Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Shattered Mirror"


Air date: 4/22/1996
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Captain Bashir, Captain O'Brien, Captain Sisko. We may not have enough troops or ships or weapons, but we have plenty of Captains." — "Smiley" O'Brien

Nutshell: Superficial action fun taken to the most relentless of extremes—and it works.

Once again, DS9 takes us to the mirror universe where we follow the rebellion and their struggle against the evil Alliance. Two seasons ago—the first time DS9 took us to this parallel universe in "Crossover"—the premise sported a dark, somewhat brooding attitude. Last season in "Through the Looking Glass," the dark undertones were significantly reduced, and an adventurous romp took center stage. With "Shattered Mirror," DS9 takes the premise yet another step into full-blown insanity. The episode has its semi-serious moments, but for the most part it's a completely over-the-top, superficial, comic book adventure—even more so than "Looking Glass" was.

I'd be lying if I said "Shattered Mirror" is a standout accomplishment in skilled writing or character development—it's not. But I'd also be lying if I said this show isn't a gleeful diversion. It's good comic book—big, dumb, sensationally simplistic, and fun.

The premise? Well, like any comic book, it's about good versus evil. More specifically, the mirror version of Jennifer Sisko comes to "our" side and kidnaps Jake to the mirror side. Sisko crosses over to retrieve his son, and finds himself kidnapped by the rebellion and enlisted to help them. "Smiley" O'Brien brings him up to date on current events (the rebels have driven the Alliance off of Terok Nor, claimed the station for themselves, and imprisoned Intendant Kira). O'Brien insists Sisko help them put some necessary finishing touches on the Defiant they have built (courtesy of some stolen schematics from DS9 on the other side).

Time is a big factor. In a matter of days the Alliance's reinforcements will reach the station, and if the rebellion doesn't have a reasonable weapon to defend themselves by then, they will surely be recaptured.

The plot (what little bit of it there is) takes a while to get fully underway, but when dealing with mirror characters, that's all the better. In all honesty, even if this show had nothing going for it other than its reversed role-playing, it would probably still be worth watching simply because of the opportunity to see the cast in neat costumes while delivering enjoyable dialogue.

The episode's first four acts center around the Preparation for the Battle between Good and Evil. Mired in here somewhere is a somewhat interesting angle involving Jake's fascination of meeting his "mother" and his kid-like misconception of realism. He gets caught up in this fantasy-like world, and seems blind to the dangers of it.

Meanwhile, Sisko assists in preparing the Defiant for combat as we again meet the other mirror characters, many of whom are not happy with Sisko's masquerading as their leader the last time he was in their universe. Bashir hits him in the face. ("I owed you that.") Dax slaps him in the face and pulls a knife on him. ("That's for making love to me under false pretenses.") Intendant Kira is, naturally, her same libidinous self, and believes that a Ben Sisko is a Ben Sisko. She considers supplying him with information about the Alliance in exchange for...you know. ("Why don't you lower this force field and join me in here—might help stimulate my thought process.")

At the same time, the Alliance's reinforcements continue steadily on their way to Terok Nor. They are commanded by (surprise!) Regent Worf, who is quite angry with Garak for his retreat from Terok Nor. The writers' portrayal of Worf as the villain is about as unsubtle as it gets. He puts a collar around Garak and attaches it to a chain which he uses to pull Garak around like a pet on a leash. Much of the subplot has little to do with advancing the plot, but the results are so often funny (and always laughable) that they're well worth the screen time. Such scenes wisely never show any hints of taking themselves seriously. Worf has some amusingly goofy lines to Garak. ("You are not my type" and "Make it so!" come to mind.) Garak, as always, is a fountain of clever wording worthy of a chuckle in just about every scene.

And Intendant Kira is as fun as usual with some memorable sound bites like "Violence is a precision instrument—it's a scalpel, not a club," and her amusing double-entendres. And when Nog breaks her out of prison she repays him like any villain would—she kills him. Still, one of my favorite lines in the show is her deadpan, ever-so-slightly annoyed delivery of "That was unfortunate," after she accidentally phasers Jennifer while aiming for Jake. Cold, yes; but still funny.

The show's final act is The Battle, when the Alliance fleet reaches Terok Nor and opens fire. Fortunately, the Defiant is ready just in time for the big fight (in which, naturally, they triumph, as Worf orders retreat as his ships are destroyed).

The battle supplies an absolutely beautiful special effects display featuring some very impressive motion photography work. (In fact, I bumped the rating up an extra half star because of it.) The scene uses the station as a battlefield where Birds of Prey and the Defiant weave in and out and around the architecture at breakneck speed, shooting at one another. Dan Curry and his crew have produced some of the most eye-pleasing action movements of probably any of Star Trek production. Then they outdo themselves just minutes later when the Defiant takes on Worf's battle cruiser (which is dozens of times the size of the Defiant) by getting in close to do some damage with moves surely inspired by the Millennium Falcon. In a word: Wow. These effects harbor even more speed and style than both "The Die is Cast" and "The Way of the Warrior" did.

The scene works on two levels. Aside from creating a sheer appreciation for the quality of the effects, the movements are fresh demonstrations of tactics. What should Sisko do when he's outgunned by a big ship? Why, take his little ship within inches of it and toy with their targeting, of course!

The only serious moments in "Shattered" are toward the end, where Jennifer's phaser wound results in her death, forcing Sisko and Jake to relive her death a second time. Her deathbed scene is nicely done, although it seems maybe a tad out of place considering how non-serious the rest of the episode feels. Not too bad in any case.

Between Kira's intention to "collect a debt" from Sisko for sparing his son's life, Worf's vow to return and destroy all the rebels, and Garak's plot to capture and punish Kira for her "treachery," I'd say the chances of the DS9 characters visiting the mirror universe again (or vice versa) are approximately 100 percent.

Previous episode: Hard Time
Next episode: The Muse

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18 comments on this review

Jay - Sat, Aug 22, 2009 - 7:24pm (USA Central)
We never really get that next visit to the mirror universe to carry on those stories. We did set "Resurrection" and "The Emperor's New Cloak", but they didn't really deliver.
Nic - Tue, Oct 6, 2009 - 9:48pm (USA Central)
I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate the mirror universe. I'm starting to remember that one of the reasons I put off watching DS9 for so long was because I figured "Any series that goes to the mirror universe once a season isn't one I'm interested in.
First of all, it makes no sense. How could a parallel reality with such a different history have so many similarities to our own? The same ships, the characters all look alike (which suggests they have the same DNA even though they are completely different people) and worst of all, all the series regulars just HAPPEN to have a role to play in the plot.
On a related note, since the events of these episodes generally have no bearing on the happenings of "our" universe, once again the character's actions have no consquences I can relate to because I don't give a sh_t about these pretty nasty people.
I'll grant it that the action scenes near the end were very well executed, but unlike "The Die Is Cast" and "The Way of the Warrior", where my blood was boiling because the characters I love were in danger, it really didn't matter to me who won this battle because the story knows that next week all will be forgotten. That's probably the reason they kill off so many counterpart characters just for the benefit of an action scene (remember Garak's 'death' in "The Search, Part II"? Well that kind of thing happens at least twice in every mirror universe episode). Finally, Sisko's decision to stay aboard the Defiant seems completely out of character, and is a terribly contrived way of letting us see the Fight of Evil against Evil (as I like to call it). There really should be a "parallels" Prime Directive that prevents people from disrupting the flow of events in other universes.
Chris - Thu, Oct 29, 2009 - 10:37am (USA Central)
I don't think Sisko remaining on-board came off as contrived at all. Sisko has helped the rebels in the past ("Through the Looking Glass"). Plus, the Defiant is his baby, so he'd feel a certain attachment to it; especially with the probability of it being destroyed in a battle with a superior force.

Sisko's amazing piloting skills seemed more contrived. If Tom Paris was piloting the Defiant like that, at least there would have been 30-40 episodes of Tom being praised as a pilot to back it up. But really, I thought the finale of this episode was a lot of fun and contained some of the best effects the series ever produced.

Also, this episode could have had consequences despite not being set in the regular universe. Sisko lost his wife again, and Jake happened to be there this time to witness it. Granted, nothing was done with this in later episodes, but just because there's an alternate reality episode doesn't mean it can't have consequences on the characters. I don't think these episodes were meant to be taken terribly seriously, any way. You have a lesbian Kira and a Worf who will quite happily stab someone to try and retrieve something they've eaten. I'm not going to look at this episode in the same manner as "In the Pale Moonlight".
Jack - Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - 7:24pm (USA Central)
Jake says he wanted to catch his "mom" up on the past nine years, but it hasn't even been six years since Wolf 359.
TDexter - Sat, Oct 29, 2011 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
"First of all, it makes no sense. How could a parallel reality with such a different history have so many similarities to our own?"

Star Trek works on the "infinite universes" model. That means that there is a universe for every possibility. That means that, out there, there is a universe where everything is as it is in this universe, except you happen to have an ass for a face.
Jay - Sat, Nov 24, 2012 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
And speaking of an ass for a face, the series Enterprise shows the point where this particular universe apparently tangented off...
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 6:10pm (USA Central)

The mirror universe lost its charm after the first visit.

K'Elvis - Mon, Dec 2, 2013 - 7:16am (USA Central)
The Mirror Universe characters are to much like Snidely Whiplash to care much about. It seemed implausible that the rebels could build a Defiant - perhaps they could incorporate parts of technology into their own ships, but you need a shipyard to build a starship. It also seemed implausible that the rebels could hold DS9 - they couldn't keep t supplied.

The episode was irrelevant to the main story, but it would have been more enjoyable if the characters hadn't been simply evil charicatures, complete with metaphorical mustache twirling. While in the main universe, some characters are good, some are evil, with some inbetween, in the Mirror Universe, pretty much everyone is evil.

Killing off Jennifer seemed unnecessary. Seeing her die again should have given both Benjamin and Jake significant emotional distress, but it is of course forgotten by the next episode.

It may have been "big, dumb, sensationally simplistic", but that didn't make it all that much fun for me. YMMV, of course.
Jack - Wed, Jan 1, 2014 - 9:40am (USA Central)
I hope that Sisko was just overreacting about suspecting that in Jake's mind they are already all living together, because if so, that's quite the slap in the face to Kassidy Yates on Jake's part...he's the one that brought them together.
Todd F. - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 8:08pm (USA Central)
Don't know why Sisko doesn't call security and lock Jennifer up the minute he sees her. Would have been my first, second and third reactions. Also, don't see how he doesn't end up on charges of violating the Prime Directive.

Further, the notion that these barely literate, semi civilized rebels could somehow put together an exact duplicate of the USS Defiant in something under a millennium stretches credibility beyond reason.

A MUCH better story would have had rebels sneak aboard DS9, steal the Defiant (they would have had Smiley's DNA to get past the security, aka Tom RIker), take it to the other universe and require Sisko to go get it back. Higher stakes for the regular characters and a much more plausible story.
Todd F. - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 8:11pm (USA Central)
Even better story...turns out the rebels have had the real O'Brien in custody for some time...they replaced him as a setup to get the Defiant. Then could reveal, the O'Brien who spent 20 years in a virtual prison in Hard Time, was Smiley.

Since the episode was a giant reset button anyway, no retro impact to the character.
Jack - Fri, Feb 14, 2014 - 5:23pm (USA Central)
The bit whee mirror Nog helps mirror Kira escape seems so contrived. Sure mirror Kira is indirectly responsible for mirror Nog owning the bar, but he already has it, whether he helps her or not. Mirror Nog doesn't seem the type to risk harm or capture to free mirror Kira just to show gratitude, particularly for something she didn't really give him, but rather just made possible, indirectly.

I suppose they needed for mirror Kira to escape and for mirror Jennifer to die, but that's the best way they could come up with?
Dusty - Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - 5:45am (USA Central)
I see the Mirror Universe is a bit controversial here. I think if you take it seriously or expect it to make sense, you're missing the point. It's all in fun. This one grabbed my attention immediately with Sisko's wife from the MU showing up. Seems odd that Sisko would take it in stride and leave Jake alone with her. Sure enough, they disappear into the MU and he has to go after them. And it's as much fun as I hoped it would be, with frequent sexual overtones and cartoonish characters who are killed off with abandon. On the other hand, it also had a certain heart and depth that was never followed up on. (Poor mirror-Jennifer.) Plus it ended with a spectacular space battle. Fun episode.
Vylora - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 11:43pm (USA Central)
I don't mind the MU episodes at all. Especially knowing these are just further expansions on the more or less fan-loved "Mirror, Mirror" episode from TOS. Except here, because of sweeping reforms to make the Terran Empire more peaceful, they themselves have become the oppressed under the Alliance.

Admittedly though, since they've gone this far with it, it would have been nice to see an episode where the Terrans and other races involved get a chance to form a peaceful union of sorts. Maybe not necessarily like the Federation by any means but some sort of reaching a common ground. Getting a chance to learn from mistakes. The mere mention of the fact that MU Spock was able to at least start this process shows its possible. And I don't believe it was said anywhere how well these reforms worked and/or how long it was before the Alliance crashed that party so to speak. If they had at least two more episodes with that in mind they could have replaced it with the two unfortunate ones we got after this.

I also don't see anything to indicate whatsoever that this is a reset-button plot. Nothing here is "reset". The story takes place mainly in the MU. The episode ends. Lives continue in both realities.

Some explanation on how they were able to build the MU Defiant at Terok Nor would have been nice. I know that shuttlecraft can be built on a starship if needed. And I realize the station may have more raw materials readily available seeing as, in the MU, it's being utilized as the mining station that it is. But still...

On its own level, this is a wonderfully enjoyable episode with some hilarious dialogue and amazing choreography to boot. Well done.

3.5 stars.
Ospero - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 1:07am (USA Central)
@Vylora: Since your comment is only two weeks old, it's possible you might see this. What you describe has been done in book form. There are two anthologies from the Mirror Universe by the names of "Glass Empires" and "Obsidian Alliances", followed by several more novels (these also intersect with the DS9 reboot novels). Suffice it to say, these eventually end up with something like you described.
Nonya - Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - 12:39am (USA Central)
This is the point where all the mirror universe stuff wore out its welcome. There's just too much betrayal, something there's been oodles of in every previous mirror bit, and would show up again later on. It's wearisome. Though this episode does have the one bit where the Intendant was actually intimidating: when she shot Jennifer.
Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 11:39am (USA Central)
Some redeemable touching moments between Jake and Jennifer. I felt for both of them.

But other than that, this DS9 mirror stuff just gets old.

2.5 stars because I got to see Felicia Bell again and again I got to dream of her playing Cassidy instead of Penny Johnson.
Icarus32Soar - Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
Yeah, Nah! This parallel universe premise is as idiotic as time loops. The Jennifer-Jake sugar is nauseating. Even the glorious Garak is misplaced here and is ineffective. Sisko taking the chair of the rebel Defiant of his own accord? Where the heck is the prime directive when the plot really needs a convincing dramatic device? Thank God the parallel divinely campy Kira and over the top Bashir lend some acting integrity to this misguided mess. When ST is good it's very good indeed, when it's bad it's unbearable.

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