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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Enterprise Season Four - Archer Through The Looking Glass

(Season Four episode list here)

The next episode begins with that fateful scene in Star Trek: First Contact when the Earthlings meet the Vulcans for the first time. But wait - Zefram Cochrane just shot the Vulcan captain! The Earthlings are stealing the ship! Welcome to the mirror universe, first introduced in the TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror" and featured in several episodes of DS9. The two parts of "In a Mirror, Darkly" features an altered opening credits sequence, which illustrates achievements not in exploration but in war.

In the mirror universe, Maximilian Forrest is the Enterprise captain and not an admiral. Archer is first officer, Mayweather is a MACO officer (Military Assault Command Operation, the commando team that joined the crew on the Xindi expedition), Sato is the captain's woman, Porthos is a large black ill-tempered dog, T'Pol is...there, and Reed, Tucker, and Phlox are in their usual roles. The women sport midriff-baring jumpsuits, a style that will remain in the minidress uniforms of Kirk's time. The agonizer booth has just been invented. Tucker has radiation burns on his face, working in an engineering environment that evidently has less protective shielding than its counterpart in the "normal" universe; one suspects that the Terran Empire is cutting corners wherever it can get away with it, and slapping together warships as fast as it can.

Archer has learned through mysterious contacts that a Tholian installation has opened some sort of space-time portal and captured from an alternate universe a ship from 150 years into the future. He can't talk his captain into going, so he stages a mutiny. He gives Mayweather a promotion to personal bodyguard; Mayweather has the rigid personality of a military cadet forever standing at attention. Archer orders Tucker and T'Pol to install a captured Suliban cloaking device. Their work is sabotaged, and the evidence points to Tucker, who is subjected to hours of the agonizer booth. The real saboteur is T'Pol, who made Tucker do the deed via a mind meld. She frees Forrest, and the mutiny is quelled. But the ship continues toward Tholian space, as Admiral Gardner, having received Archer's findings on the Tholian project, orders Enterprise to investigate.

Enterprise finds the Tholian installation, with a little help from a Tholian pilot who had been captured earlier, and tortured for information while held in decon. (The Tholian's appearance is quite faithful to that of what little we see of the TOS original.) There they find the Federation starship Defiant, which had vanished (and almost took Kirk with it) in "The Tholian Web." Archer leads an away team, which includes T'Pol, who has orders to assassinate Archer. But the Tholian has a hidden transceiver and is sending distress signals. Phlox kills it, but not before Tholian vessels descend on the ship. Enterprise is held in a spherical web, and si destroyed; all but Forrest get to the escape pods.

Archer gets Defiant up and running, blows away the Tholians, retrieves the crew, puts on a TOS uniforms, and inherits Sato from his deceased captain. Some of Defiant's parts had been cannibalized by the Tholians; others critical to reconfiguring the warp drive have been stolen by an intruder. A work crew of aliens captured by the Tholians is on board, and they are questioned. The saboteur is a Gorn, which Archer eventually tracks down and kills with his new TOS phaser.

Memo to the Star Trek crew: STOP REDESIGNING THE ALIENS! A Gorn is a slow-moving, bulky, tailless Tyrannosaurus Rex, not an agile man-sized Velociraptor. Didn't you people learn anything from the Fraudzilla debacle?

Defiant arrives at a battle between the ISS Avenger, commanded by Admiral Black, and a Vulcan/Andorian force. Archer defeats the rebels, and in a meeting with Black he insists on a field promotion to captain with Defiant as his command. The admiral refuses, and Archer kills him. He sends a message to Admiral Gardner and demands Starfleet's surrender - make Archer emperor, or face the wrath of Defiant.

Archer also intends to rid Defiant of all its nonhuman crew except for Phlox; apparently the Denobulans aren't part of the rebellion. T'Pol organizes an effort to stop Archer by sabotaging Defiant, and even manages to get Phlox's help. The plan is thwarted, and Archer destroys Avenger in the process. He celebrates over champagne, but something has been slipped into his drink. He sees Sato embracing Mayweather and realizes his fate. Sato is now in command, and as she approaches Earth she announces herself as the empress of the Terran Empire. Whether the drink was lethal or not is uncertain; if Sato is really cruel, she will let Archer live many long years to witness the reign that could have been his.

Diehard Trekkies will note two incongruities. First and foremost is the amazing speed that the Mirror Tholians were able to cast web. It is possible that their counterparts had the same web technology but that it was greatly hampered by the dimensional rift. Or maybe the Mirror Tholians had better web technology all along. Or maybe they were able to vastly improve it with some of the parts they cannibalized off of Defiant, gadgetry their counterparts didn't have.

The other is Defiant's aft torpedo launcher. Every Trekkie knows that during Kirk's five-year mission the Constitution class had only four forward-firing torpedoes. But just because that was the standard compliment doesn't mean that certain ships didn't get special refits.

I have a theory: that mirror-universe humans are more prone to paranoid schizophrenia, and perhaps to other psychological disorders rooted in brain chemistry. Mirror Archer exhibits two classic symptoms: paranoia (duh) and voices in his head. Perhaps Cochrane is another example; if his story is not mere propaganda to discredit the Vulcans, he believed that the unarmed Vulcan emissary was leading an invasion. Mirror humans in general are far less cooperative than their counterparts; inherent psychological imbalance coudl offer an explanation.

One of the best scenes is Tucker's torture at the hands of Reed. I have to wonder if there's an outtake where Connor Trineer drags Dominic Keating into the agonizer booth.

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