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- "In a Mirror, Darkly"
- "Demons / Terra Prime"
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"In a Mirror, Darkly"

(Star Trek: Enterprise production codes 094 & 095)
  • part 1 written by Mike Sussman
  • part 2 story by Manny Coto,
    teleplay by Mike Sussman
  • directed by James L. Conway (Part 1)
    and Marvin V. Rush (Part 2)
  • music by Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner
    (both composers on both episodes)
  • 2 episodes @ 43 minutes each

94-95: In a Mirror, Darkly

In perhaps typical fashion for its fourth season, "Star Trek: Enterprise" delivers another big, action-packed spectacle with this mirror universe two-part blockbuster. But while it certainly holds one's eye to the screen, it utterly fails to make me care about anything that happens in it.

The problem goes right back to the ill-fated decision to do a prequel series, and park "Enterprise" in Star Trek's past while making up episodes on the fly week after week. Today's story wants to logically further the franchise's Mirror Universe saga, but the writers admit in the interviews they were stumped at how to avoid pre-empting Captain Kirk's initial discovery of this universe in "Mirror, Mirror". Suddenly they got excited at the solution of not bothering to allow any of their regular NX-01 castmembers to cross over into the other universe and interact.

But just as this solved one problem, it created another that was possibly even bigger. Without one or more regulars from the "good" universe coming over to interact with the endless supply of "negative" versions of everyone we used to know, I found it impossible to find any characters that I wanted to root for in this story, and was pretty much turned off by everyone that I did see. In fact, this was quite an acute problem the first time I watched this. Nothing in the story actually tells the audience NOT to EXPECT a tried and true regular coming over to this universe at some point. I literally remember very consciously waiting for such a character to appear, waiting for the cross-over event to occur, waiting to invest in a real protagonist upholding some ideals against the rest of the nut-jobs in this mirror universe. Even after most of the first episode had gone by, it began teasing us with a ship that had come from our good universe, keeping hopes alive for finally getting that cross-over participant in whom I could make an emotional investment. I waited for two episodes, remaining detached the whole time, and got nothing. A serious fumble from the writers.

What we did get from the characters of this universe were all the usual dynamics of an all-round lower philosophical standard. It fits the pattern that we ALL create our own realities, in the sense that there are still some characters here that are more sympathetic than others, but in this universe that sympathy is often created solely by showing them as the underdogs in some brutal situations. The minute that the situations reveal a bit of a reversal, previously sympathetic characters typically act as nasty as their former overlords, revealing that they were merely bottling up their bad qualities under the surface.

In particular I want to call attention to the sheer number of torture scenes on display here. Television in general seemed to have developed an affinity for doing too much of this around this time, and I emphasize how much of a turn-off it is. I don't want to see it. I don't find such scenes to be anything approaching great character material. To me, it indicates that a writer has painted himself into a corner by creating characters who are too much at odds with each other and can't find more elegant ways to communicate. And it is a bit disturbing to notice how often torture has turned up in Mike Sussman's scripts for "Enterprise" over the past two years. This story indulges deeply in the trend, and it becomes another of the big turnoffs for the tale.

Something that is perhaps a bit more ambiguous is the sheer number of references to other stories of the franchise. Sure this tale seems to be based primarily on the dark universe concept of "Mirror, Mirror" and its five sequels on Deep Space Nine, a universe which has also roped in The Next Generation and Voyager if we expand to count some of the novels that are officially non-canon. But in reality, this one is less a "Mirror, Mirror" prequel and more of a sequel to "The Tholian Web" - a rare highly-regarded episode from the original series' third season. But it doesn't stop there. "In a Mirror, Darkly" also ropes in a twist on "Star Trek 8: First Contact" and threatens to pre-empt the original series first season episode "Arena".

Being a long-term Trek fan at this point, I could roll with these punches and enjoy them to some extent. But the story seemed to be jumping from one of these items to another, almost as if to say, "Let's see what other recognizable things from past/future we can cram in here!" I don't know what could possibly be made of all this by the casual viewer, or even one who only got into "Enterprise" specifically. It seems to have generated more of a mess of continuity and references rather than an actual good adventurous story.

One thing I did really like was the presentation of the Tholian life-form, which both pays homage to the very limited and funky graphics that TOS was able to achieve in the 1960's while also expanding the creature conceptually and visually into something much more believable for today's audience. Nice also that this creature requires a completely different atmosphere and temperature than Humans do, which is something seen all too rarely on modern Star Trek. Perhaps imagination really was encouraged far better on the early days of TOS and TNG than later on in the modern era. Another attempt is made for another creature later on, which is also worthy and interesting but a bit less successful I think.

Of course, one of the biggest attention-grabbing stunts is the extensive realization of the U.S.S. Defiant - not the now more famous ship from DS9 but the one from "The Tholian Web", identical to Kirk's own infamous ship. Attention to detail in recreating the ship is quite magnificent, and it seems the designers even successfully extrapolated the design aesthetic to show us portions of the familiar Constitution-class starship that we had never seen before. Excellent. All that said, the cinematography while on board is decidedly not a recreation of the 1960's, as had been done on "Trials and Tribble-ations", but one which continues to follow the darker, grittier tones established for Bakula's series. Thoroughly appropriate in this case.

Less appropriate seems to be the characters' collective decision to change into the clothes of their future and our past, getting into the 1960's Star Trek costumes. On one level, it's cute, but cute isn't really their style, and finding good motivation for doing it would be a huge stretch. Meh.

At least Sevol wears a beard in this universe, a nice tasteful salute to Spock's alternate that still seems appropriate and in-character.

The end of the show somehow just seems to "be there". There is yet one more unexpected twist in a long series of twists for this story.... but it doesn't seem to end in any kind of a definitive place. It ends because its two TV "hours" are up. One might have hoped for a reset-button to have disarmed these crazies and removed any anachronisms, but that wasn't forthcoming. Was there any other positive goal whose completion the audience was meant to look forward to? It seems all the conflicts of this place are just festering wildly with no resolution in sight. It's a sad end for the Defiant, and a bit of a waste of another two slots in Star Trek's ever dwindling schedule.

And I have to scratch my head and wonder if the writers really did avoid messing up continuity in this tale. Events in the normal "good" universe seem to be untouched, and if anything "The Tholian Web" works even better now that some of its more mysterious bits have been more fully motivated and fleshed out by events in this tale. But what of the mirror universe itself? Are we to believe that these people are so backward that the only way they could achieve a technology on par with Kirk's time was to steal it 100 years too early? Perhaps a bigger problem is Star Trek's fascination with the idea of two polar opposite universes, instead of the more likely scenario of countless trillions of universes, spawning at every diverging moment of decision. This could easily NOT be the same universe that links up to the one in "Mirror, Mirror" and if healthy theories were followed, that's actually a more likely scenario, and also one that frees the writers up to involve NX-01's regular characters and keep the stakes here unpredictable.

In the end, "In a Mirror, Darkly" has been a bit of a mess, and an uninspiring one, although one that still manages some excitement, interesting visuals, and production value. But it's another two episodes gone by without any furthering of the stories of our regular NX-01 crew, and this late in the game, that is a strange thing to see indeed.

Read the next In-depth Analysis Review: "Demons / Terra Prime"

This season has become available on DVD and Blu-ray in the Enterprise Season Four box sets:


DVD Canada


6-disc DVD set

DVD Extras include:

  • 3 audio commentaries:
    • "In a Mirror, Darkly, Parts 1 & 2" by co-writer Mike Sussman and web-moderator Tim Gaskill.
    • "Terra Prime" (Part 2 of 2) by co-writers Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Tim Gaskill.
  • 3 text commentaries by Mike & Denise Okuda:
    • "The Forge" (Part 1 of 3)
    • "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part 2" (of 2)
    • "These Are the Voyages"
  • Enterprise moments, Season 4 (16 min.)
  • Inside the "Mirror" episodes (15 min.)
  • Enterprise secrets (6 min.)
  • Visual effects magic (13 min.)
  • That's a wrap (9 min.)
  • Links to the legacy (4 min.)
  • Deleted scenes and outtakes
  • Photo gallery
  • hidden "Save Enterprise" featurette
Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

NEW to Blu-ray for 2014 April

Blu-ray Bonus features include:

  • All extras from the standard DVD set
  • 6 new audio commentaries:
    • "The Forge" (Part 1 of 3) and "Observer Effect" with
      writers Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and
      scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "United" (Part 2 of 3) with the Reeves-Stevens and director David Livingston.
    • "In a Mirror, Darkly (Part 1)" with writer Mike Sussman, director James L. Conway, and the Okudas.
    • "Demons / Terra Prime" (parts 1 & 2 of 2) with Connor Trinneer (Trip) and Dominic Keating (Reed).
  • "Before Her Time: Decommissioning Enterprise" 4-part documentary (HD, 118 min.) with the main cast, creators, regular writing staff, and crew.
  • In Conversation: Writing Enterprise (HD, 90 min.)
  • Westmore's Aliens: Dr. Phlox and Beyond
  • Enterprise Goes to the Dogs
  • Original script ending of "Home"
  • Extended scene from "Home" (HD)

Review written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


Read the next In-depth Analysis Review: "Demons / Terra Prime"

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