|Kira, through the looking glass.|
While Major Kira and Dr. Bashir are returning from the Gamma Quadrant, a minor malfunction causes a disruption in the wormhole. When they reach the other side, they find that they are no longer in their universe. They are in the parallel "mirror universe."
Here, Deep Space 9 is still known as Terok Nor, and is run by an alliance of Bajorans, Cardassians, and Klingons. The Terran Empire has fallen, all as a consequence of Captain Kirk's visit 100 years earlier, and now the humans live as slaves. Terak Nor is ruled over by The Intendant - also known as Kira Nerys, Major Kira's counterpart. The Intendant is instantly fascinated with our Kira, allowing her the run of the station while hoping to share information with her... among other things. Meanwhile, Bashir is sent to the mines, with his life held hostage to Major Kira's cooperation - a hostage the mirror universe's Garak plans to use in his own grab for power!
Commander Sisko: "Mirror Sisko" has the demeanor of a pirate. Which, save for his operations being sanctioned by the Alliance, basically describes his work - commanding a Terran crew to collect tribute. He justifies himself to Kira by stating that he has "made the best of a bad life" for his crew. But after The Intendant chooses the worst possible moment to show her true colors, he shows that he isn't as different from our Sisko as he first appears. Avery Brooks has a grand time overacting and snarling his way through Sisko's "pirate" scenes, while also doing well with his hero moment at the end.
Major Kira: Nana Visitor is terrific in a dual role, playing both the normal Kira and the seductive Intendant. Visitor has great fun with the Intendant, adopting the kind of confidently sexual attitude Kira is normally denied. She all but purrs over her counterpart, her gestures recalling the attempted seduction of Dax in Dramatis Personae - only this time there's no alien influence, this is simply who Kira became in this set of circumstances.
Our Kira is initially intrigued with her, taken with the idea of a strong Bajor and feeling that in that, at least, the mirror universe might have something to show the fragemented Bajoran government of her world. She doesn't even seem particularly put off by The Intendant's obvious designs on her, though neither does she seem particularly interested. She is appalled, however, when she sees the mines, and I think it's that moment - seeing her people and Odo becoming exactly like the Cardassians - in which she truly resolves to escape by any possible means. Visitor is just as good as normal Kira as we've become accustomed to, making her effectively both hero and villain of the piece.
Dr. Bashir: The teaser reminds us that however far he may have come, Bashir has never really shed the arrogance he brought with him on his arrival. Attempting to bridge the differences between himself and Kira, he mainly succeeds in reminding her of all the reasons she initially disliked him. She even refers to him as "arrogant" and "pampered" when talking to the Intendant. Despite this reminder of his shortcomings, Bashir is very effective as he works on O'Brien, pushing him to the strength and decency that he knows any Miles O'Brien must have. He also doesn't hesitate to take decisive action when an escape opportunity presents itself, and faces down the Intendant's pronouncement of his death sentence without blinking.
O'Brien: Is probably the most like his counterpart in the main universe. He's hard-working, and has learned how the machinery on the station works. He's raised himself to the point that he can actually talk back to the evil "mirror Odo" without getting slapped. He finds it a wonder that a Terran like Bashir could have become a doctor in the other universe, and cannot fully believe that his own counterpart could be chief of operations. He resists stepping out of place until the very end. But when he does finally aid Bashir, as we know all along he has to, he gives the Intendant an accounting of himself that's so raw and simple that it not only convinces when it leads Sisko to action, it more or less sums up the entire episode in a few, plain, defiant words.
Quark: Just as our Quark used his position to aid Bajorans during the Cardassian occupation, the Quark in the mirror universe does what he can to help Terrans escape the Alliance. "Mirror Quark" appears to be more altruistic than regular Quark. Our Quark might do good, but even then he'll usually make sure that he's getting some profit out of it - nor is he above doing things that are very, very bad. This Quark doesn't pursue profit. His price for helping Kira is for Kira to help him in aiding the escape of more Terrans.
Garak: It's good that The Wire preceded this episode, as The Wire indicated that Garak had been a force - likely, a sometimes sadistic one - prior to his disgrace. This episode's "mirror Garak" is just as devious as our Garak. But without the benign surface or the friendship with Bashir to humanize him, he is a genuinely frightening figure - far scarier, with his dulcet tones and his way of smiling as he threatens oh-so-politely, than Gul Dukat has ever indicated he even could be. Andrew Robinson seems to enjoy the chance to cut loose and really show Garak's dark side, and I suspect the Garak we see here isn't really very far removed from our version in the days before he was reduced to being "a simple tailor."
With a script by Peter Allen Fields and Michael Piller, almost certainly the two best writers at this point in Deep Space 9's run, it's no surprise that Crossover is a very good entertainment. Fields and Piller use the ending of TOS' Mirror, Mirror as a starting point. Kirk's heroic speech to "mirror Spock" made an impact, it turns out. Kirk got up on his soapbox and succeeded in changing things - by making them vastly worse than they had been already.
That in itself is a terrific twist, one which makes this trip to the mirror universe one in which everything really is "through the looking glass," as Kira says. Not only is Kira confronted with evil versions of herself and Odo, a ruthless and apathetic Sisko, and (perhaps most disturbing of all) an altruistic Quark, but everything is turned upside down. The Bajorans are the oppressors, treating the human Terrans at least as badly as the Cardassians treated them. Kira, the freedom fighter, sees herself turned into the worst oppressor of all.
This is a expertly directed episode, with David Livingston using some interesting lighting and camera angles to truly make the scenes in the familiar space stations sets feel otherworldly. This isn't just the harsh, bleak feel of the Occupation scenes in Necessary Evil. This time, the feel is vaguely surreal, as if we're seeing a world distorted through a funhouse mirror. It's done well enough to create the effect, without being heavy-handed enough to distract from the story.
Still, the showstopping scene belongs not to Kira, not to Garak, and not to Sisko. The scene of the episode is the one I referenced earlier, the plain, desperate weariness expressed by plain, simple O'Brien. His speech to the Intendant is the one genuinely emotional moment of the episode, and is so good that I can't think of a better way to close this review than to simply quote it in full:
"This man is a doctor where he comes from. And there's an O'Brien there, just like me... Except he's some kind of high-up chief of operations. And they're Terrans. Can you believe that? Maybe it's a fairy tale he made up, but it started me thinking how each of us might have turned out, had history been just a little different. I wanted him to take me with him because, whatever it's like where he's from, it's got to be better than this. There's got to be something better than this."
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