Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which began on Paramount Plus on May 5th, 2022, has set the Trekker world afire with its stellar writing and return to episodic format, and across the various franchises, some of the most fan-favorite Star Trek episodes focus on alternate timelines or alternate universes. Whether it’s Leonard Nimoy donning a fake goatee or Patrick Stewart going full-bore fascist in Star Trek Picard, variants of favorite characters, often less scrupulous than their originals, are a welcome respite from serialized story arcs. Over at Ranker, fan-pollsters have given their two cents on the best Trek mirror episodes of all time.
7 “Shattered Mirror” (Season 4) – Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Some of the best episodes of Star Trek Deep Space 9 ran with the original series’ alternate universe, offering a handful of heralded episodes set within that darker reality where the Terran Empire supplanted the Federation and most (but not all) primary characters more or less had an ‘evil twin’ there.
In this episode, a decidedly alive Jennifer Sisko crosses over from the Mirror Universe to sway Jake Sisko into convincing his father to help the rebellion get their version of the Defiant up and running. It’s an introspective episode exploring both Jake and Benjamin’s conflicting feelings about seeing another version of their deceased family member, showcasing some impressive and nuanced acting chops from both Avery Brooks and Jake Lofton.
6 “The Emperor’s New Cloak” (Season 7) – Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Deep Space 9 had no shortage of quirky Ferengi episodes and this one certainly qualifies, as writers decided to toss Quark and Rom into the Dark Mirror mix, having them attempt a rescue of the Grand Magus who’d been marooned there. While the standard bumbling escapades of the Ferengi brothers are always amusing, it’s Michael Dorn’s tongue-in-cheek campy performance as Regent Worf that steals the show. The flipped narrative of contrasting the usually unflappable and moral Klingon with a power-hungry and bloodthirsty version of himself leading the Mirror Universe’s Klingon-Cardassian alliance was alternately unsettling and wildly entertaining.
5 “The Tholian Web” (Season 3) – Star Trek: The Original Series
This is an anomalous entry in the Ranker poll because it was more or less retconned into having a Mirror Universe connection though technically speaking it really has little to do with the established mirror universe itself. The original series’ USS Defiant vanishes in Tholian space and Kirk’s Enterprise is sent out for search and rescue.
Yet in the Star Trek Enterprise episode In a Mirror, Darkly, this OS episode is retroactively built upon when Archer’s mirror crew discovers the Defiant 100 years earlier, having crossed universes and time via a rip in space. As far as this actual OS episode goes, it’s a standard adventure of the week, its best Star Trek reference point mostly notable via the first appearance of the Tholian web.
4 “Crossover” (Season 3) – Star Trek: Deep Space 9
In this first of the DS9 Mirror episodes, Prime Bashir and Nerys find themselves transported to the alternate universe where humans work as slave labor under a Klingon-Cardassian dictatorship. Bashir convinces ‘Smiley’ O’Brien to appeal to Mirror Sisko, who helps Prime Bashir and Nerys escape back to their universe.
If there’s one character within Deep Space 9 ranks who truly ate up the scenery portraying a lascivious and corrupt version of their main universe character, it was Nana Visitor’s rendition of Intendant Kira Nerys. Ruthlessly ambitious, seductively cloying, always a cat playing with its prey, Visitor’s Mirror Nerys was a joyous guilty pleasure for both the actress and the audience.
3 In A Mirror Darkly: Part 2 (Season 4) – Star Trek Enterprise
Fans still remain largely divided about the best season and episodes of Star Trek Enterprise’s short tenure and its longevity or lack thereof. While the cast often seemed to struggle to make their Star Trek footprints for history throughout four seasons, it’s widely agreed their Mirror episodes ranked among their best.
In this second part of a two-part episode, Mirror Archer and crew take over the USS Defiant from the future after the destruction of their own Enterprise in order to take over the earlier era of the Terran Empire for themselves. While Scott Bakula’s corrupt and ambitious Jonathan Archer is an edgy departure from form, it’s Linda Park’s Hoshi Sato who truly shines in a sultry role as the captain’s concubine betrayer, only to end up as the Empress of the Terran Empire.
2 “Mirror, Mirror” (Season Two) – Star Trek: The Original Series
This is the one that launched, well, a Terran Empire. Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Scotty inadvertently find themselves transported to the ISS Enterprise during a transporter malfunction in an ion storm where they take the place of their Mirror selves, and subsequently must find a way back to their universe while not alerting the resident members of the Enterprise there. Chekov is put in an ‘agony booth,’ Sulu stages an insurrection, and a scene-chewing Nimoy looking perfectly draconian in his goatee offers a refreshing helping of theretofore unseen Vulcan menace. Back in those days, alternate worlds weren’t as prevalent as they are today, and fans fondly hold the TOS Mirror Mirror episode in the highest regard.
1 “In A Mirror Darkly: Part One” (Season 4) – Star Trek: Enterprise
This excellent episode of Enterprise claims the top Ranker poll spot and it’s little wonder why. Watching the normally moral-to-a-fault Enterprise crew render warped versions of themselves was a welcome change from Enterprise’s occasionally mundane storylines, including cold-blooded, sadistic versions of Lt. Reed and Dr. Phlox, a broken and defeated Trip, a subservient T’Pol, and a megalomaniacal Captain Archer, who sees his dreams of conquest and advancement expand once they discover the Defiant from the future.
Perhaps the most striking component of Enterprise’s Mirror episodes was the change to its opening credits sequence, in which the history of the violent and xenophobic Terran Empire was shown complete with a final and foreboding new Starfleet logo.