Oct 9, 2020
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Through the Looking Glass”
Welcome back to the Agony Booth’s ongoing look at the Star Trek episodes that gave the site its name! One year after “Crossover”, Deep Space Nine returned to the Mirror Universe with the third season episode “Through the Looking Glass”, picking up right where we left off, with the enslaved people of the former Terran Empire rising up against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. In fact, almost all of the Mirror Universe episodes throughout Deep Space Nine’s run build upon this plot thread.
Which means that not only were viewers expected to follow all the various goings-on in the regular Star Trek universe, including the rebuilding of Bajor, the Maquis insurgency, and the eventual Dominion War, they were also obliged to keep track of complex political intrigue happening in a completely disconnected parallel universe. Deep Space Nine did lots of things right, but appealing to casual viewers was not one of them. I’m pretty confident that if I had been watching this show in real time, and it had been one year since I saw “Crossover”, I’d have next to no clue what was going on in this episode.
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But I should walk back something I said in the previous review. Fan consensus is that “Crossover” is the best of DS9’s Mirror Universe episodes, but after watching it again, I now think “Through the Looking Glass” is just a tiny bit better. There’s more action, more adventure, and less people standing around being depressed. I wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to capture a tone slightly closer to the original TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror”, after the previous season’s dark, dreary attempt. If so, I appreciate the effort, but this still doesn’t feel anything like the original Mirror Universe.
At some point, one has to accept that DS9’s “Mirror Universe” is really just a generic parallel universe where everyone is slightly more pissed off. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a modestly different alternate reality as a plot device; hell, Fringe milked five seasons out of the concept. I honestly think there was loads of potential here, but for Deep Space Nine, an ongoing parallel universe seems to have been too much of a digression to really get the attention it deserved.
The episode begins with Captain Sisko meeting with Odo, and dealing with whatever random minor criminal activity Quark is engaged in this week. As Sisko leaves his office and heads into Ops, he’s approached by O’Brien, but he quickly realizes this is not the same Miles O’Brien he’s acquainted with. This version of O’Brien pulls a weapon on Sisko and marches him over to a transporter pad, then waves a magic wand, oops, I mean, some sort of inter-dimensional teleportation device over a console, and the two beam away.
It’s an odd scene. As Sisko is led to the transporter at gunpoint, no one tries to stop O’Brien. Okay, Sisko does give a little wave to indicate that nobody should try, but that doesn’t explain why everyone stands around mute, calmly watching the station’s commanding officer get kidnapped by what appears to be the chief of operations. They really didn’t want to pay any of these extras for speaking roles, did they?
Sisko and O’Brien materialize on O’Brien’s shuttle. Somehow, Sisko has already figured out that he’s now in the “parallel universe” visited by Kira and Bashir a year ago. In case the episode title didn’t tip you off, we’re back in the Mirror Universe, and Mirror Miles catches Sisko up on what’s changed since then: the Terran rebellion against the Cardassian-Klingon Alliance is now in full swing, and Mirror Sisko is their leader.
Or rather, was their leader. Mirror Sisko has just been killed by the Cardassians, and O’Brien has brought our Sisko here to impersonate him and complete his final mission. Sisko resists at first, until he finds out the mission is to get an important Terran scientist to defect to the rebellion, and that scientist just happens to be Sisko’s estranged wife Jennifer. (And Miles just happens to have a photo of her. Please don’t tell me we’re going back to paper photos in 300 years.)
In the “normal” timeline, Jennifer Sisko was killed in the Battle of Wolf 359, originally shown in the big two-part Next Generation episode where Picard was assimilated by the Borg. In the Deep Space Nine pilot, we learned that Sisko was an officer aboard one of the ships involved in that battle. This led to a rather tense meeting with Picard, who Sisko blamed for the death of his wife until the Prophets eventually helped him get over it.
Now that Sisko knows that the Mirror Universe version of his wife is alive and well, he can’t help but agree to go along with the ruse. They head to where the rebels are hiding out in the Badlands (the same hiding place as the Maquis in the normal universe), and Sisko convinces them that rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated.
And by pure coincidence, the rebel group now includes Mirror Bashir, Mirror Rom (looking to avenge his brother Mirror Quark, who was apparently executed following his arrest in “Crossover”), and most interesting of all, Mirror Tuvok. Yep, Tuvok, who in the regular timeline is currently stranded in the Delta Quadrant aboard Voyager. It’s a nice nod to the larger Trek continuity that was going on at the time, even if Tim Russ only says about three lines in the entire episode.
Frankly, he’s mostly upstaged by Mirror Bashir’s hair. For some reason, several of the Mirror Universe characters are wearing wigs to set them apart from their regular universe counterparts, and Bashir has been given unfortunate Uncle Jesse hair.
Then another member of the regular DS9 cast turns out to be part of the rebellion, when Mirror Dax enters and starts making out with Sisko. It seems O’Brien failed to warn him ahead of time that in this universe, Dax is his mistress.
Moments later, Sisko is alone with Mirror Dax, and she starts taking off her clothes and putting the moves on him. To his credit, Sisko resists her advances for a good three or four seconds before basically saying “what the hell” and giving in, and then we fade to black. I’m pretty sure the writers/producers threw in this bit just to troll the fans, years before “trolling” was even a thing.
I have a hard time believing Sisko would so nonchalantly jump in the sack with someone who’s one of his closest friends in the normal universe (keeping in mind he knew her back when she was a guy named Curzon), especially considering he’s on a mission to be reunited with his dead wife. But what really makes this uncomfortable is that Sisko is pretending to be someone else, and Dax doesn’t realize she’s having sex with a total stranger. I’m not saying this rises to the level of rape or anything, but it’s not exactly the most above-board, consensual sexual encounter ever depicted on screen. Like I said, they were basically trolling us.
Meanwhile, there’s a brief glimpse of the happenings over at Terek Nor, the space station formerly known as Deep Space Nine. We drop in on Mirror Kira to see what’s she currently up to. Unsurprisingly, the Intendant is getting her freak on. Before the rebellion, Mirror Sisko was her boytoy, but it appears she’s now traded up to a male model, and from the looks of things, bald, black men are her type.
There’s also a woman here that Intendant Kira is lusting over, so chalk this up as another instance of the Depraved Bisexual cliché, where Kira’s attraction to both men and women is meant to highlight her evil decadence. Though, I suppose we can forgive them the fleeting use of this trope, given how the show would later depict Jadzia Dax’s romantic feelings for another woman as nothing out of the ordinary.
But the main point of this scene is for Kira to call in Mirror Jennifer Sisko, and break the news that her husband is dead. Jennifer does a terrible job of acting like this news doesn’t bother her, and quickly exits. Then there’s a scene where Kira orders random executions of Terrans working down in the ore processing center, and yadda yadda yadda she’s evil.
Eventually, O’Brien and Sisko are on their way to infiltrate Terek Nor and find Jennifer Sisko. But Mirror Rom is revealed to be a traitor, and he’s currently in the Intendant’s quarters warning her of their impending arrival. O’Brien and Sisko are soon captured and brought aboard the station. Poor Miles gets instantly sent back to the ore processing center, while the Intendant is more than delighted to have Sisko back as a plaything.
Sisko is then allowed, for some reason, to meet up with Jennifer, and to be honest, he doesn’t seem all that emotional at seeing his dead wife again. I think anyone who’s lost a loved one unexpectedly would be a total mess upon getting to spend one last day with that person’s exact duplicate, but Sisko just takes it all in stride. Great. The one time you want Avery Brooks to play to the cheap seats, and he holds back.
They have a long conversation where he eventually convinces her to leave the station and join the rebellion. He then uses a subdermal communicator to alert O’Brien, who breaks into a circuit panel and disables the station’s security systems. O’Brien escapes from ore processing, and a few other nameless Terran slaves escape with him so they can be used for cannon fodder later.
O’Brien meets up with the Siskos, and they all head to an airlock to board an escape shuttle. But all they find there is a dead Rom. Apparently, Rom was only pretending to be a traitor, and the Intendant shows up to reveal that Mirror Garak tortured him to death, and now she knows that getting captured was Sisko’s plan all along.
A big gunfight breaks out. The Terrans find themselves cornered, so they open up a convenient access panel and make their way back down to ore processing. There, Sisko uses his knowledge of Deep Space Nine’s security systems to activate the station’s self-destruct sequence. He threatens to blow up Terek Nor and kill everybody unless he and the other Terrans get safe passage off the station. After a few anxious moments, the Intendant buys his bluff, swearing that one day she’ll personally hunt him down.
The episode ends back at the rebel hideout, with Jennifer saying she knows Sisko is not really her husband, though it’s unclear what exactly tipped her off. She vows to stay with the rebels and help them fight on. Sisko says he doesn’t know if they’ll meet again (spoiler alert: they will), she gives him a goodbye kiss, and then he heads back to his own universe. And I’m mostly wondering how O’Brien is going to explain Sisko’s sudden disappearance to the other rebels. Is he going to admit it wasn’t the real Sisko? Can I be a fly on the wall when he tells Mirror Dax that she just fucked a complete stranger?
So there you have it: another perfectly serviceable, but ultimately forgettable Mirror Universe episode. This is one of those Star Trek episodes where you look at the clock and think, “yep, that was an hour,” and then go on with your life. I kept hoping that there would be some big payoff to bringing back Jennifer Sisko, a character that was such a crucial part of the pilot episode, but it never came.
And for those keeping score, they’ve now killed off Mirror Quark, Mirror Odo, Mirror Rom, and Mirror Sisko. Luckily, this isn’t TOS or TNG; they still have about twenty other side characters to blow through before they run out. Just wait until the show gets around to introducing Mirror Vedek Bareil (and I know what you’re thinking: Who? My point exactly).
Next up: Mirror Jennifer Sisko returns and kidnaps Sisko’s son Jake, in one of the most pleasant child abductions ever. Sisko goes to rescue him and gets drafted into helping the rebels build their own version of the USS Defiant to turn the tide of the war. Plus: Space battles! Mirror Worf! All that and more, coming up in “Shattered Mirror”.