The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S4E19)’

“This time I will deal with the rebels myself.”
    -- Regent Worf

The defining question of science fiction is “What if?” Those two simple words are the springboard for all of the great (and for that matter terrible) sci-fi out there. Some of the questions veer toward the hard edges of the genre: how will nano-technology change human existence, what if aliens invaded in World War II. Sometimes, sci-fi wants to tackle the softer, deeper questions usually confined to drama, the fantastic elements in the world allowing confrontations to be played out in stark, literal terms.

In some ways, the Mirror Universe is the ultimate case of What If. You’re going for the What If of What Ifs, a recursive, Inception-like delving into Trek’s id. Or an excuse for everyone to cut loose a little bit and play against type. This week, though, takes the rendezvous teased in the last installment and pays it off. In many ways, this is the high water mark of the Mirror episodes, and the moment when it feels as though the writers felt they had kind of put a cap on the whole thing.

Ben and Jake Sisko’s relationship is in some ways defined by their shared pain at the death of Jennifer at Wolf 359. When the last Mirror Universe episode centered around Mirror Jennifer still being alive, it was a foregone conclusion that Jake should meet her eventually. It had to happen. This is one of the softer What Ifs science fiction is capable of, one that, if you actually write it out, sounds kind of silly. Jake gets to meet his deceased mom’s alternate universe doppelgänger. Silly, right?

But, the emotions underneath aren’t. Mirror Jennifer is not the Jennifer who had Jake. They are similar, as they are genetically identical, albeit with vastly different backgrounds. Yet she’s close enough that both of them instantly feel a connection to one another (and not in a gross way). For Jake, he’s not getting his mother back, but someone who trips every important sense memory of the woman he loved more than life itself. For Jennifer, she is seeing the life she never got to have, where she could have a kid as cool as Jake. For both of them, it’s an intoxicating moment of What If, one neither wants to leave behind.

Unfortunately, this is the Mirror Universe we’re talking about, and they never got around to inventing consciences. Jennifer lures Jake to the other side as part of a plot to get Sisko to help out against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. The Terran rebels took Terok Nor, but the problem, Smiley O’Brien notes, is keeping it. During his last trip to the mainline universe, he downloaded as much as he could from DS9’s computers, which included schematics for the Defiant. They’ve built a prototype, but every time they power up the engines, the ship nearly shakes itself apart. This was an established problem with the ship. It’s essentially too badass to function.

They want Sisko’s help getting her battle ready, and meanwhile an Alliance fleet is on the way to take back the station and do awful things to the merry band of rebels. Leading this fleet is Regent Worf, and, man, Michael Dorn is having a good time unleashing his inner Klingon. Instead of the hopelessly uptight Worf we all know and love, this is a bloodthirsty warrior with no off switch. The writers also give him all the best lines, letting him echo Darth Vader with the episode quote, and later barking “make it so!” at his command staff.

As for our former villains, the Intendant surrendered to the rebels, while Garak escaped and both are having a rough time of it. Kira spends most of her time being tortured, while Worf keeps Garak on a leash and occasionally stabs him as a disciplinary measure. Both also end the episode slightly better off than before, with Kira escaping and murdering Nog (thus completing her trifecta -- she killed Quark in the first Mirror episode, then Rom in the second) and Garak pawning off the loss on Kira’s imaginary betrayal.

The performances here are what remain the most entertaining aspect of the Mirror episodes, and each actor had a different way of approaching it. Alexander Siddig wanted to play the polar opposite of Bashir, although you can still see the character’s tendency toward heroics in his Han Solo-esque arrival in the end battle. Nana Visitor saw Intendant Kira as a bit of an inversion, as well: Our Kira serves Bajor, while Intendant Kira serves only herself. Meanwhile, Colm Meaney saw Smiley O’Brien as only different due to his background: tougher and more hardscrabble, but a fundamentally good man.

The episode reaches its climax as the invasion fleet arrives. Sisko takes command of the Defiant, because he knows he’s the only one who has hope of winning. Meanwhile, Nog breaks the Intendant out of jail and gets killed for his trouble. During her escape, Kira runs into Jennifer and Jake as well, shooting Jennifer before realizing who Jake is. She allows the kid to live under the assumption Sisko now owes her one. I’m not sure she gets how that works. I think even pointing a gun at Jake is a surefire way to get yourself killed.

After Sisko (with a timely assist from Captain Bashir) drives the invasion fleet off, he returns to find Mirror Jennifer dying. Both Sisko men get to have their hearts broken all over again. This isn’t their Jennifer, but she looks and sounds just like her. She’s dying tragically too, and none of Trek’s magical technology can help. The episode ends with both Siskos hugging each other tightly. They just had a reminder at how pointless and cruel not just the universe, but the multiverse, can be. It’s like all of reality conspires to insure that every Jennifer will die before the eyes of these two Siskos.

This offered the exact opposite of closure, opening wounds both men thought were finally closed. Pretty deep for an alternate universe episode, right?

Next up: Jake gets one of those muses I’ve heard such good things about.

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