This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 11
Star Trek: Discovery continues its exploration of the Mirror Universe, a world of glass and shadow, in this week’s twist-heavy episode. We pick up shortly after the conclusion’s of last week’s episode, with Burnham, Tyler, and Lorca all aboard the Mirror Universe’s version of the Shenzhou.
For Michael, heavy is the head that wears the crown… or, um, the chest that wears the Captain’s insignia. In the episode’s opening minutes, we see Burnham oversee the deaths of three prisoners, realize that this universe’s Saru is a slave who doesn’t even have the right of a name, and converse with a tortured Lorca. The ends may justify the means, as Lorcas suggests, but this show has not done a good enough job clarifying the emotional urgency of the ends to make any of this spy drama seem worth it.
Through it all, Burnham’s apparent tether back to the reality of Discovery and her own universe is Tyler. He is the person who listens to her confessions at the end of the day, and gives her comfort. It’s a short-lived form of sanctuary. When Burnham and the Discovery are given orders to destroy the rebel camp that houses the Firewolf, the Klingon leader of the resistance to the Empire, Michael comes up with a new plan. She and Tyler beam down to the planet under the guise of stealing information. Michael’s true plan is to warn the rebels and learn more about this Klingon in the hopes that she might gain insight into how to convince the Klingons back home to cooperate with the Federation.
The Firewolf is Voq, of course, and his right-hand prophesizer is none other than the Mirror Universe’s Sarek. The big secret to their alliance? Their respective cultural practices were threatened by the xenophobic Terran Empire. In other words: the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Perhaps Michael will find a common enemy to ally with the Klingons back home against? This doesn’t seem like a particularly optimistic view of how to achieve peace.
The conversation with Mirror Universe Voq is the final trigger in the resurfacing of the Voq hidden withing Tyler’s body—i.e. the wolf inside! He remembers who he is, and attacks the Firewolf himself. Burnham, with Sarek’s help, manages to convince the Firewolf that Tyler was not acting on her orders, but it’s a Band-aid for Tyler’s transformation back into Voq. They make it back to the Shenzhou, where Burnham confronts her lover about his Klingon outburst and endangering of the mission.
Rather than keeping his cover and continuing to gain information and favor from Burnham, Voq immediately exposes himself and then reveals everything to Burnham. It’s a weird narrative choice that highlight how much Discovery prioritizes the twist over all else, such as character development, motivation, or context. While Shazid Latif and Sonequa Martin-Green are acting their hearts out in this scene, it’s hard to feel anything other than confusion over what Voq’s plan is or frustation that Michael doesn’t immediately nerve pinch the unstable Klingon spy who openly admits to having murdered Hugh.
In the end, it’s Mirror Universe Saru who saves Michael from Voq, a testament to how a small amount of kindness, like Burnham calling Saru by his name, can be so much more helpful than constant cruelty. If Michael hadn’t recognized Saru’s “humanity,” would he have chosen to save his captain?
Rather than transporting Voq to a cold, space death, Burnham contacts the Discovery and arranges for them to beam Voq onto their ship as soon as he hits the vacuum of space. It’s a smart move, allowing Burnham to slip the disk with the information about the Defiant onto Voq’s person for Saru to retrieve. Michael may have succeeded at her mission, but she is heartbroken, with only Lorca, who I’m still convinced is from the Mirror Universe (or at least a mirror universe), to keep her company.
As if Michael didn’t already have a bad enough day, the episode ends with another Terran ship showing up to destroy the rebel camp. It is the Emperor’s, and she has a familiar face. As previously speculated, the Emperor is the Mirror Universe’s Georgiou. Michael is forced to see her beloved mentor as the ruthless dictator of a facist regime. Talk about a terrible, no good, very bad day.
It takes almost 15 minutes to get to the opening credits, giving me some serious Alias feels.
Goatee alert! Discovery made a great choice in giving the Mirror Universe’s infamous facial hair to Sarek.
Was I the only one yelling at Burnham to shoot Tyler/Voq in the knee or something during that transition scene? I’d like to believe that, even when emotionally compromised, Burnham would have the sense to neutralize the obvious threat—to herself, the mission, and even Tyler himself—that Voq/Tyler represents. This is the woman who mutineed her mentor on a hunch. What happened to that Michael?
Burnham goes to lengths to save Voq, but couldn’t do the same for the nobody rebels who are transported into space in the episodes opening moments?
When Stamets is holding Hugh’s lifeless body, he is rambling about seeing someone through the trees. Could it be Hugh? Is there a chance Stamets’ apparent powers of resurrection might work on his deceased partner?
Tilly channels her treatment of Stamets into a pitch for Saru’s recommendation for the command program. I love this women’s ambition (and optimism that they will make it back to their universe). She deserves the recommendation simply for all of the techno-babble she had to spout in this episode.
Saru is desperate to find more Kelpians in this or any universe, but Michael lies about his alternate self’s existence. Meanwhile, Saru withholds knowledge of Hugh’s death from Burnham. Both are trying to spare their friend’s feelings in similar ways.
Discovery goes all in on a mirror visual motif in this episode. There are multiple shots that go through windows and so many reflective surfaces, I can only imagine the kind of polishing the crew had to do on set. This show continues to look visually amazing.
The coolest scene of the night for me was the one that saw a rebel band of Vulcans, Tellarites, Andorians, and Klingons capture Burnham and Tyler. This show hasn’t had nearly enough multi-alien interaction.
Before Voq takes control back from Tyler, Ash tells Michael that she is her tether back to morality and that other world. Later, a vulnerable Michael tells Ash that she needs a tether, too. So does the audience.
In other news, Stamets meets Stamets on some plane of the micro mycology network of spores. It’s good to have not one, but two of him back in an episode where, for a short period of time, it seemed like we might lose him altogether.