Sunday, May 4, 2014

So Much Reference! “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” Is An Enterprise Love Song To Star Trek!

The Good: Interesting character work for Archer, Good acting, Engaging plot progression
The Bad: It’s tough to get emotionally invested in the characters, Ridiculous-looking CG Gorn
The Basics: “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” concludes the prequel Mirror Universe story by having a Gorn hunt through the U.S.S. Defiant, which leads to the solidification of the Terran Empire in a clunky way.

As Star Trek: Enterprise was winding down, its producers had a choice to make: go out with a referential episode or an original arc. The final three episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise were a distinctly Enterprise story, but immediately before that it did a final arc that was tightly related to the original Star Trek. Following up on the Mirror Universe episode “In A Mirror Darkly” (reviewed here!), “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” was the final Enterprise episode that extensively referenced original Star Trek episodes.

“In A Mirror Darkly, Part II,” like its predecessor, is set entirely in the Mirror Universe that was introduced in “Mirror, Mirror” (reviewed here!). But, more than just presenting a straightforward story in the Mirror Universe, “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” weaves a story that is very much a love song to Star Trek. As such, the episode is enriched by viewers having seen “The Tholian Web” and “Arena” (reviewed here!). Because of how insular the Mirror Universe stories are and how the action of “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” is set on the U.S.S. Defiant from “our” universe, it’s actually possible to watch “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” on its own (without seeing the first part).

With the Enterprise destroyed and a skeleton crew having made it to the U.S.S. Defiant, Archer has Reed and Tucker get the weapons systems of the futuristic ship brought back on line. Destroying the Tholians with the Defiant’s weapons, Archer takes aboard their captives as slaves and sends the Defiant, at impulse, toward Imperial space. When Kelby is killed, Phlox discovers another alien is aboard the ship. Interrogating the alien slave, Archer learns that Sklaar the Gorn is loose on the ship and is sabotaging the Defiant. Archer plans to lead the assault team on the Gorn to recover the plasma regulators needed to get the Defiant up to warp.

When Reed and Archer lead teams to find the Gorn, the Gorn is killed and the Defiant is able to rendezvous with Fleet Admiral Black’s ship. Rescuing Admiral Black from a rebel attack, Archer is dismayed that the Admiral will not give him a battlefield promotion to Captain and the Defiant. Killing Black, Archer takes command and he demands StarFleet’s unconditional surrender. Admiral Gardner refuses to surrender and Archer heads toward Earth, with the U.S.S. Avenger at his side. Aboard the Avenger, Soval and T’Pol work to protect the Empire by saving the Emperor’s life. Phlox allies with T’Pol and Soval, but Tucker manages to get the power grid up and running, destroying the Avenger and setting Archer on a historic course toward Earth.

One of the fun things about every Mirror Universe episode – in Star Trek and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - is seeing how the normal universe characters are tweaked in the Mirror Universe. In “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II,” Archer suffers from a multiple personality disorder, seeing himself goading him into being more assertive. Dr. Phlox is sadistic and Soval is openly emotional and knows how to manipulate emotions. T’Pol is largely unchanged in the Mirror Universe as she is a principled, logical standing up for the greater good.

What does not work as well in “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” is the Gorn plot. The Gorn seems to be a gratuitous addition to the storyline, as if the writers were saying “See how many episodes of Star Trek we can allude to?!” But the conflict aboard the Defiant distracts from the larger conflict in the Mirror Universe and seems somewhat silly. Archer’s fight with the Gorn ends pretty abruptly and it does not lead to much of a consolidation of power aboard the Defiant (in fact, it is after that that Soval and T’Pol are able to sway Phlox to their side).

The computer-generated Gorn looks ridiculous; it is lit without respect to the elements in its environment, which is a pretty clumsy mistake. Oddly, the space battles which were also done with CG effects are pretty impressive.

The acting in “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” is good. Scott Bakula’s performance, in particular, stands out as he plays opposite himself (though director Martin V. Rush does not quite get the perspectives right in some shots, so one Archer is noticeably larger than the one he is standing behind!). Most of the rest of the main cast is not given as much to do to play with their warped versions of their characters, but what they are given they rise to the challenge of presenting in an interesting-enough fashion.

“In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” is neither the social revolution story of “Mirror, Mirror” or the usual bloodbath that Alternate Universe Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes were known for. Theoretically, “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II” is the story of the establishment of the tyrannical Empire which would evolve into the Empire seen in “Mirror, Mirror.”

The two biggest gaffes in “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II:”
2. In “Mirror, Mirror,” humans and Vulcans are allies; the origins of the Mirror Universe Empire is awkwardly presented with a rebellion from the outset and an inherent disparity in the power base of the two most powerful Federation/Empire races,
1. The Tholians, despite being 100 years prior to those seen in “The Tholian Web” (reviewed here!) use a vastly faster web-creation technology.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season here!

For other works with Gregory Itzin, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Ides Of March
The Change-Up
“The Shadows Of P’Jem” - Star Trek: Enterprise
Original Sin
"Critical Care" - Star Trek: Voyager
“Who Mourns For Morn?” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Dax” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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