Welcome to the mirror universe. All hail the Terran Empire.
That was the basic message of last week's midseason premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. In "Despite Yourself", the Discovery crew found themselves in the mirror universe. In this universe, the Federation of Planets is nonexistent. Instead, the Terran Empire, a xenophobic and aggressive entity, rules the galaxy.
Like most empires, an emperor rules the Terran Empire. The emperor is a shadowy presence in all episodes involving the mirror universe. But Star Trek: Discovery will become the first to show the emperor on screen.
We don't know when the emperor will appear; we only know that the showrunners have suggested that the fans will meet the emperor. We also don't know who the emperor is.
Phillipa Georgiou is the fan-favorite contender for the role of emperor. The use of "emperor" as opposed to "empress" may seem to be a problem. Hoshi Sato declared herself "empress" in the Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly." That was decades before Star Trek: Discovery in the Star Trek timeline. It's possible the gendered form of the title has fallen out of favor.
Why Georgiou? It is at least in part because fans would like to see Michelle Yeoh back on the show. The talented actress played Georgiou in Discovery's two-part premiere, but Klingons killed her. Giving her a powerful role in the mirror universe would be a great way to bring her back as a guest star.
This would also set up a conclusion to Michael Burnham's emotional arc through Season One. The season began with Burnham mutinying against Georgiou on the Shenzhou. She did it because she believed she was serving the greater good, but it was a difficult choice. Georgiou's death has haunted Burnham ever since. Having to come face-to-face with her old mentor would give her ghosts physical form.
The question of how Burnham gained command of the ISS Shenzhou still lingers. It's possible that she was Georgiou's first officer, as in the prime timeline. She could have then taken over after Georgiou became emperor. Then again, it could be even more tragic to discover Burnham took command by force. That would mean she was responsible for Georgiou's death in two universes.
The other reason is that Georgiou is the best remaining candidates for the role. Burnham, Lorca, and Tilly are already accounted for in the mirror universe. As a Vulcan, Sarek is an unlikely choice to be the Terran Emperor. The same goes for the Kelpian Saru. Tyler's storyline seems to be going down a different path. Stamets and Culber could be viable candidates, but don't make as much narrative sense.
With only five episodes to go, fans won't have to wait long to find out.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.