In the moments leading up to a huge twist ending in the Fall finale of Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Lorca tells Lt. Stamets, “After this, it’s a whole new chapter for Discovery.” Ostensibly, Lorca is referring to the impending end of the Starfleet’s war with the Klingon Empire and a renewed era of exploration for the ship. But his comment also scans as a synopsis of this episode and perhaps the next several episodes of 2018. Because with the final episode of 2017, the writers of Discovery have transported the show into a whole new universe of possibility. Literally.
For the most part, by the end of “Into the Forest I Go,” most of the contextual reasons everyone is doing what they’re doing are either resolved or erased. And that’s because everything that happens effectively ends the Klingon War. After the previous week’s episode teased the possibility of the USS Discovery continuing to tango with the non-corporeal aliens called the Pahvo, a different resolution emerged. Burnham, Tyler, Stamets, Tilly, Saru and Lorca hatched a complicated scheme to develop an algorithm allowing them to crack the code of the Klingon cloaking devices, which we’re told, is really the only reason why the Klingons were kicking so much ass. The plan involves Burnham and Tyler infiltrating the Klingon Ship of the Dead to gather enough data to create the algorithm.
To make a short story short, Burnham is successful and even gets to have a duel with the treacherous Kol before blowing up his entire ship. After getting beamed-up, Burnham is standing on the bridge of the Discovery admiring her handiwork as Lorca strides toward her in slow motion and Saru nods approvingly. Everything is seemingly going to be great. Justice for Captain Georgiou has been served, Starfleet will use the algorithm to render the cloaking devices useless, and everyone will live as happily ever after as they can. Right? Wrong.
Because all of this happens before the episode actually concludes, the audience is on high alert. Like Saru’s threat ganglia detecting a predator, we’re quick to smell a twist. This show has fooled us before. At the onset, Discovery seemed to posit itself as a show that would depict Starfleet’s war with the Klingons, but now that the war is clearly winding down, what is this show really going to be about? At the start of the series, Discovery made us think Captain Georgiou was a main character, but then she was killed by the second episode. The third episode found Captain Lorca beaming a monster onboard, but by the fourth episode, that monster had a name and unwittingly assisted the crew in completing their spore drive. In the sixth episode, it looked like Admiral Cornwell is going to take command of the Discovery away from Captain Lorca, but then she got kidnapped. Time and again, this series has faked-out the viewer with effective misdirection.
Not that this episode didn’t reward the long-suffering fan. For those following along with the various fan theories and season-long mysteries, this episode seemed to softly confirm a few things. Tyler is clearly grappling with repressed memories because his flashbacks seem to involve some kind of surgery. If he is the Klingon Voq in disguise, it seems like he genuinely doesn’t know who he really is deep down. On the Corwell front, the good Admiral made a few references to having been a therapist once, which checks with the theory she’ll eventually become the character named Lethe from the original series, who lives on a Federation penal colony.
And then there are the very last moments of the episode which seem to suggest the show is adopting an entirely new context. After revealing to Stamets that he’s aware of the ability of the spore drive to take the Discovery to other universes, Captain Lorca punches a control on his command chair, and the ship is suddenly totally off the map. Saru says he “doesn’t know” where the ship is at all, and that the Starbase they were headed to is totally gone. Stamets says he can see “all the permutations,” which seems to imply he’s experiencing multiple realities at the same time. So, which of these realities has Discovery landed itself in? Are we in the evil Mirror Universe from the original series and Deep Space Nine? Or somewhere else entirely?
If the crew is in an alternate universe then stranding the USS Discovery there is a very clever move in terms of canonicity. While fans can find plenty of inconsistencies between this version of the 23rd century and that of the original series, potentially having new episodes take place in an alternate universe, or perhaps multiple alternate universes decreases that problem. In other words, we don’t know the histories of parallel Star Trek universes as well as we do the Prime Universe. Obviously, the ability of the spore drive to transport the ship instantaneously across the universe is seemingly limited to how long Stamets can deal with having the calculations running through his brain, which explains why the technology didn’t last into Kirk or Picard’s time. But, if the Discovery is marooned outside of the Prime Universe permanently, it makes it easier for the viewer to simply imagine the rest of the 23rd century morphing into the ‘60s retro-futurism of the original series.
But what of Discovery? Will this new Star Trek series embrace a possibly even bolder direction than anticipated? Because of if the ship is straddling the line between dimensions now, perhaps the most interesting direction Discovery could take would be a kind of mash-up of Sliders and Quantum Leap. Obviously, the ship and crew will want to return to their home dimension, but in doing so, perhaps they will have to visit a lot of parallel dimensions along the way.
From a fan’s perspective, this could provide endless amounts of interesting nerdy Star Trek stories. For example, if the Spore Drive can take them to “alternative parallel universes,” there’s no reason the USS Discovery couldn’t meet Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk. But, if you leave the Trekkie stuff out of it, it could also put the series on a different path of exploration altogether. Parallel universes where the laws of physics are different than they are in ours could let this version of Star Trek do science fiction that is slightly edgier than where the franchise has ever gone before.
So, if Discovery really does become “Lost in the Multiverse,” we’ll all be lucky. Because a starship flying through endless parallel universes sounds a lot of more interesting than a show focused only on wars that happen to take place in the stars.
The first nine episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are streaming on CBS All-Access. New episodes of the series return on January 7, 2018.