Star Trek: Discovery Pays Sly Tribute to Classic 'Mirror, Mirror' Episode

Spock in Star Trek's Mirror, Mirror

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of Star Trek: Discovery, "The Wolf Inside," streaming now on CBS All Access.

The debut of the Mirror Universe in the 1967's episode "Mirror, Mirror" not only established an irresistible Star Trek franchise trope -- Deep Space Nine, Enterprise and, now, Discovery all revisited the sinister dimension -- but also ingrained in pop culture the notion of facial hair as indicator of sinister intent: Leonard Nimoy's Van Dyke beard as Mirror Spock was instantly iconic, becoming widely copied shorthand for an evil doppelganger. That facial hair makes a return on this week's episode of Star Trek: Discovery, but on another Vulcan.

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Stranded in the Mirror Universe with the rest of Discovery's crew, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) masquerades as her parallel-universe counterpart, long believed dead. Reclaiming command of I.S.S. Shenzhou, she secretly begins amassing classified information on the Terran Empire (this dimension's bloodthirsty answer to the United Federation of Planets) in hopes of finding a way back home. But when the Empire uncovers the location of a rebel faction made up of Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites, Burnham and the Shenzhou are ordered to destroy its base.

Instead, she and the increasingly troubled Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) beam to the planet's surface to strike a deal, both to preserve this resistance in the Mirror Universe and maybe -- just maybe -- find a way to end the war in the Prime Universe. When the faction's leader, the MU counterpart of the albino Klingon Voq, isn't willing to believe the Butcher of the Binary Stars comes in peace, he calls upon "the Prophet," Sarek (James Frain), who sports some familiar facial hair.

Mirror Sarek on Star Trek: Discovery

Using a Vulcan mind meld, Sarek probes Burnham's memories, and is obviously surprised by what he discovers. "How can it be?" he says. "I see a world bursting with potential, and a child ... molded by wisdom, and a seemingly possible depth of human compassion."

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"She means us no harm," Sarek concludes, satisfying Voq and sealing the agreement that will permit the rebels to evacuate before the Shenzhou opens fire on their hideout. Of course, Sarek would have been wise to peer into the mind of Tyler, too, as faced with his own Mirror Universe image -- that of Voq -- he lashes out, and nearly destroys this delicate deal.

"I told you Capt. Burnham meant us no harm," Sarek tells Voq. "I stand by that assessment. [...] I do not claim to understand the logic behind his motives, but hers are pure. She is an outsider. Like us, she seeks escape from this world, to reclaim hope, equality, peace. It is only in sparing her life that we too will see the light to fight another day.

Presumably with those words, Mirror Sarek then left to groom his facial hair.

Airing Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Jason Isaacs, Anthony Rapp, Shazad Latif, Mary Wiseman, Wilson Cruz and Mary Chieffo.

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