An idea popped into my head after Discovery’s first episode set in the Mirror Universe, “Despite Yourself”. That Mirror Lorca was going to get the character arc I’d wanted for Voyager’s secret Cardassian villain Seska all those years ago. If you follow me at all you know I love Seska — I not only bring her up more than makes sense, I use her in my logo, and the name of this blog is inspired by her. But the Seska we get on screen pales in comparison to the potential I saw in her.
Seska dies in the first episode of Voyager’s third season. The Kazon never really landed as villains, and despite Seska’s involvement their arc is mostly tedious. Seska gets stuck playing Lady MacBeth with people who are far and away unworthy of her, and then gets saddled with a completely absurd, and decidedly creepy, plot where she steals Chakotay’s sperm and impregnates herself. “Basics, Part 2” resets the story, making Seska’s Kazon lover the father of her baby instead of Chakotay, which allows Voyager to move on from the Kazon unfettered after Seska’s demise. It’s neat and tidy and a huge missed opportunity.
I wanted Seska to live. To remain on Voyager, imprisoned at first, and get — not a redemption arc but an identity arc, that would in turn redeem her. Seska is fully a product of her violent, imperialist, xenophobic culture. If she lived that could be explored. Seska would have to face the consequences of her actions, but so would Janeway. Federation ideals would be tested. Because the thing is, Seska isn’t right about Janeway and the Federation, but she’s also not wrong. Captain Janeway chooses to interfere in the natural course of the Delta Quadrant, and strand two ships full of people 75,000 light years from their home, on behalf of a race of beings she met the day before and decided needed her help. It proves what Seska had been taught to believe: the Federation are meddlers who think they know best and act on it with force.
So I wanted that story. An exploration of consequences and reparations and expectations and ideals. I wanted Seska confronting Janeway, Chakotay, B’Elanna, Tuvok, all of them, with her truth. And in turn learning from them, and their truths. I wanted her to have the chance to figure out who she really is and what she really wants.
I got really excited as soon as the thought that Lorca could get my Seska arc occurred to me. I still wanted that very specific Federation versus Anti-Federation story. I was already attached to Lorca as a Byronic Hero, and Michael has her own redemption arc so it made sense for the antagonist to parallel, too. Even the overly-complicated and disjointed Klingon plot follows a duality and redemption narrative. I fully believed Lorca was going to be revealed as more an anti-hero than a villain and he’d be set on the road to absolution. I didn’t trust Mirror Philippa’s portrait of him and I steeled myself against Michael, and us, losing her again.
Because that’s how it goes. The morally ambiguous straight white man in power gets the extended character arc and everyone else is scenery and dispensable. I didn’t want that, I didn’t like that, but I expected it. And so I convinced myself I did want it, I did like it. And I put all my effort into getting attached to Lorca and Lorca’s redemption arc so as to protect myself from getting attached to someone I was sure to lose.
But Discovery surprised me. Discovery chose to make Mirror Lorca a straight up villain, and Mirror Philippa honorable. Discovery chose to save Mirror Philippa, not Mirror Lorca. It shouldn’t be a surprise – the narrative was there all along, but I didn’t trust it, I didn’t even really see it, because that never happens! Seska died. Prime Philippa died. Hugh Culber died. I believed it was a possibility that Mirror Lorca would die but I never imagined that Mirror Philippa would survive. That Mirror Philippa could get my Seska arc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Watching “What’s Past is Prologue” last night was one of the most satisfying hours of television I’ve experienced in my life. Saru’s speech drew me in, and I saw the characters becoming a crew before my eyes. The fight scene in the throne room is balletic. Michael gives Lorca absolutely nothing and it makes me feel powerful. Emperor Philippa has a future and it could be anything.
I have felt anxious, at times to the point of physical illness, in between every episode of this series but today I feel alive. I feel hopeful.
I am still attached to Lorca. Especially to the Prime Lorca I’ve made up in my head (and fanfic). But I’m okay with him existing in my head and fanfic for now. I have all sorts of ideas and part of me doesn’t want canon to mess them up. I’d like him to return for the series finale, and settle down with Katrina on the Archer Farm, but I’m okay with him being presumed dead for seven years until then. For his part of the story to be about how his loss affects Kat, and Pippa, and Michael, instead of the other way around. I care about Gabriel Lorca Human Disaster, but I don’t want to focus on him.
And it feels so good, more good than I can express, that the people behind this series agree with me.
This post was initially published on State of Flux.