Monday, May 15, 2023

Enterprise, Season 4: In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II

Enterprise, Season 4
"In a Mirror, Darkly Part II"
Airdate: April 29, 2005
94 of 97 produced
94 of 97 aired


Captain Archer decides to make the Terran Empire great again by using the futuristic USS Defiant to crush its enemies.


Terran Girlboss in the house!





Matthew: I guess an episode like this has some unique challenges. It's a second part, of course, and these have historically had some hurdles with sticking the landing and delivering on the promise of the first part. On this score, I think this episode succeeds. What do we want? We want to see that sweet, sweet TOS-era hardware we were teased last episode. And boy, this episode delivers that in spades. We get boatloads of action on the ship, between ships in combat, in uniform, using "old" props, and even with a Gorn thrown in for good measure. To call this "a love letter to the fans" is a minor understatement. About the only portion that doesn't work super well for me is the Gorn chase sequence. On the one hand, it involved Mirror Kelby getting chomped in two. And I'm definitely on board for that. But overall it lends a bit of a "series of vignettes" feel to the episode.

Kevin: So I think this is actually a pretty successful two parter with regards to consistency. It keeps the tone and verve of the first half. This was a big, fun comic book of an episode, and i think it sticks the landing on giving us a ridiculous over the top good time. I don't mind the vignette feel, since it serves the point. We're just here to wander around the TOS museum with some fun 'what if?' elements, and the episode definitely does that.

Matthew: For me, watching any mirror universe episode gets my brain working, and the question I cannot avoid is "how is this world possible?" I just don't see how a species with this level of violence, lack of fellow feeling, and willingness to betray others could have achieved space travel or, indeed, survived at all. So I would rather see some sort of argument being made for extenuating circumstances that have warped a culture, rather than "this is an eeeevil species, mwah ha haaaa!" Why does Archer ever trust Hoshi? Why does anyone take a glass of anything poured by another? How are children raised? This episode did little to answer or dispel such questions. At a minimum, this does make the humans out to be sort or piratical in their approach to other cultures and technology, which does mitigate questions of how they could achieve spaceflight to some degree.

Kevin: I think it's more plausible than you give it credit for. I think there's a decent case that the Roman Empire was very successful while being extremely violent and treacherous, and there's a pretty solid case to make that they weren't really innovators, either philosophically or technologically, but when they encountered an idea or thing that worked, they adopted it at scale with ruthless efficiency. This is a cartoonishly stylized version of it, to be sure, but I don't think it comes off as impossible these people achieved dominance.

Matthew: Bringing the Constitution class Defiant into a world 100 years behind it is handled well here. It is made out to be suitably powerful and destabilizing, and portraying the "Empire" as moribund and on its heels works for me. With respect to continuity, I do have questions. Did the Terran Empire achieve TOS-level technology by this means? I think that's what I'm supposed to take from this story. But that calls into question the Terrans seeming obliviousness to the Prime universe by the time "Mirror, Morror" rolls around. Does Hoshi really become Empress? Like, I guess that could be a thing. But it could just be bluster on her part. 

Kevin: I agree that they should be more aware of the prime universe by the events of Mirror, Mirror, but to the extent it wrinkles the timeline, I think it actually works since it's interesting to think they learned to copy the Defiant, but not apparently improve it. That's a fun take. The series of books set in the Mirror Universe certainly have an Empress Hoshi, so that's how I read the ending. If nothing else, all the betrayals and whatnot were just fun. Either way, the bluster was just a hoot to watch.


Matthew: Scott Bakula chewed, swallowed, and excreted the scenery here. His speech to the crew was over the top, and that's without the deleted scene, which goes even further. He didn't do it for me. I think everyone else gave things subtler shades that I enjoyed more.  Particularly good were Blalock as Mirror T'Pol, and Billinglsey as Mirror Phlox. They felt basically like their own characters, just thrown into a corrupt world. Gary Graham is ever welcome, and his new take on his character, as weary and tentative, really worked.

Kevin: In the alternate-alternate universe where we never got the overload of Angry Suburban Dad Archer, there may have been more contrast here. My favorite was probably Linda Park, just because she was committed. I think she even managed to infuse the femme fatale stuff with enough internal life to make it fun and campy and not low key misogynistic. 

Production Values

Matthew: How much praise can he heaped upon the TOS sets, costumes and props? We said a whole bunch last episode, and things are multiplied five-fold here. The Jeffries tube! The new areas of the ship we've never seen! Grav plating! TOS food! The bridge was just, wow. Splendid. Moving, even. Seeing a set this accurate, filmed in this fidelity, with characters so impeccably dressed was kind of astonishing.  real triumph - and I saw in the Blu-Ray text commentary that the production crew only had two weeks to build everything. They didn't take any days off in those 14 days, and it shows in this labor of love.

Kevin: I agree with the love for the TOS sets. My only critique is the CGI Gorn which was less successful than the CGI Tholian was for me. I didn't mind the inclusion per se as a piece of fan service, but the execution was a little short of the mark for me.


Matthew: This two-parter is easily the best post TOS mirror story. It tells a complete, cohesive yarn without lapsing into (too much) camp. Neither does it simply repeat the fish out of water storytelling of the original. It may not answer some of my larger questions, but it is fun paced with pep. And the production values are stunningly good. So I think this half hits a 4, dragged down a tad by the Gorn interlude.

Kevin: This is another easy 4 for me. It's fun, energetic and well executed both in terms of pacing and technicals. The only bad thing I can say about this episode is, again, that it's sad that the best achieved stories in a much improved season 4 are about people other than the main cast. Still, that certainly not this episode's problem. This is a hoot, and hoots get 8s.


  1. Come now, you complain about the gorn chase. But how could it ever compare well after Kirk's mighty fight when he went toe to toe with the gorn captain in Arena?

    1. I know it probably would have ended up looking out of place in an otherwise pretty slick staging of the TOS sets, but I think a dude in a costume may have worked better somehow, though that is probably my general bias in favor of practical effects talking.

    2. I applaud the attempt to create a more articulated Gorn. The CGI doesn't bother me in terms of quality. It just felt like a story detour to me.