Mark Watches ‘Star Trek’: S02E04 – Mirror, Mirror

In the fourth episode of the second season of Star Trek, THIS IS THE BEST EPISODE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

I was probably gonna love this anyway, but Y’ALL. THIS WAS SPECTACULAR. I feel like everyone ever is aware of my love for all things related to parallel universes, but Zetal commissioned this wayyyyyy back in January. AND NOW I KNOW WHY. Because look at this episode.

We have so much to talk about.

Alternate Worlds

In just under fifty minutes, “Mirror, Mirror” packs in an unbelievable amount of worldbuilding, and I imagine that if I re-watch this in the future, I’ll pick up more details. The thing is, the writers could have simply made all these characters evil and exploited that. Instead, the opening scene with the Halkan councilors frames the entire story: Do Kirk and his crewmates possess the capacity for destruction? The Halkan people are ethically obligated to maintain peace, and that extends to anything they do for other races or species. They argue that even though the Federation has a peaceful history, there’s still the possibility that their dilithium crystals will be used for harm. Captain Kirk is so certain that this isn’t true, and then –

And then this episode shows just what happens if they’d all chose just a little differently.

It’s the history that’s stated or implied in “Mirror, Mirror” that makes this such an immersive experience. From the moment the crew step out of the transporter, there are countless visual clues that they’re in the wrong place. From the outfits (KIRK’S VEST IS THE BEST THING EVER) to the utterly creepy logo on the walls of the I.S.S. Enterprise to the unnerving salute, it’s… wrong. But the words out of Spock’s mouth (WHICH IS SURROUNDED BY FACIAL HAIR PLEASE BRING IT BACK) are the worst. He orders a phaser strike on the Halkans. He torments an officer with an “agonizer” for making a mistake. And it’s all conducted with that same sort of cold logic that makes our Spock who he is, and that’s perhaps the most chilling thing here. Every single alternate we see in this episode is drastically different from their counterpart except for Spock.

Of course, we’re never allowed to forget the cold open of this episode as we witness humanity at its worst. The crew ascends the hierarchal ranks of the Empire (not the Federation anymore) through betrayal, sex, and murder. Anything that furthers the Empire’s influence and control is considered logical and accepted. The sense of respect and rank that we saw on the U.S.S. Enterprise is completely gone here, as crewmembers frequently leave their posts to do whatever the fuck they want, which includes propositioning Uhura or trying to assassinate Captain Kirk. It would be bad enough for Scotty, Kirk, Bones, and Uhura to be in a parallel universe, but this specific one is particularly brutal, you know?

And even that is done super well. There’s a moment at the end of the episode where Spock remarks that it was much harder for the parallel versions to blend into our world than the other way around. Personally, I think that’s an incredible bit of in-episode logic to help explain why no one ever told anyone that they were from an alternate universe. A great deal of the tension in “Mirror, Mirror” relies on the four “regular” characters trying to hide in plain sight. Of course, they’re not exactly successful. Uhura has to deal with Sulu coming on to her all the time; Bones is believed to be “soft”; and Captain Kirk is dealt a successive of violent options that he’s not willing to commit to. That’s the problem for him in this episode. He stalls and he manipulates, and in doing so, he earns the negative attention of everyone around him. The Kirk in this universe would never hesitate or delay anything, and now, that’s all he’s doing.

Oh my god, this story is so fucked up.

Kirk / Marlena

I wanted to talk about specific character moments in “Mirror, Mirror,” so I’ll break this up like so. I still think it’s true that the writers gender the actions and consequences in this world. Based on what I saw, the men on the Enterprise use betrayal and assassination to gain power, and Marlena, the only other woman aside from Uhura, uses sex. (I actually don’t know how Mirror!Uhura fits into this, since what we know of her part in this universe is all based on Sulu’s behavior. She’s clearly been rejecting him for eons.) When we first meet Marlena, she’s just the “Captain’s Woman.” As she interacts with Captain Kirk, we get to see her own frustration with his counterpart’s ruthlessness and emotional distance. It’s clear she wants more from the relationship on a personal and professional level, but when we meet her, it’s clear she’s fed up. She’s already willing to move on to someone who will please her and give her a better opportunity to move up the ladder.

I admit that she’s a difficult character to analyze because we don’t get nearly as much time with her as I’d like. Are there other women in command? Do all women follow a similar path to the one she does? I think you can examine her behavior in the second half of the episode in terms of her justified selfishness. She uses the Tantalus Field to save Kirk, but more so in order to save herself. She wants more out of the life she has. Unfortunately, her story is largely abandoned by the end of the episode, so we don’t get a hint about her fate.


I still want an entire episode surrounding Uhura, but “Mirror, Mirror” featured her more than most have, and HOLY SHIT, SHE’S INCREDIBLE. I can’t ignore what a huge deal this was at the time the show was airing. Here is a black woman kicking ass, rejecting sexual advances, disarming another person, and doing so all by herself. Even though she’s afraid and looks to Kirk for help, the show doesn’t make her rely on him. She is ultimately able to do what needs to be done on her own, and it matters. If she hadn’t distracted Sulu or taken Marlena’s gun, this whole plan may have fallen apart.


Y’ALL. As much as Bones wants to act eternally annoyed with Spock, we must all accept what happens here. At the moment when they all need to get back to the transporter room, he chooses to stay behind, AT GREAT RISK TO HIMSELF, just to save Mirror!Spock’s life. He saves the life of someone he probably won’t ever see again in a parallel universe because he can’t bear to let them die.

AND THEN SPOCK DOES THE VULCAN MIND MELD TO BONES. HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT. Bones’s face in that scene is completely not okay.


I think that it was bold of the writers to end this episode where they did because it leaves us wondering if Kirk’s impassioned plea to Mirror!Spock worked. Again, I don’t think this would have worked as well as it did had not Mirror!Spock been so eerily similar to Spock in our world. Kirk does what he can to appeal to his logic because that’s the only thing he knows that this Spock is familiar with. And so he begs Mirror!Spock to consider the logical impossibility of an empire that expands through violence. They both know the Empire will eventually fail, so why pursue it? Why agree to be a part of it? Why contribute to its temporary success? Why not work towards something that’s sustainable?

Mirror!Spock’s line about considering Captain Kirk’s idea is a victory in and of itself. It’s also all that we get. We get a glimpse of some sort of hope for this mirror universe, but we’ll most likely never see it again. Our heroes return home whole and complete, and they’re already cracking jokes about the entire experience by the end of “Mirror, Mirror.” But this episode will most likely have a lasting impression on me. I think it’s one of the better parallel universe stories I’ve seen on television, AND IT’S NEARLY FIFTY YEARS OLD. BRAVO. The acting and storytelling were top notch, and Y’ALL. THAT BEARD. LOOK AT IT. Oh, please let Spock grow one, PLEASE.

The video for “Mirror, Mirror” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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