|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.4 “Mirror, Mirror” – (Original air date: Friday, October 6, 1967)

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Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “Mirror, Mirror.”

  • On this date in history: “The Letter” by The Box Tops still rules on US radio; Engelbert Humperdinck is still on top with “The Last Waltz” in the UK.
  • It’s been a busy week. Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African-American justice of the US Supreme Court on Monday, October 2. This was an important milestone.
  • On Tuesday, October 3, USAF Major Pete Knight made the fastest flight ever of a powered aircraft, reaching Mach 6.72 (4520 mph) in the X-15 experimental aircraft. The record still stands 51 years later. Also, comic book artist Rob Liefeld is born, destined to draw characters with strangely small feet and a lot of pouches.
  • On Wednesday, October 4, the Shag Harbour UFO Incident occurs in Nova Scotia. Several credible witnesses reported seeing a large, illuminated object crashing into the water. We never found out what it was. Hence, the “unidentified” part of UFO.
  • Mirror, Mirror” was written by Jerome Bixby, the same writer responsible for the Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life.” You remember that one, with six-year-old Anthony wishing people into the cornfield. Good stuff.
  • This Star Trek episode is good stuff, too. It introduces the concept of the mirror universe, something that has been a part of all Trek series since 1967, including Star Trek: Discovery.
  • Okay, this same mirror universe with the Terran Empire may not actually appear in Voyager, but the concept of alternate timelines definitely does. A lot.
  • In the teaser of this episode, our landing party—comprised of Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura this time—are negotiating with the Halkan council to gain rights to mine dilithium on their planet. Apparently the Halkan homeworld is lousy with dilithium.
  • Quick aside: Kirk is wearing that stupid wraparound green V-neck tunic again. Hate it.
  • The Halkans are reluctant to give the Federation the right to mine dilithium. They are a peaceful people, you see, and even if the Federation is peaceful at the moment, this is no guarantee that they will always be so. If one being dies because the Halkans allowed the Federation to mine dilithium, it would violate their most cherished principles.
  • I can admire this point of view. So can Kirk, although he hopes to prove to the Halkans that the Federation is dedicated to peace as well.
  • Meanwhile, there is an ion storm passing through the system. From the USS Enterprise, Spock lets the landing team know the storm is rather violent and unpredictable. Kirk tells Spock to increase the ship’s orbit to remain clear of the storm.
  • The Halkan leader says the council will meditate on the Federation’s offer more, but he doubts they’ll change their mind.
  • The Halkan leader also reminds Kirk that with the weapons the Federation has, they have the strength to force the Halkans to give them the crystals. It’s almost as if he would prefer they did so, just so they wouldn’t violate their principles.
  • Kirk says that is true. But, the fact that they won’t use their weapons to get the crystals should tell the Halkans something about their own principles.
  • Then the landing party beams up to the Enterprise.
  • But, wait! There’s even more. This is a very meaty teaser.
  • What follows is another tried-and-true Star Trek trope: The Transporter Malfunction. We’ve already seen this in “The Enemy Within,” in which Kirk is split into two separate individuals, the indecisive milquetoast Kirk and the rather rape-y Kirk with the face scratched by Janice Rand. It will continue to happen in the future Trek series. Tuvok and Neelix have the opposite problem in “Tuvix,” when the two characters are melded into one being.
  • Of course, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a transporter malfunction just flat-out killed a couple of people. A little lame, entertainment-wise, but the death of Sonak did leave an opening as Science Officer for Spock on board the refurbished Enterprise.
  • This time, an ion storm causes our landing party to rematerialize in the Mirror Universe.
  • Our characters immediately realize that they’re no longer in Kansas, that something is fundamentally different about the Enterprise.
  • I mean, Spock has a beard. A Van Dyke, to be more precise.
  • There’s also the different uniforms, with the sash and knife, and the fascist salute. And there’s the logo of the Terran Empire, depicting a stylized Earth with a sword through it.
  • When Spock asks, Kirk tells him there was no change in the negotiations with the Halkans. Spock says, “Standard procedure, Captain?” And Kirk nods, not knowing that standard procedure in this alternate universe means the Halkans will be wiped out by the ship’s phaser banks. Effective negotiating tactic, I’d say.
  • After this, the mirror-universe Lt. Kyle (who has apparently served in every position on the ship, making him the ultimate Starfleet utility player) is punished by Spock for failing to compensate for the ion storm quickly enough when beaming the landing party aboard. Kyle is punished through the use of his own “agonizer.” It seems to hurt a lot.
  • Our landing party members are shocked by this barbaric display, but they have to play along so their cover isn’t blown.
  • End of teaser. I told you it was a meaty one. There’s more action in this teaser than there has been is some entire episodes.
  • As Act One begins, our stalwart Starfleet heroes are beginning to figure things out. Kirk says it was a rough beam-up and tells McCoy he needs to look them over. Then he orders Spock to have those transporter circuits checked.
  • As the landing party leaves the transporter room, Scotty and Uhura have many questions. Kirk says not now.
  • There seem to be security officers stationed everywhere, plus a lot of fascist saluting and the Terran Empire insignia.
  • Once in sickbay, our gang begins to discuss what’s going on in more detail.
  • They all felt dizzy while in the transporter beam. They materialized twice: once in their own transporter chamber, then the second time here, wherever this is.
  • Kirk surmises that it’s a parallel universe co-existing with their own on another dimensional plane. Everything’s duplicated, almost, just not quite right.
  • And, if they are here, then their counterparts must be on their Enterprise.
  • Kirk says they have to get access to the computer. Their counterparts surely will.
  • McCoy is concerned about the Halkans. Kirk asks Scotty to short out the main phaser couplings in a manner that will suggest that the ion storm blew the circuits.
  • Kirk asks Uhura to go to her post and run today’s communication from Starfleet Command. He needs to know his exact orders and options, if any.
  • Kirk and McCoy plan to search the ship’s library for information.
  • On the bridge, Sulu begins macking on Uhura in a very predatory fashion. When Kirk comes onto the bridge, Uhura tells him that he has direct orders to destroy the Halkans.
  • Scotty is unable to blow the phaser circuits because of this ship’s enhanced security.
  • Kirk stalls for time, refusing to give the order to fire upon the Halkans. He asks Uhura to contact the council again, because he wants to speak to them.
  • Spock considers Kirk’s delaying tactics a serious breach of orders, and tells him so, of course.
  • Kirk talks to the Halkans, and they are all willing to die rather than comply to his demands. He gives them a 12-hour reprieve. More delaying tactics.
  • As Kirk is getting on the turbolift, Spock tells him that he must report Kirk’s conduct to Starfleet Command. Kirk says he’s at liberty to do so.
  • Chekov gets on the turbolift with Kirk, and then attempts a coup so that the entire crew will advance in rank. That’s how things are done in the Terran Empire.
  • Dramatic musical sting. On to Act Two.
  • The assassination attempt fails. Some of Chekov’s comrades turn against him and save the captain. When asked, Kirk tells Farrell to take Chekov to “the booth,” whatever that is.
  • Kirk meets with McCoy and Scotty in his quarters. They determine that the conditions necessary to breach into their own dimension could be achieved through artificial means on board the ship.
  • When Scotty says he’ll need help to make it happen, McCoy says, “I’m a doctor, not an engineer.”
  • In a flash-sideways, we see that our landing party’s counterparts are in the brig on their ship.
  • We get a scene of Chekov in the “agony booth,” which I assume is even more painful than the “agonizer.” Kirk orders him released and confined to quarters.
  • The Mirror Spock is still suspicious of this Kirk’s actions. He informs Kirk that, although he doesn’t desire the captaincy, he will not let Kirk’s actions jeopardize his position.
  • Down in Engineering, McCoy and Scotty sedate a guard so that they can begin their work to get them back home.
  • Kirk returns to his quarters and finds a woman on his bed, waiting for him. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
  • This woman knows all about the assassination attempt by Chekov. She also knows that Kirk is in Dutch with Starfleet Command. She accuses Kirk of being up to something. There’s something he wants from the Halkans, or some other devious plan to move him up to the Admiralty, or the Cabinet itself.
  • Kirk insinuates that what he’s up to could take him even higher than that.
  • Bearded Spock shows up just in time to break up their kiss.
  • He tells Kirk about his secret orders from Starfleet. If Kirk doesn’t destroy the principal target at planet dawn, Spock is under orders to kill Kirk himself and assume the captaincy of the ship. Which leads us into Act Three.
  • Spock’s revelation added more drama to the dramatic clock. Kirk will die at dawn if he doesn’t wipe out the peace-loving Halkans.
  • The woman in Kirk’s quarters asks him if he wants to activate the “Tantalus field” to monitor Spock. Of course, Kirk, who doesn’t know what this is any more than we do, says yes.
  • A wall panel rises and reveals a viewscreen and a row of buttons. The woman dumps exposition freely, calling the Tantalus field the secret weapon, plundered from an alien laboratory, that gave Kirk the power to eliminate his enemies and rise to the position of starship captain.
  • The viewscreen shows Spock, unaware that he’s being watched. The woman seems ready to press a button that will kill Spock, when Kirk stops her and turns the machine off.
  • He tells her that he plans to leave things where neither he nor Spock will have to die.
  • We learn that the woman’s name is Marlene because she refers to herself, awkwardly, in the third-person. “How does Marlena fit in?” to Kirk’s grand scheme.
  • When Kirk informs Scotty about his three-hour deadline before Spock kills him, Scotty tells him that they have another deadline as well. We’re doubling down on the dramatic clock. Scotty says the local field density is increasing at such a rate that they need to get out of here within the next half-hour, or they might not get out at all.
  • The Mirror Spock is no dummy either. Monitoring all of the computer activity, even when he cannot access their files, he figures out that Kirk is up to something. He and Sulu discuss it, and make veiled threats towards each other, the way you do in the Mirror Universe.
  • Kirk has another scene with Marlena, who notices something different about him. When he leaves again, on ship’s business, as he says, she seems tempted to use the Tantalus field on him. Of course, she doesn’t. She’s the captain’s woman, and she loves him.
  • Cutting to the chase, Scotty and McCoy are successful at their assigned task, as Uhura helps distract Sulu on the bridge with her feminine wiles.
  • Kirk is working on unlocking the controls on the transporter console when Spock enters the chamber and detains him. He wants to know why Kirk has been acting so differently. He has Kirk lead the way to sickbay.
  • Where the rest of the landing party is waiting. There is a scuffle. Uhura hands Kirk something that he smashes over Spock’s head, knocking him unconscious.
  • They have only fifteen minutes remaining, but McCoy insists upon treating this Spock’s injuries, or he will die. That was a good head smash.
  • As Act Four begins, Sulu and three of his henchmen enter sickbay. Now Sulu intends to stage a coup and assume command. Unbeknownst to everyone, Marlena is still at the controls of the Tantalus field, and she makes the three henchmen vanish. Kirk overpowers Sulu easily.
  • The injured Spock does a mind-meld with our McCoy, who is still working on saving his life even though the clock is ticking down. Now, the Mirror Spock knows about the entire incident.
  • Marlena meets them in the transporter room. She wants to go with them, but Kirk says she can’t. Uhura disarms her before she can hurt anyone.
  • At five minutes til, the power is cut. Scotty can use auxiliary power to bridge to their cobbled-together setup, but this means one of them will have to stay behind to operate the controls. Scotty volunteers.
  • The Mirror Spock enters with McCoy. He’s the one who cut the power. He needs his version of the captain back, so he will help them to return to their universe.  He will operate the transporter.  Beardo Spock isn’t such a bad guy after all.
  • Kirk spends much of their remaining time trying to convince this Spock of the illogic of the Terran Empire. Spock knows the Empire will ultimately fail, but says he doesn’t have the kind of power needed to effect the type of change Kirk is talking about. Kirk tells him about the Tantalus field, which will make Spock invincible.
  • As Kirk is leaving, the MU Spock says that he’ll consider it.
  • The landing party is met back in their home universe by a beardless Spock.
  • We have a bridge outro in which Kirk, McCoy and Spock poke light fun at each other, and then we get to meet our universe’s version of Marlena for the first time. Spock asks Kirk if he knows her, and Kirk says something to the effect that he doesn’t, but he hopes to get to know her better soon.

This is a great episode of the original series. Not only for the engaging story told in the episode itself, but for its introduction of concepts and backstories that will have long-reaching repercussions in the Trek universe.

It also introduced me to the idea that the evil version of a character should always wear a Van Dyke.

This one is up there high on the All-Time Best Trek list. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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