Season 1 / Episode 11 / CBS All Access
The title of this episode of Star Trek: Discovery is as obvious as they come. All that evil that’s been hiding in the hearts of folks is gonna come out, for better or for worse. Mostly for worse. Let me say a couple of things up front.
First off, I am disappointed in the lack of Mirror Universe Beards in this Mirror Universe. You can’t perpetrate a symbol, have that symbol become the definition of the trope (I know Star Trek didn’t invent the Evil Beard, but it is one of the best examples), and then just drop that symbol later. That’s uncool. It throws off expectations and sometimes expectations must be met.
Second, in regards to the Ash Tyler/Michael Burnham relationship, I’m the best friend who says, when they break up, “I told you he wasn’t no good for you girl! I TOLLL YOU!” In reality, even though we all knew Tyler was too good to be true, I’m sad for Burnham. Not only is the break up in full effect, but well, I’m not going to spoil that just yet. Let’s get to the recap.
#Bury the Gays
I was wondering how Tyler covered his tracks back on the Discovery. Turns out that he sabotaged some electrical systems on that deck, leaving it in the dark. Now the fix-it crew is here. They find Stamets, deep in tree-blabbering mode, hugging the limp body of Culber.
As much as I’m willing to suspend my judgment about this particular storyline — only at the explicit assurances of the actors involved — this is getting to be a bit much. This feels like they’re rubbing it in, reminding me of their love and their sacrifice. Both Stamets and Culber put their literal bodies on the line to save the rest of the crew but they’re left mourning, alone and untended. I hear the whole “an epic love story must have complications” argument. But I need this to wrap up with a satisfactory ending on the ASAP.
Inside Burnham’s Head
Burnham, after two days as the Butcher of the Binary Stars, is doing some soul searching. This narration is our chance to see her Starfleet heart. She cares about people in a deep, real way. The optimism in this show is inside her, inside Tilly, not inside Lorca, and definitely not inside the plot itself.
The high points:
- Saru exists in the Mirror universe — as Burnham’s personal slave.
- Just thinking thoughts against the Emperor is punishable by death — by being beamed out into space.
- A captain gets multiple sets of lingerie to wear to bed. Okay, maybe this is a highpoint.
It is a lot for poor soft-hearted Burnham.
As it turns out, she isn’t giving a soliloquy, she’s talking to Tyler, leaned up against him all post-coital as she says, “Maybe none of us, no matter what world we’re from, really know, What darkness is waiting…inside.”It is a scene of significant irony because she then THANKS TYLER.
Burnham. Girl. You don’t know. The Discovery calls. Burnham’s retrieved the info she came for, but she can’t get it to the Discovery because of the firewall. Mirror Universe firewalls are the truth. She then lies to Saru, telling him she hasn’t seen any of his people on board the ship, letting him believe there is no Mirrorverse version of himself. He really doesn’t want to know that in a world of evil, he’s a slave. Saru also doesn’t tell her about Culber’s murder, so they’re even.
Who Killed Culber?
Saru thinks that Stamets killed Culber in a violent outburst. This is just getting worse.
Let’s take a pause here: They don’t have no video? No recordings of Tyler murderating the good doctor? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Even if we assume that Starfleet isn’t as surveillance-obsessed as our present currently predicts, it would make sense for sick bays to be monitored and recorded for any number of reasons. Now not only am I angry, my disbelief is starting to peek through.
Luckily, Cadet Tilly, on her science tip, has other facts which distract me from this nonsense. There’s some science talk that ends with Tilly really putting her foot down.
That’s some serious ego there, Cadet. Maybe a little of Captain Killy is rubbing off on her.
Orders from the Emperor
A Hologram call comes in for Butcher Burnham: the Terrans have discovered the location of the leader of the rebels, the famed Fire Wolf. Burnham is to go and end the resistance once and for all. If you heard that in Darth Vader’s voice, that’s because I did too. All this black and evil is crossing the fictions in my head.
There is a great exchange between Burnham and her first officer, Keyla Detmer. The power of a look is used to great effect throughout this series and this is an example. So many extraneous words are removed and replaced by expressions, mostly from Burnham. It is impactful because Black Women in general, without the power to speak up in many situations, learn to say *everything* with our facial expressions. The show really capitalizes on that truth and on the ability of Martin-Green to deliver. With just a look she re-establishes dominance over Detmer.
Then Burnham goes to Lorca for moral advice? What? Who does that?
Lorca recommends that she kill all the rebels, her cover must not be compromised. The deaths of the rebels is a fine price to pay for saving the crew of the Discovery and getting back to the Prime Universe, where they can save the Federation.
This is basically Lorca’s personal motto. But Burnham isn’t buying that slippery logic. Besides, maybe the alliance here can teach them something about how to build an alliance on the other side. Maybe this “Coalition of Hope” can lead them to some answers. It is a great speech and Lorca backs down. Burnham and Tyler are to go down to the planet alone. At this point, your threat ganglia should be slithering out of the back of your skull.
Can Science Tilly Save the Day?
Tilly collects some facts, notably that Stamets called her captain *before* they ever came to the Mirror Universe, to deduce that Stamets has been traveling along the mushroom roads for a while, back and forth in time and space. If that’s true, then feeding his mushroom brain should jumpstart his body. Or in Tilly’s words: Stamets is inside the network…we need to put the network inside him. It is a cool bit of sleuthing and sciencing that really empowers Tilly to act like the pro she is. And maybe get that recommendation to the Command Training Program she’s angling for.
The Fire Wolf
Down Burnham and Tyler go to the planet’s surface, with Tyler already twitching. They get the expected greeting — of getting shelled by shoulder mounted laser guns — but Burnham is able to talk her way out of it with a little bit of Vulcan diplomacy.
They are lead to the rebel base and given an audience with The Fire Wolf, an act of extreme faith on the part of the rebels. What if they have tracker thingies? Suicide Vest Bombs? I swear, this Mirror Universe is awful slack on things we have laying around here in modern times.
But, who is the Fire Wolf?
Mirror Universe Voq, Son of None! So here Prime Tyler is now face-to-face with himself. Ain’t that some shit? Burnham puts it all on the table: The bombs are coming. The rebels need to run. But if they give her something, she’ll help them evacuate. How are they to trust her? Bring Out The Prophet! Master Sarek, whose wisdom pierces minds, enters with the Mirror Universe Beard! Finally! But he’s not Evil! What is this?
It’s some straight cold evil universe shit. Bearded Sarek pulls out the old Vulcan fingers of mind-melding, which has power creeped up to a full mind-reading extravaganza, but he can confirm that Burnham is here with true intentions. Why he doesn’t pick the mind-pockets of her shady-ass, twitchy bodyguard, I don’t know. Too trusting, I tell you.
Burnham asks the big question: how does a Klingon lead a multi-ethnic tribe? That’s when Mirror Voq, who’s turning out to be a pretty cool dude, says the magic words: The Light of Kahless guides me in all things. And the brain bomb inside Tyler finally goes off.
He attacks Mirror Voq, maybe in flashback mode, maybe because this Mirror Voq has made allegiances that Prime Universe Voq would never make. It is a game of Which Voq is Which until the Mirror Voq beats down Tyler/Voq and is about to kill him. Am I the only one screaming “Kill Him” at this moment? Kill him now so Burnham never has to know the truth? KILLLL HIIIIIMMMM! Just me?
Bearded Sarek intervenes and helps Burnham get out with Prime Tyler/Voq in tow.
No, Science Tilly Can Not Save Stamets
Back at the containment cube, Tilly and Saru have shot Stamets up with microbial spores. Things are going well. Tilly, the font of all goodness this episode, says something *super* important:
Fungi are the only organism with the biological aptitude to link death with life.
Remember that fact for later. But again, just as you’re starting to think there will be a happy ending here, this show dashes your science hopes on the rocks of their drama needs. Science Tilly fails to save Stamets. Everything is over. We cut to commercial with Tilly in tears next to the containment cube.
I sweartogawd the pay-off on the other end of this whole death experience had better be worth it. Like a long gay lifetime of Culber and Stamets exploring the galaxy and saving people while holding hands and singing La Boheme (except no one dies of consumption or AIDS complications or whatever) worth it.
Girl, I Told You He Was No Good
And all that human emotion makes it impossible for Tyler to keep lying to himself, and everyone else. Slowly, admission after admission he comes to the final truth. In a series of awful flashbacks, he sees what we’ve all guessed: L’Rell remade Voq into Tyler. With one awful head tilt, he admits it, and Tyler is gone.
The facial expression, the tone of voice, Shazad Latif goes all the way there in a very admirable performance. A performance that makes me want to smash his face against the floor, but still, admirable. He sells this transformation like the paperback romance, classic melodrama it is, setting this story fully in the tradition of Space Operas as Soap Operas for nerds. Burnham is almost incapable of defending herself as her lover reveals his real identity, leaving it to Mirror Universe Saru (who probably knew Tyler was no good all along), to save her.
Yes, Science Tilly Can Save Stamets!
This show just keeps delivering new surprises when it comes to this mushroom thing. While the show doesn’t really deliver traditional Star Trek science, it delves deep and imaginatively into the smallest, humblest organism here on Earth and does deliver on the “What If?” of science as a whole. I share Stamets’ wonder at the possibilities he keeps uncovering.
Death Is Too Good For Him
With the quickness, Burnham and her Number One take Tyler Voq down to the transporter room to be beamed off into space. Burnham does it herself. But what seems her last cruelty is actually a shrewd sleight of hand. She beams Tyler Voq into space, only for him to be beamed back onto the Discovery with the data disk on the U.S.S. Defiant hidden in his boot.
We’re good right? Now Burnham and Lorca just have to get off the Shenzhou and the whole crew can hide out until they can make it home. Except for one thing. The Emperor has come. They want to talk to Burnham personally.
I’m not going to tell you who the Emperor is. I’m just going to say that hanging out in the gossip halls of Star Trek Tumblr will show you all the conspiracy goodness your heart desires. And they’re right at least 50% of the time.
This show has me conflicted about the drama it stirs up and who’s the victim of it. When you leave a trail of bodies this deep and wide across a show, especially a show that so consciously takes up the mantle of modern mythology, it should mean something. But all this? I”m not sure what it is supposed to mean. Clearly, Burnham and Tilly are the heroes, maybe even Saru. But who else wins? Who loses? Who is removed from the scene only to return in a darker, crueler guise? Most of all though, can we give Burnham a break? Please?
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