Star Trek Discovery: 1.10 Despite Yourself
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Star Trek: Discovery came back with a bang this week with the crew finding themselves trapped in another dimension following the twist ending at the end of the first half of season one. And the show wasted very little time establishing that yes, it was in in fact the Mirror Universe, something Trek fans have been theorising about for a while now. The exact nature of the whereabouts of the Mirror Discovery left a mystery for now – it seems they possibly swapped places? - the crew found they had to blend in quickly in this new universe or die at the hand of the Mirror Universe's counterpart to the peaceful Federation, the xenophobic, warmongering Terran Empire.
One of the best things about Mirror episodes of Star Trek has always been exploring the trope of evil versions of characters we know and love. And indeed good versions of characters we love to hate. What with refitting the ship to match the Terran's ISS Discovery, changing the crew's uniforms, it was Tilly's time to shine as in this universe, as it was she who was the Captain of the Discovery.
Sweet, kind-hearted, somewhat neurotic Tilly was of course called upon to play her Mirror counterpart, the ruthless, Captain Killy. Presenting herself to other Terran Imperial ships as this evil, murderous version of herself was great fun to see but also an interesting introspection for the character. Tilly, who knows she has to be more driven and ambitious if she's ever to get that coveted captain's chair, was left inhabiting the role of a version of herself that was all too driven and too ambitious, to the point where she apparently got to be captain by killing the previous one, something that scared her to her core. Despite that, it is something she excelled at and it was great to see Mary Wiseman play both sides of the character, exploring the duality of the role.
A plan was quickly formulated when they discovered they were not the first Starfleet vessel from their universe to travel into the mirror universe. The USS Defiant (most definitely not the Defiant from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) had already crossed into the Mirror Universe, a nod to the events of original Star Trek episode The Tholian Web and Star Trek: Enterprise episode In a Mirror, Darkly. Crucially this Defiant wasn't fitted with a spore drive meaning that with Stamets in a form of catatonia and the spore drive out of action, Discovery could possibly find another way to get back home.
Unfortunately the data they needed could only be accessed from a Terran Imperial ship, naturally, meaning that they had to go undercover and infiltrate one. Luckily for them, the mirror Michael Burnham who is currently presumed dead (10 will get you 20 she'll be back before this series is out) was captain of the still active Mirror Universe Shenzou. This presented a particular challenge for Michael as it was her previous ship that she had lost in the Battle of the Binary Stars and would be crewed by doppelgängers of many of the people who died that day. Things only got worse once on board as Michael was faced with a challenge to her command by the doppelgänger of her former Operations Officer, Michael being forced to take his life in a kill or be killed scenario. Talk about being forced to face your ghosts and having to relive the horror knowing you're responsible for their death.
Once secured onboard the Shenzou with Lorca as her bargaining chip, the Mirror Lorca being a traitor to the Empire who attempted a coup, they set off into Terran Empire space, leaving Saru and Tilly in charge of the Discovery. With Lorca in the cells, the only back up Michael had was from Ash posing as her personal guard, which it seems could be just about the worst thing ever.
Because finally, with a huge sense of satisfaction, months after Star Trek fans already guessed it but still waiting for the show to confirm their suspicions – Ash was revealed to be Voq. I mean, not in so many words, there's still the tiniest amount of room for interpretation here but basically, yeah, Ash is Voq. The lesson that he should compromise his ideals of Klingon purity for the greater good from a previous episode being foreshadowing for L'Rell the Spy-Master's grand plan. Take the emissary of Klingon purity and turn him into a human. Plant him on a Starfleet vessel and see what damage he can wreck. But in an twist though, it seems we have a Total Recall Quaid Hauser situation on our hands as the brainwashing may have been too good, with the Ash personality exerting too much control over the Klingon beneath.
Ash may be in denial to his true self, but his instincts sure as hell kicked in when he was threatened to be exposed by Dr Culber; as shown when he completely unceremoniously broke his neck, just before heading off on his crucial mission. It's a damn a shame to kill off one half of the only gay couple on Star Trek, especially when the other half is currently in some sort of coma and can't even know what happened. He did try to warn the good Doctor however with garbled messages about “not going into the palace” and the “enemy being near”.
This return from Star Trek: Discovery, to me at least, felt like a satisfying fan script, having fun with all the potential of the Mirror Universe whilst finally revealing to us a truth that had been long bubbling under the surface for some time. Now, faced with the dramatic irony that we know Ash's true nature and Michael does not, it begs the question as to how, if at all, these two plot threads are going to affect each other. And if indeed the enemy Stamets was talking about was the Klingon in their midst at all...