Star Trek: Discovery – Despite Yourself

Star Trek: Discovery – Despite Yourself January 9, 2018

In the episode “Despite Yourself,” the USS Discovery finds itself in a different universe. The captain mentions that the possibility that the mycelial network connects to other universes was something that he and Stamets had discussed, once again suggesting that Lorca may have hoped they could reach a parallel universe. When the captain enters the sick bay, the Dr. Culber says, “Speak of the devil.” The doctor blames Capt. Lorca, accusing him of wanting what happened – which is interesting, given that there are also hints in this episode that their earlier multiple jump sequence may have prepared them for the jump to a different universe.

In the universe that they find themselves in, it seems that the Klingons, Vulcans, and Andorians have formed an alliance against humans. The humans have a Terran Empire that is racist, xenophobic, and non-humans are fighting for their freedom against them. It is possible that the two Discoveries from the different universes switched spaces. In the parallel universe Tilly is the captain, a role that she obtained by killing her predecessor (she is nicknamed Captain Killy). The captain (who in the mirror universe is a fugitive as a result of an attempted coup against the emperor) suggests that the parallel universe with the same people yet different is evidence of destiny. Files they retrieve show that the Defiant from their universe also made itself to that universe.

One highlight of the episode is Michael Burnham’s advice to Tilly, emphasizing that the apparent strength of the violent officers in the parallel universe is a facade, related to living in constant fear of where the knife will come from. The strength that comes from having comrades they can trust is true strength.

Initially, we are given the impression that we already had in earlier episodes, namely that Lt. Ash has been brainwashed by his Klingon captors, with ritual words of prayer about seeking Kahless, the Klingon Messiah, central to it. Later, we learn that it is more likely that he is a Klingon mole who has been transformed to appear human. The question of what this will mean for his identity and his relationships with Burnham and others remains to be seen. But when Dr. Culber discovers the medical evidence that Ash isn’t who he appears to be, Ash kills him.

On the Original Series, StarFleet didn’t seem to be aware of the mirror universe, suggesting that the Discovery never makes it back – assuming, of course, that the universe that it originated in was in fact precisely the same one as the Original Series. But of course, in an infinite multiverse, there will not only be universes in which a peaceful Federation is replaced with a warlike Empire, but also ones that are almost identical to each of the above.

I continue to find each new episode enjoyable and engaging in interesting and new ways. What about you?

For thoughts on how the concept of parallel universes relates to religion, see my earlier posts “LOST in a Zoroastrian Multiverse” and “Religion in the Multiverse.”

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  • Marcia Culligan

    This particular episode has started to mark a turning point for me and my feelings about the series. I am having difficulty separating my sense of nostalgia for the mythos (in general) and genuine desire to re-engage with the Star Trek universe with the dark, grim, bleak nature of this show’s vision of that universe. It’s not that earlier Trek shows couldn’t do dark, grim, and bleak. Heck, DS9 and its last few seasons especially had lengthy story lines of that type. But there was always a sense of hope that seemed organic to the vision of each series. I can’t imagine that Gene Roddenberry would be pleased with this new incarnation. I actually think it might horrify him. But I digress. I think of a show like Fringe, and especially its final season, in which it was often difficult to find much “light” to hold onto. But it’s there, and it’s motivational for the characters, and so it’s motivational for the viewers (for me, at least). I’m not sure where the light is in this new Trek. Or, rather, I’m not sure that the light is much more than a function of plot. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed certain episodes, and I’m intrigued by Burnham’s Vulcan connections. I expect that I will continue to watch this season out of curiosity and a hope that the talented creators behind the scenes have some unexpected tricks up their sleeves. But watching this show now kind of requires me to think of it less as a Trek show. And I find that a shame.

  • robrecht

    I was sad that they killed off Hugh.

  • I’ve been really enjoying the series. it is a darker Trek, but it is also a war Trek and that does make it darker. There are still the positive elements of Trek showing up. It was there in the first episode showing the delight that the Shenzhou crew had in exploring and learning. It was there when Lorca and Stamets were talking about Discovery being a science vessel and not a warship at the end of “Into the Forest, I go”. This episode does a great job of exploring ideas of repressive regimes and the ease that one can play the barbarian as well as the things surviving war can drive you to.