WARNING: Spoilers from DS9's "Crossover" are approaching rapidly. Do not proceed further without proper preparation.
In brief: Wow.
"Crossover" might have a moment or two that I could nitpick given half a chance, but that is absolutely all I could do to it. It was, quite simply, a phenomenal episode on a great many levels.
First, the nitpicks, just so we can get them out of the way. "Crossover", like virtually any alternate-universe idea (the original "Mirror, Mirror" and "Yesterday's Enterprise" coming to mind for filmed Trek), suffers ever so slightly from the convenience of having most every character who is in the area in our universe also be in the same region in the alternate one. Such a setup is completely unavoidable, though; as evidence, given that DS9 avoided showing two regulars, Bashir and Dax, on the other side of the looking-glass, I both thought it was interesting to not show them and amazingly frustrating not to get to see what had happened to them. This is
a no-win setup, and they did a fine job. Other than that, my only nitpick is that the opening teaser scene in the runabout went on a little bit too long -- I realize it was necessary as the only light-hearted scene in the entire
show, but it dragged a bit. That's it.
Once that teaser was over, "Crossover" turned grim, and was in many ways a far more frightening picture of the mirror-universe than the original "Mirror, Mirror" ever was -- and I say this as someone who ranks "Mirror,
Mirror" as one of TOS's best achievements. "Mirror, Mirror" was an excellent show, but it never made my skin crawl or the hair on the back of my neck stand up the way "Crossover" did. Every change, every nuance suggested a great deal of "there but for the grace of God go we" -- and the combined effect was absolutely phenomenal.
The first kick-in-the-teeth moment of the show had to come when mirror-Kira asked Kira if she'd heard of "a human named Kirk". Kirk? Pardon me? I mean, I knew this was a sequel of sorts to "Mirror, Mirror", but I had
absolutely no idea going in that it was going to be that direct! Kira's story was interesting enough anyway, but suddenly hearing that reference made my ears perk up in a major, major way. This is at least the third "whatever happened to the mirror universe" story I've seen in some way, and all three are interesting in their own right. (All three are also mutually exclusive, but that's not surprising. And for the record, the other two are
The Mirror Universe Saga, a lengthy storyline in the DC comic for the original cast that came out about a decade ago, and Diane Duane's recent novel Dark Mirror. Both are well worth reading.)
And the eventual fate of the universe we last saw a hundred years or so ago was, to put it mildly, somewhat chilling. Some stories have had mirror-Spock change his mind and throw his lot in with the barbarians again; some have had him try to change things and fail. This one was the creepiest yet: he tried, and he succeeded -- and yet, that was the worst fate of all for humanity. (And no, I don't consider this, as I know some do, evidence for DS9's writers arguing a single-minded "disarmament is stupid" stance. There are times when you can do exactly the right thing and suffer horrible consequences for it. If you don't believe me, go watch "City on the Edge of Forever" and ask Edith Keeler. Peace was a good idea -- but right then, it would have led to exactly the wrong result.)
In this universe, much as we've seen in many cases in the real world, as soon as the oppressed have rid themselves of their oppression, they decide to turn right around and impose the same fate on their one-time masters. Bajor would probably do it to the Cardassians in the regular Trek universe if they could -- and here, everyone did it to the Terrans. Very realistic (regrettably), and very disturbing.
All the changes were extremely interesting. First, the universe changes: the Alliance symbol, a combination of Klingon and Cardassian (and Bajoran) symbols; the fact that the station is still named "Terak Noor", the revamping of the transporters to avoid a repeat of "the first crossover", the fact that no one knows about the wormhole (more about that later), a possible implication that the Duras family is high up in the Klingon Empire (at least, the Klingon who seemed high up on the station refers to them as being powerful) ... that's a lot of changes to put forth in a single show, and there are probably several that I've missed. And again, every single one opens the door to speculation and makes you get the feeling that you've missed something important.
Then, there are the character changes. Quark probably changed the least, which isn't too surprising. If anything, he may have gotten the least effective use this time around, as he was primarily there to get arrested andused as cannon fodder. It'll do, though.
Odo, on the other hand, was a thug through and through. Yes, he still had his shifting abilities (of course), and still "ran a tight ship", running the mines as efficiently as he tries to run security in the regular universe -- but here, he has no shreds of conscience, or of concern, or of anything else that keeps him from being a nightmare given form. And, just as if we weren't disturbed enough by him, he gets to swipe one of Quark's motifs by citing "Rule of Obedience #14" when slapping Bashir around. Brr.
That leaves the "big five" characters of the show: Kira (both of her), Bashir, O'Brien, Garak, and Sisko. Bashir's easy to take care of, since he is mostly the innocent trapped in a world gone horribly wrong. He does keep his
eyes open, and he is the one who convinces O'Brien to help them, but his role in the plot is very much secondary to Kira's.
Kira, on the other hand, was riveting. Nana Visitor, in addition to setting a great many people's hormones into overdrive this week, did a double-duty turn that might be the equal of Brent Spiner's trips into Loredom. While
most of the attention probably goes (and rightly so) to mirror-Kira, who seemed about a tenth of a step away from outright insanity while still remaining dangerously in control of everything and everyone, the regular Kira
shouldn't be left out; it was her reactions more than any other that helped lay out just how vile a place to inhabit this world was. For Bashir it was easy to be repulsed: he was immediately enslaved. Kira, though, was given a lot of freedom and offered a pivotal role -- and the fact that she found it equally frightening was a strong point. (Her early point that maybe Bajor could learn a thing or two from this universe was also quite in character,
and quite worrying to boot.)
Mirror-Kira's definite attraction to the regular Kira was an eye-opener as well. While Garak put it well ("the perfect gift for the girl who has everything"), there was some major sexual tension happening throughout the entire show. From mirror-Kira's instruction to "get this ... attractive young woman some quarters", to her joy at finding someone who could manipulate her, to her "I don't want your fear, I want your love!" quote in her own quarters, to her behaving almost like a jilted lover after Kira turns against her ... this all definitely suggested something, though I think whether we're talking lesbianism or simply a somewhat extended form of narcissism is up for debate. :-) In any case, it lent another sense of eeriness to the episode that was more than welcome.
(Another thought: the "I don't want your fear, I want your love!" could be taken as mirror-Kira talking to herself, too. This Kira seems desperately alone despite all her power, and it appeared that even she may not have been entirely happy with her position. Perhaps she's hoping to find someone, anyone, who can convince her to love herself?)
Garak, probably the most-seen recurring character DS9 has had so far (well, maybe Dukat has been on more; it's a near thing, and they're both wonderful), also took a very different turn. Garak may have been given somewhat short shrift, too, in that most of his complexities and mysteries that we see in the regular universe have been left by the wayside here, where he is in a position of power. That was pretty much made up for, however, by his one line to Kira about how well she's dressed. "I do admire a well-tailored gown." Eeeeeeeep.
O'Brien, while changing little in terms of basic abilities, was a very different man in his outlook on the world. Our O'Brien, while prone to a lot of grumbling, is still a pretty optimistic guy on the whole. This one most definitely is not. His refusal to help Bashir, while depressing, was absolutely on target for a man this broken -- and his protest that "I AM a decent man!" simply hurt to hear. That, combined with his speech to mirror-Kira about why he helped Bashir in the first place, made O'Brien a much larger character than the screen time he got might have suggested.
That leaves Sisko. YOW, but that leaves Sisko. This character was probably at least as complex and multi-faceted as the regular Sisko has become in two seasons, and it's amazing how well this one was both written and (especially) acted. Although Sisko talked a good game, two moments in particular made it pretty obvious how subservient he had made himself and just how badly he hated it: the look in his eyes when he answered mirror-Kira's call to her quarters, and his growled "ma'am!" to the regular Kira when she tried to get him to help. The latter, in particular, almost suggested a slave talking to his mistress -- which I'm sure is exactly what was intended. His "go ahead" to Kira, which we've heard about a zillion times in the past, took on a whole new meaning here as well, and Avery Brooks got to be orders of magnitude more off-putting, more devilish, and more outright creepy to watch than he's ever been. That laugh of his nearly kept me awake after watching the show; while I wouldn't want to get on either Sisko's bad side, I wouldn't want to get near this one even if he liked me. Major, major chills -- and a lot of applause.
"Crossover" can definitely be classified as an unqualified success for DS9. There may have been some minor glitches here and there, but there's absolutely nothing which distracted me from the story and from the people
involved while I was watching the show -- and that is a sure sign of a quality effort. Well, well done. (Peter Allan Fields, by having responsibility for this, "Duet", and "Necessary Evil", not to mention TNG's "The Inner Light", definitely needs a raise.)
On to some shorter points:
-- When Bashir told O'Brien that the two were best friends on the other side, I said out loud "well, at least Bashir lies well." Lisa then informed me that I was wrong, and that Bashir probably thought he was telling the
absolute truth. Makes sense to me. :-)
-- One wonders if the wormhole was an alternate, or if it is somehow constant across the dimensions. I'd guess the latter, which would make it easy to explain why there was no problem with the hole's inhabitants on the mirror side.
-- More importantly, there's a major consequence brewing. Not only are mirror-Sisko and company going to try to brew up trouble on their side of the wormhole, but the mirror universe now knows about the wormhole. This could suggest that they may try to expand into the Gamma Quadrant, and it might suggest that they could make it into "our" universe given the right circumstances. I smell sequel potential...
-- Okay, making Odo explode was a bit of a conceit, but what the hey; we'll never get to see it anywhere else.
That's about it. "Crossover" is a show to keep around to watch several times; you'll pick up different things each time, I'm sure. Try it.
So, summing up:
Plot: Riveting. A few conceits that are part and parcel of a universe-switching story, but nothing to worry about.
Plot Handling: Yes, like that. :-)
Characterization: Oh, heavens yes. Lots of it, and good stuff too.
OVERALL: An easy 10. Superb.
Bareil makes a return; but does he have a Cardassian plot in his past?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Have you lost your mind?"
"No. I just ... changed it."
-- mirror-Kira and mirror-Sisko