Monday, January 8, 2018

Mirror Universe Star Trek Discovery: Ends Up As Fairly Good, "Despite Yourself"

The Good: Decent performances, Moments of character, Decent direction
The Bad: Larger continuity problems with the Star Trek Universe
The Basics: Star Trek: Discovery goes into the Mirror Universe for "Despite Yourself," the midseason premiere.

Star Trek: Discovery has returned! While many people were busy watching the Golden Globe Awards, Star Trek: Discovery returned with "Despite Yourself," an episode that was largely anticipated by the fans thanks to Jonathan Frakes accidentally spoiling (months ago) that he was directing a Mirror Universe episode. The Mirror Universe was introduced in the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror" (reviewed here!), so - unlike the Star Trek Enterprise episodes that were set within the Mirror Universe without any crossing over aspect - the instant burden upon "Despite Yourself" is to make the episode fit the canon. After all, fans have been asking, how can the U.S.S. Discovery go to the Mirror Universe a decade prior to the Enterprise without anyone from either universe knowing about that alternate universe? This is especially problematic in that the first Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode involving the Mirror Universe referred to the events of "Mirror, Mirror" as the "first" crossover.

"Into The Forest I Go" (reviewed here!) climaxed with the U.S.S. Discovery being knocked out of our universe. As many fans had long predicted, the Mirror Universe is the ship's first stop on its trek back to our universe. And, despite the inherent continuity issues with inter-universal travel at this point in the Star Trek Universe, the idea that the crew has traveled to an alternate universe is realized pretty quickly.

The crew of the U.S.S. Discovery quickly realizes that they are in another universe when the ship materializes within a debris field. There, the ship encounters a Vulcan ship, which refers to "rebels" and exchanges fire with the Discovery. Stamets, blinded and crazed in Sickbay, is relieved by Lorca of his partner's case. Lieutenant Tyler is sent in a shuttlepod to extract the data core from the debris of a Klingon raider. There, the crew is shocked when Tyler finds the bodies of a Vulcan and an Andorian. Tyler returns to the Discovery and he confronts L'Rell. Tyler talks with Burnham, but he refuses to confess to the Captain that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress.

When Burnham and Tilly are able to activate the Klingon core and define the universe they are in, they discover that the Terran Empire is at war with the Rebels, who are an alliance of Klingons, Andorians, and Vulcans. Burnham learns about the Mirror Discovery's crew and she learns that Tilly is the ship's Captain there. After bluffing their way through a conversation, Lorca has the ship refitted to appear to be the I.S.S. Discovery. Burnham learns that in the Mirror Universe, Lorca attempted to seize political power and escaped, killing the Mirror Burnham in the process. Lorca wants to learn who the Emperor of the Terran Empire is, so he prepares a mission for himself, Burnham, and Tyler to infiltrate the Mirror U.S.S. Shenzhou.

In "Despite Yourself," Captain Lorca continues to be written like a painfully oblivious person. Lorca recognizes that Burnham and Tyler have a relationship, which is pretty basic on the perception level (Burnham, on the bridge, is not at all subtle). Lorca seems to have no idea that Tyler is completely shellshocked from his torture at the hands of the Klingon L'Rell. While "Despite Yourself" reveals that Tyler has not talked with the Captain about his PTSD, the fact that Lorca, Saru and the ship's Doctor have not noticed Tyler's condition is somewhat ridiculous. In fact, as the episode progresses, it becomes more and more problematic that Lorca is so unobservant to Tyler's behaviors.

"Despite Yourself" blends Star Trek: Discovery with Star Trek: Enterprise fairly well. In Star Trek: Enterprise, the U.S.S. Defiant that was lost in the Star Trek episode "The Tholian Web" (reviewed here!) rematerialized in the past in the Mirror Universe. "Despite Yourself" includes that aspect of plot continuity and that works fairly well.

Unfortunately, the slow revelations of "Despite Yourself" create larger continuity problems in the Star Trek Universe. While the technology on the U.S.S. Discovery has always been problematic, "Despite Yourself" opens a massive continuity problem as far as the technology of the era. Lorca either has a tribble that is engineered not to react to Klingons or the Klingons have a disguise technology that can fool a tribble. If the latter is the case, why would they ever utilize agents that could not pass the "Tribble test?!"

Tilly is fleshed out fairly well in "Despite Yourself." Tilly, who is meek and talkative, has to play her counterpart, a brutal killer. Playing the more aggressive version of Tilly allows Mary Wiseman a chance to play her part with a bit more vigor and depth than normal and that is interesting to watch. Wiseman plays well a nervous young woman playing a woman in power who is essentially evil.

"Despite Yourself" does a good job of revealing what the seeds in Ash Tyler's character actually have been revealing. Dr. Culber does another examination of Tyler and his report reveals what many fans have suspected about his character. The problem with Tyler's character being revealed as much as he has been - and with Tyler committing murder on the Discovery - is that it undermines all the rest of the characters on the U.S.S. Discovery. Tyler almost constantly fools Saru - who now lacks the character to tell Lorca that he senses Tyler might be a threat, which makes him a piss poor first officer. Tyler fools Burnham, Lorca and reveals that Culber has no backbone or sense of medical ethics that would make him a ship's doctor of the caliber of McCoy, Crusher, Pulaski, Bashir or even the EMH! For a group of people at war with the Klingons, the crew of Discovery is painfully trusting of the most obvious person who could betray them.

Ultimately, "Despite Yourself" is a dress-up episode where most of the characters learn about the Mirror Universe and change clothes with minimal chance to grow of evolve. Jonathan Frakes directs "Despite Yourself" just fine, including in the episode a little homage to Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2, and he makes the somewhat basic episode look good. Ultimately, "Despite Yourself" makes for a decent return to Star Trek: Discovery, even with its issues.

For other midseason premier episodes, please check out my reviews of:
"Chosen Realm" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Borrowing Problems From The Future" - The Flash
"Aftershocks" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.


For other Star Trek episode, movie, and seasons, please check out my comprehensive Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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