After failing to persuade the Halkan Council to allow the Federation to mine dilithium crystals on their planet, Captain James T. Kirk, along with Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott, and Communications Officer Uhura, begin to be transported back to the Enterprise, when an ongoing ion storm causes a transporter malfunction, and the landing team instead materialize aboard an unfamiliar Enterprise. Their parallels simultaneously materialise on the Enterprise in the Federation universe, and are thrown in the brig by Mr Spock who immediately recognizes the changed personalities of the barbarian landing party.
In the mirror universe, the group realizes something is amiss as they walk off the transporter pad. First Officer Spock, who now has a Van Dyke beard, orders the bridge crew to prepare a phaser barrage on the Halkans in retaliation for their refusal to cooperate, then uses an "agonizer" device to punish the transporter operator for a malfunction. In this alternate universe, the USS Enterprise is called an "Imperial Starship" or ISS Enterprise, and a brutal Terran Empire has replaced the Federation. Officers ascend in rank by assassinating their superiors, uniforms are more revealing, sidearms are standard issue (as well as daggers for officers), and senior officers routinely torture subordinates for discipline.
Kirk orders the landing party to Sickbay on a pretense, so they can assess their predicament in private. He deduces that the ion storm must have opened a barrier between parallel universes, and the two landing parties have switched places. They decide to impersonate their counterparts until they can find a way home, while Scotty sabotages the ship's phasers to buy time for the Halkans. Uhura ascertains that Star Fleet has ordered the Halkans' destruction if they refuse, and Kirk can only order a delay, so Spock reports Kirk's hesitation to Star Fleet. Kirk heads for his quarters and is nearly assassinated by Chekov and his henchmen, one of whom betrays Chekov and saves Kirk's life.
Kirk's bodyguards arrive and take Chekov to the Agony Booth for punishment. When Scotty and McCoy join him the computer confirms Kirk's hypothesis and devises a procedure they can use to return to their home universe. Kirk also learns that in this universe, his counterpart took command of the ISS Enterprise by assassinating Captain Christopher Pike and has since committed numerous atrocities. Aboard the USS Enterprise, Spock has concluded that the transporter switched the landing party with their mirror-universe counterparts in the ion storm, but has no way to return them as yet.
On the ISS Enterprise, Scotty and McCoy secretly work to rig the warp engines and transporter to get the landing party home. Kirk receives a warning from Spock regarding his perceived weakness, and disobedience of Star Fleet. Kirk counters the warning, releases Chekov from the Agony Booth and returns to his quarters. There he finds the beautiful Lieutenant Marlena Moreau, who refers to herself as the "Captain's Woman", stretched out on his bed. He hesitates to embrace her, and she is put off but assumes he is scheming as usual, aware of the controversy on the bridge. Then Spock interrupts to inform Kirk that Star Fleet Command has ordered him to kill Kirk and take command unless Kirk annihilates the Halkans within four hours. Marlena reminds Kirk of her loyalty by activating the Tantalus Field, a weapon concealed in Kirk's quarters. She focuses the device on Mr. Spock, lamenting his imminent demise, but as she reaches to silently "eliminate" him, Kirk pulls her hand back, to her surprise. He reassures her that she is still the Captain's woman before he leaves.
In his own quarters, Spock, already suspicious of the landing party, queries the computer about the "classified research" being conducted in Engineering, and decides to confront Kirk again. On the bridge, Uhura distracts Sulu, the security chief, from his security board when it signals Scott's final connection. Spock intercepts Kirk in the transporter room and leads him at phaser-point to Sickbay, where Scott, McCoy, and Uhura had been waiting to rendezvous with Kirk. A fight ensues, until Spock is knocked out by Kirk. McCoy insists Spock could die if untreated, and before they can leave, Sulu arrives with three security guards. Sulu tells them he intends to assassinate Kirk and make it look like Kirk and Spock killed each other, but Marlena intervenes from Kirk's quarters, using the Tantalus Field to vaporize Sulu's henchmen. Kirk renders Sulu unconscious, and Uhura, Kirk, and Scotty head for the transporter room. They leave McCoy to follow after tending to Spock, but Spock suddenly awakens and forces McCoy into a Vulcan mind meld to find out why the captain spared his life. When he learns of the switch, he decides to help them return and disables the transporter until he can reach them.
Kirk, Scotty, and Uhura reach the transporter room to find Moreau waiting. She asks Kirk to take her with them, but Kirk explains the transporter is set for four people. Moreau points a phaser at Kirk, but Uhura disarms her. They discover power to the transporter is cut, and Scott can only reset the controls to allow manual operation - requiring one of them to stay behind. Spock arrives and announces he will operate the controls. Kirk takes a moment to tell Spock that his Empire is illogical and doomed to self-destruct, to which Spock agrees. He urges Spock to take command, spare the Halkans, and find a way to make peace. When Spock reminds him of the necessity of power, Kirk reveals the existence of the Tantalus Field. Kirk also reassures Marlena that she is still a Captain's woman, suggesting that she ally herself with Spock.
Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura beam out, and the switch with their counterparts is successful. At home in the Federation universe, Spock reports he found the ruthless attitude of the Mirror landing party refreshing, calling their evil counterparts "the very flower of humanity". Kirk is approached by his own universe's Lieutenant Marlena Moreau, a recent transfer to the Enterprise, with a report for his signature. She appears not so different from her parallel counterpart, and Kirk tells Spock that Moreau "seems like a nice, likable girl" and that he thinks they "could become friends".
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- At the beginning of the episode, Kirk tries to persuade the Halkan council that the mission of Starfleet is peaceful. Bear in mind that the Halkans are extreme pacifists. Their leader even worries that, in the future, Starfleet might change and one life might be lost through the use of Halkan dilithium crystals. One question: How is Kirk going to explain Starfleet General Order 24 to these peace-loving people? That’s the order to obliterate an entire planet (see “A Taste of Armageddon"). For the Halkans, there could never be a reason to carry out such an order. Wouldn’t the very existence of such codified destruction be enough to cause the Halkan council to refuse? General Order 24 could have been intended to prevent the spread of diseases between planets.
- This is one of those unavoidable Plot Oversights. In reality, this scenario could not occur. You could not have two radically different universes in sync with each other for long. It just isn’t reasonable that both Enterprises would be orbiting the same planet at precisely the same time, conducting the same negotiations. The presence of both versions of the Enterprise in orbit of their respective version of Halken could be a lucky coincidence. (Of course, it made for a great episode, and Kirk's speech at the end, driving Spock to consider the irrationality of the Empire, is absolutely wonderful. Having said all that, we now return to our regularly scheduled nitpicking.) The sequence of events in such radically different universes would quickly diverge. Even within this one episode, Marlena kills several crew members with a device called the Tantalus field. Did those men somehow die on our Enterprise as well? And what about all the episodes that have preceded this one‘? For instance, would Imperial Starfleet Command put Kirk on trial for “murdering” Finney, as our Starfleet Command did in “Court Martial"? Wouldn't Imperial Starfleet Command just chalk those events up as another assassination? And what would the imperial Kirk be doing during the time of the court-martial? Wouldn’t he be travelling to his next assignment? As another example, would imperial Kirk fiddle around with Kodos in “The Conscience of the King," or would he simply kill the guy? The sequence of events in episode after episode depends on Kirk behaving in a certain way. Imperial Kirk behaves in a diametrically opposite way and therefore creates a very different sequence. Each difference compounds the next, pushing the two universes farther and farther apart. The chances of both Kirks speaking with the Halkans at precisely the same time are slim indeed. In addition, it's highly unlikely that the senior staff would be the same. Yes, Spock seems content to remain second-in-command, but Sulu and Chekov both jump at the opportunity to try to kill Kirk. Doesn‘t it seem likely that they would have tried to do so in the past? If so, at what point does imperial Kirk just wipe them out with the Tantalus field? Imperial Kirk could have had additional assignments while the regular universe Kirk was dealing with the incidents with Finney and Kodos.
- During the captain’s logs, Kirk continually says, “stardate . . . unknown.” Why is it unknown’? Does the Empire use another standard for keeping time? Kirk can’t discount the possibility of time travel.
- At one point, Sulu makes his move to kill Kirk and Spock at the same time, Coming to the captain's rescue, Lieutenant Marlena Moreau - the imperial Kirk's consort - uses the Tantalus field to eliminate Sulu’s guards. Strangely enough, she stops short of killing Sulu. Perhaps she wanted to even things up, thus allowing Kirk to do the manly thing and pay back Sulu with a punch..
- MattS on Thursday, May 13, 1999 - 12:36 pm: As soon as the landing party meets in sickbay and figures out what has happened, Kirk sends Scott to short out the ship's phasers to buy him some time. Either Scott wasn't able to do this (and how hard could it be?), or Kirk isn't confident that Scott got it done, because Kirk decides to tell Sulu not to fire on the Halkans. If the phasers were inoperative, then Kirk could just tell Sulu to fire, the phasers would fail, and Kirk wouldn't draw suspicion like he ends up doing when he doesn't even try to fire. Todd Pence on Thursday, May 13, 1999 - 12:39 pm: I think Scott wasn't able to get to the phaser controls because of the security on the Imperial Enterprise.
- Todd Pence on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 6:14 pm: At the beginning of the episode, when Spock is going to punish Kyle for his inefficiency with the transporter, he asks Kyle to give him his agonizer. Why doesn't Spock, who as a senior officer is presumably in charge of shipboard discipline, carry his own? And why is a junior officer like Kyle carrying the device? Benn on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - 9:38 pm: The sadistic value of having your own instrument of punishment used against you? I mean, it could be that the Empire had evolved such a value system in which it is more degrading to have your own agonizer used on you than someone else's. Just a thought.
- Jayson Spears on Friday, May 14, 2004 - 6:52 pm: Why was Scotty, Mccoy and Uhura on the away team? Did they really need to have a Doctor, Engineer, and communications officer on hand to negotiate for dilithium? I can hear M5 now..."non essential personel". Chris Todaro on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 12:05 pm: Scotty could have been there to explain the technical reasons for needing the dilithium. Uhura to record the meeting and to act as interpreter should the Universal Translator fail (much like Hoshi in Enterprise.) McCoy because Kirk trusts his advice and a Doctor would be a handy person to have around if someone gets sick or injured.
Internet Movie DatabaseEdit
- Apparently, the mirror universe only applies to the Federation because Vulcans are still logical, and the Halkans are still principled and peaceful. The Vulcan use of Logic, and the Halken's principled and peaceful stance, most likely became embedded in the respective psyche of the two races centuries ago, before the event which caused the Mirror universe to diverge from the primary universe.
- ↑ According to the startrek.com episode list, the provisional stardate for this episode is 3689.