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Retro Review: Shattered Mirror

Posted by Michelle - 14/06/13 at 08:06 pm


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season: 04 Episode: 20 (s04e20)

Original US airdate: 04/22/1996

When Jennifer Sisko lures Jake into her alternate universe, Benjamin follows his son into the war between the Alliance and the rebels.

Plot Summary: Lonely for Nog and feeling out of place among the adults on the station, Jake is thrilled when his father introduces him to Jennifer from the parallel universe where Sisko rescued her from the Intendant. She has come to report on the rebels’ progress against the Alliance and to meet Jake, who says she’s just like his mother. But when Sisko leaves the two of them alone while he goes to a meeting, he returns to find them gone. Since they have left behind the transporter they used to reach the mirror universe, he activates it with Kira and O’Brien, only to arrive at the mirror Terok Nor alone, to discover that the mirror “Smiley” O’Brien asked Jennifer to bring Jake in order to lure Sisko. They need his help preparing their Defiant for battle. The Regent Worf is leading a fleet of Klingons and Cardassians against the station with the help of Garak, who blames Intendant Kira for the rebel takeover of Terok Nor. Kira agrees to help Sisko in exchange for his support, telling him that the Alliance ships have targeting systems that can be fooled by sensor ghosts. While he and Jennifer work on creating such traps, Jennifer admits that she has grown attached to Jake and promises to send him back to his own universe before the battle threatens him. Sisko decides to stay and help Smiley fight. But the Intendant finds Jennifer trying to help Jake escape and shoots a weapon, intending to kill Jake so she can take Jennifer as a hostage. Jennifer steps between Jake and the weapon, taking the blast. When Kira realizes that Jake is Sisko’s son, she spares his life so that Sisko will be in her debt, then flees. At the helm of the Defiant, Sisko and O’Brien’s crew force Worf to retreat and return to Terok Nor, only to find Jennifer dying. Jake and his father must face her loss again.

Analysis: In many ways “Shattered Mirror” feels more like an intermediate storyline, a setup for an inevitable sequel that wraps up some threads from the previous crossover episodes, than like a storyline that holds together on its own. If I try to look at it as a standalone, it feels like an excuse to get rid of the spirit of Jennifer Sisko once and for all, and I really dislike that idea. Yet from the moment she appears on Deep Space Nine, it’s entirely predictable that she won’t survive. She’s committed what we keep being told is a terrible violation of the integrity of two universes. We already know what happens when a single individual from one universe makes a big impact on a single individual from the other: the very existence of the totalitarian Alliance is a result of one conversation between the Captain Kirk from Sisko’s universe and the Spock from the looking glass universe. Yet when we first see Jennifer, she’s sitting in Sisko’s quarters, chatting about how the war is going over there and how much she’s wanted to meet Jake. I get how hard it must be for Sisko to know that there’s another Jennifer out there, even if she’s not “his” Jennifer who shares his history and his child (and there’s the common point between them of both having been abused, sexually and otherwise, by the Intendant). The knowledge that this Jennifer exists has probably been haunting Sisko’s dreams and getting in the way of his relationship with Kasidy Yates. But to wipe her out as a means of setting Ben and Jake free feels all wrong, particularly when the other event for which it will seemingly be a catalyst is to guarantee that when Sisko next sees the Intendant, he’ll want revenge.

“Shattered Mirror” isn’t a bad episode for Avery Brooks or Cirroc Lofton, both of whom give terrific performances and get to show the emotional range they’re often denied…for that matter, the same is true for the rest of the cast, particularly sullen, growly Alexander Siddig and sexy, deadly Nana Visitor. But it’s a pretty poor episode for the characters, and Sisko winds up so out of character that I end up wishing he was his own evil twin, somehow returned from the dead to manipulate the Alliance. The first thing the real Benjamin Sisko should do upon receiving a visit from Jennifer should be to report on the incursion into his universe by someone from the other one; the second thing he should do is put her in the brig and let someone neutral like Odo question her until her agenda becomes clear. Instead he sits her down for drinks and introduces her to a teenage boy whom anyone with half a brain would know will try to bond with her as the mother he’s lost. Sisko doesn’t spare a single thought for the fact that it was a Starfleet captain’s bonding with someone from the looking glass universe that created greater changes than any violation of the Prime Directive we’ve seen. Merely talking to Jennifer counts as interference. We know from “Crossover” that any incursion from our universe into the mirror is considered a grave matter to be investigated at the highest levels; don’t tell me that Starfleet doesn’t have some sort of plan in place for when the people of that more brutal universe cross over into ours! There appear to be no consequences for Sisko when he returns, not even a hearing about whether any interference on his part might have consequences later (like the Intendant making good on her threat), so if he learns anything from looking through the glass, I don’t know what it is.

It would not take much to convince me that Sisko simply becomes irrational when he has Jennifer beside him. But if that were the case, if Jennifer crossed over just to see him, I wouldn’t expect Sisko to be sitting around having drinks with her and blowing out of there for a meeting he could have had Kira cover for him; I’d expect him to question her about the situation in her universe, make a conscious decision to intervene, and go all in. If it’s somewhat out of character for Jake to decide to cross over without even leaving a note for his father, it’s much more so for Ben to try to have it both ways, insisting that this is not “their” Jennifer yet at the same time pretending that he can have a friendly, familial relationship with her. We don’t get to see as much of the venality of the characters on the mirror side this time – Bashir and Dax both seem to exist to look attractive and yell at other people, Worf just seems more Klingon than usual, Smiley’s undergone a personality transplant, the Intendant seems defanged until her final act of violence (it’s worth the price of admission to her hear deadpan “That was unfortunate” when she accidentally shoots Jennifer instead of Jake) – but what’s most disappointing is Jennifer’s blandness as the writers try to justify Sisko and Jake’s actions by trying to make her worthy of their trust. She’s so much more interesting as a kidnapper and warrior, someone capable of behaving like the Intendant, than she is as a self-sacrificing mother figure. And she dies before she can become really interesting.

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  • j.harrison

    you forgot to mention that this episode had one of the best battle sequences that tv trek had created at that time.
    no cgi either.

  • hostile_17

    Really no CGI? I find that hard to believe… not calling you a liar. It’s just I didn’t think the models could do what they did around the big Klingon ship. It was that one yeah, where Defiant runs rings around the big Klingon ship?

  • Guest

    They did in fact build a new model for that small part of the scaled-up Klingon ship when Defiant is maneuvering closely around it.

  • Guest

    So the author disliked killing off MU Jennifer solely for the purpose of wanting another female character as bad-ass as the Intendant. How predictably sad.