Review: “Despite Yourself” Takes ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ To A Whole New Place

This review contains spoilers.

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1.10 Despite Yourself

Star Trek is back! And do you know what I was thinking during this episode of Discovery? I was thinking “Man, I wish I could be listening to the Hamilton soundtrack instead of watching Star Trek” because I went to the Actual Theatre on Saturday to see the London production of Hamilton and it’s SO GOOD and it makes me SICK that Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote that whole show by himself. What a guy.

Anyway, that’s just a hot tip from me, recommending the well-kept secret that is the most popular musical on the Internet. Do you think Alexander Hamilton would have liked Star Trek if he’d seen an episode? You know, once he stopped screaming at the sight of a moving TV image? I like to think he would have. And if so, he definitely would’ve liked this episode, because it features everyone’s favourite Star Trek destination: The Mirror Universe.

So it turns out that hint of something weird happening in a Mirror a few episodes back was indeed a pointer that we were on our way to the mirror universe, though I don’t think many of us were surprised by that revelation (though boy, was it a mistake to assume that about my Twitter followers.) I enjoyed the transformation of the USS Discovery into the ISS Discovery (those are some badass uniforms) and the revelation of who the captain was, and while this episode was quite talky, that’s hardly something I can fault about Star Trek in general.

However, as well as the dramatic, fan-service flourishes of the Mirror Universe we also got a lot of genuinely interesting stuff. Plot-wise it feels like the start of a new arc, so I wonder how far this one is going to go, but character-wise it touches on basically everything.

So yet again they’re seeding the idea that Tyler is Voq without outright stating it, which makes me wonder if they’ve got a twist in mind or whether they think they’re being less forthright than they are. If you didn’t figure out in a previous episode what was going on, this one makes it about 95% explicit that Tyler is a cover identity of Voq without having anyone say “actually you were Voq” so there’s STILL wiggle room.

But not much.

Sadly, however, his unstable partially-deprogrammed mind causes him to snap the hell out of Culber’s neck in a scene of unexpectedly efficient brutality. I kept waiting for that to be revealed as a violent fantasy of Tyler’s, but it wasn’t. He might actually be dead. Worse still, I get the feeling that they’re going to pin that on Stamets after his outburst of violence earlier in the episode, which would be an especially grim thing to do if/when he regains his senses. Truly only a sick mind would imagine such a thing.

There’s a tonne going on here with both plot and characters, though there’s a slightly problem here for me in that I really don’t feel the stakes because y’know, Mirror Universe. It’s a fun place to visit but I wouldn’t wanna spend too long there. The fact that they still need to deliver the decloaking algorithm is supposed to lend urgency to their plight but right now it’s not really working because the threat – continuing war with the Klingons - is abstract and unseen and literally a universe away. I love the gimmick of the Mirror-verse, but honestly I just want to see them get back to the real universe before too long.

I do keep wondering about that fan-proposed suggestion that Lorca is from the mirror-verse, though. He could be feigning ignorance in this episode, and the alt-Lorca is, conveniently, nowhere to be seen (unless he’s been with us the whole time, hmmmmm?). Eyes on that theory, everyone…

And now the bit that closely resembles the state of my brain while I’m watching an episode: in-universe references.

The big one is, of course, that this episode takes the Mirror Universe. First seen in TOS 2x10 (Mirror, Mirror) it’s a parallel universe where humans are the bad guys. Not like in this universe *nervous cough*.

ANYWAY, I won’t go into too much detail but if you want to catch up on the history (and future) of the Mirror Universe you want to watch ENT 4x18-4x19 (A Mirror, Darkly), and DS9 2x23 (Crossover), 3x19 (Through The Looking Glass), 4x20 (Shattered Mirror), 6x08 (Resurrection) and 7x12 (The Emperor’s New Cloak).

 (Aside: I’m always reminded of Futurama when the Mirror universe shows up. “So there are an infinite number of parallel universes?” “No, just the two.”) 

The Defiant – the ship from the main universe that Burnham is hoping to steal intel on – is also from established lore: A constitution-class ship (same as the NCC-1701 Enterprise), the USS Defiant disappeared into interphase in TOS 3x09 (The Tholian Web) where it was thrown back in time and off to the side a bit, landing in the Mirror Universe (again, see ENT 4x18-4x19). It was last seen under the command of Empress Hoshi Sato so it’ll be interesting to see where THAT plot went.

And just because I know I’ll get comments if I don’t mention it, this USS Defiant is unrelated to the USS Defiant from Deep Space Nine.

It’s mentioned in this episode that Starbase 46 is near Organia, a system and/or planet which is the homeworld of the Organians. It features heavily in TOS 1x27 (Errand Of Mercy).

When Burnham offers Tyler an “Isik for your thoughts?” she’s referencing the currency of the Vlugtans which featured in DS9 2x11 (Rivals). Frankly, that is as deep a cut as you’re likely to find on Discovery. Even I had no clue what she was talking about.

Lorca’s impersonation of a Scottish engineer is undoubtedly a wink in the direction of Montgomery Scott, the famous Scottish Engineer of the Enterprise. Is Lorca a Friend of Scotty? Or is that the only accent he can do?

Time may yet tell.

And finally: this episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes, who you will best know as the man behind the beard, Commander Riker, from Star Trek TNG.

DIS WTF: It bothers me that the Defiant went back in time AND into a parallel universe. I can totally forgive either of these things on their own but when you put them together I’m just like “This is so unrealistic” so I guess at least we know exactly what kind of dickhead I am now.

DIS LOL: About three minutes before Mirror Tilly turned up I thought “I cannot WAIT to see what Mirror Tilly is like” and it’s safe to say I was not disappointed. Admittedly it’s basically the same schtick as Vampire Willow but what the hell, it’s the 20th anniversary of The Wish (Buffy The Vampire Slayer 3x09, as if you didn’t know YOU NERDS) this year, we can give that idea another go around.

Time to meeting: Zzzzzzzzz.

Mistakes and minutia: Part of me thinks I should keep track of Tilly’s hairstyles. She has another new one in this episode. I’m starting to wonder if they’re trying to put a new one in every episode. It’s increasingly clear to me that Ensign Tilly is the real star of this show and if you’ll excuse me I’m off to write my Tilly/Me fanfic.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Into The Forest I Go, here.

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