Author's Notes and Commentary [WARNING: Spoilers below]
For all those reading this, first thanks again for taking time to read this fanfic. This story is very special to me, as it's one of my first efforts, and still my most favorite story that I have written, am writing, or plan to write. In recent years I have added Author's Notes and Commentary to all my fanfics, in order to discuss how the story was put together and insights into the creative process, but I have never done it for this one. As I am now hard at work at finishing my existing projects and some new ones, I am happy to take the time to do one for Rewriting History.
I am a huge Star Trek fan, and in particular Deep Space Nine. I always adored the episode from the Original Series, "Mirror, Mirror", and I am an enthusiastic fan of sequels to Mirror, Mirror in the secondary literature, in particular Diane Duane's novel Dark Mirror (probably my favorite mirror universe story) and the comicbook special. Of course, the mirror universe was revistied in Deep Space Nine's 'Crossover' episode. I confess I strongly suspected they were in the mirror universe by the end of the preview, and I was thrilled to learn how mirror Spock did respond to Kirk's words, only to have backfired disastrously. Sadly, the quality of mirror universe episodes in DS9 declined to the end (the less said of Emperor's New Cloak the better). The mirror-universe episodes from Star Trek: Enterprise were a lot of fun (the inverted credits are genious!), but I must admit I'm not a fan of having a TOS-era ship go back in time to Archer's mirror universe, as that would have made impossible the rest of the mirror universe timeline. I also enjoyed the Shatnerverse mirror-universe novels (Spectre, Dark Victory and Preserver). Finally, I confess I haven't read most of the new secondary mirror universe literature - a lot of it seems very uneven IMO.
My only quibble with the new canon mirror universe of Deep Space Nine is that we did not get to see a contemporary mirror universe - I understand that's not the direction they chose to go with, but as interesting as the mirror universe characters were, I'd rather have seen a complete inversion, instead of having Klingons and Cardassians as bad guy oppressors (nothing inverted about that!) This is why I love Dark Mirror so much - as a small spoiler, Picard's learning of the origins of the mirror universe, and his conversations with mirror-Crusher, are unforgettable, and is IMO the scariest portrayal of the mirror universe, both in large historical detail and in the personal consequences to individual characters. So when I started picking up writing fanfiction (almost a decade ago now!), I always wanted to write a story where the mirror universe Spock tries to undo what he did. With the Orb of Time from Trials and Tribbleations, the ideas for this story came together quickly - in fact, I came up with the complete outline for this story in less than a day, and it was by far the easiest writing experience I've ever had. I do not exaggerate when I say that, when writing this story, the words literally flew from my fingers to the screen, almost without conscious thought, as if I were transcribing live dialogue more than creating a story out of nothing. I've never had any experience quite like writing this story.
For those who have already read this story, I have gone through the text and made numerous corrections for spelling, grammar, unclear language and logic. The only significant detail I've changed is that originally, mirror Spock had regrown his goatee when Sisko finds him on Athos IV. The goatee of course is an iconic symbol of the mirror universe, and I wanted him to have it again, but logically it made no sense that he would regrow it so quickly after appearing before Sisko on DS9 without it. Oh well!
Every Star Trek story featuring time travel has as a theme the present being threatened by a change in the past, and in virtually all of them the status quo is restored thanks to the actions of the characters. Obviously that did not happen in this story. Yet in the relaunch of Star Trek represented by the new Star Trek movie of a few years ago, we have someone go back in time and causes an incredible change to the timeline (no more details will be discussed here to avoid spoilers). It raises the very interesting question of whether or not, in this new Star Trek continuity, whether young Kirk and Spock, or anyone else, will decide to go back and change things. Quite frankly, given the consequences of the timeline change in this movie, I think it would be wholly justified! In fact, I would even say it's a moral imperative to do so - where's the Bureau of Temporal Investigations when you really need them! ;)
Ok, onto the Commentary for each chapter:
Rewriting History is set in the 5th season of DS9, where I believe there was no mirror universe episode. Soon before the finale Call to Arms seemed the best place to situate the story, and in fact it takes place 2 weeks before that episode - in the beginning of Call to Arms, there is a comment by O'Brien that the Dominion convoy is the 5th in 5 weeks, so by saying the one at the beginning of Rewriting History it's the 3rd in 3 weeks, dates the story as 2 weeks before Call to Arms.
The last we hear of Spock in TNG is that he is still on Romulus. Hopefully it should be clear that something is unusual about this situation, so that's why there is an emphasis on testing whether Spock is a changeling, as it provides a great misdirection for who he really is. Of course, it can be readily inferred after the fact what's going on, but it's a mystery what the plan is initially.
When mirror-Bashir comments over the unconscious Bashir, it's a technique that can obviously only be used in writing, as it would be instantly obvious if someone with a voice like Bashir was speaking over Bashir's body. I wrote this story to fit as an actual televised episode of DS9, but this would obviously have to be changed were it filmed.
I am very happy about the revelations in this chapter, it unfolds very smoothly yet unexpectedly. This is one of those chapters that seemed to literally write itself.
When Worf says "Sir, why didn't you consult with Starfleet about Spock's mission?" I'm actually criticizing myself for a plothole, as in reality Sisko should (and probably would) have been more suspicious and cautious when Spock showed up unexpectedly. My only defense is to say what Sisko said - I screwed up! ;)
One of things I like so much about this story is that, more than any other, I think I got the tone of each character's speech down very well. In fanfic, where you are making stories about pre-existing characters, one of the most important things to get right is the mannerisms and speech of a pre-existing character. I've said this before, but one of the things I do to achieve this is to actually mimic what each character says, by speaking aloud (as best as I can) in the way each character speaks in their TV show or movie appearances, if applicable. I actually think this is useful for any character, even original ones, because you are trying to capture in words many nonverbal aspects of a character. So mirror-Bashir, who is an irascible, hostile, snide person in the DS9 mirror universe episodes, is written as such. Try it, read the words aloud as you remember them from the show, and I think you'll see where I'm coming from!
The technobabble about the crossover phenomenon is dense, but I tried to make it as realistic as possible. The best grounding for the mirror universe comes from the TNG episode Parallels, where Worf experiences many different quantum realities (each one being an alternate universe). It was important to discuss the differences between time travel and crossover, because like Sisko says, it would be easier to go back in time and crossover, rather than crossover then go back in time. Thanks to MagicAuthorHandwavingScience, I closed that particular plothole!
This chapter is a tour de force of experiencing the mirror universe characters from the DS9 episodes. The Regent is written in a suitably bombastic fashion, the Intendant is as unctuous as ever, and Garak is probably the most similar in both universes, with his social cleverness deemphasized, but his deadly wit intact.
One of the plotholes I did not resolve in this story is how Spock, after escaping, learns of the Orb of Time and access to our universe. Let's just say that once he escapes and joins the underground, eventually he learns about the Terran rebels at Terok nor, and quickly realizes a much greater potential plan for victory than downloading plans for the Defiant. After all, it's pretty unrealistic that the rebels could hold onto Terok Nor for any length of time, so it was pretty easy to come up with a scenario that makes the rebels desperate.
Athos IV is the planet Eddigton leads Sisko to in Blaze of Glory.
Garak's challenge to Sisko is another example of the old means-versus-ends dilemma. With regards to the nature-versus-environment debate raised by the Intendant and Sisko, this also comes to play in the Epilogue, which I will discuss further.
Here, I begin to dish out some of my theories about how the mirror universe came into being. Like in Preserver and the Enterprise mirror universe episode In a Mirror, Darkly, I pinpoint the origin of the spilt at First Contact. By having Cochrane sleep in the day of his first flight, the Vulcan ship leaves the solar system, and is not around for his first warp flight. Without alien intervention, Earth is unified under a tyrannical government, and takes an entirely different approach to interstellar relations than what happens after First Contact and in Star Trek: Enterprise, some of whose events are subtly altered to fit into my mirror universe chronology. I do like my idea about Romulans going to war with Vulcans first, rather than humans; the irony of course being that a more hostile Earth is spared the horrors of war.
As an aside, Star Trek: Enterprise has an interesting take on the Vulcans. In TNG Vulcans were generally underwritten and not particularly interesting, while in DS9 they become rather nasty, seemingly little different from Romulans except with better emotional control. Voyager has interesting explorations of the Vulcan character, but it is also clearly a more complex picture than the strict logic of TOS (as a further aside, I love the twist in Enterprise about Surak and how Archer's revelations completely change the direction of Vulcan society). In Enterprise, Vulcans are a toned-down version of the Minbari - the most advanced of the alien races, generally peaceful but not to be messed with. It's easy to see how they could be relatively isolated and unpopular, and thus vulnerable to being attacked. By incorporating the idea of the Xindi attack with a Romulan first strike on Vulcan, it's easy to see how two otherwise hostile and xenophobic species such as the mirror universe Terrans and Vulcans could otherwise come to common cause. In this, I midly disagree with the implication in In a Mirror Darkly that the Terran Empire somehow conquers Vulcans; that seems very unlikely.
As I said earlier, originally mirror Spock regained his goatee by now, but in retrospect that was unlikely, so I changed it.
More villain monologuing! No book or movie can do it now with a totally straight face after that devastating putdown in The Incredibles. Sorry, it's just so much to hear the villains explain themselves! Anyway, it's not hard to see his recollections as a mirror universe version of the movies Star Trek 2-4, and even 5!
Smiley's back! By far the most sympathetic character in the DS9 mirror universe...
...so it's too bad I decided to kill him! :p
In Star Trek time travel stories, the implication is usually that if you change the past, the future you returned to will be altered. But it's probably more realistic to assume that if you somehow travel back in time and change the past, all you end up doing is creating another alternate universe; your original one remains intact. It's the twist of my favorite 'time travel' story, The Proteus Operation, and I think it's an implicit part of the prequel comics for the 2009 Star Trek movie. Of course there are exceptions, such as the one from DS9's Accession episode.
Here I finally lay out my cards of how (IMO) Spock's actions caused the Terran Empire to fall. As you can see, it involves a mirror version of Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country. Crucially, I wrote such that the conquest of the mirror universe takes place relatively recently, only about thirty years ago. There's an important reason for this: given the massive changes in the timeline, it's extremely unlikely that most, if not all, the characters in the contemporary mirror universe would exist if events had changed as far ago as the TOS era. By making the final destruction of Earth relatively recent (about 30 years ago), that at least makes it theoretically possible for our characters to have been born, and then grow up in vastly different circumstances. So from Khitomer to the story present, it's about 70-75 years (14+25+32), which is roughly consistent with the movie chronology and the 81 year total Kira gives.
Finally, as Worf notes, when you can travel through time, you have to be careful, as you never know if your enemy knows your plans and will travel back right to the place where you intended to go, and plan an ambush.
It was a little difficult to think of a way for Spock to prevail, until I realized he didn't have to beat the Defiant, only get a message to his past self. With that, the hidden probe was a simple solution.
Was Spock expressing his true feelings to Sisko? In part, yes, but being a logical Vulcan, I think Spock could appreciate Sisko's devotion to duty even while trying to prevail (and kill him). And acting in an extremely emotional manner probably made it even more convincing. Had Sisko been a step quicker, he might have guessed that Spock was stalling for time. But it's not really is fault, as I planned all along for Spock to succeed, hehehehe!
In this story, it all turns on the decision of Spock at Khitomer. In reality, the situation was probably such that it would not have stopped the Empire's decline, or opposition to his reformist policies. But certainly Spock is the key, regardless.
Finally, as I write this I added another nontrivial part: explaining why Sisko did not leave mirror Garak, Kira, and Bashir behind in the past, to avoid any changes to the timeline, even if it had already been altered (when the crew had no response, it means I didn't have one, not because I couldn't come up with one, but because the story has to end!)
From the moment I began writing this story, this cliffhanger was in mind.
Finally, the conclusion I had in mind since this story was first conceived: a contemporary DS9 Terran Empire in all its glory (and horror). I love the image of Spock sitting on a throne like a Star Trek version of Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars fame. In this edition of Spock monologues, he gives an outline of my mirror universe version of the story of Star Trek: Generations. Poor Captain mirror-Harriman! ;)
Another image I clearly had in mind at the beginning was Sisko and mirror Sisko, accompanied by much cooler new versions of Bashir and Dax, facing off against each other, with crushed versions of Kira, Worf and Garak. The horribly ground-down version of Kira was not intended as disrespect for the character, but as a final accent of emphasis as to how horrible the Terran Empire really would be. As much as I wanted to see it reborn, I had to be honest and portray the consequences of the same, such as the corruption of Odo.
As I said earlier, getting the tone of the dialogue right is critical, and I repeatedly went over each character's lines in this chapter, speaking them aloud, trying to mimic the sound and tone of speech from the TV shows.
A nice, quiet introspective reflection of the events of the story was the perfect way in my mind of wrapping things up. Of the many terrific character interactions in DS9, that of Sisko and Kira, especially when the topic of Emissary comes up, is one of my favorite. Some examples I like: her talks with Sisko in Accession about the role of the Emissary, or her frantic pleas in Starship Down. Her now-unshakable faith in Sisko (which wasn't always there) is both fascinating and disturbing, but here it is reassuring.
Nature-versus-nurture and ends-versus-means debtates are integral to stories in science fiction generally. I have explored ends-versus-means in other fanfics, and of course the mirror universe is the ultimate playground for nature-versus-nurture debates. I think the key to good characterization of mirror universe characters is to show that the alternate character in some way emerges from the same material that makes up the character. Mirror Spock in the original TOS episode did that the best, while I think the Intendant and the original mirror-Sisko, while compelling characters in their own right, were not distorted perspectives of the original characters as I'd hoped for. And I would accept criticism that I might not have achieved what I wanted to achieve in the characterization of my characters here. So Sisko's final speech, in addition to raising the issue, does not settle the debate, but rather keep the question alive: is Sisko truly a man who abides by his principles? (the first mirror-Sisko suggests maybe not). What would cause him to turn against himself, and what would it look like?
In visiting the Mirror Universe, Sisko and everyone else see what might have been. Sometimes, the change is not all that great (O'Brien, Garak). For some their character seems the same, except pointed in the opposite direction (Quark, Odo), while others are different yet pointed in the same direction (Worf). A few are just different people altogether (Nog/Rom, Bashir, Dax, Bareil). The original mirror-Sisko starts out the opposite, but grows closer to his self (of course, his character is cut short). The Intendant is harder to get a grasp on, as her circumstances are completely different than our Kira, and her character really doesn't have any common reference points with our Kira.
I left these questions open as a way of forward-connecting the issues to future episodes: short-term, in Call to Arms, he advises Bajor to sign a nonaggression pact with the Dominion, going against his mission to bring Bajor into the Federation. But the ultimate test is in the episode In the Pale Moonlight, where Sisko actively betrays all of the Federation's principles in order to get the desired result (the Romulans joining the war against the Dominion). A great episode at the time, its implications become even more disturbing now, if you think of parallels with the Iraq War. As great and positive a character Benjamin Sisko is for the entire series, that episode must provoke hard questions about him, and ourselves. The 'point' of this story, such as it is, is to hint at this dilemma to come.
As for ends-versus-means, although not a big part of this story, I think that as a time-travel story where the timeline is irrevocably changed, my story parallels that of the 2009 Star Trek movie - having crossed the Rubicon with respects to this former taboo, it's a legitimate question why others should not attempt to change the timeline as well in future Star Trek movies in that setting. Now they probably won't, but it's worth considering.
Of course, the real goal of this story is to entertain, and I hope I did so, for old and new readers alike. So for the last time, thanks again for reading, and keep on Trekking!
- May 19, 2012