Star Trek Discovery Returns with a Trip to the Mirror Universe

first_img ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Teases Troubled Patrick StewartHow Designers Achieved the Sci-Fi Sound Magic of ‘The Orville’ Stay on target Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.center_img When Star Trek: Discovery left us last fall, it left us with a lot of questions. What was going on with Stamets? What’s going on with Ash Tyler? Where did the Discovery end up? The series finally came back last night, and gave us the answers to about one and a half of those questions. The Discovery ended up in the Mirror Universe, which is much scarier than our memories of a bearded Spock would have us believe. Tyler, like pretty much everyone guessed, is secretly Voq, though it’s a little more complicated than that. We still don’t know exactly what happened to him, but he isn’t just a physically altered Klingon sleeper agent. As for Stamets? Well, the jury’s still out on him. He spends the episode speaking in strange riddles that are written off as gibberish. He talks about a palace, and occasionally yells that the enemy is near. It’s obvious to everyone except for the characters on the show who he’s talking about.Though the episode improved as it went on, a good chunk of it was a whole lot of nothing happening. At least it was a fast-paced, urgent nothing, so we can’t call it boring. It just didn’t live up to the promise of the Mirror Universe. The show tried to create mystery at the beginning, and pull off a slow reveal. It didn’t really work. We started to suspect where they were as soon as a Vulcan ship fired on the Discovery. Then when another ship taunted them about getting spooked by rebels, it was obvious. They were in the Mirror Universe. After that, it was just a matter of waiting until the characters figured that out. They attempted to spice it up with Tyler’s story, but again, most of us have figured out at least part of what’s going on with him. Even if we hadn’t, it is annoying to watch otherwise smart people try to cover up clear signs of PTSD.Shazad Latif, Sonequa Martin-Green (Photo via CBS)After Tyler fights through his flashbacks to retrieve the data core from the rebel Vulcan ship, the show still takes its sweet time to reveal what we already know. I get that the episode has to show the characters discovering where they are. This is all new for them. The problem is that it isn’t for most of us. Even if we’d never seen “Mirror Mirror” before, this episode puts so much dialog between the steps of figuring it out, even brand new Trek viewers could figure it out. Or at the very least, they’d be tapping their feet for the episode to get to the point. It all creates the feel of a show very urgently spinning its wheels. The most frustrating part of all this is that it’s clearly a big deal that the Discovery is in a parallel universe, but we spend so much time in the same old ship. They don’t even meaningfully interact with anyone in the Mirror Universe until over halfway through the episode. Though their initial contact with a Terran Empire ship is hilarious. First because of Tilly trying to put on a hard-ass facade and then Lorca putting on a Scottish action to disguise his voice. It was funny, and a cool homage to the late James Doohan.The episode started picking up once we learned more about the Mirror Universe. The crew of the Discovery disguises themselves so Burnham, Lorca and Tyler can sneak aboard the Mirror Shenzhou and figure out how to get back to their own universe. It turns out the Discovery wasn’t the first ship to accidentally cross universes. The Defiant, which takes disappeared in The Original Series and was revealed to have crossed into the Mirror Universe’s past in Star Trek: Enterprise, arrived at some point before the Discovery did. They need the data aboard the Mirror Shenzhou to figure out where the wormhole between universes is. Mirror Burnham is presumed dead, having been killed by Mirror Lorca. Posing as their alternate selves, Burnham claims she faked her own death to capture Lorca, and takes him aboard the ship. Once there, he has to endure some awful-looking torture while Burnham tries to look through the ship’s data. That takes longer than she expects, because nobody will leave her alone. First, her former first officer tries to kill her, because that’s how succession works in this universe. After that, everyone tries to suck up to her to the point where she can’t get a moment alone. All the while, Lorca is being tortured. It’s a great, tense dilemma, and it’s a shame we had to wait until the very end of the episode to get there.Mary Chieffo, Shazad Latif (Photo via CBS)Now, let’s talk about what’s going on with Tyler. While his story slowed things down initially, enough happened in it that it didn’t feel like a complete waste of time. It feels like we’re about to learn exactly what’s going on with him. First, L’Rell tries to activate him with a Klingon prayer. At this point, we’re pretty sure the show is confirming that he’s secretly Voq in disguise. But it doesn’t work. It just makes his nightmarish visions worse. Then, Dr. Culber takes a deeper look at him. The Klingons performed all sorts of strange surgeries on him, shortening the length of his bones. He starts talking about how it’s theoretically possible to layer a second personality on top of someone’s original one, making it harder to detect. So yes, it would appear that Tyler is in fact Voq. But he is still also Tyler. That sets up a much more interesting conflict than a simple heel turn we could all see coming. There’s hope for this storyline yet.Of course, that revelation comes with a cost. When Culber threatens to quarantine Tyler, Tyler snaps his neck. It’s a shocking, upsetting death. I’ll give the show credit; nobody saw that coming. It’s so sudden and brutal, it elicits an immediate emotional reaction. It’s one of the few times this show has made me audibly gasp and yes, I’m upset about it. Culber and Stamets are the purest, best part of this show and it really sucks to see this happen to them. It doesn’t help that at first glance, it looks like Discovery has fallen into the tiresome “bury your gays” trap. Fortunately, everyone involved in the show seems to be aware of this. They were ready for the response.Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz (Photo via CBS)Wilson Cruz talked to Entertainment Weekly about his death scene, acknowledging that it would, and absolutely should, upset fans. Good TV should upset us sometimes. It should draw a strong emotional response. He also promises that this isn’t the end of the story. It’s a bump in the road on an epic romantic journey between Stamets and Culber. He also reminds us that this is Sci-fi. He’ll be back somehow. While it’s possible we would have enjoyed his return more if it came as a surprise, I understand why he felt the need to do this. Killing off gay characters is an upsettingly common trope. LGBT characters and characters of color are typically seen as expendable, and that sucks. It’s important to get out in front of this and assure people that that’s not where the story is going. An event like this might make a few fans wash their hands of the series entirely. (Seriously, the first onscreen gay couple in Star Trek history and you kill off one of them in the first season?) Giving away real, substantial hints about what’s coming could make those fans more willing to wait and see what happens. It’s a better response than the standard information-less “wait and see” we usually get. We still don’t know if Culber and Stamets will be around for season two, Cruz is being intentionally vague about that in the interview. What is clear is that we haven’t seen the last of Dr. Culber.This episode took a while to get going, but it instantly improved once it did. Despite the feeling of a whole lot of nothing happening very fast, returning to the Mirror Universe was fun. It was definitely better than some other Star Trek series’ past attempts to make a “Mirror Mirror” sequel. Even Deep Space Nine, as much as I love it, couldn’t pull off some of their Mirror Universe episodes. The individual characters made this trip worthwhile. It was so much fun watching Captain Tilly try to pretend to be a ruthless, tyrannical killer. And the nickname of Captain Killy is just funny. Burnham struggling to play the cold, uncaring torturer is also an interesting dilemma that I’m looking forward to seeing play out. I’m hoping this episode got all the Mirror Universe set-up out of the way. Then, we can get to the real meat of this story next week.last_img

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