The twists and reveals are coming fast and furious as we reach the home stretch of this first season of Discovery. “Vaulting Ambition” is another entertaining hour of an entertaining — albeit significantly flawed — season, and it dives right into the encounters between Burnham and the mirror version of her mentor, Philippa Georgiou. But it will probably most be most remembered and discussed for the reveal in its final minutes regarding Lorca, who, as many had theorized, is actually from the Mirror Universe and has been an impostor playing the part of his Prime Universe counterpart all along.
This reveal and its implications are likely to overshadow a lot of better material in this episode, including tense dialogue scenes between Burnham and Emperor Georgiou, and intriguing scenes within the mycelium spore network between Stamets and his MU counterpart — as well as some emotionally resonating scenes between Stamets and a spore-network presence (in whatever form) of Hugh Culber, who somehow talks to Stamets from beyond the grave.
The issues of one’s identity in the Mirror Universe, effectively established in last week’s "Despite Yourself," heat up in the crucible that is "The Wolf Inside," which uses the MU through Burnham’s perspective to ask the question of what it means to live a life of lies while here. Can you lose yourself in a brutal world where you have to pretend to be one of the brutes to survive? Will the brutality chip away at your humanity and your soul?
These questions are explored early through a voice-over narration that tells more than it shows. But what this monologue may lack in demonstrated on-screen action is made up for with sheer narrative economy. We know where Burnham stands and we’re able to see the madness through her eyes, and it’s a troubling place. If the MU provides reflections on our characters, no one is seeing the potential for more horrifying potentials than Michael. This is interesting, because self-reflection has been a key point for this character since the fallout from her role in those first two episodes that landed her prison. But now it rears its head under even more dire circumstances.
"Into the Forest I Go" was an hour that brought a lot of pieces together in this uneven first season of Discovery, and it ended with a final twist that we now see serves as a sharp left turn into a new arc set in Trek‘s Mirror Universe. The MU was of course famously established in TOS‘s "Mirror, Mirror," before lying dormant for decades until DS9 picked up the mantle for its annual hijinks. Then in its final season, Enterprise also ventured into the arena with "In a Mirror, Darkly," which featured some time-bending that brought the USS Defiant back from the TOS era into the Enterprise‘s prequel era. The events surrounding the Defiant are specifically referenced in "Despite Yourself," which is a solid outing that sets up this new setting and looks to be just the beginning.
“Mad Idolatry” is one of the best episodes of The Orville this season, and certainly the most ambitious. It also takes me back to the very first episode to explore this series’ primary baggage, which is: This show tries very hard to be Star Trek (except populated by Average Joes), which means it sets itself up for comparisons and expectations that are among some of the best examples of televised sci-fi.
In the case of this episode, it uses TNG‘s “Who Watches the Watchers” and Voyager‘s “Blink of an Eye” as starting points to examine its own take on the hazards of cultural contamination. It’s a worthy tale that borrows aspects of classic episodes from those respective series. It thus invites the scrutiny of serious science fiction, even while employing characters that come off as amateurs. Can it survive that scrutiny?
So, apparently discussions of Quentin Tarantino directing an R-rated Star Trek movie are underway, which is possibly the most unexpected headline I have seen this week, and that’s in a world where Donald Trump is president.
I don’t know what to say at the moment. Does this actually have a chance of happening? Can Tarantino pull something like this off? And what should we make of the fact he wants to hire a screenwriter, which he never does with his films?
This is very strange, very intriguing, and possibly very impossible. I’ve said that Trek can be many things, but can it really be the product of Tarantino’s style?