In which Spock looks better with a beard, Kirk orders a genocide, and while being the captain isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it does have its perks.
Some form of storm or anomaly is happening while Kirk talks with some local pacifists who would rather go extinct than have their natural resources used for war. The storm is interfering with transport, and it looks like the Enterprise isn’t going to get her crew back. Also, in the mirror universe, the Enterprise orbits in the other direction. Is this some sort of incredibly subtle scene-setting, telling us that the Enterprise we know and love will happily conform to the local orbital conventions to maintain diplomatic channels with the locals, but the Evil Enterprise has no interest in diplomacy and will orbit whichever way it damn well pleases?
Also their clothes are different and Spock has a goatee. Kirk is clever enough to make statements that don’t give him away, and not make a scene when Spock tortures a crewman into unconsciousness for some minor infraction. I’ll say it again, Kirk gets a raw deal in comparison to later captains due to his ‘act first ask later’ mentality, but he’s pretty damn clever.
It’s so cute watching them speculate about parallel universe, when by the end of the Star Trek corpus there will be thousands of parallel universe and a knot of spacetime manipulations that almost keeps up with the Doctor Whoniverse. I touched on this briefly in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” where so many things are similar but all of Earth is more militaristic. If Kirk had been a different person, he might have saved Edith Keeler and the Nazis would have, in that future, done much better than they did in this one. Which explains the salute.
The Halkan council appears to be the same, so whatever the chance is, it’s not universal. It seems localized to humanity. Also, Walter Koenig does sinister really well when he corners the captain and gets ready to assassinate Kirk so that everyone can move up in rank. How is there even a social structure capable of building starships? Checkov is thwarted by a crewman and is sent to the Booth. Kirk concocts a plan to recreate the storm and get himself sent back. But if the Good Kirk is here, what horrors is Evil Kirk perpetrating on the Enterprise?
Spock is, in the mirror universe, committed to maintaining the stability of the Empire and his own well-being, but doesn’t seem… committed to the acts. One could say he’s only following orders. Meanwhile, Kirk can’t even get a little privacy to plot – he comes home to find a gorgeous young lieutennant in his bed, and must therefore play the part of the man who would be Emperor. And Spock is ordered to kill him. Fortunately Spock doesn’t want the captaincy, so Kirk doesn’t have to vaporize him with a Tantalus field. I wonder where he found it, who’s got it in the Prime universe, and how he got it installed in his quarters before he used it to kill Chris Pike.
The plan is ready for action, but Spock has thrown a wrench in the works. This makes, what, the third time Kirk has had to go toe-to-toe with Spock? He barely manages to prevail with the rest of the landing party on his side. Then Sulu busts in to cause thedual murder of Kirk and Spock. Luckily, Kirk’s girlfriend vaporizes all of Sulu’s guards. McCoy saves Spock from a brain hemorrhage and Spock mind melds them in an effort to figure out what the hell happened because, from his perspective, Kirk is threatening the stability of the Empire. Kirk gives a speech to Spock about how the Empire will inevitably collapse, so he should be a good person. He gives Spock the Tantalus Field.
What happened to Evil Kirk? There’s a one-off line about maybe Evil Kirk returned to the Evil Enterprise, but did it happen automatically? I like to think he and the other evil members of the landing party are just sitting in the brig fuming and cursing.