Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Enterprise

"In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"

**1/2

Air date: 4/29/2005
Teleplay by Mike Sussman
Story by Manny Coto

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm surprised you aren't more exhausted from all the beds you've been jumping into recently." — T'Pol to Sato

In brief: Sort of fun in its heedless recklessness, but ultimately it's hollow, exaggerated irrelevance.

"In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" is a show about nothing, using the props of the original series. It's a cardboard farce. It's proud of the fact that it's a cardboard farce. That's its mission. Should I give it a pass because it achieves what it sets out to do? After all, the production designers, for starters, deserve high praise for recreating the original series' universe so well.

I'm a little conflicted here. As an hour of hopelessly inane mirror-evil, it's admittedly kind of fun, and I love the sets. But it goes so far over the top that it comes back around and kicks itself in its own ass. It's overplayed, overacted, and over-goofy. Is that the point? I guess. This isn't in a mirror, darkly. It's in a mirror, cartoonishly.

For me, this story peaked when the bridge of the Defiant lit up at the end of part one. My hope was that part two would be an inventive and fun revisit to TOS lore. It's something of a disappointment that the show can never really break free into something great. Oh, sure, it breaks free into something loony, but that's ultimately the problem. It's too much madness, and not enough whimsy.

The plot is simply that evil Archer now has the all-powerful Defiant at his command, and intends to put down the rebellion and take over the Terran Empire. Unlimited power and unlimited ambition is a recipe for unlimited corruption. (Wasn't that the theme of the Augments trilogy?) Since the Empire is so corrupt as it is, Archer would simply be a corruption of that corruption. My question is whether the Defiant could really be this invincible. If Starfleet sent a dozen ships after the Defiant, I don't care if it's from a century in the future; it's weapons are not so much more advanced that this one ship could go up against an army and win. If so, the engineers of the Temporal Cold War should've just sent a starship back in time and called it a day.

The closest this episode gets to character development is via Archer's review of the Defiant's historical database, which gives him insight into his counterpart's accomplishments. Evil Archer is owned by his insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, and he begins having an internal dialog with his conception of his mirror-self, which taunts his shortcomings. This drives Archer into a rage that pushes him to act on his delusions of grandeur.

But first we have the isolated and completely unrelated adventure with the Gorn, which is irrelevant to the story and exists only to channel the original series with an updated take on action and special effects. The Gorn, famous from TOS's "Arena" (a classic episode that I always felt was overrated) has been upgraded from a guy in a bad rubber suit to an animated CG creation. This lacks the charm that made the Gorn so fun to snicker at. Now instead of a cheesy rubber suit we get to watch cheesy CGI.

After the Gorn is dispatched, the Defiant comes to the rescue of the Avenger, under attack by rebel forces. It doesn't take long for Archer to decide to vaporize the Avenger's commander, Admiral Black (Gregory Itzin), and turn the Avenger over to Soval, who wears a goatee in keeping with the tradition of Vulcan males in alternate universes. Archer's lack of trust in non-humans prompts him to expel them all from the Defiant to the Avenger. This leads T'Pol, Soval, and Phlox to begin plotting against Archer out of fear that their roles in Archer's future reign will be even more bleak than they are now.

For this episode, Scott Bakula has abandoned all intentions of remaining on any level of reality whatsoever. He overacts to such heights that it becomes a parody of a self-parody. He's not the only one overacting. Jolene Blalock is almost equally bananas, turning T'Pol into a stylized caricature. Is this a bad thing? I confess that I do not know. At the very least, it's not boring. But it's extremely silly-looking. To watch "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" followed an hour later by Battlestar Galactica's "Act of Contrition" could result for the viewer in potentially fatal tone whiplash.

One thing I did like about this episode was its ruthless last act, in which the bad guys kill everybody and win. If you're going to do an evil comic book, then the least you can do is take all the respectable characters and blow them up without mercy or compassion. Poor Soval: reluctantly roped into an act of defiance in the name of freedom, and he gets blown to bits as a reward.

I was even somewhat willing to go along with the twist, in which Sato poisons Archer and announces her plans to become empress. Archer, with a boundless ego and unlimited arrogance, deserves what he gets. As for the evil, scheming version of Sato, let's put it this way: She puts the "ho" in Hoshi. It can be said that Hoshi literally sleeps her way to the top of the Terran Empire. Even T'Pol has a line acknowledging the fact. Is this female empowerment? Don't bet on it.

I'm glad they tried doing this mirror universe thing. It's a neat idea. I just think it's a shame that the show's nods to the original series run counter to the tone of the episode itself. This is a show about unadulterated anarchy and vile characters. That these people are running around the sets of the original series doesn't really fit. The people who deserve to be walking on these sets should be explorers whose attitudes are rooted in actual Star Trek, not the mirrored version.

Next week: Peter Weller guest stars in an episode that looks like it might be about actual ideas instead of just silliness.

Previous episode: In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I
Next episode: Demons

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16 comments on this review

Bob - Wed, Oct 31, 2007 - 3:18pm (USA Central)
Only in the Mirror Universe is Scott Bakula's acting somehow tolerable. I still cheered when Evil Hoshi(c)(R)(TM) killed him in the end, though. Speaking of Hoshi, this whole episode reeked of Japanese cultural pollution. The producers of Enterprise should have spent less time watching anime and more time reading classic Trek novels.
Straha - Thu, Feb 12, 2009 - 5:44pm (USA Central)
IMHO the only weak spot in this 2-parter was the slow beginning of part II with the hunt for the Gorn. Otherwise it was great fun.
Until this episode, I never thought Hoshi was hot - now I do. OTOH this is beside the point, though. I really think Linda Park`s acting as "evil Hoshi" was much better than usual, so it seems her regular character simply didn't give her too much room.
Anyway, I'm glad they did these episodes before "the lights went out". :)
Ken Egervari - Tue, Feb 16, 2010 - 3:20am (USA Central)
Honestly, both of these episodes were pretty good. As said above, the hunt for the Gorn was a little pointless and could have been cut from the script... but these episodes really stood out for me. I didn't expect much, and they aren't earth-shattering pieces of television... but you can tell the writers went out of their way to go balls to the wall with these episodes. They didn't hold anything back.

There was supposed to be a 5 episode arc continuing this story in season 5. It's a shame we'll never get to see it.
dlabtot - Sat, Feb 20, 2010 - 6:31pm (USA Central)
I loved this two-parter... the triumph of evil! lol They should make a spinoff series about the Evil Empress...
Grumpy - Sun, May 1, 2011 - 2:38pm (USA Central)
I shared Jammer's quandary: the show may be fun, but what's the point? Why was I watching the mutiny in part 1 or the Gorn hunt in part 2 when the plot ended up exactly where it would've been without those detours? Worse, I had time to wonder, What was the point of the original "Mirror, Mirror" or "The Tholian Web"? What's the point of watching TV at all??

Then I remembered that these weren't just episodes about the Mirror Universe, they were presented as episodes *from* the Mirror Universe. Not only are the values of the characters inverted, so are the values of the intended audience. They expect their Star Trek to exalt cruelty, chauvinism, and loyalty to the emperor. Thus, T'Pol is the hero of Part 1 when she uses treachery to free Captain Forrest, but she becomes the villain of Part 2 when she rebels against the natural order.

From the mirror perspective, these episodes are a sci-fi story about the protagonists being contaminated by the twisted values of a parallel universe. T'Pol was infected by the egalitarian ideals of the Federation. Archer was plagued by his more famous alter-ego. And you better believe that in part 3 of this trilogy, "Empress Sato" received her comeuppance at the hands of the Emperor.

What does this mean for our universe? By contrast with the mirror audience, we watch Star Trek to see heroes exemplify the values of cooperation, courage, and curiosity (among others). "The Tholian Web" and "Mirror, Mirror" (and "Crossover," for that matter, to name only one more) put the protagonists in a trap to see how the application of heroic values will let them escape. The heroic values stand out against the "negative space" shown by the mirror universe. Which is what SF is supposed to do: shed light on our world and our ideals by comparing it with an imaginary world.

So maybe these episodes weren't so pointless after all.
Jay - Thu, Sep 22, 2011 - 3:13pm (USA Central)
Um...just because their starship is a century more advanced doesn't mean they can conquer the Empire...soon the Defiant would run out of torpedoes, and power cells for their phasers...then they'll need more. More immediately, a small fleet of maybe ten vessels from this time could destroy it.
duhknees - Tue, Sep 4, 2012 - 9:08am (USA Central)
I may have been the only person bored by this episode. The editing was slow and the acting tepid for a mirror universe. Bakula came close, but everyone else was too mild. And as I come close to the end of this series, and possibly the franchise, I am disappointed to have this interruption to the arc. I did like seeing the TOS set and uniforms.
Zane314 - Tue, Sep 25, 2012 - 10:05pm (USA Central)
In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II >> a solid 4.0 star out of 4 follow up to the 4.5 star Part I. More of the same: great effects, good story, call backs to TOS, and Gorn! I for one loved seeing our favorite old lizard man from TOS, nicely updated to actually move faster than a snail and be much smarter too. And Hoshi! Wow, if they'd let her headline more episodes ENT would have been better off. Linda Park was great in this: acting, looks, awesome anime hair, the story they wrote her, everything. Very impressive. All hail Empress Hoshi!!

I gotta say, s4 Enterprise has really impressed me. I didn't like the augments and Spiner's stock baddie plus the transporter inventor episode was a snooze and skip. But the rest have all been 3.0 stars plus, very enjoyable. I see that the show runner changed from B&B to Manny Coto, a damn pity they didn't give him the reigns from day 1. I've been very critical of some of the earlier s1 and s2 episodes and even some of the Xindi arch which I usually liked could fall flat. But s4 has been excellent! Even my angst towards T'Pol has softened as she's taken on the Trip story line away from Vulcan "massage" therapy into real Human/Vulcan drama. The show is really clicking, I look forward to the last 2 Manny Coto episodes. (I don't count the finale which I already watched/skipped through - terrible! ... and B&B of course).
Tiarfe - Fri, Nov 2, 2012 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode more than the first part. I especially liked the ending... Empress Sato!

Silly fun.
Kay - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
The problem with Hoshi winning that way is that in a world that evil, everyone would already be prepared for such deception. The whole thing was pretty half-hearted (logically). It was fun though.
Cloudane - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 9:00pm (USA Central)
Say, interesting how Phlox is wearing a Cardassian uniform.
Anyway.

Brilliant to see everyone on a TOS set wearing TOS uniforms... I'm surprised, they actually look really good in them and it doesn't look as cheesy as I thought. I guess the same went for the DS9 episode, but still.

No problems with it, cool episode. I'd rather it ended here instead of another cliffhanger (especially since a. the next episode is called something else not "Part III" (come on!!) and b. THE SERIES IS COMING TO AN END DAMMIT) but eh, it's not DS9 I suppose.

I didn't realise that was meant to be Gorn, will have to rewatch.
Cloudane - Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - 10:42am (USA Central)
*starts next episode*
Huh? What? Er..... I thought this one kind of ended in a cliffhanger. I'm confused. What?
I can only guess that when they made this episode they didn't realise Enterprise was about to end a few more episodes later and were planning to follow it up. That was the most abrupt ending ever.
holoyo - Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - 6:36pm (USA Central)
Great episodes, it was quite a success to cross over not only to the mirror universe but to a TOS ship too. didn't like the gorn part, though (as i didn't really like "arena" from TOS that much, actually)

Only problem i see; what about mirror universe continuity? i know it's just a fun episode and it shouldn't be looked at that way, but keeping the defiant and bringing it back would mean a century worth leap on technology for the terran empire (so by the time "mirror mirror" occures kirk would find a TNG iss enterprise (and so on)...

anyway, it's kind of a shame we didn't get to see a show worth seeing until it was already cancelled...
thomsoad - Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - 4:51pm (USA Central)
I love your reviews but there is one thing you wrote that I strongly disagree with:
"If Starfleet sent a dozen ships after the Defiant, I don't care if it's from a century in the future; it's weapons are not so much more advanced that this one ship could go up against an army and win."

Im surprised a science fiction buff wouldnt be able to appreciate just how much technology changes in a just a 100 years...lets put this into perspective:

1) How would a single F22 Raptor (unlimited fuel and ammo) do against 100 Red Barons?

2) How bout an M1A1 Abrams (unlimited fuel and ammo) against 100 WW1 tanks?

3) How bout the Ronald Reagan Supercarrier against a fleet of WW1 warships?


The simple fact is this...I dont care how many rebel ships went to battle the Enterprise. If the rebels are getting targeted and destroyed before the Enterprise is on their sensors and even they could get in range of the Enterpise, they wouldnt have the firepower to get thru the enterprise's plating anyways.

In STNG we had how many Klingon and Federation ships face the Borg? ...Howd that battle turn out again?
Ives - Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
The costumes, the sets, the special effects, the battle scenes, they were all very well done. But the characters and the story, it was bad. This was like fanfiction written by someone who's horny for Hoshi.
mark - Thu, Mar 7, 2013 - 9:25am (USA Central)
This two-parter was lightweight but extremely fun, and I think expecting the Mirror Universe to make sense on its own terms is a mistake. It never made sense--from the moment TOS showed us that officers regularly advance in rank by murdering their superiors, the idea of a coherent, functional empire waas out the window. Simply put, the Terran Empire, as it has been shown to us in TOS and ENT, simply can't function. Why wouldn't "Empress" Hoshi be killed by Maywether? Why wouldn't Maywether be killed by whoever?

So, no, let's not take it seriously, but let's enjoy it for what it is. Bakula did indeed take overacting to an extreme, but it was a glorious extreme. The moment when he screamed: "Great men aren't men of peace--THEY'RE CONQUERORS!" I wanted to cheer at the screen. It was awesome. It was Neo-Shatnerian.

And to tell the truth, I prefer Mirror Archer to the normal one. After watching this entire series in order it seems to me that the one defining characteristic of Bakula's Archer is a lack of confidence. He never seems certain about his decisions, or ever about himself. He's the opposite of Kirk, who, no matter what the situation might have been, was always certain of himself. I don't know if Archer was created mostly on the page or mostly by Bakula, but whoever was responsible, they took a wrong turn somewhere and gave us a captain I for one never really had faith in. Mirror-Archer also lacks confidence, but at least he's fun to watch while he's doing it.

ENT needed more fun stories like this one and a lot less inane retreads of lousy Voyager episodes. "In A Mirror Darkly" is a cartoon, sure, but it's a brilliant one, and it's one of the highlights of season four.

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