Deep Space Nine: s04 e20 – Shattered Mirror

I don’t know to what extent it was the episode and to what extent it was me, but I found this week’s DS9 curiously uninvolving.

As the title gave away, it was another Mirror Universe story, and a fairly simple one to summarise: the Rebels under Smiley O’Brien have control over Terok Nor (i.e., DS9), but the Alliance have sent a fleet under Klingon leader Worf to recapture it. When he was on DS9, Smiley stole schematics that have enabled the Rebels to build their own Defiant, but they need Sisko to refine it. In the end Sisko pilots the Mirror Defiant to force the Alliance Fleet to retreat.

With the exception of Smiley, who has pretty much merged with the Chief in terms of personality, the rest of the regular cast hammed it up unmercifully in their altered roles, which is where I think the story simply didn’t work. Worf and the cringing Garak were just completely OTT, and the script indulged them past the point where this felt like any kind of commentary upon their normal characters: it was too much an indulgence to the actors to be at all realistic.

This surrounding detracted from what was the only real point of the exercise, which was to bring together Jake Sisko of our universe with the Mirror Professor Jennifer Sisko, the duplicate of his dead mother.

I wasn’t even sure how much that worked. The whole idea played into deep emotions, but the episode rarely lifted itself above the idea of a dream-come-true. Jake is fascinated by Jennifer, and accepts her invitation to come see her Universe, which is the snare that gets Sisko to cross over. Jake has already constructed an image in his mind of his family restored, pairing Jennifer with Sisko, bringing back a life destroyed years ago in a pain-free haze of wish-fulfillment.

Anyone with the remotest sense of adult consciousness knows that this situation is fraught with emotional and psychological danger, but the episode never escaped from being adolescent fantasy. Which, considering even for a second the effect of losing a parent at a very young age, of living what is now half your life without that parent, was simply inadequate. Even when Jennifer dies (at the hands of Intendant Nerys, slinking it about in her silver-grey skin-tight pants, giving it not so much ham as the full cow), throwing herself in front of a shot intended for Jake, like any mother would, Jake doesn’t really get all that sad.

It’s unrealistic and superficial, an episode that tried to drape itself with one of the deepest human feelings without once dipping more than the littlest toe into the psychological reality of its setting. Dreams and games, that’s all this episode was, and that’s why it left me cold and unable to take an interest.



4 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s04 e20 – Shattered Mirror

  1. The first Mirror Universe episode on DS9, Crossover, was more serious in nature in the themes it dealt it. After that with Through the Looking Glass and this one, they went more towards building that universe and changing focus to action focused episodes. And those two are great action episodes, where the writers could play around and take chances with the characters, killing them off and giving an element of surprise. And well, fun.

    You do bring up an interesting point on Jake and his (mirror) mother, as the set up to get the wheels in motion. The only thing I could say Jake wasn’t *that* young, around 12 when the battle with the Borg happened and he’s 17-18 at this point. And as budding writer, it’s something unique for him to explore…

  2. Point taken re Jake, but I have hands-on experience with this: my Dad, when I was 14. Even now, if he suddenly appeared from a parallel universe, it wouldn’t be my literary instincts that woke.

    1. The only other thing I would add, is that Jake, while maturing into adulthood, as a character still had a bunch of child like moments, where he didn’t think….

      This episode and premise would seem to be an idea that would be perfected with an Astro City type story. Balancing out the emotional core of Jake and the Captain’s feelings, with the absurdness of the situation, which is a commonplace trope in Trek and other sci-fi that we’re used to and as such the characters themselves are used to.
      I’m guessing that novels and comics(all non-canon) play with this element of the absurd or amazing situation is nothing ordinary to our characters, more than the canon ever did or has…

  3. Perhaps. But then I’m only watching DS9, and I’m not delving into non-canon books. I can only go by my own reactions and experiences, which told me that this story tried to skip round an emotional component that I see as being inevitable and fundamental, and that meant it didn’t work.

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