Discovery is not where she’s supposed to be. Having perfected the Klingon cloak-breaking algorithm, the crew initiate a spore-jump to Starbase 46. The information they possess could help win the war. But something goes wrong and they find themselves in empty space. Surrounded by wreckage.
A recovered data core reveals the truth: they are stranded in what we as viewers know as the Mirror Universe. And Discovery isn’t the first ship from their universe to end up here: the data tells us that some time in the near future, the USS Defiant will somehow end up in the past of this universe. As a Constitution-class vessel, Defiant doesn’t have a spore drive, which means there must be another way home.
Burnham and Lorca must pose as their mirror universe counterparts to infiltrate the ISS Shenzhou, and retrieve the classified Defiant files.
Meanwhile, Tyler visits L’Rell in the brig, determined to learn what she did to him during his captivity. She recites a Klingon prayer, and Star Trek’s worst-kept secret is revealed: Tyler is a Klingon. A sleeper agent. Something has been awoken in him, but not fully.
While preparing to join Burnham and Lorca on their mission, as Burnham’s bodyguard, he seeks Dr. Culber’s help in sickbay. Something is wrong with Tyler, but he doesn’t know what. He needs answers. He has to ensure he isn’t a danger to the mission.
Culber discovers the horrific truth. Tyler’s body has undergone bone-crushing modifications, and a new personality has been installed over the top of his original.
In one of the most shocking moments of the season, Tyler snaps Culber’s neck; killing him instantly.
The team arrive on the Shenzhou. Lorca, as Burnham’s prisoner, is placed in an agoniser booth. Burnham’s life is immediately threatened by the ship’s current captain, and Tyler promises to stand by her, and protect her, no matter what this universe forces her to become.
The story continues…
This episode is a favourite amongst fans of Star Trek: Discovery. It gives us a dark new perspective on the mirror universe, and launches us into a new plot arc that will consume almost all of the second half of the season.
The production and costume design is fantastic, giving us a Pre-TOS era look for the mirror universe. The inclusion of the USS Defiant was a nice little tie in to both The Original Series and Enterprise.
Tilly’s clumsy attempts to portray her evil mirror counterpart provided some genuine character-based humour, in an otherwise weighty and dark episode.
It was nice to see the beginnings of the revelation of Tyler’s true identity, even if we had already guessed it. But it was the shock death of Dr. Culber that really hit me. That moment elicited an audible exclamation from me, and much open-mouthed staring.
It felt as though Star Trek: Discovery hit its stride with this episode. There had been some great moments before this, but previously, Discovery had still been trying to find itself. Did it want to be serialised or stand-alone? Did it want to be light or dark? And how exactly was it going to handle the question of canon?
It’s hard to assess a serialised show like Discovery on the basis of an individual episode, but “Despite Yourself” remains one of my favourites.
Ash Tyler has two people inside him: the human, Tyler, and the Klingon (un-named here because it is a spoiler for the next episode, “The Wolf Inside”). These two personas are at war inside him.
We all have a Klingon inside us. A dark mirror-universe evil twin – complete with goatee. The Bible calls it the sinful nature. The band Skillet refer to it as a monster.
Before he went undercover, the Klingon side of Tyler had free reign, but when he infiltrated the crew of Discovery, that Klingon persona was put down into submission.
Our sinful nature has also been forced into submission.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…
And yet, like Tyler, we find that the sinful nature still tries to assert itself. Even dead and defeated, it’s still inside us. Paul opened up and shared candidly about this struggle.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
This passage both disturbs and comforts me. It disturbs me because even Paul himself, hero of the Christian faith, still waged an often losing battle against his inner Klingon. A sinful nature that had already been crucified with Christ. If even Paul still struggled, then what hope do I have?
But the passage encourages me for the exact same reason. If even Paul faced this daily struggle, then I feel I am in good company. Tell me I’m not the only one who identifies with Paul’s words here.
It was this struggle that inspired authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, when he wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and James L. Rubart, who wrote The Man He Never Was.
So we’re faced with something of a contradiction. If the old is gone, and the new has come, why do we still struggle so much with that sinful nature? And how do we defeat it?
For a start, we must remember that it is already defeated. It is not by our own strength that we resist, it is by God’s strength. But there is a practical part for us to play in this.
I once heard these two natures within us described as two fighting dogs. Which of these dogs within us will win the fight? Whichever we feed. If we indulge the sinful nature, then the Klingon gets stronger. It will be more likely to show itself. If, however, we feed our spirit, through prayer, Bible reading, and living out a daily relationship with God, then it becomes stronger, and will be more likely to be the dominant part of us.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
This is a much bigger subject than I can hope to address in a little Star Trek-themed devotion. Paul continues exploring it in Romans 8. But for me, this episode, and the reflection that has followed it, is a good reminder to me to live by the spirit.
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Trektember is an annual series about Star Trek; this year, we’re examining the first seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. For more information on this series, click here; or, to read every article from the beginning, click here!