There’s only one thing worse than fanwank filler: Fanwank plot. I have to eat a big old pot full of crow, folks. The Mirror Universe storyline isn’t just something to pad out Discovery’s season, it is an integral part of the season’s arc.
So here’s the big reveal: The Lorca we know as Discovery’s captain is really his Mirror Universe doppelgänger. You can tell because now all Mirror Universe people have a sensitivity to light. That’s how you know they’ve been planning this the whole time. I guess this is why Lorca was able to “survive” the destruction of his previous ship. He didn’t. He was just replaced.
I have not been watching Discovery as an actual part of the Star Trek “prime universe”. To me it’s a pretty straight forward reboot. Nothing in it aligns at all with the Star Trek of the past few decades. It’s not just the look. History, characters, species, and technology have all been reworked into something unique. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When franchises are weighed down by 50 years of deadweight canon you need to clean house. Very few of the eight million people who tuned into Discovery’s pilot on CBS had probably seen any Star Trek other than the recent Chris Pine films. They may know who Spock and the Klingons are, but not much else.
That’s why dipping into the Mirror Universe makes about as much sense as bringing back Khan in Into Darkness. It’s a reference that has no resonance to anyone but the most diehard fans. So making it a central part of this new universe is completely insane. In order to get it you have to have watched two episodes of The Original Series (“Mirror, Mirror” and “Tholian Web”) and Enterprise’s “In a Mirror, Darkly”. And nobody watched Enterprise. It’s confusing to new viewers at best, and a complete turn off at worst.
And I can relate to this. I have only ever watched the recent revival of Doctor Who. Under Russell T. Davies the show had a few major call backs to old villains, but mostly just Daleks and Cybamen – the Klingons and Romulans of that franchise – and they were mostly revamped or treated as an understandable backstory that enriched without needing to be fully understood. But when Steven Moffat started running things the references got more and more esoteric. Davros? Zygons? Ice Warriors? Most of these concepts were thrown in with little explanation forcing me to read about some terrible one-off episode from forty years ago. I don’t want to do homework to enjoy a show. I just want to be entertained.
There’s another reason why making the Mirror Universe so central to the story is a terrible idea. It just complicates things. We already have a lot going on in the normal universe, what with the spore drive and the Klingons, and the character dynamics. Now we have to intermix it with a 1960’s gimmick that was probably created just to put Leonard Nimoy in a Van Dyke? We have to double all the characters, give them dynamics too, create an entirely different, secondary political environment, and then smash it all together? And for what? I guess we’ll see next episode.
I think this all bolsters the theory I had in the midseason finale review. Discovery’s writers aren’t at all interested in the story they started out with. The Klingons are intensely stupid creatures. The war with them is senseless and yields very few interesting plot lines. We’ve spent so little time on the front lines of this big battle, and for good reason. War is boring as hell. Just look at The Last Jedi. Every moment of that movie that dealt with contraptions shooting at each other was an utter snooze fest. We’ve all seen enough Rambo heroics and lumbering battle cruisers in our lives. It just doesn’t breed good interpersonal drama. So, maybe the Mirror Universe actually is some kind of padding. In the end it’s not a way to draw out Discovery’s main story, but to avoid it.
On the individual plot point front, there’s a lot of niggling little annoyances to drive you batty:
• L’rell really is as dumb as rock. In some great villain monologuing she willingly blurts out that Tyler/Voq is the key to the Klingons winning the war while the guy is strapped to a chair.
• Burnham tells Mirror Georgiou that quantum blah-blahs are impossible to fake. Is that why she was able to convert all the atoms in Discovery in a matter of seconds from her bridge station?
• If Discovery now knows about the Defiant and interphase, can they warn the crew not to enter that area of space? After all your past is my future and all that!
• Culper’s death now has a larger purpose, but I’m even more unhappy with it. A living Culper could have been written into the story as an anchor to bring Stamets back as easily as a dead one. I also counted four times during the episode that I had to watch a replay of the murder. I’m as tired of it as seeing L’Rell’s nipples, which are also flashed back to on the regular these days.
• Popular Mechanics is also tired of the amount of violence on Discovery. Their review of this episode talks about almost nothing but that.