For the first time ever in Star Trek, an Admiral had sex with a Captain under her command. But, Admiral Cornwell getting it on with Captain Lorca in the sixth episode of Star Trek: Discovery had an unexpected result. More than ever, it’s clear Gabriel Lorca is clearly hiding something huge. And, his new chief of security, Lt. Ash Tyler, might be just as bad in the honesty department.
Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery episode 6, “Lethe.”
The sixth episode of Star Trek: Discovery’s first season is called “Lethe,” which turns out is not a reference to an obscure original series character of the same name. Instead, this title probably references the Greek word itself; “lethe” roughly translates in English to “forgetfulness,” “oblivion,” or “concealment.” While the biggest news about concealment is mostly concerned with Sarek’s game-changing revelation about Burnham and Spock, the rest of the episode explores two other characters who have either forgotten important stuff or are intentionally concealing crucial facts for their own personal gain.
Last week, the concept of a the famous Mirror Universe was teased when an alternate version of Lt. Stamets appeared to be looking into our universe from another dimension. This week, there’s even more reason to believe that Captain Lorca himself may in fact originate in from that Mirror Universe. When Admiral Cornwell shows up personally to admonish Lorca about his insubordination, the two end up sharing a cozy evening complete with some bourbon. Clearly, these two have a history together that was once somewhat romantic.
But, when Cornwell mentions a meteor shower she and Lorca saw together when they were younger, for a second, he doesn’t seem to remember it. Cornwell calls him out on this, and he sidesteps it by acting like he’s just had a lot on his mind. This echoes a scene in the previous episode where Cornwell questioned Lorca about repairing the damage to his eyes, which he also deftly avoided. In this episode, Lorca is so keen to change the subject, he actually comes onto to Cornwel, insinuating they fool around instead of talk about outer space war.
But, by the end of the episode, this is revealed to be a ruse on Cornwell’s part. She straight-up slept with Lorca because she’s concerned he’s not really the man he used to be. And because this is science fiction, that might be a little more literal than figurative, even though right now Cornwell assumes its latter. Tellingly, as she watches Lorca sleep, she runs her hands across some scars she clearly doesn’t recognize. Is that because Lorca is from the Mirror Universe? Right now, it seems like the answer is a big maybe. But the more interesting question is this: even if Lorca is from the Mirror Universe, is he necessarily a bad person? He’s untrustworthy at this point, sure. But is he evil?
There’s a nice moment toward the end of the episode where Burnham compliments Lorca, telling him she’s lucky to have a Captain like him. Obviously, she’s feeling all sorts of emotions because Lorca helped her rescue her foster-Dad, but still, Lorca seems to be genuinely touched by this moment. A look of guilt plays on his face, like he’s not sure he deserves this compliment, but wishes he did. In other words, it seems like Lorca wants to be a heroic Starfleet captain that others look up to, but is having a hard time holding it together.
This could just be a study in how PTSD plays out in an interstellar war in the 23rd century, or — if the Mirror Universe thing is real — it could be a story about a duplicate from another dimension. But, what if it’s both?
If Lorca is really from the Mirror Universe, how did he get to the Prime Universe? In the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror,” we learn the Mirror Captain Kirk has a secret weapon called the Tantalus Field, which makes his opponents vanish at the touch of a button. But…where do those people go? An unused storyline from the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise was slated to reveal that the Tantalus Field transported its victims to other dimensions, kind of like a sideways version the Weeping Angels zapping people to the past on Doctor Who. So, maybe Discovery is reusing this idea? What if Lorca was zapped into our dimension from the Mirror Universe by the Evil Captain Kirk? And, what if that happened because Lorca was a good guy in his dimension, and tried to fight back against some the brutal tendencies of that society?
In the final scene of “Lethe,” Lorca tells Lt. Saru that it’s cool to contact Starfleet Command and ask for instructions. Admiral Conrwell has been captured by the Klingons, and Lorca is clearly rattled. But, is he rattled because he’s evil and just waiting to start cackling at everyone? Or is he terrified he’s going to be unmasked as an imposter? Maybe he likes being a good guy and doesn’t want to stop.
All of this is made even more interesting by the fact that the episode begins with Lorca and Lt. Tyler running battle simulations together, in which Lorca notices an inconsistency in Tyler’s story about where he’s from. Tyler says he was from Seattle, but Lorca points out that his record said the town he grew up in was pretty far outside of Seattle to be considered Seattle. This comment is just kind of dropped by Lorca saying “I like to split hairs.” But, because a lot of fans think Lt. Tyler is actually Voq the Klingon disguised as a human, this scene might be instructive. If Tyler is really undercover Voq then Lorca noticing that is doubling damning because the easiest way to catch a spy is obviously with another spy.
Oh, and for those contrarian voices who think all this subterfuge and possible double-identities isn’t in the spirit of “real Star Trek,” you might want to watch the original series again. Klingon agents disguised as humans, and evil duplicates of Starfleet captains happened in that version of the Final Frontier almost as many times as Spock raised his eyebrow.
Star Trek: Discovery airs on Sunday nights at 8:30 pm eastern time on CBS All-Access.