Review of Mirror Mirror Remastered

The original series episode “Mirror, Mirror” has proven itself to be an enduring chapter in Star Trek history, complete with an intriguing science fiction concept – the parallel universe – characters who are most interesting when not their normal selves, big hair, and barroom brawls. It’s not a particularly heavy visual effects show; there are no big space battles or phaser fights or glowing alien constructs or expansive matte paintings, but the remastered ship shots and gizmo animations are worth noting. I must say that I viewed the remastered episode off a VHS tape from a local Los Angeles broadcast, pulled down on my baby rooftop dish in compressed MPEG-2, so I can’t speak to what CBS might have done to the overall quality of the image as viewed on a better system. Maybe when the TOS eps are all on high-def DVD I’ll find out what all the fuss was about. Anyhow…

The key effect of the episode, during the cross-beaming of the landing party back to the Enterprise, turns what many would consider a goof into a brilliant save. In the original, various versions of the Enterprise were used for both the ‘good guy’ Enterprise and the ‘mirror universe’ Enterprise. The first reveal of the mirror Enteprise in the original used the pilot model with the red-spiky nacelle caps, but later in the episode it reverted back to having the standard spinny orange glowing nacelle caps. In TOS and in all later series, from TNG to DS9 to Voyager, these sorts of “library shots” were routinely used to cut down on filming costs, so it’s not surprising that the occasional earlier bit of ship footage appeared. In the remastered show, the external differences were deliberate and worked in as part of the story. Now the mirror Enterprise starts off as a modified version of the pilot Enterprise now emblazoned as the ‘I.S.S. Enterprise’…and more importantly, remains so for the rest of the time in the ‘mirror universe.’ Kirk, after all, commented on how things about the ship had changed. The essence of the flickering switcheroo was retained, though as one familiar with celestial mechanics, I scratched my head over the I.S.S. Enterprise flipping to a retrograde orbit. Funny, I didn’t think about that back in the 1960s when the episode first aired. Sharp-eyed viewers will also notice that the sizes of the nav dish antennae are “proper” for their respective models.

In the mirror universe things are greyer…and pointier

All the recent talk about the new and improved (and improved again) Enterprise CG model has me agreeing that the latest iteration has a better surface treatment than before, though I would still like to see the contrast kicked up a bit. Creating a completely believable photo-real CG object involves a big investment of time in lighting and texturing. Heavily backlit objects, ships that whiz about, or pitching naval vessels in a rainstorm at midnight are easier to pull off. Front lit objects in the vacuum of space take a lot more layers of color and reflectivity and bump texturing, more than CBS probably had the time for. I’ve always been more a fan of physical models, but I can accept the remastered NCC-1701 in the current series context.

The planet surface map is a not unexpectedly vast improvement over the fuzzy pinky-purple original. Greenish land masses and purplish seas say it’s alien, with a plausible smattering of cloud patterns. It wouldn’t be TOS if it didn’t have saturated colors, now would it? The shots of the U.S.S. and I.S.S. Enterprises gliding in orbit or departing, as well as on the bridge viewscreen, work well within the episode and are fun to see.

The other new VFX shots in the show, the agonizer sparks and agony booth smeary glow previously shown in screen captures, are also welcome enhancements. I had expected to see some reworking of the phaser hits in the corridor and perhaps the transporter sparkles, but those remained the same, the latter showing the familiar hard-edged black matte outline. The blue Tantalus Field glow and blink-out was also from the original, but still worked for me.

The New and Improved Agonizer…Now With More Pain!

As we know, “Mirror, Mirror” was the genesis of future excursions into the mirror universe in Deep Space Nine, and while I could quibble endlessly about the science of parallel universes, a producer once said (about some science thing in TNG), “This isn’t an episode of NOVA.” True, so I’ll keep my questions about how the uniforms got swapped to myself. All in all, the remastered “Mirror, Mirror” was a fun romp that still felt like the old TOS episode.

Rick Sternbach is an Emmy and Hugo award winning space and science fiction artist whose career dates back to the 70s. Rick’s designs and illustrations have found a home everywhere from NASA to the groundbreaking science show ‘Cosmos’ to (of course) Star Trek. From props to space stations, Rick’s designs have defined much of the look of the Trek franchise. Learn more at his company website Space Model Systems.

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Excellent review By Rick.

Spock’s pirate beard never looked so fiendishly trimmed.

Pretty good.

The ISS Enterprise msut have gotten upgraded differently from the Enterprise.

Good review. For the uniform “switcharoo”(not sure the exact spelling of that) I was just thinking of the DS9 episode…the one where the runabout exploded during transport. In that episode there physical patterns were re-constructed by the holodeck (in some cases working with a similar principle as the transporter) but they end up having to erase the computer to store there mental patterns.

If during transport the two patterns are seperated in someway (they are completely deconstructed) then its possible that the ion-storm/transporter malfunction only affected there mental patterns merging them with there nearest counterpart. Even though it was another transporter/holodeck malfuntion (combined!) ep its still there.

Considering you are one of the best references on the net regarding star trek remastered reviews, Paramount should consider sending you the episodes on HD-DVD support and accomodate you with a HD-DVD player if you don’t own one. You promote their show better than they do themselves.

Thank You Mr. Sternbach. Hope you find time to write here more in the future.

Rick, I am a huge fan of your work! Going as far back as the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology book — which proudly sits amongst my Trek books in my library. Great to see and read your review here at This site is quickly becoming the best Trek website on the internet. And that’s a feat being accomplished in a very short period of time.


Thanks for the thoughts on the site, and yes is honored to have Rick contribute. I certainly hope he will do so again in the future. I am a big fan of his work both in Trek and with his space art.

RE: the episode
I do think this episode demonstrates how TOSR can ‘improve’ the show. As Rick points out, the originals hodgpodge of shots never created a clear distinction of the mirrror Enterprise…but now it is clearly just as evil as Spock’s beard. Plus subtle changes to shots like showing the ISS in one of the standard orbit pictures or the new leaving orbit shot now revealing things are back to ‘USS’ normal actually add to the narative a bit…but in a good way.

Quite the coup, Anthony, getting Rick here!


Yes, the more Trekxperts that chime in, the better for the project’s future.
Hail the intrenet!

That’s ‘internets’ ;)

Wait a sec, Rick Sternbach, master modelmaker designer and fx wizard had to see MM Remastered on a VHS recorded from a rabbit ears antenna?

Let’s pony up some bucks to buy Mister Sternbach a digital satellite system with a DVD-R or TiVO!

He deserves nothing less. :)


Heh. Thanks for all the nice words, everybody. I’ve got one of those little dishes (used to run a nice clear 8′ C-band sat monster in the back yard), but the image quality is crummy. Maybe I’ll hook up a switch to pull in the over-the-air stuff again. The VHS was good enough to see what was going on, but nothing compares to DVD. I realize the remastered stuff is all broadcast right now, but I’m hoping that when CBS gets around to a new set of TOSR DVDs that they’ll have all the little kinks worked out. I have to laugh, though; this reminds me of a cartoon strip I saw in Wired or Sound Design magazine years ago, where there was a sign in a music store saying something like “Beatles albums Remixed and Remastered every Tuesday.” How phophetic. :)

HAHAHAHA!!! Good one, Rick!

Yes, this is obviously a work in progress and I too suspect by the time it makes it’s way to the DVD format we’ll see some additional work done on the episodes. They already admitted they are going to “remaster the remasters” by swapping out the new CGI Enterprise for the old one in the first few episodes.

Hey Rick! Tell what you are up to these days. Any interesting projects?


In another ten years it’ll be Star Trek Remastered: Remastered!

Or Star Trek Remastered: This Time It’s Definitive We Swear To God!

Btw Mister Sternbach, can I call you Rick, have they given you a call for your magic touch. C’mon I know Mike Okuda called you up and asked “Drop by give us some pointers!”



Not that anyone should violate U.S. and international copyright law or anything, but somebody send the man a review copy for pete’s sake! And thanks for sharing your valuable views on the work being done!

Great reveiw. I think this might have been brought up, but this simple matter of fact, is that the uniform swap was dramatic license to keep the heroes from immediately being in the sling with Pirate Spock. ;) Truly, if you examine a lot of playful ideas, holes pop up like mad. I vaugely recall the evil Kira from DS9, mainly that she liked to wear leather and showed up twice I think. To me, Mirror Darkly, which was caught me by surprise, since I had opted out on Enterprise, felt like a mess. There were some guilty pleasures of course, but I hated Archer(character) in two universes after that. I read somewhere on here that perhaps there were intended follow ups they maybe would of have made narritive more satisfying. *shrugs*
Also, it would be nice to get new hand phaser effects, but it has been pointed out that would be far more labor intensive… I think it’s easier to add effects, ala agonizer, versus painting out and replacing. :)

It’s been said many times they aren’t working from the original negatives. That being the case, they couldn’t redo phaser effects. There’s going to be quite a bit of that sort of thing that they are just going to be stuck with because of not having the negatives to go back to.

Yes, it would be hellish to rotoscope over existing backgrounds. Basically, not worth it. Besides, I love the old phaser FX- it was ILM that started that “orange squirting out” effect with Wrath of Kahn that ended up being used in TNG and its follow-ups- an absurd way for an energy beam to behave, really.
I’ll take a nice hot blue (or red) beam that makes things glow green and disappear any day! Phasers simply rock. (Sorry…I’m geeking out.)

I don’t think there is anything wrong with those FX either. There’s a couple of shots in the show that might need some kind of help though…like in A Piece of The Action when the Enterprise phasers some people in the street…the “flash effect” is really really cartoony…they’ll be forced to do something on that one…I would think.



A rather poor Enterprise at the beginning, and no other “new” shots throughout the rest. I’m fairly certain that the Enterprise seen here won’t be used in the real deal.

Thanks ety3! Not to hijack this thread with Space Seed stuff, but that shot of the Enterprise looks like the one they used in the Arena preview of the E. leaving orbit, sans planet. So its not the new model, thus probably not in the final episode — one hopes.

Nice work on the remastered Botany Bay. Actually looks like a derelict ship that’s drifting in space for 200+ years.


Mister Sternbach, thank you.
Anthony… you continue to amaze…who else you know?

That protrusion on the top of the Botany Bay…would you call that a KHAN-ing tower? Sorry…couldn’t help myself…:-D


I thought the thread topic was Mirror? Within 19 posts the thread drifts off to a new episode..

I have felt that this always was one of the cornerstone episodes for TOS. Fun, slightly unexpected… a signature show along with Space Seed and “City”. It’s great to see a very well respected artist take the time to contribute his opinions.

because it’s friday, Space seed is on tomorrow and we don’t have a thread for it yet I think

Mr. Sternbach,

Thank you for a very interesting review. Hearing your perspective on these “new” shows is extremely worthwhile and I hope you will come back to to give us your thoughts again in the future. And on a personal note, thank you for inspiring me with your hard work and knowledge for these many years.

-Adam Cohen

Strange that my comment above was listed as being by dmack. Why did that happen?

Great Review and comments all around…


I have a question; How the heck are they gonna redo my fave episode, Spectre of the Gun, right?, i vote they leave the whole twilightzoneish feel and coolness of that particular show…alone!

a very concerned and serious 3rd season tos fan


That would be a tough one Julian. They’ll probably just give us a slightly revised space buoy, maybe tweak some of the staticy force field shots when the gang tries to split town. But that’s one of the few episodes where the staginess of the sets works to its advantage in, as you say, that twilight zone way. So less would definitely be more, in that particular case.

I’ve noted this before. Since you followed dmack in your post and perhaps you had cleaned your computer “cookies” and/or temp files since your last posting? When posting the next message you will either be listed as the ‘previous poster’ or as ‘Anonymous’

Make certain the name, email, and url fields are filled out and displayed properly before clicking “say it”. I’ve had the same thing happen to me.

#29 Julian — I too love the facades of Specter of the Gun fantasia and hope they retain it all. It was, after all, the merest of illusions drawn from Kirk’s own vague recollections of other people’s descriptions of the Old West.

Suitable spooky. Suitably suitable!


They should just change out the Enterprise shots, modify the buoy a little…and replace cheesy animation. Everything else is fine as-is.

BUT….I LOVE the NEW Third Season Shots of The ENTERPRISE they made then in 68-69!

They were different and waaay cooler Enterprise shots freshly delivered for season 3, produced by Fred Freiburger, that were already far greater than ANYTHING in the previous 2 seasons!!!

Leave the newer STYLED shots of the 3rd season 1968-69 flyby shots be from cgi ,I say., okay?

….”are you ready for the vote?” …..Scotty to McCoy in Turnabout Intruder , which aired on thurs 8:30 PM E.S.T. June 3rd, 1969…The last first run ep of TOS.

I agree. The third season FX…at least the new shots were great! But now, they have to change them to make them consistent with the rest of the series that they are remastering…


To drag this all back to “Mirror, Mirror” for a second, I just figured out a way to redo the phaser effects using existing footage, at least in this one case (I went back and steped through the sequences in the corridor). The animation of the phaser beam and the reverse angle on the hit and dematerializing were all STILL frames, if you look very carefully. There’s a start frame for the beam, which could be used to overlay a new animated version. The start of the reverse shot of the hit was a still frame that could be used for multiple frames for a new hit, and then faded out to the last clean frame where the guy is totally gone. Again, not saying this would work in all cases, but it sure seems that it would be fine here.

I was thinking something like that *might* be possible, but I hadn’t gone back to look at the footage as Rick did.

Good catch, Rick!


Welcome aboard the good ship Rick

From what I’ve seen over quite a few recent threads, the original hand phaser beam effects are turning into the new dreaded “Nascelles issue”…

And I’m one of the dreaders unfortunately…I would absolutely love these effects to be enhanced in some way before final High Definition DVD release…ahem, along with SOME background landscapes / clouds in the sparser episode sets…as these phaser shots are going to look SOOOO dated in future, given the sparkling new additions, if not.

IF they can’t be redone from scratch in any way without great time and expense due to limitations of what stock the CBS Digital team are having to work on…can someone say on this site if it is possible to SUPERIMPOSE some kind of additional magic ON TOP OF what is already there, to at least jazz them up somewhat. If it’s not viable to even do that given today’s technology, then I will accept that fact quite happily.

And yes, as a professional designer myself, I DO KNOW what I would suggest to ADD to the originals to make them shine and tie-in better if anyone cares to ask.

The above post #38 is from Cervantes

I forgot to enter my details before I forwarded it.

Oh and just to clarify my poor prose…it IS the hand phaser effects I’m dreading…not the EXCELLENT new Enterprise CGI model and it’s fine new nascelles.

Frankly, I will believe Mr. Sternbach’s thoughts as he mentioned in #36 above others in here because I know his history and expertise.

I believe him too MichaeIT ! LOL!

Just to clarify…as Rick is suggesting that he is unsure if his suggestion would work on other hand phaser effects over and above this one in “Mirror Mirror”, I am asking if ANYONE out there knows or has an idea if the dodgier hand phaser effects across ALL THE EPISODES can be improved UPON, if the CBS Digital team are unable for whatever reason to completely REDO them.

I wish I coud see these phaser shot you guys are talking about.

Maybe it’s just me, but it looked like they added some glow to the phaser blasts I’d still like to see a bit of energy swirling or something in the beam, especially given that phase pistols acted that way.

Hm, I’m just happy with this but nonetheless not absolutely sure, therefore i’m about to research a touch more.

I remember seeing the Enterprise in the Smithsonian and wondering who put all the damned stickers on it. It’s only with the remastering that I understand those markings were always there, but between fading film and UHF broadcasting (although I am just old enough to remember seeing some third season episodes on first broadcast) I was lucky to see much of anything.

I had no idea how saturated the colors were. My god, it’s like taking a club to the head of the viewer and shouting “SEE, I TOLD YOU WE WERE IN COLOR!” I’m watching Devil in the Dark on METV over the air right now, and it is a vast improvement over any previous viewing, including new VHS (haven’t got it in DVD yet, but I will pick up the remastered ones).