In a Mirror, Darkly (S4, E18/E19)
One of the treats in the Star Trek universe, right from the 1960’s indeed, was when the writers popped across to the so-called ‘Mirror Universe’, a pulpy, overwrought, intentionally theatrical version of the Trek world, where the Federation is the Terran Empire and humanity are far more sadistic and evil than the alien species who are more foe than friend in ‘our’ universe. Following Spock with an evil beard in TOS‘s ‘Mirror, Mirror’, DS9 brought the Mirror Universe back with a collection of hugely entertaining stories which expanded the mythos. If anything, Enterprise, which dabbled once during its fourth season in this alternate universe, delivers one of the most entertaining adventures with ‘In a Mirror, Darkly’.
A two-part episode, replete with its own darker, alternate title sequence, this sees incumbent show-runner Manny Coto (brought in to, unsuccessfully, save the series from cancellation by tapping into much more fan-friendly corners of Trek mythology), have enormous fun allowing the actors to flip over their traditional roles and ham it up. Linda Park in particular takes a cue from DS9‘s Nana Visitor’s Intendant Kira by vamping it up gloriously as Empress Hoshi Sato, who is after the USS Defiant we saw in 1960’s episode ‘The Tholian Web’, allowing for a neat call-back and tie-in to that fan favourite episode.
One of the biggest joys of ‘In a Mirror, Darkly’ though? The inclusion of an original version of the USS Enterprise bridge (even if its not *quite* that ship), exactly as it looked in The Original Series. The two-parter not only provides an extra chapter to the Mirror Universe, it ties into classic Trek wonderfully. If only they’d done an entire season in the MU, as the writers had toyed with the idea of.
Regeneration (S2, E23)
You’ve read above plenty of instances of fan-service in Enterprise, but none was executed quite so deftly as ‘Regeneration’, which cannily finds a way to bring the Borg–easily Star Trek‘s most terrifying adversaries–into the prequel show, despite the fact Starfleet had no idea they even existed before The Next Generation episode ‘Q-Who?’ over two hundred years into the franchise’s future. How did they do it? By tapping into an ingenious loose end from the movie First Contact, namely the wreckage of a Borg Sphere the USS Enterprise-E destroyed in orbit, which crashed in the Arctic of the 2060’s and now, a century later, causes a formative version of the Borg to surface on Earth.
None of the Enterprise crew know this, of course. The word ‘Borg’ is never mentioned, nor is there any clue as to the time-travelling events of First Contact, but we as the audience are in the delightful position of understanding the contextual backstory as Archer and his crew face a terrifying drone threat in what becomes something of a Trek-take on The Thing, before wonderfully queuing up a temporal paradox which leads beautifully well into ‘Q-Who?’, answering a question we never even thought to ask.
For me, ‘Regeneration’ was Enterprise firing on all cylinders, telling exciting stories while tapping into Star Trek mythology in cool, interesting ways. It’s just sad that by the time the series understood that’s what it probably could do best, the writing of its demise was on the wall…
Star Trek: Discovery is now airing on Netflix UK every Monday. What is your favourite Enterprise top 5? Would your list be different? Let us know!