Sat. Sep 24th, 2022

Goede vuistregel voor mensen in het <em>Star Trek: Discovery</em> universe: don’t mess with Burnham.”/><figcaption class=

enlarge / Good rule of thumb for those in the Star Trek: Discovery Universe: Don’t mess with Burnham.

A blood-curdling cliffhanger ended the first half of Star Trek: Discoverythe first season. The frenetic, fascinating and sometimes shocking ‘Into the Forest I Go’ raised more questions than it answered. There are conspiracies wrapped in conspiracies, and we have the entire mid-season break to think about it.

Spoilers ahead! Yes I mean it! Reading past these sentences and complaining about spoilers in the comments will make you a newt.

Algorithms in spaaaaaaace!

I’m starting to feel like every episode of DISCO must have one Zoomlike element of mad science. Last week we had the Avatar-like sparkleplanet, with the (conscious?) antenna rising inexplicably out of its inexplicable ecosystem. This week we’ve been given a mission to build an algorithm that will allow Star Fleet to calculate the location of cloaked Klingon ships.

To get data for the algorithm, our intrepid crew needs to do two things. Tyler and Burnham must sneak two sensors aboard the Klingon Ship of the Dead. (I love that when Burnham activates the sensors – which are supposed to be stealth technology – they have a UX that talks loudly and flashes a bunch of lights. Great job, Star Fleet security engineers.) Meanwhile, Stamets has to do 133 jumps through mushroom room to get “lectures” on the Ship of the Dead. Which means he’s in grave danger, as we know that the dozens of jumps he’s made so far cause him to hallucinate and alternate mirror—even spawn.

Am I Lorca or Evil Lorca?  Wouldn't you like to know?
enlarge / Am I Lorca or Evil Lorca? Wouldn’t you like to know?


As the crew braces for these missions, Lorca delivers this supposedly morally uplifting sentence: “When I took command of this ship, you were a crew of polite scientists. Now I look at you; you are fierce warriors, all of you.” At first it sounds great, like “hey, you’re all winners!” But if you think about what he said for even a second, you realize that this is one of the darkest moments in the series yet.

The horror that lurks in the heart of DISCO is that a ship of peaceful scientists has been forcibly converted into a warship, turning its highly speculative experiments into weapons. Early in the season, we see another science ship completely destroyed by this armament process, with its crew maimed by a failed teleportation attempt. There’s nothing great about going from scientist to warrior. It is often, as our characters demonstrate in episode after episode, a fate worse than death. Especially when their lives are in the hands of a crazy liar with a death wish who tried to have his ex-girlfriend/boss killed.

Oh, and also? This is another mission that Lorca imposes on his crew against the orders of the Star Fleet. The conditions are extremely cruel. Lorca makes the DiscoveryThe doctor stands guard while his man Stamets makes 133 jumps that can kill him. Then Lorca orders Tyler to return to the ship where he was raped and tortured for nine months. Eventually, if everyone succeeds, Lorca will order his crew to fire repeatedly at the now-vulnerable Ship of the Dead, killing everyone in it.

This is DISCO at its most dystopian, with our characters’ acts of “heroism” a lot like war crimes.

Klingon PTSD

Can Burnham and the crew’s ethical deeds make up for Lorca’s madness and bloodthirstiness? That’s the question that haunts this entire episode, and it will likely shape the second half of the season. When Burnham and Tyler arrive at the Ship of the Dead, they are immediately slowed down by good guy stuff – Burnham has picked up Cornwell’s vital signs and wants to save her before they are radiated.

Unfortunately, finding Cornwell in prison also means finding L’Rell, the female Klingon who raped and tortured Tyler. Seeing her, Tyler has a massive PTSD breakdown, unable to stand or talk. We see incoherent flashbacks to all sorts of strange torture, and Burnham is forced to leave Tyler with Cornwell as she places the final sensor and distracts Kol with a knife fight. (Why doesn’t she use the Vulcan nerve pinch on him?) Eventually everyone comes back to the… Discovery– including L’Rell, who grabs Cornwell when they beam out. Don’t get me how this isn’t the way carriers should work. It annoys me every time I see it happen in Star Trek. Whatever. I am picky.

Tyler has traumatic flashbacks when he sees his former rapist and torturer L'Rell.
enlarge / Tyler has traumatic flashbacks when he sees his former rapist and torturer L’Rell.


When everyone is safe and back on the Discovery, we dive into Tyler’s PTSD, and it provides more fodder for the fan theory that Tyler is actually Voq in disguise. Tyler confesses to Burnham that he “encouraged” L’Rell to rape him because he knew she would spare his life as long as he played her “sick obsession”. It’s a moving, intense scene. I thought the show handled the realities of trauma and recovery relatively well, with one horrific exception: the inappropriately titillating rape scene with L’Rell, where for some reason we’re treated to Star Trek’s first-ever portrayal of a naked female Klingon. Ugh. Alien cheesecake has no place in a traumatic memory of violence.

While these scenes with Tyler allow us to see inside his character, they also align with fan theories that he’s actually Voq in disguise. The flashbacks to torture could easily be his broken memories of being transformed into Tyler. If that’s true, it seems likely that he’s a sleeper whose memories of his Klingon identity have been suppressed. That would explain why he is attracted to L’Rell’s cell and why she promises him that everything will “soon” be right.

These scenes also raised the possibility that Voq wasn’t transformed in a human, but actually, somehow, transplanted into one. Perhaps Voq’s memories are actually in Tyler’s mind, and at some point they will compete to control Tyler’s body.

That would mean L’Rell is doing something scary where she put her Klingon boyfriend’s brain into the body of her human rape victim. Sick but possible. Probably even.

Mysteries of the mycelial network

All right, let’s not think about that anymore. Instead, let’s focus on the glittering mycelial threads of a multiverse in which macro-tardigrades roam freely. We found out last night that Lorca used Stamets’ jumps to map some alternate universe(s) or subspace or something. He shows Stamets a hologram full of blue and red bands that represent real space and ??? space, and Stamets is quite impressed.

See how the blue and red lines intersect?  That explains everything.
enlarge / See how the blue and red lines intersect? That explains everything.


After doing those 133 jumps, Stamets pretty much wrecks, but he decides to leave Discovery to get medical help. He says he will do “one more jump” to say goodbye to the wonders of it all. Then, just as the ship is about to go Black Alert, we catch a glimpse of Lorca playing with some controls (on io9, there’s a detailed breakdown of the “override” command we see him issuing). Then the ship seems to split in two, Stamets panics and… Discovery arrives in the middle of a spaceship debris field in an unknown space.



In engineering, Stamets’ eyes have turned white and he screams that he can see everything, ‘all possibilities’. I think we can safely assume that he sees infinite universes with infinite permutations of reality. The ship probably jumped into one of the alternate universes Lorca showed Stamets earlier — or maybe it jumped impossibly far, though that wouldn’t explain the doubling ship. Unfortunately, there are no cuddly, giant tardigrades to make up for it.

This is more or less the definition of a great cliffhanger. First, there’s the basic WTFery of it, like where they’ve gone. A very real possibility is that they have been teleported to the Mirror Universe. Fans have been speculating about this ever since the episode where we saw another version of Stamets peeking out of his bathroom mirror.

If we accept the idea of ​​Mirror Universe, it forces us to ask the obvious question. Has Lorca actually been Evil Lorca for a while? Did he make this leap to bring the ship back to its “home” universe? And, if Lorca really is Evil Lorca, how many other crew members are actually stowaways from the Mirror Universe? Does the Mirror Universe also contain a poor, abused Good Voq whose mind has been colonized by Evil Tyler?

The mind stuns at all the possibilities, as befits watching an excellent Star Trek story.

Star Trek: Discovery won’t be back until January! All I can say is that if something bad happens to Stamets (other than the “I can see everything” eyeball situation), I’m going to be really, really upset.

You'll be fine, Stamets!  I promise!
enlarge / You’ll be fine, Stamets! I promise!


By akfire1

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