Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 12 of Star Trek: Discovery. Not caught up? See our spoiler-free review of the series’ opening episodes here.
After last episode’s white-knuckle ride, this chapter of Star Trek: Discovery similarly hurtles along – ending with another shocking revelation. The journey to that destination is just as nerve-shreddingly exciting as before, with one exception – the plot strand involving Stamets.
Stuck in a coma on Discovery, he spends the episode talking gibberish with his mirror self, both of them stranded in the mycelial network – the “veins and muscles” of the cosmos. A touching last scene with Hugh notwithstanding, it’s as tedious as the other stories connected to the spore-drive have been. Here’s hoping that, with Mirror Stamets displaying signs of physical decay, that they’re forced to abandon the magic mushrooms and never talk of it again. After all – it’s not powering starships in Kirk’s time, so presumably, the technology is flawed.
But it’s first-rate action, adventure and intrigue elsewhere, with Burnham finding herself face-to-face with Empress Georgiou, her adopted mother in this universe. Sentenced to death, Burnham opts to tell the Empress the truth: she’s from a parallel universe (quite why she didn’t revela that to Mirror Sarek and Voq last episode is a mystery). Georgiou isn’t surprised, although the gathered aristos of the Terran Empire are – Georgiou sending a nifty device slicing through their brains.
From the USS Defiant’s entry into this universe via “interphasal space”, Georgiou knows all about the United Federation of Planets, and fears it – its talk of cooperation and freedom merely fuels rebellion. But she lets Burnham live and the two strike a deal: schematics of Discovery’s spore drive in exchange for more information on how Defiant crossed over.
Meanwhile, on Discovery, acting Captain Saru – blissfully unaware that Burnham has been forced to chow down on a stew of his fellow Kelpian – attempts to save Ash Tyler, his mind and body meshed together with Klingon extremist Voq. Watching him play hardball with L’Rell is fantastic: “This is war,” he tells her, with a steeliness we’ve only previously seen hints of.
As L’Rell attempts to separate Ash and Voq, and both Stamets and his mirror self wake from their respective comas, we’re left with Burnham and Empress Georgiou to work out between them the terrible truth about Captain Lorca. His aversion to light is common to all humans in the Mirror Universe, meaning that he is originally a citizen of the Terran Empire. And, worse, he abused his position as Burnham’s proxy dad to groom and seduce her – has his time in the Federation Universe been nothing but a ruse to ensnare Burnham, now that her mirror self has been killed?
It’s a disturbing twist, and one that will take a week to process. If, as looks likely from the episode’s final scene, Lorca has been a bad guy all along, much of this season could unravel. We’ve been rooting for this guy all along – and surely not everyone in Burnham’s life turns out to be a traitor? This is a great episode, although whatever the truth regarding Lorca turns out to be could scupper not just the show’s future, but retroactively all that’s gone before. Audacious storytelling from the writing team – if they can pull it off.
Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Monday, within 24 hours of their US release.