"Star Trek: Discovery," the latest show in Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction saga, got off to a rocky start last year. Veteran fans dismissed the show for its perceived political correctness and heavy-handed political allegory and instead supported competing sci-fi shows like Seth Macfarlane’s "The Orville." But the fall finale, which aired November 12 of last year, left the main cast on a disappointing cliffhanger. Now, with the series’ return, "Discovery" has gone in a new direction that, while startling, may regain some of its lost credibility.

The story so far

The titular ship, the USS Discovery, travels the galaxy using not only traditional warp drive but also what is known as an experimental “spore drive.” While the technobabble (or Treknobabble) is par for the course for the franchise, it boils down to the fact that the Discovery can disappear and rematerialize instantaneously anywhere in the galaxy, using an extradimensional transport network. A truly fantastic invention that can’t possibly fail, right?


You just had to jinx it, didn’t you?

In true Trek fashion, something goes very, very wrong when a malfunction with the drive sends our plucky crew into a realm well-known to Trek fans: the Mirror Universe. In this universe, humanity forged not a peaceful Federation but a ruthless, xenophobic and imperialistic Terran Empire.

Other alien races like the Vulcans and Andorians—Federation members in the prime universe—are slaves under the Empire’s thumb. Promotion up the Empire’s ranks is largely determined by subordinates murdering their superiors. Strength, ambition, and power are respected; compassion and cooperation are scorned. Moreover, there are mirror universe versions of prime universe characters, so our heroes may meet their evil counterparts.

Discovery's crew must now masquerade as the alternate version of itself until the ship can return home.

Another clear gesture to fans

It is an undeniable fact that "Discovery" has shaken some stalwart Trek traditions, particularly with its depiction of the Klingons. This inclusion of the mirror universe is a firm throwback to more established Trek lore, a clear conciliatory gesture to fans.

It follows earlier episodes featuring Harry Mudd, a classic Trek antagonist. A character’s clear reference to God in the most recent episode also shows spiritualism is alive and well on "Discovery," despite reports to the contrary. These gestures, in total, are clear moves by the writers to placate the fanbase.

But is it enough?

But despite these olive branches, the question remains: will it be enough to bring back veteran fans? Many Trek series have taken a trip “through the looking glass” over the years, though the jaunts are temporary—random episodes with the occasional two-parter. So far, "Discovery’s" jaunt has lasted three consecutive episodes and counting, with no sign of any return to our prime universe.

If Discovery is in the mirror universe to stay, what will this mean for the series’ future?

While "Discovery’s" first season has been undeniably shaky, let’s not forget that Trek first seasons are rarely their brightest. Lest we forget lackluster or downright cringe-worthy episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation’s" first season, like “Code of Honor” and “Angel One,” for example. Patience is a virtue, and hopefully, "Discovery’s" writers have a plan to get the ship and crew home.