Star Trek #1463: The Wolf Inside

FORMULA: Mirror, Mirror + By Inferno's Light + In the Pale Moonlight

WHY WE LIKE IT: Strong thematic underpinnings.

WHY WE DON'T: Mycelial technobabble (but not much of it this time, I don't even feel the need to talk about the B-plot).

REVIEW: Well, this is a quite a bit more intense than past Mirror Universe stories have been. In the past, MU episodes have mostly played it for laughs (the DS9 ones especially) or for simple cool factor. In The Wolf Inside, it's actively used as metaphor. The premise behind this parallel reality is that given a harsher world, the people we know would become harsher themselves. It's a definite win for nurture over nature. The Prime characters, Burnham and Tyler, were more positively "nurtured", but in this environment, playing these roles, they are constantly afraid of losing themselves, of the darkness claiming them. They see one another as a tether to their true/best selves, which of course is replete with irony given that Tyler is a sleeper agent and not at all his true self.

Things really come to a head when Tyler MEETS himself in the form of Mirror Voq, and seeing as this Voq has been forced to work with non-Klingons (how his ethical justifications could be used by Burnham later remains to be understood), it triggers a resurgence of the Voq personality. Mirror Voq is, to his eyes, a traitor to every ideal he's ever believed in, and suddenly he's quite literally fighting himself. The man we knew a Tyler goes AWOL, he's finally lost the fight, which happens just as we meet a more reasonable Voq. You would have thought they'd keep his rebirth in reserve for when he could actually betray Discovery, but this is more of a surprise, and more psychologically sound. The shocks keep coming too. Tyler/Voq doesn't keep up pretenses and horrifies Burnham. We don't trust her to actually execute him, but he does materialize in space, but then he's saved, by Discovery not some Mirror ship, so then you expect them to not know he's a traitor, but they've been told... If Discovery is good at anything, it's playing with expectations. Of course, it seems a mistake to throw him in the brig where they also have L'Rell...

And while this fight for a man's soul is central to the episode, it doesn't mean we don't get the MU's "cool factor". The rebel alliance has tusky Tellarites, Enterprise-quality Andorians, and a bearded Sarek (seeing as Spock is NOT a rebel, that must be their bone of contention in this universe). Saru is a broken nameless slave, but the only person Burnham can trust not to backstab her. Everything we know about the MU would have you believe Burnham is captain because she killed Georgiou at some point, so I totally didn't expect her to be the Emperor, a call-back to Mirror Hoshi making herself Empress in In a Mirror, Darkly (is it an Asia-based matriarchy?). Very cool cliffhanger.

To thine own self, yadda yadda.

REWATCHABILITY - High: You'd think there's enough of a Mirror Universe canon for this theme to have been explored already. Better late than never.


Tony Laplume said...

Agreed. Even with all the fascinating Mirror Universe things Deep Space Nine did, and there's actually a debt to that material, these episodes are proving just how much more there is to work with.


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