Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Star Trek--"Mirror, Mirror"

We have reached yet another iconic Tos episode, not to mention yet another reason why the transporter violates every OSHA regulation in the known universe. Honestly, why does Starfleet even use the darn thing/ You can wind up split into two different personalities, frozen in limbo, impaled by shrubbery, attacked by some sort of creature no one else believes is real, or even wind up in another universe where everyone dresses like a West Hollywood BDSM party, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Enough snark. “Mirror, Mirror” is one of the most famous TOS episodes of all time. It is parodied in popular culture almost as much as “Amok Time.” I cannot give the credit of originating parallel universes to TOS--the concept dates back to pulp science fiction, perhaps even earlier--but I suspect TOS made it hit the mainstream. Tell me the truth--do you think goatees are edgy because goats are a symbol of Satanism or because Mirror spock sorted one? It is bound to be the latter. There is further proof of Trek’s cultural impact, as if you needed more.

Parallel universes are a staple of comic books, so I have much experience with the ins and outs of them. There are great when done right, but leave you feeling cheated when done wrong. It boils down to one question; why should I care what happens to a universe I am never going to see again? There has to be a special element to the story or else it is more or less an imaginary story--a way of putting your characters in a fantasy setting that will not effect continuity. You can see how that can easily become a cop out.

By and large, the mirror universe has been a cop out concept for trek as a whole. I love DS9. It is my favorite Trek series. I thought it was the best even when its main theme was the growing pains of peace between the Federation, Bajor, and Cardassia. When the Dominion were added to the mix, it only got better. But I hate, hate, hate the five episode journey into the Mirror Universe. All five were inconsequential adventures serving as a way to get the characters out of a rigid story arc for a time. After a thirty year absence of the concept, I would have hoped for better.

I will give ENT some rare praise for utilizing the Mirror Universe in a fun, innovative way. “In a Mirror Darkly I-II” utilized the Defiant From “The Tholian Web” and established some history to the Mirror Universe. That is the sort of thing I had hoped ENT would do all along rather than make up history yas it saw fit regardless of how it fit into the grand scheme of Trek. The show probably would have made it the full seven years had it done a better job of fitting in. But I digress.

Overall, ‘Mirror, Mirror” is not one of my favorite episodes, but I recognize that what it tried to do, it did well. the episode was nominated for a Hugo in 1968 for its effort. I gather that because it was a innovative concept for mainstream science fiction at the time. I have been tainted by exposure to the concept of parallel universes being done better in various other mediums over the years, so like any arrogant whippersnapper, I often find the oldies to not be the goodies.

The most striking thing about “Mirror, Mirror” is that for oce in trek, humans are the villains without being insane or under alien control while aliens are the heroes. I imagine it can be chalked up moreto Spock’s growing popularity rather than any willingness to explore human nature deeper on Gene Roddenberry’s part, but Spock was a noble character in both universes. It is quite rare in Trek for the alien to be in the right when correcting human behavior, even when it is in his nature to do so. For instance, take the last episode, “The Changeling.” Kirkdestroys NOMAD by applying logic. Logical arguments are Spock’s modus operendi, yet he was not allowed to even suggest Kirk take this action. See how unusual it is for an alien to be the hero?

I deem “Mirror, Mirror” enjoyable, but nothing special. Truth be told, I do not see a huge difference between the real Federation and the Terran Empire. Both are human dominated organizations which try to impose the human way of thinking on alien culture. The latter only does so in a brutal fashion while the former uses subtlety. It would only take a small push for the Federation to become the Terran Empire. Morality is that fragile. Perhaps if I were more idealistic, I could see the universes are polar opposites and enjoy the moral tale more, but I just cannot. Presumably, those who do enjoy the episode more than I do.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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