WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the midseason premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, "Despite Yourself," which debuted tonight on CBS All Access.
One might have expected the biggest revelation of Star Trek: Discovery's midseason premiere would be confirmation that the ship had indeed jumped to the Mirror Universe in its winter finale. However, that development -- expected as it was -- finishes a distant second to the validation of the fan theory that Lt. Ash Tyler is far more than he seems.
The theory, that Shazad Latif's Starfleet security officer is actually the Klingon outcast Voq, was sparked not by an early plot twist, but instead by a behind-the-scenes peculiarity: You see, Javid Iqbal, the actor credited as playing the fanatic Voq, doesn't actually exist.
That's because, as "Despite Yourself" at last confirms, Latif is both Voq and Tyler. Of course, while that proposition seemed outlandish (but also brilliant) just three months ago, Tyler's subsequent struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder from his imprisonment by the Klingons, and Voq's abrupt disappearance from the storyline began to make it more plausible. Yes, Tyler is the Klingon L'Rell's Manchurian candidate, cleverly inserted aboard Discovery, even if he didn't realize it.
But in this midseason premiere, even as the Discovery crew comes to terms with its sudden appearance in a parallel universe, Tyler begins to sense there's more to his nightmare visions than mere trauma: The Klingons didn't torture Tyler; they transformed him.
He confronts the now-captive L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) in hopes of forcing her to reveal what happened to him. She instead offers up a prayer to Kahless, presumably intended to trigger Voq's memories and personality. However, it doesn't work, leaving Tyler just as frayed and confused as before.
That's unfortunate for everyone, first and foremost Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz), who already has his hands full with his partner Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), whose body and mind have been pushed past their limits by repeated jumps of the spore drive. Nevertheless, Culber runs a barrage of advanced tests to get to the bottom of what the Klingons did to Tyler. He quickly wishes he hadn't.
"What the Klingons did to you can only be described as ... bone-crushing," he tells a disbelieving Tyler. "They opened up your limbs, and they appear to have shortened your radius, your femurs, even your spinal cord. [...] This is just a theory, Tyler, but remember we confirmed no personality programs were hidden under your native identity? Well, there's some research that suggests a new personality could be placed atop it, like an overlay, with the original personality still intact underneath. It appears the Klingons have transformed you, both mentally and physically."
Culber seeks to prevent Tyler from leaving on a mission until he can run more tests, and gets his neck snapped for his troubles. His body falls to the floor of sickbay as the near-catatonic Stamets mutters, "The enemy is here."
But even after killing Culber, Tyler still seems oblivious to his true identity, and possibly even his actions. He arrives on the bridge rattled and late, unable to account for his whereabouts, and then sets off on a dangerous mission with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) to board a Terran Empire vessel while masquerading as their Mirror Universe counterparts. He fulfills his duties, and pledges his devotion (and unspoken love) to Burnham. There's no conscious subterfuge; despite killing Culber, he's still acting as Tyler, not Voq.
How long that will continue -- and how many people will die at his hands -- will remain a central question as Star Trek: Discovery heads into the second leg of the season. There's no hiding Culber's death, but the larger issues within the Mirror Universe may at least delay the exposure of Tyler (or is that Voq?) as his murderer. But when that day arrives, it'll be devastating.
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.