In the interest of getting away from political content on this blog, I want to write something I’ve been dying to write for awhile now–a critique of the stupidest thing in science fiction. No, it’s not Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda (though that’s close.) No, it’s not Star Trek Into Darkness, though that is one epically stupid movie by anyone’s standards. It is Star Trek related, however, but it has nothing to do with the transporter problem, everyone being a rubber forehead alien, time travel shenanigans, any number of nerdgasmic miniutiae about the warp drive, or Wesley Crusher.
No, it’s actually one of my favorite things about Star Trek–the Mirror Universe.
Now, I’m a huge fan of parallel realities, alternate histories, and other dimensions. Get me a dimension hopping story and I am just about guaranteed to read it. And I actually do like the Mirror Universe, a parallel timeline that, throughout the entirety of the franchise, is considered to be something more than just a parallel timeline (or quantum parallel, as in that episode where Worf jumps around and ends up in a universe where he banged Troi. Now there’s a time you really need to be using protection.)
I simultaneously wish more stuff was done with the Mirror Universe, and perhaps other “parallel universes,” but at the same time, I must admit…the Mirror Universe is pretty fricking dumb. I mean literally, there is no way that it should happen. Even by “Relax, it’s only a TV show” standards, it should have never come to pass. Only by the most radical version of Many Worlds Interpretation, where every single path is taken, is the Mirror Universe even feasible. Feasible, mind you, not definitely existing. I’ll explain why now. Let’s get the big thing out of the way first.
5. Spock With A Goatee
4. The Multidimensional Transporter
The little device Captain Sisko is holding is a 24th century piece of technology from the Mirror Universe. I can’t remember exactly where it comes from, but I get the idea that it was something that Mirror!O’Brien cooked up in order to jump from the two universes. And that’s why it seems problematic to me.
First of all, Mirror!O’Brien is a malnourished, uneducated, mistreated Terran slave who spends his life fixing ore processing machines on Terok Nor. He’s not an engineer, he’s a glorified mechanic. Yet somehow, after he escapes from Terok Nor, he’s able to jury-rig a device that reprograms transporter units so they can cross universes? What kind of shazbot is this?
Maybe Mirror!O’Brien is a frickin` genius. I don’t know. But for him to build that thing seems to be quite a jump. Our own Miles O’Brien? Sure, maybe, with a lot of work and trial and error. Mirror!O’Brien? No way. The guy just wasn’t an engineer. (In fact none of the Terrans were engineers. They were slaves. The only one who showed any intelligence was Mirror!Jennifer.)
In fact, we could probably put down pretty much all of Mirror!O’Brien, as he’s just that kind of “out of left field” character. Going from a lowly mechanic to basically running an interstellar rebellion that has the tyrannical imperial government running from him in scaredy-cat mode? Maybe he’s the Chosen One….
3. The Terran Rebellion
I think we can all agree that Star Trek is not an anime series where one hero shows up with one ship or giant robot and then proceeds to kick all sorts of unholy ass across the cosmos in his fight for liberty or justice or boobs or what-have-you. Star Trek is a bit less silly than that (Tribbles notwithstanding.) So then why is it, in the Mirror Universe, as soon as Mirror!O’Brien gets his hands on a copy of the Prime Universe’s USS Defiant, all of a sudden the Terran Rebellion is winning all over the place and driving back the implacable Klingon-Cardassian Alliance? Are the Klingons and Cardies just that stupid? (Well, if Mirror!Garak is any standard, yes, yes that may actually be true.)
Although the rebels take Terok Nor with some trickery, they basically run out of ships early on and only have the Mirror!Defiant to save their butts. I don’t recall hearing them building any more ships, because they don’t know how. They get lucky taking down the Regent Worf (snigger) thanks to some Prime Universe Ferengi and a turncoat, but beyond that, how are they winning against the Alliance? You know, other than their enemies being one brain cell short of a brain?
2. The Tantalus Field
Okay, let’s get something straight here. You have a device that looks like a TV set. You turn it on, but instead of surfing to a channel, you put in the identity of a person. The TV then gives you an image of the person. You then press a button, and the person just…vanishes. You know. They’re dead.
Congratulations. You have just passed Tantalus Field 101.
I’ll say this for the Field: it’s not actually Imperial technology, or even widespread in use, but was something that Mirror!Kirk plundered from some alien lab. Still, think about this. It’s a device that basically erases someone from existence. Why even bother with the whole orbital bombardment thing? Don’t nuke them, just press a button and wipe everyone out. It’s so simple!
It also pretty much makes anything that happens in the Mirror Universe pointless. If Kirk just jacked that thing into a massive power generator–say, a star, or the hot air that constantly blows out of Michael Moore’s mouth–he could probably just wipe an entire planet out of existence.
You could have an entire saga just about various factions trying to gain control of this device. That would be a fun TV series. But as it stands, used those couple of times in the one episode, it’s just extremely overpowered. By all rights when Bashir and Kira entered the mirror universe a century later in DS9, they should have been extinguished on the spot (well, except for Mirror!Kira being a sadistic, insane bisexual who wanted to bang herself.) It’s just ludicrous.
1. Mirror Universe society could not exist because everyone is a psychopath
And here we get to the #1 reason why the Mirror Universe shold not exist: because everyone is a psychopath.
Studying economics, politics, philosophy, and the like, you start to understand on a more abstract level how society works. You realize that people actually have to work together to get anything done; opportunity costs are too high for anyone to do it by themselves. (Read this blogger’s thinking on how to make a cheeseburger from scratch, including raising the cow, raising the grain for the cow, buying the land to raise the grain for the cow…etc….)
Capitalism has brought us many amazing technological wonders, from the iPhone to Asimo to new power sources to new forms of medicine that have extended our lifespans from our forties to our nineties. Yet it has done so precisely because under capitalism (and I mean real capitalism, not that cronyist crap) people are rewarded for helping others. If they make a product that makes someone’s life easier–either by saving that person money, or time, or any other resource–these other people will come to him and either pay for his product with currency or trade for it with some other good. Over time, this leads to a lot of miraculous achievements.
Basically, it means you have to be peaceful to get ahead. And there is none of that in the Mirror Universe.
This goes beyond being a “warlike” culture. The Prime Universe’s Klingons are a warlike culture, but they at least had things under control to the point where they could actually build an empire. The Terran Empire of the Mirror Universe? Count yourself lucky if an hour went by without someone being murdered for personal advancement! On Mirror!Kirk’s I.S.S. Enterprise, everybody went around with bodyguards, and people were backstabbing–literally!–each other every second they could get to get ahead.
And it doesn’t improve in the Mirror Universe’s 24th century either–in fact, it’s worse. The only reason the Terran Rebellion seems to have any effectiveness is because the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance that now rules has the same attitude problems the old Terran Empire did. Mirror!Garak is no longer a suave, intelligent, sneaky man; he’s a bloodthirsty lunatic who wouldn’t know what subtletly was if it slapped him across the face. All he wants to do is kill, whether it be slaves, rebels, Prime Universe visitors, or of course, Mirror!Kira, the Intendant (and take her job. Gee, where have I heard that before? I should also note that Andrew Robinson, the guy who played Garak, hated the Mirror version for much of the same reasons.) Even the frickin` Ferengi are a bunch of murderers. Well, except Mirror!Quark, but that’s only because Prime!Quark is so lovably detestable.
All this psychopathy leads to one conclusion: interstellar civilization in the Mirror!Universe should not be possible. There is no way in hell that Mirror!Earth should have been able to build the Constitution-class starship, or, if you decide to play the “Well they just captured it from the Prime Universe and the Mirror!Tholians, duh, haven’t you seen ‘In A Glass, Darkly’ from Enterprise, stupid?” card, then there is no way in hell that Mirror!Earth should have been able to build the NX-class starship. Just none whatsoever. Allow me to paint you a picture.
It’s a laboratory, and there’s a team of scientists. They’re working on inventing the warp drive, or at least a better version of it. One of them is close to success. “Eureka!” he cries from his console. One of his coworkers sneaks up behind him, and then drives a knife through his back. “A-ha,” the murderer thinks, “Now I will be in charge of this project, and receive the glo–eurk!” For another one of his coworkers has driven a knife through his back. “No, you won’t, I’ll be! I’ll–gaah!”
Repeat ad nauseum until everyone is laying in pools of blood on the floor, and nobody has gotten any work done.
I can accept the TOS episode as simultaneously a bit of cheap 1960s science fiction and also a window into the darker recesses of our soul, but Enterprise and Deep Space 9? Come on. These are beyond ridiculous. They are far, far beyond unbelievable.
No matter which way you slice it, Mirror society is just nuts. It could not work. They probably doesn’t bother most people. I don’t mind. I myself enjoy the Mirror episodes quite a bit, especially the DS9 ones. But on some level I am innately bothered by how absurd it all is, and how it just doesn’t work. For fiction to work, of course, there must be some believability. It doesn’t have to be realistic (far from it; realistic fiction is usually boring as hell), but it has to believable. Within the rules of the universe, it has to work. So far, there is nothing I’ve seen in the Star Trek milieu that makes the Mirror Universe’s society even remotely work–especially not across species. (Face it, the only non-psychotic Mirror species to appear are the Vulcans and the Halkans, from the episode “Mirror, Mirror.”) It just isn’t believable. And what appealed to me about Star Trek was that, at least early on, before it was taken over by Bernan & Braga, it was believable. You could see this possibly happening.
In short, it might be one of the dumbest things to ever come to pass in TV science fiction. It could only happen whereby a particle must take every single possible outcome, no matter how ridiculous it may be. And yes, that could make the Mirror Universe believable…but then why not visit the universe where everybody has pink skin and subsists on cotton candy?
But the Mirror Universe? That’s not even fantasy. That’s just deranged.