The notion that a 22nd century Starfleet officer and a Terran despot from the Mirror Universe share many common attributes might seem far-fetched, but an in-depth analysis focusing on the careers of Captains Balthazar Edison and Gabriel Lorca reveals an alarming amount of parallels. Both born into conflict, they served their respective governments in a military capacity before fate diverted their courses and sent them spiraling into new worlds. Rampant xenophobia became rooted in each captain’s psyche, and each man developed his own vision about how to reshape the power structures in their respective universes. Despite the startling parallels, were their motivations truly so similar? Let’s look back on the actions that Edison and Lorca took in Star Trek Beyond and Star Trek: Discovery’s first season to determine the extent to which their journeys actually overlapped.
The Way of the Warrior
Balthazar Edison served in Earth’s Military Assault Command Operations (MACO) unit, earned the rank of major, and engaged in off-world combat during conflicts with the Xindi and Romulans. Once the Federation was founded, the new government disbanded the MACOs, promoted Edison to the captain’s chair, and gave him command of the U.S.S. Franklin. The former soldier’s negative experiences with alien species imbued him with the xenophobic views that would play such a pivotal role in his encounter with Captain James T. Kirk.
Mirror Lorca also grew up in a harsh reality where the Terran Empire reigned supreme and any sign of weakness was seen as something to be exploited. Lorca captained the I.S.S. Buran, where he thrived on conflict and sacrifice, just as Edison had done. Of course, Lorca’s own xenophobia was a natural byproduct of being indoctrinated with Terran propaganda throughout his entire life rather than a manifestation of adulthood. Nevertheless, Edison and Lorca’s backgrounds resembled one another quite a bit.
Far From Home
In a pair of twists, both captains were unexpectedly whisked away from their homes by forces outside of their control. Edison’s Franklin, Earth’s first starship to achieve warp four, disappeared while traversing the Gagarin Radiation Belt in the early 2160s. Montgomery Scott mentioned that the vessel was rumored to have either surrendered to Romulans, been captured by a giant green space hand, or encountered a wormhole that transported it to the galaxy’s unknown regions. Considering that the Franklin ended up stranded on Altamid, Scotty theorized wormhole displacement to be the most likely culprit. As for Lorca, a transporter malfunction occurred when the Buran encountered an ion storm while being struck by a volley of torpedoes from the I.S.S. Charon. Lorca’s beam crossed over into the Prime Universe, leaving him alone and far away from the Terran Empire.
The two captains handled their unanticipated situations by learning to live in the unfamiliar environments and adapting to their circumstances. Only three members of Edison’s crew survived, while Lorca assumed that the I.S.S. Buran’s entire complement had perished. Feelings of abandonment and grief seemed to affect Edison a great deal, causing his disdain for the Federation and its interspecies coalition to grow exponentially. In his final captain’s log, Edison appeared as a broken man whose rage outweighed his Starfleet ethics. On the other hand, Lorca seemed to put his losses behind him and flourish under the guise of his Prime counterpart. Staying true to his Terran form, he successfully waged war against the Klingons and even believed he had sculpted the U.S.S. Discovery’s crew into formidable warriors.
Speaking of acclimating to new realities, Edison and Lorca concealed their true selves by assuming new identities. The physical transformation caused by the technology that kept him alive made it relatively easy for Edison to rebrand himself as the alien Krall. Lorca himself took on the persona of Prime Lorca, inheriting his Starfleet rank and taking command of the U.S.S. Buran and then Discovery. While Edison relied on alien tech to continue on as Krall, Lorca used occasional injections to conceal that his Terran eyes were particularly sensitive to light.
Their deception ran even deeper, as Edison captured one of the Federation’s Magellan probes and utilized its subspace link to access Starbase Yorktown’s database, spy on various Starfleet vessels, and listen in on Kirk’s captain’s logs. Edison also sent Kalara to Yorktown in order to lure the U.S.S. Enterprise into the local nebula by spinning a story about a crashed vessel. As Krall, the captain permitted Hikaru Sulu and Nyota Uhura to briefly escape captivity to communicate a distress signal to Starfleet. Unfortunately, the master tactician altered the coordinates that the officers used to warn Starfleet so that the rescue ships would be stranded and Yorktown’s defenses would be diminished.
Mirror Lorca’s slyness surpassed Edison’s, as the Terran managed to manipulate Michael Burnham, Paul Stamets, Discovery’s crew, Admiral Cornwell, and Starfleet Command during his time in the Prime Universe. Lorca subtly worked to earn Burnham’s trust while simultaneously pushing Stamets to complete his work on the experimental spore drive. When Lorca’s mercilessness raised its head, the captain attributed it to his desire to defeat the Klingons at all costs. After Cornwell expressed concerns about Lorca’s mental state, the Terran purposely recommended that the admiral undertake a dangerous mission that eventually led to her imprisonment by the enemy.
Edison and Lorca both sought out unique technology to help them accomplish their self-indulgent missions. Edison discovered a wealth of abandoned treasures on Altamid, including instruments that transferred others’ life energy to his body, sophisticated mining equipment, and a drone work force that produced a fleet of swarm ships to attack the Federation. Most importantly, Edison attained both pieces of a device known as the Abronath, a bioweapon which released a substance that consumed biological life.
Lorca harnessed Discovery’s spore drive to get back to the Mirror Universe by altering the coordinates for what was to be the ship’s final jump after it triumphed over the Klingon Ship of the Dead. The Terran captain had covertly analyzed the data from each of Discovery’s earlier jumps to assemble a map to get to his home turf. In addition to this tech, Lorca obtained his own bioweapon from Emperor Georgiou’s stash on the Charon and deployed it during his coup attempt.
When the time came for Edison and Lorca to initiate their devious plans, the captains relied on violence as the primary instrument of their revenge. Edison’s swarm ships lashed out at Yorktown so that the former MACO could infiltrate the starbase, activate the Abronath, and wipe out the facility’s diverse population. In Lorca’s case, the Terran began a bloody revolution aboard the Charon that took a severe toll on his own forces and Emperor Georgiou’s troops alike. These tactics were enlisted to change the status quo, with Edison hoping to cripple the Federation and Lorca aiming to overthrow Georgiou.
Regardless of the plentiful parallels in their lives, Edison and Lorca’s motivations and ultimate goals were widely divergent. Edison wished to destroy the Federation because he believed the very existence of the interspecies government was an act of war against humanity. The former MACO perceived the Federation’s ideals of peace and unity to be myths that made its citizens weak. Much of Edison’s anger stemmed from the Federation opening diplomatic ties with the Xindi and Romulan enemies who he had fought against.
With the struggles of the 22nd century in mind, Edison believed conflict strengthened people and helped them discover their true selves. By eradicating the millions of aliens living in harmony aboard Yorktown, Edison would have struck a symbolic blow against the Federation. The Abronath’s ability to wipe out life without destroying the starbase meant that Edison could use the space station to assault other Federation worlds. In Edison’s mind, his goal was to make humanity a more robust society by having Earth withdraw from intergalactic affairs and experience character-building hardships.
Lorca’s motivation also involved an alien presence, but he felt that Georgiou did not punish non-Terrans with the severity needed to prevent them from inciting rebellion. Rather than retreating back within Terran borders, Lorca craved to control the throne so that he could crack down on the rebels, subjugate more civilizations, expand the empire’s territory, and preserve what he considered to be the Terran way of life. In his own words, Lorca tasked himself with making the Empire great again.
Disparate intentions aside, Edison and Lorca’s sinister plots shared one key feature: they both failed. Interestingly enough, each captain’s former command played a crucial role in foiling those plans. Kirk, his remaining crew, and Jaylah revived Edison’s Franklin from its grave on Altamid and employed the vessel’s systems to disorient and disrupt the signal that coordinated Edison’s swarm ships. This action allowed Yorktown and the Franklin to destroy the automated fleet. In the Mirror Universe, Discovery’s weaponry penetrated the Charon’s defenses, providing Burnham and Emperor Georgiou with the opportunity to defeat Lorca and dealing a death blow to the Terran flagship. It seems only fitting that Edison and Lorca were brought down by the Franklin and Discovery, two starships that represented the hope, diversity, and freedom that each tyrannical captain detested.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.