Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 4 (Mirror, Mirror)

The idea of an alternate history is nothing new.  Several novels were published in the 19th century.  The Man in the High Castle had been published in 1962.  Mirror, Mirror isn’t even Star Trek’s first take on the concept.  City on the Edge of Forever and The Alternate Factor both used alternate timelines in their plot.

Here, a transporter accident sends Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura into a universe where The Federation, or at least Earth, is overtly imperialistic.  The Empire takes by force what The Federation would negotiate for.  In fact, Kirk had been negotiating with the Halkans for dilithium crystals when an ion storm hit. 

Kirk’s alternate was instructed to destroy Halkan cities if they don’t cooperate, which puts Kirk in a difficult position.  He doesn’t want to level cities, but can’t avoid it without raising suspicion.  The four crewmembers are able to get back at the last minute with some help from the alternate Spock, who agrees to try to change the Terran Empire.

Part of the reason the episode works is that it does what it sets out to do.  There’s very little filler or exposition.  The only real exposition would be at the end, where Kirk has to drag it out when they have only minutes to spare.  It shows what an alternate to The Federation might be.  As Spock points out at the end, the alternate isn’t really that different.  Kirk is able to refrain from many of his baser instincts whereas the other Kirk has no real incentive to do so.

It would have been interesting to explore that universe a little more during The Original Series.  It’s not clear if all of The Enterprise’s missions were the same.  I would like to see how Khan or Harry Mudd fit into that universe.  Fortunately, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise did visit The Mirror Universe, so we do get to see what happened because of Spock’s decision.

Only two things really bothered me about the episode.  First, how is it that all of the same characters exist in both universes?  I suppose, given an infinite number of timelines, that there would be one that’s at least similar to ours.  There’s probably one with an Enterprise that has an entirely different crew.  There may be one where Vulcans or Andorians weren‘t space-faring.

The other thing was that Kirk and the others beamed into their alternates’ clothing.  Not only that, they beamed back into their own clothing when they got back to their own universe.  It’s a concession necessary to help them blend in to The Mirror Universe, I know.  It’s still a little odd.

Overall, it’s a pretty good episode.  I’m glad that the plot was at least used in several of the spin-off series.  The Original Series wasn’t particularly good with continuity, so anything is welcome.

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