Bryan Fuller’s Original Plans For Star Trek: Discovery’s Mirror Universe Were So Much Better Than What We Got
Although its sophomore season did a much better job of balancing self-interrogation with nostalgia for Star Trek‘s past, the debut season of Discovery creatively flatlined with its full-on retreat into the Mirror Universe. Even before original series architect Bryan Fuller left the show, there were plans to go to Trek‘s iconic alt-reality…but they sound so much more fascinating than MAGA Captains.
Speaking on the 400th episode of Robert Meyer Burnett’s Robservations series, Fuller briefly touched upon his more abstracted approach to Star Trek that was in the works when he was first developing what would become Discovery. In particular, he went into a detailed examination of how he had intended to approach our heroes visiting the crueller, harsher, yet still eerily familiar world of the Mirror Universe, in ways that felt both reflective of our current climate and honouring what made the Mirror Universe such a fearsome and compelling concept in the first place.
“The thing that really fascinated me in sitting down and crafting the story for Discovery was the human condition,” Fuller began. “I thought that there are elements in the Mirror Universe that we have seen that have sort of boiled to the broadest ends of the spectrum and everything felt really binary. And what I really wanted to do in setting out was looking at the minutiae of simple decisions that have a cascade effect on our lives. So, it’s not about gold lamé sashes and goatees versus no sash and clean-shaven. It is more about we are at forks in the road every moment of our lives and we either go left or right.”
For Fuller, what that meant was less a simplistic story of the Discovery crew facing off against their Terran Empire counterparts (as we ultimately got in the final show), but instead something that felt more reflective about the emotional questions that come from being faced with a literal representation of the alternative to every moral choice they’ve ever made.
“It makes me think of Joe Menosky’s speech in [the
Ultimately, unlike what we got on Discovery,Â this would’ve looked quite dissimilar to what Star Trek fans might have anticipated when they were told they were getting a Mirror Universe story, akin to what we got with sinister duplicates, fascistic imagery, and yes, even an Agony Booth or six.
“It wasn’t necessarily the Mirror Universe we know from all of the other series,” the producer admitted. “It was something that was closer to our timeline and experience, so you can still recognise the human being and go, “˜What did I do? How did that seem like a good decision for me in that moment and how do I continue with my life forward?’ And everything was a sort of an extrapolation out on that. So, there were things that I wanted the Mirror Universe to function in a narrative exploration of like “˜Oh fuck, if I just didn’t do that one thing, everything would be better,’ as opposed to, “˜I don’t recognise that person, I don’t know who that person is, because they are a diametric opposite of who I am.'”
Different facial hair, but very familiar personality. (Image: CBS)
But while it may not have carried the symbology and iconography of Mirror Universe trappings we’ve come to expect, Fuller’s idea feels right at home with what made the Mirror Universe work as a concept. That original episode in Star Trek is iconic for so much more than just the such incredible television is not just the way our heroes viscerally reacted to the inherent alienness of their alternate selves, but what was also still so chillingly similar about these counterparts too, especially Spock. The Mirror counterparts that were transported over to the prime Trek reality are so quickly detained, because they’re horrifying people incapable of masquerading as good”but Mirror Spock is the real threat, the real scare of it all, because he’s pretty much just actual Spock with his moral core inverted. He’s recognisable as person even while also being entirely unrecognisable in his ethics.
It is that kind of fear that it seems Fuller’s version of the Mirror Universe would’ve likewised examined. It at least says something more about those themes from “Mirror, Mirror” than having the surprise twist of the series be that your show’s captain is actually just the kind of guy who runs around paraphrasing Donald Trump quotes, at least.