How Sci-Fi Characters Mirror Each Other (2009)


It might make you scratch your head at first, but hear me out

Contrary to popular belief, “mirroring” is not simply a reflection. There is a little known medical condition known as “mirroring” which occurs when someone’s physical body language is mimicked by another.

It also is known as the “communication dance” and is not exclusive to mere mimicry. For example, in a conversation, it can be the indication of welcoming reception -– as every talker needs a listener; in sports, every player needs a receiver; and in dance, every leader needs a partner to follow.

So “mirroring” encompasses both the outright copying of moments or the parrying of movements, such as in fencing.

In watching many sci-fi shows, I am struck by how many have at their core characters who mirror each other. This is not exclusive to romantic mirroring, but also includes enemies who react to one another or friendships which complement each other. For, if there are two characters, there is undoubtedly some kind of “mirroring” going on.

Some of the best known sci-fi pairings have been “mirror” relationships: Capt. James T. Kirk and Spock, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, John Connor and the Terminator, Malcolm Reynolds and Inara, Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer. I can hear the outcry now, but when assessed carefully, you will see that each of these characters reacted to each other. If one made a move, the other would move in concert or in diametric opposition. Whether embracing each other to work together to defeat a common foe or to face and engage each other in battle.

For example, Kirk would rely on Spock to anticipate his every move and vice versa when they encountered friend and foe alike. While not based on the same solid foundation of friendship as with Kirk and Spock, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker certainly reacted to each other. Han would bristle like a peacock if Luke even so much as looked at Leia or if Luke demonstrated some kind of machoistic heroism, then he would have to jump into the fray as well.

As for John Connor and the Terminator, whether the Terminator was good or bad, it also reacted in opposition to John either to aid or kill him. As for Mal and Inara, they were the perfect example of romantic mirroring in that, if Mal made a comment about Inara’s profession, she reacted in opposite just to piss him off.

And with Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer, they were sworn enemies who would also do everything in their power to one-up the other. And what would have any of these characters been without the
other? They would have been handicapped as they were but one-half of a carefully balanced whole.

Turning to the small screen, we also see several prominent “mirror” pairs as well. Ignoring the fact that “Star Trek” and “Firefly” started on television before jumping to the big screen, the following are examples of “mirrored” pairings that are currently on television today:

Whether flying through laser blasts in space or dodging bullets in the corridors of the ship on “Battlestar Galactica,” there was no pairing who so perfectly mirrored each other than Starbuck and Apollo. They were comrades in arms who reached beyond their training to establish a bond that provided a near mind-reading ability where they anticipated each other’s moves to create a lethal killing duo in their fight against both Cylons and internal resistance. They also had a mirroring-dance of affection, both before and after they were personally involved, which entranced us all through those final moments when Starbuck disappeared before our eyes.

It was in those final moments that Apollo truly appreciated the significance of their symbiotic relationship. Starbuck was his soul-mirror and it was painful for him to realize that she would not mirror his life in peace as she did so precisely in battle.

Another lethal duo is Echo and Ballard from Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse.” However, in their case, Echo and Paul Ballard are not partners or even friends. They are drawn to each other out of their need to save each other and the innate need to save others. Their savior-complexes are deeply instilled in every action they take, knowingly or subconsciously. They are protectors and that drives them to seek truth and root out evil. Echo initially drew Ballard in and he pulled back in an attempt to remove her from her self-imposed prison.

In the end, it is Echo’s desire, not to be saved from the Dollhouse or Alpha, but rather to enlist him in her quest. Thus, Ballard becomes ensnared in the Dollhouse in response to Echo’s need to rescue others.

Their mutual desire for altruism creates such a strong mirrored relationship between them that it will be intriguing to see what they can do if permitted to work together.

Perhaps in one of the toughest and most perplexing mirrored relationships were John and Cameron on “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” Cameron’s sole purpose was to protect John Connor. This imprinted need forced John to accept his metal bodyguard and to consider his decisions and actions in reflection as to how Cameron would react and respond. For, anywhere he went, Cameron had to follow.

This posed some challenges and difficulties as John needed to attend school without his “sister” shadowing his every move, and in his dating life as Cameron was a constant and unwanted third wheel. While Cameron did her best to mirror John’s physical movements to protect him, she was not an unthinking machine, and her efforts to evolve and meld better into John’s life and environment actually led to a divergence of their paths and desires. It was a very complex and fascinating relation to see unfold.

n yet another example of a protector-protectee mirrored-relationship is Sarah Walker and Chuck Bartowski on the NBC series “Chuck.” However, unlike Cameron and John’s purely bodyguard relationship, Sarah and Chuck from the start were romantically drawn together and thus they had a dual-dance of mirroring: protector-protectee and romantic attraction. Thus, it is an engaging sight to behold as they interact mirroring each other in both roles and to see how those dual-mirror roles collided at times.

For that is the daily challenge for them, can Sarah effectively protect Chuck if she is seeing him as more than her protectee? Will she lose her ability to see threats if she only sees him?

A comedic turn of mirrored-relationships was amply demonstrated in the series “Pushing Daisies” which showed the mirrored relationships of Ned and Chuck (aka: Charlotte), and Ned and Olive. From the start, it was intriguing to see the intricate dance of romantic attraction and affection between Ned and Chuck, for they could never physically touch.

It also was just as fascinating to behold the dance of avoidance and pursuit between Ned and Olive, which often occurred simultaneously with Ned’s mirror dance of love with Chuck.

It was funny and poignant to see how carefully Ned danced with each partner in his life. Chuck was his chosen love-partner and Olive was his chosen business partner. Thus, if Chuck moved forward, Ned had to feint or she would die -– it was a physical dance. If Olive moved forward, Ned would also feint, but it was an emotional dance. Their carefully constructed mirrors were charming and dazzling to watch.

Then on “Torchwood,” contrary to popular belief, Jack and Gwen’s mirroring of each other is not a romantic mirroring, but rather a mirrored relationship reflecting that of a tutor and a tutee. For Jack has lived more than 1,000 years and has seen things Gwen can only imagine.

But it is Gwen’s willingness to learn and step up, taking over when Jack disappeared that is telling. She mirrored what she had learned from Jack and then reflected that back to the world around her. She also took what he had taught her and used that to both teach and protect others.

However, Gwen clearly only mirrors Jack in her professional life as she chose to embrace a life of domestic bliss with Rhys, opposed to adopting Jack’s carefree attitude toward relationships. So between them, the mirror is strictly a professional mirrored relationship -– though we may glimpse a future where that may ultimately change.

Next, in one of the strongest mirrors depicted on television, the relationship between Sam and Dean on “Supernatural” is startling for brothers typically do not mirror each other. From the start, Dean and Sam’s relationship was at odds with each other as they chose to go in opposite directions in their lives, only to be pulled back by fate. No matter how hard they stretched that band of familial love, it snapped back and they have been tied together ever since.

Due to the horrific circumstances of their upbringing and their father’s driven obsession with rooting out evil, they were exposed to a lifestyle that only they can understand and relate to. Furthermore, their destiny links them even more strongly than their familial bonds, and even Hell was not able to keep them apart.

And last but not least, there is the iconic relationship of Lois and Clark on “Smallville.” Reaching back to the beginnings of sci-fi and comic-book lore, there is perhaps no greater pairing than Lois and Clark, the relentless news reporter with eyes only for the hero who flies the skies, when the same man is by her side hours on end breaking stories in the newsroom, but she is too oblivious to notice.

Their witty banter is but a mask over their steel-bound relationship. For wherever Lois goes, Superman (aka: Clark) will follow. This is a classic mirror-relationship in that every movement either makes it exactly reflective by the other. They look to each other to make even the simplest decisions. Yet despite that co-dependency, they are still inspirational. She would do anything for him and he would do the same for her – and they still manage to save the entire planet in the process.

“Mirroring” is a fascinating and complex human condition as it takes many forms, yet is still one of the most fundamental bases of all relationships. When I first heard of it, I was intrigued as it sounded just exhausting. But in watching those who are in such relationships, I see that it is more instinctual and unconscious. Thus, whether choosing a life partner, business partner, or partner-in-crime, this appears to be the secret of their success.

May we all search for and find the mirrors in our lives that complete us!

Related article:

%d bloggers like this: