Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, and for other iterations of the franchise.
At this very early stage, with Strange New Worlds having only just entered production, we don’t know what storylines the series might include. It’s far too early to speculate, especially because we don’t even know who most of the main characters will be. But that won’t stop me!
I’ve been kicking around this theory since Strange New Worlds was announced last year, and while I’ve mentioned it on a couple of occasions I think it’s time to spin it out into its own official theory! I have already made some suggestions and preliminary predictions for things we might see during Season 1 of the upcoming series, but this is my first standalone pre-season theory.
So here goes: Pike and the crew will find a way to cross over to the Mirror Universe to save the Prime Universe version of Captain Lorca.
To briefly recap, Captain Lorca was the original captain of the USS Discovery back in Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery, but the character we met wasn’t the Prime version, he was from the Mirror Universe. We wouldn’t get to know that until the latter part of the season, but a transporter accident saw Lorca swap places with his Prime counterpart sometime prior to the events of Season 1.
While it was stated by Admiral Cornwell that Prime Lorca would not have survived in the Mirror Universe this was never confirmed on screen, and judging by the reaction of characters like Mirror Tilly and Mirror Georgiou to Lorca’s reappearance, they didn’t believe him to be dead or imprisoned. Thus Prime Lorca’s fate is unknown – which means he could be brought back.
Let’s go over the evidence in favour of Lorca’s survival first, then we’ll see if we have any evidence that Strange New Worlds might include a storyline of this nature.
Firstly, we never saw Lorca die on screen. Only one character – Admiral Cornwell – assumed he was dead, and then the subject was dropped as the crew had to focus on ending the Klingon War. This opens the door to Lorca’s survival, as in almost any film or series, a character should not be assumed to be dead unless we as the audience see that for ourselves! Star Trek has, on occasion, sprung surprises like this, bringing back characters who had “died” – such as Tasha Yar in The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise. The existence of different timelines and different versions of characters means we cannot be sure that practically anyone is truly dead and gone!
Secondly, in Discovery Season 1, when the crew crossed over to the Mirror Universe, nobody native to that universe expressed surprise about Lorca’s presence. If the Prime version of Lorca had arrived and been killed or captured, at the very least we’d expect Empress Georgiou to have commented on his reappearance. If she believed him to be dead or languishing in one of her torturous prisons, she wouldn’t have simply allowed Burnham to bring Lorca to her aboard the ISS Charon – surely she would have considered that to be a trap.
We know from The Original Series episode Mirror, Mirror that transporter accidents – which Lorca is said to have experienced – don’t kill people. If Mirror Lorca arrived in the Prime Universe, it stands to reason that Prime Lorca crossed over to the Mirror Universe at the same moment. Characters in Season 1 made this same assumption, and I think we can be relatively sure that Prime Lorca did in fact end up there.
When he arrived, he would have immediately come under attack by Terran forces. However, there was also a significant contingent of Lorca loyalists, and if he could have survived the initial battle and gotten his bearings, he could certainly have gone into hiding to avoid Empress Georgiou’s assassins.
This is semi-confirmed by the recent Discovery Season 3 episodes Terra Firma, Part 1 and Terra Firma, Part 2, in which Georgiou revisited a version of the Mirror Universe via the Guardian of Forever. In those episodes, Lorca’s absence was a pretty significant story point, and his planned coup attempt was brought up numerous times by Mirror Universe characters. These events supposedly took place during Discovery Season 1, shortly before Mirror Lorca’s return to the Mirror Universe. Prime Lorca had therefore already crossed over, and doesn’t seem to have been captured or killed.
If we’d learned in Terra Firma that Lorca was dead or imprisoned, that would be that. But his absence leads me to believe that he survived his initial encounter with Georgiou’s forces. After getting his bearings and realising he’d ended up in a different reality, Lorca’s first instinct would have been to find a way home. However, priority number one in such a situation is to survive to fight another day, and going into hiding to avoid further attacks makes a lot of sense.
Just as Mirror Lorca was able to pass as his Prime counterpart, Prime Lorca may have been able to convince those around him that he was the Mirror version. We saw Kirk, Dr McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura manage to do so in Mirror, Mirror – and Spock remarked that it was “far easier for you, as civilized men, to behave like barbarians than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men.” Survival in the Mirror Universe can be accomplished.
If Lorca were able to convince even a handful of loyalists to go into hiding, perhaps commandeering a shuttle or ship, they could have disappeared and gone off the grid shortly after his arrival. This would have the added benefit of giving Lorca time to regroup and figure out what happened and how to reverse it. At the very least, he would want to try to send a message back across the divide to the Prime Universe.
In the Mirror Universe, the existence of the Prime Universe was known to senior Terrans. The crossover of the USS Defiant (as seen in Star Trek: Enterprise) gave them a century’s head start on learning about their Prime cousins. Just as Michael Burnham was able to learn about the Defiant during Season 1, Lorca may have been able to come by this information too – especially because his Mirror counterpart seems to have been aware of the two universes.
So the pieces begin to fall into place. Lorca was resourceful, and may have been able to avoid detection long enough to survive. Following Mirror Lorca’s coup and Empress Georgiou’s disappearance, we don’t know what became of the Imperial throne or who the new Emperor is. It stands to reason, though, that with Mirror Lorca dead the heat would be off, and perhaps Prime Lorca would have been able to leave his hiding place and finally send his message across the divide.
In short, it all hangs on those crucial first few moments after his arrival. If Lorca could survive in the Mirror Universe long enough to get his bearings, I firmly believe he could have passed himself off as his Mirror counterpart, gone into hiding to avoid Georgiou’s assassins, and laid low while he planned his next moves. When he learned of Georgiou’s death, breaking cover long enough to send a message would have been risky, but possible.
We don’t know exactly how communication between universes would work. But as mentioned, Lorca is a resourceful individual, and with the Mirror Universe’s knowledge of the Prime Universe, it stands to reason he could have figured out something. And if he could send a message asking for help, well that’s where Pike comes in.
We know for a fact that Captain Pike is aware of the existence of the Mirror Universe. As he departed the USS Discovery for the final time, Georgiou told him she was from there. His cheeky wink suggested he already knew of its existence – and of her origin – but even if he didn’t and was bluffing, after that moment we can say definitively that he knew of its existence. Given his rank, he could have learned more from Starfleet about the Mirror Universe – Discovery’s crossover was well-documented, after all.
Captain Pike would not leave any Starfleet officer behind, so if he picked up Lorca’s distress call – or was assigned to rescue him by Starfleet – he would figure out a way to do so. It’s in his nature to want to help, and as we saw across Discovery Season 2, Pike exemplifies the best of Starfleet. As two captains serving at the same time, it’s possible Pike and Lorca knew each other, or even that they were friends. This relationship could be explored, and would give Pike an added incentive to rescue Lorca.
So the question now is how? How would Pike cross over to the Mirror Universe to retrieve Lorca? There are two reliable ways we know of to access the Mirror Universe (not including a warp core leak in a wormhole): the transporter and the mycelial network. With the USS Discovery gone (and the USS Glenn destroyed) using the mycelial network is clearly not possible. So that leaves the transporter.
By recreating the conditions of Lorca’s transporter accident, perhaps Pike could figure out a way to cross over and enter the Mirror Universe – and crucially, a way to get home again afterwards. However, this method means that Pike and a small team would be effectively on their own in the Mirror Universe, with no ship and no backup!
Discovery reintroduced the Mirror Universe in a big way, and while it’s never been my favourite setting within Star Trek, it seems that the Mirror Universe episodes have gone down well with fans. It’s at least possible that Strange New Worlds would want to try its own Mirror Universe story, and I can’t think of any that would be better than rescuing Captain Lorca.
Spock’s presence may complicate matters, though. In Mirror, Mirror he seemed entirely unaware of the Mirror Universe when Kirk and the others crossed over, so perhaps he would have to be kept out of such a story. It wouldn’t be impossible to accomplish this; perhaps the mission is classified so only officers of a certain rank can know, or perhaps Spock was away on another assignment or injured and unable to participate. If a suitable in-universe reason could be found, it would be possible to keep Spock out of this story – preserving Star Trek’s internal timeline.
On the production side of things, Jason Isaacs – who played Lorca – has indicated he’d be up for a return to Star Trek, and as mentioned the Mirror Universe has been popular within the franchise in recent years. There are no practical reasons that I can see which would make a story like this impossible.
So that’s the extent of this theory – at least for now! Captain Lorca is alive, stranded in the Mirror Universe. He sends a message to Starfleet, and Pike is sent to rescue him. This story could be a lot of fun, and bringing back Lorca would be a really interesting move, one which could have repercussions for Strange New Worlds, the Section 31 series, and any other 23rd Century Star Trek projects. Lorca could go on to be a recurring character in any and all of these shows.
Obviously we don’t know at this stage whether this will happen in Season 1 – or at all! However, it would be a great big connection between Discovery and Strange New Worlds, tying together two parts of the ongoing Star Trek franchise, which you know I’m always in favour of.
Lorca was an interesting character in Season 1 – the hardball Starfleet captain who didn’t always play nice. It seems as though the Prime version was similar, in many respects, to his Mirror counterpart, which is one of the main reasons Mirror Lorca was able to avoid detection for so long. This kind of character is uncommon in the franchise, and bringing Lorca back would be a lot of fun, even if it was just for a single episode.
If we don’t see Lorca return in Season 1, I’m still going to keep my fingers crossed. Perhaps he’ll make an appearance in Season 2 or in the Section 31 series instead!
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be broadcast at some point in future on Paramount+ in areas where the service is available. Further international distribution has not yet been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds, Discovery, and other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.