4.08.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 8: In a Mirror Darkly

I believe I've said everything I can possibly say about Enterprise, but the episode that occupies the top spot of my countdown deserves its own entry. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga described "These Are the Voyages..." as a "love letter to the fans." I don't question the sincerity of their intent, but the real love letter to the fans is:

 


No point recounting the plot of this one. If you don't know it/ haven't seen it, you should track it down, as it's hellaciously entertaining. All you need to know is that it's a "mirror universe" episode, where the characters and setting is familiar, but twisted. If you're a pre-Crisis DC fan, the mirror universe is like Earth-3, the universe where the JLA is the Crime Syndicate; everyone good is bad. 

(If you're a post-Crisis DC fan, they were reintroduced in the Morrison/Quitely excellent graphic novel Earth 2, but since DC continuity changes every couple of years, why keep track?)


What a great opportunity for the cast to have some fun playing scoundrel versions of themselves and for the production crew to recreate the look and feel of TOS via visual design homage and 21st century CGI.

 
 


 
Every detail of the Defiant from "The Tholian Web" is lovingly and meticulously recreated for this episode, including both the positions of the dead crew and the 60s mini-skirts. This last detail led Nicole Malgarini, above, to express continuous concern on-set over how short her costume was. Ironic on many levels. (She obviously never saw TOS.)
There are a couple of CGI-Gorn moments that struck a "meh" chord with me, but this shot of Slar (the Gorn) with a communicator delights me. Bobby Clark, who played the Gorn in TOS "Arena," was on set during Archer's fight with Slar. Must have been a surreal moment for all involved.
Of course, DS9 did both classic Trek and mirror universe Trek a decade before Enterprise did. I'm not a big fan of their mirror universe episodes, but I thoroughly enjoy "Trials and Tribble-ations," the DS9 episode that visually melds old and new set/costume design.


A buddy of mine and I were discussing Enterprise the other night, and he relayed how bland he finds Bakula's Captain Archer. As for me, in the same way ENT is my favorite Trek after TOS and TNG, so too is Archer my favorite Captain after Kirk and Picard. So maybe I'm biased, but personal preference aside, it's difficult not to give all the props in the world to Bakula's performance as Mirror Universe Archer:

Schizophrenic,
sociopathic,
sadistic and ambitious, as Captain Forrester discovers here.
T'Pol's mirror universe counterpart is also quite interesting. The Terran Empire is founded on the idea that Terrans are meant to rule and all other races are meant to serve them.

Here, she ends up leading a bit of a revolt against the regime, but to no avail.

Gary Graham, in addition to getting the goatee everyone was looking for, gets to have one of these going-down-with-the-ship moments during T'Pol's failed insurrection.
Trip doesn't have an easy time of it in the mirror universe.

In addition to whatever accident left him with this Two-Face look,
T'Pol manipulates his carnal desire for her with typical Vulcan efficiency.
Each of the characters gets to chew some scenery with his or her counterpart, but Hoshi's character arc is perhaps the most interesting of all:

In TOS "Mirror, Mirror," Barbara Luna (who stopped by the set during the filming of "Mirror Darkly") plays the role of "the Captain's woman." Hoshi starts off the story in the same capacity, here with Captain Forrester...
then with Captain Archer, upon his usurping command.
She plays Archer (and Travis) like a fiddle, though,
and ends up in sole command of the Defiant, dictating terms at story's end to the Terran Empire.
"You are speaking with Empress Sato; prepare to receive instructions."
The Tholians play no small part in proceedings, of course.


Not much more to say except this two-parter is the grand slam in the bottom of the ninth that nevertheless failed to prevent Enterprise's cancellation. Indeed, it was actually during production of this episode that the cast and crew received word that they'd soon be out of work. That everyone continues to give it their collective all is a testament to the love they had for the work.

And while we're speaking of alternate universes, let's peek into our own alternate timeline where Enterprise had the twenty-five-ish episodes heretofore discussed as its first couple of seasons (unless it was a BBC production, when it would have been six or seven seasons) and "In a Mirror Darkly" as the wraparound season finale / next-season-opener. In that universe, I imagine Enterprise is wildly adored by Trek fans. In this one, alas, it seems destined to be remembered as a show that never realized its potential. 

As for me, I sympathize with said viewpoint, but what can I say? I love the damn thing, warts and all.

Context is everything.
Hindsight is second to everything.
"In a Mirror Darkly" always tops polls for best Enterprise episode, and we here at Dog Star Omnibus can only concur. Brilliant fun. 

One final note: this episode was nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series category. It apparently lost to an episode of Rome. So it goes.

NEXT: I'll be getting to Voyager in a blog or two, but let's take a side road into the enduring enigma of William Shatner...


5 comments:

  1. This episode seems most promising, indeed. Having not seen it yet, I have nothing useful to say about it. So I'll settle for saying this: I do not find T'Pol to be particularly hot.

    Until she has long hair, at which point in time JESUS GOD ALMIGHTY.

    And this has been Objectification Minute, with Bryant.

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    1. Please stop back in and let me know how you find the rest of the series, BB - I'll be curious to see which ones strike your fancy.

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    2. It took me a while, but I finally wrapped up "Enterprise." I enjoyed "In a Mirror, Darkly" quite a bit, despite the fact that the mirror universe as a concept vexes me. Still, if you're going to use the concept, these episodes are a very solid use indeed. I especially liked all the Tholian action, and the ultimate Hoshi payoff is just great.

      Having now finished "Enterprise," I definitely feel as if that series needs to be rediscovered. It isn't perfect, by any means. But there are far more good episodes than bad ones, and of the bad ones there are very few that are outright stinkers. Some of it doesn't pass the test for being Roddenberrian, at least not for me; but then again, neither does most of DS9, so I feel like most modern Trekkies have learned to deal with that mild dilemma long ago.

      A couple of words about "These Are the Voyages": I've got two major problems with the episode. One, that Trip is killed. That's pointless, especially considering how unaffected everyone seems by it. Two, that the episode ends before Archer makes his big speech! That, for me, was the big WTF moment; I guess the idea is that it's supposed to be so great a speech that anything would feel like a letdown, but still, that's super-duper lame.

      Otherwise, though, I liked it a lot, and I especially loved seeing Jonathan Frakes interact with the Enterprise cast. It's an odd idea for an "Enterprise" finale, I guess; but just as an episode, it works for me apart from those two elements I mentioned above.

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    3. I think you hit the nail on the head, here, all around but particularly with "These Are the Voyages." If it was just an episode, hey, it'd be fine. Not one of the best ones (and Trip would have to survive - like you say, just pointless death, like someone from the network came by and said "Either someone dies or someone gives birth or IT'S NOT A FINALE AND I'LL BREAK KNEECAPS" etc.) but would've been perfectly fine, even ending it without the speech. (Tho I agree - as dramatic payoff, it's such a cheat.)

      As a finale - and even more curiously, as Braga and Berman described it, "a love letter to fans" - it misses the mark widely.

      Glad you enjoyed both "In a Mirror Darkly" and the series, though.

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