Last week Star Trek: Discovery returned with a banger of an episode that confirmed what we all suspected after the mid-season finale. They are indeed in the Mirror Universe, and it’s resplendent with the usual array of pain booths and evil doppelgangers. Last week also saw the brutal death of Culber at the hands of Ash Tyler who, as it turns out, is really a Klingon.
We never saw that coming.
Aside from my irritation at the series’ inability to be unpredictable it was a good episode and a fine start the second half of the season. And this week’s episode continued to deliver…albeit in a similarly predictable and slightly more irritating manner.
The Wolf Inside begins with the heartbreaking sight of Stamets cradling Culber’s dead body while rambling about still being able to see him in the forest… If we weren’t already certain that Culber’s ‘death’ last week would not be permanent, the three second glimpse of him at the start of the episode was enough to confirm it.
I’d yell at them for the unfair spoiler, but it’s not much of a spoiler when it was blindingly obvious this would be the case anyway.
It’s swiftly assumed that Stamets killed Culber due to the craziness unfolding in his brain as a result of using the spore drive.
Meanwhile, Michael is masquerading as her alternate self on alternate Shenzhou, along with Tyler (who doesn’t appear to remember killing his friend, or the salient detail that he’s a Klingon) and Captain Lorca.
The former two are now having lots of sex, as Burnham wrestles with the moral implications of maintaining her charade, while the later is trapped in one of the aforementioned agony booths.
Fun, fun, fun.
Burnham and Tyler beam down to a planet with orders to kill rebels. Fortunately Michael has a plan to avoid this and they are quickly captured by an odd alliance of Andorians, Vulcans, (insert joke about dogs and cats living together), and miscellaneous other species.
They meet the rebel leader, a Klingon named The Fire Wolf, who *SHOCK, BIG SURPRISE* is actually Voq.
So Tyler flips out and tries to kill himself, Burnham is saved by the intervention of alternate Sarek, and they all inexplicably agree to an uneasy alliance. But while Sarek reads Michael’s mind and immediately confirms her allegiance, for some bizarre reason he doesn’t take a peek inside Tyler’s mind, even after he tries to kill Voq for no apparent reason…
Because that would have inconveniently revealed to truth to Burnham before the plot is ready for it.
Back on Discovery, Tilly tries to cure Stamets and accidentally kills him.
We switch back to Burnham and Tyler finally realises what’s going on and admits to Michael that he’s Voq.
And that he killed Culber.
And now is apparently not Tyler anymore, which in fairness is slightly unpredictable in that I expected him to immediately insist he was still Tyler and not Voq. It was a pleasant surprise to have him suddenly start acting like Voq, even if he did seem to switch from one to the other in the space of half a second.
It’s not a particularly effective scene, especially given that it’s been half a season building to it and they made it extremely predictable.
It wasn’t a twist. It was never going to be a twist. So the only possible payoff was it being a seriously epic reveal.
Meanwhile, Stamets is only sort-of dead and wandering a very forest-like place made of spores, with himself.
As you do.
If you haven’t figured it out already from the title of episode 9 (Into The Forest I Go) and Stamets’ earlier ramblings about a mysterious forest where ‘he’ still exists, the spore network is the forest and apparently not only has the power to transport people instantly from one place to another, and one universe to another, it cal also CHEAT DEATH.
Burnham executes Tyler, now that he’s Voq, except he’s not really dead but transported back to Discovery…after spending a brief time in the vacuum of space, which really should have killed him instantly, but inexplicably didn’t.
And before you say ‘he’s Klingon so it’s different’, earlier in the episode they handily demonstrated the execution method by beaming some humans out into space.
Humans who writhed in agony for a while before freezing to death.
Lorca (whose brain is somewhat addled from the pain booth) tries to reassure Burnham that she’s not alone and they will all be fine, while simultaneously poking holes in her plan.
As another ship appears and blows up the rebels Michael tried to spare, the BIG TWIST is revealed:
The emperor is actually Philippa Georgiou, last seen (alive) in The Battle of the Binary Stars, and she has come to give Bernham The Evil Eye.
Despite my disappointment with the execution of the episode, it wasn’t bad. BUT the twists were entirely predictable, it frequently sacrificed sense and logic to the Plot Gods, and a lot of the potential tension was lost in the need to plod through the predictable necessities required to get the second part of the season underway.
The episode felt much like the script writers were working down a check list:
Remind us Culber is dead…check.
Remind us Michael and Tyler are in love…check.
Show us the Mirror Universe is a place where humans are evil and aliens are amazingly zen despite being treated like slaves…check. (Even though this isn’t exactly how things have been seen over there before)
Reveal Tyler is Voq…check. (Does it count as a ‘reveal’ when we all knew it from the start?)
Fake killing a few more people for ‘dramatic’ effect….check.
Reveal Georgiou is the emperor…check.
I was underwhelmed by all of it due to the complete lack of tension or any form of unexpected twist. The fact that Michelle Yeoh doesn’t pull off evil dominatrix very well didn’t help matters either.
I have always been a HUGE fan of mirror universe episodes. From TOS’ two outings to the string of DS9 episodes (though I will admit I never enjoyed Jennifer Sisko in these), to the balls to the wall ‘fuck it let’s just have some fun’ two-parter on Enterprise, I’ve loved it.
The curve ball delivered in Into The Forest I Go opened up a world of possibility and I (like a lot of fans) was ludicrously excited at the prospect of at least half a season of Mirror Universe goodness. Despite Yourself was a very promising start last week, and I suspect we’re going to get a lot of good out of it in the long-run, but in the interim, The Wolf Inside was very disappointing to me.