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WARNING: Call them what you will, they're still spoilers for DS9's "The Emperor's New Cloak," and they're still below.

In brief: "Travesty" is a bit strong, so ... well, actually, no it's not.

Brief summary: Quark and Rom go into the mirror universe in an attempt to rescue Grand Nagus Zek.

Having recently read Armin Shimerman and David R. George's novel The 34th Rule, I've come to realize anew that stories with a major Ferengi presence often have a lot of potential. The 34th Rule gives the readers Ferengi who aren't simply parodies of capitalism, a Grand Nagus Zek with a true talent for scheming and business, clashes of Ferengi philosophy which aren't simply tempest-in-a-teapot stories, and a pretty engaging story in the bargain. I've resolved to look at Ferengi stories in a new light.

Unfortunately, that new light first shone on "The Emperor's New Cloak." While not the offense against human dignity that was "Profit and Lace" last year, this show is nearly as unwatchable. For a change, however, that's not primarily due to the influence of Quark, Rom, and Zek; rather, it's because the mirror universe as shown over the last few years appears to have completely and utterly played itself out.

The basic idea here is that a mirror-universe Ezri, whom we soon find is a mercenary willing to hire out to whichever side pays her better, enters our universe to deliver Quark a message from Zek. Zek, who foolishly chose to enter the mirror universe in search of new avenues of profit, has now been taken hostage by the Alliance (the bad guys, for those who left their scorecards at home) and can only be ransomed with a cloaking device. So, off go our intrepid Ferengi heroes to get said device and deliver it to the Regent, our friendly neighborhood Worf.

So what's wrong with that scenario?

Well, it's like this: Every mirror-universe story which has really succeeded has offered at least one of two things. Either we've seen a complex, multi-faceted mirror-universe character who makes for fairly compelling viewing (see Spock in "Mirror, Mirror" or Kira in "Crossover") or a serious web of intrigue as people need to
impersonate their doubles (see either of the above two episodes, Mike Barr's "Mirror Universe Saga" from DC Comics in the mid-80s, or Diane Duane's Dark Mirror). As mirror-DS9 stories have continued on, however, both of those have been slowly fading away -- and while the latter may be difficult to maintain for a long time, the net effect of losing both is that we get shows which amount to little more than sets of cameos: "Hey, let's see who we can toss in now!"

What's worse, with the possible exception of "Smiley" O'Brien, there is no longer a single character in that universe I would want to spend as much as two minutes with. The mirror-Sisko was a complex, driven man who was very interesting in "Crossover"; alas, he's dead. Mirror-Kira's still around; unfortunately, all of her needy duality has been replaced with even more intense vampish qualities (not to mention even further playing up of that Eeeeevil Lesbianism Thang [TM]). The original mirror-Garak (as seen in "Crossover") was a patient man who thought on several levels at once; while he clearly wanted more power, he was also circumspect in his approaches.

Now, presented for your viewing pleasure, here is the current crop of mirror-universe denizens:

Mirror-Kira, the Intendant: see above.

Mirror-Worf, the Regent: Ah. Someone who slugs and kills his underlings for fun, destroys people when they've outlived their usefulness, and who throws tantrums (and furniture) when he doesn't get his way. While it's tempting to make jokes like "Oh, so Ken Starr's on steroids now," the truth is that the character isn't even that interesting.

Mirror-Garak: a sadistic, sniveling little toady. Not what I want to see from Garak or from Andrew Robinson.

Captain "Smiley" Mirror-O'Brien: Still potentially interesting (due in no small way, I suspect, to Colm Meaney), but we didn't see enough of him here to be sure.

Mirror-Bashir: A strutting, killing-obsessed jerk. No, thanks.

Mirror-Brunt: An improvement on the original Brunt, to be sure, but that's not necessarily saying much. Besides, before we could decide whether we liked him or not he was stabbed by the Intendant, thus keeping up the mirror-universe quota of one dead Ferengi per episode.

Mirror-Ezri: A treat for those who wanted to see Nicole deBoer punked-out, Ezri here gets to play the "mercenary who grows a conscience" Han Solo role. However, if I wanted to see Solo, I'd watch Solo.

Mirror-Leeta: Clearly, the Intendant's vamping and Ezri's passionate kiss with the Intendant are no longer enough to satisfy the hormone-laden teenage demographic, or so it's believed. Thus ... cleavage, and the hint of yet another lesbian one-night-stand in the near future.

Mirror-Vic: Yes, you heard me. There's a Vic Fontaine in this universe, he's real, and mirror-Bashir phasers him. Apart from satisfying those with a severe Vic fetish, what on Earth was the point of this one?

As presented, the above crop of characters may or may not be capable of rising above the level of stock dialogue and scenes -- but we can't know, as they're never given the opportunity. O'Brien gets to say "We're fighting for our freedom, for our very lives," while Bashir insists that his dislike of Ezri has "nothing to do with Jadzia," who was killed in a skirmish sometime after that universe's Terry Farrell opted out of her contract. Worf talks about "crushing the rebellion once and for all," Kira gets to proposition anything with a pulse ...and so forth. It's rare that an episode runs from beginning to end without so much as a single scene making me lean forward in my seat interested in the action, but "The Emperor's New Cloak" managed it.

Then, there are the loopholes and serious attacks of plot convenience. For one thing, given that Quark and Rom outright stole a cloaking device from Martok in order to free Zek in the first place, shouldn't the next episode open with the two of them in jail? Odo's said for years that he'd love to nail Quark for a legitimate crime; well, here you go, Constable. But, hey, there's only half a season left; we can't afford little things like consequences can we?

As another example ... one wonders just how in blazes Zek found his way into the mirror-universe in the first place. This one's actually mentioned in dialogue -- Zek tells Rom that he happened to spy the schematic for the "multi-dimensional transport device" (which really sounds like it belongs in "Hardware Wars," but I digress) on a padd Rom brought home to Ferenginar once. Excuse me? Am I to understand that one of the biggest and best-kept secrets in Federation history is common enough knowledge that O'Brien would entrust a schematic of such a device to Rom, and that Rom would be intensely stupid enough to bring it home with him? Methinks someone, or perhaps several someones, should be facing a court-martial here...

[As a quick entertaining aside, once the cloaking device is powered up Garak delightedly exclaims, "It's working!" Well ... if he's inside the ship, how could he know? Did he hail the Defiant and say, "By the way, you can't see us, can you?" :-) ]

There are plenty of other things I could bring up (such as the usual equating of alternate sexuality with evil intent, or how intensely annoying Rom's shrill dialogue is this time around), but suffice it to say that "The Emperor's New Cloak" is not one to keep. I've had a soft spot for the mirror universe ever since I first saw "Mirror, Mirror" a couple of decades ago, but at this point I don't want to see it again unless a lot of its history is summarily tossed out an airlock. It's not interesting any more. The bumper at the beginning of the episode said "In Memory of Jerome Bixby," who created the mirror universe in the first place; I'm just glad he never saw this one.

Wrapping up:

Writing: Sexual innuendo and annoying personal habits do not a story make, or even a particularly entertaining scene make.
Directing: It's hard to say when it's this bad a mess. I'd be inclined to lay at least some responsibility at LeVar Burton's feet, however.
Acting: Meaney was the sole bright spot; others were inoffensive at best.

OVERALL: 1. I was just thinking that DS9 hadn't had a complete dud all season; I really ought to know better.

NEXT WEEK:

Ezri faces her inner demons to understand a killer.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*>
"You worthless piece of space trash."
-- mirror-Bashir's idea of light repartee

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