Do we already know the identity of the Mirror Universe’s “Emperor?”
This week, Star Trek: Discovery returned with its Mid-Season Premiere, “Despite Yourself,” which found the crew of Discovery in a setting that will be very familiar to long-time Trek fans, the Mirror Universe first introduced in the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror” and revisited by a couple of other spinoffs in the franchise since.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this entry and past trips to the Mirror Universe is that our heroes remain in that universe by episode’s end, meaning we’re going to be spending a bit more time here in the back half of Season 1.
So when the series drops references to some mysterious “Emperor” in charge of this universe’s fascist Terrain Empire, it’s safe to conclude this character will turn up on screen in a later installment.
But who is this Emperor?
As has always been the case in these episodes, it’s established that the Mirror Universe is full of alternate versions of our main cast, typically featuring opposite traits to their counterparts. For instance, famously, Spock’s goatee-sporting double in the Mirror Universe was a ruthless backstabber looking to bump off his own Captain Kirk.
What we’ve learned so far about Discovery’s doubles suggests that pattern continues here. Sweet Sylvia Tilly of the USS Discovery is the feared Captain “Killy” of the ISS Discovery. Morally questionable Captain Lorca seems like a noble freedom fighter out to bring down the xenophobic dictatorship of the Terrain Empire, while former USS Shenzhou mutineer with a heart of gold Michael Burnham’s counterpart is the brutal and loyal Captain of the ISS Shenzhou.
There certainly are still several lead characters whose mirror doppelgangers haven’t been yet discussed, but none of them seem particularly compelling choices to be fuhrer of this Mirror reflection on everything Gene Roddenberry’s version of The Federation is supposed to be.
But last October, Star Trek Discovery‘s New York Comic Con panel featured a surprise guest, Michelle Yeoh. And, as I reported then, Executive Producer Gretchen J. Berg promised the NYCC crowd, “You will see more of this woman on this show!”
The Mirror Universe is the perfect opportunity to resurrect a dead character from the show’s past, especially one with such a personal connection to Michael Burnham.
If we’re to spend a several episode arc in this universe, there should be a story reason behind just taking a break from the Klingon war that dominated the first half of the season. Captain Philippa Georgiou was like a maternal figure to Burnham and someone Burnham has unresolved issues with since her own Captain Georgiou died so soon after being betrayed by Michael.
Burnham has already passed herself off as her counterpart and taken command of this universe’s ISS Shenzhou, a ghost from the past that the audience hasn’t seen since the show’s two-hour pilot. And since Captain Georgiou was depicted as disciplined, honorable and one of Starfleet’s finest, it’d be only fitting for her twisted Mirror Universe self to be the antithesis of that.
The emotional reunion between Burnham and Georgiou–even if it’s not our Georgiou–could have profound significance for the former, not to mention also Saru, who also had a meaningful connection to his former Shenzhou captain, and would make this latest longer trek to Mirror, Mirror Land a worthwhile diversion from where the story left off in the mid-season finale.