I watched Star Trek: Enterprise intermittently when it aired and missed the two parter "In a Mirror, Darkly" until I watched it recently on a whim. It ties together two episodes from the original series and fleshes out a particular corner of Star Trek. It also raises questions if you think about it.
Yes, I'm overthinking this. Like someone in one of those insurance commercials, it's what I do.
Seriously, if you haven't seen "In a Mirror, Darkly" go watch it (it's streaming on Netflix). I'll still be here when you get back.
After a cold opening that takes a serious turn from First Contact, it becomes clear this episode takes place in the Mirror Universe. Jonathan Archer seizes control of a Federation starship from the future and tries to become Emperor only to be thwarted in the end by Hoshi in her bid to become Empress.
Let's start with that cold opening. In the version of the Mirror Universe seen in the TNG timeframe the Borg aren't mentioned. If we assume that Q didn't cause the Borg to become more active in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants in the Mirror Universe*, then there was no Battle of Wolf 359 or later Battle of Sector 001 where the Borg and the Enterprise travelled back in time.
So this Zephram Cochrane has no knowledge of the future and isn't interested in a peaceful encounter. First contact with aliens unites mankind not in hope but in fear and distrust of a new form of Other.
If you're not familiar with the original series, the Defiant disappeared with all hands on board (and almost with Kirk) in the episode "The Tholian Web." I'm okay with there being some variations in the layout of the Constitution class starships. A rear-firing photon torpedo launcher is pushing the boundary but I could roll with it. Then this scene happened.
The Defiant has another phaser bank mounted in the rear over the shuttle bay. This along with the rear torpedo launcher means the Defiant seriously outguns the Enterprise. A possible explanation is that the Defiant may be an upgunned variant based on the early experiences of the five year missions. More than one captain probably noted in his log that some weapons in the rear would be handy. Or it could just be the writers wanting something cool.
At the end we see Hoshi in command. Archer may or may not be dead. People in the Empire usually play hardball but that doesn't mean Archer was fatally poisoned and not merely knocked out. Had the show lasted longer we might have seen what happened next.** But what happens to the Defiant?
If even a fraction of its technology gets reverse engineered the Terran Empire has a leg up on contemporary Federation technology. The I.S.S. Enterprise that Kirk encounters in "Mirror, Mirror" doesn't seem significantly more advanced than its counterpart in our universe.
Speaking of Kirk and "Mirror, Mirror" one of the conditions of the original transporter accident that led to the switch was both versions of the Enterprise being in the same general place at the same time. In the rebooted NuTrek that might not happen. Without our Kirk to inspire Goatee Spock to rebel, the history of the Terran Empire will also be changed. Goatee Spock's actions that lead to a weakened Empire are a major factor in creating the situation in the Mirror Universe when it's revisited on Deep Space Nine. Still I wouldn't be surprised if the Mirror Universe eventually shows up in the new Trek movies.
Some other assorted thoughts:
- All the women of the Empire wear the two piece bare midriff uniforms but Jolene Blalock goes the extra mile and achieves peak "Sexy Space Elf." Apparently belly piercings are logical.
- There are a lot of little touches and references to the original series such as Soval sporting the Mirror Vulcan goatee and Archer in the wrap-around shirt Kirk often wore.
- Maybe I've been watching too much Face Off but I think a man in a lizard suit might have been better than the CGI Gorn they used.
- The second half of the two parter manages to not have any ship named Enterprise in it despite the name of the show.
- Some things in Star Trek Online involving the Mirror Universe and the Tholians make a lot more sense now that I've seen "In a Mirror, Darkly."
* The Borg are presumably still doing reconnaissance like in the prime universe so it's probably just a matter of time before they show up. One possible way the Borg are encountered in the Mirror Universe is presented in the book Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Glass Empires.
** The book mentioned above also includes a story, Age of the Empress, that covers one possible outcome.