After a few weeks off, Star Trek: Discovery returns for the first of its last seven episodes of the season, and this one did not disappoint … and it was directed by “Number One” himself, Jonathan Frakes! Not only that, we also got some crossover with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with a shout out to the USS Defiant, fitting considering the series just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Not that the Defiant mentioned in this episode is that same Defiant since it wouldn’t fit the timeline. Actually the Defiant was introduced in the 1968 episode of the original Star Trek “The Tholian Web” in which it got sucked into another dimension, but it was never known where it went.
From Burnham’s intel, the future Defiant (NCC-1764) encounters a phenomenon that brings it into this alternate past. The Defiant was a sister ship to the Enterprise. But nothing in that episode was about a Mirror Universe, which is where the crew of the Discovery now find themselves. So to bring more Trek lore into this episode, in the fourth season of Enterprise, the “In a Mirror, Darkly” episodes took place completely in the Mirror Universe in the 22nd century (100 years prior to the original series) and this appears to be where everything Burnham discovers takes place. All in all, it’s not terribly important to the story, but it’s a nice way to tie this all together. Of course, Burnham also learns that this alternate universe is ruled by the Terrans, who have been a part of the Trek mythology since Zefram Cochrane made first contact with the Vulcans. The question raised in this episode is who is the Terran Emperor? Could it be Cochrane?
The only concrete information we have now is that the universe — at least the Vulcans, Klingons and Andorians — has teamed up to fight the Empire, Burnham was the captain of the Shinzou before she was presumed killed by Lorca who is now on the run, Tilly is the bloodthirsty captain of the Discovery, and the Terran Discovery has most likely switched places in the universes with the Federation Discovery, which has had to alter its call sign to the ISS Discovery. And in order to get out of this mess, Burnham has to “return from the dead” and take back her chair from Connor, a crewman she watched die at the Battle of the Binary Stars. Unfortunately, he’s not too eager to welcome her back seeing as he’s curried favor with the Emperor, but Burnham is forced to kill him on the ride up to the bridge, emerging to applause and admiration from the crew. Apparently Connor was a real dick in the Mirror Universe. Poor Lorca though has been locked in an electrical torture chamber so who knows what condition he’ll be in when Burnham can get him out.
Of course, the best moments of all the Mirror Universe stuff had Ensign Tilly slipping a little too comfortably into the skin of her badass doppelgänger and Lorca disguising his voice to be the Chief of Engineering. Actor Jason Isaacs could have simply used his actual British accent, but instead went for a comical Scottish accent. Could he have crossed paths with the Enterprise’s Scotty at some point?
But while all this Mirror Universe stuff is happening, there is a much bigger infusion of plot information in this episode concerning Tyler. Sent to retrieve a data core from the wreckage of one of the ships around the Discovery, Tyler has flashbacks again to his torture at the hands of L’Rell, so badly that he almost fudges the mission. Back on the ship, he goes to confront L’Rell once again, and she convinces him to release her from her cell so she can tell him everything. But the horrific flashbacks return and he almost chokes L’Rell … but does he? Did any of that happen? One minute Tyler is on one side of the room, and then he’s on the next in the blink of an eye, so that could have just been a by-product of his PTSD. It’s odd that (1) the brig doesn’t seem to have any security and (2) Tyler has the freedom to move about anywhere on the ship (he tells Burnham that he knows everyone’s security codes, but he is the Chief of Security so I guess that makes sense).
Feeling that he’s just not himself, and appearing none-too-thrilled to be accompanying Burnham to the Shinzou, Tyler pays a visit to sick bay to get Dr. Culber to do another scan on him. Of course he’d already been scanned upon his first arrival on the Discovery, but Culber agrees to do a more thorough look and finds some troubling new informaion — scar tissue around all of Tyler’s organs, surgical shortening of his bones, and the troubling possiblity that a new personality has been overlayed onto his own. Tyler is a bit freaked out by this new information but it needed for the mission with Burnham. During his scan, the catatonic Stamets, still incapacitated from one-too-many time jumps, yells out, “Stay out of the palace.” Culber attends to him and tells him that he’ll be there to take care of Staments no matter what and then gives him a kiss. For a brief moment Stamets’ eyes clear and he says, “Be careful, the enemy is here,” before returning to his catatonic state. Culber tells Tyler that he is not fit to go on the mission, but Tyler disagrees, violently snapping Culber’s neck in the process. Talk about a shocking moment! Seriously, I gasped so hard I nearly choked on my own saliva!
On the Shinzou, Tyler tells Burnham he will always protect her and she says the same to him. But what happens when/if she — and we — find out the truth that Tyler is in fact a Klingon? And with Stamets out of commission (and just who was the other doctor on board the Discovery that Lorca was going to put in charge of him due to Culber’s emotional attachment?) will Burnham be able to get the information she needs to help get the Discovery back to its rightful universe? It makes for some gripping intrigue for the remaining episodes to come.