People. Compatriots. Fellow nerds across the galaxy. I am extremely pleased to report that we have officially hit one of the most iconic Trek episodes of all time, the episode that first introduced us to the Mirror Verse and–more importantly–Spock’s Beard of Evil. This is the episode that actually created the whole Evil Counterparts Have Goatees trope. This, my friends, is television history.
It also happens to be one of my favorite TOS episodes to date.
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and Uhura are negotiating with the Halkans, hoping to get permission to mine dilithium crystals. The Halkans refuse, essentially arguing that though the Federation seems nice now, they might become evil dicks in the future and use these powerful crystals for violence. Kirk and the others leave, but due to
made-up science an ion storm, they accidentally switch places with their mirror counterparts and are beamed to an alternate Enterprise in a parallel universe.
This Enterprise is not a friendly one. Mistakes are punished with violence. Officers move up in rank by assassination. Everyone does a quasi-Nazi salute–Star Trek isn’t political, my ass–and medical professionals make bets on how long it’ll take patients to pass out from pain, which, I’ve gotta tell you, is a line that hits harder the more you hear about how our border patrol is operating. The Evil Enterprise also wants dilithium crystals, and SOP is to annihilate anyone who refuses them. But Kirk, understandably unwilling to commit genocide, extends the deadline an unprecedented 24 hours.
This atypical behavior causes Mirror Spock concern, especially since he gets an order from Starfleet Command to kill Kirk if he doesn’t complete his mission. But M. Spock doesn’t actually want to be captain and gives Kirk a heads up, giving our heroes a limited window to escape. They face various obstacles: M. Sulu, who does want to be captain, ambushes everyone in Sickbay, a power play that’s foiled by the timely intervention of Marlena Moreau (the Captain’s Woman) and the Tantalus Field (a vaporization machine). Then Moreau wants to hitch a ride to the Prime universe, but there’s not enough room for her and she’s disarmed before she can kill anyone for their spot. Finally, M. Spock forces a mind meld on Bones and discovers their true identities, but luckily, he decides to help because he wants his own Kirk back. Before they go, Kirk tells M. Spock it’s not logical to participate in an empire that’s inevitably doomed to failure and that he should actively try to dismantle it to pave way for something better. M. Spock says he’ll consider it.
First, it’s important to know, if you didn’t already, that I cosplayed Mirror Spock a few years ago at DragonCon.
Robyn is, obviously, the best Khan ever, but I don’t think I did too terribly for someone who can’t actually make shit and had to search online for months just to find that fucking windbreaker.
Now. One of the reasons I enjoy this episode so much is that, as with “The Naked Time,” everybody actually gets something to do, you know, it’s not just the Kirk-Spock-Bones show. I mean, it’s still mostly them. Spock, in particular, is easily the most interesting character, precisely because while everyone else is playing over-the-top EEEVIL versions of themselves, Prime Spock and Mirror Spock are actually quite similar. Like, Mirror Spock is still very much a man of logic: he doesn’t want the captaincy because a) science is more fun, and b) he’s a lot less likely to get murdered this way. His conversations with Kirk are more ominous than in the Prime Verse, yes, but there’s still this very intriguing thread of camaraderie there. It is, if you’ll pardon the word, fascinating to watch someone so close to our Spock operate in this horrifying world.
Despite the amount of time we spend on Spock, though, everyone in the supporting cast still gets time to shine. Mirror Chekov tries to assassinate Kirk and ends up in the agony booth when he fails. Mirror Sulu is the Chief of Security and, I’d argue, the primary antagonist who almost succeeds in his own power play. He’s also a major creep to Uhura. Uhura, meanwhile, has to distract Mirror Sulu, first by seducing him, and then–when that shit’s no longer necessary–slapping the hell out of him.
It’s pretty great. She’s also the person who disarms Moreau later on. It’s actually a really fantastic episode for Uhura, if you can forgive the fact that she’s also the only one who needs to be comforted by Kirk, and has to look away when this dude gets tortured. (Because, you know, GIRL) And hell, even Scotty gets to snap at Kirk that it’s TIME TO LEAVE, SIR when Kirk’s busy trying to talk Mirror Spock into being a good guy.
So, yeah, I was into this one. Team Ensemble FTW.
First Time We’ve Encountered: well, the Mirror Verse and the Terran Empire, obviously.
In the beginning of the episode, the Halkan leader reminds Kirk that he has the power to take the dilithium crystals by force. Kirk’s response: “But I won’t. Think about that.” Then he smirks and saunters off. Personally, I’m not convinced that saying, “I could be a violent dick face right now, but I’m choosing to be merciful instead, so maybe you should rethink your entire ethics system in the face of my awesome benevolence, hmmm?” is the devastating argument Kirk thinks it is, but hey, who knows, I don’t work in negotiations.
It’s also important to note that someone has forced Nichelle Nichols into the most artificial pose ever during this scene. Like, Kirk’s saying, “We totally have a 100% peace rating at PolitiFact” and Hakkan’s saying, “Yeah, everyone SAYS that, but no one MEANS it,” and Uhura is saying, “Look everyone! Here is my leg!”
Kirk keeps trying to play it cool by going along with whatever his Mirror Officers suggest, all, “Sure, we’ll do what he said,” or “Uh, yes, let’s follow standard protocol.” This is frankly more strategic than I would’ve given Kirk credit for; unfortunately, the standard protocol here is always “excruciating violence” or “literal genocide.”
Speaking of literal genocide . . . the Mirror Halkans totally get wiped out, right? Like, yeah, we leave on the optimistic hope that Mirror Spock is going to go Light Side and all, but even if that happens–which apparently it does, and more on that in a bit–like, is it really happening right this second? Is M. Spock going to immediately seize command away from M. Kirk to save the M. Halkans, even though he’s been actively working to get his captain back? Or is he somehow supposed to convince M. Kirk to join him in his peaceful cause? The former is much more likely than the latter, but still, even with the Tantalus Field at Spock’s disposal, realistically, I don’t see either as a likely scenario.
I’m also a little surprised we never go back to the Prime Halkans, either. I’m not sure we need to, exactly; I just half-expected them to change their minds in the denouement. Although, honestly, a better ending would probably be Kirk brooding about what their alternate selves had become and wondering whether the Halkans were actually right to refuse them the dilithium crystals.
According to Memory Alpha, Mirror Spock does, indeed, become the leader of the Terran Empire and institutes a bunch of reform policies. Unfortunately, this also weakens the Empire so much that it’s eventually overrun by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, and humans and Vulcans alike are enslaved. So, uh. Good going, M. Spock? Honestly, this annoys the hell out of me, although I’m having a hard time articulating why.
Fanfic Requests: I’ve decided to add a new category where I discuss fanfics I’d like to read. (Presumably, most of them already exist. I’ve read a fair bit of 2009 Alternate Original Series fanfic, but not much in the prime verse yet.) Here, for instance, I’d be interested in seeing a fic that actually deals with how Mirror Spock rises to power. Does he make an alliance with Moreau or maybe M. Bones? (He’s supposed to be sentimental, after all.) Does M. Spock have to vaporize Kirk with the Tantalus Field? Does he try to reason with him first? Or, in a particularly dark angsty AU, does he get assassinated while trying to institute reform? I’d also be extremely interested in a Mirror Verse AU where all of the characters, not just Spock, are portrayed much more like their prime counterparts, just, you know, more evil. And yeah, I also wouldn’t mind seeing Bones interacting with Prime Spock after M. Spock’s forced mind meld. (Seriously, the way M. Spock walked Bones backwards, like, this has to be in a shipper fanvid somewhere.) If you’ve read any good fics like these before, by all means, recommend them in the comments!
Kirk has already survived one assassination attempt and yet is still far too willing to drink things that are given to him by strange women in his quarters.
I do wish that Moreau was a character we’d met before in the Prime Verse, so that we’d be spending all this time with someone we already cared about; either that, or Mirror Moreau was our introduction to Prime Moreau, who would continue to recur throughout the show. Instead, Kirk meets P. Moreau at the end of the episode and immediately proceeds to be all leery and weird. Obviously, we’ll never see her again.
The Enterprise Doesn’t Stick The Landing: See above.
FASHION REPORT: Oh, so much to discuss. Obviously, the Mirror Verse uniforms, particular Kirk’s, which is a glittery gold vest with fringed shoulders and an equally glittery sash-belt. I’m particularly interested in Mirror Uhura’s uniform because while it’s probably meant to be all revealing and scandalous (it’s essentially a red sports bra, a red skirt, and a gold sash), it honestly looks slightly more practical than her normal uniform, considering it fully covers her ass and seems easier to sit in without accidentally flashing anything. Meanwhile, Moreau’s sexy dress is, uh, a thing. (Mek thinks it looks like a kite. I think it looks like a horrifying repurposed bedsheet. We’re both correct.) And while we’ve already mentioned Mirror Spock’s Goatee of Evil, I’m mentioning it again because Bones later says he misses the beard, and . . . look, there’s a whole other fanfic in that.
Sulu Watch: This is a fun episode for Sulu–who has a giant facial scar because of course he does–and George Takei certainly seems like he’s having an excellent time hamming it up. Other than the moments I already mentioned, there’s also a fun bit where he’s monitoring Mirror Spock’s communications and the two threaten one another. My only disappointment with M. Sulu is that Kirk knocks him out in a one-second punch, and I wish it had been a longer, better fight. Then again . . .
The fight scene between Mirror Spock and the away team is pretty awful, even for Trek. It didn’t even look like Spock’s stunt double had a fake beard! (He did, but I definitely had to look for it on the re-watch.) OTOH, I see Spock’s patented move continues to be the double-fisted hammer strike, which I definitely enjoy.
Something I forgot to mention: apparently, Mirror Kirk became captain after assassinating M. Pike. Man, that dude has no fucking luck in any universe, does he?
Finally, something else I forgot to mention: there’s a brief moment where it seems like someone will have to stay behind to beam the others to safety. Scotty’s like, “I’ll do it,” and Kirk’s all, “No, I’ll do it,” and Scotty’s like, “No, it has to be me,” and Uhura’s all, “Peace out, bitches, I’m getting on the transporter pad with or without you.” In related news, Uhura is the best and obviously, I need to start a dedicated section here just for her, too.
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“You’re running a big risk, Spock.”
“I have the phaser, Captain, and I do not intend to simply disappear as so many of your opponents have in the past.”