In which Discovery Friday is back and we live in the Upside Down now.
So when we left off, the Discovery had done a whole bunch of spore jumps which nearly killed Stamets in order to get the Klingon cloaking frequency, and the last one went terribly wrong and landed them in an unfamiliar wreckage field. Also, L’Rell is about to trigger Tyler. The standard response, insofar as such things can be standard, is to go to yellow alert. What they’ve found is a battle with weapons signatures consistent with Federation weaponry, but ‘slightly off’ hull signatures for the destroyed Klingon ships. Saru’s analysis says they arrived on-target, but there’s no starbase here, and Saru’s threat-cillia trigger as soon as Ash Tyler arrives on the bridge. In a moment, a Vulcan ship approaches and opens fire, and the Discovery returns fire manually and somehow scores a hit. Correction – the USS Cooper comes out of nowhere to help take out ‘the rebels.’
The Doctor has Stamets stabilized, but he’s never getting back in the spore drive chamber. Saru has also worked out that the Cooperand the Vulcan ship’s Quantum Signatures are different from their own. We’ve mentioned before that for something where the value of every object in the universe should be identical, it’s weird that the Federation would have detectors for said value. At some point, some matter crossed between universes, and now we know that time is before now, or else Saru wouldn’t have access to that information.
Lorca was prepared for this – he and Stamets had some inkling that the spore drive could be used this way, but it was an untested branch of the research until now because it wasn’t useful for the war effort. The Mycelial network, however, crosses between universes, and jumping 133 times in a few minutes filled in the map. And it is confirmed that the Discovery never finished sending the cloaking frequency. Since Stamets can’t jump them back, they’ve got to work on getting back the old fashioned way.
Stamets is glazed over and in a delusional trance. Tilly’s attempting to ground him by deliberately airheading at him – so that he’ll correct her and come back to himself. It’s not really working. Doc Culber is way more understanding about the realities of rank than he might be. He’s saving all his blame up for Lorca, who in return takes him off the The Klingon raider has Vulcan and Andorian bodies and the manipulator arm has cutting lasers, magnetic grippers, tractor beams, and enough willpower behind it in Ash that he doesn’t freak out and accidentally destroy it. Lorca also implies that he sent Ash into a situtaiton where the man might freak and mess up as a test.
So now Ash goes back to L’Rell, trying to find out what she did to him, and she insists he wanted it. She tells him to open the cell if he wants answers, and he does… in order to kill her, but she has some command codes for his conditioning. It looks like the conditioning wasn’t completely successful and he shoves her back into the cell, but we really can’t know he didn’t do something else during the blackout. Burnham finds him later in the mess hall, trying to find out what his malfunction was in the Worker Bee, but he can’t come clean about it because PTSD regulations include quarantine that isn’t available in an alternate universe. We’re about to find out why. Burnham is called away for an assignment, but unlike other series where everyone wears a commbadge, this is over the PA and she doesn’t actually ackowledge the summons, just leaves. And when she’s gone Ash breaks.
The Klingon data core uses Vulcan chips, further cementing the idea of a vastly different political structure in this universe. They’re working in the Spore drive room, giving everyone ample opportunity to be afraid of the chamber while they download the logs and look at iconography that is very unfamiliar, but which confirms what we’ve seen coming ever since the Cooper talked about putting down Vulcan rebels – that this is THE Mirror universe, home of the Terran Empire. Fascist, human-only, expansionist, ruled by a faceless Emperor, and opposed by an interstellar alliance.
After these revelations, the Cooper arrives, asking to speak with the Captain. Hopefully Lorca can get a really tight angle or clear the bridge of all the aliens. They also find out from the rebel log that Mirror Discovery vanished right were Prime Discovery showed up – meaning the two probably swapped places. Lorca’s about to take the hail when it turns out that he’s not the captain of the Discovery. It’s the best possible alternative. Lorca tries to be as kind as possible when telling Cadet Tilly to, no matter what, not be herself on this call.
The call goes… well, Tilly reminds me a little of an early Han Solo talking to Death Star C&C. She hands off to Lorca, who puts on a scottish accent just in case. All engineers are Scots in the future. They manage to survive the first conversation, and Lorca orders everyone to prep for flying under the radar. As XO, it is therefore Saru’s job to make sure that there’s only humans on the bridge and that Tilly is a straight-haired blonde with an air of imperious command about her. What follows is an Eliza Doolittle sequence – more or less. Trading out insignia pins and getting Tilly some impressive gold ornamentation reminds us that replicators are very much a thing, and they are also able to reconfigure the monitor UIs to show the Terran insignia as a screensaver, and repainting the hull.
Burnham and Lorca are not aboard the ISS Discovery – she’s dead and he’s on the run for killing her. Given that Captain Killy murdered her predecessor, it’ll be interesting to find out why Lorca didn’t get a pass. Burnham captained the Shenjou and Lorca commanded the Buran, which is no more. Lorca attempted a coup and Burnham tried to stop him and was killed. When faced with cross-universe serindipity like this, Lorca can only speculate about destiny, and move on to some other records about a previous ship to arrive in the Mirror Universe- the USS Defiant, NCC-1764 (not NX-74205), a Constitution-class ship unstuck in time. Since it managed to make it over without the Spore drive, the plan is for Burnham and Lorca to board the Shenzhou, pose as themselves, and gather more intel, using the old Prisoner Gambit. And Ash Tyler gets to be Burnham’s Personal Guard.
To be sure of himself, Ash asks Doc Culber to re-scan him for Klingon implants, even though he already passed a standard Manchurian test given to recovered prisoners. Way to go, Wartime Starfleet. Good job. Sadly, Ash can’t admit to having lost time because that would ground him. Nonetheless, Culber asks for some deeper scans, and Stamets has a brief episode shouting about The Palace. A kiss brings his eyes back, ever so briefly.
Burnham gives Tilly the most tailored pep talk possible – Terran society is so backstabby that they project constant confidence as a facade to hide any weak points and anxieties. That seems like it could be something Tilly could relate to, but instead Burnham reminds Tilly that the Federation does things differently and ‘her’ crew is rooting for her, not waiting to stab her. The con is on, and Burnham gets her own dose of reality as the Shenzhou‘s current captain turns out to be someone she watched die in the war she started. Needful or not, that’s going to weigh on her. But everyone puts on a good show for the universal natives.
Culber has done some studying on Tyler’s scans and determined that among the things the Klingons did to him were shortening most of his bones and reworking all his organs. Culber is very slowly sneaking up on the implication that Ash Tyler is, in fact, an entirely different person with a false personality laid over the top. Possibly originally a Klingon, although we’ll never know because Tyler kills Culber in a burst of buried Klingon commands. Resonates nicely with Stamets’ ravings.
Tyler is ready for the mission, and Lorca gives the instructions to do anything necessary to complete the mission. It’s not a matter of just getting home – the Federation needs that cloaking frequency. Ash doesn’t need to do much to sabotage the Federation, if that’s his mission. Although frankly it could’ve been all over if the Shenzhouhad simply decided not to reintegrate their patterns. Evidently, Mirror Burnham’s successor is either gormless or a little more subtle than that. He offers to take Lorca off her hands and into the Agonizer booths, but Burnham refuses to let anyone else control her prisoner, lest they circumvent her in getting the credit. Her displays of dominance have either gotten under his skin, or else that’s just how command works here, because he attacks her in the turbolift and makes her kill him. Burnham always did know how to make an entrance, and nobody liked him anyway.
Finally free in her ready room, Burnham finds Ash waiting for her – not only are people’s faces and assignments the same between universes, but so are their passwords. Burnham hasn’t gotten the Defiant info yet, but Ash is there to assure her that he’s there for her, no matter what. One might almost suspect that it’s a directive that transcends his personalities, because the Klingons need the person who started the war and killed T’Kuvma. And while he.. uh… helps make sure her bed isn’t booby-trapped, Lorca has been installed in the Mirror Universe brig.