slowly unraveling.
There has been some speculation, from fans, that Lorca himself is actually from this universe. If so, it would certainly answer a whole hell of a lot of questions about his character, including why he is so unperturbed to be in the Mirrorverse. In the Mirrorverse, he was presumed in flight, after killing that Universe’s version of Michael, who was sent to assassinate him. If he had a previous relationship with the Mirrorverse Michael, that might explain his strong attachment to this Michael.
This theory would certainly explain Lorca’s shifty behavior, if his ultimate goal, from the time we met him, was to try to get back to the Mirrorverse, so he can assassinate the Terran Emperor. (Yep, I got theories! And I’m not the only one, either.)) It would explain his behavior with Cornwell, like the fact that he keeps a phaser under his pillow, which is exactly the sort of shit captains have to do in the Mirrorverse, if they want to stay alive. Cornwell also tells him that after the event that damaged his eyes, he changed, and became a different person, and he makes love differently than before, too. Now, watching that scene, without any of these suspicions, it is very obvious that he is trying to manipulate her into doing something he wants, which is keep his ship from being taken from him.
I strongly suspect that in the episode Lethe, when Sarek is injured, and unable to meet with the Klingons, and their mediators, to stop the war, that he is the one who gave the Klingons the secret location of the meeting. After all, he is the one that suggested she take Sarek’s place. It would certainly explain his not even trying to rescue her, after she’d been captured. It very conveniently gets her out of the way, and he can continue his mission, without her interference.
Cornwell came into that conversation to discuss how he is running his ship, and he turned it into a seduction, and sexual manipulation is, once again, the kind of shit that captains in the Mirroverse do. She had chalked up these differences to PTSD, or some other psychological issue, but its possible Lorca just isn’t who she thinks he is. This is par for the course on this show. Everybody else has a horrible secret, so why not him. Stamets spends a lot of time yelling to Culber about how the danger is present, and I did not think he was talking about Ash Tyler.
One of the most shocking moments is the death of Doctor Culber, Lt Stamets Space -Boo, (as he is referred to by the fans), by Ash Tyler, when Ash experiences a bout of PTSD, after visiting L’Rel in prison. A lot of fans were very wound up about this, but the writers and the actor have assured us that they understand the importance of Culber and Stamets relationship, this is not a “Kill Your Gays” moment, and that we WILL see more of Culber in the future. Wilson Cruz, who plays Culber, says that some of his best work is yet to be seen on the show. And keep in mind that Star Trek has a long tradition of finding ways to bring characters back from the dead. (Spock has died twice. Once on the show, and once in the movies.)
I did enjoy the scene between Culber and Lorca. Culber is bold enough to confront Lorca on his behavior. In fact, outside of Michael, he’s the only other person I’ve ever seen call Lorca out on his bullshit.
The writers also assured viewers that there will be no evil version of Culber in this show. (If he does exist in this universe, then he is probably on the Mirrorverse version of Discovery, now trapped in the Prime universe.) And that’s if these particular human beings aren’t homophobic as well. If they are, then Culber and Stamets may not even exist as a couple, in the Mirrorverse.
Now you see why I was mad about not being able to binge this show. On the other hand, I would have finished it in a day and then I would’ve been angry I’d finished it so fast.
Should I give a review of next week’s show? I don’t know. I got other stuff to write, but I’m pretty caught up in this thing now. leave me comment, and let me know if I should keep going. I know some of you don’t get this show, and don’t want to pay for it, so hopefully my reviews will be entertaining.
Til’ next week, here’s to reckless eyeballing: