We’re back! And the U.S.S. Discovery is… not. After the spore drive mishap that ended the first half-season, the ship is in uncharted territory. Or, more accurately, the ship is in the right place, it’s everything else that’s wrong — they’re fired on by Vulcans, hailed by a Starfleet ship that’s supposed to be in drydock, and it doesn’t take Saru long to realize they’ve stumbled into another universe.
And just like that, we’ve gone from Deep Space Nine to Voyager. With no more Klingon war to fight, Discovery is now lost in space, in a sense Janeway and crew could only imagine. And with Lt. Stamets unconscious, no way to return.
The audience, however, is on more familiar ground. The big reveal is that this is, as suspected, the Mirror Universe of the Original Series (and DS9), and the Discovery‘s crew have to blend in with the Terran Empire, the Federation’s evil opposite — xenophobic conquerers that the Mirror Vulcans, Klingons, and other races are fighting a losing battle against.
And yet, even with a quasi-reboot, it’s same old Disco, as Burnham’s still a bold risk-taker despite her Vulcan upbringing, Captain Lorca’s still a sonofabitch but our sonofabitch, Tyler’s still coming to grips with PTSD, and Tilly’s as nervous (and foul-mouthed!) as ever.
The show continues to play to one of its strengths—exploring the relationships between the characters. Even as circumstances force our crew to rely on each other in a new kind of life-and-death situation, we’re constantly reminded that not everyone should be trusted. That seems to be the theme of Disco‘s romantic relationships, as Stamets love for Dr. Culber led him to keep secrets and compromise Culber’s medical ethics; Burnham’s desire to protect Tyler means downplaying his PTSD even when it threatens to endanger one mission after another. And then, of course, there’s Tyler’s complicated relationship with L’Rell, his Klingon torturer, still snug in Discovery‘s Hannibal Lecter Suite, where she plays mind games and we get a few more hints at the history between her and Tyler we’ve only been able to speculate about. (Spoiler alert; everything still leads to the popular fan theory being correct, although it would be a great twist if those clues turned out to be misdirection)
Of course, of all the people who can’t be trusted, Lorca’s still at the top of the list. Did he push Stamets too hard on purpose? Did he plan on taking the ship outside the known universe from the beginning? Does he have his own agenda or is he making it up as he goes? We still don’t have any answers, but as we head into the second half of the season, the compelling questions keep piling up.
This is a crucial stretch for any series — we’re past the point where the show can be said to be finding its legs. Now we have to see if Discovery can stand on the foundation it’s built so far. We’re off to a promising start.
We get a nice payoff to Stamets calling Tilly “Captain” a few episodes ago, and some foreshadowing when he comes to long enough to shout out a warning: “Stay out of the palace!” Given the mention of an unseen Emperor, we’re almost guaranteed to visit the palace in the next week or two.
Apart from the familiar Mirror Universe/Terran Empire stuff, we get a few more good Trek in-jokes; Lorca’s Scottish accent when he impersonates a chief engineer was a great gag. And we got passing mention of a Constitution-class Defiant.