|Ezri, from the Mirror Universe.|
Quark receives an unexpected visitor to his quarters: Ezri. But it's not the Ezri he knows, but instead one from the mirror universe. She's come with a ransom: Grand Nagus Zek has been taken prisoner by the Cardassian-Klingon Alliance. The price of his freedom is a cloaking device. If it's not delivered soon, Regent Worf will execute the Ferengi leader.
Quark and Rom are able to steal the cloaking device from a Klingon Bird of Prey with little difficulty. But once in the Mirror Universe, they are immediately captured by the Terran rebels, who are almost as bloodthirsty as the Regent. Even if they manage to escape with the cloak, they have yet another problem: The near-certainty that the Regent will simply take the cloak and then kill them all!
Capt. Sisko: Only in the episode for a throwaway appearance, but even that shows how strong a working relationship he and Martok have developed.
Kira, The Intendant: Sadly, this episode continues in line with the character's previous appearance, confirming that the once compelling Intendant has become little more than a tight costume and a set of mannerisms. This reaches a low ebb when she is allowed to escape with not only her life, but also her freedom. Why? "Because I owe her that much." Or because the writers have become too fond of their pet monster to bring her story to the firm close she deserves.
Quark: Though he still wants to believe that Ezri is or will become interested in him, he is too good an observer of human nature to deny that she's responding when Bashir flirts with her. We see once again that he is very devoted to Ferengi traditions, from his praying/bribing of the Ferengi deities to his determination to rescue Zek. He admits to Mirror Ezri that he doesn't actually believe there will be any reward or even appreciation for his actions - He puts himself in harm's way for the Nagus simply because Zek is the Nagus.
Ezri: Mirror Ezri is a mercenary,guided by no cause other than her next payment. She is puzzled when Quark explains his loyalty to Zek... Right up until the Intendant kills a friend of hers, at which point she discovers that she also feels a sense of loyalty to those she's connected with. The friendship that develops between this Ezri and Quark is one of the episode's more enjoyable aspects, and I wish more time was spent with the two of them and less time spent with the Intendant, the Regent, and Garak.
Garak: Speaking of whom... It's a sad day when Garak is the worst thing in an episode. The Mirror Garak of Crossover was vicious but still smart - Probably pretty close to what "our" Garak was, back in his Obsidian Order days. Here, Mirror Garak is just a bloodthirsty idiot. When Quark uses the real Garak as a model to mock him with, he's not just playing for time - He's right! The real Garak would run circles around this episode's Mirror Garak without even exerting any mental energy (Regent Worf is just as bad, and too uninteresting to waste a paragraph on - Suffice to say, Mirror Worf is an imbecile. Period.)
Zek: I'm guessing/hoping this is Zek's final appearance, and the character remains largely grating. It's a shame - Wallace Shawn was well-cast in the role, and in his early appearances Zek was reasonably engaging. But the Zek of episodes like Rules of Acquisition and Prophet Motive was genuinely shrewd, using Quark as an expendable tool. Ever since Ferengi Love Songs, he has been reduced to a lecherous/senile old man parody. Here, we see him escaping to the Mirror Universe to enjoy illicit oo-mox, which he begs Quark and Rom not to reveal to their mother because it would "break her heart." Which we're apparently supposed to find funny. Maybe this is the Mirror Zek, and the real Zek disappeared around Season Three?
Too much of the above reads like I hated The Emperor's New Cloak, which really isn't true. I do find it a little disconcerting that the DS9 Mirror Universe arc, so compelling in Crossover, Through the Looking Glass, and Shattered Mirror, ends up being wrapped up in a Ferengi comedy. But against my expectations, I mostly enjoyed this despite its shortcomings.
I was entertained by Mirror Ezri, particularly by the scenes between her and Quark. I also found myself laughing, often against my better judgment, at several of the gags. The Regent trying on a new gauntlet, then calling over an underling to test it by punching him in the face, was particularly funny. Other choice bits include: Mirror Brunt being genuinely honest, honorable, and kind; Rom's satisfaction at announcing his successful sabotage; and (for all my irritation at the portrayal of Garak) Quark's jibes at Garak about how much more formidable his Prime Universe counterpart is.
It's just a shame that all of the villains are portrayed as idiots. The Regent is a gullible moron, who never even considers the possibility of treachery from the Ferengi. The Intendant has flattened into a two-dimensional set of mannerisms, purring seductively at everyone and killing a supporting character at one point just to remind us that she's evil. And Garak is so pathetically-characterized, the other two almost look good by comparison. These villains, once genuinely strong foils for Sisko and Kira, no longer even seem worthy of Quark and Rom!
But I have to admit that I still had fun watching. The episode is a guilty pleasure, but I wasn't bored by it. And I have to admit, the silliness makes a contrast from the Dominion plot, which with the end of the series now so close should be kicking into high gear again soon.
Overall Rating: 6/10.
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