Sep 18, 2020
Star Trek: Discovery "The Wolf Inside"
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: The whole damn ship ended up in the Mirror Universe, prompting Lorca to transform it into the “ISS Discovery”, under the command of Captain Tilly. Spore-jumping to a parallel universe turned Stamets into a babbling vegetable, while Ash Tyler was having flashbacks to a gruesome operation he endured at the hands of the Klingons. When Dr. Culber caught on that Tyler wasn’t who he said he was, Tyler snapped his neck. And now Tyler, Lorca, and Michael Burnham are posing as their Terran counterparts to sneak aboard the ISS Shenzhou to acquire intel about the USS Defiant, the last Federation starship to cross over into the Mirror Universe.
So we’re still in the Mirror Universe. And it looks like we’re going to be here next episode, too. Last week, I joked about the possibility of the Discovery never making it back to the “prime” universe, and part of me is starting to wonder if that’s actually how things will shake out. But if this episode turns out to simply be the middle section of a Mirror Universe trilogy, that would explain why it feels a whole lot like filler, with lots of stall tactics like slow zoom-ins on ships, as well as at least 5 or 6 minutes worth of clips from previous episodes. And while not a whole lot happens here, that one big mystery the internet has been buzzing about has finally been solved, and the reveal is… exactly what everyone thought it would be back in the fall. But let’s do this anyway.
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On the Discovery, a random crewmember is in a dark corridor, fixing an electrical problem. She gets the lights on and then happens upon Stamets, who’s still babbling about a forest and trees. Only now, he’s cradling the body of Dr. Culber.
On the ISS Shenzhou, Burnham is just waking up, and her voiceover talks about pretending to be her Mirror Universe counterpart. She says being here is like a “waking nightmare”, and gets out of bed and walks around in lingerie. Because it’s the Mirror Universe, where everything is sexier.
Suddenly, someone enters her quarters without asking, and it turns out to be the Mirror version of Saru, who in this universe is a nameless “slave” who’s here to bathe her. Cut to Burnham in a tub as Saru scrubs her fingernails and her voiceover says that pretending to be someone else is slowly “killing” the real her.
She then heads to a transporter room to witness the execution of three crewmembers, who are guilty of “malicious thoughts” about the emperor. For this crime, all three get transported out into the vacuum of space where they quickly die from lack of oxygen. Hey, there are worse ways to go. At least it’s quick.
Burnham’s VO continues to talk about her fear of losing herself, and then it turns out she’s saying all of this stuff to Tyler, who’s in bed with her. So, she woke up, took a bath, put on her uniform, went down to the transporter room, watched an execution, then immediately went back to her quarters and took off her uniform and got back in bed? Man, Terran Captain sounds like a cush job.
Tyler talks about his days at Starfleet Academy, and how he was initially terrified to do space walks, until he remembered he had a “tether”. He says to Burnham, “You’re my tether! You bring me back!”
Mirror Saru enters, killing the romantic moment, and Burnham puts on her Terran poker face and says to Tyler, “We’re done here.” She then tells Mirror Saru that she’s going to call him Saru from now on, because it’s the name of a “respected friend”. And then it turns out this is the only time she calls him “Saru” in the episode.
Burnham then gets a holographic message from Tilly on the Discovery. Once she sees Burnham is alone, she turns things over to the actual person in charge, acting captain Saru. Burnham reports that she’s obtained the classified data about the Defiant, which is pretty amazing considering all the sleeping, bathing, and boinking she’s been doing since she came aboard. But the data is too “massive” for her to decrypt on her own, and she can’t transmit it over to the Discovery without being detected.
Saru says she’ll have to find a way, because Stamets’ condition hasn’t improved. He then brings up how in the normal universe, Saru’s “kind are few”, and he asks if she’s met any other Kelpiens aboard the Shenzhou. Burnham lies and says she hasn’t, though I’m not sure why.
Saru ends the call, and back in Discovery’s Sickbay, Tilly says they should have told Burnham about Culber being killed. Saru says it would only have distracted her. They look over at Stamets, who’s now been forcibly restrained, and it looks like everyone thinks Stamets is the one who killed Culber.
Tilly says Stamets isn’t to blame, and reels off some technobabble about how his brain isn’t fully functional right now. She says this is a “spore issue”, meaning she should be the one to treat Stamets, and not the medical staff. She pleads with Saru for the opportunity to try to bring him back.
Back on the bridge of the Shenzhou, Burnham gets a call from Captain Maddox of the “imperial flagship”, which oddly remains unnamed, and he has orders from the emperor. He says they’ve located the “Fire Wolf”, who Burnham already knows is the Klingon who leads the resistance. He’s on the planet Harlak, and Burnham’s mission is to travel there and wipe out his entire base from orbit.
Burnham’s first officer orders photon torpedoes to be prepped, but Burnham belays that order. She says her crew has gotten “soft”, and instead of destroying the rebels from orbit, she wants to get her “hands dirty” and lead an away party to personally infiltrate the rebel base and acquire intel.
And… here’s where we finally get the opening credits, over 14 minutes into the episode. Geez, why even bother at this point?
Back from credits, Burnham is meeting with Lorca in the brig, which is now peculiarly free of other prisoners. Lorca, who’s clearly shaken from his time in the “agonizer” booth, says she has to follow orders and kill the rebels. But Burnham says she can’t do that, and points out how a Klingon was able to unify the Vulcans and Andorians and Tellarites here. If they figure out how to make peace with the Klingons in this universe, this will somehow help them to make peace with Klingons in their own universe. At least, I think that’s what she’s getting at. It’s a bit hard to follow her tortured line of logic here.
Lorca agrees to this, but nixes the idea of an away party. It has to be just Burnham and Tyler so they don’t get exposed.
In Discovery’s Engineering section, Tilly’s got Stamets hooked up inside the spore chamber again. She’s telling Saru about that one time Stamets called her “Captain”, and now she realizes he was actually getting glimpses of this parallel universe before they crossed over. She then pulls up a scan of Stamets’ brain, and unleashes a stream of technobabble that basically boils down to a theory that Stamets has formed some sort of neural link to alternate universes via the mycelial network. She says the way to get his brain functioning again is to pump the spore chamber full of spores, and also do some sort of electroshock therapy on him.
On the Shenzhou, Burnham and Tyler head to the transporter room, and Burnham has to hold Tyler’s hand because it’s shaking. Well, he was certainly the right choice for this mission. They beam down to Harlak, and find themselves in a blue-tinted canyon where there’s no sign of the rebel base. But they’re quickly fired upon by Vulcans and Andorians and Klingons and Tellarites. And unlike the Klingons of this series, they haven’t significantly redesigned the look of Andorians or Tellarites…
…but then again, the look of these two species, particularly the Andorians, have been all over the map in this franchise.
Eventually, Burnham puts down her phaser to prove they come in peace. She says she’s here to request a personal audience with the Fire Wolf. They’re brought to the rebel base, which is hidden with some sort of cloaking technology.
They’re brought into a tent, complete with big Blade Runner-style industrial fans, where they finally meet the Fire Wolf… who turns out to be Mirror Voq, who identifies himself as “Son of None”. AKA, the guy in the normal universe who was briefly the “Torchbearer” before being exiled on the wreckage of the Shenzhou. And upon seeing him, Ash Tyler gets a terrified look on his face.
Voq knows Burnham as the “Butcher of the Binary Stars”. This is the same battle where the Shenzhou was destroyed in the prime universe, but here, thousands of Klingons were slaughtered instead. Burnham insists she’s a new and different kind of Michael Burnham who’s here to defy her emperor’s orders and help the resistance survive.
Voq doesn’t believe her, so he calls for the “Prophet”, who turns out to be Mirror Sarek (who of course has a goatee). Voq calls him “Master Sarek” because he can read minds. And Sarek starts doing a mind meld on Burnham, and uh, wouldn’t all the Vulcans in the resistance be “prophets”, then? This doesn’t seem to be a universe where only a select few Vulcans can do the melds or anything (we saw both Mirror Spock and Mirror T’Pol do mind melds on their respective shows).
Sarek does the meld, and we see flashbacks to previous episodes where Sarek passed on part of his katra to Burnham when she was a little girl, and another flashback to Amanda giving Burnham a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and a clip of Burnham pleading guilty to mutiny. Sarek is confused, because he sees a world full of “human compassion”, but he eventually declares that Burnham is telling the truth.
Voq accepts this conclusion, and orders his men to evacuate. But before they do, Burnham desperately wants to know how he was able to bring together all these different species. Voq says he was guided by the “light of Kahless”, which triggers more Manchurian Candidate flashbacks in Tyler. He even sees a lengthy flashback to T’Kuvma’s speech from episode two, about humans wanting to drag Klingons into the “muck” with Vulcans and Tellarites and “filthy Andorians”.
Tyler screams out (in Klingon), “Remain Klingon or die!” and attacks Voq. He grabs a bat’leth and they fight each other while Voq wonders how he knows “our forgotten tongue”. Voq defeats Tyler and is about to kill him, but Burnham pleads for his life. And then Sarek speaks up, saying he doesn’t know what Tyler’s deal is, but Burnham is still telling the truth. And why doesn’t Sarek also do a mind meld on Tyler to find out what’s up with him? Because that would make too much sense.
Improbably, despite Burnham’s guard trying to kill their leader, the rebels still believe her, and they even give Burnham a pyramid-shaped data repository with the location of all the “rebel listening stations” in the quadrant, though they intend to make sure this data is useless by the time it gets back to the emperor.
On the Discovery, there’s another truckload of technobabble down in Engineering, and it would appear Tilly’s treatment is working. Saru is impressed, and Tilly, still focusing on what’s really important right now, asks if he’ll recommend her for the “Command Training Program” for this. But then alarms go off, and a medical team runs in to try to restart Stamets’ heart, though it’s too late. Stamets is dead, but of course he’s not really dead, though to be honest, I wouldn’t exactly care that much at this point if he died for real. All he’s done for the last six or seven episodes is act nutty and babble about forests and trees and palaces and it’s really getting old.
In Burnham’s quarters on the Shenzhou, she confronts Ash about what he did down on the planet. She reminds him of the “tether” thing and says she’s in need of a tether, too. In response, he spends a long time looking sweaty and dazed as he flashes back to having sex with L’Rell, and he finally admits to still having “affection” for her. Burnham says he must have been brainwashed.
But no, it was deeper than that. There’s another flashback to the surgeries, and this time, we see that Voq is the one being operated on instead of Tyler. We also get a clip of Dr. Culber telling him “You’re not you” and getting his neck snapped. Tyler says he doesn’t think he’s really Ash Tyler, and when he saw Mirror Voq, he remembered everything. He realizes now that he’s still Klingon inside, and he is in fact Voq, Son of None.
There’s been fan speculation along these lines for months, primarily driven by the fact that the actor credited as playing Voq, Javid Iqbal, has no credits on IMDb other than Star Trek: Discovery. But now it’s been confirmed that Shazad Latif, the actor who plays Ash Tyler, was playing Voq the whole time, and “Javid Iqbal” is actually a name he chose in tribute to his late father.
So I guess that’s that, but it still raises a lot of questions. We’ve seen Tyler remember stuff about his supposed human past; in this episode, he talks about his time at Starfleet Academy. Captain Lorca obviously researched the guy before giving him the job as Chief of Security, so there’s no way that “Ash Tyler” is just some identity invented by the Klingons. At the very least, there has to be a real Ash Tyler somewhere, who possibly had his memories transplanted into Voq when he was being surgically transformed into a human. And while you’d think the Klingons would have just killed the real Ash Tyler if that were the case, I suspect this will be the show’s way of eventually bringing Tyler back as a good guy.
Though, what was the plan behind turning Voq into a human, anyway? They replaced his memories and had him pose as a Starfleet officer, in order to do… what, exactly? If the goal was to get intel about the spore drive, or anything else on Discovery, I think he failed miserably there.
Also, why is a Klingon being transformed into a human suddenly a horrifying procedure? In TOS’ “The Trouble with Tribbles”, Arne Darvin didn’t seem too traumatized by the process. There’s also a TNG episode where Worf was surgically transformed into a very human-like Alien of the Week, and as far as I know, he didn’t suffer from PTSD afterwards. Though, in TOS , McCoy was able to run his tricorder over Darvin and instantly tell he was Klingon, which Culber wasn’t able to do, so I guess that means this was a much more invasive procedure.
Burnham still refuses to believe that Tyler is Voq, and says they’re going to get him back to Discovery so that Dr. Culber can help him. Tyler/Voq then admits that he killed Dr. Culber. She pulls a phaser on him, which is followed by flashbacks to Burnham killing T’Kuvma back in the second episode. Tyler/Voq talks about how Burnham killed his “lord”, and Burnham continues to think Tyler is just nuts. But then he recalls the time Burnham fought Voq in that episode and scratched his eyes out. This is what makes her finally realize he must be telling the truth, and he was there on the Klingon Ship of the Dead.
He disarms her and starts to strangle her, but by pure luck Mirror Saru enters without permission again and tosses him across the room. Saru is conveniently trailed by security officers, and he tells them that Tyler made an attempt on the captain’s life, and Tyler gets carted off to the brig.
Meanwhile, Tilly is looking at the “dead” Stamets in the spore chamber, and saying that she hopes he’s with Culber now. But then Stamets jerks around, and of course he’s still alive. We then enter his mind, where he’s having a vision of walking through that forest he’s been babbling about, which looks, of course, a lot like a forest from Avatar. Here, he meets the Mirror Universe version of himself, who says, “I so hoped you would find your way!” Let me guess, getting back to their own universe will come down to a cross-dimensional neural link between Stamets and Mirror Stamets? And now that I think about it, just what have the Mirror Universe counterparts of Discovery’s crew been up to in the prime universe, anyway?
Cut to Tyler/Voq about to be executed via transporter. And this time, Burnham is eager to see the punishment carried out, and she even offers to be the one to personally transport him out into space. She beams him out, and while you think she’s maybe pulled a secret switcheroo and beamed him someplace safe, it seems he actually is floating out in space. But a moment later, he gets beamed onto the Discovery. A security team is here to apprehend him, along with Saru, who reaches into a holster on his uniform and pulls out a card containing data about the Defiant. Pretty sneaky, sis! He then has Tyler taken to the brig to “await tribunal”.
So, if they were able to beam up Tyler, doesn’t this mean the Discovery has to be pretty close to the Shenzhou right now? If that’s the case, how did they not get detected by the Shenzhou?
Burnham has Lorca brought to her ready room under the pretense of conducting a “private interrogation”, and Lorca says they have to keep up the pretense, because they don’t know yet if they’ll be able to use the same method as the Defiant to cross between universes. Burnham then gets word that another ship is firing on Harlak, and she runs out in a panic because the rebels haven’t had time to evacuate yet. On the bridge, she watches in horror as dozens of photon torpedoes hit the surface of the planet.
And then the commander of the other ship contacts the Shenzhou and appears via holographic communicator, and it’s… yes! Emperor Georgiou! They got Michelle Yeoh back for a surprise appearance as the Terran Emperor.
Also, if you remember the end of “In a Mirror Darkly”, Hoshi Sato took control of the Defiant and used it to become emperor. Could this mean Georgiou is one of Hoshi’s direct descendants?
Emperor Georgiou is pissed off that Burnham didn’t follow orders and she had to travel all the way across the quadrant to clean up her mess. She makes Burnham bow to her, and Lorca (who’s been brought to the bridge for unclear reasons) seems to almost smile. The end.
Other than the big reveal of Tyler’s true identity, not much happens this time around, and the stuff that does happen is hard to take seriously. The notion of a Terran captain being able to so easily sway a group of rebels is tough to swallow. But I’m relieved that the Tyler/Voq thing has finally been resolved, but only because we no longer have to endure twenty flashbacks per episode to Tyler being tortured. Also, I don’t even know if the payoff was worth keeping the “Javid Iqbal” thing a secret for months, because even knowing the twist, I still don’t see any physical resemblance between Tyler and Voq. It seems to me they could have easily just cast another actor as Voq, because they look nothing alike anyway, and then they wouldn’t have had to worry about internet sleuths getting on their trail.
Next up: Good news! Michelle Yeoh’s appearance is not just a holographic cameo, and we’ll be getting a whole lot more of Emperor Georgiou next week. The bad news is we’re also going to get lots more of Tyler/Voq being crazy.