I wanted to take a few moments to pay respect to Star Trek: Enterprise as this Friday it wraps up a two-part story entitled “In a Mirror, Darkly.” It’s total continuity porn, serving as a prequel to the classic Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror,” and a sequel to another old story, “The Tholian Web.”
In a unique departure, the tale is set entirely within the Mirror Universe and features none of the regular characters, but rather their twisted alternates. Treachery, barbarism and bare midriffs ensue.
(SPOILERS ahoy! Skip the next two paragraphs if you don’t want to know.)
The episode opens with what appears to be the moment of divergence for the Mirror Universe: we see the final scenes of Star Trek: First Contact, as Zefram Cochrane greets the Vulcan explorers. And shoots them.
The plot centers around the U.S.S. Defiant, a Constitution-Class starship seen in “The Tholian Web,” where it disappeared into a dimensional rift. Turns out that not only was it transported to the Mirror Universe, but removed from the time of Captain Kirk more than 100 years into the past. Evil Archer and the Tholians both crave the advanced technology within. And, apparently, there’s a Gorn onboard to boot, though that’s not revealed ’til part two.
Now, if you’re not a Trekkie, most of the preceding made no sense, but it made me sit back with a contented sigh. This was the Enterprise I’d hoped for when the series was first announced.
I was excited when I heard that the fifth live-action Trek series would be set prior to the founding of the Federation. I’ve always loved the original adventures of Kirk and Co., and felt that much of that fun was lost in the various follow-up shows. I fervently wished for Star Trek stories told with the bravado of the original, and dealing with the heretofore untold history of the franchise.
However, right from the start, it was clear that something was amiss. Despite obvious attempts to break from the feel of modern Trek, such as casual clothes and a pop song for a title theme, the storytelling and incidental music would’ve fit right into The Next Generation or Voyager.
Furthermore, while there were thrown to Trekkies in the form of classic aliens such as the Andorians, the primary antagonists were a race (the Suliban) we’d never heard of before, and the central story arc regarded a poorly thought-out “temporal war” that never went anywhere and ended only when the writers called it a day. The killer for me was when the entire third season left familiar territory behind for an extended storyline starring another brand-new alien threat.
You might ask whether it’s so terrible to try something different than to merely wallow in continuity and fanwankery. Normally, I’d agree, but the entire point of Enterprise was to show us how it had all began. Why was it expending so much energy on events that we already knew had no bearing on the “future?”
This year, someone at Trek Central figured this out, and suddenly we had stories about Romulans, Orions, Organians and the Eugenics Wars. Enterprise had finally become the series I’d always hoped for…which means, of course, that it had to go. It’s as if the creative team knew they’d be cancelled, and said, “What the fuck.”
The very coolest thing about “In a Mirror, Darkly” is that, in keeping with the evil universe theme, the entire title sequence was revised. The sappy vocals were tossed to make way for a snappy, martial theme which plays over scenes of warfare throughout the centuries, culminating in the planting of a Terran Empire flag on a lunar surface. I want to stress the coolness of this: they made an evil title sequence.
Tune in this Friday for part two!