Just a quick one tonight, ahead of the next episode of ‘Star Trek: What Could Have Been’. I want to cover some of the possible plot threads we face for the show, based on the past six episodes. I’ve done something like this previously, but that was a broader view of the direction the show itself might take. Suffice to say, I did not predict the show becoming the specific problem child it has turned into.
But enough of the past, let’s look to the future.
Ash the Human, Voq the Klingon
So, it’s more-or-less confirmed at this point that Ash Tyler, played by the British actor Clem Fandango, is in fact Voq in disguise. From the fact that Voq’s listed actor literally doesn’t exist, to the fact that Voq’s competent lampshade L’Rell, three weeks after joining Voq in exile, is suddenly now the captain of the battlecruiser on which Ash Tyler is kept. Or the fact that everyone keeps saying that Ash the Human fought like a Klingon. Or the fact that-
Look, whatever, let’s just talk about the trouble the creators went to so they could disguise this TOTALLY UNTELEGRAPHED MASSIVE PLOT TWIST OH WOWIE.
Because as soon as we see L’Rell without Voq, there’s a good chance that means Voq’s up to something, given L’Rell told him literally in the very last episode that her matriarchal House of Spies And Deceivers (Oh? Really? The women get to be in charge of lying and treachery? Nice one, that’s a progressive change of pace) would totally help him out or whatever.
So why bother with the out-of-universe subterfuge for such an obvious revelation? Especially if we’re going to have it teased in the dialogue throughout? If you’re not going to particularly try to hide the twist, what’s the point in even having a twist?
What’s worse is that Voq attempting to integrate into a human ship, disguised as a human, would actually be an amazing long-running character arc. You could ramp up the tension with every scene, you could have awkward little moments, you could do all sorts of things to explore the human condition in an intellectually engaging manner.
And there’s the rub. “Intellectually engaging.” My guess is, the show’s writers decided that having a big, dramatic reveal would be more commercially successful than introducing a complex scenario that would actually tax the brains of the viewers. Because then everyone would run to twitter with the hashtag #didntseethatcoming and #wowwhatagreattwist and #ifklingonsarentrealthenhowarepeoplereal. And y’know what? They’re probably right. A big GOTCHA twist is much more likely to “trend” or “go viral” or whatever than anything remotely interesting.
Of course, I could be wrong, and it could be that once he was captured, it was actually Lorca who was replaced by / brainwashed to be a spy for the Klingons. Maybe it will turn out that all this messing around with Voq is a huge double-bluff, and that actually the REAL SPY WAS TILLY ALL ALONG or something stupid. And this could be okay, but it’s sort-of just the same thing as above – it’s a slightly more complex twist that nevertheless derives its value from being a A TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE AND SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT.
Of course, if Ash Tyler the Human really is Voq the Klingon, then it raises the question of how he managed, in the space of three weeks, to not only alter his voice but also gain enough proficiency with the human language of English to be able to speak it with a North American accent, including idioms, inflections, etc. etc. I mean, I can buy there being some advanced technology to radically alter his physical attributes in a small space of time, maybe even some kind of rapid memory implantation, but an entire new way of speaking? An entire new way of thinking? In three weeks?
And how does L’Rell feel about getting half of her phase disruptored off? Was her merely getting wounded part of the plan? Did they know that Lorca would suffer a sudden accuracy failure after vaporising two other Klingons with no difficulty just moments earlier? I mean, she personally interrupted Ash and Lorca’s escape attempt, which wasn’t even necessary: she could have merely been elsewhere on the ship during the escape. Intervening herself makes it 100% necessary for her to be violently incapacitated (and, as a reminder, SADISTICALLY FUCKING MUTILATED) in order for Voq’s plan to work.
Maybe it’ll be explained with the usual amount of detail and care that the series devotes to all of its other topics, i.e. none at all. We’ll see.
Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Worst Captain Of Them All
(JUST KIDDING, OBVIOUSLY IT IS LORCA)
Lorca’s now pretty much the most evil Starfleet character we’ve ever seen. Even Sloan, of Section 31, could at least argue he was acting to preserve the Federation, regardless of how ruthless and unacceptable his methods were.
Lorca, on the other hand, has now been revealed to be motivated entirely by self-interest, attempting to sexually manipulate the otherwise-fantastic Admiral Cornwell into ignoring his obvious and plentiful personality disorders and later abandoning her to become at best a hostage of the Klingons and at worst, just another torture victim, which, bear in mind, just one week earlier was a fate he himself had endured. So, that’s pretty much unforgivable. Hell, the sex thing was unforgivable in its own right. Hell, everything else Lorca has done has been almost entirely unsympathetic and abominable.
Given all the forced mirror imagery, the presence of Stavros’ mirror ghost (which, by the way, is absolutely not how mirrors work in any capacity), Lorca’s status as the lone survivor of a disaster, his awkwardness with former lover Cornwell, and the fact that at this point, it’s about the only explanation for Lorca’s behaviour that even comes close to being satisfying, it seems almost guaranteed that Lorca is a Mirror Universe version of himself. He even has an Evil Laboratory, full of Evil Weapons and Skulls in Display Cases, which is about as Mirror Universe as you can get.
Which, again, whatever, okay, fine, so he’s from the Mirror Universe. But there’s a problem.
The Mirror Universe makes no sense.
I mean, I know that most of the stuff in Star Trek makes little sense, but the Mirror Universe really makes no sense, even just from an in-Universe perspective.
Now don’t get me wrong, because I love the Mirror Universe episodes. They’re silly fun, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. They’re a brilliant chance for the regular cast to have a lot of fun twisting their usual roles around, and we, the audience, get to have fun with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the isolated MU episodes we get are great little diversions. They’re high-camp and brilliant.
But they still make no sense. As stand-alone episodes (or as their own separate little continuity in ‘Deep Space Nine’) they can present us with a story of their own, and move on before we have to think about any of it too much.
But when they’re folded into a series-long narrative that seems to be one of the main stories / themes of an entire show, Mirror Universe arcs are just too problematic. Here’s why:
The Mirror Universe is established in ‘Enterprise’ to have stemmed from a key change in how Zefram Cochrane handled First Contact with the Vulcans, which makes sense – the radical cultural differences would require a historical change to come about.
But that was multiple generations before most of our characters were even born. So with the “Prime” Starfleet focusing on peaceful exploration, and the other focused on aggressive expansion, for many decades, there’s hardly any chance that the parents of our characters would even meet. And if they did, and if they also eventually hooked up, it’s almost impossible that they would end up matching the same egg with the same sperm to produce the same person that we see in the show.
And even if that happened, with such different cultures, those two babies, genetically identical, would surely not share the same names? With such a drastic cultural difference, wouldn’t names be different too? And hell, wouldn’t the uniforms be different? Like, radically different? Because they’re made for different purposes, right? And the ships, surely they’d differ more than in their paint jobs – I mean, one’s built for long-term exploration, the other for outright war. They’d be completely different.
And even if all of that was the same, as it’s presented in the show, there’s still no way that the same babies would grow up to be the same people holding the same positions on the same ship. How would Mirror Spock happen to be Mirror Kirk’s first officer? How could Mirror Sulu, who’s the head of Mirror Security, still be sat at the mirror helm of the mirror ship?
And all of that is fine for one-off episodes. Like, it doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s just one episode, and it’s all for fun anyway. The main message of the original, ‘Mirror Mirror’, was to show, in Spock’s words, that:
“It was far easier for you, as civilised men, to behave like barbarians, than it was for them, as barbarians, to behave like civilised men.”
– Spock, on being asked how he could spot the Mirror Universe interlopers so quickly.
That’s a nice, simple point to make, and the episode works perfectly to demonstrate it.
But let’s look at that possibility in ‘Discovery’, shall we?
If it’s true that Lorca is indeed from the Mirror Universe, then all of the problems listed above become narrative issues not just for a single episode of silly fun, but for the whole series. It means that Star Trek really does present a universe separate from our own, because it means that things like genetics, cultural development, even language, all of those things fail to function in the same way that they do in reality.
And, again, that’s been the case before. From Next Gen’s ‘Genesis’, to Voyager’s interminable ‘Threshold’, and everything in between, Star Trek’s science has been, at best, ropey. But that was all with stuff that was actually fairly complex and niche and, again, was all contained within individual episodes.
And, to put my storyteller hat on again for a moment, getting Lorca revealed as a Mirror Universe version of himself is all well and good, but again, wouldn’t the more interesting story have been to have that revealed from the beginning? Like with Voq, show his struggles with integrating into this new universe in which he finds himself. That’s exactly what ‘Mirror Mirror’ did, as did DS9’s various MU episodes. It’s the cross between the “fish out of water” story and the “false identity” story, which can provide a load of narrative possibilities.
It would also have been interesting to see Lorca as just the “broken man”, as Cornwell described him, someone psychologically wounded by his ordeals in war, now struggling to cope with the situation in which he finds himself. I mean, it would be problematic, as it would suggest that people with mental health issues should be viewed as villains, but it would at least be a chance to revisit a topic that Trek has already dealt with (rather beautifully) before.
Sadly, though, neither of those offer up a potentially viral SUPER TWIST REVEAL OH MY GOD, and so we find ourselves here.
Will I be right? Will I be wrong? Who knows with this fucking flaming train wreck of a series. I’m sure there’s a good probability that I will end up with egg on my face by tomorrow evening (after the episode airs, and presumably proves me wrong with some amazing in-depth story development; I won’t just be eating egg for no reason, I’m a fucking vegan).