The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S6E8)’

“I couldn’t leave without saying hello to myself.”
    -- Intendant Kira

The way I experience DS9’s Mirror Universe episodes is emblematic of the way I view the series as a whole. For the most part, my opinion of any one episode is fairly constant; if I liked it when it aired, I like it now. The major exception are the Mirror Universe episodes. I used to love those things. Like, seriously love them. Look forward to them every season. I was even mad that “Trials and Tribble-ations” -- you know, one of the consistently top-rated episodes in the entire series -- meant there wouldn’t be a Mirror episode in Season 5.

By my second time through the series, I have no earthly idea why I loved them so much. The first one is a fun diversion, especially as the series was finding its voice. The second two were diminishing returns, but still fun watching the cast get to play against type. But by this week’s episode, Season 6’s “Resurrection,” it was pretty clear the writers were done with the whole idea of the Mirror Universe and were beginning to regret they had ever done it in the first place.

That’s the dark side of serialization, and why in my recent years I’ve somewhat turned my back on continuity. As a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with continuity, even latching onto new comic books simply because I could read them from issue #1 without having to deal with reams and reams of backstory that was too expensive to ever buy. I shied away from Doctor Who in large part because sections of it were entirely gone. As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to see continuity as a double-edged sword, and I completely reject the idea that the true arbiters of a series are soulless corporations. Also, I find it ridiculous when people argue about what “really” happened to fake people.

My point here is that DS9 is known for its continuity. That was a huge part of what attracted me to it in the first place, and a big part of what I like about it now. There are missteps along the way, sections that are quietly forgotten in the service of the over-arching story. Remember when Dax met all her previous hosts? Verad Dax, the guy who stole the symbiont early in Season 2 wasn’t there, was he? No, he was quietly left out because, aside from a typically great John Glover performance, that episode is sort of terrible. Sometimes, though, the urge got the best of the writers. They serialized everything else, and by god, they were locked into this Mirror thing, and they were going to get to the end.

First, though, they had to do the worst of the Mirror Episodes. This one.

The major problem with this episode, aside from being laggy and out of place in the larger narrative, is that it places the continuity of the Mirror Universe ahead of the one in the main universe. Essentially, the crux of the episode is that Kira has lingering feelings for Bareil. You know, the guy who died in the first half of Season 3, who I kept calling a serial killer. I was mostly joking, but I’ve never liked Philip Anglim’s performance, and the lack of chemistry between him and Nana Visitor always made their love scenes more than a little awkward. So, it’s been three years since the man died, Kira has had a major relationship begin and end with Shakaar, and she’s trying to work out how she feels about Odo... and all of a sudden she falls head over heels in love with Mirror Bareil.

“Hang on,” you’re saying. “You never mentioned Kira going into the Mirror Universe.” That’s because she doesn’t. This is a Mirror Universe episode without the Mirror Universe, which is the sugar-free pastry of DS9 episodes. Instead, Bareil, and later Intendant Kira, transport over to our universe as part of an ill-defined scheme to steal the Orb of Prophecy and Change, return home, and become gods to the Bajoran people. A Bajoran people who have no concept of Prophets and only a shaky conception of what a god might even be.

Great plan there, guys. Mirror Bareil’s job was to seduce Kira and steal the Orb. Intendant Kira was there to... oh, who knows. She and Bareil are pelvis buddies as well, thus throwing our Kira into one of the weirdest love triangles possible. Not that this bugs Intendant Kira at all -- she's still so arrogant, she wants nothing more than to sleep with herself.

It’s a sleepy hour of the show, and coming on the heels of the bombastic six-parter and the emotionally true and fan-servicey Klingon wedding, it feels small. While there was unlikely to be an hour that would have lived up to what came before, this one is far too slight to stand up. Add in the inconsistent Kira characterization, a Mirror plot that goes nowhere (It’s foiled when Bareil’s Orb experience gave him a conscience.), and a lack of movement on the plots we actually care about, and this episode lifts right out. It’s one of those that’s easy to skip. Unless you’re obsessed with Intendant Kira, and although I prefer original recipe Kira (always will), I won’t judge.

Hilariously, even the writers are lukewarm about this hour. They acknowledge the awkward placing of it and point to that as a losing prospect for nearly anything they could have done. Behr himself said it wasn’t their best show, but it also wasn’t their worst -- both technically accurate statements. Perhaps the most ironic part is that, in terms of romance episodes, Season 6 features my favorite of the entire series with “His Way.” I think the writers were tired of the Mirror Universe, wanted to mix up the kinds of shows they’d done with it, and, unfortunately, landed on this inert installment. Oh well. Only one more Mirror Episode to go, and it’s a fun one.


Next up: The equation of war.

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