Does Star Trek Discovery give Trek Teeth?

Spoilers for Star Trek Discovery lurk here.

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So, in the latest episode of Discovery, this happened:

What caused this rather bleak scene of destruction? A single Terran Empire ship. Since ships from the mirror universe are meant to, err, mirror their main counterparts, it’s therefore not unreasonable to assert that Federation ships of the era (ten years prior to the events of TOS) sport similar firepower. The exact mechanism here was a dozen or so photon torpedoes – no chain reactions or technobabble in sight, just the raw firepower from a single ship.

The planet’s surface is visibly cracked and scorched, with huge ejecta and massive fireballs. We’re looking at a significant portion of said surface, which now resembles what we might expect the earth to look like if we were hit by a large asteroid. This is thousands of gigatons of destructive power.

How does this affect anything you might ask? Well, for those of us who participated in Star Trek vs Star Wars circles, this opens up a new angle. For me, I have always held that the evidence had previously indicated a comfortable victory for the Empire from Star Wars, over the Federation from Star Trek. I might still hold to that view, in terms of the Empire’s industrial capacity, sheer numbers and FTL advantage, but now it appears (even more so when we look at the firepower of the dreadnought from The Last Jedi) that what was once a devastating victory is now a bitter and bloody war of attrition.

There are some caveats. The first question, I hear you ask, is that the Terran Empire is not the Federation. The capabilities of their ships might be different to their Federation counterparts. True, but then again, it’s been seen through various episodes of the franchise that the two universes are remarkably similar. There is no reason to assume the Terran Empire massively outperforms the Federation in terms of combat.

Next up, is the question of philosophy. The Terran Empire is a xenophobic entity, bent on subjegating and destroying alien species. They are a tyrannical regime, built on power and dominance. Might they have developed weapons that the Federation would never contemplate making? Perhaps, but then, this doesn’t preclude the Federation from making them, if they were truly compelled to.

What about the Dominion War? Yes, this was a desperate time for the Federation, but bear in mind that we never saw orbital bombardments. The only time we caught the aftermath of one was when the Breen attacked Starfleet HQ, which at the time showed very poor levels of firepower, from a power that was meant to rival the Federation. I have in the past held up this as an example (one of several) of poor firepower from the Federation and their equivalents. Might it be worth revisiting now, in the context of what we saw on Discovery?

This isn’t the only example that might need reconsidering. There is an episode of Deep Space Nine, The Die is Cast, which is used by both sides of the Trek vs Wars debate as either tremendous firepower or chain reactions, depending upon your interpretation. The answer might not be as simple as ‘choose a side’.

Consider for a moment that the Romulans and Cardassians (who in the episode attack the Founder home world, in a bid to wipe them out) were on a clandestine mission that, certainly in the case of the Cardassians, wasn’t sanctioned by their government, so it’s possible they didn’t have access to their full arsenal. It might be that they deliberately used some form of chain reaction effect, as, for whatever reason, they felt this was a better option than raw firepower.

Alternatively, what we saw on Discovery might have been torpedoes specifically modified to strike secure ground targets, or to cause extinction level events. Again, non-standard weapons, but ones that are certainly available. It could be that these are difficult to produce, or simply that the Federation is well aware they have the capacity to make them, only they consider it distasteful to produce such destructive weapons. Maybe these weapons would one-shot kill other Federation ships or even entire fleets. Bottom line, we don’t know. The fact remains, Discovery has given us one of the clearest, unambigious examples of firepower we could have asked for.