Monday, November 21, 2011

"Crossover:" Return of the Empire . . . Sort of.

The Good: Excellent character work, Inspired acting, Effects, Mood
The Bad: Quasi-unoriginal plot, Ease of resolution
The Basics: "Crossover" is a wonderful tale of an alternate universe where people are not what they seem . . . everything is evil and twisted!

Oddly enough for a series that rejects so much of Gene Roddenberry's philosophies, more than any other Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine makes direct connections to Star Trek. Take "Crossover," episode 43 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It directly harkens to "Mirror, Mirror" from Star Trek (reviewed here!). In "Mirror, Mirror," a transporter accident puts Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura in a parallel - or alternate - universe. In the alternate universe, there is no Federation, but instead a vast, ruthless Empire. They go around extorting and destroying civilizations.

Enter "Crossover," wherein an exhausted Major Kira and Dr. Bashir head through the wormhole with a plasma leak in their Runabout. The mismatched pair ends up in that same alternate universe that Kirk visited nearly a century before. Now, the Empire has fallen and in its place, the Alliance has sprouted. The Alliance is led by the Klingons and the Cardassians and humans are slaves. The Bajorans, on the other hand, are highly regarded members of the Alliance and Terok Nor (the alternate universes' Deep Space Nine) is run by Kira's counterpart.

In fact, much of the episode is an exploration of our characters, mildly twisted. Intendant Kira is the highly political, sexy, overlord of Terok Nor, enforcing Cardassian and Klingon will and keeping the humans enslaved. O'Brien is a tinkerer nicknamed "Smiley" by the rogue captain Sisko, an embittered human somehow exempt from the mines. Odo is the cruel overlord keeping the human slaves in line in the ore processing center of Terok Nor using his "Rules of Obedience." Notably absent are Dax and an alternate universe Bashir. Ironically unchanged are Quark, who runs his same bar on Terok Nor as he does on Deep Space Nine, and Garak. Garak is cruel, methodical and mysterious. The only difference? He's Intendant Kira's first officer.

However, the mechanics of the alternate universe are somewhat unchanged and Garak seeks to advance in position by killing Intendant Kira and now, with the help of Major Kira (from our universe) he has the chance to succeed. Kira, then, is forced to rely on her own skills to rescue herself and the enslaved Bashir.

First of all, I applaud this episode for doing what "Mirror, Mirror" in Star Trek underplayed. It is a violent episode. And, I will happily reveal that it is a running subplot on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. This is not the sole trip into the alternate universe. The bodycount is above average for Star Trek Deep Space Nine at this time with some nice twists.

In addition to the violent, gritty feel of the episode, "Crossover" works as an extraordinary character study. Take Kira, because it is primarily a Kira episode. How sharp the writers were with her! It took me several viewings to realize that Intendant Kira's ambiguous sexuality was not simply a twist on Major Kira's heterosexuality. Instead, the Intendant's unabashed, open air of throbbing sexuality is in very vivid contrast to Kira's repressed sexuality. Until viewing this episode, I hadn't realized that (outside the growing attraction to Vedek Bareil last seen in "Shadowplay," reviewed here!) we haven't seen Kira in even a remotely sexual or romantic place.

And take Sisko, the usually "by-the-book" commander; he's an outlaw in the alternate universe. And yet, each character maintains a kernel of the character we know: O'Brien is proficient and mechanically inclined, Odo seeks to maintain order, and Intendant Kira has a profound love of her people. This makes for an intriguing and compelling character study that is entertaining.

Indeed, the prime reason to return to "Crossover" again and again is from the opening conversation wherein Kira and Bashir attempt to converse as individuals outside their professional boundaries to the closing frames of the episode, this is a highly entertaining piece. When the Runabout enters the alternate universe and Kira is stuck negotiating the difficult mechanisms that will get her home, Bashir is trapped in ore processing with a death mark on his head. Constantly leveraged against Kira, Bashir is used as a tool and is in constant, very real danger. And the beautiful thing about "Crossover," is there is not an empty sense of menace; characters are brutally slaughtered in the alternate universe throughout the episode!

The only real fault is in the ease of the resolution. Kira and Bashir's attempts to escape make a lot of character sense, but don't seem terribly practical considering the strength of the Alliance. And while there is a feel for fans of Star Trek that we've been here before, I feel "Crossover" progresses the alternate universe along quite well and sensibly.

This episode is quite accessible to fans of science fiction and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and anyone else who hasn't seen "Mirror, Mirror." It is nowhere near as interesting to those unfamiliar with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, though, because its magic is in how it twists known characters. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the beginning of one of the subplots.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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