Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Rebellion Takes On The Alliance In The Alternate Universe In "Shattered Mirror!"

The Good: Excellent acting, Tone, Character development
The Bad: Undertone of repetitiveness
The Basics: When the alternate universe Jennifer abducts Jake, Sisko is extorted to helping the Rebellion build a Defiant to overthrow the Alliance.

One of the best and most ambitious subplots Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had was the alternate universe. In the Mirror Universe, everything is slightly twisted: humans and Vulcans live as slaves to the Alliance of Klingons and Cardassians. The Bajorans seem to have an uneasy place in the Alliance and when last seen, the Terran Rebellion against the Alliance had escaped certain death on Terok Nor, the alternate universe version of Deep Space Nine.

In "Shattered Mirror," the mirror universe Jennifer Sisko appears to Captain Sisko to reveal that the Terrans have won a major battle; they have taken Terok Nor. Jennifer meets Jake, the son she never had in the alternate universe and when Sisko is called away, they begin spending time together. Sisko returns to his quarters to find them gone and he follows the pair into the alternate universe via a device Jennifer left behind. On Terok Nor, Smiley - the alternate universe counterpart to O'Brien - reveals that Jake is a hostage: Sisko will help the Rebellion finish their Defiant before Regent Worf arrives to retake the station or Jake will die. Interspersed with Security Chief Garak being tormented by the Regent and Intendant Kira being interrogated by Bashir, Sisko grudgingly agrees to help the Rebellion one last time.

The one reason "Shattered Mirror" does not achieve perfection is that, in some ways, we've done this before. While there is a definite progression in the storyline in the alternate universe, there is the feeling that the episode is attempting to repeat the successes of the twists and turns of "Crossover" and "Through The Looking Glass." This is especially true with the introduction of the alternate universe Nog and Regent Worf. Nog is simply the latest Ferengi in the chain of alternate universe Ferengi to step forward. As a result, his fate is not a surprise.

Regent Worf, however, is at the least intriguing. It's another interesting twist on one of our usual characters; unlike our Worf, the Regent is loud, outwardly violent and so forceful as to be almost clumsy. He lacks Worf's subtlety and cunning. Seeing Worf is a pleasant twist and adapting the mirror universe to include him is great. Unfortunately, there is still no sign of a mirror Dukat.

What this episode manages to do that the prior two did not is explore one of our main characters more completely. While Kira's experience in "Crossover" enlightens her to an entirely different reality, how she plays off the Intendant is more to illuminate the Intendant than actually grow her own character. Here, Sisko and especially Jake have a chance to grow. Sisko gets the chance to be himself as opposed to posing as his counterpart (unlike "Through The Looking Glass"). And while Jake initially reflects the wonder the viewer feels at seeing the twists in the characters we know, soon he begins to grow as a boy seeing his long lost mother. Jake's part in "Shattered Mirror" is rather impressive. Dr. Sisko, Jennifer, relates to Jake and Jake latches on to her with a desperation that reads as very real and very true.

What sells the episode is the acting. All of the actors manage to quite convincingly play their alternates remarkably with almost no hint of their primary character intact. While Alexander Siddig plays Captain Bashir as a hothead, full of anger and cunning, Terry Farrell makes Jadzia a quick, dangerous woman who is almost entirely lacking in the humor she has in the regular universe.

Add to them, Aron Eisenberg does a magnificent job at making Nog twisted and outright mean, two traits he never had in our universe. Eisenberg delivers his clever and humorous lines with a complete deadpan and he is fun to watch in "Shattered Mirror." And, as always Colm Meany steps up to give an original performance of Smiley, making him desperate and intelligent in a way that the usually laid-back O'Brien does not seem.

But the three actors playing their pure characters work best. Avery Brooks makes Sisko begrudging, though willing. He manages his facial expressions in a way that expresses his knowledge that he is beaten, but not unsympathetic to the plight of the Rebellion. Similarly, Felicia Bell's portrayal of Jennifer Sisko is impressive for the range and enthusiasm she is able to reveal. Not before on the series has she been used so well.

The actor who steps forward the most is Cirroc Lofton. Lofton is given a unique chance to play Jake in a way that he could not otherwise do. While usually Jake is trying to set Captain Sisko up with Kassidy Yates, here he has the chance to experience the fantasy of having his mother and father together and Lofton plays that up with eagerness and enthusiasm that transport his character to a much younger age. This makes a lot of sense and Lofton uses impressive discretion while playing Jake in this fashion.

"Shattered Mirror" marks one of the few times that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relied on computer-generated special effects for a space battle. Given the sizes of the models, it became impossible for the Defiant and Regency One to have a battle any other way. While the battle is spectacular, it does not take much of a trained eye to see that this one is done by a computer.

"Shattered Mirror" is great for anyone who likes decent science fiction stories. It's actually the ideal episode for those who are Star Wars fans, but who dislike Star Trek. In the alternate universe, we see a truly oppressive government and a sensibly understaffed, underpowered Rebellion desperately fighting it. Unlike Star Wars, where there is little to no evidence of Imperial brutality, save in retribution to the terrorist acts of the Rebels, in "Shattered Mirror" and the mirror universe subplot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there are genuine consequences to rebelling: failure means slavery, stepping up is putting one's neck out for death. The mirror universe episodes tend to be bloodbaths and "Shattered Mirror" is no exception. It's enough to remind a viewer why adults like science fiction for adults.

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


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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