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The Trek Nation - Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2006 - 8:58 PM GMT

See Also: 'Mirror, Mirror' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: During a beam-out after unsuccessful negotiations for dilithium crystals with the Halkans, Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura switch places with their duplicates in a violent alternate universe. They quickly learn that advancement occurs via assassination, that Spock has orders to execute Kirk if he fails to wipe out the Halkans for refusing to submit to the Empire and that they must recalibrate the transporter and return home quickly or they will be trapped on this mirror Enterprise forever. While Uhura attempts to keep a licentious Sulu distracted on the bridge and McCoy helps Scotty in engineering, Kirk discovers that in this universe, he has a mistress who will kill for him and a first officer who, though loyal to Starfleet, has no desire to advance to the captaincy by way of Kirk's death. When the mirror Spock discovers what has happened, he helps Kirk and his crew trade places with the officers from his own universe, but not before Kirk has attempted to persuade him to consider the illogic of an Empire that rules by conquest and to try to change it.


Analysis: This is another of those very-nearly-perfect installments of Star Trek, blending action, suspense, Star Trek idealism and far more sex than usual. I suppose it became inevitable after "The Alternative Factor", when Kirk and Spock realized that they had doubles just as Lazarus did, that we would need to see those doubles, but the nature of Jerome Bixby's alternate universe is inspired: it is everything the Federation is not, meaning not only that Starfleet officers are brutal and selfish, but also that they fail to fret overmuch about professionalism and they flaunt their sexuality. Our first indication that there has been a switch comes from the costumes in which Kirk and his crew appear on the ISS Enterprise: suddenly Kirk's uniform is sleeveless, Scotty is sporting a gold sash around his waist and Uhura is displaying far more skin than we've previously been graced with. A moment later we see a bearded Spock saluting, and it's obvious that things are terribly awry.

For better or worse, they are also enormously fun. Spock punishes Leslie for the rocky transporter ride by using an agonizer! Sulu hits on Uhura on the bridge! Chekov tries to have Kirk killed and pays by being placed in the agony booth! Kirk's pretty lieutenant offers to kill Spock for him! And although Kirk becomes predictably appalled when he discovers what manner of man his counterpart is - advanced to captaincy by assassinating Christopher Pike, famed for putting down uprisings and conquering worlds - he also appears just a little bit amused by all the power at his command, the way men jump to salute him and women throw themselves into his arms. He seems particularly gratified to learn that even in this universe, his logical first officer chooses to follow him rather than to lead. Scotty, while disgusted to learn that as chief engineer he can't access phaser control, appears to have a pretty similar job to the one he has on the USS Enterprise, while McCoy can stray from Sickbay as no one seems terribly concerned about whether the doctor is in since patients can be used for torture practice otherwise.

But Uhura isn't so thrilled with her role, for she must alternately evade Sulu and take advantage of his interest (something I never noticed before the DVD: the expressions on the faces of the guards on the bridge as they watch her flirt). What's interesting about this is that after an initial fit of "Captain, I'm frightened" that inspires a patented Kirk speech about how they're all counting on her, she proceeds to have one of her finest episodes ever...and this not long after Nomad wiped her brain and made her forget who she was! She fits right in with the alternate bridge crew, she's comfortable using her knife both to tease and to threaten, she disarms presumably tough chick Marlena with no difficulty. And all with her midriff exposed!

What's really at stake, of course, is what we learn about the characters by seeing their opposites...or not-so-opposites, in some cases. Chekov and Sulu are almost unrecognizable, but the "evil Kirk" on the USS Enterprise is hilariously familiar - we first witness him in a classic display of over-the-top Shatnerisms ("You traitorous pig!"), demanding to be released, chuckling and joking with Spock. He's almost familiar negotiating; our Kirk wouldn't offer his Spock great wealth and his own command, but our Kirk would and has used outrageous promises to get past enemies before, as well as the needling that worked on Spock to such great effect in "This Side of Paradise" to bring him back from his own version of an alternate universe twist.

Spock later characterizes the mirror Kirk as a barbarian, but he appears more amused than distressed at the curious switch; one presumes that he guessed what he was dealing with as quickly as his Kirk identified the switch, when the captain ordered the annihilation of the Halkans. Our Kirk in the transporter room takes one look at the salutes and makes a subtle gesture to the crew behind him to follow his lead; though McCoy and Uhura in particular are clearly appalled by the agonizer, they know enough to keep their mouths shut. Most of the crew accepts Kirk on the basis of his swagger; when he spares the Halkans, they assume it is not mercy but scheming at work. The alternate Spock's devotion seems to be very deep, yet it takes him quite awhile to suspect that this man may not be his captain. The alternate Spock makes it very clear that he would regret his Kirk's loss - he says that he likes scientific work and does not want to become the prime target on the ship for those seeking advancement, but he seems less perturbed that Kirk has violated orders than that Kirk has failed to share his plans with him.

Meanwhile, Marlena is not a little worried that the captain who taught her about the deadly Tantalus Field appears to have a grand scheme in which she may not play a role. Kirk, of course, does not recognize her, yet he plays gamely along with this very willing mistress, convincing her at first that he is the man she believes him to be and then that he is a better one. Who can blame her for wanting to go with him, out of a universe where her rank may be dependent on the whims of her lover and ultimate advancement is easier by sleeping with powerful men than doing a good job at whatever her job may be? Given that her entire role is defined by her sexual relationship with a Starfleet captain, she comes across as a surprisingly strong woman, practical and quick-thinking; she saves Kirk's life, then accepts the necessity of remaining in her own universe with a kind of grace.

We know now that Kirk's speech to the altered yet still logical Spock at the end constituted the worst possible sort of violation of the non-interference directive: on Deep Space Nine we learned that the bearded Spock took Kirk's words to heart, spared the Halkans, led a revolution...and ultimately paved the way for the Klingons and Cardassians to take over from the newly non-violent humans. Did that make it wrong? It's one of Kirk's most memorable moments, negotiating with a Spock who knows that he is not his captain and yet can't seem to dismiss what he is saying except to insist that if he doesn't get in the transporter chamber in time, he'll be stuck there forever. Oddly, this may be the greatest influence any Kirk ever exerts on any Spock, even the one he will later miraculously rescue from the dead. I must agree with McCoy and Kirk that Spock looks great with a beard and is delightful with a bit of pirate in him; it's a shame we still don't have the details on his glorious revolution.


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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.