Originally Published on There Are Four Mics – A Star Trek Podcast

(We’re moving our Star Trek Discovery related content over here where it belongs)

Buckle up, friends, because “Despite Yourself” starts us down the path of a Mirror Universe story. To be honest, I think it was a bit of a weird choice to go to this well so early. The Mirror Universe usually gives the actors the opportunity to play their characters wildly different than they normally would. But we’re only halfway through the first season, so I think these characters are still being formed. It’s a bold choice, but this series hasn’t let me down yet! So let’s head into a Despite Yourself review. 

And with that being said…I think visiting alternate universes is a goddamned blast. All that Star Trek canon you’ve learned? There’s a whole different version of all those same facts! It’s doubling your fun. And the Terran Empire, a government dealing in fear and a hatred of immigrants, feels an especially apt topic to explore during the Trump administration. And the montage of the U.S.S. Discovery crew becoming the I.S.S. Discovery is just about five piles of fun to watch.

We’ve done the zooming through space thing and through the view screen onto one of our character faces a lot of times this season. And I love it every single time. “Despite Yourself” does that neat little trick twice in this episode alone. The first was right off the bat, where it was used to great effect to show us the debris field of Klingon vessels, and then to focus the story down on our own special crew. And then later in reverse after Captain Michael Burnham takes her proper seat aboard the ISS Shenzhou and looking like a right proper boss. It’s an incredible shot that rivals her diving off the balcony in the previous episode, “Into the Forest I Go.” This show is treating her right.

Captain Michael Burnham of the ISS Shenzhou in "Despite Yourself"

This is an episode where Tyler brutally murders Hugh Culbert. It’s also the episode where Captain Killy hilariously shouts into the comms “hold your horses.” This episode oscillates between drama and comedy like no Discovery episode before it. All the while it’s progressing the season’s narrative by leaps and bounds.

Connor, the man I mourned on this very blog back in “The Battle at the Binary Stars,” is back! Well, he was back for a few minutes. Burnham killed him in this universe, too. One is a coincidence. But two suggests Burnham is on a quest to murder all Connors. Rest in peace, my sweet captain.

A bit weird that Burnham and Tyler hook up for the first time just hours after they each just murdered one of their friends. Murder shouldn’t be an aphrodisiac. But I’m excited that Tyler’s murder victim, Culber, is featured predominantly on the teaser posters for second season of Star Trek Discovery. But I have yet to figure out a mechanism for that involvement. This vexxes me. So long as we get more Wilson Cruz in our lives, I’ll swallow whatever pills they toss my direction.

Culber and Stamets on a Star Trek Discovery Season Two teaser poster

Jam-Packed with The Original Series References

Lorca having a tribble on his desk was a fun surprise! That bowl of fortune cookies nearby made me nervous, though. He really demonstrated his tendency towards living dangerously. But I forgive his recklessness based on the magic of that Scottish engineer voice he pulled outta nowhere. Another treat I was really digging in “Despite Yourself” was the inclusion of the USS Defiant, a plot point in both The Original Series and Star Trek: Enterprise. Feel like the Star Trek Discovery writer’s room was really digging deep on that one. I’m heartily grateful for it. 

Don’t forget to listen to the Star Trek Discovery podcast episode dedicated to “Despite Yourself” over on our companion podcast, Disco Night.

Pick up all of Star Trek Discovery season one on Blu-ray from Amazon here.