Sunday, January 22, 2012

3-19. Through the Looking Glass.

The Intendant prepares to strike
against the Terran rebels.


Sisko is in Ops when Chief O'Brien approaches, asking to speak with him privately. When Sisko turns away, O'Brien pulls a phaser on him and orders him to the transporter. They beam out, onto a waiting ship - and into another universe!

Sisko quickly realizes that this isn't his O'Brien, and that he has been taken to the mirror universe Kira and Bashir had visited a year earlier. Events have progressed, with the mirror Sisko and O'Brien leading a full-blown rebellion against the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance. But the mirror Sisko is dead, leaving a critical mission incomplete: a rendezvous with a human scientist working on a project that will doom the rebellion.

Unless Sisko agrees to finish his counterpart's mission, the rebels will have no choice but to kill that human to stop the project from being completed. The catch? The scientist is Jennifer Sisko (Felecia M. Bell), Benjamin's wife!


Commander Sisko: Avery Brooks, who has sat on the sidelines of the last few episodes, gets the spotlight here. He gives an excellent performance, showing how his Sisko is different from (better than) the mirror one as he outthinks his opponents where his counterpart would simply have tried to outfight them. He throws himself into the scenes in which Sisko pretends to be his mirror self, clearly enjoying the chance to carouse with Dax and Kira and punch out Bashir. As in The Maquis and Past Tense, the role of thinking man's action hero suits Brooks - something I'm hoping the writers have noticed.

Kira, The Intendant: Basically a repeat of her performance in Crossover. She's highly sexual and completely ruthless. She acts on whims more than plans, much to Garak's frustration when a whim leads her to keep Sisko alive for at least a little while longer. She does have strong instincts, though, and knows that Sisko's threat at the episode's end is no bluff.  Nana Visitor remains terrific as The Intendant, neatly stealing pretty much every scene she's in.

O'Brien: His mirror universe counterpart is very much the same man that our O'Brien is. This episode partners him with Sisko for almost the entire running time. Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney play splendidly opposite each other, O'Brien's solidity providing Sisko with a reliable anchor.

Dr. Bashir: Siddig has about as much fun with mirror Bashir as Brooks has with Sisko. Dirty and disheveled, he looks and sounds like an old movie pirate as he stirs up dissension within the rebel ranks. He practically spits his dialogue as he argues against Sisko. I'm actually sorry his role is so small - More mirror Bashir would be enormously entertaining.

Dax: In the mirror universe, she is Sisko's mistress. Mirror Dax is a lot more focused on self-interest and self-preservation than our Dax. Like our Dax, she is very loyal to Sisko. Though she wants to leave with him, she accepts his decision to stay with the rebels. She backs him up when Bashir speaks against his plans, ready to use deadly force to halt any arguments. On a shallower note, Terry Farrell joins in the mirror universe tradition of having her darker counterpart be sexier than her already very appealing normal Dax.

Garak: Mirror Garak continues to be what our Garak probably was before his disgrace. He is formidable and shrewd, and has no qualms about using torture and murder to achieve his ends. His desire to topple The Intendant and take over her position, detailed in Crossover, gets no mention here. Then again, I'm not sure there would have been room for it in the already packed plot. If there's a third mirror universe DS9 episode, though, I'd love to see this dark Garak's machinations come to the fore.

Tuvok: The mirror universe provides the franchise with a way to cross the two active Trek series by having a mirror Tuvok as part of Sisko's rebellion. Despite his prominent billing, he is only in the episode briefly. Disappointingly, neither his characerization nor his performance are even a little bit different than on Voyager. Mirror Tuvok is the exact same man as our Tuvok, which makes his minor role entirely uninteresting.


Crossover was one of the best episodes of Season Two, and one of the best-received. Making a sequel to it was probably a no-brainer for the production staff. The challenge was to produce an episode that worked both as a sequel and as interesting episode on its own.

Simply doing "more of the same" would not have worked. Having been to the mirror universe once, we already know how different the characters are in their world than in ours. That episode was breathtaking because it took the DS9 audience and two of its regulars on a tour of a vision of hell, with the demons wearing the faces of people we already know. It was dark and surprisingly disturbing, with a distorted and surreal feel to it.

But having given us that tour, we know the DS9 mirror universe. An effective return would have to marry the inherent interest value of the mirror universe to a strong plot.

Through the Looking Glass achieves this quite brilliantly. Writers Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe have built on what was established in the earlier episode, and used those trappings to construct a rescue plot that is tightly-paced and genuinely clever. Just enough information is held back to keep things tense and exciting, without allowing it to become confusing. The mirror universe backstory has clearly been well planned out, and everything slots perfectly into place. It's a stunningly well-structured script, one whose momentum never lets up.

In the margins, there is still time to have some fun with the mirror characters. Mirror Rom is more outspoken than our Rom, giving Max Grodenchik a couple of excellent scenes. Mirror Dax and Mirror Bashir are a lot of fun. The rebel encampment may just be the umpteenth redressing of the Star Trek cave set, but at least it's well used, and director Kolbe keeps the lighting adjusted to maintain a dramatic atmosphere throughout.

Unfortunately, while she's not as awful here as she was in Emissary, there's not much getting around Felecia M. Bell's acting limitations. Given how critical Jennifer's role is to the episode, her wooden performance does sound an "off" note, particularly as the episode builds to its climax. Still, save for Bell, this is a wonderfully entertaining episode: Well-made, wonderfully-acted, and scripted with an eye toward pace and structure. Terrific fun.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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