Episode Overview – While beaming back from a meeting with the Halkan people, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura experience a transporter malfunction that places them in a parallel universe. The United Federation of Planets has been replaced with the Terran Empire. In addition to a bearded Spock, officers in Starfleet use brutality to advance their orders, assassinations to advance in rank, and seek strength at all costs. Kirk and his officers try to return to their universe while trying to avoid being killed at the hands of the counterparts to their shipmates.
Episode Score – 9/10. What a great episode. Such a fun way to have the actors play someone very different from their characters. The whole “evil twin” scenario is expanded to the entire universe. While there are some obvious similarities between the two universes (e.g. the Halkans are the same in their desire for peace, even at the cost of their own lives), the rest is almost day and night. We do get a brief glimpse of Kirk’s counterpart in the Prime universe, and it would have been nice to see more of how he and the others were, but it is sadly only a one hour show. Some cool differences include Sulu, complete with facial scar, as head of security, and the new uniforms. My one complaint is that some of the counter parts of the main characters were spared a death when it did not make sense. I am speaking of Chekov and Sulu. While Chekov being spared by Kirk can be explained as Kirk trying to spare the life of someone who looked like one of his friends, Sulu’s is a bit more of a stretch. In his last scene, Sulu confronts Kirk and the others in sickbay, with a squad of security guards, start to disappear due to the interference by the Captain’s woman, Marlena Monroe. She dispatches the security guards, but not Sulu. Still, with that one flaw, I think the episode is rightfully one of Trek’s finest.
Relevance – 3 points. Consider that this episode sets the stage for five Deep Space Nine episodes, an exciting two-part Enterprise episode, and several non-canon novels and comics, this is a very influential episode on the Trek universe. Two points scored for the connections to both Enterprise and DS9. A third point for the last scene of the episode which is used in the DS9 “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode where Sisko replaces Monroe in the scene.
Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity, check. Kirk acts in a way we come to expect from the captain. Even Mirror Spock is true to his Prime universe counterpart. Story continuity works well. Being the first episode shown in this universe, it sets the stage for the rest, but there are no contradictions. We also have the Trek universe showing continuity, so the third point is well earned.
Character Development – 2 points. No major growth for any one character, but a lot of highlighting well-established growth in more than a few characters. Uhura shows some vulnerability to her Captain, but when she is needed she brings on the strength. Kirk shows his quick-thinking as he tries to do the right thing in a universe where doing so could cost him and his crew their lives. Even Spock gets a great moment at the end where he gets a great zinger off on Kirk and McCoy.
Social Commentary – 1 point. As is common for some of these great episodes, it is tough to put my finger on a message being given. Perhaps the idea that there is the capacity of evil in all of us, just based on what environment you are raised in.
Cool Factor – 3 points. Seeing the evil counterparts of the crew is definitely a highlight. I scored a second point for the detail that was given to even the simplest differences (e.g. the ship’s computer having a female voice in our universe while a male voice in the mirror universe). The third point goes to some of the technology shown in the mirror universe, such as the agony booth, the agonizers, and especially the Tantalus device.
Rank – Admiral (21 points). One of the gems of the Original Series. Especially if you are watching DS9 and/or Enterprise, this episode would be a high recommendation, but even in spite of that it is a must see.