Monday, December 12, 2011

Hostages and Mirrors On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; "Through The Looking Glass"

The Good: Acting! Character development and idea, Cameos
The Bad: Out of order, sensibility of the resolution
The Basics: In a return to the alternate universe, Sisko is compelled to aid the Rebels in their conflict with the Alliance.

In the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Major Kira and Dr. Bashir stumbled into the alternate universe established in Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" and one of the most exciting subplots of the series was born. The episode was entitled "Crossover" (reviewed here!) and it was a great episode that illustrated the consequences of the episode "Mirror, Mirror:" when the alternate universe Spock reformed the Empire, it became crippled, allowing the Cardassian/Klingon Alliance to overrun it and enslave the humans. Now comes "Through the Looking Glass" where Sisko is forced to deal with the consequences of "Crossover."

When O'Brien comes to Ops and abducts Commander Sisko, it becomes immediately apparent that O'Brien is not who he seems to be. Instead, it is Smiley, the Miles O'Brien from the mirror universe. He has abducted Sisko because the alternate universe Sisko was killed in a skirmish on an important mission and O'Brien needs Sisko to complete that assignment. Commander Sisko learns of Professor Sisko, the neglected wife of the deceased Sisko, who appears identical to Jennifer Sisko, the Commander's dead wife. Professor Sisko is working for the Alliance and her animosity toward Sisko is leading her to develop a scanning device that will make it possible for the brutal Alliance to hunt down and destroy the Rebellion . . . forever enslaving the humans of the alternate universe.

Continuing this compelling subplot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Through the Looking Glass" resurrects the idea of Sisko's grief in a compelling way. Obviously, it would have been silly to try to bring back Jennifer Sisko considering the series began with her death, but here we have an intriguing way to return her to the forefront. And it's done with intelligence; Commander Sisko acknowledges immediately that Professor Sisko is not his wife and she makes similar observations about him.

As with "Crossover," "Through The Looking Glass" is a treat for both the actors and the viewers. The viewers will enjoy the way each of the characters are twisted. Here we meet the alternate universe Bashir and Dax, who are both renegades fighting in the Rebellion against the Alliance. Dax is deliciously seductive and Bashir is wonderfully aggressive. Fans of the Star Trek universe will also appreciate the appearance of the alternate universe Tuvok, who also is a member of the Rebellion. As with the prior episode, there is a casualty among the characters and this time, it's rather gruesome. Fans will delight to see the return of the Intendant Kira, the sexual, efficient and fluid leader of Terok Nor. Returning as well is Security Chief Garak who is bloodthirsty and cruel in the alternate universe.

The actors here must have had a field day. Max Grodenchik who has been playing Rom as an idiot for the past three years gets to stretch his acting wings here by playing the alternate universe Rom. There, Rom is vicious and cunning. Andrew Robinson makes the alternate Garak distinct and crueler than his regular character. The real acting kudos goes not to Avery Brooks who is forced to play Sisko as his alternate universe counterpart, which is much more difficult than his regular role, but rather to Nana Visitor and Colm Meany.

Colm Meany develops Smiley as an assertive, authoritarian character which is something O'Brien has never been in the normal universe. He sells us on Smiley's desperation as well as his tactical proficiency. Nana Visitor, though not having as many acting challenges as in "Crossover," works quite well as the Intendant. Diverging from her usual reserved, conservative role, Visitor infuses the Intendant with overt sexuality and a completely different energy than she usually possesses.

This is a cool idea: the Rebellion/Alliance conflict adds something of a Star Wars feel to the subplot. Smiley abducting Commander Sisko to impersonate his alternate universe self is a unique idea and for the most part, the subversion that goes on as Sisko and Smiley infiltrate Terok Nor to get to Professor Sisko is executed well. The final showdown that resolves the episode, while fun to watch and clever makes a bit less sense than the educated viewer would like it to.

The only other significant gripe against this episode is that it is out of order. Produced between two parts in one of the best two-part episodes of the series, "Through The Looking Glass," as distributed by Paramount is placed awkwardly when it could easily have been moved before the first part or after the second part, either way more effectively presenting the series. (On DVD, the episode is placed on the discs in airing order, negating this problem!)

This is a rewarding episode for the fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a great deal of fun for anyone who has seen even a single episode of this usually serious series. But instead of being silly, this episode takes what we know and twists it in an entirely different direction, forcing us to ask, "How would things be for us if one thing in our lives had changed?" A must for any fan of science fiction and the Star Trek franchise.

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


See how this episode stacks up against every other episode in the Star Trek franchise and read reviews of those episodes and movies by clicking here to visit the specialized index page!

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