The Great Star Trek Enterprise Rewatch: In a Mirror, Darkly I+II

In the mirror universe, the ISS Enterprise is under the command of Captain Forrest. But First Office Jonathan Archer has plans for advancement, and in this reality, promotion usually involves the violent overthrow of your superiors. And if he can secure the ship, Archer has a plan to go deep into Tholian space, in order to retrieve a starship from the prime universe’s 23rd century.

As you’ll recall, I got quite fed up with the mirror universe by the time DS9 was done with it. So even though my occasional viewing companion was keen to come over and watch these episodes, I wasn’t sure why he was so looking forward to them. As far as I was concerned, this was going to be a tired attempt to recreate the magic of earlier Star Trek, and one that would ultimately be disappointing.

In fact, having rewatched the episode, I think my pre-assessment was perhaps overly harsh. Whilst not amazing, this episode is still good fun. Thanks to plenty of franchise nods and the presence of the USS Defiant from TOS (basically a clone of the original Enterprise), there’s plenty of nostalgia to be had. And of course, as with any mirror universe episode, there are plenty of sexy alternate versions of the female main characters to ogle. And if that seems a bit objectifying, well the greatest gratification of the episodes is that the new leader of the Empire at the end is not Archer, but Hoshi. Suddenly, I love the mirror universe.

Mirror Characters

This two-parter even comes with an alternate opening depicting the violent history of the mirror universe Enterprise. The CGI hasn’t stood the test of time, but the music is much, much better than the usual opening theme.

  • After his historic warp flight lured the Vulcans to Earth, Zefram Cochrane shoots the first Vulcan to set foot on Earth. A hundred years later, and Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites and Denobulans are all considered second-class citizens, subject to human whims.
  • Forrest is the captain of the Enterprise NX-01. He is imprisoned after Archer’s mutiny, only to be later freed by T’Pol. Forrest dies when the NX-01 is destroyed, but buys enough time for his crew to escape.
  • Upset at being passed over for his own command, First Officer Archer stages a mutiny. Although his time as the captain of the Enterprise is brief, he manages to take the Defiant for his own. His feelings of inadequacy fuel his ambition to become Emperor, but ultimately he is betrayed by Hoshi.
  • T’Pol is a Vulcan subordinate aboard Enterprise. She remains loyal to Forrest until his death, then swears loyalty to Archer in order to avoid execution.
  • Trip is the chief engineer, who has been horribly scarred by years working near a warp reactor that leaks delta radiation. He once helped T’Pol through her pon farr, and never fails to remind of her that. T’Pol, for her part, uses a mixture of mind melds and seduction to bend Trip to her will.
  • Phlox is a sadistic experimenter who enjoys inflicting pain whenever possible. He’s basically what the prime universe Phlox secretly aspires to be.
  • Reed is an ambitious security officer, and designer of the agony booth.
  • Hoshi is both communications officer and Captain’s woman – first for Forrest, then Archer. Her seductive and apparently submissive ways only serve to hide her true intent – to claim power for herself. At the end of the episodes, Hoshi declares herself the new Terran Empress.
  • Travis is a buff MACO, and is far more useful than his prime counterpoint.
  • Soval is a bearded, older Vulcan serving aboard the Avenger. He still practices the old Vulcan ways in secret.
  • Porthos’s mirror universe equivalent is a bad-tempered Rottweiler.

Franchise Nods

  • The mirror universe originally featured in TOS’s Mirror, Mirror, and was revisited in several episodes of DS9. This two-parter borrows many motifs from Mirror, Mirror, including the Terran Empire and its insignia, the agony booth, and bearded Vulcan counterparts.
  • The Defiant in this episode is not the USS Defiant of DS9, but the original Constitution class ship which was lost to ‘interstitial space’ in The Tholian Web.
  • The Tholians themselves also return, as do their webs, which now seem much faster to construct than they did in TOS. Maybe the mirror universe Tholians were quicker to perfect this technology.
  • Like Mirror Trip, Captain Pike was also disfigured through exposure to delta radiation.
  • The leader of the alien slaves aboard the Defiant is a Gorn. The last time we saw a Gorn was in TOS’ Arena.
  • The captain’s quarters of the Defiant have a bottle of what appears to be the “it is green” liquid Scotty had in By Any Other Name. The bottle itself looks a lot like a kanar bottle.

Notes and Observations

  • Until now, we had only ever seen the face of a Tholian, and even that was over a viewscreen. This is our first proper look at a Tholian – we learn that they are six-legged crystalline life forms who are comfortable at high temperatures, and who can shatter if it gets too cold.
  • The Defiant bridge both looks faithful to an original Constitution-class bridge, and not hideously outdated – as if all the buttons and knobs were an aesthetic choice rather than an anachronism.
  • I’ve saying for ages that Starfleet should deal with with starship invasions by altering the artificial gravity to make it hard for them to move. Finally, we see that very tactic in this episode.

Summary – In a Mirror, Darkly: The mirror universe is fun again.

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