Star Trek Discovery: 1.12 Vaulting Ambition
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An odd thing about making a TV series specifically for a streaming service, CBS All Access in America and Netflix in the rest of the world, is that episodes can be as long as they need to be without worrying about having to fit a time slot. As such episodes of Star Trek: Discovery have all been anywhere from 40-50 minutes as required. This week's episode was the shortest at 37 minutes. If like me you skip the recap and the title sequence (thanks for the option Netflix) and if you don't watch the credits, this episode would be just over half an hour. Easily the shortest live action Star Trek entry to date right I suspect. As such, it was short and punchy, with only really three plot threads which I'll go over in no particular order (not true, I’m doing this for dramatic effect).
Stamets found himself trapped in the mycelial network, which of course took the form of pre-existing sets from Discovery to help guide his mind and save on production costs. The hope of him meeting multiple versions of himself was short lived however as it seemed it was literally just him and his mirror self, who seemed to have been trapped there for some time and was counting on Stamets Prime to get them both out of there. The network, that joined all things in existence, had developed a form of infection, a corruption that was rapidly spreading and looked to kill them both if they didn't get out.
Thankfully though, through said miracle connection to all things, Dr Culber was in the network and able to warn Stamets not to trust his mirror self as it was his experiments on the network that corrupted it. Hugh said his goodbyes in a touching moment between the two and it was lovely to see Hugh & Paul one last time. The show runners promised we’d see Dr Culber again, though if this is truly it for the couple it’s a little bittersweet. Unfortunately, waking himself from the network also freed the Mirror Stamets, who woke aboard the Imperial Palace ship and set to work on whatever nefarious scheme he was up to.
The Ash/Voq storyline took a baby step forward, when Ash went into a sort of mania caused by the conflicting sides of his brain, Human and Klingon, clashing. Saru's appeals to L'Rell to help save him fell on deaf ears, at least at first, as she was resolute that this was a price to pay for the type of warfare they had chosen to engage in. It was only when Saru had Ash beamed into her cell so she could see the extent of his suffering, both mental and physical due to him self-harming, that she agreed to do something. Fitted with a pair of what can only be described as laser gloves, she performed a quick invasive procedure on Ash’s brain whilst he was still conscious. Whilst he started reciting a Klingon mantra, calling out to the father and mother in Klingon, he finished calling out to the brother and sister, in English. With this, L'Rell let out an almighty howl, the Klingon tradition to warn the afterlife a Klingon is coming for in her eyes, Voq was now dead.
It was revealed that there was indeed a real Ash Tyler whose genetic material and memories were used to transform Voq, so to my mind he’s very much dead too. But what is a man is not the sum of his memories? Perhaps both men are simultaneously gone yet still with us we're left with an amalgamation of the two. In this sense, Ash will become the dark mirror (there’s a lot of that going on in this show) to Michael Burnham. A child of two worlds, torn between them. I'm very interested in seeing where this goes, what becomes of the new amalgamated man – a veritable Abradolf Lincler – and where his loyalties lie.
On board the Emperor's ship, Michael was forced with coming face to face with the Mirror version of Captain Georgiou whilst desperately trying to maintain her cover. This wasn't easy as the rituals of the Terran Empire were still alien to her, being pushed as she was to choose an enslaved Kelpien for what she likely presumed was to be her valet, only to find out later that he was dinner. Michael had already lied to Saru about encountering his mirror version as a slave aboard the Shenzou; I can't imagine she's going to be able to tell him she was forced to eat a member of his species.
Her cover was blown however, due to the fact Emperor Georgiou had raised her Michael Burnham as her daughter and saw right through her to something being wrong, even if she incorrectly suspected it was that Michael had betrayed her, aligning with Mirror Lorca in his attempt to overthrow her. Desperate, Michael revealed her true nature to the Emperor, even going so far as to show her Captain Georgiou’s Starfleet badge, which conveniently carried the Prime Universe's quantum signature, verifying everything she just said. The Emperor Georgiou, being privy to all the most sensitive info to any and all threats to the Empire including previous incursions from the Prime Trek Universe into her own, immediately killed all her council present, save one to cover it up, and sought to make a deal with Michael; dimension hopping technology in exchange for her freedom.
But it was in talking with her that Michael was able to deduce the truth of the final twist in this series; Mirror Lorca, who had groomed her counterpart specifically to help him gain access to the emperor to stage a coup. The fact that Mirror Universe Humans are more sensitive to bright light, a tell that did feel like the writers had pulled it out of their backside last minute to be honest, all lead to one conclusion. Captain Lorca is and has been since the moment we met him, Mirror Lorca.
It was no accident that Burnham ended up on Discovery or that Discovery ended up in the Mirror Universe, but by design as Mirror Lorca knew Michael was the key to getting close to the Emperor. Just as she was figuring this out, Lorca broke free of his containment and killed his would-be torturer with a quick jab verbal jab and a curb stomp. Not very Starfleet.
Short, sharp and to the point, this episode finally filled in the largest puzzle pieces, such as Stamets's connection the network via his other self and Discovery's diversion to the mirror universe. Even though the Mirror Lorca twist had already been guessed by some hardcore Trek fans, I know there were many who didn’t see it coming, even some that were thrilled by the twist. Now, with all the cards on the table and only three episodes to go, I’m looking harder and harder at those episode titles trying to guess what comes next as we race towards the finale.