Attention on bridge! Overthinking It’s Star Trek: Discovery recaps are back for the second EVIL half of season 1 (read our previous recaps here). EVIL Mark Lee (with a resplendent goatee and metal breastplate) is now in the Captain’s chair.
The Meta-Mirror Universe
Our suspicions from the end of Episode 9 have been confirmed: the Discovery has spore-jumped into the Mirror Universe, where the Federation is EVIL and alternate, EVIL versions of characters will either be impersonated or met in super awkward face-to-face encounters. We’ll probably get some of the latter if the Discovery hangs out in this universe for much longer, but for now, we’ll have to be content with the former, most notably Cadet Tilly’s transformation into EVIL Captain KILLY with awesome battle armor and a punk rock haircut.
I’m really looking forward to all of the storytelling opportunities that Captain KILLY opens up, but let’s stay with this idea of alternate universes. See, the show ostensibly presents us with two universes: the in-show prime universe and the in-show mirror universe. Complicated enough, but nothing we Star Trek fans haven’t seen before. I would argue, however, that BOTH of these universes are again split into two by Lorca, who at the end of the last episode was shown to be hiding his true EVIL intentions from the crew, which they still appear to be unaware of, even though they’ve crossed over into his realm. Which means that THERE! ARE! FOUR! UNIVERSES! IN! A! WAY!
Heck, we may actually have FIVE universes on our hands: the fifth would be the show-runners’ universe, the only one where cause-and-effect is really at play and characters’ actions can be evaluated in their complete context.
I get what the show is trying to accomplish with all of this complexity: it’s trying to extend the theme of “Discovery” as widely as possible. Within the universe, the crew discovers a new propulsion system, a mirror universe, their own capabilities, and, eventually, Lorca’s true intensions. We, the audience, discover the narrative along the way, and with it, a new type of Trek show, one that can’t be fully appreciated on a narrative level without your full, undivided attention (not to mention continuing, recurring CBS All Access subscription fees).
But, oy vey with all of these universes! This constant discovery of the unknown comes with a healthy dose of disorientation for the audience. Hence all of the critical and fan griping, on this site and elsewhere. Star Trek: Discovery shows no signs of returning to an easier status quo any time soon, so expect the griping to continue until we either come to terms with the universes’ new realities or give up and jump ship to the Orville.
How Do You Say, “I, too, have a secret plan” in Klingon?
While the crew comes to terms with the Mirror Universe, Ash Tyler’s Klingon controller (kontroller?), L’Rell, succeeds in activating the surgically implanted Voq personality within Tyler. We don’t really know what the long game is for L’Rell, seeing as she was brought aboard the Discovery before it entered the Mirror Universe, so we’re left with learning more about this situation a the surface level: Ash is still traumatized by the whole thing, and though he may have showed some resistance to L’Rell’s commands at one point, later he brutally murders Dr. Hugh out of his Klingon sense of self-preservation. He then joins Burnham and Lorca on their trip to the EVIL Shenzhou, where he’s given the delicate task of helping maintain Burnham’s EVIL cover. They have sexy times to relieve the tension of pretending to be EVIL all of the time.
What could possibly go wrong? So, so much. Tyler has enough psychosexual horror to last himself (and the Klingon inside him) for a lifetime, and all signs indicate that he’ll share it with Burnham, who, if you recall, is super emotionally repressed (on account of her Vulcan upbringing) and is probably not going to handle this complication to intimacy well.
Again, on the theme of discovery: this degree of psychosexual terror and pain is uncharted territory for Trek. The blood-and-guts surgery/rape scenes and Tyler’s ensuing anguish seem more at home in an Alien movie rather than a Trek TV show. If the show’s goal is to get us out of our comfort zones and discover new, horrible feelings that we previously didn’t associate with Trek, then it’s succeeding in spades in this regards.
(Side note: Star Trek: Discovery keeps with Trek tradition in that it is not at all about about invasive surveillance, even though the technology would clearly allow for it. Even in the brig–the one place on the ship where you’d expect the computer to be watching and listening to everything–the characters are able to have a private interaction and keep it secret from the rest of the crew. Part of me wishes that Trek would stretch its speculative sci-fi muscles in this area more, but part me of is also glad that Trek is Trek and not Black Mirror.)
Stamets and Hugh Had Better Get Their La Boheme Moment
Stamets appears to be the only person inhabiting all five of these universes, including that of the show-runners. Several episodes ago, he had a vision of Tilly as captain, and in this episode, he recognizes that Tyler has been compromised. Again, in keeping with the theme, he spends most of the episode in a trance-like state with cloudy eyeballs, depriving the audience not only of information but also of quality time with his character.
And speaking of depriving the audience of quality time with enjoyable characters, his poor boyfriend, Dr. Hugh, gets Klingon neck-snapped by Tyler! It’s in keeping with the theme–and also infuriating–that the audience has now been deprived of the only straightforward romantic relationship on this show. At least, for now: all signs point to his character coming back in some form, so at least he’s alive in the show-runners universe. But not ours, dammit!
I told you there’d be gripes!
In spite of my gripes, I am still on board with this show and am open to seeing where all of this leads, in hopes that at least some of these loose ends get tied up by the end of the season and that Lorca gets his just desserts eventually, because he is such a gigantic asshole. But mostly, I’ve also come to terms with the fact that Trek has moved past the TNG ideal of my youth and that I should open myself up to the spirit of discovery that this show embodies.
Course setting, my friends?
Second star to the right, and straight on ’till next month’s CBS All Access renewal.