Star Trek Guide

Discovery - and Star Trek - Just Can't Quit the Mirror Universe

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 9, "Terra Firma, Part 1," now streaming on CBS All Access.

Ever since the original Star Trek television series, the Mirror Universe has been a staple of the iconic science-fiction franchise. A moral inversion of the main universe's more hopeful, optimistic vision of the future, the Mirror Universe was populated by the villainous doubles of familiar faces. And while throughout the franchise's history, the alternate reality appeared in largely self-contained episodes, the Mirror Universe has become a vital part of Star Trek: Discovery, even after the show jumped over 900 years into the future, potentially setting up a new spinoff series.

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The Mirror Universe was introduced in the Original Series' second season episode "Mirror, Mirror," when a transporter malfunction sent Captain Kirk and the rest of his landing party to an alternate reality. Instead of the United Federation and Starfleet peacefully uniting much of the galaxy's Alpha Quadrant, the militaristic Terran Empire conquered any world that opposed it, ruling over the Alpha Quadrant with an iron fist. Officers ascended the ranks by betraying and killing their superiors, with the Empire rewarding violence and ruthlessness. Kirk and his companions had to find a way to return to their home universe while trying not to confuse their crewmates with their Mirror counterparts.

Revisited in Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, the Mirror Universe has played a major role right from Discovery's first season. Michael Burnham and her crewmates discovered that their captain was the Mirror Universe incarnation of Gabriel Lorca, who'd crossed dimensions to help Starfleet in its war against the Klingon Empire. Lorca was eventually exposed and killed by Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou, the Mirror counterpart of Burnham's former commanding officer. Georgiou returned to the Prime Universe after surviving a coup and secretly began working with Starfleet before joining the Discovery's crew.

The third season has dealt with the physical toll traveling between universes and into the far-future has taken on Georgiou. And in the most recent episode, "Terra Firma, Part 1," Georgiou, who is suffering from advancing cellular degeneration, discovers a portal on a remote world that not only transports her back to the Mirror Universe but to a time before the coup. Having learned in the future that the Terran Empire's violent tendencies led to its apparent destruction as the distance between it and the Prime Universe grew significantly, Georgiou moves to lead the Empire towards averting its foreshadowed annihilation, likely setting up the planned spinoff series starring the character.

While Star Trek has long prided itself on presenting an idealistic utopia, the Mirror Universe gives audiences the chance to see familiar characters breaking bad in a world where evil reigns supreme. From various television series to comic books and novels, the Mirror Universe has become a major part of the franchise that is only poised to grow bigger if Georgiou remains in her home dimension for her spinoff series. The Mirror Universe provides an opportunity for Star Trek to embrace its dark side and that makes it a fan-favorite setting as the franchise moves forward.

Streaming on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker, Blu del Barrio as Adira, Ian Alexander as Gray, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.

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