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Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror #1 – Fragile Glass (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

One of the benefits and the curses of tie-in material is the ability to connect the dots – to tie together two parts of continuity separated by time and space, filling in the blanks in some character or plot arc. Often, this feels extraneous at best. In order for the televised stories to work, there must be enough information conveyed effectively to the audience so they can make their own leaps. Trying to plug imaginary and unnecessary holes is seldom satisfying.

On the other hand, there are occasionally gaps that are worth exploring. These are gaps that have been explained on the show, but which are still large enough that creators can fit their own interesting stories between them. The divide between Mirror, Mirror and Crossover is one such gap, as we go from the original Star Trek‘s version of the mirror universe to the very different iteration seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Tom DeFalco’s Fragile Glass attempts to sketch in some of the details around this gap. While it’s not entirely satisfying as either a missing link or a story in its own right, it does offer some nice pulpy fun and gets considerable mileage out of the “Spock vs. Kirk” premise.

I am not Spock...

I am not Spock…

There’s quite a lot about Fragile Glass which feels like overcompensating fan fiction. There are mirror!Klingons! The Tantalus Field is harnessed as a weapon of mass destruction! There’s a cameo from mirror!Decker. mirror!Spock gets it on! There are lots of assassination attempts without any fatalities until the very climax of the story! There are points in Fragile Glass when it seems like DeFalco is just throwing all these concepts at the page in a desperate attempt to cram all his fanboy plot ideas into a single comic book.

Fragile Glass feels somewhat over-crowded, especially when it comes to action scenes. It seems that the reader can’t turn five pages without stumbling across another ambush or assassination attempt. One wonders how the Terran Empire goes about the universe being evil when everybody is so busy trying to kill one another. (And proving pretty terrible at it.) I’m not generally one for capital punishment, but keeping both mirror!Sulu and mirror!Kirk alive over the course of Fragile Glass seems like a monumentally stupid idea.

mirror!Spock throws his weight around...

mirror!Spock throws his weight around…

There are pace battles and confrontations and heavy foreshadowing. As mirror!Spock proves himself a bad-ass in combat, the retreating Klingons muse, “New alliances must be formed!” I’m surprised they don’t set a course for Cardassia right then and there, so blatant is the attempt to lead into Crossover. It’s just action, action, action. Which, to be fair, isn’t all bad – the wonderful Mark Bagley is much better at action sequences than he is at celebrity likenesses. (Which he generously concedes in his affectionate afterword.)

At the same time, however, this action means that Fragile Glass winds up covering relatively little space. There is – as mentioned above – a huge gap between Mirror, Mirror and Crossover. Spock has to change the way of life in the Terran Empire. The Terran Empire has to be overthrown. Humanity has to be enslaved. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and Fragile Glass never seems too ambitious. In fact, it pretty much fills what would seem to be a relatively minor gap in the mirror universe chronology.

mirror!Kirk is in for crimes against fashion...

mirror!Kirk is in for crimes against fashion…

Fragile Glass covers the gap between the end of Mirror, Mirror and the moment when mirror!Spock officially assumes command of the ISS Enterprise. Most fans would be forgiven for assuming those two moments were little more than five minutes apart. After all, how hard would it be to lock mirror!Kirk up and claim command of his chip? Fragile Glass even opens with the mirror!crew asking mirror!Spock to just kill him already. It’s good to be loved by your crew.

That said, once you get past these obvious shortcomings, Fragile Glass is actually pretty fun. Quite simply, it delivers on a rather beautiful central concept that would be difficult under other circumstances: Kirk vs. Spock! Okay, mirror!Kirk vs. mirror!Spock. I mean, the show did this in Amok Time, but this is a bit different. That was a brawl to the death. Here, it’s… still a brawl to the death, but one more interested in creating conflict between the two.

"You'll regret this... in about 103 years!"

“You’ll regret this… in about 103 years!”

Indeed, Fragile Glass is most fun when Kirk and Spock try to use their respective strengths to undermine one another. One of the recurring conflicts on the show was Spock’s logic against Kirk’s intuition, so it’s fun to see the two playing against each other with the entire universe at stake. Early on, mirror!Spock is even smart enough to acknowledge his commanding officer’s “rather fascinating ability to survive the most overwhelming adversities.” It’s a nice gift to have when he’s on your side, but it’s a pretty big problem when you find yourself competing against him.

mirror!Kirk, it seems, can be as difficult to kill as regular!Kirk, and shares a lot of the latter’s luck and skill – untempered by his compassion or humanity. “I’ll find a way to win!” he boasts at one point. “I always do! I’m the man who changes the rules! Who rigs the game!” One of the beauties of the classic Star Trek formula is the way that Kirk and Spock should be antagonistic towards each other – they espouse opposite ideals and philosophies – but they wind up fitting together perfectly. Fragile Glass has some fun breaking that relationship and playing the two as mortal enemies at each other’s throats.

A fighting finish...

A fighting finish…

It’s quite fun to see any version of Spock forced to engage in a battle of survival. mirror!Spock displays a stunningly rational approach to shipboard politics. Indeed, he rather pragmatically uses sex as a bargaining chip, which is something which makes a great deal of sense while still feeling remarkably uncomfortable. Marlena Moreau points out that mirror!Spock has never shown any interest in human women. He explains, “Before today… I did not. But logic dictates that you and I form an alliance. To maintain that alliance will require a high degree of trust and fidelity.”

(It’s not really out of character either, given what our Spock does in The Enterprise Incident. There’s something strangely fascinating about the idea that Spock in any reality knows just how damn sexy he is. It’s the only logical explanation.)

An explosive changeover of command...

An explosive changeover of command…

mirror!Spock proceeds to run all sorts of logical rings around mirror!Kirk, demonstrating why you do not mess with Spock in any universe. (See also: Star Trek: Into Darkness.) There are quite a few great moments for mirror!Spock, including his application of logic to talk the non-violent Halkans into letting the Empire pillage their planet (“passive resistance is also a form of aggression”) and convincing the Empire to support his strategy (“since words are cheaper than phasers, I’ll approve your proposed treaty–“).

Fragile Glass is fairly shallow fun. It doesn’t add too much to the mythos, or even document too much of the shift between Mirror, Mirror and Crossover. Still, it’s fun on its own terms and worth a ready for anybody who likes bad-ass goateed Spock.

You might be interested in our reviews of the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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