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Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror

Spock: "Apparently, some kind of transposition has taken place. I find it... extremely interesting."

I've always loved this episode, and I'm not the only one. It's a perennial favorite.

It's the boldness of the story, the well-executed plot, and the attention to detail that make it so good. Nearly everyone in the mirror universe is just deliciously evil: Chekov as an assassin, Sulu a vicious, lustful security chief with a sinister scar. There's Spock's infamous beard, the flamboyant gold costume accents, the agony booth. What's not to love?

Kirk showed amazing cool. He realized immediately that something was seriously wrong, and bluffed his way out of a bad situation. Scott, McCoy and Uhura all took their cues from Kirk. The only real problem I had with it was that Kirk figured out all of the technical issues regarding the mirror universe with language that sounded like it was written for Spock. But that's okay, because if Spock had been in the landing party, we wouldn't have gotten bearded, gloriously pragmatic and logical mirror universe Spock, who was something special.

Was this just a really good evil-double story, or was there a deeper meaning? Maybe it was that circumstances can make a savage out of anyone. It was interesting that, as Spock observed, it's easier for civilized men to act like savages than the reverse. The actors certainly seemed to have fun with it. Shatner in particular; "our" Kirk didn't have any trouble at all faking it in the mirror world. Maybe he enjoyed that costume; he sure looked good in it. And hey, he had half an hour before getting stuck there forever and how did he spend it? Smooching with the "captain's woman." Enough said.

This episode is about a thousand times better than the previous alternate universe episode, "The Alternative Factor." It stays with you. I particularly loved how Kirk spent his last couple of minutes in the mirror universe talking Mirror Spock into carrying out a revolution against the Empire. You can't help but wonder if Spock and Moreau and the Tantalus Field were indeed able to do it. (The writers of Deep Space Nine actually gave us the answer to this question.)

Personal digression, feel free to skip. The mirror universe was visited yet again in the Star Trek: Enterprise two-parter, "In a Mirror, Darkly." A writing colleague of mine visited the set during the filming to research an article and interview the cast, and took me along as a Star Trek expert. The ST:ENT cast were all wearing original series uniforms, and they were shooting scenes on the bridge of the Defiant, a replica of the original series Enterprise bridge. It was an amazing experience for a Star Trek fan, and I'll never, ever forget it. Thank you for taking me along that day, my friend.

Ben says...

The evil me is stroking his evil beard and pondering, "What makes a fan favorite episode?"

That was one of my two questions as I watched this fan favorite, which is so beloved that generations of Trek writers have been unable to resist the lure of the Mirror Universe. I think it's because it's exceedingly fun and it helps to be in the know. The episode makes the most sense if you understand the characters to begin with; the costumes and other differences are most entertaining to those who get the "insider" references and small differences. It's a 1960's predecessor to Lost's numbers or Richard Hatch's role on BSG. You either get it or not, and it's so much more fun if you get it. Fans just love being on the inside and this one strikes a perfect balance between attractive to fans and great TV for a new viewer.

Obviously, the second question was, "What facial hair is the evilest?" Obviously Spock's Van Dyke is high on the list (I personally think the Burt Reynolds mustache circa 1977 should win). I know facial hair supposedly has nothing to do with evil. Indeed, didn't the great animated robot philosopher Bender say, "Just 'cause the guy's got a beard you label him as evil? Well I got a label for you, pal: An ugly little word called 'prejudice'."

Still, I am pretty sure a beard does denote evil, and am willing to nominate the "French fork" as most evil of them all (Forked like the devil and French like the French). Much more on beards at http://wondermark.com/si-facial-hair-taxonomies/

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— No stardate was given. The action began on a planet inhabited by the pacifist Halkans.

— Jerome Bixby, who wrote this episode, wrote three other excellent TOS episodes as well as the classic sci-fi short story/Twilight Zone episode that has been often imitated but never duplicated, "It's a Good Life."

— We didn't get to know the mirror universe versions of "our" four crew members, but apparently, McCoy was a cupcake and Uhura was a tease. Kirk was brutal, assassinating Christopher Pike in order to move up in rank, but still a womanizer. Nothing about Scott.

— Barbara Luna was memorable as "the captain's woman," the mirror version of Marlena Moreau. She did a lovely job.

— The Empire's salute was much like the Hitler salute. A reminder that the sixties weren't too far removed from World War II.

— Many personal guards in red shirts got killed, taken out, or vaporized. I think there were seven, but in truth, I got wrapped up in the story and lost count. If you know the correct number, let me know and I'll add it to my review.

— The mirror Enterprise computer had a male voice instead of female. Nice touch, especially since the Empire appeared to be a lot less progressive with women's roles.

— Sulu must have a thing for Uhura that he just doesn't talk about or express, since he went for her in "The Naked Time," too.

— There was a lot of technobabble in this one, possibly the most in any episode so far. I guess someone had to explain what had happened and how to get out of it.


McCoy: "What's this?"
Kirk: "It's called blood. Watch your step. Officers move up by assassination."

McCoy: "I'm a doctor, not an engineer."
Scott: "Now you're an engineer."

Mirror Kirk: "You traitorous pig, I'll hang you up by your Vulcan ears. I'll have you all executed! ... Has the whole galaxy gone crazy? What kind of a uniform is this? Where's your beard? What's going on? Where's my personal guard?"

Marlena: "I've been a captain's woman, and I like it. I'll be one again if I have to go through every officer in the fleet."

Kirk: "You're a man of integrity in both universes, Mister Spock."

Mirror Spock: "One man cannot summon the future."
Kirk: "But one man can change the present."

McCoy: "I think I liked him with a beard better. It gave him character. Of course, almost any change would be a distinct improvement."

Spock: "May I point out that I had an opportunity to observe your counterparts here quite closely? They were brutal, savage, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous – in every way, splendid examples of homo sapiens, the very flower of humanity. I found them quite refreshing."
Kirk: "I'm not sure, but I think we've been insulted."
McCoy: "I'm sure."

Four out of four evil beards,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. This is such a fantastic episode - anything that involves Uhura, wearing even less than usual, threatening Sulu with a knife while giving him the evil eye has to be brilliant.

  2. A terrific episode, to be sure, although I've alway been amused at how Garth Pillsbury's character zaps two underlings but doesn't zap Chekov... or how Marlena uses the Tantalus device to eliminate Sulu's henchmen but leaves Sulu alive to be punched out by Kirk.

    Was it in George and Walter's contracts that they not have to die on screen? ;-)

    Nice touch in the New Voyages episode "In Harm's Way", in which BarBara Luna appeared - she is wearing her robe from "Mirror Mirror" and poses in the exact pose as when she first appears on screen as Marlena Moreau.

  3. Definitely one of my favourites for many reasons but mainly because I like a bad boy and Kirk really floats my boat in this one - those biceps ;)

  4. The whole 'facial hair is evil' schtick may not have started here, but this episode certainly was a trend-setter for other shows, both humorous and not!

    I wonder if the excellent 3rd Doctor story, 'Inferno' took some of this one as inspiration. Although the alternative brigadier loses his facial hair and gains a scar, the principle is largely the same.

    This is a fan favorite for good reason. It's enjoyable, interesting, well-written, and thought provoking. This is a prime example of how good this show can get.


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