Discovering Mirror History

Episode 11 of Mission Log Live covers episode 12 of Star Trek: Discovery, “Vaulting Ambition.” You think Burnham’s history in her own universe is weird? It’s nothing compared to her history the mirror universe. Topics this week include how Discovery is treating its characters and whether the show is “good Star Trek.”

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  1. Christopher McLeod says:

    Thank you for a wonderful, thoughtful show.

    One way to take the closing discussion forward one step, might be to frame it in terms of “Disenchantment.”

    Until Discovery, each series, in spite of falterings in early episodes and beyond, has given us beloved characters who contend or even struggle in their own ways to maintain the ideals and high professional standards of Star Fleet/The Federation. Granted, though these ideals are sometimes murky, poorly articulated, contradictory, etc. they nevertheless filter through over time, multiple revisitings, and recastings as the guiding frameworks for the story and characters. Perhaps we may think of them as a Mythos.

    Discovery does has its moments and bright spots – Georgio mapping the Delta in the shifting sand etc., be we are in the midst of a war that consumes two universes where -very importantly- our ship’s captain is dead set on his own individual path of bloodlust and thirst for power. Is it then that the current iteration of Star Trek has acceded to the popular modes, sensibilities, and vehicles of big commercial television storytelling (Game of Thrones, etc., as observed by many) where the animating value is domination, and the actions depicted belong mostly in narrow bands of violence, conspiracy, treachery, etc?

    If so, this is not the Star Trek that we know. Star Trek, in spite of its flaws and faults, has often been in front of daily realities tendering alternative ways of approaching/perceiving the myriad contradictory and clashing norms of our societies. It also has fostered a sense of wonder, inclusiveness, and optimism as it encounters uncertainty and novelty. Discovery has portrayed plenty of blood and gore as well as deceit and betrayal. It has killed off the character of the doctor, who in every preceding crew has been a leading source of care, humor, compassion, wisdom, strength, etc. A lot of brutality so far.

    So, is this the end of enchantment in Star Trek? Probably we do not want our kids to see Discovery. In the end, it may give us a thrill as well as an ingenious link to TOS, but it is not uplifting. It has spectacle but not a sense of wellness. Is what Discovery portrays, the future it unfolds for us more of the same ethos we find in other current television, and a confirmation of a disheartening anxiety about where we are and where we are headed as a society?

    It was not mentioned on your show, but I find a glimmer of hope in L’rell’s loving and altruistic act of helping Tyler/Voq. Can we look to a Klingon for a better sense of wellness about ourselves?

    Or are we with Picard, insisting that there are four lights, while our torturer cruelly maintains there are five? And how many truly are there?

  2. Renee says:

    Hey all, just tuned in to this. It was a great episode that establishes a lot, but boy was I disgusted when they ate “sautéed” Kelpian!

  3. Renee says:

    I may be in the minority, but I miss having a family-friendly Star Trek on television. I started watching Star Trek when I was 5. I could never share this iteration of Star Trek with a 5-year-old, or any young child for that matter. I’m glad there are 700+ hours of earlier Trek that are more suitable for children and youth.

  4. Renee says:

    Why did the dinner scene even have to be in there? We already get that the MU is evil. Well, mostly. Sarek was great!

  5. Renee says:

    I agree with Andy completely. The moral center is what I’m missing in DSC right now. I do hope they bring it back. I’ve seen flashes of it in one or two episodes, but it needs much, much more.

  6. Snap says:

    I think the offense in regards to the “diversity” of the Discovery production as well as which characters happened to have been killed is more than a little ridiculous and almost in the offensive territory, especially from Star Trek fans and those who may like to invoke IDIC.

    Discovery has decidedly not been discriminatory over which character lives or dies based upon the colour of their skin, religion or sexual orientation. Those considerations are irrelevant in Star Trek, everybody is equal and, yes, that also means equal to die.

    Georgiou didn’t die because she was an Asian female. She also didn’t die for the sake of killing off a character, her death impacted the very setup of the show, with Shenzhou survivors showing up on Discovery and not being too happy with Burnham when she came aboard.

    Commander Landry didn’t die because she was a person of colour, she died because she tried to kill the tardigrade and the creature did what any living thing would do: defend itself. There is nothing in Landry’s character which defined her as a person of colour, the role could have been played by a white male or woman with the same result, except people wouldn’t have been offended.

    Tyler most certainly didn’t kill Hugh Culber on the basis that he was gay, he had approached Culber to find out what was going on with the internal battle he was fighting and when Culber uncovered evidence to the truth, he was killed to keep him silent so Tyler could accompany Burnham to the Shenzhou. There was no motive involving Stamets, it was the Voq personality in Tyler realizing his cover had been blown and there was only one option to allow him to continue his mission. The death would be meaningless if it was another random medic we didn’t have an emotional attachment to.

    Admiral Anderson died and Danby Connor also died… twice, but that doesn’t spark an outrage considering they were not people of colour. Prisoners on the Klingon prison ship were killed and many Klingons were killed, why no outrage there?

    I don’t mean to be callous, but all of the characters who died were recurring characters, not members of the main cast, and that typically labels them as “expendable.” It is a concept which has existed for a LONG time in Star Trek, it’s what we call “a redshirt.”

    I think the modern mindset is far too easy to offend, almost eager to BE offended for the sake of being offended. Elsewhere, there were people who were offended at the idea of Georgiou being the Emperor because Hoshi Sato was also Asian and it suggested that only Asian people were brutal enough to gain and hold onto power, establishing a Dynasty. Others reported parents who were ready to drop the show because the relationship between Stamets and Culber made them uncomfortable and Culber’s death convinced them to not cancel their All Access subscription.

    I am not a person of colour, nor am I gay but I hated seeing Culber die because I genuinely liked the character. But the death of a character isn’t new to Star Trek, we’ve had Tasha Yar die twice and Jadzia Dax die as well. Vedek Bareil also met an untimely demise. But now we’re insinuating ulterior motives outside of the scope of storytelling for why certain characters die? There are a number of aspects about Discovery which bother me for one reason or another, but racism and homophobia didn’t cross my mind, particularly because there has been nothing in the story to suggest such things.

    On the subject of the sauteed Kelpian, writer Jordon Nardino clarified on Twitter that it was not mirror Saru and that the actor was not Doug Jones. Apparently, the Netflix descriptive audio specifically identifies the Kelpian as “Saru” and it definitely plays off that the Kelpian and Burnham were familiar.

  7. Jason8957 says:

    I sure hope that in the rest of the season they have more to offer than stylized violence and blood. Maybe the writers could write some story.

    I get the impression that this entire episode was them trying to convince us that the mirror universe humans are really bad people. No really, they are bad and evil and really bad. When I first started watching it I thought, this is a short episode. And then I found out why, they didn’t have much to say.

    I get the uncomfortable feeling that season 2 is going to devolve into horror and soft porn.

    • nathankc says:

      …and such things are just lazy writing and filming. There is no need for it. Theiss in TOS certainly pushed the envelope in his costume design but it still all made it past censors in the 60s. Gore and more just because you *can* doesn’t mean you should. If Wrath of Khan teaches anything it’s that less can be more and restrictions can actually push art, not the other way around. Decades of Trek have shown that you can have mature themes and topics that are still largely family viewable. Truly disappointing that CBS / the staff feel that they don’t have enough storytelling capabiilties that they have to devolve into the gutter