There is a significant SPOILER in Gary Ingle's review of episode 12 below. You have been warned. - editor
Episode 11 - Risks
Still stranded in the Mirror Universe, the characters of Star Trek: Discovery are unfortunately becoming all too familiar with the brutal ways of the Terran Empire. The Terrans are, as Michael described in the last episode, “an oppressive, racist, xenophobic culture… predicated upon an unconditional hatred and rejection of anything and everything other.” The Terrans are the greatest power in the Mirror Universe, and they have used their position of power to drive out all foreign species. Their mistrust of foreigners has fomented ruthlessly violent behavior so much that it has become a cultural norm.
In the primary universe, the Klingons are a xenophobic species striving for racial purity, but now in the Mirror Universe the Klingons are the leaders of an alliance of non-human species fighting against the Terrans. They are able to move past their previously held cultural notions of exclusivity to embrace other races and create a unified society. These Klingons are living among other races, speaking a foreign language, and relying on the cultural customs of those other races in order to survive — quite the opposite from the Klingons as they have so far been portrayed on Discovery.
Intercultural harmony is not easy to achieve, even in our own society. It requires a selfless attitude and an openness to learn about (and possibly even become reliant on) someone else’s culture. The Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe serves as a cautionary tale of what a society could devolve into if they are unwilling to embrace other cultures besides their own.
Reaching out in love to connect with someone else is a vital aspect of living in a community with others. Michael Burnham’s Vulcan upbringing has made this difficult for her to do, but lately she has finally begun to step out of her emotional shell and fall in love with Ash Tyler. The problem is, now that Tyler’s “true” personality has risen to the surface and everything she thought she knew is proving to be false, Michael’s vulnerability has opened her up to some potentially deep psychological and emotional wounds.
There is always an element of risk involved with loving someone else, but now Michael has to deal with the tragedy of having the one solid connection in her life ripped away. The Mirror Universe is already threatening to bring out darker aspects of her character. If Michael is to hold onto her best self in the midst of this alternate reality, she will have to find a way to love and trust others again in spite of that betrayal. That may just be her best chance at finding the peace and equality she seeks.
Episode 12 - Reveals
For the first time in a long time, my jaw literally dropped at the end of a Star Trek episode. “Vaulting Ambition” is not just the title of the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode, but it can also easily describe the quality with which the writers and showrunners have been crafting this entire first season. Their ambition is paying off; each episode of the second half seems even better than the one before.
The reveal of Lorca’s true identity at the end of the episode wraps up one of the most elaborately planned twists in all of Star Trek lore. Captain Lorca’s motives have seemed questionable at best, and they have been lending an air of tentativeness to the entire first season. Things just seemed slightly off with Lorca in charge of the Discovery. He never really acted like a traditional Starfleet Captain, and the atypical situations the Discovery crew kept finding themselves in were often the result of his aggressive command decisions. Lorca’s skill as a master manipulator and deceiver stemmed from the fact that he is not from Starfleet but rather a Terran from the Mirror Universe. His motives are truly Terran — an insatiable thirst for absolute power. I’m beginning to wonder how much more gut-wrenching betrayal Michael Burnham and the rest of the Discovery’s crew can take.
As exciting as it had been to see Michelle Yeoh as Captain of the Shenzhou in the show’s prologue, it was equally sad to see her character die during those opening episodes. Thankfully, Yeoh satisfyingly reprises her role here as Philippa Georgiou, only this time as her Mirror Universe counterpart — the fearsomely regal Emperor of the Terrans. Emperor Georgiou strongly condemns the value that the Federation places on equality, freedom, and cooperation. She believes these qualities to be “destructive ideals that fuel rebellions.” Burnham retorts that they are “cornerstones for successful cultures.”
Georgiou’s words echo those of a powerful, fascistic leader constantly afraid of losing that power. Fascism thrives in an environment where one national or ethnic group is in a place of supreme power over all others. It also tends to function best with a demagogue as its leader, ruling from a position of ultimate power and unquestioned authority. Such a political system will do its best to stamp out ideals like equality and cooperation amongst people of varying backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s hard to reconcile such views with the mission of Christ, who came to save all, regardless of national origin, gender, or status. Any time one people group is favored over all others, we should be seriously concerned. After all, that’s how the Terran Empire rose to power. I’d much rather embrace the ideals of an organization like the Federation - equality, freedom, and cooperation.