‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Episode 10: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations – The (Mis)Treatment of Queer Characters

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Star Trek Discovery Episode 10

Welcome back, after a way too long winter break, where we recap, react to, and ruminate about Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10: “Despite Yourself.” This post will contain major spoilers, so don’t read ahead until you have watched episode 10.

As with the other posts in this Star Trek: Discovery series, there won’t be a lengthy recap. Instead of we will focus on the basic of what we learn. As before, I’ll be pulling reactions and ruminations from my Star Trek community.

All previous discussions and posts in this series are linked at the end of this article.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10: “Despite Yourself” Recap

As most of us suspected, the Star Trek: Discovery episode 10 finds the crew in the mirror universe. When the USS Discovery jumps into the mirror universe, the ISS Discovery was moved into the prime universe and is now roaming around there. That can’t be good. Once the crew realizes what’s going on and what their roles are in this universe, the ship and her crew undergo a makeover.

Episode 10 also mostly confirms what a lot of people have been theorizing: That Voq and Tyler are the same. However, if you watch After Trek, then you know that the showrunners said, yes, we can call Tyler a sleeper agent, but it may not be what everyone is assuming. We are supposed to pay very close attention to his flashbacks because there are clues there.

Stamets is pretty messed up, to say the least. Culber gives Lorca a big piece of his mind, so Lorca decides that Stamets’ medical care should be handled by someone else.

[MAJOR SPOILER IN THIS PARAGRAPH] Tyler has some bad flashbacks while trying to retrieve a data module. He decides to confront L’Rell. She attempts to trigger the original personality and things go horribly wrong. Tyler, more confused and desperate than before, seeks help from Culber. Culber uncovers some medical mysteries. Culber tells Tyler that he needs to be benched, so Tyler kills Culber.

In the mirror universe, Tilly is the captain of the Discovery and is “affectionately” known as Captain Killy. At the beginning, she has difficulty assuming this role but soon, with the help of some words from Burnham, becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Lorca, Burnham, and Tyler undertake a dangerous away mission, posing as their mirror selves to gain access to the Shenzhou. Burnham has an epic battle in a turbolift. Tyler, still shaken from all the events of the day, promises his undying loyalty to Burnham. The viewer is left feeling that Burnham’s life is in jeopardy. The episode ends with Lorca being severely tortured.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10: “Despite Yourself” Reactions

This episode was very heavy. We’ve had heavy episodes before but not like this. Normally, Tilly serves as a good counterbalance. But even her excellent comedic breaks weren’t enough to allow for some breathing room after one WTF moment after another. It was a doozy, folks.

Once again, most people in this week’s discussion thread enjoyed this episode, overall. However, and this is a big however, most of us are none too happy with the treatment of Culber. While watching this episode, both my partner and I yelled, “NO!” and then we had to pause the episode for a few minutes because that scene was a serious WTF. And I don’t think we are alone. I haven’t read any other posts about the reaction to this event, but I think it’s safe to say most people are very upset.

There are a bunch of things to which we are looking forward, like how they will deal with the fact that the ISS Discovery is currently in the prime universe. While we are enjoying that the writers are making use of both ENT and TOS Mirror Universe episodes, how will they explain why Captain Kirk is unfamiliar with it? Some are hoping that it won’t be as simple as classifying the whole ordeal.

Some of us are speculating that Captain Georgiou is the Mirror Universe emperor and that would be very cool.

And while there was plenty to talk about after episode 10 of Star Trek: Discovery, the thing that dominated the conversation the most was Culber. It had many people running to watch After Trek because the showrunners dropped a few tidbits about Culber that were supposed to serve to alleviate the upset of viewers, but it may have had the opposite effect. And that brings us to this week’s ruminations.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10: “Despite Yourself” Ruminations

There have been some wonderful things about Star Trek: Discovery regarding the LGB community. We have two queer actors playing queer characters. We have openly gay writers informing the stories.

Perhaps the fact we know the entire set has been very LGB-friendly (we don’t know about the T because all the characters are presented as cis), and the fact this is Star Trek, creating a higher bar for these topics, we expected to see what we see all the time with cishet relationships but never see with queer relationships: a happy couple in a healthy relationship that isn’t met with tragedy.

This is especially after Star Trek Beyond completely dropped the ball. Let the cishet couple go through the tragedy for once and model for the world what a healthy queer relationship looks like.

Then, when you add that for months they have been playing up the same-sex relationship of main characters, only for the thing we fear most happening happen, well, you get very angry and upset people. Rightfully so.

Don’t let anyone ever attempt to convince you that the queer community is asking for special treatment. Cishet couples see millions upon millions of happy and healthy relationships represented accurately in media. We are asking for that, and pretty much demanding it from Star Trek, because our expectations as fans are much higher in this area.

It’s a cliché that the queer relationship is doomed to tragedy, one that the writers of this episode created in spades.

I find it interesting that the showrunners didn’t expect us to get emotionally invested in the Stamets/Culber relationship until episode 10 of Star Trek: Discovery. If After Trek is available in your geographic location, they talk about their surprise over this.

I find this interesting because I don’t understand how an openly gay showrunner could underestimate how the queer community is so very thirsty to see their healthy relationships modeled on television. Of course we are going to get hooked when we see them in their space pajamas, brushing their teeth, because in that moment, the relationship was normalized and portrayed with an accuracy not yet seen. It was a glass of water after being in the desert for a lifetime.

Even if we are to take Aaron Harbert’s surprise that we fell in love with that couple so quickly at face value, he should have known that it would be near impossible to talk himself out of this one. After Trek is not available on Netflix. It is only available to Canadians and Americans, and few people watch it.

Because few people watch After Trek, they’re not going to hear any of the talking points about why they chose Culber to be killed by Tyler (someone had to die to serve future episodes and Culber is the only person smart enough on the ship to figure out what is going on with Tyler; using a “redshirt” would not have been true to the overall story). They’re not going to hear how they took great care in not doing a SURPRISE to Cruz. They’re not going to hear that we should all be reading the real Paul Stamets’ book about mushrooms and the science that inspired the spore drive, and how Culber isn’t dead dead and we haven’t seen the last of him.

The reality is, most of the audience is thinking a very important piece of representation, a queer person of color who is brilliant and killing all stereotypes, has just been killed simply to serve the plot; causing us to literally cry out when it happened. It was genuinely upsetting.

No amount of explanations from the showrunners is going to repair this one. The way the showrunners worded that we haven’t seen the last of Culber was done is such a way as to instill doubt about the future of this character.

If Culber doesn’t come back fully and completely and lives happily ever after with Stamets, then the showrunners are going to be dead to me because they’ve committed one of the many cardinal sins in regards to the treatment of queer characters: using them as throwaway objects to serve the plot after tricking us into thinking we’d finally see ourselves in the franchise we love the most.

The consensus of the week is, Stamets better have some Mitchell-like-mushroom-powered-superpowers and bring Culber back.

Until next Wednesday, Live Long and Prosper and may your queer relationship be treated better than this one.

Catch Up With Other Posts in the Star Trek: Discovery Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations Series

Star Trek: Discovery Episodes 1 and 2: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Burnham’s actions as it relates to her past, and how the message of “we come in peace” will not always be received as such.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 3: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Section 31, the many Starfleet officers who have broken the prime direction, and Alice in Wonderland.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 4: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Captain Lorca and his requirement for unquestioning loyalty and the consequences; blindly following orders versus challenging them.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the times some of our favorite captains did extremely questionable and unethical things, and how it related to Lorca.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 6: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the effects of surviving trauma, C-PSTD, PTSD, and how it relates to Burnham and Lorca.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 7: Recap, Reactions, and Rumination: We ruminate about relationships in the context of Burnham and why the interpersonal relationships amongst the crew seem to be so important to fans

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the real-world implications of war and PTSD and how this reality is reflected in Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about trauma and the difference in how the cishet couple is treated compared to the queer couple (which didn’t get any better this week, obviously).

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