In a previous One Trek Mind column, #18, I discussed how a certain ion storm in the Halkan system changed me from being a Trek-curious youth into a full-fledged fanatic. “Mirror, Mirror” remains my favorite TOS episode (perhaps for sentimental reasons, who knows?) and the Mirror Universe is one of my favorite things about the Star Trek franchise.
This week marks the 18th anniversary of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Through The Looking Glass.” (Yes, it's old enough to fight the Dominion, but too young to have a glass of kanar.) It was the second DS9 episode to traverse into the Mirror Universe, proving that the episode “Crossover” wasn't just a one-time nod to “Mirror, Mirror.” All told, there would be five DS9 Mirror Universe episodes, plus two on Enterprise, as well as a string of novels and comics. And thank the Prophets for that, because that led to this artist's rendering of Mirror Universe Saavik!
With this wealth of parallel riches, we figured this was a good time to try and nail down the 10 most awesome things about the Mirror Universe.
10 – The Tantalus Field
Part of what makes the Mirror Universe such fertile imaginative soil is that it is a limited concept. It's everything you know, just reversed. Except for a few things – like technology.
One gizmo they have on “the other side” is a powerful weapon called the Tantalus Field Device. Basically, it's like a closed circuit television that takes anyone you want to make disappear and zaps them into oblivion. (Okay, the science behind this one was always a little vague.) The Tantalus Field is a plot device taken straight from eight-year-olds playing in the back yard, but its influence on the alternate history of the Mirror Universe was lasting.
9 – Empress Hoshi Sato
Much like Reg Barclay, Hoshi Sato is a character upon which to project our fears. A natural at languages and dialects, but not so much for spacefaring adventure. It stands to reason her opposite counterpart would be an absolute killer.
In the Mirror Universe, where being cutthroat is the only key to success, Hoshi eventually manipulates her way into the early Terran Empire's version of the Iron Throne. At first, she seemed merely to be the “Captain's Woman,” but after a few crosses and double-crosses (and poisoning Mirror Jonathan Archer) she comes out on top and in command. And wearing a half-shirt.
8 – Brunt
The ins and outs of the Mirror Universe factions can be a little complicated, especially when the characters in them aren't 100% good or bad. Case in point, Liquidator Brunt of the FCA (in our world) is a mercenary over there – and one who driven by his love for Ezri Tigan (more on her in a bit.) He's working for the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, even though he sympathizes with the Terran Rebellion created by (Mirror) Sisko.
Brunt's death at the hands of Intendent Kira Nerys (again, more on her in a bit) was proof that the Mirror Universe meant business – and that viewers could never feel too sure about how things were going to end up.
7 – Smiley
Even in the Mirror Universe, Chief O'Brien is basically a good guy. His kidnapping of (our) Captain Sisko in “Through the Looking Glass” may not be the optimal method, but his goal of freeing the enslaved Terrans at the hands of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance is a noble one.
A little grouchier on that side (hence the nickname Smiley), we only wish that he could have worn the eye patch from “Our Man Bashir” while he was engaging in acts of piracy. Oh well.
6 – That Insignia!
The Terran Empire is nothing without its incredibly badass (albeit frightening and anti-humanist) insignia. A dagger through the Earth? Um, wait, how does this ingratiate you to your people again? I mean, yes, some actual flags of today include a sword, but not piercing the planet upon which we all live.
Nevertheless, the Mirror Universe doesn't just have some terrific graphic design, it also makes sure that its female crew-members, even bridge officers, show an unlikely amount of skin. We've got mixed feelings about the politics behind this, but from an aesthetic point of view, it is hard to find much fault.
5 – Mirror Odo's Death
Nothing about a dying Odo in any Universe makes me happy. However, if you gotta go, you wanna go big. To that end, let's salute the episode “Crossover,” which, as mentioned earlier, proved that the Mirror Universe was no joke, ready to kill characters that were contractually obligated to live in our world. With the rules loosened a bit, however, we now know what happens to a Founder when he ends up on the wrong side of a phaser blast. It ain't pretty.
4 – The Agony Booth/Handheld Agonizers
“Fear will keep the local systems in line” is the key phrase of the Grand Moff Tarkin's leadership doctrine, if I may quote from another Star franchise. The Terran Empire is well aware of this method of motivation. Each crewman of the ISS Enterprise wears a little red doohickey called an “agonizer,” and if they screw up their superior officers are compelled to take it and use it deliver punishment.
When they REALLY get too big for their britches (as Mirror Chekov does), no mere handheld device is going to do the trick. A session in the awesomely named “agony booth” is reserved for serious offenders.
3 – Intendant Kira Nerys (and her silver pants).
Major Kira Nerys is a warm, wonderful woman filled with life and joy and good cheer to her friends. She has a dark past, that of a freedom fighter/terrorist, but she struggles through that with hard work, her Bajoran faith and her personal relationships. As such, it is only natural that her Mirror Universe counterpart should be ruthless, manipulative and cold. But. . . seductively so.
In one of the more striking recurring characters in all of Trek, Intendant Kira Nerys oversaw the operation of Terok Nor for the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, and was a violent and sexually voracious woman. In addition to having an eye for (Mirror) Sisko and Ezri Tegan, she found a true object of her lust in herself, naturally, when our Kira crossed over.
Considering that she wore the pants on the station, it is only (form) fitting that she get a very telegenic pair to wear.
2 – Mirror Spock (and his beard.)
Before “Mirror, Mirror” ever has a chance to explain itself, its visuals let us know the score. Spock has a beard, and we know he is evil. While the facially hirsute version of a character signifying evil has now become a cliché (to the point that Spock's Beard is the name of a prog supergroup), we shouldn't lose the character for the goatee – Mirror Spock, with or without the beard, is fascinating.
And. . .optimistic. Since he is a creature of logic, he eventually realizes that an Empire cannot rule by fear and violence indefinitely. He realizes that peace, harmony, exploration, IDIC and all the other Roddenberry ideals are, eventually, the only way to go. The fact that logic and goodness is a universal constant in any timestream is something that should inspire us.
Of course, Spock's eventual use of the Tantalus Device in rising through the Terran Empire's ranks leads to some unforeseen problems, but that's why they make television shows.
1 – The Fact That It Is Real
I'll need a theoretical physicist to check my work on this one, but here goes. The fifth dimension, which folks like Stephen Hawking believe to be real, posits what “Mirror, Mirror” and, eventually, episodes like TNG's “Parallels” show – that there exists an infinite amount of universes out there in which all permutations of all possible outcomes are true.
This means (now bear with me) that somewhere out there (down the timeline a bit, but we know space and time to be one and the same) there exists a world where all the things Gene Roddenberry and his writers (and the writers that followed) predicted actually happened. Or will happen. It's true! (I think.) Therefore, it makes perfect sense to me that there is a REAL Intendant Kira out there in shiny silver pants having illicit sex on a space station somewhere.
(Also, see recent IDW Star Trek Ongong Comics #18 and #19 to see Scotty and Bones have a ridiculous conversation along these very lines. The Scotty and Bones from the recent J.J. Abrams movie, of course, because, like I said, there are an infinite amount of timelines out there.)
Okay, bearded ones, did I do justice to the might and ferocity of the Terran Empire? Or would you rather I disappear myself in a Tantalus Field Device. Let me know your picks for best of the Mirror Universe below.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.