Thursday, 6 February 2014

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TOS 2-4: Mirror, Mirror

2.04) Mirror, Mirror
Captain Kirk vs. the Psycho Crewmen
Spock's Beard

The Mission: Acquire an agreement to mine dilithium from the Halkans – in both universes.

Planets visited: Halkan homeworld: Looks like a rather nice, green place, but with a purple sky. The Halkans – who seem to do all their negotiating outdoors – are standard humanoids whose only difference to the your regular human is a blue bindi on their forehead. They are a classically influenced, uber-pacifist people. They'd rather die than let an anorganisation like the Federation use their dilithium for any military purpose.

Phenomena: A magnetic storm is raging above Halkan, powerful enough to cause lightning on the planet and threaten to knock the Enterprise out of orbit. When the landing party of Kirk, McCoy, Scott and Uhura beam back to the ship during the storm – at the exact same time as their alternative selves in a parallel universe – they are switched, materialising in their counterparts' places.

Alternative History: This reality, which has become known as the Mirror Universe, has its own version of Starfleet, and its own equivalent of the Federation: the Empire. Standard orders when a civilisation refuses an imperial demand is the destruction of its main population centres. The usual method of advancement through the ranks is dead man's boots. Most of the familiar crewmembers are present of the parallel starship, the ISS Enterprise. Spock has a beard, Sulu is a scar-faced chief of security and Chekov is a petty thug. Kirk's equivalent made captain by assassinating Captain Pike. His first actions were the brutal quelling of the Gorlan uprising and the execution of 5000 colonists on Vega 9.

Captain James T: While he's committed to persuading the Halkans to let the Federation mine their dilithium, he respects their philosophy and understands why they won't sway. When the Halkan leader reminds him that he could take the ore by force (he really like asking for trouble, doesn't he?) Kirk replies that he won't, in a “chew on that” fashion. He's able to adapt quickly to the situation on the parallel Enterprise, but cannot bring himself to allow the Halkans, or even his murderous crew, suffer, so his disguise slips.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: He's effortlessly cool when dealing with the Mirror versions of the landing party who have beamed up to the regular Enterprise. He finds their base human desires “fascinating” and “refreshing.”

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin (parallel): The bearded Spock is, by Imperial Starfleet standards at least, a reasonable man. He displays his other self's logical mind and regard for science. He lacks any desire to take command, and doesn't want Kirk dead, since that would push him up to the captaincy and into the line of fire. He does, however, make it clear that he will not accept Kirk threatening his position by going against imperial orders. In an intense scene, he forces a mind meld on McCoy to find out what's going on. Once he does, he quickly decides to help Kirk get back to his universe. He is swayed by Kirk's arguments that there is a better way for the Empire.

The Real McCoy: He's a doctor, not an engineer. He describes the parallel sickbay as “a chamber of horrors.” DeForest Kelley is excellent in the mind meld scene; there's a look of real horror on his face as he's incapacitated.

Great Scott: Noble enough to volunteer to stay when it becomes clear that someone must operate the transporter manually to get everyone back to their universes. He protests, calling Kirk Jim – the first time.

United States of Africa: This is a very strong episode for Uhura, who finally gets to take a major role in an adventure. In spite of her clear fear at being in a strange and dangerous universe, she rises to the challenge of covering Kirk's tracks and monitoring communications secretly, and runs rings around the Mirror Sulu. She's very handy in a fight.

Sexy Trek: Uhura and Kirk look set to have a clinch at one point. Mirror Sulu is lecherous creep whose desperate to get into Uhura's pants, something she is able to use to her advantage. Mirror Kirk has his own concubine: Marlena Moreau, the Captain's Woman, played by Barbara Luna. The Mirror Starfleet is even more sexist than the real one; it looks like this is the highest position a female crewmember can reach. Still, Marlena is no less ambitious than the men onboard ship. Kirk meets her counterpart, a lieutenant in the sciences, when he returns to the regular universe.

Future Fashion: Imperial Starfleet uniforms are a good deal more revealing than their regular counterparts, and when you think about how revealing the ladies' outfits are, that's pretty smexy. They all carry knives, and have the emblem of the Empire on their breast – a sword through the Earth.

Future Treknology: Agonizers and the agony booth: punishment is meted out with pain-inducing devices. For minor infractions, a small portable agonizer is used; what's particularly nasty is that crewmen have to carry their own agonizers and produce them for punishment when ordered. Serious offences warrant an even worse spell in the agony booth, which can be fatal.

The Tantalus field: a device that Mirror Kirk stole from an alien scientist (I'd love to find out who). The innocuous looking device can make someone disappear without trace, and has allowed Kirk to rise rapidly through the ranks and keep himself safe from would-be assassins.

The computer on the Mirror ship has a male voice.

Foreshadowing: Spock is left with a taste for revolution and access to the Tantalus field. This allows him to take over the ship and eventually the Empire. However, Spock's more peaceful Empire will be too weak to withstand a takeover by the Klingons and Cardassians. This is the Mirror Universe that is visited several times in Star Trek: Deep Space Nin. The final visit to the Mirror Universe comes in the fourth season of Enterprise, which provides a prequel to this episode.

The Verdict: Classic. Like “Amok Time,” this episode has become part of pop culture. Everyone knows that when you go to a parallel universe, you'll find an evil twin – probably with an evil beard. The cast are clearly having a ball playing their messed-up Mirror selves, but Kelley, Doohan, Nichols and particularly Shatner give their all into making us believe in what would be a hellish situation. It might have been fun if the Mirror Halkans had turned out to be absolute psychos and destroyed evil Kirk, though.

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