Star Trek's Mirror Universe is perhaps the most iconic parallel universe in science fiction history. Yet, with only a handful of episodes delving into it across the years, much about it is unknown or implied.
Introduced 50 years ago, this Mirror Universe is so named due to the inversion found there. Although most characters, places, and ships existing in the regular universe are present there, they are the antithesis of their prime universe counterpart. The good guys have become evil (and sometimes goateed) and the bad guys’ motives have changed.
It is first seen in The Original Series and revisited in detail in Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, and most recently Discovery. Fans of Discovery would be forgiven for not recognize the Mirror Universe of TOS. The Mirror Universe started out as a thought experiment and became an excuse for ratcheting up the sex and violence.
Shown to be dominated by the Terran Empire, the political and cultural history of the Mirror Universe differs drastically from the one populated by Trek’s very own Federation. As it exists in an entirely separate timeline, the writers could play around with some extravagant stories that they would never been allowed in the conventional Trek timeline.
The Mirror Universe divides Trekkies. Some fans absolutely adore the alternative reality and others cannot stand it. If you just watched Discovery and are confused by Trek’s Mirror Universe, you are not the only one.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Mirror Universe.
15 There is No "Mirror Universe"
After 50 years of trips into the Mirror Universe, it might come as a surprise to learn that there is no such thing.
On screen, the alternative universe is known as the “other universe” or “parallel universe” in early seasons, and most recently the “Terran Universe” in Discovery. Although the first TOS episode to feature it is titled “Mirror, Mirror”, it is never called the “mirror universe” by the characters. Only in other media, such as the Star Trek Encyclopedia, is the universe given that descriptive name but it certainly caught on with fans.
Discovery makes a reference to this in “Despite Yourself” when the crew of the USS Discovery call their counterparts in the alternative reality the “mirror Discovery.” With multiple parallel or other universes in the series, calling this particular timeline the “mirror” timeline gives it the special acknowledgement it deserves.
14 Not All Mirror Counterparts Are Evil
Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius is certainly not the honorable and encouraging Captain that Michael respected in the Prime Timeline. In a similar vein, the sadistic Intendant Kira Nerys in Deep Space Nine is hardly the fiercely principled freedom fighter she is in the regular timeline.
This has led to a misconception that the Mirror characters are simply evil turned good, or good turned evil.
Yet, as seen in Discovery, Sarek’s personality is similar in both timelines. This matches the only slightly altered personalities of Miles O’Brien (grumpier) and Ben Sisko (more impulsive) in DS9, as well as Spock’s behavior in TOS.
Sporting impressive new facial hair but similar logical behavior, Mirror Spock is the one who deduces that the Kirk he is speaking to is not his Kirk. He is also the one who works out the means by which Kirk and his crew get back safely to their original dimension. A hero in every dimension.
13 Worf Assumes Power
With a big heart and a lack of a sense of humor, Worf son of Mogh, of the Klingon House of Martok, has the honor of being a major character in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
A fierce fighter as both a Starfleet officer and soldier of the Klingon Empire, he is also portrayed as entirely honorable. Across the divide in the Mirror Universe, Worf is a somewhat different character.
When the Terran Empire falls, Regent Worf assumes power as the violent, merciless leader of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. Ironically, Mirror Worf is more like Gowron, the dishonorable Klingon Chancellor that Worf defeated in the Prime timeline.
Ultimately, Regent Worf finds himself defeated by the Terran Rebels, with frequent help from interlopers from Deep Space Nine in the prime timeline.
12 Georgiou is Not The Only Evil Empress
It seems that Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius is not the only evil empress to rule over the Terrans.
Hoshi Sato is Enterprise’s linguistic genius and communications officer. Her Mirror-counterpart poisons Captain Archer and takes command of the ISS Enterprise. She then flies to Earth, demands Earth’s surrender, and proclaims herself Empress.
There is a theory, although not confirmed on camera, that Georgiou may be a descendant of Empress Hoshi Sato.
Philippa takes power some 100 years after Hoshi first took over the Empire. Philippa’s titles are where the link is hidden. "Augustus" is obviously a reference to the fact the Terrans see themselves as inheritors of the Roman Empire.
However, Iaponius is the Latin word for Japanese. Philippa Georgiou, portrayed by a Chinese-Malaysian actress, who says to Michael on the bridge that she is from Malaysia, is definitely not Japanese. Could it be that she is an indirect or adopted descendant, of Empress Hoshi Sato?
11 Terrans Lose Because of Kirk's advice
Fortunately, the malevolent Terran Empire is not eternal.
Following the Enterprise’s crew interacting with their Mirror counterparts, the Universe undergoes a serious change.
Mirror Spock takes Prime Kirk’s messages of peace to heart and uses his position of power to rise to rule the Terran Empire. Spock reforms the Terrans and moves towards a more peaceful, less violent version of the Empire.
At first this sounds like good news. Yet this less militarized Empire is overthrown by an alliance between the Klingons and Cardassians, who unsurprisingly turn out to be as bad as their Terran forbearers. Enslaving the Vulcans and Terrans, they are led by Regent Worf with Intendant Kira ruling over Terok Nor (known as Deep Space Nine in the Prime timeline).
The faces of the rulers might change, but it seems the violence and aggressiveness of the Mirror Universe is eternal.
10 Discovery’s Mirror Universe Episode Was Directed by Riker
Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker - and his particular way of sitting down on chairs - in The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes is both an actor and director.
Frakes’ resume is impressive, having directed several episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, along with two Star Trek films - Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.
It should not come as a surprise then to hear that Frakes directed Discovery’s “Despite Yourself”.
The tenth episode of Discovery, it was the first Discovery episode to be set in the Mirror Universe. Although Frakes’ Riker never features in an episode set in the parallel universe, he gives an impressive take on the infamous Mirror Universe, honoring a lot of its heritage.
9 It's not the Kelvin Timeline
Much like the Mirror Universe, the Kelvin Timeline is an alternative timeline in Star Trek.
Featuring in J.J. Abram’s Trek movies, the Kelvin Timeline comes from an event that split it from the Prime timeline. The name comes from the ship, USS Kelvin, which is destroyed by time-traveling Romulans in the opening minutes of the film. The destruction of that ship, commanded by Kirk's father, alters the development of the Federation.
In the comics, it is revealed that there is even a Mirror Kelvin Timeline.
In the Kelvin alternative universe, after Kirk kills Nero and avenges the death of his father, he plans to destroy Vulcan but is stopped by Spock.
Basically, the comics take the original TOS "Mirror, Mirror" episode and combine it with the altered version of history from the 2009 film.
8 There’s Plenty More In Extended Universe
While there are less than a dozen Mirror Universe episodes in Star Trek canon, there is more to be explored in the extended universe.
Several Mirror Universe short stories, such as Obsidian Alliances and Shards and Shadows, reveal a little more about Worf, as regent, and the actions of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance.
The Next Generation crew never visited the Mirror Universe during the series, but there is a 1993 novel called Dark Mirror, as well as a comic book series titled “Mirror Broken” that began in 2017. The six-issue comic aimed to tie its story into that of DS9, as well as smooth over the continuity and tie everything all together.
“Mirror Broken” features a goateed, sleeveless Picard, as well as a buff Data, hell-bent on capturing the Enterprise. If that doesn’t sell it to fans, nothing will.
7 The Empire’s Origins
Everyone knows that the Terran Empire rules by terror. To advance in their careers, officers will kill their superiors and use torture as an everyday form of interrogation. This oppressive interstellar government rules from Earth as the antithesis of the United Federation of Planets.
Yet the origins of this Empire are hazy.
In “In a Mirror, Darkly”, Commander Jonathan Archer states that the Empire has existed for "centuries".
Much as in the Prime timeline, they make first contact with Vulcans but instead of forming an alliance, the Terrans kill the Vulcans and steal their technology. They suspect the Vulcans might be planning to invade.
Using the technology, as well as the futuristic technology found aboard the USS Defiant (which crosses over from the future Prime timeline), the Terrans advance faster than their Prime counterparts and proceed to conquer all other species.
6 Sisko’s Dangerous Liaisons
Arguably, the Mirror Universe is used by writers as a chance to indulge in storylines that the Prime timeline would never have permitted.
When Mirror Sisko is killed, Mirror O’Brien proceeds to kidnap Prime Sisko to pose as the dead rebel leader and continue his fight against despotic Intendant Kira.
While pretending to be Mirror Sisko, it is made clear that he needs to be every inch the impulsive, freedom fighter.
In order to keep the charade, he sleeps with both Mirror Jadzia Dax and Intendant Kira.
Just as Michael Burnham killed to maintain her position as Captain in the Mirror Universe, Sisko needed to do whatever it took to survive in the hostile environment. However, it is possible he enjoyed his time in the Mirror Universe somewhat more than he should have.
5 Ferengi Business Missions
It is not easy to jump between dimensions. Although it's the most famous, there are actually few examples of The Original Series heading over to the Mirror Universe. The crew in The Next Generation and Voyager never venture into the parallel universe. Similarly, there are only a handful of trips across the divide in the other series. In actual fact, the Enterprise Mirror episodes feature only the inverted Mirror twins, not the Prime crew.
Oddly, Deep Space Nine, always the red-headed step child of the Trek series, features five increasingly casual Mirror Universe trips.
The strangest venture is in “The Emperor’s New Cloak”, where Quark and Rom go there to rescue Ferengi leader Grand Nagus Zek after he is kidnapped by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance while on a business trip. If only it were so simple for the Discovery crew to get there and back.
4 Reed and Phlox Invented Agony Booths
Most recently seen aboard ISS Shenzhou with Captain Gabriel Lorca suffering inside, Agony Booths are used by Terrans for torture.
These capsules in which humanoids can be encased stimulate the pain center of virtually any species. These devices are designed to overcome the limitations of traditional torture, where the nervous system becomes overwhelmed and desensitized, as the booths constantly change the stimulation from one nerve cluster to another.
This keeps the subject in a constant state of agony.
It is discovered in Enterprise that the crews’ mirror counterparts invented the torturous devices. Dr. Phlox’s kindly sense of humor in the prime timeline has become sadistic in the mirror universe; tough Malcom Reed has become ruthless. Together these two invent the Agony Booths, using crew member Terev as test subject. Although sadistic, the booths certainly see a lot of use.
3 Lost Love Interests
It is difficult to imagine the trauma of losing a loved one unless it has been experienced. Imagine how strange it would be to see a changed version of that lost loved one in a parallel universe.
In DS9, the idea that those the crew have lost in the Prime timeline are living an inverted life in the Mirror Universe is explored to traumatic effect.
Sisko’s defining moment at the beginning of this series is the tragic death of his wife Jennifer. In “Through the Looking Glass” Sisko is confronted with the alternative version of Jennifer working with the evil Alliance and the idea that he might have to watch her die again.
After watching Stamets lose his partner Hugh in the Prime Universe, it doesn’t take too much imagination to wonder if he might find a version of him in the Mirror Universe. Yet who knows what the kind doctor will be like in the alternative timeline?
2 They Have Technology Far Beyond The Prime Universe
The Mirror Universe developed differently to the Prime timeline in many ways, including technology.
Although much is the same, there are some striking differences - one of which is the powerful super weapon, the Tantalus field.
The Tantalus field is a device found aboard the ISS Enterprise in the Mirror Universe and given by Kirk to Mirror Spock. The device is used to view and eliminate enemies from existence simply by the touch of a button. The science behind this one is a tad vague, but it is used by Spock to take over the evil Empire and reform it. Ultimately, it is used for good.
Oddly, the last Mirror episode of DS9 revolves around the idea that the Mirror Universe does not have cloaking devices, which are relatively common in the Prime timeline. Having super weapons but nothing stealthy does fit the M.O. of the Mirror Universe.
1 It Could Be Real
One of the most mind-blowing things about the idea of multiple universes is that it exists outside science-fiction.
The hypothesis of the multiverse, or meta-universe, posits an infinite set of possible universes including the universe which we live in.
Before dismissing this as fiction, take a look at who believes in it.
Philosopher David Lewis believes that all possible worlds exist and that they are just as real as the world we live in. Scientist Stephen Hawking has supported the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which suggests the existence of multiple universes with all possibilities of an outcome.
Star Trek viewers can rest assured that somewhere in an alternative timeline, it is possible they have a goatee and are about to form an evil Empire.
Do you have any knowledge about Star Trek's Mirror Universe to share? Leave it in the comments.