These Are The Voyages-Star Trek TOS Remastered and Reconsidered

#1044

“I do not threaten, Captain. I merely state facts. I have found you to be an excellent officer. Our missions together have been both successful and profitable; however, I shall not permit your aberrations to jeopardize my position.”


I’ll jump in here with “Mirror, Mirror”, undoubtedly the most sequelized episodes of TOS with five episodes of Deep Space 9 taking place there, two episodes of Enterprise, and (apparently) seven episodes and counting of Star Trek: Discovery. Plus a metric crap-ton of novels and comics.

I had absolutely forgotten more than I remembered about this episode, from the midriff-bearing pirate costumes (Spock got an ascot… or perhaps a cravat…), to the personal mercenary details of the officers, to Spock’s threat to Sulu that his death would be avenged by shadowy Vulcan ninja “operatives”.

The big thing that struck me was how very fleshed-out the Mirror-universe actually was: from the kill orders being dictated from High Command, to the implications that the Empire had over-extended itself, to the horrific command record of the “Mirror Kirk”, it’s obvious that Jerome Bixby had a great time coming up with an evil version of Roddenberry’s Starfleet.

Everyone got to chew a little scenery in this episode, but Nichelle Nichols really got to shine a bit more here than in many other episodes, following up on her singing in the previous week’s episode. Although it seems a little sexist, I really liked the early scene where she emotes some doubt about going alone to a bridge full of evil space-barbarian/pirates, and Kirk gives her a little pep-talk: “You’re the only one who can do it!” That made the later scene of her toying sexually with Mirror Sulu even more powerful.

Walter Koenig didn’t have too much to do in this episode, but his bout of screaming in “The Booth” reminded me viscerally of his screaming in “Wrath of Khan”.

The final scene with “Marelena” being introduced to the “real” Kirk always kind of rubbed me the wrong way, even as a kid. It’s one thing for the Mirror-universe to have “Captains’ Women”, but I didn’t like the impression that they gave that Kirk was immediately going to start going after this poor young junior officer simply because the alternate-world version of her was sleeping her way to the top.

Some little trivia points, both about the costumes:

First, Desilu/CBS regulations forbade showing female belly-buttons during prime-time, but several of the female parts had bared midriffs. In most scenes, the sash would cover the belly-button, but Nichols’ showed hers in several scenes… this was apparently accomplished by treating the on-set censor to lunch, then filming those scenes when he was eating.

Second, the Mirror-versions of the uniforms had all sorts of little adornments, from sashes to cravats, to fringed epaulets. But they also had a bunch of random pins and decorations around their Starfleet symbol. As noted earlier, George Takei was filming The Green Berets during a portion of Season 2, and one of Mirror-Sulu’s pins is that of an ARVN Captain… the rank his character has in that movie.

#1045

“May I point out that I had an opportunity to observe your counterparts here quite closely. They were brutal, savage, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous - in every way splendid examples of homo sapiens, the very flower of humanity. I found them quite refreshing.”

All right then, let’s talk about “Mirror, Mirror.” Actually, I don’t have too much to say about the episode itself. It’s ok, I think it’s enjoyable enough though it doesn’t really stand up to much careful thought, and it’s really been done to death in future Star Trek series - though that’s no fault of this particular episode.

But I’d rather take my space to discuss one of the most overlooked, and yet most completely ubiquitous and simultaneously most dangerous, piece of technology in the Star Trek universe: the transporter. Sure, we talk about it a fair amount out here in the real world, but it’s never really given a second thought in universe. It’s like a weird reverse MacGuffin. And yet it’s been the source of a lot of drama and, let’s be honest, a lot of trouble in the Star Trek universe. Why just to this point in the series so far we’ve already seen it split Kirk into good and evil halves. Its finicky nature almost stranded Sulu and a landing party on a freezing planet. And now it shifts Kirk and the gang in a parallel universe. I won’t even get into later misadventures like the horrible accident in The Motion Picture, or how it just flat out duplicates and strands Riker on TNG.

Only McCoy seems to regard the transporter with what you’d have to think would be a pretty normal sense of doubt and even horror. I mean, how does the transporter really work? It seems to transform a physical entity into a transmittable energy state or wave, sends you across vast distances, then reassembles you into your original state at your destination. Clearly the implications of this are staggering, along with the questions it raises. Does the transporter really flip a switch on you and restore you on the other side, or does it in effect “kill” the original and duplicate you once you get there? Interesting speculation on that here.

Obviously we don’t really know how this would work, it just exists for plot purposes and isn’t analyzed too closely. But like I mentioned, folks in the Star Trek universe also don’t really seem to think about it too much and I’m not sure they even really know or question how it does or what it does. It’s just a thing you use because that’s just what everyone does? I wouldn’t be nearly so sanguine, but I’m just a cowardly earthbound dude.

#1046

Terror must be maintained or the Empire is doomed.

Wow, I loved this episode. This show has certain hit a stride where each episode is very compelling now.

Honestly, I’d forgotten a lot of this episode, and was surprised by just how much they told us about the mirror universe in each scene. It kind of reminded me of The City on The Edge of Forever as far as efficient storytelling goes.

Of the countless small details in this episode that I loved, one was how quick on his feet Kirk was in evaluating his situation and rolling with it. One thing about their new uniforms were these sashes they were wearing around the waste. When Kirk reached the bridge for the first time and was about to sit down on the Captain’s chair, you can see his hesitation. The sash around his waste has a piece hanging down. Should he put that part to the side, or between his legs? He puts it between his legs and sits down.

Having Chekhov immediately making a move against Kirk was brilliant. And I even loved Kirk and Spock’s final exchange where he’s trying to convince Spock to accelerate change in the mirror universe using logic. Just a really great episode all around.

#1047

Thank you for this heads up. I like knowing the name of the guy who wrote this great episode. The two names emphasized at the end of the episode were Gene Coon and Gene Roddenberry.

Yeah, the aspect of killing someone and then bringing them back into existence elsewhere really bothered me back in the TNG days. I was so happy to finally addressed directly in the Riker episode. And from this re-watch, I am kind of surprised at how often the transporter has played an important part.

#1048

Also, holy shit, when Marlene, the Captain’s woman, opens the door to the side quarters to reveal herself in lingerie-equivalent clothing and she says “Just oiling my trap darling”, I almost did a spit-take. I’ve never heard that expression but it was sexy as hell.

#1049

This is a great episode with giant plot holes.

The giant plot holes can be excused in a one-off, but I had no idea that the other series come back to this so many times.

How do the two universes stay “synchronized” when the character motivations are so different? They just hand-wave away the return of the Empire landing party to the Empire Enterprise in this episode, but if it is going to happen again there has to be a real mechanism.

It also seemed weird that on the Empire Enterprise, there were plenty of deaths, but they all happened to unnamed characters.

#1050

I think that in the DS9 “Mirror” episodes they pretty much codified the ion-storm technobabble to the point where pretty much anyone who wanted to jump back and forth could do so… provides their alternate-self also did the dimensional tango.

One other thing about the episode that I forgot to point out was that Mirror-Spock was tipped off to Kirk’s plans because he was hogging so much computer power. That’s pretty cool given that the concept of computer-cycles were largely unknown to even sci-fi writers at the time. But beyond that, the USE of the computer in this episode went to kind of a weird place: Kirk hypothesizes that they’ve jumped between universes, then he simply asks the computer if his theory holds water; the computer blinks a bit and finally says “yes”. Kirk then instructs the computer to come up with a procedure that they can use to duplicate the dimension-hopping, and a few seconds later the machine spits out the plan.

[Then somewhat implausibly, Scotty starts spouting off warp-drive power requirements even though he has no idea what’s on the little floppy disk he’s holding, but whatever…]

This degree of computer power is (I believe) pretty unique in the TOS… or really any Star Trek. For the most part the computer simply relays information once it’s queried; this episode is the only one I can think of where the machine actually does any analytical or planning work. Much more often you have some team of scientists or engineers that are “working on it” for a chunk of Act 2 before revealing that they need ten kilograms of mcguffinite to make their scheme operative.

#1051

Jerome Bixby wrote some damned good sci-fi back in the day.

#1052

“You’re fired.”

All right folks, let’s get back to it. This week’s episode is The Apple, and it’s kind of a weird one. I’d say there’s very little of note about this one, the only thing that really interested me at all was the discussion of what level of interference the Enterprise should exhibit on this little corner of paradise and what the prime directive would have to say about that. Kirk expresses an unusual level of self doubt in even beaming down to the planet, given that just exploring the immediate area gets three redshirts killed. And once again, we’ve got an all-powerful construct calling the shots.

And then there’s the poor, backwards population of Gamma Trianguli VI. With their blank, unthinking countenance, and their large blonde coiffure and the strange orange tint to their skin, they bring something to mind. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I don’t like them for some reason I will probably never fully fathom.

But this episode feels like treading water. It’s inoffensive enough, but doesn’t really seem to show us anything new. If anyone else has something to interject about the episode or picked up on anything that I missed, by all means please do continue the discussion.

#1053

Yeah, it’s hard to comment much on this episode. I was going to comment last night, but I was at a loss of what to say, and I thought “I’ll let divedivedive handle the hard work”. But it sounds like you had the same problem.

I thought the writing on the episode felt weird in how Kirk starts in right from the beginning in comparing the place to paradise, and then persisting on that comparison even after it became clear that the place was pretty hostile.

I also learned that Kirk thinks Paradise is a place with not a cloud in the sky. WTH? That’s certainly not my idea of paradise.

I have a feeling that the TNG crew in a similar situation would have let themselves die rather than violate the prime directive and alter these people’s culture in such a drastic way. I mean, first of all, they wouldn’t even make contact.

One note about my own memory of this: I can’t figure out if I saw this episode more recently than the others somehow, but I remembered a LOT of it. Like when he punches the native, and the guy was like “you struck me”, I remembered that very clearly. Same with Chekov saying Paradise was somewhere close to Moscow. For some reason that scene felt like I’d just seen it yesterday.

One note on a hilarious scene: when the crew is telling the natives about “love”, and Chekov immediately sidles up to the pretty ensign to show them what love is.

#1054

I haven’t re-watched this one yet (not sure if I’ll have time since my wife and I are re-watching the last season of GoT this month). The only real memories I have of the episode is the big native bursting into tears after Kirk pops him one in the nose, and the exploding rocks.

The punch-and-tears thing stuck with me because after the native starts crying, Kirk says something along the lines of “I didn’t hit him that hard.” I remember thinking, how do you sock someone in the nose ‘not that hard?’. Plus, what type of a schoolyard bully is Kirk if he believes that decking people is no big deal and not worth crying over?

And the exploding rocks didn’t quite jibe with the whole “we don’t have sex unless we need replacements” thing. If your planet is strewn with landmines, I think you’d need a LOT of replacements pretty much constantly. The whole planet should be a non-stop orgy.

#1055

Also the set really bothered me in this episode. For a place that’s supposed to be paradise, it was a poor choice to film the episode indoors on a set. They’ve gone outside for filming in other episodes, and though none of those place look like what I’d think of as paradise, but they look more pleasant than this red-sky set that they built.

It also made the later scenes more jarring when they show a blue sky with clouds forming when lightning strikes.

#1056

Yeah I think the only halfway interesting thing about this episode is the discussion of the prime directive and how it should inform their actions on the planet. I found myself a little surprised by Spock’s line of thought - he’s right that the culture is a stable one, that it works, but it’s clearly a master/slave relationship. Vaal is keeping his keepers uninformed and, as McCoy points out, stagnant. That’s not a civilization. For all his carrying on about Spock’s green-blooded, pointy-eared logic, I am totally on McCoy’s side on this one.

But yeah, Picard probably would have said ‘hey, not my problem’ and moved on.

#1057

Did anyone catch David Soul as Makora?

#1058

(Makora was the native who Kirk punched, the one who Vaal talked to).

I’ve never heard of David Soul so I just looked him up. Holy shit, I recognized him instantly! It’s Hutch from Starsky and Hutch! They certainly disguised him well in this episode.

#1059

No, totally got by me, but I saw he was credited on the Wikipedia page. I would never have picked up on it.

#1060

Yeah, it’s one of my favorite TV geek Trek-cameos. I’d forgotten it, but was reminded a few months ago when I saw Soul in a short-film version of Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”. I have a thing for short stories made into films/TV Episodes.

The Secret Sharer (horrible transfer and film quality, but true to the Novella/Short Story, and well acted):

#1061

This episode seems now to me like a kind of anti-utopia morality tale along the lines of Welles’s The Time Machine. The inhabitants are essentially Eloi, humans who advanced to a level of technology that allowed them to create a paradise and the machines to maintain it so they could live a life of leisure and plenty, free of labor; at which point their knowledge and capabilities collapsed to the point where they are wholly dependent on the machines. The dangerous environment and need to feed the machine or suffer punishment take the place of the threat of the Morlocks in Welles’s tale, though really it’s hard to understand why the ancient engineers decided to make paradise so perilous. Maybe as a means of population control?

Anyway, the message is that striving itself is necessary and a moral good, a theme which recurs in a number of other ST episodes if I recall clearly.

#1062

Man, I love Conrad. There is no Conrad book that isn’t a joy to read, or that wouldn’t make a great movie.

#1063

Small correction. It was Orson Welles, but it was H.G. Wells. They spelled their last names differently. In this case, it’s Wells’ The Time Machine.