The premiere of Star Trek: Discovery will mark the franchise's first return to TV since Enterprise came to an untimely end in 2005. Fans are tense and excited, desperate for the series to be a success, but they're also fearful now following Bryan Fuller's departure.
Star Trek: Discovery will feature the return of Jonathan Frakes, who fans will know as Commander Ryker from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This time round though, Frakes will be standing on the other side of the camera, directing an as-yet-untitled episode. Speaking at Creation Entertainment's Continuing Voyage Tour in Chicago, Frakes let slip that Discovery will revisit a classic concept...
Return Of The Mirror Universe
The Star Trek-themed band 'Five Year Mission' was attending the event, and they excitedly tweeted Frakes's comments. First, they revealed that Frakes has seen the pilot, and thinks it's amazing. The actor/director assured the crowd that any freak-outs are unfounded, and that he was confident Discovery would be a hit. He then went on to reveal that the series will explore a major plot point.
The 'Mirror Universe' is one of the most dearly loved concepts in Star Trek history. It was an innovative idea, first introduced in the original series back in 1967. A transported malfunction sent Kirk to a parallel timeline, one where the Federation was far more militant (and Spock had a goatee).
"Captain's log stardate... unknown. During an ion storm the landing party has beamed back to the Enterprise and found it and the personnel aboard changed. The ship is subtly altered physically. Behavior and discipline has become brutal, savage."
The timeline was similar enough to act as a distorted mirror image of the main reality that the show followed. This allowed writer Jerome Bixby and director Marc Daniels to shine a fascinating light on the nature of Starfleet, all while giving the cast a chance to demonstrate their acting chops. Leonard Nimoy, for example, played a Spock who'd become a brutal disciplinarian.
Later Star Trek incarnations dived into the idea of the Mirror Universe; the philosophical Deep Space Nine show even featured several episodes based on the concept. Star Trek: Enterprise also explored the Mirror Universe as the basis for a two-part story (appropriately titled, 'In A Mirror, Darkly').
An Intriguing And Timely Concept
Star Trek has always held a social and cultural edge, and the Mirror Universe could well play a major role in giving Discovery a profound sense of cultural relevance. Last year's presidential election has seen intense debate over the nature of American self-identity, while white nationalist groups have become increasingly prominent in American politics.
The timeline depicted in Star Trek has always been presented as a liberal view of the future, with entire series dedicated to inter-species relations and themes of tolerance and diversity. For example, the letters in the Vulcan IDIC stands for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, a theme on Star Trek's pluralistic vision of the future. In contrast, the Mirror Universe has always been seen as a fascist timeline, one driven by authoritarianism and racial identity. It seems that Discovery aims to give us not one glimpse of the future, but two — one of the journey to Gene Roddenberry's utopian vision, the other a science-fiction timeline inspired by the rise of fascism.
It's exciting to see the Mirror Universe play a part in the future of #StarTrek. On the one hand, it's a classic concept that's always been dearly loved by fans — all the way back to the original series. On the other, the idea also holds real cultural relevance, and it could well see Star Trek returning to its roots of social commentary. At heart, Star Trek has always been a science-fiction story that looked to the future, and showed us promise. Through the Mirror Universe, we could also be exposed to the dark side of this too.