“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.
In “Lethe”, Sarek is nearly killed when his acquaintance V’Latak destroys his shuttle while he is on the way to Klingon peace negotiations. Michael Burnham, who shares part of Sarek’s Katra, suddenly collapses while having lunch. She is pulled into the mind of Sarek, who is fixated on Burnham’s failure to make it into the Vulcan Expeditionary group. Sarek doesn’t welcome Burnham into his mind, so he pushes her out. As Sarek is near death, Burnham pleads with Captain Lorca to arrange a rescue mission. Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwall’s shuttle makes a surprise appearance. Cornwall wants to know if Captain Lorca is mentally fit for his responsibilities as captain of Discovery. She wants to know why he has been ignoring orders, allowing Burnham (a mutineer) to be an important part of Discovery’s mission, and why he has allowed Stamets to undergo eugenic manipulation.
This week, Michael Burnham attends a party where she hopes to create new friendships between herself and the Discovery crew. Meanwhile, Harry Mudd (from “Choose your Pain”) boards the Discovery by hiding inside a Gormagander, an endangered species that Lorca is required to beam aboard. Mudd emerges and somehow takes control of the ship’s computer. Mudd declares to Captain Lorca that he will have his revenge for being left to die inside the Klingon ship. He intends to sell the Discovery to the Klingons, which in turn would stop any chance the Federation has of winning the war, and allow him to get back together with the love of his life, Stella. The only thing stopping him is that he doesn’t know how to operate the ship’s Spore drive. Somehow, Mudd obtained a Time Crystal, which lets him repeat the same thirty minutes over and over until he succeeds.