Kira and Bashir accidentally enter the alternate universe visited by Kirk’s crew, where Terrans are slaves and Kira’s double is a tyrant.
Plot Summary: A plasma leak causes a difficult trip through the wormhole from the Gamma Quadrant, after which Kira and Bashir are escorted by Klingons to a space station now in orbit of Bajor. There, they realize that they have entered an alternate universe when Kira meets her double, the Intendant, who runs Terok Nor. The Intendant explains that after Captain Kirk crossed over and convinced her own universe’s Spock to disarm his empire, a Cardassian-Klingon alliance took over and helped Bajor overthrow its Terran enemies. Bashir is sent to mine ore under a vicious parallel Odo and tries to befriend O’Brien while Kira tries to find a way back to her own universe without enraging the Intendant, who treats humans like vermin. Kira asks Quark for help finding a transporter to duplicate Kirk’s crossover, but Quark is arrested for helping Terran slaves escape and confesses her plan to Garak, who has his own scheme to kill the Intendant and have Kira temporarily take her place. Meanwhile, Sisko arrives at the station, trading favors and sex with the Intendant for freedom from the mines. Kira approaches him for help and reveals Garak’s scheme but he insists that he’s no hero, though he clearly resents the Intendant. Sisko summons O’Brien – whom he calls Smiley – to repair his ship, interrupting Smiley’s work on a thorium leak which explodes, allowing Bashir to escape, killing Odo in the process. After Bashir tells Smiley that in his universe, O’Brien is a senior engineer, O’Brien agrees to help him escape if he can come too. The two are caught and the Intendant is about to execute them when Smiley’s confession that he wished for a universe with free, proud Terrans inspires Sisko to grab Garak’s weapon and rescue Kira, Bashir, and Smiley. The engineer goes with Sisko to fight for Terran freedom while Kira and Bashir are able to flee through the wormhole, still leaking thorium, which sends them back to their own universe.
Analysis: Love or hate what the writers have done with the alternate universe versions of our familiar characters, there’s no denying that “Crossover” is enormous fun. I know it’s often described as the dark or evil universe, but on Deep Space Nine in particular, I always think of the AU as the oversexed universe, though Archer and his crew got plenty of action there as well. The Intendant is all about sex, though she demands displays of love and loyalty as well; Garak is expected to praise and suck up to her though she’s perfectly aware that he loathes her, Sisko is expected to share her bed as well as whatever trinkets he finds for her, and Kira…well, as the Intendant says, if she can’t love her[self], who can? People respond to her like servants faced with unwanted attentions from royalty, with resignation and an eye to what they can get out of it, since consent is preferable to death. I’m just sorry we don’t get to find out what the Intendant makes Sisko do that gets him so disgusted with himself – this Sisko who has the loud belly laugh we’ve never heard from DS9’s commander, who doesn’t have a son, who isn’t mourning the loss of a wife in battle with the Borg. He’s the lawless, self-motivated Sisko whom Cal Hudson tried to wish into being in The Maquis. Kira seems more astonished than frustrated when she realizes he isn’t going to play the hero for her or anyone else; that surprises her more than finding Quark to be sensitive or Odo a vicious parody of himself, citing Rules of Obedience and calling for a brutal sort of justice for the Terrans he despises more than the swaggering Klingons do.
In many ways, “Crossover” is closer in spirit to the original Star Trek than any of its sequel series. Finally, we’re back to Klingons who kill humans for sport! McCoy, Scotty and Spock seem like aged, faded versions of themselves in the Next Generation stories in which they appear, but though he never appears on DS9, Kirk is a living, vibrant presence in this alternate universe where everyone has heard of him and how he called upon a Vulcan to summon the future. How ironic that in this universe, Spock has turned out to be “The City on the Edge of Forever”‘s Edith Keeler – right about peace, but at the wrong time, allowing the Klingons and Cardassians to take over the quadrant. It’s a tragedy, yet I can’t help be filled with glee that although Kira Nerys has never heard of Captain James T. Kirk, the Intendant gives him the name recognition he deserves and all transporters in the Alliance have been specially equipped to make sure no one can cross over the way Kirk did. It’s so much fun to hear Kirk spoken of with such resentful reverence, recalling all the perverse humor of the original “Mirror, Mirror.” Remember how much fun it was to see Sulu come on to Uhura and Uhura turn him aside at knife-point right in front of everyone, even if the implications should have been disturbing? To learn that Kirk had a concubine, even if that should have been appalling? Even Spock’s forced mind-meld, played as a brutal mental rape when the real Spock did it to Valeris in Star Trek VI, could be forgiven when bearded Spock did it to McCoy, since we wanted him to track down Kirk so we could hear what sort of speech Kirk would make before departing. And oh, what a speech! Its impact apparently had greater impact on this universe than the sacred text of E Plebnista did back home.
What’s best about “Mirror, Mirror” though is that under the fun of seeing all that bad behavior, there are serious scientific and metaphysical questions. What if you had an exact duplicate in a different, darker universe – could you appeal to your own best qualities or would you be stymied even about how best to manipulate yourself? Are some friendships so inevitable that they’ll develop no matter how altered the circumstances? The nature-nurture argument comes into play as Kira appeals to the Intendant to help her inspire a stronger Bajor and as Bashir tries to persuade Smiley that he could be so much more than he is, but there’s also a curious balance of fate and free will, with all these people ending up in the same part of space yet finding such different fates. (I’m betting that if the producers had any notions of sequels in mind, they wouldn’t have killed off Odo so quickly.) I have occasionally met people who disliked the crossover episodes on the basis of inconsistencies with earlier Trek incarnations and concern about violations of both the Prime Directive and the laws of conservation of matter – could Kira really have met her double without blowing up the universes like Lazarus nearly did in “The Alternative Factor,” could Bashir have brought Smiley back without Starfleet having an institutional coronary – but I think such nitpicking is missing the point of the adventure. Even as a captive in a brutal, bloody universe where his best friend threatened to kill him, Kirk managed to have fun. I have to believe that when she got back, once she shook off the trauma of having a version of herself try to seduce her, Kira must have had some good times imagining what might have been had she been born into the Intendant’s life.