Thursday, December 12, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: Shattered Mirror

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"Shattered Mirror"
Airdate: April 22, 1996
90 of 173 produced
90 of 173 aired

Introduction

The Mirror Universe's Jennifer Sisko appears and takes Jake back with her as a ploy to lure Captain Sisko back. They have built their own version of the Defiant, and need his help to finish the project before the Alliance arrives to retake Terok Nor from the fledgling Rebels.

OK, this is a little on the nose, don't you think?

Writing

Kevin: Ugh. Here we go again. This is not the worst outing of the mirror universe. That dubious honor awaits The Emperor's New Cloak. This one is not without its problems. First, it is just stupid beyond reason that someone could download the schematics to the Defiant remotely in a second. It's even more absurd that a rag tag bunch of rebels with no training could build one with such precision. Did the schematics include the same interior decorator notes? They could have at least done something to indicate this one was built on the cheap. Overall, even with those problems aside, I just don't care about the Mirror Universe or its problems. They aren't interesting or three-dimensional enough to make me care. This could have been a fun way to expand on DS9's underlying premise, how humanity responds to real, crushing adversity. Maybe had the focus been less whiz-bang, and more watching these traumatized people build their new society, that could have been fun, and a real Trek story.

Matthew: What this story did to further damage any chance I might care about the Mirror Universe was to make Mirror O'Brien a douchebag. He was the only likable character from the previous episodes. Now he's a manipulative kidnapper and thief. But yes, the grating artificiality of the premise was really at the surface here. The Defiant, Worf, it was all just so predictable and expected. It's like someone said, "well, time for another mirror show... what's happened in the real show in the past year?" That's not a reason to tell a story. This story has no reason to exist, basically.

Kevin: The emotional core of the story is a bit of a swing and a miss for me, too. We already did the "Jennifer but not Jennifer" bit the last time she was here, and I don't quite care enough about Jake to be terribly invested in doing the same story to him. Moreover, I just don't think they took it far enough. Some of the scenes where he treats her like his mother are cute, but the payoff is lacking. Both of these men watched her die once and are doing so again. Even knowing it's not the same woman, wouldn't anyone find this an impossible thing to deal with? I just think if they wanted to explore this angle, they should have gone whole hog. Either or both of them should have had a huge breakdown after this. It should have played with the depth and sting of The Visitor, and it just didn't.

Matthew: Any chance I might have had of caring about the Siskos/Jennifer relationship was sabotaged by the complete and utter disregard to Sisko's life in the Prime universe. He's moved on. You know how I know he's moved on? Because he told us so. Because he's seriously dating a new woman who goes completely unmentioned here. And so I am never even tempted to think that the character is entertaining a relationship with Mirror Jennifer. I agree on Jake. It's just not enough of a hook to hang an episode on.

Kevin: There are a few fun moments peppered throughout though. I enjoyed the Intendant this time, probably more than elsewhere, since it was more opportunistic sociopath, and the sexual mewling was kept to a bit of a minimum. The incompetent Garak of other episodes in the arc is truly painful, so the acerbic, sarcastic Garak that's in this episode is more fun to watch and the sparring with Worf was actually funny. I find the presence of Worf, while fun to watch for himself, is the worst problem of the mirror universe, the need to include everyone we know from the prime universe. Marking time until the next mirror version of a main character is a bit of an anti-climax. Literally every aspect in this universe exists only to be different from the one we know, so it has no internal life.

Matthew: I agree that the Worf character was basically amusing, as was his interplay with Garak (including a gay joke). But as you say, being amusing isn't enough of a rationale for a character's inclusion in an apparently serious story. That kind of stunt writing smacks of, and I almost hate to say it, the Abrams movies.

Acting

Kevin: I think Brooks did a good job with what he had. The shock of seeing Jennifer and the steel in his voice when he goes after her for taking Jake were good. I always like Visitor in the role, even if I think the work is being wasted. Particularly the look on her face when she goes back to kill Nog was perfect. Funny in a horrifying kind of way. Beyond that, I did like Dorn, but again, it's kind of all for nothing. Evil Worf is not a terribly interesting character. Dorn does a good job being bombastic, and it must have been fun to essentially play dress-up for a day, but overall, it's good acting for mediocre writing.

Matthew: The story sucked. But the acting sucked worse. Chief among the culprits is Alexander Siddig. He was just horrid. His voice was ridiculous, and I never believed that he could reasonably act like this, or that anyone would do anything but shoot his ass dead. The notion that Dax, Mirror or otherwise, would voluntarily sleep with him was so jarringly ludicrous that it ripped me out of the story. Felicia M. Bell... I'm sorry. She is just not very good. She is wooden, and I never sense any life behind her eyes. I feel like she had a hard time zeroing in on her character's motivation or something.

Kevin: I do want to single out Colm Meaney for doing the best "mirror" job with his character. There are notes of our O'Brien, but a weariness and caginess that ours lacks, so I actually am put in mind of what our Miles might have responded to living in this world. It's also fun to see Meaney get to be something other than the nice guy.

Production Values

Kevin: The battle sequence was pretty good, especially for its day. I liked the use of the Negh'var ship and the Maquis raiders. I also liked small touches like the scaffolding around the Defiant. Beyond that, it's a pretty standard use of redresses and the same sets with fewer and occasionally more red lights. I think the bridge of the Klingon ship was some kind of redress since it looked a little different than the standard Klingon bridge, but was good, and I liked Worf's throne-captain chair.

Matthew: I disagree on the space battles. I was distracted throughout. The CGI was rough and the compositing was rife with jagged edges and bad lighting. There were scale issues between ships all over the place - things looked like they were growing and shrinking in relation to each other within the same shot. We've seem much, much better, and quite a bit earlier in the franchise than this. Alexander Siddig's wig practically derailed the episode by itself, it was that bad.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 2. The set up is silly and the emotional pay off not enough to make me think anything other than "Why did we bother doing this?" A whiz-bang action sequence and a few fun character moments don't pull this out of the doldrums. The Mirror Universe is DS9's holodeck. It's a lazy storytelling crutch that always leaves me wondering what the point was.

Matthew: But there were good holodeck episodes, weren't there? There hasn't been a good Mirror show yet, and with each succeeding entry into the genre, the worse the chances seem for any redemption. Characters keep either dying or getting stupider. Motivations and setups become more and more threadbare. I'm stuck on a 1. If this isn't in the bottom decile, nothing is. That makes a total of 3.

1 comment:

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