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The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S3E19)’

“Too much spirit can be a dangerous thing. Tends to infect others.”
     -- Intendant Kira


One of the most difficult parts of writing fiction is conveying realistic movement when your characters are away. Villains -- well, good ones anyway -- aren’t just sitting on a throne in a room someplace, waiting for the heroes to show up and beat them in a swordfight. Villains have goals. In fact, villains tend to be the proactive ones, bucking the social order, while the heroes are the ones enforcing it, but that’s not really important right now. The point is that the world moves even when the heroes aren’t looking directly at it. It’s like Shrodinger’s Cat, but without the animal cruelty.

The DS9 writers get a chance to show off how well they do that with this week’s episode. It’s back to the Mirror Universe, first visited by Kira and Bashir in last year’s “Crossover.” This became an annual tradition by the DS9 writing staff to return to the Mirror Universe and check in with the place where everyone could play against type, and important characters could be offed with no consequences.

The episode opens with a funny scene of Odo explaining to the captain that he busted a probable vole-fighting operation run by Quark and noted barfly Morn. While Quark attempts to pawn off the blame on poor Morn, Sisko just wants to go off duty. Finally, Sisko orders the voles confiscated, and Quark, protesting that the vermin are like Morn’s pets, gets the punchline of the scene, “This is going to break his hearts.” As jokes like these pile up, Morn’s anatomy gets downright non-Euclidean.

Unfortunately for Sisko, O’Brien comes into Ops wearing civvies. Because I’ve already said this is a Mirror episode, you can deduce that this is actually Smiley O’Brien, who we last left fleeing slavery to be an engineer on Mirror Sisko’s pirate/rebel ship. Smiley kidnaps our Sisko at phaserpoint, and using a modified transporter -- those O’Briens, so good with transporters -- goes back to the other side. That rebellion Kira and Bashir started has some legs. Now, there’s a whole group of them, led by Mirror Sisko, hiding out in the Badlands and making life difficult for the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance.

Here’s the problem: Mirror Sisko has recently been killed, but he was on an important mission at the time. All Smiley wants is for our Sisko to take the other guy’s place and get it done. Sisko would rather go home. At least, until Smiley gives him the details. A Terran collaborator-scientist is developing a new kind of sensor array for the Alliance. With that, they can cruise into the Badlands and wipe the rebellion out once and for all. That scientist is technically still married to Mirror Sisko. Her name? Jennifer.

That’s right, Jennifer Sisko, who you remember dying way back in the pilot at the hands -- well, cube -- of the Borg. She’s a posthumous character, remembered mostly from the rose-colored memories of her loving husband and son. It’s a pretty ingenious solution to the problem of why our Sisko would help these people, and it opens up interesting storylines down the road. She’s not Sisko’s Jennifer, but she’s the closest thing. And, do you really think Jake is going to split hairs on the differences? Jake isn’t in this episode, but these two characters eventually crossing paths is a foregone conclusion.

Sisko agrees, and we get a few more mirror counterparts to our loyal crew. Bashir is an arrogant and combative rebel. Rom is out for revenge for the murder of his brother and, in a nice acting note, is using a variation on the original Rom voice from the very early episodes. Voyagers Tuvok shows up as one of the rebels, as well, because presumably it would be illogical not to. Dax is Mirror Sisko’s girlfriend, and “to keep up the ruse” Sisko has to have sex with her. Yeah, right. You just wanted to know what it was really like without the weirdness back home. Sisko actually has sex twice in this episode -- offscreen both times, but still -- with Mirror Dax and Mirror Kira. This is also the first time the character gets any. If that’s not a crime, I don’t know what is. I guess there’s nothing like Mirror Strange to get over your dead wife.

Sisko’s plan is a good one. Using Rom as a double agent, Sisko leaks his impending arrival on Terok Nor to the Intendant, and like every movie villain from 2008-now, gets himself captured. This way he can get some alone time with Jennifer and convince her that while Mirror Sisko is a total d--k, that doesn’t mean that the Terran Rebellion is a bad thing. Jennifer does eventually relent, though there’s a quick moment when Sisko basically decides to be selfless and awesome, that she gives him a look. If this were a hacky ‘80s sitcom, she even would have said the line, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?”

Quick sidebar: They have a really weird wig on the actress who plays Jennifer. I have no idea what’s happening, but it looks like something they took off a Klingon. Maybe there’s pressure for collaborators to do their hair like Klingons or Cardassians? Maybe I’m reading too much into something. I’ve been known to do that. It’s kind of my whole thing.

The heroes get out of Terok Nor, but not before finding Rom tacked to the wall with a dagger. This holds up the tradition of killing familiar faces willy nilly in these episodes. It gets to a ridiculous extreme in the final one of these, where a character literally shows up just long enough to be shot. Odo was killed in “Crossover” just to see what it would look like. Awesome as it turned out. It looked awesome.

With this episode, DS9 is exploring the consequences of its consequences. That’s right, it’s getting recursive. Returning to an alternate reality just to see what the effects were of the last time you showed up is pretty interesting idea on the face of it. Eventually, it kind of gets away from them, but here it is still relatively fresh. The best part, though, is that Sisko can reunite with Jennifer, even if she’s not precisely the same person who died at Wolf 359.


Next up: Garak has a really disgruntled customer.

Justin Robinson is the author of many novels and can be found in his lair at captainsupermarket.com.  He would like to emphasize that, contrary to rumors, he is, in fact, a mammal, though still has not obtained documentation to prove it.

Favorite Golden Girl:  Rose
Favorite Cheese Form:  Melted
Favorite God: Hanuman

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