“In a Mirror, Darkly”

I liked you better with the goatee.
“I liked you better with the goatee.”

Part one: We’re in the evil universe — the credits tell us so! — first seen in TOS and again in DS9. This time, though, there’s nobody from our universe who’s crossed over. Humanity still has an evil empire and it dominates the other Enterprise-era species. The ship’s captain is this universe’s version of Admiral Forest (Vaughn Armstrong), and Archer is first officer. Archer takes over the ship and sets course for Tholian space where a Starfleet vessel from about a century in the future has been found. The Tholians are tearing it apart, but Archer takes a team on board to save it. Turns out it’s the Defiant, a Constitution-class ship that disappeared in Tholian space in our regular universe in “The Tholian Web” on TOS. Archer is successful in saving the Defiant, but the Tholians destroy Enterprise (killing Forest) as part one ends.

Part two: Archer and Co. escape with the Defiant, but are stuck at impulse because a Gorn(!) slave master (employed by the Tholians and still on the ship) has stolen some equipment. Archer eventually tracks the parts down and heads to Terran territory to crush (crush!) a rebellion with 23rd century technology (technology!) led by Vulcans, Andorians and others and take hold of the empire. After putting down an insurgency led by T’Pol and goateed Soval on another Terran ship, Archer’s plan almost works. But Sato — his consort and Forest’s before — poisons and kills Archer and declares herself Empress Sato in orbit of Earth.

Ladies and gentlemen... Enterprise's only official red shirt!
Ladies and gentlemen… Enterprise’s only official red shirt!

Why it’s important

Well, this one was borderline for us. It’s another example of Fan Service Gone Wild — and the information about the mirror universe here doesn’t really play into what we see later. But we do see more here about some key races from TOS (the Tholians and the Gorn) and it ties into two episodes of TOS and “Star Trek: First Contact”.

And, hell, like Enterprise as a series was in early 2005, we’re nearing the end of our run — and we just wanted to review this one as there’s a lot to talk about.

Peak Fan Service™: Archer, in a Kirk wrap-around tunic, fighting a Gorn.
Peak Fan Service™: Archer, in a Kirk wrap-around tunic, fighting a Gorn.

What doesn’t hold up

The hardest thing to swallow is that humans apparently got their hands on 23rd-century technology in the 22nd century but only had 23rd-century technology in “Mirror, Mirror” … which occurred in the 23rd century. Apparently, the Terran Empire in Kirk’s time wasn’t just corrupt and on track to collapse. It was technologically stagnant — provided Kirk’s Enterprise wasn’t the Terran Empire equivalent of a garbage scow.

Also, T’Pol and Soval in part two are just WAY too emotional. There are also plenty of other small things — like the Enterprise firing while cloaked in part one or the ridiculous uniforms worn by Starfleet crew women. And the Gorn looks NOTHING like what we see in “Arena”. But my biggest problem is what the creators do with mirror-Archer in part two.

In part one, he’s a conniving guy who’s finally got his shot to make it big. In part two, he’s a whiny, off-the-hinge nut job! Scott Bakula’s performance “Great men are CONQUERERS!” was just way, way, way over the top.

On the shooting script it literally said "See script for Ridley Scott's Alien"
On the shooting script it literally said, “See script for Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien'”.

Final thoughts

Despite Bakula going too far with the scenery chewing — he really likes saying technology! —  there’s a lot of good stuff here. Giving Sato something to do (for once) was great, even if it was the evil version of her. And many of the evil versions were fun takes. I particularly liked the radiation-scarred Tucker.

There is an interesting line that I wanted to address. At one point, evil Archer and evil Sato, on board the Defiant, look at the bios of their good-universe selves. Interestingly, good-universe Archer is said to be the “greatest explorer of the 22nd century.” Frankly, this is pretty silly.

By this stage of Enterprise, Archer hasn’t distinguished himself as an explorer. Really, he was more of a statesman and a diplomat — or even a soldier. There are even meta lines about this in the third and fourth seasons that are clear indications the creators knew and understood this. Granted, Archer’s exploratory accomplishments could come after the series ends …

It also was very cool to see a Gorn and a Tholian (no one said the season of fan service didn’t have its charms). And the recreation of the Defiant, of course, was exceptionally well done. Archer wearing a Kirk-style wraparound — which William Shatner wore in the original series at times to disguise his weight fluctuations — was great.

I’ve heard some fans say this is Enterprise’s peak, and I’ll grant that the two-parter is a lot of fun (even if part two sort of goes off the hinge). But I’d say the end of the Xindi arc or the Vulcan three-parter were better. Enterprise, despite all its flaws, was a strong enough show where events that actually happened to our normal characters were more compelling than events that happened in alternative universes or reset timelines. Voyager, OTOH …

And if we’re talking about universes or reset timelines, I frankly like “Twilight” from Enterprise’s third season better. We’ll get to that in our series wrap up in a couple weeks.

Are you not amused?!
“I said ‘It’s green!’ Are you not amused?!”

Coming next week …

Our last two reviews of Enterprise. It’s been a long road …

 

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