3.19: “Through the Looking Glass”

I haven’t forgotten about this blog!!! In fact I have had this post half-finished for a few weeks now, and have been plagued by guilt for not getting to it, but have also been in the middle of starting a new job and moving halfway across the country. And also there’s, you know, the world. Twice a week may still be a little ambitious, but I’m going to try it!

Also, Liz and Anika over at Antimatter Pod were gracious enough to have me on again, this time to discuss villains in Star Trek. I’ll bet you can guess which specific villain I was there to discuss!

Anyway. On to the episode!

Synopsis: Sisko is kidnapped by the mirror universe’s Miles O’Brien, who needs his help: a scientist on Terok Nor is working on a project that would wipe out the Terran resistance. O’Brien believes that Sisko may be able to persuade her to change sides — because she’s the mirror version of his late wife, Jennifer.

In part this one seems like it’s mostly an excuse for characters who didn’t get in on the fun last time — Bashir, Dax, Rom, Tuvok for some reason — to do so now. Which, fair enough! But DS9 never really makes up its mind whether to be serious or campy with the mirror universe, and it makes for a bit of a mess, tonally, since they never really find a balance the way, IMO, Star Trek: Discovery generally did.

For instance, Sisko sleeping with Jadzia is…uh, treated surprisingly casually? With Kira, it’s arguably a matter of survival, and one might suggest the same with Jadzia — that he needs to maintain his cover — but there’s…really no reason he couldn’t let her in on the secret as well, is there? He’s not staying in the mirror universe long-term, there’s really no reason at least a few other members of their resistance cell couldn’t be let in on the full plan. (Apart from the obvious “the more people you let in on the plan the more likely it is that one of your enemies will find out” principle, but still, it would’ve been interesting if Jadzia, at least, had been in on it.) Hell, everything and everyone in the mirror universe is so horny that even after Sisko told her his true identity, there’s a good chance Jadzia would’ve been like “your point being?” while continuing to disrobe. But even leaving aside the ethics of sleeping with someone while pretending to be your own alter ego, it’s surprising that Sisko is so chill about the whole “sleeping with one of his oldest friends” deal, especially given that, since mirror Jadzia is also referred to as Dax now and then, she’s apparently joined here, too.

Of course, they kiss and then go off alone, and in the next scene they’re both fully clothed, so maybe they just made out a little and then cuddled? (My roommate pointed out while watching Discovery, when someone refers to Lorca as “depraved”, that given how kinky and sexual everything in the mirror universe seems to be by default, for them, “depraved” could mean, like, tender, vanilla, romantic sex, an idea I find funny enough that I’ve taken it as my personal headcanon. So maybe mirror Jadzia and mirror Sisko’s affair is actually minimally sexual!)

Let’s go back to Kira for a little bit

Whew, the Intendant. I’ve talked a bit about the costume — apparently between takes Visitor would have to just be surrounded by fans because it didn’t breathe at all and sweat would discolor it. But good lord, just…everything about the Intendant is kind of a yikes. Like — again, if they could settle on a tone, I feel like she could make a fantastic villain. I’ve said before that Mirror Kira is, at least in “Crossver“, essentially Dukat. In that first appearance, she was as paternalistic about the Terrans as Dukat Prime is about the Bajorans, saying that before the Alliance conquered them the Terrans were “barbarians”, and that “I have no taste for violence; I regret using it even when it seems necessary”.

By “Through the Looking Glass”, however, she seems much more just a campy, cartoonish villain. Like, one of my notes for this episode is “good lord, I think the Intendant might actually be hornier than Dukat”. Slaves fanning her and feeding her fruit! Random executions just to keep the slaves on their toes! It ends up just being ridiculous, rather than being as interesting — and disturbing — as it could’ve. Because, you know, these are slaves, and she is in charge of the station. If she’s having sex with them, it’s rape, and if she’s not, she’s at the very least sexually exploiting people who aren’t able to refuse her requests. Nana Visitor has said that she didn’t love how “Civil Defense” plays it for laughs when Garak calls Dukat out on his attraction to Kira, pointing out correctly that just a few years prior, if Dukat had decided he wanted her, Kira wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter; it’s hard not to be reminded of that when seeing Intendant Kira surrounded by half-clothed slaves, and it’s disappointing that the show doesn’t really seem to take seriously the fact that she’s, you know, a rapist.

I said in DS9’s previous outing to the mirror universe that it was really obvious, looking at Intendant Kira’s uniform vs. those of Discovery‘s Imperial Starfleet, which show’s costume shop was run by a woman, and I can’t help thinking something similar here, that it seems obvious which show’s writers’ room had more women in it. (Or, occasionally, which show’s writers’ room has any women in it; Deep Space Nine‘s seventh season has exactly zero episodes credited to female writers, and overall it has the fewest episodes credited to female writers of any Star Trek series.)

Discovery‘s mirror universe, while it had some of the over-the-top aesthetics (weird, slightly kinky uniforms, lots of gold, an Imperial Palace whose aesthetic appeared to be, as Liz put it, “80s music video filmed in a Trump hotel”), also managed to be genuinely unsettling. They also used the arc to drive the plot forward and have their time in the mirror universe affect the characters, catalyzing a number of arcs (leaving aside Lorca’s agenda, there’s also Ash Tyler/Voq’s increasing mental instability and ultimate breakdown and Michael Burnham’s sense of responsibility for the Klingon war and her continuing guilt over Georgiou’s death).

I admit, the comparison isn’t entirely fair — Discovery spent a third of its first season in the mirror universe, rather than one episode every season or so. TV conventions have changed enough that it’s also more serialized in general, so it can take more time for arcs to unfold rather than cramming everything into one forty-odd-minute episode. And, of course, it has a much bigger budget, shorter seasons, and more time to write and film. But I guess this is one of those situations where the fact that DS9 does enough interesting, thoughtful stuff around power and oppression that it’s all the more noticeable, and disappointing, when they drop the ball.

And also Tuvok was there?

What’s that about? The only thing resembling an explanation that I’ve found was on Memory Alpha, and even that only says that it was Rick Berman’s request and doesn’t say why. I mean, I don’t object (except insofar as I have a kneejerk “screw that guy” reaction the name “Rick Berman”)! I have no strong feelings about his presence one way or another. It just strikes me as weird to randomly have a Voyager character in there.

It also makes me curious about the Vulcans’ alignment in the mirror universe. In Discovery, the Vulcans were part of the rebellion against the Terran Empire, with Sarek as a fairly significant figure in that rebellion. I’m guessing that at some point, probably after the destruction of the Charon and apparent death/disappearance of the Emperor and her heir, the Vulcans aligned themselves with the Empire, since now, a hundred-odd years later, there appear to be human and Vulcan slaves on Terok Nor, a station run by the Klingon-Cardassian alliance. Again, I guess they could be Romulans, but given that a Vulcan is also a part of the rebellion against the Alliance, it seems like, at some point, the Vulcan-Klingon alliance broke and the Vulcans were conquered by the new Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. Maybe Vulcan is simply a member of the Alliance, rather than one of the dominant planets? That seems to be roughly Bajor’s situation.

Other notes

  1. I really like Jennifer’s outfit. The Terran emblem seems comically oversized, but I love the angles of the skirt and jacket.
  2. Jadzia is still referred to as Dax in the mirror universe, so presumably she’s joined; I really, really want to know about how that works there, and how Jadzia specifically was joined.
  3. As far as I can remember, we never actually learn anything about mirror Keiko, so I also want to know about her.
  4. I find it very interesting how calm Sisko is, and how willing to go with mirror O’Brien, even before he finds out what’s actually going on, and that this isn’t the “real” O’Brien.

Horniness rankings

It’s the mirror universe, so everyone is even hornier than usual, which makes ranking them tricky. Let’s give it a try, though, shall we?

  1. Mirror Kira, as I’ve said before, is essentially Dukat, so it makes perfect sense that in addition to Kira Prime, she’s also extremely horny for Sisko. And just in general.
  2. Honestly, there was a lot of sexual tension between Sisko and Mirror Bashir, IMO. I guess Bashir just always wants to have someone he can argue with, ideally someone with daddy energy, and he and Garak don’t know each other in the mirror universe, so.
  3. Mirror Jadzia is, of course, pretty dang horny for Sisko, and it seems to be mutual.

One thought on “3.19: “Through the Looking Glass”

  1. I didn’t have as many thoughts/feelings about this episode as I thought I did… I think I had it confused with “Shattered Mirror” from later. It was fun… I enjoyed it, for the most part, for the go-for-broke comic book silliness throughout. (Andrew J. Robinson as Mirror Garak bellowing: “PUUUUUURSUUUUE!” is one of my absolute favorite things about this entire season of Deep Space Nine, I’m not really sure why, but I refuse to back off from this position.) The plot is reasonably entertaining; I was quasi taken-in by the ruse with Rom, actually, despite having seen this at least twice before. And it was nice to see Felicia Bell do some slightly more in-depth acting work with Mirror Jennifer than she had had a chance to do in “Emissary.”

    The alignment of the Vulcans in the Mirror Universe is really hard to parse out. In TOS “Mirror, Mirror” obviously Spock could serve as first officer of the ISS Enterprise (and he had Vulcan personal guards), suggesting that Vulcans can rise to reasonably high rank and positions of authority. The Empire even authorized him to assassinate Kirk and take command of the Enterprise in that episode, which would have made him very powerful indeed, even assuming the Empire didn’t know Kirk possessed the Tantalus Field. DS9 makes it clear that Spock rose to become commander in chief of the Empire before the Alliance overthrew it. How we get from the Vulcans being part of the anti-Empire rebellion in DIscovery to that point only 10 years later, I do not really understand. Maybe the Vulcans broke apart and different factions pursued different agendas, some collaborating with the Empire, others fighting it. (Ironic that Sarek and Spock would wind up on different sides of that debate; even in the Mirror Universe they were at odds.) I think the theory that the Vulcans in the Empire are like the Bajorans in the Alliance; influential members who enjoy status and privilege despite not being of the founding species – makes the most sense. Individual Vulcans like Sarek could choose not to play ball. (Conversely, if most Vulcans were opposed to the Empire, Spock would be the outlier who chose to collaborate, although if that were the case I have a hard time believing he could have risen so high.) In the current timeline I figure that if the Vulcans were aligned against the Empire, they would have been reasonable partners for the Alliance, and perhaps Tuvok is the outlier.

    Interestingly, this episode glancingly establishes that the Romulans exist as a power of some kind (Sisko’r ruse for leaving is that he’s going to go try to open communications with them), perhaps one that would oppose the Alliance – suggesting that either the Empire didn’t wipe them out 100 years previously, or that they reconstituted since then.

    Overall I think the lack of impact on our characters from exposure to the Mirror Universe is the major reason I got tired of DS9’s Mirror Universe episodes pretty quickly, and looked at them just as comic interludes in the meatier seasons. It didn’t initially have to be that way – “Crossover” suggested that Kira was intrigued by the possibility of taking lessons about how to strengthen Bajor’s role in the galaxy from her counterpart, even as she was revolted and terrified of who her counterpart was and what she did – and that could have been interesting. But even by the second MU episode on DS9 the whole thing is basically a cartoonish excursion, a trend that would continue until we get to the truly regrettable MU episodes in seasons 6 and 7, which I remember as being massively embarrassing and demeaning to characters I like. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

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