Well. Holy crap. That was one intense episode.
It should be obvious by now that these recaps are full of spoilers, but just to be on the safe side… be warned, there are some major spoilers ahead!
If you haven’t seen Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10 “Despite Yourself” and want to remain unspoiled, do not read on. You’ll regret it. Really big stuff happens in this episode.
First things first:
Episode Number: 110
Episode Title: “Despite Yourself”
Written By: Sean Cochran
Directed By: Jonathan Frakes
Michael to Tilly, Lorca, Saru and Ash: “The Terrans appear to be the antithesis of us in every way. They’re an oppressive, racist, xenophobic culture that dominates all known space. And they’re ruled by a faceless Emperor.”
Lorca to Michael, Tilly, Saru and Ash: “No way we’re asking these neighbours for a cup of sugar.”
Tilly to everyone, at one major reveal in the episode: “Tha… ah… that’s me. That’s me!”
Lorca in response: “That’s absurd.”
Lorca to Tilly: “You just get rid of them as fast as possible, and you talk as little as possible.”
Tilly to Lorca: “That’s ah… that might be a little hard. Have you noticed that I talk a lot?”
Lorca in response: “Defy your every instinct.”
Tilly to the USS Cooper: “Hello, this is Captain Tilly. What the heck? Heck? Hell… what the Hell? Hold your horses!”
Michael to Tilly and Saru as she reads off Captain Tilly’s nicknames: “And finally…”
Saru, reading over Michael’s shoulder: “Captain ‘Killy’? Well that’s not very clever.”
Burnham to Lorca: “Destiny didn’t get me out of prison, captain. You did that.”
Burnham to Tilly: “…You have the strength of an entire crew that believes in you. Fortify yourself with our faith in you. That’s what a real captain does.”
Tilly as Captain Tilly, to Captain Danby Connor: “The only pleasure I take is from the blood of my enemies staining my uniform.”
Tilly as Captain Tilly, to Captain Danby Connor: “If you greeted me that way, Connor, I’d cut your out tongue and use it to lick my boots!”
If you hadn’t noticed, Tilly gets all of the best lines this episode.
And now… RED ALERT!
Interesting Bits and Pieces
– For the first time, Saru’s threat ganglia respond to Ash Tyler.
– The Agony Booths we see on the Shenzhou look like a natural evolution of the ones we saw on Star Trek: Enterprise.
– It looks like the starbase they were meant to be jumping to is in orbit of a famous Star Trek planet, Organia!
The Recap and Review
After a quick look back at the season so far, we pick up right where Episode 9 concluded with an intense, emotional, sometimes funny and at times tongue-in-cheek episode.
In case the events of last episode are a little fuzzy in your head after the two-month hiatus, at the end of Episode 9 Lorca meddled with the spore jump coordinates, things went bad for Paul in the reaction chamber, and the USS Discovery found itself lost after an “incomplete” jump.
As the crew try to figure out why they’re where they wanted to be after the jump from Pahvo, but nothing else is, Vulcan rebels appear and attack the ship! Taken by surprise, they’re rescued by the starship Cooper. We quickly learn something is up thanks to a testosterone laden message from the captain of that vessel. We also learn that Stamets is stable but unresponsive and the spore-drive is down, stranding the Discovery.
It’s then that Saru discovers that the quantum signatures of that ship and the Vulcan vessel are off.
“That’s not possible,” Burnham says. “All matter native to our universe resonates with the same quantum signature. Nothing can change it.”
Saru agrees with her as Lorca quickly states the (to us) obvious: “Unless… this is not our universe.” And we jump to the opening credits.
We rejoin Lorca, Burnham and Saru in Lorca’s Ready Room where Lorca shows them the same map he revealed to Stamets last episode to convince him to make the 133 jumps.
Meanwhile, in Sickbay, Paul has regained consciousness. He still has his Gary Mitchellesque eyes, and is talking to himself about a ‘palace’ as Tilly tries to “annoy” him into being a little more coherent.
Culber gently tells her that Paul is in a state of neurological-dysregulation, the like of which he’s never seen.
Paul gets up and as Hugh tries to get him back into bed, he mumbles about the palace again and throws Doctor Culber across the room.
Lorca comes in soon after and Tilly takes that as her cue to leave, and Hugh very calmly and very directly tells Lorca off, asking him if he’d planned all of this?
Is Hugh the smartest and most perceptive person on the ship?
Lorca takes Hugh off Paul’s case, much to Hugh’s annoyance, and leaves.
We cut to Ash in a cool little pod thing with arms and he’s trying to extract a data core from one of the wrecked ships.
Now is probably a good time for a little diversion.
Some die-hard Star Trek fans have taken exception to the modernising of vessels and equipment in Star Trek: Discovery. Some of it I agree with, like the rampant use of holograms and, though I love the new uniforms, I am still a little bewildered by just how different they are. But, some I don’t agree with.
The creatives behind this series had to update everything otherwise Star Trek would lose all relevance and be nothing more than a homage to a very old television show that was great for its time, but not so much so now. In 1966 Star Trek was cutting edge. In 2017/2018 it isn’t. That doesn’t mean we dismiss it, but as reasonable human beings it does mean we make some understandable allowances.
To make Star Trek: Discovery more than just a quaint homage, the team had to push everything up a notch. On The Expanse we have people using their mobile/cell like communications devices for everything – they’re projecting 3-D images from the devices that they can manipulate with their fingers, and they have worker pods that are a step or two up from what we see in the first few Star Trek movies. We have similar technological advances in Killjoys, Supergirl, the sadly now cancelled Dark Matter and more.
Star Trek: Discovery had to push further, because as much as Star Trek is known for it’s philosophy, excellent characters, ethical approach to everything, inclusion, positive future, and challenging story lines, it’s also known for its future-forward technology. It set the bar and inspired generations.
This pod that Tyler is flying, is, like many other ‘leaps’ on Star Trek: Discovery, a necessity, and is in keeping with the original series’ ability to imagine the future by extrapolating on the present. We’re so far beyond what Gene Roddenberry and most everyone else involved with that first Star Trek could have dreamed of in their present, that it is so very right the new people shepherding this series forward, be equally as future focused.
We’ll always have the original series, and many of us will continue to love it, but Star Trek won’t exist for our children and their children, if we don’t adapt it for today. I, personally, would not want to take that away from future generations. Star Trek is more important than that. Very few, if any, millennials, are going to be interested in checking out the original series. That’s sad, but most likely true. For a generation or two more, the first few films might still hold their attention, but that too will eventually fade because we’re living in the future now and we’re already using devices that appear far more powerful than the communicators and PADDs of Trek’s yesterday.
Enough of my sermon. I feel passionate about this, because Star Trek has shaped my life. I want it to help shape the lives of the children of today and tomorrow, because it’s one of the few things we have left that teaches compassion, inclusion and hope. We need Star Trek more than we ever have.
Back to Tyler and his cool little worker pod.
As he glides between the debris toward his destination he starts to hallucinate, and we see a little more of his torture (?) at the hands of L’Rell.
As the bridge crew watch his pod wobble around, confused by his sudden inability to fly stuff, he snaps out of it and successfully retrieves the data core.
As with everything Star Trek: Discovery does, the entire sequence is slick and looks beautiful. It’s also carefully and thoughtfully directed by Jonathan Frakes, who uses a series of angles and cuts to show us the intensity of Ash’s experience.
Back on Discovery, Ash confronts L’Rell and this is where things get very interesting.
As Ash asks L’Rell to tell him what she did to him, she suggests he opens the cell… and he does! WTF Chief Security Officer?!
Mary Chieffo, throughout her time on the show, has shown she is an incredible actor, but in this simple scene she blows all of her other performances out of the water. It’s subtle and pitch perfect.
How any actor, under that much makeup and that many prosthetics, can convey the seductiveness and complicated emotions of the character in that moment is beyond me. Why haven’t we heard of this incredible young woman before now? She may be one of the most under rated actors around.
As she seduces Tyler, he grabs her by the throat. Her response? She utters the first few words of T’Kuvma’s prayer: “Who do we seek?”
Suddenly Ash is not Ash anymore. In a perfect copy of Voq’s voice, Ash recites the prayer with her.
Then he snaps out of it. Much to L’Rell’s shock. It’s clear she didn’t expect that.
“You have another name. Say it.” She encourages him.
“I know what my name is!” he screams back as he brings his phaser to bear on her. Looking a little unhinged, he continues with: “If you don’t tell me what you did to my mind, to my soul, I’m going to make you scream it as you die.”
“The prayer should make you remember, something is wrong!” L’Rell says, sounding surprised, confused and perhaps even a little frightened.
“You’re damn right something’s wrong,” he yells. “Now tell me!”
He shakes himself out of it and runs from the Brig as L’Rell affirms to herself that he will return to her.
So, Tyler is Voq. Now we just need to know one of two things: has he been surgically altered with Ash’s memory engrams layered over the top of his original personality? Or, has Ash had Voq’s memory engrams layered over his personality and all the torture flashbacks are just that. Flashbacks?
We visit with Ash and Michael for a brief, intimate moment, as Ash tells her that his flashbacks are worse and asks for her help to get through it all.
She suggests he come clean about his PTSD but he begs her to let him handle things his own way. For now.
She tells him she’ll trust him, and is called away to engineering. We linger on Ash for a few seconds as he shatters a glass in his hand. That boy ain’t controlling shit!
In engineering, Tilly shows Michael the now open data core. They work out they can read it and Michael gets to work.
Next scene, Michael informs Saru, Tilly, Ash and Lorca that they are indeed in a new universe, one where a Terran Empire, not a United Federation, is the greatest power and one where a bunch of non-human species have entered into a rebellion against the Terrans.
They’re all called to the bridge because the Cooper has come back.
As they prepare to respond to the Cooper (because if they don’t, it’s threatening to blow the crap out of them), they learn that the Terran Universe Discovery is most likely now in their universe.
And here, we finally have a Star Trek character refer to the Mirror Universe as the Mirror Universe, as Burnham tells Lorca he can’t respond to the Cooper because he’s not the captain of the “Mirror Discovery.”
This is where the fun begins!
Up to this point the episode has been deadly serious. It maintains its air of intrigue and tension, but from here on in merges it with a taste of the camp and wild abandon we’re all familiar with from the Mirror Universe.
Lorca guides Tilly into the Captains chair and gives her a few handy tips. She is obviously terrified.
Then, in a scene that shows the brilliant comedy timing of both Mary Wiseman and Jason Isaacs, we’re treated to one of the most unique greetings between starships ever, and what may have been an homage to James Doohan and Scotty with Lorca assuming a Scottish bur.
I laughed out loud at Tilly’s greeting, and I admit my hands went to my face in both shock and amusement because I both felt terrible for her and was just plain delighted by every word she said and every facial expression she conveyed.
Kudos to the casting directors of Star Trek: Discovery. Did they know how amazing these guys would be in EVERY single episode? I swear this is the best ensemble cast on television anywhere – and I just came off holidays where I binge watched more television series than is probably healthy.
After they deal with the Cooper, Lorca instructs Saru to get everyone ready – especially Tilly.
We’re treated to a fun montage as they prep Tilly and the Discovery and her crew to pass unnoticed in this strange universe.
Star Trek: Discovery looks cinematic every episode. It’s production values are outstanding, and everything about the show is beautiful. This episode it took another step up because it was being directed by someone very familiar with directing major motion pictures. If “Despite Yourself” has a fault, it’s that too much was packed into its run time, but despite that, Jonathan makes it flow and everything he does is just right. His direction is dramatic when it needs to be, increasing tension and making the stakes feel high, and he flawlessly meshes in the camp and corn when needed using wonderful devices to transition certain scenes.
So how does this version of the Mirror Universe hold up to those seen on Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Original Series?
Really, really well.
In fact, it looks how it should. Rather than just a belt and a cut off uniform to show more mid-rift, they give the uniforms a wonderful makeover with leather and gold plating, and update the Terran Empire logo just enough to make it look gaudily magnificent but still like the symbol we’re used to.
There’s a whole slew of badges and medals and the agony booths look perfect and, I was pleasantly surprised to see, very much like the prototype we saw in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly.”
Back in Lorca’s Ready Room, we learn that Michael was the Captain of the Shenzhou and is presumed dead, and that Lorca is a fugitive wanted for her murder. Lorca was the Captain of the Buran in this reality also, but lost his crew in an attempted coup against the Emperor.
Lorca asks about the Emperor, but Michael tells him the Emperor is shadowed in mystery.
For those of you who have seen Star Trek: Enterprise, you may remember that Hoshi Sato took over the USS Defiant at the end of “In a Mirror, Darkly,” and laid waste to her enemies using it’s advanced technology and became Empress. Interestingly, in one of the teaser images from episode 11, it looks like the ‘Emperor’ arrives, and is most definitely an Empress – though we don’t see her face.
You have no idea how happy I will be if it was Hoshi! She’d be pretty old, close to 130, but humans in Star Trek are long lived. I’d love to see Linda Park back on Trek, but I admit it is unlikely. I would, however, settle for Hoshi being mentioned.
We cut to a scene where Lorca talks about the USS Destiny. Data from the rebels lets the Discovery team know that the Destiny arrived in the Mirror Universe sans spore-drive, but it doesn’t give any specifics. That data is only available to command level officers. Lorca and Burnham have hatched a plan, however. They will lure the Shenzhou to their location, and Lorca, Burnham and Ash will beam over with Ash serving as Michael’s personal guard. Lorca will be her prisoner. Michael will try and obtain the information they’re after because that will be their ticket to getting home.
Saru is not happy, but Lorca is insistent.
During this scene we get a look at a wireframe graphic of the USS Defiant. In shape, she is very similar to the Constitution Class vessels we’ve come to know and love over the years.
There have been changes – the saucer has some alterations to it and the warp nacelles have been “enhanced.” It’s hard to tell if the unusual blocky bulge on the main drive is an addition, or part of the other nacelle. It will be interesting to see if we actually get to experience the ship on screen as something other than a graphic.
Next we visit with Culber and Ash in Sickbay. Ash is concerned. His flashbacks are getting worse and he’s worried. He wants Culber to do a more detailed examination of him.
Ash is a little volatile but seemingly rational. Culber starts the deeper scans as Paul shouts out from a nearby bed “Stay out of the palace!”
As Culber goes over to soothe his beloved, Paul’s eyes revert to normal and he seems coherant for a moment. He looks at Hugh and says: “Be careful. The enemy is here.”
This spooks the good doctor.
We jump to Tilly and Michael getting ready for their new roles as Mirror versions of themselves.
Tilly, as per usual, is adorable.
Lorca walks in on both women and seems strangely comfortable and even slightly too knowledgeable about how people act in the Mirror Universe.
I’m still a little on the side of “this is Mirror Universe Lorca,” but admit to not being entirely convinced. It feels like the Mirror Universe is a huge part of this new Star Trek, but I know we’ll have to wait and see.
Lorca, Tilly and Michael go the bridge where Tilly starts snapping out orders, getting herself into character so she can successfully play this harsher, crueller version of herself. She orders her crew to hail the ISS Shenzhou and we get to see Ensign Danby Connor again – only he’s not an Ensign anymore. He’s now Captain of the Shenzhou.
Secluded in Lorca’s Ready Room, Burnham is shocked to see Connor.
As Tilly sets up Burnham’s return, Lorca smashes his face into the door to bloody himself up and they enter the bridge.
Connor doesn’t seem too happy to see ‘Captain’ Burnham back.
She pushes Lorca ahead of her and makes him kneel as they further elaborate on their story, telling Connor she faked her death so she could hunt Lorca down.
After some snappy reparte between Captain “Killy,” Connor and Burnham, the Shenzhou heads their way.
After the above unfolds, Ash returns to Sickbay for an update from Doctor Culber. As some of you may remember, I mentioned how he was becoming a favourite character of mine a few reviews ago. In this episode, he gets a lot of screen time. Which was wonderful, until this now infamous scene.
Hugh questions Ash about some skeletal and neurological issues he’s found, and Ash can’t recollect anything along those lines having happened to him in the past. Hugh pushes a little more, talking about the massive scarring to his organs and suggesting there has been a personality “overlay”, and before we know it our beloved Doctor is dead.
With L’Rell’s voice echoing in his head, Ash has snapped Doctor Culber’s neck.
It’s one of the more shocking scenes to ever appear in a Star Trek episode, because it’s entirely unexpected. You start to sense that Hugh is in danger, but your head doesn’t go straight to the “he’d dead, Jim” thought. Then… he’s dead, Jim, and you’re left stunned.
Culber’s death created something of a furour. One of the first openly gay characters in Star Trek, in a meaningful relationship with another crew member, and a gay man of colour as well… lots of accidentally wrong messages being sent there.
It became such a thing – and the writers knew it would be a ‘thing’, so much so they talked to GLAAD about it – then on After Trek they pretty much told us that Culber wasn’t quite dead. We were told to look into the real Paul Stamets’ work on the mycelial network for some clues about what is to come.
From this shocking moment, we start the wrap up of the episode – and it happens fast.
Michael, Lorca and Ash beam to the Shenzhou.
It doesn’t go according to plan. Lorca gets thrown into an Agony Booth, Connor shows Michael how unhappy he is about her being alive and tries to rectify that by attacking her in the turbo life.
In one of the best staged Star Trek fights ever, Michael is forced to kill Connor, and we’re left wondering if any Danby Connor in any universe anywhere is allowed to live past his early to mid-twenties?
It was great to see Sam Vartholomeos again, and just as sad to see his character wiped off the face of existence. Again.
“Despite Yourself” ends with Michael sitting in the Captain’s chair of the ISS Shenzhou. It’s quite forbidding and begs the question, just how long will they be there?
This episode is wonderful. As I said earlier, it’s only real fault is in how much it tries to pack in to less than an hour of viewing. Somehow, with all of these plot points, and the differing yet complementary tonal shifts, Jonathan Frakes weaves it all together beautifully.
Every performance is excellent, every effect spot on, every music cue perfect, every camera angle carefully thought out and evocative.
It’s the best episode to date (despite Hugh’s death).
This is a terrible prediction, because the producers have all but told us Culber isn’t dead. So, I predict Paul has some special spore-driven power that brings his beloved back.
Ash, if the above prediction is correct, is found out and we start to finally deal with the complexities of this character, and the actual PTSD someone would have whether they were the survivor of Klingon torture or were a Klingon who had been through what Voq has apparently been through.
The Empress of the Terran Empire is Philippa Georgiou (if the ruler in actually female).
The Discovery goes head to head with the Defiant.
Our Lorca is the Mirror Universe Lorca, and the Prime Universe Lorca is a homocidal maniac.
Captain “Killy” gets more awesome lines in Episode 11!
We see a goatee.
The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery airs tonight in Australia, and should have just aired in the US and UK. It’s called “The Wolf Inside.”
Star Trek: Discovery airs in the United States on CBS All Access, with new episodes appearing on Sundays at 8:30pm ET. In Canada, the show airs on the Space Channel at 8:00pm ET, also on Sundays. Outside of the US and Canada, Star Trek: Discovery airs on Netflix on a Monday. 8:00am BST in the United Kingdom, and usually at 6:00pm AEDT in Australia, but last week the episode dropped at 7:00pm so it might arrive later than usual again.
See you in a few days for another review.