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Star Trek: Enterprise – In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II are very strange pieces of television.

They represent the fifth- and fourth-to-last episodes (and third-to-last story) of Star Trek: Enterprise. They come towards the tail end of the Berman era as a whole, positioned right before Star Trek took a decade-long absence from television. With the fourth season rather consciously building towards integrating the series with the larger shared universe and trying to lay the foundation for the Federation, it would make sense for the final stretch of the season to channel its energy into that particular avenue.

A vigourous constitutional...

A vigourous constitutional…

However, rather than trying to tell a story essential to this particular show or to the franchise as a whole, the production team opted to construct a two-parter that would feature none of the show’s primary cast and which served as a prequel to an episode of television broadcast in October 1967 and a sequel to an episode of television broadcast in November 1968. The two-parter serves to wrap up plot threads that had been left dangling so long that nobody really cared about them any longer. Given how obsessive Star Trek fans are, that is impressive.

This puts Enterprise in the rather strange position where three of its final five episodes (or two of its final three stories) do not feature any of the primary cast, instead focusing on doppelgangers or holograms. Perhaps this is a reflection on the show’s attitude towards its place within the canon. Perhaps Enterprise fears that it will be a secret history, a forgotten story populated by spectres and echoes.

Engines of destiny.

Engines of destiny.

As the show’s conclusion inches closer and closer, it seems like Enterprise has begun to focus on its own failings and its own flaws. The late stretch of the fourth season seems to fixate upon the show’s original sins, the problems and difficulties baked into the core concept. Whether knowingly or not, the final stretch of the fourth season seems to tackle the ghosts that have haunted the show from the outset. It is too much to describe it as an exorcism, and it is too late to completely save what has been a flawed show, but it does feel Enterprise is taking stock.

Bound takes the adolescent sex fantasies introduced in the decontamination scenes in Broken Bow and builds a whole toxic episode around them. Demons and Terra Prime are about the darkness at the birth of the Federation, playing like a metaphor for the show’s flawed foundation. These Are the Voyages… makes the entire show a subset of Star Trek: The Next Generation, confirming fears that rippled through the first season’s focus on Next Generation aliens like the Nausicaans (Fortunate Son) and the Ferengi (Acquisition).

First (contact) principles.

First (contact) principles.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II do something similar. They serve to take Enterprise back to the beginning in a very literal and figurative sense. The opening scene is a restaging of the first meeting between Vulcans and humanity at the end of Star Trek: First Contact, acknowledging that Enterprise as more of a sequel to First Contact than a prequel to the original Star Trek. It is one of only two Enterprise episodes to feature an appearance from James Cromwell as Zephram Cochrane, albeit in stock footage; the other is Broken Bow.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I is also the only episode of the fourth season to be directed by James L. Conway, a veteran of the franchise dating back to Justice during the first season of The Next Generation. Conway had been responsible for some of the franchise’s most memorable and popular hours; most notably The Way of the Warrior, an episode that had effectively served as a second pilot for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Conway was the director responsible for Broken Bow, the pilot episode of Enterprise.

Oh won't you take me to Brazil?

Oh won’t you take me to Brazil?

There are other ways in which In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II seem to hark back to an early stage of the show’s history. “Word on the ship is the war may be over soon,” reflects mirror!Hoshi at one point. “I’ll go back to Brazil, start teaching again.” This is, of course, a reference to Hoshi’s recruitment by Archer in Broken Bow, and a suggestion that the character might be going something of a full circle. (Not for nothing, holographic!Hoshi suggests the same possibility in These Are the Voyages…)

There are other cues taken from the show’s turbulent early days. Most notably, mirror!Archer’s virulent racism against the Vulcans is only slightly more pronounced than his mainstream counterpart’s attitude in episodes like Broken Bow or Breaking the Ice. Threatening mirror!T’Pol with mirror!Cochrane’s pump-action shotgun, mirror!Archer admits, “I wonder how history would have played out if Cochrane hadn’t turned the tables on your invasion force.” It is only a degree or two removed from some of Archer’s more pronounced anti-Vulcan rhetoric.

Tellin' off a Tellarite...

Tellin’ off a Tellarite…

mirror!Archer is established as paranoid in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I, with that paranoia escalating into full-blown delusion in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. However, Archer has been prone to similar fits of distrust and insecurity. After all, Broken Bow had Archer pointedly advise T’Pol that he didn’t want “every word [he says] being picked apart the next day by the Vulcan High Command.” Indeed, Archer accused the Vulcans of deliberately withholding information that prevented his father from living long enough to see Enterprise launch.

One of the frequently overlooked aspects of the mirror universe is the fact that it was never intended as a campy inversion of the familiar Star Trek universe, where everything was evil and sexy and where everybody had a goatee. As presented in Mirror, Mirror and Crossover, the mirror universe was constructed as a reflection and a cautionary tale. It was a warning about how dangerously wrong things could go, a glimpse of an alternate future had not produced the United Federation but instead a resurrected Roman Empire.

Roman around the galaxy...

Roman around the galaxy…

As much emphasis as the Star Trek franchise might put in its utopian idealism, the truth is that this utopia is fragile. Many fans will point to optimistic and pacifistic episodes like The Devil in the Dark or Errand of Mercy, but the truth is more complicated. While the historical narrative tends to position Star Trek in opposition to the Vietnam War, based on episodes like A Taste of Armageddon, the truth is somewhat murkier. The show was just as prone to propaganda efforts like The Apple, A Private Little War or The Omega Glory.

The Terran Empire has never been a direct inversion of the Federation. It has always been a twisted reflection, a warning about how easily this speculative universe could be distorted and undermined; how the United Federation of Planets could be transformed from an idealised extrapolation of Kennedy’s Camelot to a more cynical extension of the more questionable aspects of American foreign policy in the second half of the twentieth century. The Federation is the future as we might like to imagine it; the Empire is the future as we might hope to avoid it.

"I have been... and always shall be... your frenemy."

“I have been… and always shall be… your frenemy.”

Again, it is worth stressing the renewed emphasis that the fourth season of Enterprise places on galactic powers that arose in opposition to the Federation that are consciously modeled on the aesthetic of the Roman Empire. The Romulan Star Empire is a bigger player in the fourth season of Enterprise than it had been in quite some time, their concept of expansion contrasted with the ideal of exploration in The Aenar. The Terran Empire is another example, with a deleted line from In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II even referencing “the gods.”

Again, all of this seems to position the fourth season of Enterprise as a season very much engaged with the politics of a post-9/11 world, as reflected in the terrorist attack that spurs The Forge and the march to war that drives Kir’Shara, to say nothing of the drone warfare of Babel One or the emphasis on consensus building in United, let alone the realpolitick of Affliction or the pragmatic alliances that drive Divergence. The question of whether twenty-first century America’s foreign policy was driven by idealism or cynicism seemed up for debate.

Evil fist bump? No?

Evil fist bump? No?

The Roman Empire has always been something of an easy (perhaps even facile) comparison for critics of American foreign policy. It is a stock point of reference for any commentator that would seek to argue that American foreign policy is imperialist in nature. Consider the opening paragraph of Michael Ignatieff’s The Lesser Evil, published in The New York Times in July 2004:

What lesser evils may a society commit when it believes it faces the greater evil of its own destruction? This is one of the oldest questions in politics and one of the hardest to answer. The old Roman adage-the safety of the people is the first law-set few limits to the claims of security over liberty. In the name of the people’s safety, the Roman republic was prepared to sacrifice all other laws. For what laws would survive if Rome itself perished? The suspension of civil liberties, the detention of aliens, the secret assassination of enemies: all this might be allowed, as a last resort, if the life of the state were in danger. But if law must sometimes compromise with necessity, must ethics surrender too? Is there no moral limit to what a republic can do when its existence is threatened? As Edward Gibbon retold the story of how the Romans slaughtered defenseless aliens in their eastern cities in 395 C.E. as a preemptive warning to the barbarians massing at the gates of their empire, he declined to consider whether actions that political necessity might require could still remain anathema to moral principle. But the question must not only be asked. It must be answered.

After all, everybody is familiar with the broad strokes history of the Roman Empire; it expanded, it conquered, it collapsed. It is a parallel with obvious resonance that virtually anybody can understand. The specifics of the accusation are just details. It is a bold statement that holds a great deal of rhetorical force. It makes sense that Enterprise would turn to it during the War on Terror as the original Star Trek did during the Vietnam era.

Down periscope...

Down periscope…

Leaving aside the larger issues with the accuracy or validity of the comparison, part of the metaphor is the idea of perpetual warfare; the notion of the Roman Empire as a political entity waging war on just about every front to ensure or prolong its very survival. That is very much part of the general tone of the War on Terror, as Mark Danner argued while labelling the War on Terror as “the forever war”:

In this new cold war, the rollback advocates triumphed and adopted as the heart of their policy a high-stakes, metaphysical gamble to “democratize the Middle East” and thus put an end, once and for all, to terrorism. They relied on a “domino theory” in which the successful implantation of democracy in Iraq would lead to a “democratic revolution” across the region. The ambition of this idea is breathtaking; it depends on a conception of American power as virtually limitless and on an entirely fanciful vision of Iraqi politics, a kind of dogged political wish-fulfillment that no sober analysis could penetrate. Replacing any real willingness to consider whether a clear course existed between here and there, between an invasion and occupation of Iraq and a democratic Middle East, was, at bottom, the simple conviction that since the United States enjoyed a “preponderance of power” unseen in the world since the Roman Empire, and since its cause of democratic revolution was so incontrovertibly just, defeat was inconceivable. One detects here an echo of Vietnam: the inability to imagine that the all-powerful United States might lose.

It is worth noting that this notion of a “forever war” pervades the fourth season of Enterprise, existing in marked contrast to the idealism of the nascent Federation. In The Aenar, Valdore speaks of a Romulan “precept of unlimited expansion.” In Divergence, Reed discusses the notion of perpetual warfare with a captive Klingon while Harris uses it to justify his own agenda.

Radiating attraction.

Radiating attraction.

There are elements of that bubbling through In a Mirror, Darkly as well. The episode very much depicts the Terran Empire in a state of war, albeit an open rebellion of subjugated species like the Vulcans or Andorians. However, it is not a constant high-priority all-consuming war akin to the Dominion War. The Enterprise is not an active participant in the conflict, despite (presumably) being the Empire’s flagship. Instead, it is presented as background noise. It is a grim reality that the inhabitants of the Empire have learned to live with.

When mirror!Hoshi talks about the prospect of the war being over, she offers an example of how it has disrupted their ordinary lives. She plans to return to Brazil, advising mirror!Forrest, “You’ll accept a comfortable desk job at Headquarters. We’ll have the weekends.” It is a charmingly low-key moment for a two-parter about a bunch of sexy sociopaths, one that suggests the mirror universe is the way it is because it has been shaped and defined by war. The mirror universe is a universe where humanity has believed itself to be constantly and perpetually at war.

Riding shotgun.

Riding shotgun.

As such, it serves as a marked contrast to the evolution of the Federation over the course of the fourth season as a whole. In episodes like Babel One and United, the idea of an alliance of different species working together in pursuit of a common goal was presented as radical and subversive. The Federation was not presented as the default status quo, as it had been during the Star Trek shows of the long and prosperous nineties. The Federation was a challenge to the way that things were, a rebuke to a Hobbesian universe.

This ripples thought In a Mirror, Darkly. Indeed, the fascist xenophobic paranoia of the two-parter seems to reflect the aesthetic of many early Enterprise episodes that were informed and shaped by the War on Terror; the increasingly hostile universe of Minefield and Dawn, the justification of assassination as a tool of foreign policy in The Seventh, the fear of the alien other in The Crossing, the general mistrust of the Vulcans and the hellish apocalyptic planetscapes that populated stories like Shadows of P’Jem and Cease Fire.

T'Pol position.

T’Pol position.

Enterprise was largely shaped and defined by 9/11, to the point that the first season closed on the image of a destroyed skyscraper at the cliffhanger to Shockwave, Part I. Even when the series was not consciously exploring the repercussions of that terrorist attack, it was still informed by the surrounding political climate. During its second season, the show became increasingly paranoid and suspicious. The third season could be seen as an attempt to exorcise those aspects of the show. Nevertheless, the narrative was still haunted.

In a Mirror, Darkly is very much about taking those ideas and pushing them to their logical extremes. This is not just an episode about the worst impulses of the characters, but also about the worst impulses of the show around them. In a way, this justifies the whole concept of the two-parter, from the revamped opening credits and alternate theme song to the complete absence of any regular universe characters. In a Mirror, Darkly is not so much about holding up a mirror for the characters to see, but instead serves as a vehicle to reflect on the show.

Handy man.

Handy man.

(With that in mind, one of the episode’s smarter gags is to have mirror!Archer give two separate inspiring speeches over the course of the two-parter restating the mission for his crew, after hijacking the ship in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and after commandeering the Avenger in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. After all, the show has proven quite fond of having these moments; between Broken Bow, The Expanse and Borderland, Archer seems to be quite adept at these moments.)

One of the more common criticisms of In a Mirror, Darkly is that the story doesn’t matter. (The other is that it is grossly self-indulgent fan service, but more on that tomorrow.) This is true, technically speaking. Not a single member of the ensemble appears in the episode, and it has no real impact on the broader arcs of the fourth season as a whole. The only interaction with the regular Star Trek universe is to pick up some dangling threads from The Tholian Web. It’s certainly valid to argue that this is a meaningless diversion.

Only you can prevent Forrest fires...

Only you can prevent Forrest fires…

At the same time, the episode does tie rather neatly into the philosophy espoused by John Frederick Paxton in Demons and Terra Prime. In many ways, when Paxton talks about how he plans to “defend the sovereignty of every single human being” by ensuring that “humanity will prevail”, he is espousing a philosophy very similar to that which drives the Terran Empire. After all, what does “Terra Prime” mean but “Earth First”? Even the logos are similar, the globe of Terra Prime simply missing the sword of the Terran Empire.

In essence, the final four episodes of the fourth season present humanity with a choice. Paxton’s rhetoric and philosophy seem destined to create a world not unlike that glimpsed in In a Mirror, Darkly. Not in a literal sense, of course; the teaser to In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I makes it clear that the mirror universe existed long before the end of Enterprise, as does Phlox’s discussion of classic literature in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. So the divide is not a literal or linear one, as emphasised by positioning the mirror universe two-part before Demons and Terra Prime.

Lost Enterprise.

Lost Enterprise.

However, there is a strong thematic connection. The central theme of Demons and Terra Prime is the idea of a choice of futures, the notion that mankind is presented with a choice; the idealistic union of species sharing common interests represented by the conference, or the naked self-interest and independence represented by Terra Prime. There is something clever in how Enterprise frames the question, positioning it at the end of an eighteen year and twenty-five season run. The audience is confronted with the choice, already knowing the outcome.

The entire Star Trek franchise makes a compelling case for peaceful cooperation, an ode to the better angels of mankind’s nature. Nearly forty years of television support the formation of the United Federation of Planets, making it clear that history within the Star Trek universe stands with Nathan Samuels. Positioning In a Mirror, Darkly directly before Demons and Terra Prime serves as the other side of the coin. It makes the case very much against John Paxton by allowing the audience to get a glimpse of where such rhetoric and philosophy must lead.

Starin' daggers at each other.

Starin’ daggers at each other.

As with United, there is a recurring sense that the optimism and idealism cannot be taken for granted. One of the more interesting aspects of the fourth season of Enterprise is the idea that the Federation is not a given, that the concept of selfless heroism in pursuit of common purpose is almost a subversive idea in this increasingly cynical age. A considerable chunk of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II is given over to mirror!T’Pol struggling against the Terran Empire, inspired by the idea of a better life as embodied by the Federation.

However, the idea itself is not enough. Apathy and cynicism are enough to smother it, despite the best intentions. Perhaps the mirror universe itself is a testament to that idea, with mirror!Spock’s efforts to overturn the Empire following Mirror, Mirror leading to the nightmarish dystopia of Crossover. Here, mirror!T’Pol’s rebellion is brutally quashed. “The Federation is our future,” mirror!T’Pol insists. mirror!Archer responds, “You’re mistaking our universe for someone else’s.”

A Tholian Web of continuity...

A Tholian Web of continuity…

The utopia of Star Trek is no longer assured. There is a strange symmetry to this. The War on Terror had ensured that the idealistic future of Star Trek seemed further away than ever, as the twenty-first century was defined by a war that seemed to continue without clear enemies and without end. The idealism of the sixties had long since faded, while the prosperity of the nineties had slipped into memory. Paradise seemed more lost than ever. The dream was dying, in a figurative sense.

However, the franchise was dying in a much more literal manner. While this iteration of the Star Trek franchise was facing cancellation for reasons that were not directly related to the zeitgeist, it feels strangely appropriate. While the franchise’s cause of death was more closely tied to the politics and realities of turn of the millennium television broadcasting, there is a poetry in tying its decline to the corresponding decline of utopian thought and optimism. Not only was Star Trek dying, but the optimism underpinning the franchise was also fading to memory.

Best of Booth Worlds.

Best of Booth Worlds.

Even beyond pushing the darker forces within Enterprise and the zeitgeist to (and perhaps beyond) their logical extremes, In a Mirror, Darkly also serves to acknowledge some of the limitations baked into Enterprise from the outset. Notably, In a Mirror, Darkly is arguably the only truly ensemble episode of Enterprise, despite the handicap of featuring none of the preexisting characters. Introducing an entire cast of mirror universe doppelgangers, writer Mike Sussman has to establish back story and motivation quite quickly.

Despite the fact that these characters only appear in two episodes of the show, Sussman is careful to afford each member of the ensemble their own personality and history. Sussman hints at preexisting relationships and tensions, some of which are only reflected in a single line or meaningful glance; mirror!Hoshi’s relationships with mirror!Archer and mirror!Forrest, the tension that exists between mirror!Trip and mirror!Reed, mirror!T’Pol’s resistance to the system of human oppression and mirror!Phlox’s embrace of that system.

"Say it! Say you like pineapple!"

“Say it! Say you like pineapple!”

There is a lot of attention to detail in how In a Mirror, Darkly approaches the characters and the world that they inhabit. mirror!Trip’s disfigurement is an obvious homage to that of Christopher Pike in The Menagerie, Part I, but it also characterises the engineer’s relationship to the ship itself as a dynamic as abusive as most of the other relationships in this universe. Even little touches like having Reed serve as a MACO and taking Mayweather away from the thankless role of navigator help to keep things more dynamic.

Implicit in all of this is an acknowledgement of how poorly Enterprise has served its cast members, particularly Linda Park and Anthony Montgomery. Those two actors, and their characters, were horribly served by Enterprise. They were forced into the background, often lucky to get a handful of lines in a given episode. This was particularly problematic given they were the only two people of colour in the entire cast, lending Enterprise a decidedly reactionary air even before the second season embraced post-9/11 paranoia.

"With the show coming to an end, I realise we've never really talked."

“With the show coming to an end, I realise we’ve never really talked.”

Quite pointedly, mirror!Hoshi and mirror!Travis are the characters who come out on top at the end of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. Somewhat ironically, mirror!Trip is the only other regular to unambiguously survive, ironic given his counterpart’s fate in These Are the Voyages… According to Mike Sussman on the commentary for In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II, there was a conscious decision to have mirror!Hoshi and mirror!Mayweather win:

From the beginning, Manny had suggested that Hoshi would end up on top at the end – Hoshi and Mayweather. And it would sort of be “revenge of the day players.” Revenge of the little people. In the end, everyone else is either dead or dying and they end up with… they end up in charge.

In many ways, this feels like something of an act of contrition from the production team, an acknowledgement that the show has not served the performers or the characters particularly well, and that this represents one small attempt to rectify that fact. Tellingly, Demons and Terra Prime make a point to offer Linda Park and Anthony Montgomery relatively prominent roles, putting Hoshi in command and giving Mayweather an ex-girlfriend.

Pistols at the dawn of the mirror universe.

Pistols at the dawn of the mirror universe.

The two-parter serves as a commentary on the show as it explores the legacy of Enterprise. The show had always sit rather awkwardly in relation to the larger Star Trek canon, in no small way due to the fact that it was effectively slotted into a continuity lacuna with a minimum of set up. There was no model of the Archer’s Enterprise hanging in Picard’s Briefing Room, no allusion to big events from the series in any of the previous four shows. This was, of course, because Enterprise did not exist when those shows were written, but it still creates a palpable absence.

Fans objected to a lot of the details of Enterprise, insisting that the show violated the established canon in its portrayal of first contact with the Klingons in Broken Bow or in featuring the Nausicaans in Fortunate Son. While Enterprise did explicitly contradict the early series in some cases, those cases were far rarer than most critics would suggest. Instead, Enterprise frequently violated fan expectations and interpretations of continuity. It fit uncomfortably in the franchise’s internal continuity, because that continuity had not been designed with it in mind.ent-inamirrordarklypart1v

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II even alludes to Enterprise‘s strange place in the larger canon by setting an extended sequence in a part of the Defiant that had never been seen on camera before. mirror!Reed leads a team hunting the Gorn through service ducts that are very much designed to be in keeping with Matt Jefferies’ original design aesthetic, but which never actually appeared on the original Star Trek. Even in recreating that iconic starship design, Enterprise positioned itself as something of a secret history, something tied to canon but never seen before.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II seem like an appropriate place to address these concerns. After all, Enterprise was going to be the last Star Trek show of the Berman era. That was all but assured, with the cast informed of the cancellation during the production of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. There is a question of how Enterprise would be perceived, how the show would be examined in the context of the franchise’s extended history on film and television. Would it be considered at all? Would it be forgotten?

"Admit it! You liked guest starring on Enterprise more than the other shows!"

“Admit it! You liked guest starring on Enterprise more than the other shows!”

These anxieties had been a part of Enterprise since the very beginning, manifested in the Temporal Cold War looming over the show. Enterprise seemed to begin with the possibility that Enterprise might be erased from history, or even disconnected from the Star Trek universe. Despite existing as a prequel, the series repeatedly suggested that its future was not set in stone. The closing shot of Shockwave, Part I suggested as much, as did the Xindi arc spanning the third season. The future was not certain.

With cancellation looming, it seems like the production team is worried that Enterprise will be forgotten and abandoned, relegated to a secret history within the larger franchise. mirror!Archer and mirror!Hoshi have something of a crisis of identity when confronted with the records on the Defiant. “The Empire,” mirror!Archer remarks. “As far as I can tell, it doesn’t exist in the other universe.” He elaborates, “A lot of the names are the same, but their history has been rewritten.”

A tortured soul.

A tortured soul.

As far as mirror!Archer is concerned, he is a man who has been written out of history. When Admiral Black attempts to take command of the Defiant, mirror!Archer finds himself taunted by his paranoid delusions. “He’ll take all the credit, and you’ll end up a historical footnote.” Ironically, mirror!Archer finds himself haunted by the accomplishments of his regular counterpart, perhaps in much the same way that Enterprise constantly found itself struggling to measure up to the other Star Trek shows.

In the end, mirror!Archer ultimately decides to abandon the future. He opts to wipe the slate clean. His last order in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II is to expunge any record of the mainstream Star Trek continuity, as if severing the chord connecting him to the rest of the franchise and completely rejecting that possible future. “Before I forget,” he urges mirror!Hoshi, “first thing tomorrow, I want you to erase the historical database.” There is a sense of tragedy to all this, mirror!Archer as a man who doesn’t want to be haunted by his own possible future.

Blast from the past...

Blast from the past…

There is a grim fatalism that runs through In a Mirror, Darkly, as reflected in the episode’s rather bloodthirsty attitude towards the primary cast members. It seems like the show is practically dead already, reconciled to its fate. “My death will change nothing,” promises mirror!T’Pol. This is true. In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II ends with a change of government, but with Hoshi Sato simply replacing the sitting emperor. Very little has changed between the start of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and the end of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. Well, except that a lot more people are dead.

In fact, setting the entire story in the mirror universe this late in the final season could be seen as an act of pointlessness, the show reconciled to its fate and indulging its own darkest impulses. That said, there is some irony in the fact that In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II manages to offer some small closure to the show itself. The biographies of Hoshi and Archer written by Mike Sussman are clearly visible in the high definition cut of the episode. Hoshi’s even sets her fate, killing her off in the massacre that forms the back story to Conscience of a King.

Bridge commander.

Bridge commander.

In its own warped way, In a Mirror Darkly, Part II seeks to confer legitimacy upon Enterprise by slipping it into the background of the other shows. mirror!Archer and mirror!Hoshi read their counterparts’ biographies from the database of a ship that appeared in The Tholian Web. mirror!Hoshi discovers that Archer was “the greatest explorer of the twenty second century. Two planets were named after him.” Hoshi retroactively dies in the back story to Conscience of a King, while Archer names the planet mentioned in Yesterday’s Enterprise.

All of this serves to position Enterprise as a secret lost history positioned uncomfortably between the minutiae of the larger franchise, its own internal continuity strained and distorted to fit the demands of the legacy imposed upon it. In a Mirror, Darkly cannot seem to decide which prospect is more horrifying: that the future might be lost, or that it might be set.

25 Responses

  1. I had given up on Enterprise more than 2 years before this two-parter came out. I had stopped paying attention to anything related to Trek – and yet, a friend insisted I should watch these episodes. It was so much fun! So many funny moments – the deaths of the Vulcans, doberman Porthos, Archer’s hammy delivery of “the bridge is yours!,” the Gorn, the Defiant effortlessly shooting down enemy ships – I laughed a lot. The audacity of these episodes truly impressed me because I was not used to seeing Enterprise leap so shamelessly into the Star Trek universe and simultaneously celebrate and satirize itself. Thanks to these episodes, I went back for more of what I’d missed.

    I still haven’t gone back to season 2, though.

    • Don’t go back to season two.

      Well, maybe like three of the first four (I’d stretch to four of the first five, but I’m the rare soul who appreciated what A Night in Sickbay attempted) episodes and six of the last eight.

      But yeah. I’m wary of continuity porn, but there was just so much energy and drive in this two-parter that I couldn’t hate it. And it has a rare mastery of form; it accomplishes what it sets out to do, however questionable that might be. It’s effectively a pilot for another show, and it might be the best pilot that Star Trek ever produced. It wouldn’t be one of my favourite Star Trek episodes, but it is one of my most enjoyable.

    • Same here, I abandoned the show sometime during the Xindi arc, so I only discovered this episode floating around on youtube. But wow, I was glued to my seat when I watched this on that tiny youtube display, I felt like I could be a Star Trek fan again.

  2. If only the show had been as intelligent and well-written as the review! 😉

  3. I still can’t believe they found it in the budget.

  4. Say what you will about this episode, but the opening credits remains my favorite of all the opening credits in Star Trek.

    • I also love the teaser as well, even if the splicing is not perfect. (I think it’s grand and – considering the restraints under which the show was working – quite impressive.)

  5. One thing I find utterly hilarious about these mirror universe episodes of Enterprise, is that the female uniforms, even with that juvenile midriff cut, still end up looking more professional then the standard uniform used on the regular episodes. By adding the military shoulder ranks, and military insignia, there’s a serious look of professionalism among the crew, even T’Pol gets to look like an officer. I think it’s because the standard blue ENT uniform jumpsuit makes them all look like janitors and mechanics, if Archer walked around the Nostromo from Alien, I’d expect the crew would hand him a mop and tell him to clean out the septic tank. Another thing I found funny was that the horrible Terran Empire had the most integrated alien crews on their bridges compared to their Federation counterparts. Apparently the mirror Empire are equal opportunity racists.

    Yesterday’s Enterprises’ militarized uniform only lamely added the belt to show their military parallel, which in my opinion, didn’t go far enough (but I understand that episode was thrown together at the last minute so which could explain that).

    • Ha! I also found something darkly hilarious the fact that the Terrans had done a much better job of building an interstellar coalition than Starfleet.

      • I actually like the Enterprise uniforms (and the mirror ones as well) because they’re jumpsuits. Practically all the Star Trek uniforms (minus the Gray DS9 era ones) looked stupid IMO, and in this bizarre rare instance, Enterprise looks less stupid than most.

      • I have a fondness for the S3-era TNG uniforms.

    • Maybe its because the 80s are before my time, but I hate the spandex of TNG 😛

    • The Enterprise uniforms are great (IMO) because they look like something an Earth-wide version of NASA might actually be wearing 150 years from now.

  6. Isn’t it funny that Enterprise actually did this concept better than DS9? How many times can anyone say Enterprise did something better than DS9, or anything?

    • I don’t know. Crossover is phenomenal, as terrible as the later mirror universe episodes might be.

      • It’s not really a mirror universe episode though. It comes off as just a “grime alternate reality” in the vein of say, Yesterday’s Enterprise, just not anywhere as good or interesting as either that or the evil universe of Mirror, Mirror. The backstory is cool, but the episode itself is just weird and unpleasant.

        On a side note, it will be fun to read IDW’s attempts to get around the backstory to make their TNG mirror universe story, since apparently it wants to respect it. Wasn’t Earth destroyed and conquered though, or was that never revealed?

      • I don’t know. Crossover is very much a pointed commentary on Mirror, Mirror and perhaps the mirror universe episode that takes Mirror, Mirror most seriously. It is a logical extension of the themes of Mirror, Mirror, turning its commentary on cultural imperialism back on itself by asking what if Kirk was wrong to meddle in an alien culture and try to impose his values?

      • Also the sexiness was replaced with really immature bisexual fantasies. Somehow, even Enterprise did the sexy better. A series that had half naked guys rubbing KY jelly on a dog managed to do sexy right, lol…

      • I dunno, the episode comes off as shallow garbage to me. It has a whole “lets reverse roles” but they didn’t even get that right

      • I think “Kira-as-Dukat” is a very clever twist as is “let’s actually see the long-term impact upon a society with which Kirk meddled” as a central plot thread.

  7. What is hard to understand is that a Vulcan ship lands by a small community which, even if one of its number had just managed to go to warp, would have an extremely low understanding of advanced spaceship technology, but is able to not only able to take over the ship (moderately believable), but then make sense of the ship’s instruments and fly it (much less likely and rather unbelievable). Lastly, and far less believable, could overwhelm the Vulcans, which presumably would have been the next move, which would have had overwhelming superiority of forces. That is without considering how they would have found Vulcan, which would be unfathomable if they had killed the Vulcan crew.

    Ultimately, the disposition of the Vulcan crew makes little difference to their chances; the one Vulcan ship could hardly be enough to take control of the Vulcan empire, or any other space power.

    • I think it works thematically, in terms of illustrating the differences between the Star Trek universe and the mirror universe. As for the actual mechanics of it, they’re hazy. But, again, it’s Star Trek, a franchise where mankind seemingly erased greed, anger, vindictiveness, pride and tribalism off-screen in a throwaway line in Broken Bow, and where technology like the replicator and the transporter has fundamentally changed human nature. It’s far from the biggest “… really?” moment in the history of the franchise.

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