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In a Mirror, Darkly, Part 1

4-18 In a Mirror, Darkly, Part 1

reviewed by Kevin Thomas Riley

First off, before I write about the episode itself, I have to say a few things. When I first learned about the fact that there was going to be a Mirror Universe two-parter on Star Trek: Enterprise I was not all that thrilled about it. For one thing I'm not all that keen on alternate reality stories on Trek. Ultimately they don't mean anything in the real Trek universe. Whatever is told or learned have no bearing on our characters. They're the ultimate reset and I hate reset buttons. They're a cheap cop-out - a crutch to storytelling.

The Mirror Universe episodes aren't even real resets because they are self-contained. Unlike the original Mirror, Mirror there is no real crossover to the ordinary Trekverse, in the sense that the real characters learns or remembers anything from it. On ENT I have the same problem with Twilight. It's pretty pointless in the grand scheme of things. At least in E2 the crew remembered their alternate counterparts.

Add to this the fact that when news broke of this two-parter, a decision about a fifth season hadn't been made and chances were big that the show would be cancelled. Why at that juncture "sacrifice" two episodes when you could've told intriguing stories in the real Trekverse; Stories that had a meaning in the grand scheme of things. And lo and behold, six days into shooting part two the suits at Paramount did indeed cancel the show. That has left just the two episodes coming after the mirror episodes to deal with pressing issues in the Trekverse (I'm for reasons that go beyond this review not counting the so-called "finale”).

Spoilers indicated however that these mirror episodes would be fun and quite a bit nostalgic. Seeing the old Constitution class again, together with Tholians and original series uniforms would be a treat for an old original fan such as myself. Having the crew act all evil, manipulating and backstabbing each other could also be amusing. But as much fun as it promised it still left a little sour feeling. Why should I care what happens to the mirror counterparts? They're not our crew! I decided to put my reservations on hold while watching the episodes. Otherwise my enjoyment would probably be impaired. I still believe my reservations are valid and I'd rather we had two extra episodes in the real universe. Doing the mirror universe should've been left for a fifth season, had we been given one.

But let us proceed to the episode. The title is actually very clever and that's not something we see every day on modern Trek, which all too often rely on rather boring one-word episode titles. In a Mirror, Darkly is taken from The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then we will see face to face." I wish they'd use more intriguing and thought-provoking titles more.

The Mirror Universe isn't a mirror per se. It is not an alternate universe, with a diverging point sometime in the past, either. It is more of a parallel universe to our own where things are more twisted, grim and evil. Our characters have mirror counterparts that are darker. They're sufficiently different but not polar opposites. Certain traits are still there, they're still recognizable. Phlox is still a doctor but his mirror self would make Dr Mengele proud. Mirror Reed still wants to blow things up, but he also invented the agony booth. Mirror T'Pol uses logic but somewhat ruthlessly. Etcetera. It was really fun to see them act like this and you could tell that the cast had a real blast doing it. Playing evil is always more fun than playing good!

The character that was the most different was Hoshi. Far from the rather shy communications officer, here she was a slutty Captain's woman (whoever the Captain may be). And I'm sorry to say that the character most like his real self was Archer. Mirror Archer was supposed to come of as scary and evil but to me he resembled Angry Archer of the real Trekverse way too much. The acting, the constipated frown, the delivery of lines, the pacing and the stick-up-his-butt was all there in their mirror glory. Mirror Mayweather, here a MACO sergeant, also resembled his real self in his lack of lines.

Mirror Tucker was the most sympathetic character, already dubbed "Phantom of the Warp Core" thanks to his radiation scared face, lurking around in the hazardous engineering environment leering at the stunningly beautiful Mirror T'Pol. Mirror Trip is resigned to his fate and doesn't seem to have much motivation besides basic survival - and the occasional romp in the sack with a pon farring T'Pol.

Bare midriffs on the females are a staple of mirror Trek, and boy do they show it off. Rowr, T'Pol's and Hoshi's nice tummies almost steal the show! Hoshi also gets to sprout some skimpy negligees and even though she looks very nice in those she is (predictably for this certified T'Poloholic) eclipsed by Mirror T'Pol. Long blond hair, full red pouty lips, and taut belly… it doesn't get any better than that (maybe next episode). No wonder Mirror Trip willingly lets her seduce him.

Trip and T'Pol are not romantically involved as they are in the real universe but they do have some twisted "thing" going on between them. And even if T'Pol uses him for her own ends I can't help wondering if there's something more. She didn't have to tell him that she forcibly mind-melded with him to do her bidding. There was no logical reason to do that. In fact, that revelation could prove dangerous for her so why did she do that? And Mirror Trip did seem concerned about her not getting too much radiation. At any rate, Trip and T'Pol is a hot item even in the mirror universe :devil:!

The talk about T'Pol going through pon farr had me confused. Conjecture from other Trek episodes has suggested that female Vulcans don't experience pon farr unless triggered by a pon farring male (VOY's Blood Fever), or an outside biological agent as happened to the real T'Pol in Bounty. The writers are probably undecided or confused about female Vulcan biology. I would guess though, that Mirror T'Pol could have had a "Bounty" incident where Trip did her a favour and helped her out (several times). Or it could be that she simply lied and used sex as a means of control and getting an ally of sorts.

The plot is fast-paced and rather simple. The Tholians have lured a 23rd century Starfleet vessel - the U.S.S. Defiant from the original series The Tholian Web - into the mirror universe and Archer wants to get his hands on it so he can use its superior technology in the power struggle within the Terran Empire. But before he can get there he must overthrow his commanding officer (Captain Forrest) on the mirror NX-01. There are a lot of twits and turns (and visits to the agony booth) as the crew schemes and plots against each other. I found it a bit odd that Archer let Forrest live and then that Forrest let Archer not only live but also continue as XO after he got his command back.

This time we get to see a Tholian from the neck down too. Nice bit of continuity with the head and the now revealed spider-like crystalline legs and torso looked very alien indeed. Even the Tholian web made a re-appearance, albeit used a bit differently. But for old-timers such as myself, the real beauty shot was that of the Constitution class U.S.S. Defiant. That is one beautiful ship and it looked so sleek and smooth on screen. Nice to see you again, Connie! Defiant interiors were also built and for the first time the entire Constitution bridge set were faithfully recreated. My little TOS heart leapt with joy at seeing it again.

The ending of part one was more or less a foregone conclusion. The mirror crew are now stranded on the Defiant. Guess what they're going to do next!

Finally for my grade I will give this one an 8++. I promised myself that I wasn't going to get totally sucked into the mirror universe but a part of me really roots for this crew (well, at least some of them ;-)). It was well executed, if a bit intentionally hammy. But for my initial reservations I can't give this a higher grade. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I look forward to the conclusion.

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