SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers from Star Trek: Discovery and The Cloverfield Paradox. Proceed with caution.
Minutes after Superbowl 52 ended, Netflix launched the newest installment of the Cloverfield film series: The Cloverfield Paradox. The film starred a who’s-who of Marvel and sci-fi actors, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror), Chris O’Dowd (Thor: The Dark World), Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War), David Oyelowo (Selma) , Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). The film explored the concepts of space travel and parallel worlds, specifically the mirror universe.
The mirror universe has been a large part of Star Trek: Discovery this season as well, especially the latter half of the season. Is the exploration of the mirror universe a burgeoning trend among sci-fi properties? Let’s take a look at how Paradox explored this universe, how Discovery explored theirs and how their similarities could spell a new trend for science fiction.
Aboard the Shepherd
The Cloverfield Paradox begins with the testing of a particle accelerator onboard the Shepherd Space Station. When the particles collide, they are supposed to unleash a new type of energy, the source of which will stop the oil wars on Earth. When they collide, however, they rip a hole into another reality. The Shepherd goes through this hole and an alien or aliens come into their reality.
It’s a clever origin story for the mysterious Cloverfield aliens and it gives the characters the opportunity to ask all the important questions about being in a mirror universe. Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) wants to stay in the mirror universe because her children are still alive. In her universe, they died in a fire. She contemplates staying behind so she can save their lives from any future fires. Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) is actually from the mirror universe and tries to take the Shepherd back to her Earth, even though it doesn’t belong there.
Aboard the Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery explored this idea in a very intense way this season. When the Discovery was calculating jumps with their experimental warp spore drive, they accidentally ended up in their own mirror universe — specifically, the same mirror universe that previous Star Trek crews had traveled to before. While in this universe, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) had the ability to live the life she always wanted, by captaining the ISS Shenzhou.
She also had the opportunity to save the life of someone who died — someone very close to her — Philippa Georgiou. Georgiou died in the main universe, much like Hamilton’s kids from Paradox. In Paradox, Hamilton decided that returning home was best, but before she did, she sent a message to her other self, warning her about the danger of a power cell fire. Hamilton didn’t directly save her children, but she could have saved their lives through this warning.
Burnham did the exact opposite and took Georgiou with her, through the temporal gateway and back into her prime universe. Both of these women were faced with choices about how to save the people they loved, and they both did what they thought was best.
Alternate Universes — A New Trend?
The Cloverfield Paradox and Star Trek: Discovery are just two examples of this in current media. Another is Counterpart — JK Simmons’ new show on Starz. Counterpart features JK Simmons as Howard Silk, a man who discovers that the agency he works for is actually concealing a gateway to an alternate universe. Rick and Morty also features the exploration of alternate universes — hence the introduction of Pickle Rick! One could even argue that the name Black Mirror is a riff on the show’s themes of looking into the darker elements of the mirror universe. Is this a trend that we’ll continue to see in current media? Time will tell.
Cloverfield Paradox is currently streaming on Netflix worldwide.
Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS All Access in the US and on Netflix worldwide.