Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Emperor's New Cloak"

*

Air date: 2/1/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I can't believe it ... Julian just shot Vic Fontaine!" — Quark

Nutshell: Bleah.

"Disappointing" only begins to describe "The Emperor's New Cloak." Words like "a waste," "meaningless," and "boring" also come to mind. I never would've thought DS9's final venture into the alternate universe (which has generally served the series well as good comic-book entertainment) would become the worst episode of the season. (And I hope it remains the worst of the season.) Maybe the title of the episode, a pretty bad pun, should've been a forewarning.

DS9 this season has had a tendency to wander a bit, but at least the writing has been reasonably good in most episodes. "The Emperor's New Cloak," conversely, feels like an episode written by a computer program. The input query: How many mirror-universe characters can we randomly insert into a lame-brained plot, and in what ways can we make everyone less interesting than they ever have been?

These days, a lot of people seem to be screaming "Why?" when we get an episode that doesn't advance us closer to series closure. While I've occasionally been a voice in that collective, I usually judge a show for its entertainment value, not simply its large-scale "relevance." But with "The Emperor's New Cloak," I have to ask: Why this? Why now? And why me?

Far be it for me to dislike a Ferengi episode (naw, come on), but my objection to this show isn't that it's a Ferengi episode. My objection is that everything that happens in this episode was born out of an attitude that seems to say, "We have Ferengi and evil characters; who needs a story?"

And yet it's not the Ferengi that ruined this episode (though Rom and Zek certainly didn't help the cause). What ruined this episode was a total disregard for motivation, continuity, and reasonable entertainment value. Why even use these alternate-universe characters—who have comprised a sort of mini-subplot throughout the series—if none of them are going to remain interesting?

The episode begins with Blatant Contrivance of the Week. Zek has gone missing in the alternate universe and mirror-Ezri has come through to bring Quark a message: Give the Alliance—who holds Zek captive—a cloaking device, or Zek dies. Why does the Alliance need a cloaking device? Because it would give them an advantage to help crush the Rebellion (bwahaha), and there's no cloaking technology in the alternate universe, right?

Wrong. Previous alternate universe episodes have used the cloaking device, but never mind; continuity isn't the name of the game here. I have a better question: Why did Zek even go to the mirror universe? To open new profit avenues, naturally. Yeah, right. And I'm thinking that tomorrow I'll stroll into Kosovo and set up a hot dog stand.

Once mirror-Ezri brings Quark the news, Quark decides the only way to get a hold of a cloaking device is to steal the one from Martok's ship. Quark probably deserves jail time for this little maneuver (theft of military equipment during a war?) but the episode merely treats it as a joke, and not a very good one. One of the show's funnier not-so-funny scenes is a gag where Quark and Rom carry the cloaked cloaking device through the corridors of the station. The "picture this" in question is of Shimerman and Grodenchik carrying nothing, trying really hard to look like they're carrying something heavy. Har har. In these cases, less is more: It might've been funnier if the scene were shorter.

Once we get into the alternate universe, I figured the story would get off the ground and we might be looking at some closure to the things we've seen happen in this crazy place over the past five years. Well, I figured wrong.

Simply put, very little in this plot is worthy of attention. The characterizations are aimless and confused. Everybody's appearance comes off as gratuitous and no one gets any worthwhile dialog. To say everyone in the episode is poorly motivated would be an understatement. Character reactions border on random, thanks to the confines of a shoestring plot. (Just think of all the opportunities for scheming and payback, especially given the volatile nature of the Kira/Garak/Worf alliance. All are put aside for bad comedy.)

I realize the mirror universe has been shallow ever since "Through the Looking Glass," but it always had a zany, madcap appeal. But this time there's no comic-book exhilaration like in "Shattered Mirror" or "Looking Glass," and it isn't remotely thoughtful about its characters' actions and feelings as was "Crossover." At the very least, you would think there'd be some entertaining attitude to find in the material or the performances, but, alas, that's also nowhere to be seen. The sense of omnipresent chaos that characterized previous alternate-universe shows is completely removed this time around. Now it's all routine.

As for the humor, little of it worked for me. Too much of the episode is wasted on stupid jokes; this has to be the slowest venture into the mirror universe yet. First we have to put up with several lengthy scenes of Rom trying to comprehend the nature of the alternate universe (why Behr and Beimler think Rom-the-annoyingly-verbose-idiot is funny is beyond me). Then we get extremely dull use of Zek in what I hope is his final appearance (poor Wallace Shawn; he's been such a good sport)—here he gets to engage in another iteration of the oh-so-tired lobe-fondling gag.

When the evil mirror characters are allowed to talk, their dialog is surprisingly trite, even for a comic book. Andrew Robinson, in only his second appearance of the season, is completely wasted. Once a fountain of charged dialog, mirror-Garak has become such a bumbling persona that I felt sorry for Robinson, who was apparently told to overplay his part so far as to make him simply look like a fool.

Nana Visitor is not in much better a situation. I can see what they were going for with some of this; Intendant Kira's bipolar instability has her switching on a dime from sweetly condescending to violently angry. But like Garak, it's way overdone. It exists to feed itself and not any strong story direction. I'll freely admit that Nana Visitor in tight leather is always nice to look at, but that alone can't carry an hour. The reason she was so compelling in "Crossover" is because there was a tortured character underneath all the posturing. And in later episodes like "Looking Glass" and "Shattered Mirror," there was good chemistry with Sisko, Garak, and Jennifer Sisko.

Of course, there's also Regent Worf, who yells a lot, which is not interesting in and by itself unless there's good dialog behind it, which there generally isn't. (Although, the show's biggest laugh has to be when he tries on a glove, then tells one of his crewmen: "You, come here. Your regent needs you!"—and then punches the guy in the face to test his new glove. That's the sort of clever goofiness we needed more of.)

The real core of this episode, if there is one, centers on Ezri's unknown loyalties. She's in cahoots with the evil Alliance, but her business partner, Brunt, doesn't like the Alliance. There's a friendship between Brunt and Ezri that displays a promise of depth (as well as paralleling the unexplored feelings Quark has for the Ezri of his own universe). Brunt comes off as the story's most sympathetic character—which of course means he's Dead Meat. In keeping with the established tradition of Intendant Kira killing one mirror-Ferengi per mirror-universe episode, Kira stabs Brunt because she's convinced "he was going to betray me."

What's disappointing is the amount of confused uncertainty in the Ezri/Kira relationship. Ezri and Kira have apparently been lovers, but the relationship is sketchy and undefined, and at the end when they part ways with some sort of understanding, it feels flat. Of course, the relationship probably wasn't meant to be taken seriously; it all but shouts, "Look how hip we are—we have LESBIANS! Lesbians are cool!" I have nothing at all against homosexual overtones. "Rejoined," if you choose to call it a homosexual episode per se, was one of fourth season's highlights. And the Intendant's narcissism and lesbian overtones were particularly interesting in their subtle ways in previous mirror-universe shows, particularly "Crossover." Here? It's half-baked and trivialized, taking back seat to the cloaking device plot, as if we actually cared. What's worse is the pointless walk-on of mirror-Leeta at the end, which is played for a cheap laugh that seems to buy into the "lesbians for the sake of looking hip" mindset. Thanks, but I'll pass.

Another aspect of the story I found annoying was that all the villains are just so blatantly stupid. Once they get their hands on the cloaking device, what do they do? Prepare to execute the Ferengi! But, oops! They suddenly realize they can't install it without Rom's help, so the executions are delayed. Rom installs the cloaking device. What next? Prepare to execute the Ferengi! Do they suspect for a moment that Rom had the brains to sabotage the cloaking device? No, because that would require characters smarter than Rom. It's almost as if Behr and Beimler had an oversized, flashing red button on their word processor that randomly inserted [PREPARE TO EXECUTE FERENGI] into the script, and, dang it, the button was just so inviting, they couldn't help but push it a few times! Garak eventually goes to execute the Ferengi and ends up the victim of one of the most predictable and unsatisfying death scenes imaginable.

About all I can think to do here is gripe about how hollow, forced, and lifeless the characterizations were. That's a shame, because this universe has never been lifeless. Given that this was the final alternate-universe show, you'd think they'd find room for closure. They don't. All the potential was doomed from the moment the decision was made to center the plot around the Ferengi. Sisko should've been the catalyst for this story, not silly Ferengi hijinks. It's a cheat, and, frankly, I hope such cheats don't indicate a pattern for what lies ahead.

But even if I hadn't been expecting closure, this episode would still be a loser. There's not nearly enough thought invested in any aspect of the story for it to work on its own terms. Shallow is okay, but shallow still has to be done entertainingly, otherwise it's just a waste of time.

Next week: Homicide: Life on the Station.

Previous episode: Prodigal Daughter
Next episode: Field of Fire

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36 comments on this review

Ospero - Sat, Nov 3, 2007 - 10:37pm (USA Central)
This episode just triggered one reaction in me: "How could this go so utterly wrong?"

I like Ferengi episodes (kill me if you like) - they're not the cream of the crop exactly, but I don't expect anything but silliness when I tune into an episode with the inevitable "Profit" in its title. I also love the Mirror Universe. So what the heck went wrong here?

Sorry folks, but a worthy goodbye to DS9's Mirror Universe this wasn't. "Resurrection" at least had the merit that it was just bland and boring - this one is downright unwatchable. This looks as though it had been written by some kind of ScriptBot - and the cheap variety, too. Except for The Episode That Must Not Be Named (read my comment on the one before "Profit and Lace" for more on that), this is probably the worst episode of the series.

A clunker like that, and in the final season too. Nice work, guys. Not. Yuck.
Straha - Sat, Dec 20, 2008 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
It all depends on how high your expectations were. If you were hoping for a dramatic closure to the mirror universe arc with Sisko in it, then this episode is of course disappointing.
I however think it was a fun episode (quite good for a Ferengi outing too) which got more and more entertaining as it went. It also kinda served the goal to bring the mirror universe arc to an end.
So maybe this was not a great episode, but it was ok. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars.
Packa - Mon, Apr 13, 2009 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed it, But I enjoy Ferengi epps usually. The only unbelievable things I suppose is that what are the chances of A- Zek even being there. B- So many DS9 stars on the same battle cruiser.... Oh well, Just a show I suppose.
Jay - Sat, Aug 22, 2009 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
This could have been anotherwise 4 star outing, and iut would lose three starts just for the insult of making Vic Fontaine "real" for a cheap gag.
Will - Thu, Nov 5, 2009 - 5:25am (USA Central)
I like Ferengi episodes, and I like the Ferengi, they're hilarious, but this episode was let down considering that it's the last venture into the Mirror Universe
Jared - Sat, Jun 12, 2010 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
In Shattered Mirror, didn't Regent Worf's ship have a cloak?

Marco P. - Wed, Aug 25, 2010 - 1:34am (USA Central)
Agree with most of what Jammer said. It wasn't THAT bad for me, but a largely forgettable episode. I for one find the premise of an "alternate" universe rather unnecessary. A good gimmick for ONE episode, but as far as I'm concerned it outstayed its welcome immediately after.

And I also agree with Jay: the Vic Fontaine gag was quite lame.
Nic - Mon, Nov 15, 2010 - 10:27pm (USA Central)
What do you get when you combine the two things I hate about this series, that being the Mirror Universe and the Ferengi? The biggest LOSER since "Profit and Lace". PLUS Ezri/Kira is an insult to homosexuals and bisexuals everywhere.
Cloudane - Mon, Dec 6, 2010 - 4:14pm (USA Central)
Don't think I'd even grace this with 1 star. I guess it wasn't completely offensive, but aside from Nicole deBoer making for brilliant eye candy I can't think of anything positive to say about this episode!

I have never particularly cared about the mirror universe (all my investment has gone into the "real" one) so that just leaves general entertainment and I'm afraid I was yawning through most of it (when not shaking my head at convenient coincidences like Mirror Ezri, Vic and the death of Mirror Jadzia). Dull, and a waste of precious time better spent wrapping up the series.

(Ideally they should've blown up Terok Nor, the Defiant and maybe set auto destruct on the Klingon ship. Give that silly mirror universe the send-off it deserves. No objection to the idea of leaving a Ferengi or 3 on board either!)
Carbetarian - Mon, Apr 25, 2011 - 1:38am (USA Central)
Honestly, for me, this episode is just as bad as (if not worse than) profit and lace. UGH... No stars!
InAUGral - Sat, Apr 30, 2011 - 3:21am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode and nearly skipped it because you gave it one star, although i enjoyed it i did think hang on doesnt the mirror universe have cloaking devices already? like im sure it was mentioned in an episode a while back( maybe not DS9) that the federation had cloaks too after they aquired it during a TOS episode(S3E1-The Enterprise Incident),in the mirror universe they keep the device.
Fortyseven - Thu, Oct 27, 2011 - 6:54pm (USA Central)
I'm going back and checking out some of the episodes I skipped over (between Jammer's star rating and my eagerness to only watch plot-advancing episodes).

I expected bad. Had fun. I acknowledge (and damn) it's flaws, but it wasn't *quite* as awful as I'd anticipated.

Not even close to as bad as that Risan weather episode. Ungh. ;)
Jay - Thu, Nov 17, 2011 - 4:41pm (USA Central)
I never did get why the Federation borrowed a Romulan cloaking device along with the strict conditions that came with it, when they could have borrowed a Klingon one with little to no strings attached. And now we discover that Klingon devices are smaller (the first contradiction to Riker's "you Klingons never do anything small" comment I've seen), yet another reason to use it on the cramped for space Defiant.
Mr X - Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
Worst episode ever!
Justin - Wed, May 2, 2012 - 3:13pm (USA Central)
Now here's a perfect example of the writers automatically assuming that Ferengi = Funny. Although in this case it's an even worse assumption on the writers' part. They think that Ferengi + Mirror Universe + Lesbians = Everything the viewers want. I mean c'mon guys, like Jammer said: LESBIANS!!! Howard Stern fans take note!

Let's be honest here. The lesbian Kira, Ezri, and Leeta aren't there because it's "hip." That motivation would be bad enough in and of itself. No, they're there because it's HOT! Why else, but to to appeal to the stereotypical puerile, basement-dwelling, convention-attending demographic?
Nick - Fri, May 4, 2012 - 7:58am (USA Central)
@Jay They had to make a deal with the Romulans to use the cloak because of the treaty between the Federation and the Romulans that says the Federation can't use cloaking technology.
nuPike - Tue, May 8, 2012 - 6:27pm (USA Central)
How can this episode receive even one star? it's the worst episode of the series imo
Jay - Thu, Jun 7, 2012 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
@ Nick...the Treaty Of Algeron, I believe, involved forbidding the Federation fropm "developing" cloaking technology (my opinion of the ridiculousness of the Federation signing such a treaty is covered in the comments under "The Pegasus" (or perhaps "These Are The Voyages", I forget now)...not merely using it. The Klingon Empire loaning a cloaking device to a single Starfleet vessel is none of the Romulans' business.
Ryan - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 12:18pm (USA Central)
I would rate this episode with zero stars. It's the worst episode of the series in my opinion and terribly misplaced in the last season.
Jock Strapp - Mon, Sep 24, 2012 - 2:41pm (USA Central)
1 star seems about right. For all the things this episode d wrong, it still provided some(not many) laughs therefore it wasn't a complete waste.
Arachnea - Sun, Dec 2, 2012 - 12:24pm (USA Central)
I have to say what's always bothered me is that in the whole Star Trek Franchise, we've never seen a true subtle man/man or woman/woman love relationship.

So, the writers insult the LGBT by authorizing pseudo-lesbianism in the mirror-universe. It rings like only an evil universe can have homosexuals... Moreover, the use of Quark to become a ridiculous female ferengi in the most mysoginistic episode of all time (profit and lace).

I never really cared for mirror universes, but this one is certainly the worst.
Aliem - Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - 10:01am (USA Central)
Rewatching this episode, and speaking as a queer woman, I'm not sure why Mirror Ezri and Mirror Kira getting together is somehow wrong but literally any other, more heterosexual, relationship isn't. The Intendant had a lot of sexual liaisons with men that were played to establish her character as wantonly sexual. None of those get nearly the same sort of fan backlash in the comments, well-intentioned or not.

So what if AltKira/AltEzri was played for titillation? AltKira/anyone played the same. Frankly, the only difference is that Nana Visitor and Nicole de Boer made a cute not-really-couple.
Will - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 10:52am (USA Central)
One thing I didn't understand about this episode and a few of the other mirror universe episodes, is if it's so easy to travel between the universes for the alternate-characters (who seem to have a plethora of technology to due so), why don't we see a constant influx of rebel refugees?
The Sisko - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 5:52pm (USA Central)
I think one star is just about right. Obviously this episode is completely silly, but I didn't think it was unwatchable at all. For whatever reason, there's still enough entertainment value in it for me to not feel like I've totally wasted my time - which would be the requirement for a zero star rating in my book. Even though the jokes were bad, the characterizations ridiculous - for some reason I was still mildly entertained. I guess it must have been Nicole DeBoer's outfit or something. Awww..... so cute.
The Sisko - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 6:13pm (USA Central)
Come to think of it, this episode might actually be a fully intended self-parody. The Vic Fontaine scene seems to be pretty clear evidence of that. I can't help but feel that at least some of the actors interpreted the script that way. It's either that, or it's the dumbest episode since "Let He Who Is Without Sin...".
T'Paul - Thu, Aug 8, 2013 - 8:45am (USA Central)
Interesting how Ezri just happens to appear at this point in the mirror universe...

I do enjoy Worf as Regent though, and I think he enjoys it too
Jay - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 10:41pm (USA Central)
Indeed, T'Paul...the Jadzias must have died simultaneously...it's so conveeenient.
kkt - Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - 6:18pm (USA Central)
I'm surprised James Darren agreed to be in this episode. Three lines and 25 seconds of screen time are not worth bringing in a special guest star.
Kotas - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 10:48am (USA Central)

About the standard level of sillyness and entertainment that you'd expect for a Ferengi/mirrior universe episode.

5/10
K'Elvis - Mon, Jan 13, 2014 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
I just watched it last night, and I think they said that Ezri was not "Ezri Dax", in other words, she's either not a joined Trill, or is not joined to a symbiont other that Dax. This would have left things open to have brought back the alternate Jadzia Dax if they had wanted to do so.

I got very sick of Rom continually trying to figure out the mirror universe, he seems to think that everyone should be the exact opposite in all things of their regular universe counterparts. If that was the case, then because the characters in the regular universe are alive, the characters in the alternate universe should be dead. Even Rom should be able to figure this out: many things, but not all, are different.

If the Intendent had not escaped, the episode might have been a little bit better; with the capture Mirror Worf, Mirror Garak and Mirror Kira, the mirror universe arc could have been wrapped up. The rebels get a significant enough victory that the Alliance leaves them alone. Instead, the MU arc doesn't have an ending, it just - mercifully - stops.

The characters behavior is just... silly. They don't behave like alternate versions, they behave like a gross parody. It makes no sense for Worf to execute Quark and Rom. The two Ferengi delivered on their promise. No matter how evil you are, if you punish those who do what you want, you get a bad reputation, and no one will want to work with you. Also, since they have shown themselves to be useful, they might continue to be useful in the future. Quark and Rom could obtain things the Alliance needed. This brings us back to the premise: why kidnap Zek? It makes more sense to do business with him. Zek could deliver a whole lot more than a cloaking device.

And how does Quark get away with stealing a cloaking device from a Klingon ship? They could have just had Quark use his black market contacts to obtain a cloaking device, this would have avoided this awkward plot hole. It also seemed un-Ferengi to rescue Zek out of loyalty - where's the profit in that?
Paul - Mon, Jan 13, 2014 - 5:21pm (USA Central)
@K'Elvis: This episode just makes no sense at all, really.

First of all, we've seen Quark procure a cloaking device before, in the second season (I can't remember the episode name). Beyond that, his actions in this episode harken back to the first couple seasons when he'd flagrantly break the law and apparently pay no penalty.

Also, the mirror characters lose all of what made them interesting (or simply flat line). Regent Worf if particularly bad.

But the WORST part is that apparently nothing has happened since "Shattered Mirror". The cool part about the mirror universe in seasons 2-4 was that it was advancing, and every time we got an episode there, we found out what had been going on.

Clearly, the creators wanted another Quark episode and another mirror universe episode and mashed the two together for this unsightly mess. Yuck.
Dusty - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 6:41am (USA Central)
Sorry, I don't get the hate. I had a ball with this one. Sure it doesn't make much sense, but neither does the idea of a mirror universe in the first place. It's just an excuse for the writers to play around with canon and say all bets are off. Brunt and Ezri were cool, and the latter seems incapable of complete evil, as even her mirror self is just a mercenary with a cute outfit and a grudging sense of morality.

This is all one-note silliness and the mirror universe is way too easy to get into, but it's a harmless diversion from the serious tone of the other episodes.
Ric - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
In what regards plot, this has to be one of the worst Trek episodes of all time. In what regards execution, well, not much better. Horrible television.

By the bad acting delivered here even by some who are usually interesting, one can almost bet that even the actors couldn't afford the script they were given.
Nick P. - Thu, May 15, 2014 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
Yeah this is bad. I am a huge fan of the ferengi episodes, and I normally love the mirror universe episodes, but this one really made both look really bad. Although I wasn't too annoyed by the Rom universe non-sense, funny though, as soon as he did it the 3rd time, I knew this message board would hate it!

But Man, could we have 1 episode that doesn't focus on Ezri?
eastwest101 - Mon, Jun 2, 2014 - 5:09pm (USA Central)
Boy - Jammer and some people sure need to find a sense of humour! News flash - it was meant to be funny and irreverant! Like a Gazoo solo in the middle of an orchestral movement this was a little silly but it was also a whole lot of fun, I only groaned at a couple of Rom lines, but otherwise I enjoyed this derailed demented but entertaining and slightly bonkers mess a whole lot.

For people whom can deal with the fact that sci fi is allowed to be funny sometimes - I recommend this. 3.5 stars out of five for me.
Yanks - Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
Ezri dressed up like a whore.

Zek.

Mirror episode.

ZERO stars.

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