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Retro Review: Through the Looking Glass

Posted by Michelle - 14/12/12 at 07:12 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 03 Episode: 19 (s03e19)

Original US airdate: 04/17/1995

Kidnapped into the dark alternate universe, Sisko must take on the role of his dead counterpart in order to save Jennifer — his late wife’s mirror parallel.

Plot Summary: “Smiley” O’Brien abducts Sisko into the mirror universe visited previously by Kira and Bashir, who learned there that Captain Kirk from Sisko’s own universe had caused great changes in the alternate universe’s balance of power. Smiley explains that Sisko’s counterpart was similarly persuaded by Kira to become the leader of the Terran rebellion against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, but he has been killed, so the rebels need Sisko to pose as his double to try to sway a Terran scientist to defect to their cause. Sisko – who soon discovers that Dax is his lover and Kira his former lover in this universe – resists any involvement until he learns that the scientist in question is Jennifer Sisko, the counterpart to his dead wife, and that the rebels will kill her if she can’t be turned before she enables Intendant Kira Nerys to hunt them down. On Terok Nor, the Intendant promises Jennifer to help the Terrans, but Jennifer knows that Kira is still having Terran slaves tortured with the assistance of Garak. When Sisko and Smiley take a ship to the station, they must allow themselves to be captured by Kira, who sends Smiley to ore processing but takes Sisko to her quarters, eager to resume her erotic dalliance with him. Sisko soon discovers that Jennifer does not trust the Intendant, yet she despises him – or at least his double in that universe. He apologizes for his past misdeeds and explains that he is there to rescue her from the Alliance, which is using her knowledge to wipe out the Terrans. While Smiley leads a Terran escape in ore processing, Sisko tries to take Jennifer to their ship, but Kira and her guards trap them. Barricading himself with the other Terrans in the ore processing center, Sisko sets the station’s self-destruct codes, which are the same in his own universe. When Kira, Garak, and the guards arrive, Sisko tells them that unless he and the Terrans are freed, he will destroy Terok Nor. Once they escape, Jennifer asks Sisko who he really is. Again Sisko must part, seemingly forever, from his wife.

Analysis: If there’s a problem with DS9′s use of the Mirror Universe, it’s that that parallel takes on such a life of its own that in some ways it compares favorably to the universe of the show. If I were Sisko, and I wound up in a universe where Jennifer was alive and Kira and Dax both wanted to have sex with me, I’m not sure I’d ever go home – sure, it would suck not being there for Jake, but the way the parallel universes seem to work, I’m betting he’d be born there too, just at a later date than in Sisko’s own universe. I remember that my immediate reaction to “Through the Looking Glass” was that all regular characters should immediately adopt their AU counterparts’ hairstyles; Kira and Dax both look gorgeous, and scruffy Bashir, who looks like a cross between a Hollywood terrorist and a Hollywood Jesus, has never been hotter. It’s always delightful to get a good excuse to see major characters get sexy together, and an alternate universe is a vastly better reason than Lwaxana Troi’s menopausal hormones…plus Kira and Dax have much better chemistry with Sisko than anyone else they’ve been paired with thus far, and the nymphomaniacal Intendant, who’s apparently interested in everyone but Garak, is just plain fun. On a more serious canonical note, I would love to know how Sisko knows so many details about the alternate universe, right down to the fact that he should kiss the Intendant if she captures him – does Smiley tell him that on the way to the station, or did our own Kira report to Starfleet that in the universe James T. Kirk corrupted, lawless Captain Sisko was sleeping with her own tyrannical double? Yet again the writers are smart enough not to waste time on the mechanism of the crossover but jump straight into the action, giving Sisko a reason we’ll all accept for him to violate the noninterference directive, a living duplicate of his wife who’s not only in jeopardy but working for the bad guys. The presence of Bashir, Dax, and Voyager‘s Tuvok may be gratuitous, but again the sexiness makes up for that.

Though it’s all meant in fun, which makes the storyline easy to swallow though there’s lots of torture and murder – AU Rom meets a particularly grisly end – “Through the Looking Glass” brings up some interesting psychological questions about Sisko. He goes to bed with Dax without even trying to get out of it beyond a feeble insistence that they have work to do, and he’s apparently neither nervous, even though his counterpart had been involved with her for months, nor unsettled, even though he has no idea whether there was a Curzon who was his mentor in that universe. He’s quite enthusiastic with the Intendant, too, much more so than the Captain Sisko we saw in “Crossover” who resented her demands for sexual favors in exchange for far more freedom than most of her Terrans enjoy (icky, but not unlike the way marriage worked for many European women for centuries). Either Kira filled him in on all the details when she returned from this universe or Sisko has thought about planting one on his second-in-command for a long time. The Intendant is a fantastic character and Nana Visitor is fearless about making her as memorable as Kira herself: one minute she’s sexy, vulnerable, passionate, and the next she’s brutally ordering executions. Of course Sisko can’t take his eyes off her! By contrast, he seems oddly subdued when he meets Jennifer’s counterpart, though whether he’s playing a role or trying to protect his own feelings, it’s hard to say. He reacted with so much emotion when he met Prophet!Jennifer that it seems strange not to see the same intensity when he encounters a flesh-and-blood double, even if he knows that she isn’t the woman he fell in love with. It’s a bit silly how quickly he persuades her to turn – one expects him to have some big piece of information she’s lacking to explain her naivete, not an obvious statement that Terrans are slaves and the rebels fight for freedom – but I won’t complain because more serious conversations between the Siskos would take away time from Garak’s bug-eyed vitriol and Sisko’s two-handed phaser-shooting, a cowboy stunt which somehow makes perfect sense in this universe.

The more subtle crossover characters, Jennifer and Smiley and Rom, whose behavior more closely resembles that of ambiguously moral AU Spock-with-a-beard, aren’t very memorable. It’s the gleefully wicked ones who really stand out, though the Intendant has an interesting emotional range – part wounded little girl, part vengeful predator – and AU Garak, though not very subtle, is hilarious in his megalomania (oh, how I wish he had a scene with AU Bashir). There’s a strong campy element, particularly when anyone starts talking about the Rebel Alliance which sounds just this side of Star Wars parody. And the directing keeps it all in balance – the scene with Kira talking in the mirror is one of the most visually striking all season, far more interesting to me than the phaser battle. Much of the interest comes from the camera angles throughout, which make the Intendant look taller and more menacing than one might expect and which show Sisko and Jennifer as a pair even when the characters are fighting. The fact that the episode leaves Jennifer alive (and presumably aware from Smiley of where Sisko comes from) seems to beg for a sequel, which we will get, as well as another mirror universe episode involving the doppelganger of Kira’s dead lover Bareil, also a story of innate personalities and second chances. The AU Jennifer has lived a more difficult life than Sisko’s Jennifer, yet she is recognizable to him as a woman he could love; the AU Rom and O’Brien are the people we could easily imagine they’d become given different circumstances. It makes me think back to the James T. Kirk whom in various comics and novels was assassinated by Spock, relieved of command, or elevated to emperor. Why are he and Kira so fundamentally cruel in the AU when most of the others are changed mostly via status? The nature/nurture argument gets tied into knots trying to rationalize how they became tyrants.

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  • Mike

    It’s now clear… You really need to get laid, lady.

  • Bobby

    Ha ha, yeah I personally never cared much for the hypersexualized mirror universe stuff either.

    The first one was okay but I liked it less and less as time went on. They seemed to really detract from the (excellent) ongoing DS9 saga, especially towards the end when the main storyline was really good.

  • A_James

    What a misery guts. I thought this episode was tongue-in-cheek and meant to be pure fun.
    As per usual, the reviewer wants to see things that just isn’t there.
    Star Trek is meat to be entertaining before some wild aberrant phycological critical evaluation.
    “Though it’s all meant in fun” is the point – no more no less. Ah!!

  • Guest

    There’s nothing mutually exclusive about “fun” and “contains suggestions of psychological insights about the characters.”

  • Enterprise1981

    I’d thought you’d be used to it now. For some, it’s still FUN to give psychological analyses about fictional characters, even on sitcoms which are notorious for “continuity errors”. I don’t see it “seeing things that aren’t there”. This particular episode was certainly meant to be fun and farcical while also depicting Sisko jumping at the chance to save a still living version of his dead wife despite being adamant that he would interfere in the affairs of an alternate universe.