Retro Review: The Emperor’s New Cloak

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After receiving a message that the Nagus has been taken prisoner in the mirror universe, Quark and Rom cross over on a rescue mission.

Plot Summary: While praying to the Blessed Exchequer for a chance with Ezri, Quark receives a visit from the woman in question, whom he is so happy to see that he fails to pay attention to her leather coat and big knife. This Ezri is from the mirror universe, there to tell Quark that he must obtain a cloaking device for the Alliance or Grand Nagus Zek will die. With Rom’s help, Quark steals the Rotarran’s cloaking device and the pair transport with Ezri to the alternate reality in which a live Vic Fontaine works for the Alliance until he is shot by scruffy alternate Bashir, who works for Miles a.k.a. Smiley. Now a captain, O’Brien insists that he can’t let the evil Alliance have the cloaking device, but Quark insists that no matter whose side he’d prefer, he has to save Zek. The Nagus meanwhile is in an Alliance prison having his lobes massaged by the Intendant, who is being kept alive by Regent Worf as part of the scheme to get the cloaking device. Brunt, who is working for Ezri (and in love with her), breaks Quark and Rom out of prison, but once the Intendant arrives, they learn that Ezri is her lover and is part of the Regent’s scheme. In fact, their predicament is Zek’s fault, since he confesses that he stole Rom’s specs for an interdimensional transporter to cross over in the hope of finding new markets. The Intendant kills Brunt for his lack of loyalty and begs Ezri not to betray her, but Ezri knows that the Intendant intends to have the Ferengi killed and suggests instead that the Regent allow Rom to hook up the cloaking device. Though Rom is successful, the Regent has no further use for the Ferengi and gives Garak permission to dispose of them all. Quark stalls by scoffing that Garak is an amateur if he fails to interrogate them first. When the Regent’s ship drops out of warp to attack Smiley’s, its engines shut down, having been sabotaged by Rom. Ezri assassinates Garak with his own poison so the Ferengi can escape, though she spares the Intendant. Quark, Rom, and Zek are taken to Terok Nor in triumph, though Rom’s good mood is ruined when he learns that in this universe, Leeta lusts not for him but for Ezri.

Analysis: After several dark, thoughtful episodes about alter egos and the roles nature and nurture play in human(oid) development, finally we see a return to the comic potential of the “Mirror, Mirror” setup. “The Emperor’s New Cloak” is one of my favorite Ferengi episodes as well as a charming trip back to a universe of leather clothing and flirtation as currency. It’s particularly enjoyable not only because Rom gets to save the day, thus setting up his future ascension as leader of his people on the non-mirror Ferenginar, but because for all its faults, the mirror universe allows women to do things we rarely get to see within the constraints either of Starfleet or the cultures within the Federation. The Intendant may be a selfish, violent, terrible person, but she has access to the highest echelons of power and always lands on her feet – her litany of all the lovers who’ve betrayed her from Sisko to Bareil to Ezri is particularly amusing because she set every one of them up in one of her power-grab schemes. Both Jadzia and Ezri (the latter an unjoined Trill, thus lacking the memories of the former) are grittier, tough fighters, while Leeta is a no-nonsense administrator. Most of them have had multiple lovers, often at the same time, and if I’m less than thrilled to see that they’re expected to use their sexuality as a commodity to be traded, it’s tempered by the fact that at least it’s acknowledged that that’s what they’re doing – when Troi and Kira were given catsuits to wear on duty, when Seven of Nine was stuffed into a bodysuit, as if those were logical uniforms for military officers, we were supposed to accept it thoughtlessly. It got a depressing seeing the Intendant punished for her bad-girl ways in the previous mirror episodes; it’s much more fun to see her back to her old tricks, playing on Ezri’s sympathies while seducing Regent Worf, all so she can evade Garak’s tantrums and return to power on Terok Nor.

And as tiresome as the Ferengi can become, going on about profits while there’s a galactic war going on, Zek proves here that he deserves to be the Grand Nagus no matter how many Rules of Acquisition he may have thwarted by letting women do business. This is the guy who introduced us to the Dominion by trying to buy his way to power, who attempted to bribe the Bajoran Prophets. It must have driven him crazy to realize that there was an alternate universe where Ferengi were not brilliant businessmen but, Exchequer forbid, altruists; I don’t know whether he knew that Quark and Rom were dead in that universe, but it doesn’t seem to have concerned him that he might have an impact on another Ishka or even another Zek, and he’s not bound by any Starfleet ethical regulations about meddling. Like Rom, I’m disappointed but not surprised that he would cheat on Ishka with the Intendant – let’s face it, we haven’t yet met a character who put up much resistance to the physical charms of the Intendant, not even Sisko or his late mirror universe wife. In fact, Quark’s declaration of devotion to the Nagus sounds more out of character (or more like the late alternate Quark) than any of Zek’s small betrayals. Maybe Quark is playing along for mirror Ezri, who’s familiar with the subdued, loyal Ferengi of the mirror universe rather than the greedy capitalists of Zek’s acquaintance, but for a guy who starts out refusing to worry about Zek’s disappearance because he’s mooning over Dax’s interest in Bashir and offering bribes to the Blessed Exchequer to put a stop to that, the speed with which Quark turns his focus to Zek and an Ezri who was never Dax erases my sense that maybe he really does love Dax more than the preoccupied Bashir ever will. (It’s a shame that even in a universe where women kiss and seduce other women, we don’t get a Bashir/O’Brien kiss, preferably broken up by a jealous Garak.)

I’m not sure why it takes seeing the mirror universe to turn Rom fully into the leader we’ve seen hints that he could be since the union strike on Quark’s bar, but he really comes into his own. Perhaps he’s spurred on by the knowledge that whether his counterpart was as different as mirror Odo or as similar as mirror O’Brien, mirror Rom and his entire family died years earlier. Rom stands up to a menacing Garak twice, refuses to be intimidated by the Regent or the Intendant, and jumps right in when Quark starts taunting Garak to stall for time. Everything about the sabotage on the Regent’s ship from plan to execution was apparently carried out by Rom alone. It’s fortunate for Rom that the mirror Garak actually does seem to be a simple tailor in over his head, even if he likes to cite his resume of assassinations, and that the Emperor – excuse me, the Regent – really does have no cloak, just a bunch of people telling him what he wants to hear. If the title hints at the ending, it doesn’t make it any less amusing when – after telling mirror Garak that his own Garak is a master of sabotage, only to have mirror Garak insist that he knows all there is to know about sabotage as well – the power goes out and Rom gleefully explains that it was sabotage. It takes hours for him to grasp the concept of an alternate universe where some things work the same way while some work the opposite way, but once he does, he seems to understand that he doesn’t have to stick to a predictable script either in that universe or at home. “The Emperor’s New Cloak” is a lovely tribute to Jerome Bixby, who created the “Mirror, Mirror” universe and died shortly before the broadcast of this latest episode set there. I’m so glad our last visit to the reality Spock set in motion is a good one.

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Michelle Erica Green

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Michelle Erica Green

Writer, mother, reader, traveler, teacher, partner, photographer, activist, friend, fangirl, student, critic, citizen, environmentalist, feminist, vegetarian, enthusiast. TrekToday staffer for many years, former news reporter, current retro reviewer.

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