Previously on Star Trek Discovery: The Disco crew discovered Culber’s body and thought Stamets killed him; Tilly tried to save Stamets with spores and it didn’t totally work but it somehow linked him to the part of the mycelial network where Mirror Stamets was; Burnham was inspired by Mirror Voq and his coalition of Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites; we found out for sure that Tyler was Voq when he tried to kill his Mirror self for not being racist enough; Mirror Saru saved Burnham when Tyler/Voq tried to kill her; Burnham got Tyler/Voq back to Discovery carrying the encrypted data she’d obtained, where he was promptly arrested; and the Terran Emperor showed up and it was Philippa Georgiou and she was not happy.
Yeah, there was a lot going on in the last episode, and maybe even more this time around. So as Data would say, saddle up, lock and load.
“Vaulting Ambition” starts with Burnham and Lorca being summoned to the Emperor’s palace/ship, the I.S.S. Charon. They’ve heard the encrypted data they got last episode wasn’t super helpful, so Lorca hopes they can get better data at Chez Emperor.
Burnham is having super mixed feels about seeing Georgiou again, and those feels only get more mixed when Georgiou tells her she loves her, feeds her a Kelpian for dinner, then puts a knife to her throat and accuses her of treason.
Oh, and if you didn’t gag at Georgiou offering Burnham some tasty threat ganglia, you definitely will when Georgiou describes how she was like a mother to Burnham and Mirror Lorca was like a father, a father who “groomed” Burnham into something more. Super gross – the implications of child sexual abuse with incestuous overtones is definitely a step beyond anything we’ve seen in the Mirror Universe. It’s seriously uncomfortable, and potentially triggering for some.
To escape being executed for treason, Burnham makes a deal to trade Discovery’s spore-drive technology for her freedom.
Now is probably the time to start lobbying the Disco writers to create a counsellor character. Trek hasn’t always done so well with representing mental health, and Jesus, Burnham is going to need some serious counselling over this and the whole Tyler/Voq situation.
And in case you’re wondering where that’s going, Tyler/Voq is in SickBay having a total personality crisis. He’s violent and self-destructive. L’Rell tells Saru that they grafted Tyler’s DNA onto Voq and fused their minds or something, and if he’s suffering she can’t help him, because honour.
So Saru, who must NEVER know about that Kelpian soup, transports him into L’Rell’s cell. She’s finally convinced to help out, so she puts on some Wolverine claws and gives Tyler/Voq a brain massage that makes him stop randomly yelling in Klingon and instead randomly mumble in English. Progress.
L’Rell lets out a scream that Trek fans will know as a Klingon expression of mourning, so it implies that maybe she killed the Voq part of him to restore Tyler, but we don’t know for sure yet.
We also still don’t know for sure exactly what’s going on with Stamets. Tilly, who is still wearing her Captain Killy glamour wig (wouldn’t you?), is still trying spore therapy, and it’s doing something. Inside the mycelial network, Stamets meets Mirror Stamets in what appears to be a glorious garden of purple sparkly spores, or else my tween dream bedroom. When Stamets asks if he’s dead, Mirror Stamets deadpans that yes, “You’ve been wrong about everything. There is a god, and she is very, very mad at you right now,” before bursting into laughter.
It’s the best, and not just because it’s showing a white dude being scared at the prospect of a lady god.
But the levity doesn’t last as Stamets thinks he sees Culber and decides to run after him, along the Discovery corridors of his mind. When he finally gets to talk to him Culber explains he is dead and urges Stamets to continue his work. He says Mirror Stamets is destroying the spore network and Prime Stamets needs to save it. Stamets just wants to go back to the way things were – he doesn’t want to cope with the loss of Culber.
Whether Culber is an aspect of Stamets’ subconscious (my preference) or some kind of ghost in the network, this is running into fridging territory. I don’t want Culber to be the Jennifer Sisko of Discovery – I want him to be a complex character who gets to work and live and love in his own right. But I found this all less of a gut-punch than the discovery of Culber’s body last episode, and the constant flashbacks to his death.
Plus we got more space boo kisses so that’s always nice.
Culber tells Stamets to get back to reality he just has to open his eyes. When he does, he immediately grabs Tilly and heads for the spore closet, only to find the spores looking pretty darn dead. At the same time, Mirror Stamets also wakes up, on the Charon. Anthony Rapp confirmed on Twitter that the Stamets’ did not switch places, as some had originally speculated – I’m telling you all this confusion could’ve been avoided if they’d just given Mirror Stamets a goatee.
Y’all, Discovery has more twists than a 1960s dance party. The really big one this episode is about Lorca, or should I say…Mirror Lorca? Yup, turns out the guy we thought was Prime Lorca was really Mirror Lorca playing an exquisite long con, possibly to unseat Emperor Georgiou. This had been out there as a fan theory but I admit I didn’t buy it, even after the weird shit Lorca pulled with Cornwell. I just thought Lorca was a Starfleet guy turned off Starfleet principles by war.
We get confirmation in this episode when we find out Mirror Georgiou is light-sensitive – apparently the only big difference between humans in the Mirror and Prime universes. You know who else is light-sensitive?
In addition, near the end Mirror Maddox comes to the agonizer room and tortures Lorca for doing something bad to Maddox’s sister. He demands Lorca say the sister’s name and threatens to kill one of Lorca’s loyal minions if he doesn’t. If it was Prime Lorca he wouldn’t know the name, but the episode ends with Lorca tricking his way out of the booth, pinning Maddox to the ground and saying: “Her name was Ava. And I liked her. But you know how it is. Somebody better came along.”
And I’m ok with him being Mirror Lorca because then maybe Prime Starfleet can be better? Maybe there’s an awesome Prime Lorca that will work respectfully with Cornwell and not torture tardigrades? But please, please say that they’re not going to exploit the Mirror Lorca/Burnham relationship for shock value. Burnham has been through a LOT already.
So anyway, today my DISCO shirt finally came in the mail and I was excited because it reminded me of the first half of the season, when we were discovering Tilly and Burnham’s magical friendship and enjoying an occasional laugh amidst intense action and feelings.
Things have changed since Discovery crossed into the Mirror Universe. This week’s episode continued to plumb the darkness and push the boundaries of almost every character, without much comic relief. And don’t get me wrong – I’m still here for it. There was a lot to appreciate in this week’s episode, mostly the acting, and chemistry between characters like Stamets and Culber, and Burnham and Mirror Georgiou, who is quickly becoming one of the most memorable, complex and badass Star Trek women villains.
But I miss the “Computer, add salsa” moments. Salsa makes everything better.