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SYFY WIRE Star Trek: Discovery

Bryan Fuller reveals his less 'binary' take on Star Trek: Discovery's Mirror Universe

By Josh Grossberg
Sonequa Martin-Green on Star Trek: Discovery

What could have played a much bigger role in Star Trek: Discovery's first-season plot probably exists in an alternate reality — but it definitely exists in Bryan Fuller's head.

For the first time, the co-creator of CBS All Access' prequel series is boldly offering up a glimpse of what his original vision for Star Trek's Mirror Universe would have been, had he not stepped down as Discovery's showrunner before it went to air.

Trekkies will be fascinated to learn that Fuller's plans involved steering away from the traditional "binary" black and white/good vs. evil take on the mirror concept in favor of a more nuanced approach, that in his view would have imbued the narrative with much greater thematic resonance.

"The thing that really fascinated me in sitting down and crafting the story for Discovery was the human condition," Fuller told Robert Meyer Burnett's web series Robservations, where he was the special guest for its recent 400th episode. "I thought that there are elements in the Mirror Universe that we have seen that have sort of boiled to the broadest ends of the spectrum, and everything felt really binary."

He continued: "And what I really wanted to do in setting out was looking at the minutiae of simple decisions that have a cascade effect on our lives. So it’s not about gold lamé sashes and goatees versus no sash and clean-shaven. It is more about we are at forks in the road every moment of our lives and we either go left or right."

Star Trek

Of course, the writer-producer is referencing the famous Star Trek: Original Series Season 2 episode "Mirror, Mirror," where Kirk and crew experience a transporter glitch during an ion storm and end up beaming into a parallel timeline where they're greeted by an evil Spock (who, of course, must be evil because of his badass-looking goatee). In this darker parallel universe (where everyone on the Enterprise wears gold lamé sashes), Kirk learns his counterpart has murdered Captain Christopher Pike and that he's part of the tyrannical Terran Empire, which has replaced the democratic United Federation of Planets.

The Mirror Universe was later revisited in episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise, as well as a seven-part storyline of Discovery's inaugural season, when the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery, Captain Gabriel Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs, is found to hail from the Terran timeline.

Fuller, who got his start in Hollywood writing episodes of DS9 and Voyager before going on to create such shows as Dead Like Me and Hannibal, however, never saw his full vision to completion, as he was forced to quit day-to-day operations due to his ever-busy schedule. Discovery's new showrunners, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, still kept the Mirror storyline, but apparently it wasn't quite the more ambiguous direction Fuller planned to go.

"So, there was something in the mistakes made by Burnham in 'Battle of the Binary Stars' that had this ripple, but the Mirror Universe was always meant to be an exploration of a small step in a different direction," explains Fuller. "So it wasn’t necessarily the Mirror Universe we know from all of the other series. It was something that was closer to our timeline and experience, so you can still recognize the human being and go, 'What did I do? How did that seem like a good decision for me in that moment, and how do I continue with my life forward?'"

Fuller continued: "And everything was a sort of an extrapolation out on that. So there were things that I wanted the Mirror Universe to function in a narrative exploration of like 'Oh f***, if I just didn’t do that one thing, everything would be better.' As opposed to 'I don’t recognize that person, I don’t know who that person is, because they are a diametric opposite of who I am.'"

Sounds logical.

Check out Fuller's full remarks in the interview below (starting at 57 minutes in) ...

Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery is expected to premiere on CBS All Access later this year.