Thank God for the “Previously on,” because enough has happened in the last two months that I can barely remember being alive in 2017, much less what happened on this show. Which is great, because this episode opens with a moment of quiet collective panic. No one else knows where they are, or what’s happening, so I feel right at home. The Discovery crew should be where Starbase 46 is, but isn’t, or else Starbase 46 isn’t somewhere it’s supposed to be. One thing’s for sure: There are Vulcans … drifting among the wreckage … shooting directly at them.
It’s a whole lot of to-do about quantum warp signatures and “but ALL quantum warp signatures in the known universe are compatible” until Captain Lorca gets to deliver one of my favorite kinds of Star Trek lines of all time: “That’s true.” [Pause for scientific joy even in the face of terrifying possibility.] “Unless …”
WE ARE NOT IN OUR UNIVERSE, is the big reveal, and Lorca points out that while people have speculated about the possibility of parallel universes since the 20th century [pause for knowing nods from the audiences], it’s only now that the mycelium network has enabled them to jump through time and space that anyone has been able to confirm it. It takes almost halfway through the episode for us to get to the big reveal, but since I can play with time and space as much as I want in these recaps, allow me to tell you exactly now that WE ARE IN THE MIRRORVERSE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, WE GET TO HAVE OURSELVES A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED MIRROR-VERSING. Time meet our Terran counterparts, slap a goatee on Saru, and start a-stabbing everybody.
Easily the best part of any mirror-universe episode is watching the cast get to swing for the fences and play not only their evil counterparts, but their earnest do-gooder selves’ impressions of their evil counterparts. It’s sort of like how the best part of “Doppelgangland” was when Vampire Willow briefly pretended to be Willow Prime: “Uh … books. I was looking at books. I like books … ’cause I’m shy.” It’s a fun excuse to blow up everybody’s respective tropes, and while I think it works best a few seasons deep, when everyone’s characterization is more settled, there’s still tons of fun to be had here. There’s a great little almost montage where everyone runs around throwing leather body armor over their regular uniforms and grabbing the kinds of daggers that sexy lady spies always have strapped to their thighs in movies. I don’t know what those daggers are called, but God bless them.
Obviously Tilly gets to makes the most hay out of the swap — her Terran counterpart is not only the captain of the Discovery, but she’s Super Sexy Evil, complete with a fully blown-out ombré wig (??) and long list of murder-y nicknames (the best one is “Captain Killy,” but also Evil Tilly once murdered a dude in bed while he was recovering from the flu, which barely qualifies as killing). Tilly has some trouble sounding plausible at first (when she tries to swear, it’s like watching Ned Flanders try to work up some anger in “Hurricane Neddy”), but once she gets a pep talk from Burnham about how everyone in the Terran Empire is in fact terrified of the next betrayal and just pretending to be strong, she’s totally ready to say things like “Hey, asshole!” and “The only pleasure I take is in the blood of my enemies, Captain Connor!” with a straight face.
Lorca, by the way, was so ready to find the Mirrorverse; you can feel his enthusiasm at the realization that they’ve finally found a universe Gritty Enough for him. He starts bashing his own head into the hull, supposedly for verisimilitude as Burnham’s “captive” before beaming aboard the ISS Shenzhou, but is 100 percent so everyone watching him will think, “Whoa, that dude is willing to bash his own face in, he is definitely hardcore enough for the Mirrorverse.”
The basic plot points from this episode, aside from Captain Lorca trying to break up all the onboard couples by convincing them they’re more emotionally compromised than he is, is that Tyler gets closer and closer to realizing that he’s at least part Voq, and Burnham, Tyler, and Lorca all have to beam aboard the Shenzhou in order to figure out how to return to their own universe, since they’ve been able to establish (in a neat little Enterprise reference!) that another ship, the USS Defiant, once visited and safely returned from this parallel universe without a spore drive. Also, Stamets keeps wandering around Sickbay talking about a “palace,” and if you don’t think that means we’re going to get treated to a Mind Palace episode in the near future, you have got another thing coming, pal.
OH. OH. AND WHILE HAILING THE COOPER’S CREW, LORCA PRETENDS TO BE TILLY’S CHIEF ENGINEER (since his counterpart is supposed to be dead in this universe) AND DOES HE DEPLOY AN OVER-THE-TOP SCOTTISH ACCENT IN ORDER TO PANDER TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE REMINDED OF SCOTTY, YES HE FULLY DOES, AND DID IT WORK ON ME, SPOILER ALERT, YES IT FULLY DID, OH MY GOD, I HEARTILY AND WHOLEHEARTEDLY LOST IT.
L’Rell, still down in the brig, keeps trying to get Tyler to remember something beyond just flashbacks of torture, and at one point the two of them recite a Klingon prayer together, which sufficiently freaks him out to send him running to Dr. Culber for more tests. The tests are inconclusive in a sort of terrifying way: The Klingons definitely did a whole mess of bone-crushing something to Tyler, but Dr. Culber just isn’t sure what, and wants to ground him until he figures everything out. Tyler instead snaps his neck and runs off to join Burnham. The fact that we see Dr. Culber in flashes of next week’s episode (not moving, but still) and actor Wilson Cruz just promised in an interview that “this is not a kill your gays story line” suggests that (a) he’s definitely not dead, and (b) honestly, at this point, nobody’s dead, you know? They’re just killing time in parallel universes or hiding inside of Lt. Tyler’s bones or offscreen somewhere, brushing their evil, sexy ombré wigs.
This is just the beginning of what’s shaping up to be a powerful midseason reboot. The episode closes with Burnham, Lorca, and Tyler all aboard the ISS Shenzhou but with no way of accessing the plans they need to help them return home without inciting suspicion. They have to keep playing their parts, which means Lorca gets tossed into an agonizer booth, Burnham has to murder someone she already saw die at the Battle of the Binary Stars who’s now reanimated as a sleazier, stabbier version of himself, and the Shenzhou’s crew gets to bust out some evil slow clapping. God, I love an evil slow clap.
I hope next week brings us more wigs and more stabbings. Until then.