Oct 2, 2020
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Crossover”
Welcome back to the Agony Booth’s special tenth anniversary look at the Star Trek Mirror Universe episodes that gave the site its name! What’s that? You don’t remember when we first started posting these reviews, um… a year and a half ago? I guess that makes this our very special eleventh-and-a-half anniversary look at the Mirror Universe episodes, doesn’t it? Much apologies for the delay, but since I won’t have to write lengthy comedy sketches to accompany each review anymore, I can guarantee it won’t be another 18 months until the next one.
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The second Mirror Universe episode in the Star Trek franchise is “Crossover”, from season two of Deep Space Nine. I never caught this episode (or, if I’m being completely honest, any episode of Deep Space Nine) in its original airing, but I was certainly intrigued when I eventually learned about it. “Mirror, Mirror” is one of the most well-known original series episodes, and here we have the characters of Deep Space Nine paying a return visit to the world of that episode over 25 years later. But regrettably, as we’re about to see, the writers don’t seem to really “get” the whole concept of the Mirror Universe, and as a result they end up giving us a somewhat dull, weirdly somber episode.
The story begins with Dr. Bashir and Major Kira on a runabout heading back from the Gamma Quadrant, and we spend what feels like an eternity on Bashir awkwardly flirting with Kira. This, I’ve always felt, is one of the failings of TNG-era Trek: the need to waste precious time on cutesy character moments instead of just getting to the damn plot. The notion of any series on the air today spending three full minutes on nonsense like this at the top of the show is unfathomable.
Finally, they enter the wormhole to get back to the Alpha Quadrant, and… something happens. That’s about as specific as I can get, unfortunately. Something goes wrong, and when they emerge on the other side, they discover Deep Space Nine is no longer near the wormhole, and is now orbiting Bajor.
As they make their way to the planet, a couple of Klingons storm the ship, but they seem almost fearful when they find out Kira is onboard, and they immediately beam out. When Bashir and Kira get back to the station, they quickly discover why: There’s another version of Kira here, wearing a catsuit and a strange looking tiara. Everyone’s following her orders and addressing her as “Intendant”.
Intendant Kira has Bashir taken away, and then meets with our Kira to dole out the exposition. As Nana Visitor acts opposite her split-screen self, the Intendant essentially describes the events of “Mirror, Mirror” for us. She explains that decades ago, several people from a parallel universe crossed over into theirs, and now the names of Kirk and Spock are legendary in their history. Thanks to that incident, the political landscape of the Intendant’s universe, better known to us as the Mirror Universe, was changed forever.
The ending of “Mirror, Mirror” had Kirk reasoning with the mirror version of Spock, trying to convince him that benevolence was more logical than savagery. It seems Spock took that speech to heart, and he rose through the ranks preaching a message of reform, eventually becoming “Commander in Chief” of the Terran Empire. But as it turns out, following Kirk’s advice was the worst possible thing Spock could have done. After years of non-violence and disarmament, the Terran Empire was totally unprepared for an invasion by a Klingon-Cardassian alliance.
The Alliance easily defeated the Terran Empire, enslaving all humans. Bajor was eventually freed from “Terran occupation”, joining the Alliance soon after, and Deep Space Nine (going by its OG name of Terek Nor) is now the Alliance’s “center of authority” in the Bajoran sector.
Cut to Bashir, who finds himself among the humans being used for slave labor down in the ore processing center (who knew it was possible to toil in the mines on a space station?). There, he meets the mirror version of Miles O’Brien, a bitter man existing under the boot of Mirror Odo, a harsh slave driver who quickly puts Bashir in his place. (In a nice touch, all humans in this episode wear what looks to be the revised, peaceful version of the Terran Empire logo, with the sword removed.)
Meanwhile, Kira is strangely free to wander around the station at her leisure. She reasons that since Kirk’s crew used a transporter to get back to their universe, she’ll get Mirror Quark to help her gain access to a transporter. But Quark is arrested by Mirror Garak, and charged with helping Terrans escape the station, so clearly he’s not going to be of much use.
Enter the mirror universe version of Captain Sisko, a roguish ship captain who works for the Intendant, collecting “duties” from passing space vessels and providing her with other “services”, wink-nudge. And here, Avery Brooks plays Mirror Sisko even more over the top than regular Sisko, which I didn’t think was possible.
Kira appeals to Mirror Sisko for help, but he too appears to have been beaten down by years of Alliance rule. Eventually, Mirror Kira breaks the bad news to regular Kira: after the original “incident” with Kirk and friends, all transporters were modified to make another crossover impossible. Then she all but begs Regular Kira to stay, with the episode dropping some serious hints that Mirror Kira is infatuated (and possibly up for sexy times) with her doppelganger.
Mirror Garak secretly hatches a plan to kill Mirror Kira and replace her with Regular Kira. But before that can happen, Mirror Sisko comes around, helping Bashir and Kira escape the station. As the two head back to their own universe, we see the beginnings of a Sisko-led Terran uprising against the Alliance.
“Crossover” brings on the same feeling as reading dark, brooding, overtly sexual fanfic based on a cheerful kids’ cartoon. By which I mean, it completely misses the tone of the original work it’s building upon. The Mirror Universe on TOS was scary and violent, but it definitely wasn’t dark and depressing like it is here. The people who served on the ISS Enterprise weren’t morose or angst-ridden, and other than, you know, the constant threat of assassination and torture, the Mirror Universe seemed like an exciting place to be.
I think the writers, like a lot of Trek fans, took the “Mirror Universe” name too literally. The episode was called “Mirror, Mirror” because it presented a warped, funhouse reflection of our main characters, but whenever the later shows explore the Mirror Universe, it’s treated like Opposite World: Everyone good is now evil, and everyone evil is now good. It took me a while, but eventually I realized why Mirror Quark helps Terrans escape the station: Since our Quark is greedy and selfish, the Mirror Quark must be kind and altruistic. And in an odd bit, Mirror O’Brien is pretty much the same as regular O’Brien. I don’t know if this was intentional, or if they just couldn’t visualize what “opposite of Miles O’Brien” would look like.
Another obvious sign that “Crossover” misses the point of the original? The total lack of Mirror Universe technology that made the TOS episode so memorable. There’s no agony booth, no agonizers, and no Tantalus Field. Hell, they’re not even carrying around those little daggers anymore.
To be blunt, I’m not even sure the Mirror Universe is a concept that needed a follow-up (bad news, considering there are six more Mirror Universe episodes in DS9 and Enterprise to go). “Mirror, Mirror” was an intriguing, one-off, Twilight Zone-esque episode that showed us what things would be like if the human race had traveled down a slightly more savage path. It was never meant to be a fully-formed universe with its own internally consistent history. Most notably, the idea that the regular universe characters and their Mirror Universe counterparts would be occupying the same space at the same time was ridiculous enough the first time around. Here, it beggars belief that the Mirror Universe versions of Kira, Sisko, Garak, and Quark would have even been born in this radically altered timeline, much less all hanging out on Terek Nor together.
But all that could have been forgiven if the episode was actually entertaining. However, other than the backstory twist of Spock doing the right thing and it turning out to be the very wrong thing, nothing terribly interesting is done with the initial concept. They’ve turned the Mirror Universe into a downbeat tale about a minority being oppressed and enslaved, as if Deep Space Nine didn’t already have enough Nazi allusions in its first two seasons.
Also, the way Kira and Bashir end up in the Mirror Universe in the first place is seriously underwhelming. There’s a “plasma injector leak” inside the wormhole, and then they end up in a parallel universe that nobody’s seen for 70 years? Was this brainstormed five minutes before cameras started rolling?
And if you can believe it, this is easily the best of all the Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episodes. It’s all downhill from here, and I’ve unfortunately committed myself to reviewing it until the bitter end. Next up: Sisko gets recruited into pretending to be the Mirror Universe version of himself and joining the Terran rebels in “Through the Looking Glass”.