When Worlds Collide: “Year of Hell” vs. “What’s Past is Prologue”

With 700-plus hours of Star Trek in the can, it’s inevitable the franchise might revisit familiar territory. The Temporal Loop blog plots a course each week, examining the influences of the latest episode of Discovery.

By Tyler Orton

According to sunk-cost theory, most of us have a natural aversion to the idea we’re wasting our own resources.

If a thankless objective has already cost you $100, why not spend another $100 to fix the problem instead of simply walking away and absorbing that first $100 loss?

That must have been how Annorax’s journey began two centuries ago when the obsessed scientist-villain (Trek loves those, if you haven’t noticed) from Star Trek: Voyager’s “Year of Hell” embarked on erasing individuals, civilizations and celestial bodies from the timeline, creating alternate realities.

His initial forays with his giant temporal weapon ship failed to restore the time-wiped Krenim colony where his wife once lived.

So why not erase another civilization to see if that would restore the colony? Nope.

Why not another? And another. And so it went for 200 years.

Which brings me to one Capt. Gabriel Lorca — another villain with a predilection for alternate universes — who led a failed coup in the Mirror universe against Terran Emperor Georgiou and found himself whisked away to the Prime universe to get a second chance at life.

This was a man whose revolution was coming to a humiliating end, the Imperial flagship firing away at him in all its mycelial-energy-ball glory, as he transported onto the ISS Buran in the midst of an ion storm.

“What’s Past is Prologue” reveals the choice he had: assume the identity of the lost Prime Lorca, take command of a new ship and lead a new crew.

Sunk-cost theory dictates a guy who thinks like Lorca squanders the opportunity to walk away from his previous lost cause. Instead, he doubles down on making his way back to the Mirror universe to claim the throne as Emperor.

Like Annorax, his own obsession with achieving his end goal fogs his vision. He could find peace and satisfaction in life if he simply recognizes the futility of his pursuits.

In Lorca’s case — as we’ve seen in the ENT and TOS excursions to the Mirror universe — Terrans simply don’t seem to possess the self-awareness (or simple humanity?) necessary to conceive of scenarios beyond moustache-twirling schemes to grab power.

This eventually changes following Mirror Spock’s reforms, as we witness the rough-edged Mirror versions of O’Brien, Bashir and Sisko develop traces of honour and humanity following the subjugation of their race.

Those 24th century Terrans also seem to have shed the biological aversion to light plaguing those in the 23rd century, so maybe there is some physiological component going on here that the writers have yet to spell out.

It’s worth noting Lorca and Annorax meet similar fates, each succumbing to kamikaze-style attacks from the series’ titular starships on their respective goliath vessels.

Janeway’s “Time’s Up” attack on the Krenim ship restores all of Annorax’s time wipes, while the USS Discovery’s beeline past the ISS Charon’s mycelial energy ball as the similar effect of sending the crew back to their original universe (the timeline, however …).

Annorax’s epilogue shows him still obsessed with temporal theory in the restored timeline even as his restored wife implores him to take a break (since this scene takes place 200 years in the past, might this be a “Prologue”?).

But I’m not convinced Lorca’s vaporization in the energy ball is the character’s final bow. Is there a Tasha Yar-/Prime Georgiou-esque holographic message awaiting the crew?

Will Prime Lorca somehow surface? Will the green mycelial snowflake that landed on Tilly’s shoulder come into play down the road?

If Annorax’s epilogue tells us anything, it’s that the obsessions of villains don’t die easily.

Click to download our review of “What’s Past is Prologue.”

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