Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Crossover"

****

Air date: 5/16/1994
Teleplay by Peter Allan Fields and Michael Piller
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Kira and Bashir cross into a parallel universe (the same one that Kirk crossed into in the TOS outing "Mirror, Mirror") to find humanity enslaved by the allied Klingons, Cardassians, and Bajorans—ironically enough, because Kirk led the "Terrans" to give up their violent ways, thus leaving them defenseless to the chaos of their neighbors. Kira finds herself face to face with her own counterpart, the evil Intendant Kira, who commands the station.

"Crossover" is a superb episode of unique style and attitude. The extremely neat-looking sets and lighting are dark and brooding. And David Livingston's first-rate direction utilizes freedom with some fresh perspectives; canted camera and low-angle shots add a welcome sense of unreality.

The characterizations can best be described as "brilliant." Nana Visitor's take on the mirror Kira creates a sexy, venomous persona with a healthy dose of narcissism and an intriguing subtext of lesbianism. She's spoiled, ruthless, and fearsome, but still has a respect for life and no love for violence. Meanwhile, Garak is the station's first officer—vindictive and power-hungry. Odo is absolutely hateful and brutal (with "Rules of Obedience" that can earn one a slap in the face for disobeying). Quark turns out to be noble (!), but is executed for helping Terrans escape the slave station. Then there's Avery Brooks' astounding performance as the alternate Sisko—an apathetic, self-serving, charismatic scumbag of a pirate who curries favor with the Intendant by running errands for her (among other things). Mirror Sisko is so watchable for all the wrong reasons; he's truly an antithesis of the real Sisko.

The plot to "Crossover" is fairly simple (Kira and Bashir must escape this universe before they're destroyed by its chaos), with a few interesting plots twists. It's meaty and involving, plunging humanity into the depths of despair. The mirror O'Brien gives the episode a full sense of credibility with a scene that says it all: If history had been just a little bit different, how would he—and all of humanity—have turned out?

That's what makes "Crossover" a real winner. Ask yourself: Based on the way the characters are played in this episode, isn't it possible that the real DS9 characters we know could've been capable of what their counterparts are here—provided history gave them the unlucky draw?

Previous episode: The Wire
Next episode: The Collaborator

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23 comments on this review

John - Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - 10:28am (USA Central)
I always wanted to like this episode more than I do.

A bit too ott and silly. A decent romp and a nice homage to the original series but not much more.

2.5 or 3.
ian - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 1:52am (USA Central)
Eh...So whatever happened to Spock and the Tantalus Field Generator?

This entire episode does not make sense.

The Terran Empire in TOS (and Ent, by the way) were pictured to be Nazis (or even Eugenic Supermen, like Khan, it was suggested in some fiction).
Now they are beaten down and a slave race?
LastDawnOfMan - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 12:34pm (USA Central)
I couldn't tell who the bad guys were because no one was wearing a goatee. I like to think of an evil twin universe where even the women and babies are all sporting goatees.
Patrick - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 8:37pm (USA Central)
You know what made the Mirror Universe work in TOS and even ENT? The alternate universe was *really* DIFFERENT!

The Mirror Universe of DS9 wasn't really that stark a contrast. It's filled with terrorism, war, and political chicanery; while the regular universe of Deep Space Nine was filled with... terrorism, war, and political chicanery.

If they truly wanted a Mirror Universe of DS9, they should should a group of individuals banded together to explore space and improve the cause of the human race...basically TOS and TNG.
Grumpy - Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - 7:32am (USA Central)
Without endorsing your DS9-bashing, Patrick, I'll just observe that we never really saw the mirror-DS9, as you envision it. The universe was always mirror-TOS, given a DS9 twist in this episode. That is, the TOS episode ended on a hopeful note, which is undercut here.

In another sense, TOS saw the Mirror universe as a literal reflection whereas DS9 treated it as a more conventional alternate history (except when they wanted the characters to act freaky for freaky's sake).
Patrick - Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - 9:55am (USA Central)
I didn't think I was bashing, just criticizing. I think DS9 was a fine show from a writing/directing/acting standpoint.

I see your point in saying that DS9's version of the MU was alternate rather than mirror (which Jammer himself criticizes in his "Emperor's New Cloak" review"). And frankly as an alternate universe, it's still not that alternate. In "Shattered Mirror" Sisko and Co. are fighting the Klingons--as opposed to what they were doing in Season 4? Not exactly mind blowing.

But you bring up something interesting about undercutting something from past Treks. In fact that was DS9's M.O--undercutting and deconstructing established Trek history.
Enrique - Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - 9:54am (USA Central)
I just watched this episode for probably the 5th or 6th time. I've always enjoyed it, but one nitpicky thing caught my attention. At the end of the episode, Kira says they've been "through the looking glass". In the opening scene, it was established she wasn't well versed in human idioms, as she didn't know what "burying the hatchet" meant. It's not particularly important, but it struck me as a little farfetched that she's read or is at all familiar with Lewis Carrol.
T'Paul - Mon, Mar 4, 2013 - 8:55pm (USA Central)
True, Enrique, I thought that about through the looking glass too...

Have to say I enjoyed the undertones of mirror/alternate Sisko in this episode, and the understated O'Brien too.
Sarah - Sat, May 18, 2013 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
I think this entire episode was designed so that Kira could strut around in black leather and be a sexy bisexual dominatrix. It feels very...um..."fan-powered"
ProgHead777 - Sat, Jul 13, 2013 - 5:49am (USA Central)
Upon embarking on my third complete viewing of DS9 (after watching it during its initial run and rewatching it again some years later) this was one of the episodes of the first three seasons that stuck in my mind and I anticipated seeing again. I can't really add anything to Jammer's excellent review... except one minor thing. The scene where mirror-Odo is destroyed by phaser fire is one of the most startling and striking visual effects in the history of Star Trek. I would love to know exactly how they accomplished it. It was quite convincing... and, as I said, startling. Besides that slight addendum, I can't think of anything substantive to add to this review.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 4:57pm (USA Central)

A fun episode, albeit a bit over the top.

6/10
the - Wed, Dec 11, 2013 - 8:04am (USA Central)
the real winner in the acting stakes here is colm meaney, who shows a truly broken and defeated man with hardly an atom of effort
Nissa - Tue, Feb 4, 2014 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
This was fun, but not great. I never bought alternate Kira as a powerful, dangerous woman. She kept undercutting herself by showing mercy for no reason. It would have been more fun if she were outright demented, and showed mercy only when it suited her selfish purposes.

Other than that, I don't like how this episode weakens the message of the original Mirror, Mirror, and makes it so that goodness is weakness instead of strength. Plato would be disappointed. If they had used that as a theme instead of a dismissal of TOS, the episode would have been better.

That said, I love where alt Kira mourns alt Odo. It's a great parallel to what eventually happens to Odo and Kira, and very fun.
Jay - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 12:38pm (USA Central)
Interesting that in the mirror universe, phaser fire makes Odo explode like the Stay-Puft marshamllow man, but in Apocolypse Rising, phaser fire makes a changeling explode like a bag of sand.
Rivus - Wed, Apr 16, 2014 - 12:54am (USA Central)
I think the best Trek episodes are ones like these that make you think. Speaking of Plato, I could imagine Picard shaking his head at all this. But that's a lot of DS9. Sisko says it best in The Maquis... The heart of the federation is all up in the clouds with their saints and philosophies, but the same doesn't hold true for the rest of the galaxy. In a way, the mirror universe takes this idea, and exponentiates it.

Now, looking at what Mirror Kira said about the terrans... Sure, there was probably high hopes initially, but look at what they faced here. First off, trying to make peace when all around you is much more chaotic, never mind the likelihood that mirror terrans would be ill-equipped to actually enact change in the way the Federation did... Klingons are no help, neither are the Bajorans, in fact here they seemed to have become Cardassians.

Another parallel I see here would have to be the prime directive (Yeah, I know, I know...). Much like how TNG gets all preachy with developing worlds, tampering with the course of natural history... Where here, 'natural history' throughout the galaxy seems to be one of chaotic order. All Kirk did would not be dissimilar to taking a pail of septic sludge and an eyedropper to drop a tiny droplet of pure water. At first, perhaps for an instant, the drop will appear to make a tiny portion of sludge look like cloudy water, but corruption is inevitable.

Granted, I still have yet to see "Mirror, Mirror", or for that matter the remainder of DS9... But this is how it looks to me.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 1, 2014 - 10:40am (USA Central)
Wow Jammer... gushing in some DS9 are we?

Jammer: "an intriguing subtext of lesbianism" - wasn't mirror Sisko called up to her place? If anything it's a "bi" subtext.

Jammer: "Mirror Sisko is so watchable for all the wrong reasons" - yeah, his acting is worse here.

Odo is just what he would want to be if it weren't for those "Federation" rules and regs.

Jammer: "Based on the way the characters are played in this episode, isn't it possible that the real DS9 characters we know could've been capable of what their counterparts are here—provided history gave them the unlucky draw?"

Let's examine.

Quark: What makes you think he would be "heroic" or "noble"? What would have to change to make that happen?

Odo: As I said, not really much change at all. Odo was already working for the Cardassians during the occupation so it's obvious he has no scruples as to who he will work for. The Bajorians (Kira) thought he was fair. Did we see any behavior in this episode that indicated he wasn't "fair" in the MU? More direct maybe and disciplinarian, but unfair? The only real "opposite" was that he carried a phasor.

Garak: Are you indicating that Garak was an angel working for the Obsidian Order, especially ascending to the hieghts he achieved? Again, the MU character isn't far off from what he was. Cardassian interigations and all. The plan he hatched to ascend to Intendant was VERY Garak like.

Sisko: This one I'll give you. I won't concede this was a brilliant acting performance by any stretch. It actually came off very forced and hammy.

Obrien: Probably the best and most believable performance of the episode. Still has the "fixer of things" talent, but as circumstances as they are he's just a slave with a talent they need.

Intendant: The most hosed character in the MU. Why does she respect for life and have no love for violence? Isn't that where the Kira character is progressing to? Isn't that what Bajoran’s believe now? They should have made her something other than the Intendant. A prostitute for whomever the Intendant was or something. Or maybe some anti-religious type character.

Bashir: I don't even remember what he was in the MU.

A fun episode? Sure, but 4 stars? ... Really?

This was DS9's best MU episode. The worst part is they go back time and time again.

The "what if things were a little different" pales in comparison to:

"KIRK: If change is inevitable, predictable, beneficial, doesn't logic demand that you be a part of it?
SPOCK: One man cannot summon the future.
KIRK: But one man can change the present. Be the captain of this Enterprise, Mister Spock. Find a logical reason for sparing the Halkans and make it stick. Push till it gives. You can defend yourself better than any man in the fleet.
SCOTT: Captain, get in the chamber!
KIRK: What about it, Spock?
SPOCK: A man must also have the power.
KIRK: In my cabin is a device that will make you invincible.
SPOCK: Indeed?
KIRK: What will it be? Past or future? Tyranny or freedom? It's up to you.
SPOCK: It is time.
KIRK: In every revolution, there's one man with a vision.
SPOCK: Captain Kirk, I shall consider it."

1 1/2 stars because Odo blowing up was cool. But to think for a second this episode had any real meaning or thoughtful writing is nuts.

Grumpy - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 1:26am (USA Central)
Upon re-viewing, I notice bits I hadn't appreciated before. In Kira's first dialog with her double, I believe she is totally sincere in her envy of Mirror Bajor's power and influence. Also, her disdain for Bashir's Federation arrogance is likewise sincere. Later, Bashir shows subtle awareness of his privilege when he gives away a plate of food; he knows he's better fed than any Terran.

Nissa complained that this show "makes it so that goodness is weakness instead of strength," but that's not so. Our heroes awaken the goodness in Mirror Sisko and Mirror O'Brien, just as Kirk stirred Mirror Spock. Now, you might complain that this episode resets the conclusion of the OS show in order to traverse the same arc, but reset is not the same as subvert. It ultimately doesn't even deconstruct "Mirror, Mirror." Despite the implicit criticism of Kirk's meddling, our heroes do as he did, launching a new revolution. Bashir goes beyond Kirk in one way: whereas Kirk refuses Moreau's request to leave the MU, Bashir says "the hell with rules" when O'Brien asks to come along. Unlike the original MU visit, this episode uses shadow to reveal the fully-rounded shapes of the regular characters.

Except Dax, who has only a line or two at the end.
LongKahn - Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - 1:48am (USA Central)
I would have liked it if the writers had used the mirror universe in the dominion arc. They could do it in many ways. Maybe as a way to escape in a grave situation like when the dominion took over the station. Or maybe they could have gone to the gamma quadrant in the mirror universe to get the cure for Odo. Oh well. Almost every mirror episode had the other side using our characters for their advantage. Once the station was taken over by smiley they should have gone there for something. I mean there was a whole universe that the dominion didn't have access to. Just a thought
MsV - Mon, Feb 16, 2015 - 7:43pm (USA Central)
@ Nissa This was fun, but not great. I never bought alternate Kira as a powerful, dangerous woman. She kept undercutting herself by showing mercy for no reason. It would have been more fun if she were outright demented, and showed mercy only when it suited her selfish purposes.

She was demented but not excessively cruel. She was extremely self-centered and wanted worship and praise.
Vii - Sun, Mar 8, 2015 - 10:15am (USA Central)
@MsV: "She was demented but not excessively cruel. She was extremely self-centered and wanted worship and praise."

Sounds a lot like Dukat to be honest, something that the major probably would not have appreciated.

Can't really say much about this episode - it was fun, not particularly memorable except for the fact that it was one of the mirror universe episodes. I liked the scene where Bashir was first brought to the ore processor and kept being slapped by Odo for being sassy, it made me laugh.
Nathan B. - Sat, Jul 18, 2015 - 1:37pm (USA Central)
For some reason, I've never warmed much to alternate universe episodes in post-TOS Trek (I haven't seen many of the TOS episodes in recent history, so I can't comment on them). The only alternate universe episode I can say that I really enjoyed was TNG's "Parallels," though I hated the ending for its cruelty towards the Riker who didn't want to go back to face the Borg. I know these alternate universe episodes are a chance for the actors to "ham it up" and take on roles they don't normally portray, but none of it seems believable enough for me, and I just imagine the scriptwriters and actors saying, "wouldn't this be fun to do." In other words, I can't see the story itself, only the mechanics of the writing, directing, and acting.

I also thought that the Mirror Universe is far too dark, although I get the sense from watching other episodes within DS9 that it, like the DS9 in our first season in this universe, improves.
Nathan B. - Sat, Jul 18, 2015 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
I guess I should mention that while "Tapestry" isn't an alternate universe show per se, I do love it. But I appreciate that Q is the explanation for Picard's ability to make other choices....until he gets tired of them.
William B - Fri, Aug 14, 2015 - 9:20am (USA Central)
Wow, this is one episode that I think I will have to rewatch before deciding on. I think this is the first DS9 episode that has left me genuinely unsure of how I feel about it, on this rewatch.

I'll say this for now: "Crossover" is the hinge between the MU as portrayed in "Mirror, Mirror" -- primal, terrible, but also a vehicle for commentary on human nature and centrally about getting Kirk to reach mirror-Spock -- and the MU as portrayed in the rest of DS9 -- *maybe* has some social commentary, but mostly adventurey OTT funhouse and opportunity for actors to give wacky performances. I haven't seen the Enterprise eps, but I think that from "Mirror, Mirror" to "The Emperor's New Cloak" the MU episodes are essentially monotonically decreasing in quality (though "Shattered Mirror" might be better than "Through the Looking Glass"), from franchise high to franchise low points. Still, the quality-space between "Mirror, Mirror" and "Through the Looking Glass" (or "Shattered Mirror") is big enough to accommodate a wide range of evaluations of "Crossover."

So here are two possible capsule write-ups of "Crossover":

1. The Negative One: "Crossover" pins much of its running time on Visitor's Intendant Kira, who becomes more and more annoying with each instalment and who is already over-the-top here. It is hard to take Visitor seriously in the role, as she fails to sell quite the level of menace this woman is supposed to have. More than that, though, what relationship does Mirror-Kira have to our Kira? It's not even that her traits are inverted, because while M-Quark insists that both Kiras have a temper, the Intendant's key quality is an extreme narcissism (manifesting in her romantic/sexual attraction to her alternate self), which for Kira's flaws doesn't seem to be a big problem Our Kira has, nor does it seem to teach us much of anything about Our Kira. This focus means that Kira learns little as the episode goes on. The removal of the subterfuge element from the original "M,M" also gives the regular Kira and Bashir very little to *do* for most of the running time, and that Kira and Bashir get away with the conversations they do have is particularly implausible given the oppressive world this is supposed to be. As with Kira, mirror-Garak's thuggishness doesn't really seem to reflect much on Our Garak (it's not that he's evil, but that he's Not Clever), and while his plot to kill the Intendant is meant perhaps to recall the series of assassinations in "M,M," and is supposed to create a Moral Dilemma for our Kira, it never goes anywhere, another piece of nowhere plotting junking up the works. That life sure would be different if the whole universe were different, which O'Brien more or less repeats in flashing neon, "THIS IS THE THEME" signs, is so obvious as to be banal. Sisko's mounting a resistance from, like, one ship is a crazy ending. And while the episode subverts the ending to "Mirror, Mirror" by revealing that Mirror-Spock's actions led to the Terrans (and other people of the Federation) becoming slaves, it's a subversion that only appears to make progress, since it *also* is just there mostly to set-up how the Mirror Universe is all dark and evil and main characters are Worse in this universe. 2 stars or less.

2. The Positive One: "Crossover" takes the basic idea of "Mirror, Mirror" of an alternate and darker universe, but puts it through a DS9 lens to reveal something very specific. Kira's frustration with Bashir's privilege is the opening note of the episode and the whole episode could be viewed as a big inversion of that, with Bashir forced into labour and suffering like Kira and Kira discovering a life of privilege in another world and how this turns her into a monster. Vii pointed it out above, and so did Abigail Nussbaum at wrongquestions.blogspot.com, and it's worth pointing out again: with her narcissism, extraction of sexual favours from her "lessers," and insistence that her downfall is her kindness of her withholding her Fullest Cruelty, Mirror-Kira is unsettlingly like Dukat, and since some of these elements (in particular, the sleeping with the oppressed people) are not revealed in Dukat yet, it even forms a kind of foreshadowing, and may mark some of what allows Kira to reluctantly understand a little bit of the monster whose child she comes to foster. Odo's desire for order leading him to pure fascist authority and casual cruelty further undermines the idea of Odo's desire for order as a purely good thing, as well as suggesting how much influence Mora truly had on Odo (who was not this cruel, we gather, during the Cardassian Occupation). Meaney is excellent as the beaten O'Brien, whose personality is kept essentially intact but who is depicted as broken and sad, unable to live up to his full potential. Sisko's maniacal-pirate, covering up his rage at his victimhood as the Intendant's pet with aggression and egotism, seems surprisingly believable as a reaction of Sisko under these bizarre circumstances, and while I don't talk about this often, Brooks' race *does* make Sisko's willing resignation to his status as slave, and later revolt, gain a shocking kick. The Intendant's attempted seduction of Our Kira leads to Kira's identification with this Sisko and attempt to free him, and also gives Kira the germ of ability to have sympathy for collaborators, whether it's Opaka or her mother or *herself." It all comes to a head at the impressive party scene, where the Intendant casts her and Kira as mirror images, in love with the idea of someone else who could understand *and forgive her*, demonstrating a loneliness at being thrust into "leadership" and cruelty which she does not actually want, but which comes with perks which she is entirely unwilling to give up, until the series of betrayals leads the Intendant, rather than sympathizing with a moral version of her, accepting cruelty as the inevitable defence of one's right to other beings. 4 stars would seem appropriate.

So you see my problem! :) It may be that the weaknesses I see in this episode might not be too severe, and it may be that the strengths I see in this episode are somewhat illusory. I think I'll average to 3 stars for now, BUT I will probably come back and rewatch this episode in a few weeks and see how I feel then. Really, the biggest swing factor is how believable Visitor's performance as the Intendant is, and I found myself not really convinced this viewing, but I know that I found the character (in "Crossover," mind you, not necessarily future instalments) effective in previous viewings. If I could find a real handle on how this Kira matches up with our Kira, that would do a lot to help me get fully on board with this episode, which certainly has a lot to recommend it. And if I find that she really is totally unbelievable again on my next viewing, well, that's a pretty huge chunk of this episode and so I wouldn't feel I could recommend it.

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