Up until the final seconds, the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery appeared to have a cozy and happy ending. Lt. Stamets and Dr. Culber brushed their teeth before bed. And then … everything changed.
Spoilers are ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5, “Choose Your Pain.”
If you don’t want to know what happened after Lt. Stamets walked away from his bathroom mirror, now is your last chance to stop reading. Here it comes.
At the tail end of an action-packed episode that was full of all sorts of character development twists — from Lorca, to Burnham, to Saru, and even Tilly — a game-changer happened in the very last frame. After Culber heads to bed and Stamets smiles, he waits for a beat, looks in the mirror, and then walks away. But then, Stamets’ reflection is STILL SOMEHOW IN THE FREAKING MIRROR.
This can mean only one thing: The Stamets who is smiling back out of the mirror is from the Mirror Universe. First visited in the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror,” the Mirror Universe is a parallel dimension in which almost everything about the “regular” universe is duplicated, only evilly. Starfleet is a militaristic, brutal organization in the Mirror Universe, where almost everyone has a selfish, ulterior motive. As Kirk said, “Assassination is a common means of advancement.”
To be clear, the duplicate Stamets in the mirror at the end of this episode do not say he’s from the Mirror Universe because he doesn’t speak at all. Still, one producer and one director have confirmed the Mirror Universe will be a part of this season of Star Trek: Discovery, making it pretty obvious that’s what this final scene was supposed to suggest.
In addition to the original episode, “Mirror, Mirror,” several other iterations of Star Trek have used allusions to mirrors in their episode titles. In Deep Space Nine, when the Mirror Universe was revisited for the second and third time, the episodes were called “Through the Looking Glass” and “Shattered Mirror,” respectively. When the prequel series Enterprise had two episodes set entirely in the Mirror Universe, those were called “In a Mirror, Darkly (Parts 1 and 2).”
Although the Prime Universe probably isn’t aware of the Mirror Universe during the time period of Star Trek: Discovery, the reverse is true. “In a Mirror, Darkly,” it established that one starship from the original series — the USS Defiant — traveled back in time and across the two dimensions. This gave Evil Starfleet of the Mirror Universe advanced technology, even though the Defiant itself had a groovy 1960s vibe. Incidentally, this USS Defiant was not the same one from Deep Space Nine, even though it has the same name. Instead, it was a sister ship of the classic USS Enterprise that got trapped in an interdimensional rift in the episode “The Tholian Web.” This made “In a Mirror, Darkly” the sequel to “The Tholian Web” and the prequel to “Mirror, Mirror” simultaneously. Any Mirror Universe episodes on Discovery after “Choose Your Pain” will all be sequels to “In a Mirror, Darkly,” at least in terms of chronology.
The point is, having the Mirror Universe interact with the Prime Universe before the events of “Mirror, Mirror” isn’t a canon contradiction, if only because it seems like the action is taking place on the Mirror Universe side of things. The selection of Stamets as someone who seems to have a Mirror Universe counterpart is telling, too. Stamets has perfected the Spore Drive in the Prime Universe, which the Discovery is using to jump instantaneously across the galaxy. But what if it could also be used to jump between dimensions?
The Mirror Universe has already borrowed technology from the Prime Universe once before when they salvaged the Defiant. Maybe, now, they’re back to rip off the Spore Drive.
For what it’s worth, this scene also seemed to contain the show’s second Lewis Carroll reference. In the third episode, Burnham quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Meanwhile, this scene with the two different versions of Stamets in the mirror echoes an early passage from Alice Through the Looking Glass. While talking to her cat, Alice describes her theories about another world.
“I’ll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there’s the room you can see through the glass, that’s the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way. I can see all of it when I get up upon the chair — all of it except for that bit behind the fireplace. Oh! I do wish I could see that bit!”
Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long to see the other bits of the alternate Discovery in the halls beyond the mirror of the “other” Paul Stamets.
Star Trek: Discovery airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS All Access.
If you liked this article, check out this video on Inverse’s review of Star Trek: Discovery.