One of the things I adore about Star Trek: Discovery’s serialized storytelling is how quickly everything moves. The relationship between Burnham and Tyler? That’s something that I’d expect to have been hinted around for a season or two before we finally saw them get together. This episode dropped bombshell after bombshell, advancing the narrative of the series quickly and presenting us with entirely new conundrums to deal with.
We had a lot to absorb in Episode 10, “Despite Yourself.” A fan theory (which I ascribed to) was confirmed. A beloved character is dead. And the U.S.S. Discovery and her crew found themselves in a bizarre mirror universe. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of this episode.
The good and the bad
Despite Shazad Latif’s strong statements to the contrary, I had complete faith in the Ash-as-Voq theory, and now that belief has paid off! “Despite Yourself” confirmed that Ash is indeed Voq. He’s been surgically altered, and the personality of Ash Tyler has been implanted into him. I really appreciate, though, that his transformation back to Voq won’t be sudden. Something about the conditioning didn’t work, and it looks like he’s going to have to grapple between the person he thinks he is — Tyler — and his actual identity. Shout out to both Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif for their excellent, believable performances in this episode. I was on the edge of my seat during their scenes.
While Mirror Universe episodes have not historically been my favorite episodes of the Star Trek franchise, I really enjoyed the way Discovery has handled it. The Mirror Universe isn’t just a chance for the show’s writers and actors to play; there’s real commentary here, considering the Terrans are racist xenophobes who try to kill anyone and anything that’s different. It’s a provocative premise, especially considering current events, and I’m really interested to see where it goes. I absolutely loved seeing Tilly as the captain, and watching her hesitancy at the beginning morph into self-confidence. She may be faking it, but Tilly has more than convinced me she’s got what it takes. We’re going to be in the Mirror Universe for a few more episodes, so I’m curious to see what else the crew will uncover about this brave new world.
The scenes between Michael and Ash were so lovely in this episode. It’s clear that she can see he’s falling apart, and she’s trying to hold him together as well as she can. Their confession of love for one another was so real, considering how much emotion and hurt and brokenness there is between the two of them. They are life preservers for one another, something to cling onto when everything else is going to hell. The juxtaposition of this scene against Captain Lorca’s torture was both jarring and incredibly effective. You can’t rest or relax for a moment, or someone you care about might get hurt.
Things to ponder
Dr. Culber was murdered in a shocking scene in Sickbay, and while I saw it coming the second Ash stood up in a menacing manner, it didn’t stop me from screaming and covering my eyes when it happened. It’s sad to say goodbye to Hugh, though actor Wilson Cruz assured me over at Fangrrls that we haven’t seen the last of Dr. Culber — maybe we’ll be treated to his Mirror Universe alternate? It certainly makes what happens next more complex: It’s possible that Ash could have come back from the realization that he was Voq. He could have said, “That may have been who I was, but Ash is who I am now. Who I choose to be.”
The murder of Dr. Culber makes this a lot more complicated. It’s clear that the Voq personality is emerging and leading Ash to act on instincts he wouldn’t normally have. Does he remember murdering Dr. Culber? Based on Ash’s comments in the transporter room to Captain Lorca, it’s possible that Ash doesn’t have memories of when Voq is in control. Is this turning into a full split personality scenario?
Regardless of what’s happening, if Ash makes a choice to maintain his grafted personality, rather than succumbing to Voq, it’s going to be a lot harder for the Discovery crew to trust him now, considering he’s murdered one of their own. I’m really curious to see how this plays out; this show has a tendency to defy my expectations and surprise me at every turn. The quickness with which this reveal was made was no exception.
We’re still not sure what’s going on with Lt. Stamets. He had a moment of lucidity in this episode, warning his partner about Ash’s duplicity. When will Paul find his way back to the Discovery crew, and what will he be like when that finally happens? And how will he react to the death of Hugh? Cruz will be back (in a meaningful way), so it may not the end of this relationship, but it's certainly going to have an effect in the short term.
Finally, the news that the Mirror Universe’s Discovery crossed over to our universe also has disturbing implications. Does that ship have a working spore drive? What kind of damage can they inflict while they are there?
All in all, this episode was an intense ride, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I love Star Trek: Discovery more with every episode that airs, and I’m really excited about the back half of this first season, and the ride that’s in store for us as viewers.