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In A Mirror, Darkly

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 23, 2005 - 3:40 AM GMT

See Also: 'In A Mirror, Darkly - Part I' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: In the Mirror universe, the first contact with Vulcans ends with Zefram Cochrane shooting one of the Vulcans while humans raid the Vulcan ship. In the following years the Terran Empire grows, using Vulcan technology and treating Vulcans as slaves. By the time Forrest has become captain of the ISS Enterprise, Reed and Phlox have helped to develop the agonizer booth and his first officer, Archer, has learned of a powerful ship hidden in Tholian space. When Forrest insists that Enterprise will rendezvous with the fleet instead, Archer leads a mutiny with the help of Reed. Recruiting Mayweather as his lackey, Archer takes up romantically with Sato - who had left him for Forrest when Forrest was promoted over Archer - and heads into Tholian space, ordering Tucker and T'Pol to get the Suliban cloaking device on the ship installed and functioning.

When Enterprise encounters a Tholian ship, Archer has it disabled and beams the pilot aboard. After some torture advice from Phlox, he learns that the captured ship is being kept in a system dominated by a gas giant. He also learns that the Tholian emits a distress tone if not sedated. Tucker and T'Pol work on the cloak, but an explosion sabotages their work. Archer believes an agent of Admiral Black must be responsible, beats up Forrest when he can't name the spy, and has Tucker tortured when the engineer denies responsibility. It makes no sense to him that Tucker would have done such an incompetent job, however, and by the time he begins to suspect T'Pol, she has led a counter-insurgence to free Forrest. The former captain retakes the bridge, but Archer has set the ship's auto-navigation to reach the gas giant's system and it will take several days to break the system's encryption. Not even ten hours in an agonizer booth makes Archer tell Forrest anything more.

Intrigued by the data Archer has sent to Starfleet, Admiral Gardner orders Enterprise to investigate the ship the Tholians have supposedly discovered. Archer explains that the ship is not only from a parallel universe, having fallen through an interphasic rift, but that tests on its materials indicate that it is from a hundred years in the future. T'Pol finds this ludicrous, but Forrest insists that they will investigate anyway. Privately she admits to Tucker that she made him sabotage the power grid by planting a telepathic suggestion during a sexual encounter, then performed another mind-meld to wipe his memory. Tucker vows revenge, but first he gets the cloak working, enabling Enterprise to approach the Tholian system undetected. There the crew discovers the USS Defiant, which has fallen through a rift between universes just as Archer said.

While Archer takes an away team onto Defiant and gets the ship's systems back in working order, Forrest plans to bring the futuristic database on board and then destroy Defiant since he doesn't believe the ship can successfully piloted through Tholian space without detection. He also orders T'Pol to assassinate Archer, but before she has an opportunity to do so, the Tholian in sickbay regains consciousness and sends out another distress call. Phlox kills the alien, but not before numerous Tholian ships close on Enterprise and begin to create a web around the vessel. Under heavy fire, Forrest orders his crew to abandon ship and buys time by shooting at the Tholians. While Archer, T'Pol, Tucker and Reed watch from the Defiant's bridge, a vast explosion rocks Enterprise.

Analysis: "In a Mirror, Darkly" is an entertaining and respectable if somewhat pointless addition to the Mirror universe lore created on the original Star Trek and furthered on Deep Space Nine. There are certain aspects to that parallel universe which have never made any sense: if so many people are assassinated or die in gratuitous attacks, for instance, how is it that the Terran Empire maintains its population of humans aboard its ships, and how do all these people who want to kill each other manage to survive in the same place and time as their equivalents in the Trek universe? But these are quibbles, just like the question of why interphasic rifts that sent Kirk and Kira into eras identical to their own would send the Defiant back a hundred years in the parallel universe. The Mirror universes are might-have-beens, asking what certain characters would be like had they lived under much more brutal circumstances. Some, like Spock, remain quite similar to the familiar character from the Trek universe, but some, like Odo, become completely different people with the same names and faces. On Enterprise, most people become quite altered as well, though their areas of expertise remain largely the same.

There's great fun to the opening and credits, even though it's quite predictable from the moment the Vulcans land that Cochrane will blow them away. (The Vulcans, we are led to believe, are little different at least when it comes to first contacts, though Archer believes they intended to enslave humans before the tables were turned on them.) The credits feature not the history of humanity's exploration but the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction from the sailing warship to the hydrogen bomb, culminating in the rise of the Terran Empire. That, I must admit, is my favorite part of the episode, not because it's the mirror universe, but because it could well be our own universe...indeed, the footage of battleships, tanks, fighter jets and atomic weapons are from our own universe, and the Mirror Enterprise doesn't look all that different from the NX-01 outfitted for combat with the Xindi. It isn't that the Mirror universe has a design flaw, but that certain critical choices and mistakes have allowed the worst rather than the best of humanity to thrive.

The rest of "In a Mirror, Darkly" is a darkly comic adventure story, but since there's no interaction with the "real" Trek universe, it's all of little consequence. Forrest is depicted as a captain who can be brutal, but who has a conscience and wants what's best for the Terran Empire - he tells Sato, his lover, that he is very concerned about the loss of twelve ships in combat - whereas Archer, who claims only to care about the Empire rather than his own ambitions, will evidently do anything in pursuit of glory. This means he isn't utterly ruthless, like Reed who's happy to torture or shoot anyone at all; Archer knows that he may need Forrest alive to avoid a court-martial, and that T'Pol is more of an asset as a first officer than the vicious Reed would be. Some of the relationships have parallels to those in the Trek universe, for Tucker and T'Pol are attracted yet cruel to one another. Sato, however, will attach herself to the most powerful officer around, be it Forrest or Archer, and Mayweather (who I'm betting is the admiral's spy) will work for whoever will give him the best position on the ship.

We get to see the origins of the agonizer booth, skulls on MACO ID patches, the bare midriffs on the women's uniforms that continue into Kirk's era; we get to see a (pretty cheesy looking CGI) AU Tholian, Porthos as a big scary dog, Sato pulling a knife on Archer the way Uhura pulled one on Sulu - hasn't anyone considered locking up the weapons in the armory? And, of course, we get to see the Defiant, which looks wonderful in that modified Tholian spacedock, and T'Pol sitting at the equivalent of Spock's science station, and Archer at the equivalent of Kirk's chair, which has undeniable appeal even if it's very hard to like these alternate versions of familiar characters. T'Pol's resentment of the treatment of Vulcans seems justified at first, but then she uses her Vulcan talents to violate Tucker's mind; Tucker seems a decent guy and a decent engineer, but he babbles about personal revenge instead of worrying about the risk T'Pol placed the ship in by tampering with the sensors; Reed's just a thug, Phlox is psychotic, Forrest keeps underestimating his adversaries, Archer's a selfish creep and Sato is, to speak politely...but wait, there's really not a polite word for what Sato is.

I'm a little blurry on the Starfleet politics going on in the background. Apparently Admiral Black and Admiral Gardner are in competition and are using crewmembers on Enterprise for their own personal power plays. I'm also rather unclear on the relations between the Terran Empire and everyone else in the universe; if they're torturing Tellarites for sport, who, exactly, are their allies? Clearly the Tholians are quite clever, using tricobalt warheads to open rifts between universes, and boy they build their webs fast over there! Kirk would have been history in ten minutes if the Tholians on this side could do the same a hundred years later. Again, it's fun and lighthearted in a twisted sort of way, but if someone had asked me what two-parter I'd most like in the waning weeks of Enterprise, it would have focused on the real crew and the real universe, not on the history of a parallel dimension and a missing starship whose history has never been all that important in the first place.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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