722. In a Mirror, Darkly
FORMULA: Mirror, Mirror + The Tholian Web + Yesterday's Enterprise
WHY WE LIKE IT: The opening credits. The whole idea.
WHY WE DON'T: This close to the end, a break from the actual characters?
REVIEW: In a Mirror, Darkly is a ballsy two-parter. Not only is it a Mirror Universe story that doesn't feature the regular cast at all, but it makes us, the audience, part of the MU by redesigning the credit sequence. We're watching a different show completely. Those credits are a lot of fun and have a way better theme song than regular Enterprise. The pre-credit sequence is also a hoot: A reprise of First Contact in which Cochrane shoots the Vulcan. It's a great idea.
As is usual for alternate universe stories, part of the fun is seeing how different the characters are. Admiral Forrest commands the ship with an angry Archer as his first officer who will of course stage a coup and take command of the ship. Phlox is a sadistic vivisectionist and enjoys operating the brand new agony booth (thus, the theme of Enterprise is sustained). Reed is a bloodthirsty Maco, as is Travis who is made captain's bodyguard. Trip has scars that pay homage to both Captain Pike and Mirror Sulu. And the girls are real sexy. Hoshi is put in the Marlena role as captain's mistress (and it doesn't matter which captain). T'Pol is the only officer loyal to Forrest, has Vulcan crewmen to command, and uses her telepathic skills for mind control. Even Porthos gets a nasty makeover. Not sure about the ship's paint job, though.
The Earth Empire is at a crossroads. Instead of working at an alliance between the peoples of Near Space, it's in the throes of a rebellion from those same subjugated species. Archer takes over because he knows of another threat, and another opportunity. He has intel that the Tholians are in possession of a Starfleet ship from the future revealed to be our universe's (TOS) Defiant, zapped into subspace back in The Tholian Web. It gives us the chance to see Tholians in the "flesh" for the first time, and it's not disappointing. These crystalline aliens actually look like they did in TOS!
The episode as a whole conveys the dangerous politics of the Mirror Universe, and as fortunes swing, Archer gets thrown in the agonizer for 10 hours (some things are true in all universes). Still, having committed Enterprise to the mission, Forrest allows him to take a team to the Defiant and steal it while the Tholians attack. Suddenly, we're back in Trials and Tribble-ations land. The TOS era interiors - both sights and sounds - are wonderfully recreated, right down to the position of the struggling bodies on the bridge. Meanwhile, Enterprise is destroyed by the Tholians, killing Forrest, but giving us a first look at the ship's escape pods. It's all pretty neat and gorgeous-looking. Cue end credits - also evil.
LESSON: The key to Mirror Hoshi is to be found in the first two letters of her name.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: This thing drips in wonderful geekery, though it's a little too bad that we lose two episodes not furthering the actual Enterprise's story when there are so few left.