“Despite Yourself” picks up from last month’s “Into the Forest I Go”, during which the Discovery accidentally jumps to an unknown location during a Spore Drive accident. The ship is now in the Mirror Universe, the same Mirror Universe from the Original Series’ “Mirror, Mirror” and was later picked up for use in a story arc during DS9. However, it’s not immediately obvious to the Discovery crew where they are, and they must do some investigative work before they find out they’re in a different universe with alternate versions of themselves.
This episode is the first Mirror Universe episode that I’ve seen, so unfortunately I can’t make comparisons to previous Trek episodes like Mirror Mirror. Fortunately, “Despite Yourself” is an excellent standalone episode that does a good job of establishing the Mirror Universe and laying the groundwork for the next few episodes. The episode has strong character development, a few comedic moments, and a few shocking moments including two character deaths.
As I mentioned, it isn’t immediately obvious to the crew that they are in the Mirror Universe, so they first must do a little detective work to find out where they are. In a nutshell, they find a destroyed ship with a different quantum signature from every ship in the known universe, which would only be possible if they were in a different universe. In addition, Burnham examines a database from the destroyed ship and she learns that everyone on the ship has an alter ego from the Mirror Universe.
The Discovery’s isolation doesn’t last for long because they receive a hail from a nearby ship. Lorca nearly answers the hail, but is interrupted by Burnham who tells him he isn’t the captain on the Miror Universe’s Discovery. Tilly is the captain. Moments before being fired upon, Captain Tilly takes the hail and sends the other ship on its way. The whole premise that the crew didn’t know where they were is an interesting one, but it’s also a little obvious for those who listened closely to “Into the Forest I Go”.
The second half of “Despite Yourself” is a lot more interesting after Lorca tells the crew that they must pass off as their Mirror Universe counterparts or risk blowing their cover. The people from the Mirror Universe belong to a racist, xenophobic culture known as the Terran Empire, a human-only empire where officers care little for ethics and use tactics like intimidation, assassination, and fear. For example, Captain Tilly seems more like a ruthless warlord than a lowly cadet. Burnham was a former captain, and Lorca tried to kill the mirror Burnham during an attempted coup against the empire’s Emperor.
Despite how many of the characters in the Mirror Universe want each other dead, there are some scenes that come across as comedic as well. The entire episode comes together as a blend of gripping scenes and comedy that complements each other quite well. For instance, it’s amusing to see Tilly tell captain Connors that she would rip his tongue out and use it to lick her boots. A few minutes later, Burnham beams over to the Shenzhou with Lorca as her prisoner, where she’s a little too good at impersonating her alter ego. Not only does she come across as ruthless, she intimidates Captain Connors into obeying her commands.
I partly wish that the scenes of Burnham and the rest of the crew blending in were given more time. For better or worse, there is a B-plot in which Ash Tyler tries to find out why he’s having strange flashbacks. He finds L’Rell in the brig and demands to know what she did to him. He lowers the force field for a short period, but then L’Rell just talks cryptically to him, as usual. This is the weakest scene because it just follows the pattern of previous episodes. It’s lame how Tyler’s supposed PTSD has been only been addressed so far by cryptic flashbacks and cryptic dialogue.
Then, Tyler goes to sickbay to speak with doctor Culber after he fails to get any meaningful information out of L’Rell. Also in sickbay is Lieutenant Stamets, who is in a state of cognitive disarray. His eyes are white and clear and he mutters phrases like “The enemy is here,” and “Don’t go into the palace!” Sickbay scenes in Star Trek tend to be kind of boring, but that’s not the case in this episode. Culber discovers that his body went through massive surgeries to change the size of his pelvic bones, his spinal cord, and so forth. Culber speculates that an alternate personality may have been placed on top of his original personality.
Before Culber can make any further observations, Tyler is called the bridge, but Culber insists he stay in sickbay. Shockingly, Tyler breaks his neck and Culber drops dead. At this point, Tyler seems as unstable as an asylum patient. What will happen to Tyler is left as a huge question, but we can at least assume that Culber’s murder will be a huge part of his character development moving forward.
“Despite Yourself” has been one of the best episodes so far. It set the stage well for the upcoming Mirror Universe story arc, and the main plot was suspenseful while having comedic moments as well. While I’d prefer there not be a secondary plot, this episode uses the second plot well because what happens in Tyler’s scenes are almost as gripping as the main plot. I can only hope that the next episode, and the ones after that, continue this episode’s stride.
- A lot of exciting things happen in the episode
- You are left to wonder what will happen to multiple major characters
- The secondary plot doesn’t feel like filler
- No major complaints
- Burnham jumps locations at the end of the episode and I didn’t know what she was doing or why