|WARNING: Although this article is complete fan speculation, it should be treated as spoilers in case any of it turns out to be true.|
We can’t help it. We are Trekkies, and so poring over every detail of the show is kind of what we’re all about. So far, in our Fan Theory Analysis series, we’ve taken a critical view of the early theory that the USS Discovery is really a Section 31 ship and broke down why Tyler could be none other than Klingon Voq.
In our latest edition of Fan Theory Analysis, we tackle that issue that’s been gnawing away at the back of your mind all throughout this season of Star Trek: Discovery. Namely, what’s the deal with Captain Lorca? Can we trust him? What happened to his crew when he was in command of the Buran? What is his connection (if any) to the Mirror Universe? In this analysis, we begin with a simple hypothesis: that Captain Lorca knowingly manipulated the botched jump that stranded his ship in the Mirror Universe. If true, what does that tell us about our dear friend Gabriel?
Captain Lorca orchestrated the jump to the Mirror Universe
Captain Gabriel Lorca seems to be perhaps the most indecipherable character in Star Trek’s history. Just when you think you have him figured out, he does something to surprise you, leaving you always unsure of his true intentions. Not to mention his muddy past, which involved a series of unknown events that lead to Lorca blowing up his own ship, the USS Buran, and killing the entire crew complement along with it.
Now, some fans think they’ve figured him out, and it all hinges on just a few seconds of episode 9, “Into The Forest I Go”. At the end of the episode, Captain Lorca purposely manipulated the jump sequence that was intended to send Discovery to Starbase 46.
It’s here, as the jump is initiated, where we get our biggest piece of evidence. It’s a blink and you miss it moment, but Lorca most definitely overrode the jump sequence from his panel on the captain’s chair. The panel pops up, and Lorca taps his way to “Navigation Control”. Here, he enters new jump coordinates. Look even closer, and you’ll notice that he has overridden the jump sequence with his personal authorization code with coordinates that simply read “UNKNOWN”.
Up until this point in the show, Lorca could be seen as a complex and nuanced character who is ultimately good; he doesn’t run things by the Starfleet book, but these are times of war. This subterfuge, though, is a pivotal moment for Lorca. When he sent the Discovery into the Mirror Universe, it became clear that he has a hidden agenda and is willing to maintain his lie. This all begs the bigger question: why did he do it?
Is Captain Lorca from the Mirror Universe?
Perhaps the most intriguing theory as to why Lorca overrode the jump is that he is actually Mirror Lorca, trying to find his way home.
“You’ve opened the door to a whole new era of exploration,” Lorca told Stamets, congratulating him for his heroic 133 micro-jumps, which provided enough data not only to see through Klingon cloaking technology but also to map out places of the universe outside our preconceptions of space and time. When Stamets clarifies that he will make only one more jump, to get the crew safely to Starbase 46, and then will never jump again, Lorca looks almost panicked. Perhaps he worries that this is the last chance he will get… to make it home.
Exhibit A: Lorca’s map of the universe
In, “Into The Forest I Go”, the Discovery and her mycelial pilot must make hundreds of “micro-jumps” to gather enough data to see through the Klingons’ cloak. But, Lorca himself shows us that the data gathered from jumps can be used for more… exploratory purposes.
In his ready room, Lorca shows Lt. Stamets a map of the universe that he has been creating based on data gathered each time the discovery jumps via the mycelial network. “You’ve been accumulating this data from my jumps this whole time?” says a bewildered Stamets as he examines the map. But he sees that there is more there, “And these scattered pockets of negative mass. They could indicate alternative parallel universes connected to the mycelial network. And with more jumps, we could find a pattern. Perhaps even the coordinates to reach them.”
Lorca may have been collecting data to beat the Klingons’ cloak, but was he also collecting enough data to allow them to jump into another universe? Lorca is not a scientist; why would he be collecting extra data to map out transdimensional portals in spacetime? How would he even know to look for alternate universes, which, as revealed by Stamets, are only theoretical as far as anyone in the Prime Universe is concerned.
Exhibit B: Lorca quickly acclimates to the Mirror Universe and doesn’t appear eager to return home
Somehow, Lorca seems a bit too comfortable in the Mirror Universe. He’s quick to don a sexy black leather jacket and doesn’t hesitate to rough himself up a bit by slamming his face full force into a bulkhead. He is also the one to “discover” that a Prime ship had made its way into the Mirror Universe once before (the Defiant), but perhaps he already had that knowledge. In various discussions with other crew, he speaks with detailed authority on the way things are done in the Terran Empire.
Either way you cut it, Lorca’s actions upon initially landing in the Mirror Universe are suspicious, and they fit well if we assume he is actually Mirror Lorca. When the crew start strategizing to make their way home, he dismisses the notion instead saying that finding a way to survive in this new universe is top priority.
This acclimation may even be physical as well. Lorca has shown a pronounced sensitivity to light, and in last week’s episode it was noted by Burnham that “even the light is different” in the the Mirror Universe.
Exhibit C: Lorca’s moral code is not that of a traditional Starfleet captain
In the Prime Universe, we know that Lorca is a military man, through and through. He studies weapons, war strategies, and is obsessed with winning the war with the Klingons. Because of the myriad of complexities in Discovery‘s characters, it was not a stretch to file Lorca’s behavior as that of a man who is complex. We know Lorca is tormented by his past, and his actions are consistent with a man whose PTSD blinds him from seeing the forest for the trees when it comes to issues of morality.
Lorca is cold and calculated, and he is willing to sacrifice a lot more than most Starfleet officers should. This includes the health and wellbeing of his crew (e.g. Stamets, Tyler) and the exploitation of a sentient alien species (Ripper the Tardigrade). But all of these morally questionable actions were in service of the same goal: to win the war with the Klingons. At least, that is what Lorca tells his crew. But, the same actions lead to a second, perhaps more purposeful, result: Lorca getting himself to the Mirror Universe via the spore drive.
Lorca being from the Mirror Universe is the perfect explanation to all of his inconsistencies put in place by Discovery‘s writers throughout the first half of this season: Why is Lorca, who spent the majority of his Starfleet career in peacetime, so interested in and so adept at war? Why is Lorca obsessed with getting the spore drive to work, whatever the cost, as soon as possible? How can Lorca overlook the harm he causes to the likes of Ripper and Stamets for the purpose of using the spore drive? Why was Lorca collecting information to map out alternate universes, and how does he know anything about their theoretical existence? Why is Lorca so comfortable in the Mirror Universe? Why does Lorca seem to recognize Emperor Georgiou?
Exhibit D: Lorca seems to be manipulating events like he has a plan
Let’s put all these points together, from his first episode it’s clear Lorca can read people and manipulate them to his benefit. It’s pretty clear Lorca was looking to get Burnham on the Discovery when he had her prison shuttle rescued in “Context is for Kings.” A few episodes later in “Lethe,” Lorca disobeys orders and rescues Sarek, to solidify his relationship with Burnham, and he says as much. Never mind that Sarek is a well respected Vulcan diplomat and is worthy of saving on his own.
Also curious, during the events of “Into the Forest I Go,” when Burnham wants to finish what she started on the Klingon Sarcophagus ship, Lorca forcefully says no, only through logic and some appeals to his warrior side does Burnham get to go on the mission. Lorca seems to really want Burnham close by and unharmed. After the triumphant destruction of the Sarcophagus ship, Lorca masterfully manipulates poor exhausted Stamets to jump one more time, even though earlier in the episode we learned that Starbase 64 was only 3 hours away at warp 5, so surely they could make it there quite quickly by punching it at, say, warp 8. But, he’s doggedly determined to get a spore jump one last time…
Once the crew arrives in the Mirror Universe, we learn that Mirror Lorca attempted a (failed) coup against the Emperor, which is how he lost the ISS Buran in this universe. Mirror Lorca is also wanted for the murder of Mirror Burnham. With such a huge price on his head, Mirror Lorca is nowhere to be found.
As we see in the preview for this Sunday’s episode “Vaulting Ambition,” Prime Burnham’s cover as Mirror Burnham becomes Lorca’s ticket to get close to the Emperor. It sure seems like Lorca is back in his home universe and is hoping to make another attempt at assassinating the Emperor. Was this his plan all along?
Alternative theories to explain Lorca’s hidden agenda
Whether or not Lorca is Mirror Lorca, he definitely manipulated the jump that stranded the Discovery and her crew in the Mirror Universe. Here are a couple of alternate theories that might explain what the captain was up to.
To keep his ship
A very simple explanation for why Lorca manipulated the jump is that he wanted to jump pretty much anywhere but Starbase 46. He was told point blank by Admiral Cornwell that she was going to take his ship away, and he would probably be put in therapy to help him deal with some seriously deep-seated issues. Lorca has said time and time again how important it is to him to win the war with the Klingons, and it’s clear that the Discovery (and his command) are key elements to this goal. Would Lorca really do anything to keep his ship, even if it meant putting them in danger?
While this could easily be true, it doesn’t seem a satisfying narrative for such a brilliant and mysterious man. Surely, the Discovery writers have something more exciting in store for us than “Lorca’s a coward.”
Whether or not this explanation is true, it still begs the question: did Lorca purposely jump to another universe, or did he just want to jump somewhere besides Starbase 46? Did he purposely jump to the Mirror Universe in particular? Let’s dive a little deeper…
To find alternate versions of the Buran crew
Lorca’s guilt and distress over his actions that resulted in the destruction of the Buran and all of its crewmembers has been a defining piece of Lorca’s character. It’s a fact about his past that has been sprinkled throughout the narrative of the season, with very little information about what actually occurred being revealed.
What we do know, however, is how strongly the events affected Lorca. Cornwell notices his erratic behavior, and their interactions seem to almost suggest that Lorca has PTSD from the Buran that he is still struggling with.
Not very long after the Discovery lands itself in the Mirror Universe, Burnham looks up some old friends. Lorca is quick to ask about the Buran, and he is saddened to learn that it was blown up in this universe, too. “Here’s me hoping I’d find a better version of myself over here,” he remarks, dismayed.
In a hasty plan to use the Discovery’s new data on the mycelial network to jump away from his problems, did Lorca think he might be able to find his old crew from the doomed Buran and make amends for his actions in the Prime Universe?
All will be revealed
Based on our analysis, it seems that the most likely scenario for Gabriel Lorca is that the man we have come to know over the past several months is in fact from the Mirror Universe. This, of course, opens up several new questions, including how Lorca got to the Prime Universe in the first place, the whereabouts of Prime Lorca (is he alive?), and whether Lorca’s coming to Prime was purposeful (is he a Mirror Universe spy? was he sent to retrieve Prime Burnham?). For answers to these questions, we’ll just have to wait and see. But, I have a feeling we won’t be waiting long.
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