With its return, Star Trek: Discovery set the tone for the rest of the season by revealing that Stamets (Anthony Rapp)’s last jump set them into the Mirror Universe of the Terran Empire. Not that it was exactly a shock — fans had been talking about the Mirror Universe since it was first teased as far back as October — but the episode still managed some shocking events while seemingly addressing a few fan theories head on.
In fact, let’s start with the Lorca fan theory. In the lead up to the mid-season break, many suggested that Captain Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) obsession with the jump drive was motivated by his attempt to get back to the Mirror Universe. The theory maintained that all of his non-Starfleet actions indicated he might be of Terran origin and that everything has been orchestrated to get himself and Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) back to the Mirror Universe. Based on fall season, it was a pretty sound theory, but Lorca’s reactions to the state of play within the Mirror Universe appeared to be genuine astonishment. For the moment, it appears safe to assume that Lorca is just a very unconventional Starfleet captain from the Prime Universe.
Of course, I’m also willing to be wrong should Lorca ultimately reveal himself after a few days in the agony booth.
The other theory, though, was completely, thoroughly, and utterly confirmed. Lt. Tyler (Shazad Latif) is, in fact, Voq, Son of None. The albino Klingon has been hiding in plain sight all along as we learned the extent of organic manipulation required to make a Klingon sleeper agent. From Dr. Culber’s (Wilson Cruz) description of the procedures, it involved creating a new identity on top of the original person and literally crushing Voq’s bones to make him him human. Ouch. And though learning the truth about Tyler is narratively satisfying, it dulls the more interesting point made with him in the mid-season finale: he was (a that moment) a rape survivor admitting his trauma to his significant other. It was such a powerful moment that even at the time I hoped the Voq theory proved incorrect. Sadly, it proved to be true and it had devastating consequences.
But I’m not ready to go there yet.
Instead, let’s speculate on what went wrong with Voq. According to L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), reciting the Kahless poem was suppose to release his original persona from sleep mode. Instead, it just made Tyler’s memories of torture and abuse more potent. It also lead to a very unsettling scene between Tyler and the captive Klingon. But the key takeaway here is that L’Rell’s plan didn’t work. They purposely planted Voq aboard Discovery for a reason, but without him assuming control of his body — and, indeed, Tyler seeming to fuse tighter to it — that plan appears for not. And this is still without L’Rell knowing that they’ve jumped universes. Meanwhile, to preserve his freedom, Tyler did something horrible…
Yeah, still not ready to talk about it.
The Mirror Universe is an interesting place at the moment. We quickly learn the incursion of the U.S.S. Defiant from the Star Trek episode “The Tholian Web,” and the Star Trek: Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror Darkly,” still occurred, possibly setting off the more advanced level of technological sophistication seen in both timelimes on Discovery. In the Enterprise story, Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) ultimately assumed command of the Defiant — a ship which happens to be 100 or so years more advanced than anything in the Terran Empire of the 22nd Century — and declares herself the new Emperor. Knowledge of 23rd century technology should alter the development of the Mirror Universe. And, since events run in parallel, the I.S.S. Defiant also must’ve made its way to the Prime Universe at some point. That’s a pretty efficient explanation for Discovery‘s more advanced aesthetic and technology when compared to the original Star Trek. It’s also a very leading plot point as Lorca and Burnham plan to use the knowledge from the Defiant to get home. Will they use that slip in time or will Stamets recover in time for them to attempt one more jump?
And boy, we’ll have a lot to recover from.
Last night’s episode featured the absolutely shocking death to Dr. Culber. Tyler snapped his neck and … it’s just not sitting well with me. According to Cruz, there may be a Star Trek way out of Culber’s demise, but the damage has still been done. Tyler, at this point, is irredeemable — further devaluing his amazing scene in Episode 9. It also puts the show on a suspect list as the scene could be very easily read as an example of Burying Your Gays. The Stamets/Culber relationship was one of the most surprising and thrilling things about the show. While one assumes there’s nothing noteworthy about their relationship in the 23rd Century, it is still a rarity in 21st Century television. To dismiss it as quickly and brutally as it was has the ring of the Burying Your Gays trope. Hopefully, the show will play it smarter in the weeks to come and find a quantum filament or tachyon burst capable of bringing Culber back to life.
But then again, the show never should’ve put us in the position to hope for a “teching the tech” solution.
Star Trek: Discovery steams Sundays on CBS All Access.