A lot went down in the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode, “What’s Past Is Prologue,” as the show hurtles towards its first-season finale in a couple of weeks. But surely the biggest “WTF just happened?!” moment came for Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca in the final minutes of the show. We spoke to Isaacs about the events of the episode, but obviously…
Full spoilers follow for Discovery’s first 13 episodes!
If you’ve seen the episode or don’t mind the spoilers, then read on for what Isaacs had to say about “What’s Past Is Prologue” and how things led to this point.
While the stories and plots for TV shows often change and evolve during the course of any given season, Isaacs says that Lorca was always designed to be from the Mirror Universe, he was always meant to die, and in fact he’s been laying out clues about the character’s true nature from the beginning.
“I knew the whole thing,” he said. “No, I had to know the whole thing, because I had to plant little seeds and secrets. I had to be able to give clues here and there, and more importantly, I had to play him honestly like a guy from the Mirror Universe who was lying and hiding. So if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have been able to play it. And if you watch … it a second [time], and I suspect some people will watch it for the fiftieth time, if you watch it through you’ll see that it’s always clear. Once you know, it’s like The Sixth Sense. It will always be clear that I’m the guy from the Mirror Universe. And even when I’m doing things that seem noble or heroic, they’re always only to engender more loyalty in Michael Burnham, or to make sure that I keep the ship so that I can work on the spore drive and get home again.”
In fact, Isaacs says that Lorca’s arc became very solid quite early in his talks with the show’s producers, so much so that there aren’t any major ideas about or aspects of the character that were discussed but never made it onscreen.
“I was very keen when I took the job on that we work out exactly what his plan was,” he said. “How he was gonna get home, and what he wanted to do when he got there. And that wasn’t really clear when I first started talking to them. And I explained that I just couldn’t — I couldn’t do my job very well and I didn’t wanna play the part unless we would all figure those things out. And they said absolutely, we agree to be a part of the discussion. So there were a number of times before we started shooting that we sat and said, well, it could be this, it could be that, it could be the other. But once we settled on what he was after, at least, that stayed the same. And they changed… you know, stories were being written all the time, pages were being delivered on the day. But, no, it was always gonna end up with me, Michelle [Yeoh] and Sonequa [Martin-Green] in a room, knocking seven shades of s#!t out of each other.”
So Mirror Lorca — who is actually our Lorca — is dead now. But while we’ve never seen Prime Lorca, a.k.a. the Lorca who originated in the Prime Universe where the show is mainly set, Isaacs says there’s no telling what happened to him. He presumably switched universes with Mirror Lorca in the transporter accident mentioned in “What’s Past Is Prologue,” but beyond that… it’s up in the air.
“We don’t know anything about the fate of Prime Lorca,” he said. “Is he as interesting as Mirror Lorca? What is his taste in fashion? Does he wear leather coats, does he wear puffy-sleeve shirts, does he have a goatee, does he blow-dry his hair? Who knows? We know nothing. … Or is he that different? Frankly, I mean, how different are any of us from the Mirror version of ourselves? They say we’re all five meals away from being savages. … This particular administration in America has brought some of the ugliest parts of human nature out from in the shadows. And who knows what other exposures the Mirror world might have done. Who knows where he is.”
Isaacs does confirm that Mirror Universe Lorca is dead, even if his guilt over having to lie about the character’s true nature for the past year isn’t…
“People … are always asking,” he said, “how do you feel signing up for seven years for something, and what it’s gonna be like being on the ship forever? And you’ll be known as this for a long time, and I’m thinking, I’m dead in three weeks! So that’s been an odd feeling. Even people in Toronto [where the show shoots] around me who I’ve become friendly with … who assume I’m gonna be visiting, coming back for six months every year, and I couldn’t tell anybody. I felt slightly ashamed.”
The actor said it was very sad and emotional to leave the show, and to hear him talk, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon.
“I’ve been on many jobs that come to an end,” he said. “I’ve never come to an end before the job, and had to say goodbye to everyone, and know that it would continue — and I’ll see them occasionally, and I’ll see them at all the Star Trek get-togethers, but I’m no longer a part of that journey.”
Just because you’re from the Mirror Universe doesn’t make you a bad guy necessarily. Think of Mirror Spock from TOS, or Voq and the rebels from a couple of episodes back. With that in mind, the question came up as to whether or not Lorca might’ve been trying to overthrow the emperor for some greater good.
“I think Lorca’s a guy that thinks that lying is okay to get what he wants,” said Isaacs. “I think Lorca’s a guy that thinks the strong survive, and that anybody who makes allowances for weak people is a fool or doesn’t understand the order of the world. And I think he’s a guy that thinks certain races are superior to others. And we don’t need to look too far, I think, to find people like that littering our landscapes, unfortunately. And even in seats of power. … You know, it’s not by accident that you can examine some of the most hot-button or most contentious problems of the modern day through the prism of science fiction. It was always so. They were examining the Cold War when they originally made the [1960s] show, and the sexual revolution and feminism and everything else. And we have those and other issues to examine.”
One aspect of Mirror Lorca that some viewers picked up on in last week’s episode, “Vaulting Ambition,” was that he had had a sexual relationship of a predatory nature with the Mirror version of Michael Burnham. This was hinted at in dialogue between Burnham and the emperor, but Isaacs doesn’t read it that way.
“Well, she was an adult,” Isaacs countered. “When she was an adult, it turned sexual. When she was younger, I wasn’t that close to her. But, you know, I saw — there’s a number of reasons [Lorca was interested in her]. One is that she’s gorgeous, there’s that. And two is that she was gonna help me run the Empire. So that’s a two-for-one there. It wasn’t a question of anything untoward when she was younger, no. Because I didn’t really have very much to do with her when she was younger.”