Interview: Tipton Brothers On Taking ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Into The Mirror Universe

This month IDW kicks off their new six-issue series, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken. These are the first comics to explore the TNG mirror universe (something that also never happened during the TV show). The new comics are being written by Scott and David Tipton, who also penned IDW’s 2008 Star Trek: Mirror Images series, a prequel to the original “Mirror, Mirror” episode. TrekMovie thought it would be good to catch up with the Tipton brothers and talk to them about their return to the Mirror Universe.

Star Trek: TNG: Mirror Broken #1 cover by J.K. Woodward

Aside from some novels, this will be the first time we see the TNG crew in the Mirror Universe. Why do you think we’ve never seen it until now?

Scott Tipton: When Next Generation was in production as a series, I think there was a resistance on their part to rely too much on Original Series storylines and concepts, feeling that they needed to prove themselves on their own merits.  So very rarely did you see direct sequels to TOS episodes or storylines. By the time DS9 really got going, the franchise as a whole had proven itself and the producers were much more confident, so my feeling is they had much less trepidation about playing with some of the older stuff. But by that time, TNG as a series was no more.

David Tipton: I agree. I think there was some concern during the production of Next Generation that the show not be perceived as simply redoing Original Series episodes. The first-season episode “The Naked Now” got some negative reviews because some saw it as simply a recycled Original Series episode. Later on, when DS9 took on the Mirror Universe, they built up a unique storyline that supported multiple episodes in a way that I think helped defuse any concerns about retreading old episodes.

Is it right to say this is set around the beginning of the Next Generation era, and if so how does what we saw of the Mirror Universe from Deep Space Nine influence this story? 

ST: Yeah, it’s roughly analogous to the early years of TNG, but because of the vagaries of characters’ lives, not everyone will be at the same place in their career that you’d expect. Some may be higher, some may be lower. We do play off of the description of the state of the Terran Empire from the DS9 episodes, and explain that all may not have been as people out in deep space believed.

DT: The story for Mirror Broken is placed roughly in the Mirror Universe equivalent of the early days of the Enterprise-D, and it also is placed in the context of what we learned about what happened to the Mirror Universe from the Deep Space Nine episodes.

Star Trek: TNG: Mirror Broken #2 cover by J.K. Woodward

With no TNG history in the mirror universe, you had sort of a blank canvas to put your own dark spin on these iconic characters. What was the most difficult part of that?

DT: It’s important to keep in mind that the Mirror characters aren’t exact reverse counterparts of the characters we know. They are more like dark reflections, and they have unique personalities that reflect their environment and particular natures. Their backstories are important, because those help us to understand their motivations.

ST: It’s a tricky line to walk. The Mirror Universe characters aren’t opposites; they’re the same people, just raised in an entirely different culture, which is bound to affect every decision they make. It’s tempting to just say, “This is Evil Data,” but the more interesting thing to explore is what makes him still the same character in a world so drastically different, and how would that character react to that kind of life?

Which TNG character or characters do you think really lend themselves to this universe? Which of those characters was your favorite to write?

ST: That’s kind of what I’ve been enjoying most. All the characters are just as compelling, but in different ways. Mirror Picard is still Picard, but a lot of the niceties have been worn away. The biggest surprise has been Barclay, but that may just be novelty, as it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to write the character.

DT: There’s some really interesting stuff with Data. Data’s origin story is not quite the same in the Mirror Universe, and Mirror Data’s growth and development goes down a very different path…

Mirror Broken concept illustration for Geordi by J.K. Woodward

We have seen a lot of fantastic looking art from J.K. Woodward for Mirror Broken. Can you talk a bit about how the process works with J.K.?

ST: It’s totally a collaboration start to finish. We talk over plot and character before we begin scriptwriting, and try to craft the scripts and page layouts to play to J.K.’s strengths. And while he’s painting, he’ll often call or text with thoughts about ways to improve things as we go, either character bits that can be conveyed visually, or arcane Trek details that can be slipped into the backgrounds. Working with J.K. is so easy because he’s such a Trek fan, we can just call out episode titles or moments and he knows precisely what we’re referring to.

DT: We’re usually consulting back and forth throughout the process. J.K.’s original designs for Next Generation Mirror characters influenced early development, and then ideas from Scott and me played a role in his continuing design work. It’s a great process.

“Mirror, Mirror” is one of the most beloved TOS episodes. Why do you think Trek fans are so fascinated with the Mirror Universe?

ST: I think it’s just the fascination of seeing familiar, beloved characters behaving so differently, and at times so horribly, yet still being recognizably themselves.

DT: And there’s something to the idea of wondering about what would happen to familiar characters and situations if some elements were changed. It opens up some interesting creative avenues.

Star Trek: TNG: Mirror Broken #3 Cover by J.K. Woodward

What can we expect from you after Mirror Broken? Any particular area of Star Trek you would really like to explore in the comics?

ST: We have tons of places we’d like to go, and are always down to explore any corner of the Trek Universe. We’ve been itching to dive into that post-TMP, Pre-Wrath of Khan era for years. Someday…

DT: I love the Motion Picture era. Would also like to do another Deep Space Nine project.

Should I ever trust anyone with a beard again?

ST: Oh, a beard is fine. It’s the combination of the goatee or Van Dyke with the sleeveless shirt you’ve gotta watch out for…

DT: I would worry more about Data with Borg enhancements than anyone with a beard.

Mirror Broken concept illustration for Riker by J.K. Woodward

Mirror Broken begins Saturday on Free Comic Book Day with Facebook Live and N. Hollywood signing event

The new Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken series kicks off this Saturday with a special Free Comic Book Day issue. The Tipton brothers along with artist J.K. Woodward will be holding live chat on the official Star Trek Facebook page at 12:30 pacific time on Saturday.

In addition the Tiptons and Woodward will be at Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood, CA signing issues of Mirror Broken. More details at blastoffcomics.com.

Promo for Free Comic Book Day Facebook Live event with team behind Star Trek: The Next Generation – Broken MIrror

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