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Star Trek: Mirror Universe – The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

There is a fairly significant lacuna in the internal chronology of the Star Trek universe, between the opening scene of Star Trek: Generations and Encounter at Farpoint. It is a fairly significant void that has only fleetingly been explored in various novels and comic books – most notably in Pocket Books’ intriguing Lost Era series. However, the lack of interest in this period is understandable. Not too much had changed between the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Starfleet was still Starfleet, the Enterprise was still a ship of exploration.

In contrast, much more happened between the last act of Mirror, Mirror and the teaser of Crossover. The Terran Empire had collapsed in on itself, replaced by a hostile alliance of Klingons and Cardassians. Humans were no longer masters of their domain, instead forced to exist as slaves or mercenaries or rebels. The universe of Mirror, Mirror had been brutal, but ordered; the world of Crossover was brutal and chaotic. Everything had changed in a rather fundamental way. An empire had died, the enemy had stormed the gates. Everything was wrong.

With The Sorrows of Empire, author David Mack begins a project to impose a clear structure on the mirror universe. Mack’s objective is essentially to stitch together a host of divergent (and perhaps even contradictory) continuity into a singular unifying narrative. The Sorrows of Empire was first published as a novella in the Glass Empires collection. However, his attempt to knit together the mirror universe as featured on the original show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise was quickly expanded into its own full-length novel.

Indeed, having tied those various threads together, Mack would then try to resolve them all, writing Rise Like Lions to help stitch The Soul Key into his tapestry while resolving a long-dangling piece of Star Trek continuity. The Sorrows of Empire is a fascinating read, and Herculean effort. Mack shares the same knack for blending continuity with narrative as writers like Keith R.A. DeCandido or Christopher L. Bennett. However, The Sorrow of Empires struggles to get around the fact that it is trying desperately to put together a jigsaw from mismatched pieces that were never meant to be combined.

tos-thesorrowsofempire

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Star Trek – Mirror, Mirror (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Mirror, Mirror is rightfully iconic.

It is a Star Trek episode that spawned sequels on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a prequel on Star Trek: Enterprise. It codified the whole idea of a “mirror universe” in popular culture, to the point where audiences readily accept the idea of an entire world populated with evil (and possibly sexy) counterparts to our characters. Shows as diverse as Doctor Who and South Park have played with the concept. Indeed, “evil alternate universe doppelganger has a goatee” is a recognisable trope.

... And that was the last time Koenig tried to upstage Shatner...

… And that was the last time Koenig tried to upstage Shatner…

There is a strange irony to all this. The mirror universe is an absurd concept for a number of reasons, and that absurdity is only heightened when it becomes more and more iconic. Turning the idea into a recognisable television cliché inevitably simplifies it. Although Mirror, Mirror is very camp – in the same way that a lot of classic Star Trek is camp – it is a story that has a lot of interesting and clever things to say. These tend to get sanded off through imitation and repetition. (For example, despite wearing the “evil goatee”, mirror!Spock is “a man of integrity.”)

And yet, behind the striking iconic production design and the admittedly absurd premise, Mirror, Mirror ranks as one of the best and most insightful scripts of classic Star Trek. It represents a cautionary tale and critical examination of some of the show’s core tendencies.

Bringing the pain...

Bringing the pain…

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