Mark Watches ‘Enterprise’: S04E18 – In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I

In the eighteenth episode of the fourth season of Enterprise, I just… I wasn’t ready. At all. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For torture, consent, objectification of women.

I am not sure yet if I’m going to like this arc.

I want to, OH SO BADLY. The cold open and the alternate credits sequence will forever be one of the most memorable moments in my Enterprise watch, something that’s bold and kinda funny and utterly arresting. The seamless use of footage from First Contact helped lull me into sense of safety and joy, and then COCHRANE FIRED ON THE VULCANS AND WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.

It’s the immersive element of the script for “In a Mirror, Darkly” that impresses me so much, and it’s what I’m clinging to as we go into the next part. The show assumes we’ll figure shit out on our own and instead focuses on dropping us into an unreal nightmare. Everything is turned to 11 in terms of what’s depicted onscreen, and it’s the origin of the Terran plot that later plays such a huge part in the Trek canon. (Technically, it is also a sequel, right? Or a slight prequel? I think the next episode will help me place the timeline, but this is definitely occurring around the time of “The Tholian Web,” right?)

Sometimes, it’s just pure, bewildering fun. Getting to see all of the cast play against their normal characterization is a treat, especially for the bitterness of Tucker or the gleeful sadism of this universe’s version of Phlox. The costuming Department is decidedly less nuanced, though that’s largely not a problem because the uniforms are modeled with a heavy influence from military and fascist fashions.

At the same time, this “dark” version of the timely felt grim merely for the sake of it. Misogyny is the given here, and all the women of the Terran Empire are forced to wear the least practical, most absurd uniforms I might have ever seen. Crop tops??? REALLY? Like, I get that this world is terrible, but it felt so gratuitous. The same goes for Hoshi’s outfit for the first half of the episode. It’s just… I don’t know. I get what the show is trying to do, and I respect that they committed to portraying the Mirror universe with a brutality that we don’t see elsewhere. Even in the other series, the Mirror universe is violent and awful; it’s supposed to be. It’s a mirror to our universe, a chance to shine a light on the less savory elements of society.

So, in that context, I don’t want these characters to be good or moral unless there’s a story to be told. Make them backstabbers and liars and cheats and murderers. But the women feel like playthings, not characters. There’s a similar dynamic with Hoshi and Travis, who don’t really serve any point in the story itself. At least T’Pol gets to represent the Vulcans and the second mutiny, and all of it is within the framework of an imperialist state. So they’re all messed up. But Travis just has a bad haircut and a gun? Seriously, we’re almost done this season and the whole series, and he hasn’t had a dedicated plot in AGES. It’s so glaring at this point, y’all. The writers spend so much time building an alternate world full of characters who are now unrecognizable, right? Reed is head of the MACOs, which plays off irony. T’Pol is part of an oppressed, colonized force. Archer, Reed, and Phlox are all different forms of evil, utterly unlike who they once were. Hoshi is… more sexual? Willing to jump from man to man?

This world is supposed to be the dark and “evil” version of ours, so a sexualized version of Hoshi just feels weird, as if THAT is what would make her evil. It’s the same uncomfortable dynamic in Mirror Kira over on Deep Space Nine. Her apparent queerness is the “dark” part of her, and that’s messed up. And in the end, Travis doesn’t even get anything!

Still, I thought it was clever and surprising that this first part stuck entirely to the Mirror universe, rather than converging the two worlds. Archer’s plan to loot the Defiant is an intriguing conflict because… well, can it even happen? Or will the Tholians thwart him? WHO DIED IN THAT FINAL SCENE??? Are we gonna see more of the Defiant set??? PLEASE???

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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