Star Trek: Discovery
We’re still in the Mirrorverse this week, and I think most people are like me inasmuch as they spend a fair amount of their downtime imagining how they would handle being suddenly thrust into a Mirrorverse situation. Moreover, I suspect that, like me, most of us would overestimate our ability to blend in and become sleeker, more predatory, manipulative shark versions of ourselves. “At last,” the delusion goes, “the civilized veneer is stripped away and I am revealed as the ruthless survivor I have always believed myself to be, for some reason.” None of us are ever cannon fodder in our own darkest timeline, just like none of us ever imagine we’re going to be part of the culled herd in the early stages of an apocalypse. In truth, my Mirrorverse equivalent is long dead; I lack both the reflexive, in-the-moment brutality necessary to kill off a suddenly traitorous friend as well as the long-term planning skills necessary to outmaneuver a ship full of evil schemers.
Burnham is still captain of the ISS Shenzhou, and in the grand tradition of evil doppelgängers everywhere, her outfits are incredible. In one of the early scenes, we find out that she sleeps in this absolutely baffling, sleek-yet-lacy boy-cut bodysuit, and I immediately started Googling key descriptive phrases to figure out where I could get one exactly like it.
She’s also (at a mere two days in!) already terrified of losing her grip on reality, and is worried about blurring the line between her good and evil selves. Man, protagonists deposited in an evil universe are always so anxious about what separates the good versions of themselves from the evil versions (“Are we really so different, don’t we all have the same capacity for violence?” always seems to send them spinning off into a crisis), but not me. If I ever met a Mirrorverse version of myself I would luxuriate in the profound sense of moral distinction and superiority in the roughly five seconds I had to live before being summarily executed.
Burnham tells Tyler that he’s the only thing keeping her sane in an unrecognizable universe (“You’re my anchor”); he tells her that she’s the only thing keeping him from floating off into the abyss (“You’re my tether”). If your response to that is, “Hey, that doesn’t sound stable if you’re both solely responsible for keeping the other from spiraling into madness,” then you have correctly identified the problem with their situation!
The B plot back on the ship mostly follows Tilly and Saru’s attempts to treat Stamet’s temporal dislocation through spore therapy. (“This is a spore issue, which means that no one is more qualified to help [Stamets] than I am,” says Tilly, which prompted me to say, “Really? Is that her specialty? I genuinely do not recall!”) He’s both here in the present and in the mycelium network, able to see multiple realities at once, which explains why he kept calling Tilly “Captain.” I kind of love that they weren’t able to bring him back, and we’re going to (presumably) follow his adventures with his own Mirror-self, who’s also trapped in the mycelium network. There’s not a lot of time devoted to his journey this week, but presumably we’ll start seeing more of him in the next few episodes, as we’re heading into the final third of the season.
The rest of the main story line follows Burnham and Tyler as they meet more of their Mirrorverse counterparts while they attempt to negotiate with the rebels dirtside. (Mirror-Sarek has a goatee!) The leader of the rebels turns out to be Voq, which of course sets off Tyler for the final time, confirming what we all know as he breaks down and attacks himself: Tyler is a sleeper-agent version of Voq himself, who’s just switched from Jean Valjean–style “Who am I?” to full-on “Shadows avaunt, Richard’s himself again!” at the worst possible time in the worst possible place. Burnham somehow manages to keep the negotiation from going south long enough to evacuate most of the rebels before giving the orders to fire on the planet, but she’s stymied on two fronts: Firstly, because Tyler attacks her in her quarters and she’s forced to airlock him, and second, because the Emperor’s ship shows up and starts firing before the rebels are all safely away.
The good news is that Burnham somehow manages to coordinate the airlocking with Saru and hides the data they need to figure out a way home on Tyler himself, both accomplishing her strategic goals and maintaining her commitment to preserving life.
The bad news is that the Emperor is Georgiou, and she is pissed.
The other bad news is that I think Captain Lorca is trying to do a Southern accent this week, which I found utterly baffling. Is it a torture-induced accent?
Other details worth discussion
• At one point, Saru asks Burnham if there are any other Kelpians onboard the Shenzhou, because there aren’t many in their own universe, as if the answer is somehow going to be good, like Burnham’s gonna say, “Oh, yes, and your species is, uh, THRIVING in this terrifying and violent hellscape!”
• Tilly keeps wearing her Sexy Evil wig even when no transmissions from the Shenzhou are imminent. Either this means that Tilly is really prepared and committed to her role (no way) or it means she loves wearing the wig (100 percent that is the real reason!!!).
• In one of Tyler’s flashbacks, we see the surgery wherein Voq was grafted into him. (It’s still unclear, actually, whether Tyler ever existed as a separate person at all, or if they somehow scooped a Tyler-shaped person out of Voq’s body. More to come on that front, I suppose.) The procedure was apparently performed without anesthesia, supposedly to demonstrate how METAL Klingons are, but that is genuinely counterproductive from a medical standpoint! It is super-hard to perform surgery on a patient who is SCREAMING and THRASHING ABOUT in his OWN BLOOD!
• After Stamets’s heart stops, Saru sends some medics into his spore-cube, where they use defibrillator paddles to restart his heart, which, are we seriously still using those in the 2150s?!
• Apparently Lorca has been speaking with a “slight Southern accent” this whole time, which I have entirely failed to catch. ALSO, HE TRIED TO ESTABLISH “GIT’ER DONE” AS HIS CATCHPHRASE, AND THE SHOW’S PRODUCERS HAD TO EXPLAIN TO HIM THAT LARRY THE CABLE GUY HAS IN FACT COPYRIGHTED THE PHRASE AND HE COULD NOT USE IT. I may never recover from this information!
• N.B. I am terrible at giving episodes so many stars out of five. I have no star-awarding strategy, no grand plan in mind, no control episode against which I measure all others, no way of comparing a great episode of a middling show against a middling episode of a great show. Every week it is the last thing I do before filing my recap and every week it catches me off-guard and fills me with panic. If you were to try to find some sort of organizational connection between how many stars I gave an episode one week against the next, you would go absolutely mad, like Event Horizon–level mad, because there’s no there there. I just don’t know, okay? I generally go with four stars if I thought it was solid, three stars if I’m feeling really uncharitable, and I’ll probably give out one five-star rating a season to “feel like I’m being fair.” I feel that you, the viewing public, have a right to know when my process falls apart. Thank you for your time.