Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TOS Rewind #31: "Mirror, Mirror"

Up this time:  Mirror, Mirror (10/06/1967).

We recorded a podcast with Eric, Rob, Lee, and myself.

Eric starts us out:

"Mirror Mirror" is generally regarded as one of the very best classic Star Trek episodes; it is certainly in my top 10. The story is great SF--it's certainly not hard science fiction (i.e. SF that actually respects and does justice to science), but I can't think of any science fiction TV shows that are (or have been) hard SF. That said, Mirror Mirror is a great example of the kind of wildly imaginative science fiction that you find in the short stories and novels from the 50s through the 70s. It's pure geeky fun.

One of the best aspects of this episode is that there are great parts for all of the characters, not just Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. This is the only episode in which Scotty calls Kirk by his first name, and he's got several good pieces sprinkled throughout. Uhura is at her best--she gets to show her claws, which is always fun. Mirror Sulu is a delightfully malicious and lecherous diversion from his clean-cut counterpart in our universe, and who would've thought sweet little Chekov could be such a conniving, murderous shit? The version of these characters we're used to are shining examples of exceptional human beings, very upstanding and moral and proper, so it's delicious to see them stripped of their veneer of civilization.

Speaking of which, I really would've liked to see more of mirror Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Scotty. They are in the brig on "our" Enterprise for the whole episode, but if this had been a two-parter, it would've been great to see them attempt a breakout and takeover. The best mirror character, however, is Spock. He's essentially the Spock we know, but there's a hard edge there that makes him extremely cool. And what's fascinating is that Spock seems to be the constant in both universes. Despite being rather brutal and ruthless in the mirror universe, he's still intelligent, decent, and ethical, and it's this consistency that allows our Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura to return to our universe. It's also the factor that promises a heap o' trouble for mirror Kirk when he gets back to his Enterprise.

I'll leave my review there. There's much more that can be said about this episode (and we cover much of it in our podcast--go give it a listen). Mirror Mirror is classic Star Trek at it's best!


I believe we were all in agreement:  this is top-drawer Trek.  This episode isn't just thought-provoking, it's also a lot of fun.  I have always loved this episode.  The charge of seeing Spock with facial hair was something else.  It isn't really that big of a deal, but when I was a kid, it certainly seemed like it.  The idea of our familiar Enterprise being run by a group of futuristic thugs who happened to look like our heroes was irresistible.

It's easy to poke holes in the concept and science on display here, but the good/evil character ideas are still compelling.  It's interesting to contemplate how this mirror universe actually operates.  The episode doesn't give us a lot to work with, but we know there is central authority crossed with a gangster/pirate element (example:  the hired goons used by the officers).  As Lee pointed out in the podcast, this system probably wouldn't get very far in real life, but they manage to pack some interesting ideas into a very limited frame.

The character elements, as Eric pointed out, are the real draw here.  Kirk and the landing party adapt to the new situation well.  Uhura really does a 180 from being scared, clinging to Kirk, to taking on evil Sulu (complete with facial scar!).  Sulu and Chekov are appropriately slimy.  Hell, even the uniforms are different.  Nimoy really does a great performance as the alternate Spock.  His mannerisms are slightly different and he never overdoes it.  "Mirror" Spock has this command authority we seldom see from the "good" version.  Of course, we all think the Mirror Spock is WAY cooler than the regular one.  His costume is cooler, and he's even more of a badass.  Some things in the alternate universe aren't so different, like Kirk's relationships with women.  This exchange between Kirk and Marlena (evil Kirk's, um, girlfriend?) got a chuckle out of me:

Marlena:  "I've been a captain's woman, and I like it. I'll be one again, if I have to go through every officer in the fleet."

Kirk:  "You could... I simply meant that you could be anything you wanted to be."


Another thing I really like about this episode is how they created the atmosphere of the mirror universe with relatively few changes to the sets and costumes.  They obviously couldn't change things too much, but it's enough to get the point across.  Besides, the characters are what really convince us that Kirk and co. aren't in Kansas anymore.

Like Eric, I think it would have been fun to have seen more of the evil Kirk/landing party in our universe.  The one scene we see has Kirk acting like a bombastic gangster trying to bribe Spock to get out of the brig.  This particular plot was mined in other Trek shows to good effect.  We would have enjoyed seeing the aftermath with bearded Spock after the evil Kirk returned.

The remastered version had a few enhancements.  The Agony Booth got some effects, so we don't just see Chekov sweating in that plexiglass tube.  There are a few zapping effects when Spock hits Mr Kyle with the agonizer hoopajoop.

So there you have it.  Definitely an episode I always like to watch and one that really makes the most of its limited time/budget.  "Captain Kirk, I shall consider it!"

Next time:  "The Apple"

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