So we’re stranded for a second week in the Mirror Universe, and “Captain” Burnham finds herself torn between keeping up appearances with her Shinzhou crew and holding true to her real Starfleet morality. That is all put to the test when she’s given an order, on behalf of the still unseen Emperor, to destroy a hidden colony of Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and other species which have basically formed their own United Federation of Planets against the Terrans in this universe.
But this group also has the records and data on the USS Defiant that Burnham needs to get her Discovery back to its rightful universe. Consulting with her “prisoner,” Lorca, on what to do, he first tells her to just do what she’s ordered but she suggests that perhaps his current state of torture is clouding his view. He agrees and then he tells her to carry on with the mission, but to not take a landing party, only Tyler and try to negotiate with them. Burnham is convinced that if she can learn how these disparate races joined together (neglecting to see that it was a common enemy that brought them together), that it could give them hope to negotiate with the Klingons back in their universe.
Beaming to the planet, Burnham and Tyler are fired upon but they offer their surrender in exchange for a meeting with the leader known as the Fire Wolf, who turns out to be … Voq! Voq orders a goateed Sarek (because it’s not the Mirror Universe unless someone has a goatee) to mind meld with Burnham to suss out her intentions and he’s stunned by what he sees, but it’s enough for him to confidently state that her intentions with them are good. She explains that the Emperor wants this colony destroyed and she’ll give them an hour to evacuate, but she needs something to take back to the Shinzhou to prove she was successful in killing everyone.
While she and Voq negotiate, Tyler begins having more of his PTSD flashbacks and as Voq goes on and on about how the Klingons have joined with these other races to fight the Terrans, Tyler snaps, shouting about living only as a Klingon — in Klingon — and attacks Voq. Before nearly being killed, Burnham stops Voq, tells him that Tyler is acting against her direct order, and Sarek again says that she means them no harm, although he can’t speak for the other guy. She gets what she needs, and beams back to the Shinzhou with Tyler, not happy at all with his actions.
In her quarters while trying to process what happened, Tyler has more flashbacks and then admits that when he saw Voq he knew who he was. Burnham just believed he was brainwashed by L’Rell, but when he told of what happened on the Klingon ship during the Battle of the Binary Stars, something Tyler would not have known, she knew that this person in front of her was a Klingon spy (and telling her that he murdered Doctor Culber was also a clue that he isn’t Tyler). And now we know what the theories have told us all along: Tyler is Voq. It probably would have been more surprising to know that he isn’t an altered Voq — and who knows, we still have a few episodes before the season finale where all this can be turned on its head once again — but for now it was a relief to finally have this plot point out in the open. But we are left with one unanswered question: is there an Ash Tyler in the Mirror Universe?
Interestingly, what saved Burnham from death at the hands of Tyler/Voq was the slave she decided to name Saru in honor of an esteemed friend (in this universe, slaves have no name). And the consequence for attempted murder of a superior officer by order of the Empire is death, being transported to the freezing cold depths of space (something we saw demonstrated at the top of the episode). Being her prisoner, Burnham was given the honor of conducting the execution, but as Tyler/Voq was on the verge of suffocating and freezing in space, another transporter picked him up and he found himself facing Saru on Discovery. Saru said that even though they are in a different universe, they are still Starfleet and he will face a proper trial.
Back on the Shinzhou, Burnham asked for a private interrogation of Lorca and she explained to him what had happened with Tyler, saying she wasn’t sure she could continue this mission alone. They have the data on the Defiant, which was smuggled into a pocket on Tyler’s jacket, so why can’t she just jump ship and get back to the Discovery? Lorca reminds her that Saru may not be able to extract or interpolate the data and if she leaves now they will be exposed. Before she can consider anything else, she’s summoned to the bridge. A large, cloaked ship has just been detected, and before she knows it, torpedoes are being fired on the colony before they’ve had a chance to fully evacuate. The Shinzhou is hailed and someone wants an audience with Burnham … the Emperor, who is none too pleased that Burnham has not carried out her direct orders. Yes, her. Turns out in this universe, the emperor everyone fears is … Philippa Georgiou. As if Burnham’s world hadn’t been rocked once already today. (And, by the way, what was up with that little smirk on Lorca’s face when he saw Emperor Georgiou?)
In a subplot, “Captain” Tilly convinces Saru that she is the one person best equipped to deal with Stamets’ condition, suggesting that an infusion of spores into his system will restore his brain function to normal. Saru believes that Stamets was responsible for Dr. Culber’s death, but Tilly convinces him that this is not the Paul Stamets they know because of how acting as the jump drive has altered his brain function. Saru agrees to let he conduct her experiment and it seems to work, but something goes wrong and they lose Stamets. Or do they? Alone in the spore drive room with him, Tilly sees Stamets have some sort of muscle spasm and his brain and heart functions come back online. But where in time and space is Stamets (remember when he called Tilly “Captain” before it turned out she was the captain of the Discovery in this universe?). Going deep into his mind, Stamets is walking among multi-colored organisms when he hears someone call out his name, saying they wondered when he’d find his way here. And who was calling him? Another Stamets in an imperial uniform (sans goatee).
I thought last week’s episode was terrific and this week’s was as well, especially with the reveal of the Emperor (and I did not see that coming, although I guess I should have). Star Trek: Discovery took a little while to really get going, but this thing is rolling right along now and I’m always looking forward to the next episode. And with only four episodes to go, it’s really going to be interesting to see how things play out and what other surprises the writers have in store for us.