Airing in the US on CBS All Access Sundays at 8:30 pm ET and at 12pm on Mondays in the UK on Netflix
Written by: Sean Cochran
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Captain, there be spoilers here!
Has it really been 55 days already? Wow, that’s gone quick. Fifty-five days since the USS Discovery and her crew were thrown into unknown space. Fifty-five days since we saw Tylervoq either being tortured – or more likely, being surgically altered in some way and then, getting jiggy with L’Rell.
MyM Magazine had been told, a long time ago, by insiders on the production team that Star Trek: Discovery gets much better after episode 10…and boy, they were right. This is without a doubt the best episode since the pilot…in fact, it’s better. Discovery has spent the last nine episodes setting up many, many plot points…and now under the wisdom of Jonathan Frakes, it starts to bring everything together.
And holy cow, there’s a lot to take in…
It starts from the very moment episode 9 “Into the Forest I Go” left off. The Discovery is floating in a debris field, with the crew unsure of its location. Suddenly, what appears to be a Vulcan shuttle opens fire on the Discovery. Then, equally confusing, the USS Cooper appears – a vessel which, in the normal universe, is supposed to be undergoing a re-fit – and offers assistance, which also raises concerns. The Cooper hails the Discovery, says “Hey, we’ll handle this, no worries” destroys the Vulcan ship and warps off.
Totally confused, the Discovery scans the debris field and only to find that its made up of a mixture of Vulcan, Klingon and Andorian technology. The locate a data core from one of the wrecked ships and attempt to bring it on board using a 2001-style work pod. Tylervoq (Shazad Latif) is given the mission, however he’s still suffering from his blurred memories of excruciating torture and/or surgery.
Upon examination of the recovered data core, the crew determine they are in fact in a mirror universe and most of the alien races have united against the Terran Empire, a brutal, xenophobic homo sapiens-only dictatorship that is trying to conquer the galaxy. They look up the USS Discovery – called the ISS Discovery in the Mirror Universe – and learn that things are a little different there…
Some background: 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 first 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 by way of a transporter accident.
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.
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.
Now, back to the episode…
It becomes clear that the Discovery must pose as the ISS Discovery from the Mirror Universe in order to a) basically survive, but also b) to learn more about where they are and how the blazes they get home. So Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) accesses the data core to find out what their MU counterparts are like…
Do you remember in episode 8 “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” when Stamets (Anthony Rapp) came out of the DASH drive compartment and said to Tilly (Mary Wiseman), “What are you doing here captain..?” Well, guess what, in the Mirror Universe Tilly is captain of the the ISS Discovery!
This episode shows, finally, how Star Trek is using its assets to its best advantage. 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..? And Cadet Tilly was born for this role. It uses comedy – in a light-hearted and suitable manner – to best effect. None of this shock swearing purely for the sake of it, or even a overload of humour that spoils the overall end product like we saw recently in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Burnham herself is presumed dead…and Lorca is a fugitive, which actually goes some way to reinforce the fan theory that Lorca is actually from the MU to begin with. Possibly even that he is the actual fugitive.
Apparently, in the MU, Lorca attempted a coup d’état against the Terran Emperor and was declared a criminal after his ship, the ISS Buran was destroyed by the Emperor. This reflects a similar set of events in the real universe, where about one month into the Federation-Klingon War, the USS Buran was ambushed and boarded by Klingons. Knowing his crew would be tortured and executed on Qo’noS, Lorca elected to destroy his ship and crew. So…it’s possible.
Meanwhile, Tylervoq is in a right ol’ state. He goes to talk to L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), who’s still in the brig, to demand she tell him what’s they’ve done to him. She says, “Open the cell and I’ll tell you…” So naturally he does…and then L’Rell utters some sleeper agent activation-style Klingon phrase…and Tylervoq replies in perfect Klingon!
Further analysis of the data core reveals that they are not the first starship to find themselves in the Mirror Universe. Another Starfleet vessel, a Constitution Class starship, the USS Defiant NCC-1764 was patrolling sector six and disappeared.
This is a nice reference to the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly” (S4, Ep18 parts 1 & 2), which also uses the USS Defiant as a primary plot element.
The Defiant itself got there from The Original Series episode “The Tholian Web” (S3, Ep9). In 2268, the Defiant responded to a distress call in the unexplored Tholian sector claimed by the Tholian Assembly. Shortly after entering the region, the Defiant’s crew began experiencing sensory distortion, and insanity quickly spread throughout the ship. The ship’s chief medical officer was unable to determine what was happening, and eventually the insanity induced by the phenomenon led the crew to kill each other.
Three weeks later, Starfleet ordered the USS Enterprise to mount a search and rescue mission to locate the Defiant. On stardate 5693.2, the Enterprise located the Defiant, only to find it trapped between universes in a space warp. The Enterprise’s instruments recorded that space itself was literally breaking up, the result of a previously unknown phenomenon known as a spatial interphase. An Enterprise boarding party beamed aboard the Defiant and discovered signs of mutiny and insanity – the captain’s neck was broken and his crew was dead.
At that time the Defiant was visible in the “prime universe” while in the interphase. Later, as a result of a phaser exchange between the Enterprise and the Tholians, a hole was created through the spatial interphase. The Defiant was pushed through the hole to parts unknown and in the process trapping Captain James T. Kirk between universes. Captain Kirk was eventually saved when the Enterprise, encased in a Tholian web, entered the interphase and, upon utilizing full power, was thrown clear of the region while Kirk was locked in the transporter beam.
Anyway, back to the now. Since in the MU Burnham is only presumed dead – but was previously captain of the ISS Shenzhou – Lorca, Burnham and Saru (Doug Jones) formulate a plan: she is going to pretend that she was just pretending to be dead and was actually a mission to find and capture the fugitive Gabriel Lorca…and now she has him captive, she wants her ship back. Ultimately, they are going to attempt to get to the Defiant and in an attempt to find out how they can use the spacial anomaly to get back to their reality.
The USS Discovery undergoes something of a redressing to make it look authentic. The exterior is repainted so it says “ISS Discovery” instead, the crew have altered uniforms and new Terran Empire insignia are distributed.
Back to Tylervoq, who is slowly beginning to lose the plot. He insists that Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) – you know, Stamet’s loving partner – give him a more thorough, deeper examination…which reveals scar tissue around all of Tylervoq’s major organs, evidence of a personality graft-of-sorts and even that even his spine has been surgically shortened. Consequently, the good doctor says he’s grounded until further notice and until they can figure out what the blazes is going on…and then Tylervoq BREAKS HIS NECK!
Holy cow! Did not see that one coming. Opinion is divided on this. It’s nice to see Star Trek: Discovery killing semi-important characters off Game of Thrones style – hey, it happens in real life – but at the same time, he was one half of sci-fi’s cutest LGBT couple. And poor Stamets is going to be pretty upset. Actually, he’s in no condition to anything right now: throughout this episode he’s been confined to a bed in sick bay, restrained by forcefield and keeps mumbling something about “the enemy is here” and “don’t go into the palace”…so we’ll find out what that’s all about in good time, no doubt.
While the Tyler revelation had been pretty much established by the time this episode rolled around and was therefore no surprise whatsoever, the death of Culber almost felt like it was shock, for shock’s sake…but at the same time, it could be argued this is what this series needed – a kick up the backside. It’s a tough one that will fans will be discussing it furiously online until next week’s episode. However, in a recent interview with The Advocate, executives producers Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg assured fans that the “epic love story” of Stamets and Culber “has just begun”.
Cruz himself tweeted this…so, it seems more than likely that through the use of the spore drive and an imminent return to the correct universe, we’ll get to see Doc Culber once more.
“I’m not going anywhere.” ??? pic.twitter.com/gjIxIoR0zC
— Wilson Cruz (@wcruz73) January 8, 2018
Meanwhile, the away team beams aboard the ISS Shenzhou and must play along in the style of the treacherous Terran Empire…and right away Burnham’s dedication to her role is tested as her second in command tries to murder her and an awesome fight to the death takes place in the turbo lift. But she’s as cool as a cucumber and her crew applaud her as the lift door opens onto the bridge and his corpse falls to the deck floor…
Long live Captain Burnham! Long live the Empire!
This is the first episode of Star Trek since the Voyager episode “Prototype” (S2, Ep 13) in 1996, 22 years earlier to be directed by Jonathan Frakes. In the interim, he directed the excellent Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the less-than-excellent Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)…but we want him to direct every episode of Discovery from this point onwards. Everything seemed to move swiftly and efficiently, but without wrapping everything up by the end of episode. More of that please
What’s nice is that this is not a one-off episode set in the Mirror Universe as we’ve tended to see in the past. Since Discovery is using an ongoing, season-long story arc, the next few episodes at least, will be set in the MU. But…we only have five episodes left in the first season.
This also means that the Defiant will be in the hands of the Terran Empire, which is where they must go in order to get it. There’s already evidence that the Discovery-era vessels have been upgraded; when Burnham, Lorca and Tylervoq beam aboard the ISS Shenzhou, Captain Connor remarks that some modifications have been made. “We’ve replaced the lateral vector transporter systems,” he says.
Will Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) pop up in the Mirror Universe? After all, she did confirm her reappearance at the Star Trek: Discovery panel at NYCC last year. Will Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) make a cameo? Don’t forget, Discovery is set after Enterprise…so Lorca et al will find the USS Defiant after the events of “In a Mirror, Darkly” and Sato was a fairly prominent figure at the end of that story…as was Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery).
Will Georgiou in fact be the Emperor? Great care seems to have to be taken to make no gender reference to the Emperor at all – no “he” or “she” – in this episode…and it would certainly offer some interesting personal conflicts for Burnham to have to deal with.
Fancy cocktail on Omicron Delta ✓
• Lorca’s Scottish engineer impression is an awesome, subtle, nod to TOS
• Cadet Tilly…was born to act her role in the Mirror Universe
• Lorca looks super-fucking hard core in his renegade long, leather coat
• Redressing the ship to the Mirror Universe’s ISS Discovery
• Referencing the USS Defiant, from TOS and Enterprise
Flat beer on Nimbus III ✗
• For the first time Saru’s threat ganglia tingle when Tylervoq comes to the bridge?
• The Tylervoq thing was no surprise and might’ve worked well, had it not been for that whole IMDb thing
• The canon-established design of the USS Defiant NCC-1764 seems to have undergone a few tweaks
• Would’ve liked to have seen the original Terran Empire logo used and not a redesign
• They did get those new uniforms and insignia knocked out extremely quickly
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