For the philosophical among us, I sometimes subscribe to the notion of Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan,” in which he imagines the worst of humanity’s characteristics are the dominant ones that define our existence.
Man is indeed a ‘brutish creature’ that demands the oversight of a tyrant with absolute power who knows what’s good for us.
… and that brings us to the Mirror Universe of Star Trek.
Star Trek: Mirror Broken is a re-imagining of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future in that in another universe, the peace-minded and explorative Federation has been replaced by the war-like Terran Empire that seeks to expand its influence in known space and assert its dominance.
Of course, die-hard Star Trek fans are aware of this. Originally presented in the 1967 episode “Mirror, Mirror,” the ideals of Roddenberry’s universe were inverted in that tale, and gave fans one of the first concepts of a dystopian future set against the optimism of the Federation.
In retrospect, that’s a brilliant concept. Not only does it validate the vision that Roddenberry already had, but he also showed what he thought was the possible outcome, should Humanity condone its continuation of petty, materialistic values.
Still, it’s a little disturbing to conceive of what we could lose before we gain it.
Of course, that’s the scary thing that writers Scott and David Tipton and artist J.K. Woodward frighten us with in Mirror Broken #4. These creators take the 1980’s concept of Star Trek and turn it into something that is its accurate inverse (not reverse, mind you) that challenges and disturbs our concept of the comforting and dependable Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In short, it’s bad Star Trek — well, not bad in the sense of its quality, but bad in the sense that the reader needs to think about the ‘wrong way’ that our Captain Picard and crew would go about achieving an objective. He is the dominant force that keeps his crew in thrall, not out of a sense of devotion but out of a recognition of his power and ability to rule well. If you can get that in your head, then you are definitely in the right mode for appreciating this perverted, yet thoroughly enjoyable iteration of TNG.
You just need to look at the tortured and warped version of Guinan to get that concept. I’m sorry… was that too much of a spoiler? Well, take a look at the hinted twisted relationship between Picard and the imprisoned El-Aurian, and you tell me. Guinan doesn’t have the friendship of this universe’s Picard, instead she is his prisoner.
But there is still the idea that her advice and guidance is indispensable to Picard. There will be undoubtedly more to this but in the meantime, the haunting image of Guinan staring out from a small portal in a storage cube is a ripping, incisive one that reminds us of the powerful and intimidating nature of this iteration of Picard.
At this point in the series, Picard and his assembled crew have taken the Enterprise. It’s a war machine – there’s no doubt about that. Gone are the 1000-plus crew roster and the families that were brought aboard and in their place is a skeleton crew of devout Picard loyalists who are able to run the ship with double shifts and a load of former Jellico lackeys offloaded to a prison colony for… insidious research.
The warship Enterprise, with its central phaser cannon, 360-degree weapons array and superior shielding, is ready to take the failing battle against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance to a new level.
But first, it has to go through Starfleet to prove its mettle. Forced to battle three other Imperial starships (including Picard’s own Stargazer) who seek to place Picard and his crew under arrest for the theft, there’s an incredible battle sequence that makes one reconsider her appreciation for the power of a Galaxy-class warship.
The Enterprise effortlessly shrugs off their attacks, but before anything else can happen, the Imperial Starfleet vessels are surrounded by an entire fleet of Cardassian and Klingon ships looking for a fight. What an awesome place to end, because you know that the next issue is really going to challenge J.K. Woodward’s talent to portray an epic and dynamic space battle.
But starship combat aside, it’s the philosophical underlining that really shines forth. When you look at this iteration of Picard, the Tiptons’ manage to accurately convey that this is the same Picard who strategizes, empathizes and appreciates the limits of his enemy of the prime universe series.
However, when presented with encounters, crew issues, etc., the reader soon sees Picard respond to these encounters with either a brutal or completely self-motivated reaction in that whatever is best for his piratical crew and ship is the surest way for his ship to defeat all-comers is what they should be shooting for.
Despite their fear of him, the crew will readily accede to his authority because of his demonstrated success. He is a capable ruler who can achieve what he sets out to do. That makes him an authoritative and accepted ruler. They want a piece of his inevitable victory, which is exactly how the Tiptons have presented this character. He’s a winner, regardless of how evil or self-centered his intentions are, and that is the centre of this universe’s premise.
We can all benefit if we work together. But if we settle for intrinsic self-motivation, then only a few of us succeed. That’s the message behind Roddenberry’s original incarnation of the Mirror Universe and it’s a principle that the Tiptons and Woodward brilliantly reinforce here in Mirror Broken #4.
Is this Trek? You’d better damn well believe it is, and that’s a philosophy that I will readily adhere to.