Before Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) donned the Red Angel suit and jumped 930 years into the future in the season 2 finale of Star Trek: Discovery, she was battling evil alternate-universe versions of everyone on the ship, in the finale of the show’s inaugural season.
The Mirror Universe is a concept that got its start on the original Star Trek series before being used in many Trek shows thereafter. It usually features a storyline that sees the “Prime Universe” good guys fighting evil versions of themselves. How do you know they’re evil versions? Because Spock has a beard now:
Before that first season of Discovery even aired, its original showrunner, Bryan Fuller, parted ways with the series because he couldn’t dedicate enough time to it. Fuller recently appeared on the Robservations talk show and revealed his original plans for the show. Apparently, he was going to make even further use of the Mirror Universe.
“The thing that really fascinated me in sitting down and crafting the story for Discovery was the human condition,” Fuller said. “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.”
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.
He’s right that the Mirror Universe characters are pretty black-and-white, usually identified by their gold accents. How else are you supposed to recognize Evil Spock?
/// I just noticed others saying the same, that they are also having troubles posting in DMs. Yes, evil Twitter. ::: makes a mustache gestured upon the face indicating evil Spock goatee ::: pic.twitter.com/obQELvEL6N
— Ana (@Ana_sr74) April 29, 2020
“It makes me think of [Star Trek writer] Joe Menosky’s speech in [the Star Trek: Voyager episode ‘Latent Image’] where The Doctor has a Sophie’s choice, he can only save one life,” Fuller continued. “And he chose Ensign Harry Kim versus this other ensign and it is a split-decision and it causes his entire program to unravel because he can’t handle how his choice was always going to cost a life. It was his Kobayashi Maru.”
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. 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?” 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 fuck, 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.”
Star Trek: Discovery does make use of alternate realities, particularly with the characters of Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), but it sounds like Fuller had ideas that went beyond that.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is “coming soon.” We don’t actually know how soon, but I’m sure we’ll learn more in the weeks ahead.