WARNING: If you read spoilers for DS9's "Shattered Mirror"" too early, you'll face seven years of bad luck.
Brief summary: When Jake is taken to the mirror universe by the mirror-Jennifer, Sisko follows, only to find himself drawn into yet another conflict.
After "Through the Looking Glass" last year, I wasn't looking all that forward to another mirror-universe tale; it was certainly fun, but it spent so little time doing anything with the characters that I figured a third mirror tale would be another shoot-em-up rehash.
Well, "Shattered Mirror" managed to surprise me ... somewhat. While it still didn't even approach the complexity of characterization that mirror-Sisko, mirror-Kira and mirror-O'Brien had in "Crossover", it had three major improvements over "Through the Looking Glass" while only adding one detriment. Just by simple
arithmetic, that's a step up. :-)
I'll tackle the detriment first, as it's got the shortest name: Worf. I complained strongly last year when "Through the Looking Glass" suddenly decided to make sure that everyone not already dead had a counterpart in the mirror universe. This time was no better at that -- and I think throwing Worf into the mix made it even less convincing. We're told he's "regent" -- of what, might I ask? The entire Alliance? This sector? Does anyone know? In addition, the power structure on board the ship suggests rather strongly that the "Alliance", which was established previously as a Klingon/Cardassian alliance, is now pretty much entirely a Klingon affair. That, while perhaps less "confusing" to the new viewers who came in with this season, is also a substantial
change without explanation, which strikes me as a cheat. (There's also the fact that "Crossover" suggested that the Duras family was rather high up in the Empire; did Worf pop out of nowhere to change that just because Dorn is now on the show?) There were only a few real benefits to having Worf around, two of them being that it gave a "face" to the enemy during the final battle and that it let Dorn do a lot of relatively entertaining snarling -- but frankly, I don't think those are enough.
The other benefit to having Worf around, though, was that it provided a lovely way to rehabilitate mirror-Garak. Last time around, Garak was a thug, and a fairly boring one at that. This time, Garak's fallen out of favor and needs to talk his way out of trouble -- just the sort of thing "our" Garak excels at. As a result, we got dialogue like "You are attempting to shift the blame away from yourself!"/"Am I succeeding?", which was a great Garak response. Fixing Garak was big improvement number one.
Big improvement number two was actually throwing in some emotional tension beyond the "we have to save the universe" stuff. "Through the Looking Glass" tried it to some extent by setting up the Sisko/Jennifer scenario, but I never got a sense of much resonance there. Here, however, bringing in Jake and the "one big happy family" lurking in the background did quite a bit to improve on that. Sisko didn't just have to fight down hatever feelings he was dealing with -- he had to deal with his son's as well, and a son who's still innocent enough to see Jennifer as Mom even if he intellectually knows differently. That helped give Sisko a bit more urgency, as did the simple fact that Jake could die as well if he screwed up. A definite plus, even if I wasn't entirely thrilled with Felecia Bell's performance.
Improvement number three was a certain sense of moral ambiguity that typified a lot of early DS9 and has been absent more often than not of late. Oh, the bad guys here were certainly still the bad guys, and how; but the "good guys" were crossing quite a few ethical lines right and left. Besides the simple fact that they used an innocent Jake to get Sisko to help them, we also saw Bashir begin to change from victim to oppressor while giving Kira a "lesson" in obedience. I'm not entirely certain I should call this a major improvement, since only throwing the ambiguities on one side ends up making pretty much everybody in the mirror universe an unpleasant character, but it certainly helps. (It's also not necessarily an improvement, since kidnapping Sisko was important in "Through the Looking Glass" as well.)
Apart from that, "Shattered Mirror" was more or less plot-driven, and it was a plot I think most people have seen some semblance of before. There's the rush to repair a ship before an imminent attack; check. There's mirror-Kira vamping it up with everything possessing a pulse; check (and still a big step down from "Crossover"; Nana Visitor may have had a blast, but I was hoping for more than that). There's Jennifer's change of heart and eventually sacrificing herself to save Jake; check. There's the unexpected win against impossible odds after Sisko decides to stay; check. I'm not saying I particularly objected to any of that, mind you -- most of it was fun -- but it certainly telegraphed everything so far as to hold little in the way of surprises.
There were a few scenes I could have done without, though. One is the whole Jake/Nog story; while I understand its usefulness in its effect on Jake and how it brought home the contrast for him, it just sat there. (On the other hand, is it possible now to do a fourth mirror-story for DS9? They've run out of Ferengi to kill. :-) The other is some of the Worf material, particularly the "what have you done with the key?" bit with Garak. All that scene did was make both Worf and his aide look like total idiots, which sort of begs the question of how
the Alliance could have won so damn often. No, thanks.
That's actually about it for the main points. Several little ones, then:
-- It's worth noting that this is the first "mirror" episode I can think of where there was never any attempt made or suggested to have someone masquerade as their counterpart. Interesting.
-- As much as I dumped on the Jake/Nog bits this time, they were foreshadowed well by Jake's first scene (also known as the Let's-Give-Rene-and-Armin-Screen-Time scene).
-- Poor Ben. Last year, he got to sleep with Dax and punch out Bashir. This time, Bashir punched back and Dax slapped him. Payback's a bitch. :-) (He did, of course, still get to play swashbuckler during the final act, though, so it couldn't have been all bad.)
-- Given all the "Star Wars" echoes that showed up in last year's "mirror" episode, I was on the lookout for them. Perhaps the "Alliance ships do have one weakness" is reaching a bit, but the last act was full of them. We had Sisko's "sometimes I even surprise myself", as opposed to Han's "sometimes I amaze even myself"; we had the pursuit by a gigantic ship turned into a collision course; we had Bashir and Dax showing up for a last-minute rescue a la the Falcon (a very effective scene, by the way; I'd forgotten about them); we had Worf's "while you dispose of the Intendant, I will dispose of the rebels" a la Vader's "day long remembered" speech; and, of course, one of Jen's last words is "Ben....", which had us laughing our heads off, expecting "Dagobah system?" to be the next line. :-)
-- Garak's complaint about at least being able to "please" Kira now and then was interesting, mostly because of what it was implying about his current situation. "You are not my type", indeed.
-- The big battle through half of act five was just a treat visually. We don't usually get to see the Defiant darting around like that, and it was a blast. (Plus, it gave a good sense of how huge Worf's ship was; there were Star Destroyer echoes, of course, but it was still effective.)
That should about cover it. I wouldn't put "Shattered Mirror" in the same category as "Crossover" by any means, but it's a pretty solid, entertaining hour. I'm not sure how well a fourth jaunt would work, but the third still had some life left in it.
So, wrapping up:
Writing: A simple but well-executed plot, and some of the characters were improved over last time.
Directing: The battle sequence was a standout, but the episode as a whole seemed to move pretty well.
Acting: Lots of snarling does not generally mean Emmy-level performances, but most people were at least fine. (Cirroc Lofton was particularly good.)
OVERALL: 8, I think; cute.
Vampire Lady, from the look of it.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"So what am I supposed to do with these torpedoes?"
"I have a few ideas."
-- mirror-Bashir and mirror-O'Brien