December 3, 2012
Blog Space Nine #21:"Crossover"
In Japanese animation there's this phenomenon known as "fan service". Usually it refers to those slightly skeezy shots of teenage girls' underwear, but when it boils down to it fan service is all about giving the hardcore what they want, no matter how offputting it might be to the general viewer. "Crossover", then, is fan service run riot in the most gleefully egregious of ways. We don't get women in their underwear (although, to be fair, we do get a naked Kira Nerys). What we do get is a brazen sequel to an episode of Star Trek's original series.
"Mirror, Mirror" remains a classic episode of the Original Series, with a transporter accident throwing Captain Kirk into a parallel universe where humans rule a militaristic empire rather than a peaceful Federation. "Crossover" picks up where that episode left off by showing what happened in that parallel universe in the 80 subsequent years. Kirk's interference led to the Earth Empire declaring peace, which gave the Klingons and Cardassians the opportunity to invade and take over everything. It's an incredibly downbeat revelation: Kirk's successful attempts to persuade Mirror Universe Spock to stop being evil wound up causing abject misery for generations of human beings and Vulcans.
There's always something appealing about parallel universe episodes: you get to see your favourite characters re-envisaged in new ways. Here we encounter a sadistic Garak, Odo as a violent slave overseer, a benevolent Quark who does things for free, and Sisko as a space pirate. Strangest of all is the Mirror Kira, who's performed by Nana Visitor as a highly seductive, childish and bisexual predator. The representation of Mirror Kira borders on homophobia, but thankfully doesn't skirt any further than that border. It's still disturbing, but not to the extent that it spoils the episode.
Make no mistake: "Crossover" is unapologetic fan pornography. Coming only five or six weeks after "Blood Oath", it suggests a desperate desire on behalf of Deep Space Nine's writing team to cement their series more firmly in the Star Trek universe. Season 1 was peppered with Next Generation characters - Q, Vash, Picard, Lwaxana Troi and so on - and now Season 2 seems intent on doing the same with the original Trek. It is enjoyable, but also fluff. 17 good episodes out of 23 makes for a season score of 74%.