We all saw it, at the end of Star Trek: Discovery S01E05 “Choose Your Pain” but we were still reeling from the unnecessary profanity earlier in the episode that we all just…sorta brushed it aside. But now rumors are starting to circulate around the internet and they’re quite interesting.
Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) was just a little bit more creepy than usual right at the very end, as he looked into big mirror in his cabin. He’d just been sharing an warm, fuzzy moment with his partner, Dr. Hugh Colber (Wilson Cruz), who then left…and then there was this…moment.
If you blinked, you could’ve missed seeing Stamets actually walk away, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that was still him in the reflection…but it wasn’t! It was his mirror reflection.
To recap relevant, recent events…
With the destruction of the USS Glenn, Discovery is now the only starship in Starfleet with a mycelium spore drive, which allows it to jump at any point across the known universe instantaneously á la improbability drive, gravity drive, folding space etc. Getting the displacement activated spore hub drive (or DASH drive) to function properly was a puzzle that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) solved when she discovered the tardigrade monster in the wreck of the Glenn that Captain Lorca had beamed aboard the Discovery is capable of symbiotic communication with the spores. When plugged into the navigational device salvaged from the Glenn, the tardigrade is able to act as a super computer that can process coordinates for space jumps.
However, being plugged into the spore drive took a massive toll on the tardigrade. As Discovery used the DASH drive with reckless abandon to battle the Klingons over a period of weeks, the tardigrade became progressively weaker: they were slowly killing it. The situation came to a head when Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) was captured by the Klingons and Discovery had to attempt a rescue. Acting Captain Saru (Doug Jones) ordered that the tardigrade be plugged back into the spore drive, disregarding Burnham’s concern for its safety. When it was plugged in, it collapsed and reverted into a hibernating state, barely alive. Burnham, Stamets, and Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) concluded that they could substitute a different biological life form for the tardigrade if the subject was injected with the its DNA sequencing. But there was no time to run any kind of test and so, without anyone knowing, Stamets secretly injects himself with the tardigrade’s DNA, plugs himself into the drive, makes the calculations and enables Discovery to jump to Klingon space and rescue Lorca.
After having been found in the science lab on the floor, Stamets regains consciousness and breaks out into hysterical laughter, which could very well be the first indication of more-than-normal weirdness. Dr Culber clears him for duty, determining no ill effects from interfacing with the mycelium network. Then it happens.
The Mirror Universe
The “Mirror Universe” is an informal name for a parallel universe first recorded as visited by James T. Kirk and several officers from the USS Enterprise in 2267. This alternate reality coexists with the prime universe on another dimensional plane. The Mirror Universe was so named because many people and places seemed to be opposites of their characteristics in the prime universe, with numerous good aspects now evil and vice versa, thus “mirror”-like. (It is an entirely different alternate reality than the Kelvin timeline of the awful JJ Abrams-produced Star Trek films). It was introduced in the Star Trek TOS episode “Mirror Mirror” (S2 Ep4) when Captain Kirk (William Shatner) was beamed into this alternate reality where the Federation is an evil entity called the Terran Empire.
It was never explored in Star Trek TNG or Voyager, however DS9 did, with an impressive five visits and Enterprise made two excursions.
• Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Mirror Mirror” (S2, Ep4)
• Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode “Crossover” (S2, Ep23)
• Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode “Through the Looking Glass” (S3, Ep19)
• Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode “Shattered Mirror” (S4, Ep19)
• Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode “Resurrection” (S6, Ep8)
• Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode “The Emperor’s New Cloak” (S7, Ep12)
• Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly” (S4, Ep18 parts 1 & 2)
The vastly under-rated Star Trek: Enterprise, that takes place a century before both The Original Series and Discovery, even had a special opening credits sequence that showed much of Earth’s Mirror Universe history. The evil version of Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) revealed that the Terran Empire had existed for centuries and Star Trek history was changed in numerous ways, including Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, blowing away the first Vulcan who set foot on Earth with a shotgun during First Contact, which set off interstellar war.
The Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” is especially nice, because the crew of the Mirror NX-01 find the TOS-era USS Defiant NCC-1764, which to them is vastly superior…so a ruthless struggle for power ensues.
By the time of Kirk’s era, the Terran Empire was the dominant power in the Alpha Quadrant, having conquered other races like the Vulcans, Denobulans, Andorians and Orions. The Mirror Universe also appeared in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which revealed that by the 24th century, the Klingon Cardassian Alliance had overwhelmed the Terran Empire. The Mirror Universe episodes always been fan favorites as it means the actors can really go to town with their character’s opposites, playing them with extra deliciousness. How often do we ever get to see Scott Bakula really ham up an evil character? Or watch Nana Visitor ooze sexiness as Intendant Kira..?
What does this mean for Discovery?
Stamets’ reflection in the mirror possibly hints at a new way Star Trek: Discovery may be presenting the Mirror Universe. In previous incarnations, Star Trek characters from ‘our’ universe temporarily venture over to the Mirror Universe and vice versa, usually by transporter accident or some such. Stamets’s independent reflection in the mirror offers a different, horror movie-style approach. By interfacing with the mycelium spore network, Stamets may have accessed the Mirror Universe while simultaneously creating a means for his Mirror double to see into our universe. Whether or not an evil Stamets can enter our universe or there will be some kind of switch of the two could open up some really interesting possibilities. However, care will have to be taken to ensure this isn’t just another “solitary creepy crewman possessed” story arc ’cause that would get tired really quickly. The mycelium spore drive opening up access to the Mirror Universe may also provide a clue as to why Starfleet has to eventually scrap the use of the DASH drive, which explains why the technology is not only out of use, but never mentioned again in any other Star Trek series.
In other news…
CBS has extended it’s first section of the first series of Star Trek: Discovery by one episode – so now the ninth and final episode of what’s referred to as “season 1a” will be shown on November 12th and the remaining six episodes that make up “season 1b” will be shown in early 2018.
• Star Trek: Discovery S01E05 “Choose Your Pain” REVIEW
• Star Trek: Discovery S01E04 “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” REVIEW
• Star Trek: Discovery S01E03 “Context is for Kings” REVIEW
• Star Trek: Discovery S01E01-E02 “The Vulcan Hello” & “Battle at the Binary Stars” REVIEW
• NYCC: Star Trek Discovery panel