I just saw the latest ST Discovery episode “The Wolf Inside” and the good news is that its got all ten fingers and all ten toes (except for Saru, of course…). But some of the ‘surprises’ of the hour were a bit belabored in anticipation; so much so that they lost some of their shock value by the time the characters finally caught up with them.
That issue aside, I found “The Wolf Inside” to be pretty darn entertaining. And staying (for now) in this hostile dimension keeps our characters nervously swimming with the sharks every week. I’m not sure I’d want a ST series to be permanently based in the mirror universe, but for the remainder of this season? I’m okay with it.
******SPOILER TORPEDOES WILL NOW BOMBARD THIS BLOG!!******
The opening sees the Discovery (still disguised as the ISS Discovery in this universe) getting electrical repairs (fluctuating between lightness and darkness; an apt metaphor for where they are) as Paul Stamets, still semi-lucid and catatonic in sickbay, gently cradles his dead lover Dr. Culber in his arms, and goes on about a dark forest.
We then see Burnham aboard her mirror “ISS Shenzhou” quarters, contemplating how to survive in this hostile universe, and how to hide her basic Federation decency in a place where weakness of any sort could get one killed.
After Burnham attends a death-by-transporter execution of several disloyal crewmen, she’s back in her quarters getting a bit of much-needed affection from her increasingly shaky lover, Lt. Ash Tyler (the murderer of Dr. Culber). Burnham also finds that her ‘hand-servant’ in this universe is mirror-Saru, who is just a nameless alien here (“Slaves have no names,” he explains). She ‘assigns’ him the name Saru, in honor of ‘a friend.’ Burnham then discreetly accepts a couple of carefully coded holographic ‘hang in there, kid’ calls from both Tilly and prime-Saru, who both decide to keep the news about Dr. Culber’s murder from her for now (given that she has enough to worry about, right?). Saru also reiterates to Burnham the importance of acquiring data regarding the lost Federation starship Defiant’s entry into this universe. It’s hoped that data might help them get back to their own universe.
Back on the Discovery, prime-Saru and Tilly incorrectly assume that Culber’s murder was the work of his post-spore jump lover, Lt. Stamets, who’s still semi-catatonic, with milky-white eyes. For his own sake, Stamets is bound to his sickbay bed while Tilly formulates a plan to treat Stamets’ catatonia with his own ship-grown spores. Her hope is that the spores will reconnect the parts of Stamets’ brain that are still out of reach.
Back aboard the ISS Shenzhou, Burnham receives new Imperial orders to proceed to the planet Harlack, and eradicate a rebel base led by a rogue Klingon. Despite orders to destroy the planet, Burnham decides to beam down with Tyler and ‘get intel’ which could ‘help’ the Terran Empire eradicate ALL of the rebels everywhere.
Burnham confers with a post-tortured Captain Lorca (still in the agony chamber) about what to do; he tells her to follow orders and wipe them out. Lorca (who is obviously native to this universe) doesn’t seem terribly conflicted about destroying the rebels in favor of their mission. But Burnham argues that the rebels consist of various races (Andorians, Tellarites and even Klingons) working together in the closest thing to a Federation she knows of in the mirror universe, and she will not destroy them outright.
She and Tyler beam down to Harlack to negotiate with the rebels, who (of course) attack and capture her, according to her plan. She tells Tyler to throw down their weapons and surrender to the rebel Klingon leader “Firewolf.” Her plan is to convince them to evacuate and destroy the planet (per Imperial orders) ONLY when the rebels are safely evacuated.
The rebels assemble to ascertain the truth about Tyler and Burnham. It turns out that the Klingon rebel leader “Firewolf” is the mirror universe’s Voq (the albino Klingon who was surgically altered to become Ash Tyler in the prime universe). Ash is literally facing his old self.
Voq asks the Vulcan rebel “prophet”, mirror-Sarek (Burnham’s adoptive father in the prime universe) to uncover the truth about Burnham’s intentions. After melding, Sarek is confused with Burnham’s true Federation identity, but he reveals to Voq that she can be trusted.
Voq agrees… and Tyler, of course, feeling his old Klingon impulses attacks Voq (while speaking Klingon no less…). Tyler is attacking his former self. Voq and the rebels manage to restrain him, and Sarek still maintains that despite her guard’s attack, Burnham is trustworthy. The rebels agree to evacuate. Burnham gets her rebel intel data, which will be inactionable by the time the Terrans can use it, and returns to the ship.
Back aboard mirror-Shenzou in Burnham’s quarters, Ash finally comes clean to her, and the s#!t truly hits the fan. His Klingon-self fully comes out, revelations fly.
He then attacks Burnham and grabs her weapon. Tyler knows details about Burnham’s combat with Voq (in “Battle of the Binary Stars”) that only Voq could know. As Tyler/Voq advances his attack, mirror slave-Saru stops the attack and Tyler is whisked away for immediate punishment. He is sentenced to die by transporter for betrayal of his ‘captain.’ Burnham, still pretending to be her more hardened mirror-self, beams Tyler/Voq off of the ship and into space herself….
….but Tyler/Voq is snatched from death by vacuum via Discovery’s transporter. Saru tells Tyler-Voq that despite his own wish to die, Discovery is still a Federation starship, and that he will remain alive, (per Starfleet protocols) as a prisoner.
Despite her best efforts to bring him out of his catatonia with his own spores, Tilly observes helplessly as Stamets’ condition worsens. Within his own catatonic state, Stamets’ minds briefly ‘meets’ his mirror-self. Stamets’ body then flatlines, and Saru allows a medical team within the spore chamber in an effort to revive and stabilize him. Tilly is devastated that her idea to treat him has not only failed, but may have worsened his deteriorating condition (or even killed him?).
Aboard mirror-Shenzhou, Burnham is notified that another Imperial ship is in orbit and has began an orbital bombardment of Harlack. Burnham is mortified as she knows that the rebel base hasn’t been fully evacuated; even though she is not at fault, it appears to the rebels that she’s broken her word.
An even bigger surprise awaits as Burnham learns that the bombardment of Harlack was the work of the Terran Emperor herself; mirror-Philippa Georgieou… the mirror counterpart to Burnham’s beloved dead captain. The Emperor’s hologram appears on mirror-Shenzhou’s bridge and demands that Burnham return her salute.
So much to discuss.
This was an episode that was satisfying overall, but there were also a few nagging issues that were not easy to ignore. First the positive…
What I really liked about “The Wolf Inside”:
* Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) has finally came clean.
Something that was speculated about since Tyler’s initial appearance in “Choose Your Pain” is now out in the open. No more ambiguity. No more lies. Ash Tyler is Voq. And while this outing wasn’t exactly a big reveal to the audience, the emotions it triggered within Michael Burnham gave Sonequa Martin-Green some terrific moments, all played to perfection. For that alone it was worth it. His death sentence by transporter (while somewhat mitigated by Discovery) felt justified, and at least Burnham got to give him a nice punch in the gut to go with the harshness of vacuum. I’m very much anti-death penalty, but after the brutal murder of the kind, affable Dr. Hugh Culber? I was ready to deep-fry this f–ker.
* Emperor Philippa Georgiou (and the return of Michelle Yeoh)
I’ve missed Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou since her way-too-early exit in the 2nd episode “Battle at the Binary Stars,” and while I realize that this emperor incarnation of the character is not the same woman (obviously), it’s just so great to have Yeoh back that I don’t even mind that she’s playing a complete monster. Hell, if anything, maybe she’ll get a chance to show off some of her formidable martial arts skills in the mirror universe (?). At any rate, it’s great to have the actress back in any form. And seeing her hologram, in royal gold robes no less, standing in front of a destroyed planet… man, that was one HELL of an re-entrance.
* Mirror-Sarek, ‘the prophet’ (James Frain)
Vulcans are pure awesome sauce (or plomeek soup). And actor James Frain’s interpretation of Sarek is slowly growing on me, despite my worship of the late Mark Lenard’s original (and an appreciation of Ben Cross’ version in the 2009’s Star Trek). Sarek’s presence as a rebel leader shows that a schism between Sarek and his son Spock still exists in the mirror-universe as well, since we see mirror-Spock serving serving as First Officer aboard the Terran Empire flagship ISS Enterprise in 1967’s “Mirror, Mirror.” One wonders if mirror-Sarek survived the orbital bombardment or was he one of the rebels that escaped in time? Here’s hoping the latter…
* Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman)
Still one of my favorite characters because she is the most human and relatable. She’s still rocking her “Captain Killy” mirror-hairdo (very flattering, by the way…) as she places her ‘hang in there’ call to Burnham, and as she tries to find a way to bring back Stamets’ conscious mind using the spores. I got a chuckle out of her concern with the upward trajectory of her career as she gently asks Saru if he will consider granting her acceptance into the command program. Spoken like the future captain we know she will be someday.
And Tilly’s seeming failure to affect any positive change in Stamets’ condition near the end is quite heartbreaking. Her tears feel both earned and authentic (once again, a credit to the talented Wiseman). A part of me wishes that the show were told from her perspective, as she’s a far more human and relatable audience avatar than the occasionally aloof and inscrutable Michael Burnham.
And here’s what I wasn’t so crazy about…
* The big reveals weren’t so surprising
As stated earlier. From Tyler/Voq’s (Tyvoq?) finally coming clean about his Klingon self, to the speculation over who the emperor would be (one guess; Georgiou) the biggest fireworks of the hour were both predicated on ‘surprises’ that we, the audience, kinda figured out a while ago. It’s always more fun when the characters and audience share a mutual surprise. Granted, these ‘revelations’ were coming sooner or later, but here’s hoping the next surprises of the show aren’t so telegraphed in advance. Speaking of which, can they just go ahead and reveal that Lorca is from the mirror-universe already?
* The fight between Burnham and Tyler/Voq in her quarters
This was a BIG nit for me.
Michael had a phaser trained on Tyler/Voq for much of the time, and he was unarmed. Did she really have to go through that tired cliche of walking backward with a weapon trained on him while he kept advancing long enough to knock it out of her hands? This is the same Michael Burnham who showed no such hesitation giving her beloved captain of seven years a Vulcan neck pinch and rendering her unconscious in “The Vulcan Hello.” But, for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to just stun Tyler/Voq? Sorry, but I cry ‘bulls#!t’ on that one. It was far less dramatic having slave-Saru rescue her than it would’ve been for her to have to stun her lover herself. That cliche set Burnham back a bit, in my opinion…
* Did Tyler/Voq really need to survive this episode?
Like I’ve said, I’m not comfortable with the death penalty in principle, but these characters are stuck in this hostile mirror-universe for the foreseeable future, and Tyler/Voq is a traitor to both the mirror-universe (for betraying his ‘captain’) and to the prime universe (for being an awakened Klingon sleeper agent). Oh, not to mention the fact that he murdered Dr. Culber in cold blood. That action has generated a lot of internet anger, especially to some LGBTQ fans who perceived Culber’s death as the old cliche of ‘killing off the gay character.’ Even if Culber is resurrected somehow, it won’t redeem Tyler/Voq for me. No offense to Shazad Latif, who is a terrific actor (and I love it when he speaks Klingon in his human guise; it’s chilling), but I see no path to redemption for this character nor am I in a particular hurry for him to find one.
* If the flatlining Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) dies, there’ll be serious fan rage…
And it’ll only cement the fan theory/belief that all characters of diversity on the show are slowly-but-surely being killed off. First, we lost Asian captain Philippa Georgiou in the 2nd episode, then we lost one half of the first openly gay couple in Star Trek’s history (!), and now an actor (Shazad Latif) of Pakistani descent is being revealed as a traitor and a Klingon sleeper agent (though I won’t shed too many tears if Tyler/Voq dies, to be honest, and not for any personal prejudices). The only characters of any diversity left on the show are the openly gay Lt. Stamets and a black woman, Michael Burnham. If Stamets dies, the show will be raining some serious holy hell upon itself, and for good reason.
This is Star Trek, not The Walking f–king Dead. You didn’t see the classic series knocking off Sulu, Uhura and Chekov…
So while “The Wolf Inside” was an entertaining episode, it does have more than its fair share of issues. Nice mirror-character reveals and moments of adventure are offset by a few unfortunate choices. But once again, my inner-optimist reminds me that most Star Trek series are often a bit rough in their early years, and DSC isn’t entirely immune to that affliction it would seem. At any rate, “The Wolf Inside” is still very enjoyable, despite its flaws.
There is still more than enough positive going on with this show overall for me to maintain my present course…