Bashir thinks he’s bonding with Kira in a runabout as he namedrops and mansplains cheerfully about meditation and music, and asks her to call him “Julian.” Most of this happens in a single two-person take, and it’s delightfully cringeworthy to watch.
A problem with the engines and an unusually rough return trip through the wormhole lead us to empty space where DS9 should be.
A Klingon boarding party beams onto the runabout. Surprisingly, they apologize when they see Kira.
We then visit an alternate version of Terak Nor, where Klingons supply the brute force, Garak is second in command, and Kira (wearing a crown) is in charge.
“Our” Kira learns what fans of the original Trek already know — that a transporter accident caused James Kirk to swap places with his counterpart in a mirror universe where humans are violent barbarians, and managed to convince the mirror Spock to consider peaceful methods.
The premise of this episode is that Kira and Bashir have, thanks to plot contrivance particles in the wormhole, flown themselves into that same alternate universe, decades after Mirror Spock’s pacifism reformed his society.
But an alliance between Klingons and Cardassians has reduced the Terrans — the recent occupiers of Bajor — to slaves, because for some reason a civilization that can transport tons of ore to a space station depends on a refinement workflow that requires back-breaking manual labor.
But if it were Terrans, not Cardassians, that occupied Bajor, why is there a Cardassian-designed station in orbit around Bajor? Wouldn’t there be a completely different structure in place, to support whatever the Terran Empire had been doing on Bajor? (Of course, they wanted to reuse the sets, so I’ll give them a pass, but good writing should acknowledge and work within the limitations of the medium, rather than call attention to such problems.)
Mirror Kira is amused to meet “our” Kira, even though her standing orders are to kill anyone who appears from the “crossover” universe. She’s perfectly willing to bend the rules for her double, and she’s kind of amused when she realizes Kira is manipulating her to convince her not to execute Bashir.
A brutal, sadistic version of Odo oversees the laborers, striking Bashir numerous times for truthfully saying that he’s a doctor. O’Brien is also on the station, a shuffling, drone puttering in the background.
Our Kira visits a plainly dressed Mirror Quark (fitted with a full headpiece, omitting the money-saving fabric flap that the costumers frequently employ to hide where the prosthetic head joins the actor’s real neck). She flatters him into letting her ask her for a favor — access to a transporter, but admits she has no latinum. Just when Our Quark would perk up and make a sleazy suggestion, Mirror Quark asks about the possibility of sending others through to the other side.
Before Kira can fully process this request, Garak bursts in to arrest Quark for helping Terran refugees escape. Mirror Quark is not only noble, but even heroic — he pulls a weapon from behind the bar.
And while Kira is still processing this, in swaggers a piratical Mirror Sisko, vaulting the bar to get drinks for his band of Terran mercenaries.
Bashir tries to connect with O’Brien, but because this is early in the episode, the meeting doesn’t go too well.
Sisko is privileged compared to other Terrans, but it’s clear that his status comes from being Mirror Kira’s boytoy. Like a high school sports bully, Sisko defends his status by ordering nerd O’Brien around.
Our Kira is further shocked when, after expressing empathy for Quark, Mirror Kira rewards him with a quick rather than prolonged death, and then talks about what to wear to a party.
Garak promises to help Our Kira to escape, but first he plans to kill Mirror Kira, and requests her cooperation.
Our Kira instead turns to Mirror Sisko, working on her knowledge of Our Sisko’s sense of justice. He resists, but later, when he watches a Klingon threatens and spits on one of his Terran crewmen, we can see he’s tempted to act.
In the ore refinery, Odo is harassing Bashir when there’s an explosion. Bashir takes the opportunity to escape, grabbing a weapon and fragmenting Odo in the process. When he stumbles across O’Brien in a remote area, this time O’Brien not only agrees to help, but asks to escape with them.
Mirror Kira gives a speech about Odo’s death. She says she blames herself for “treating you Terrans with the least bit of respect,” and orders a slow public death for Bashir.
In an episode full of intrigue and surprises, the high point for me is actually O’Brien’s salt-of-the-earth monologue about about how even if Bashir’s story was a lie, it gave him hope and a desire to act for change.
It’s this speech from a fellow Terran that finally prompts Mirror Sisko to act.
Fortunately for our heroes, Sisko knows just where to shoot the wall above Quark’s bar to trigger the door to close and lock, which buys the escapees enough time to get back to their ships. There’s also just enough time for Mirror O’Brien to decide he wants to join Mirror Sisko’s crew to fight for freedom in their universe.
A quick space chase, some pew-pew, and it’s through the wormhole and back to our familiar universe. Bashir covered in ore dust and Kira in a low-cut party gown make quite an appearance on the viewer in Ops.
Mirror Kira is the pouting, wounded, scenery-chewing villain TNG failed to find in Sela (s5e1 “Redemption, Part 2“; s5e7 “Unification, Part 1” and s5e8 “Unification, Part 2“). The evil Kira is campy and over the top, taking a milk bath and flirting with the mirror image of herself; but it’s so much fun seeing how good writing and talented actors can repurpose these well-established characters in surprising ways.