"The Emperor's New Cloak" 
Season Seven, Episode 12
Written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler
Directed by LeVar Burton
Music by Jay Chattaway
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Nicole deBoer as Lt Ezri Dax
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Wallace Shawn as Grand Nagus Zek
Andrew J Robinson as Garak
Jeffrey Combs as Brunt
Max Grodenchik as Rom
J.G. Hertzler as Martok
Tiny Ron as Maihardu
Chase Masterson as Leeta
James Darren as Vic Fontaine


Quark receives a visit from Ezri, only to realise that this Ezri is from the alternate universe. She has a message from Grand Nagus Zek who, having made his way to the Mirror universe, has been kidnapped by the Alliance. In order for Zek to be freed, Quark must provide the Alliance with a cloaking device. Realising that the Nagus's life is at stake, Quark and Rom steal the cloaking device from General Martok's ship, then Ezri takes them over to the alternate universe. They find themselves on Terok Nor and are captured by the rebels, only to be rescued by Ezri's friend Brunt, who takes them -- along with the cloaking device -- to the Regent's ship, where it will be traded for Zek. But Ezri double-crosses them and Quark and Rom are jailed awaiting execution. However, no one can install the cloaking device bar Rom, who also takes the opportunity to sabotage the ship, enabling the rebels to defeat the Alliance and capture the Regent. Once safely back on Terok Nor, Quark, Rom and Zek are free to go home.


First of all, I think we should give Misters Behr and Beimler a round of applause. Seriously. Because I don't know how they did it, but they somehow managed...to come up with a Mirror universe episode that is actually WORSE than last season's "Resurrection". And that in itself was presumably no small feat. Now, if someone will get them up on stage and tie them up, I'll go get some rotten vegetables that we can throw at them, because this is so not a good episode. :-( 

If you'll just picture this a moment: the place is Paramount studios, the time is early one morning several months ago. Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler have just arrived at work...

Ahem! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know that was very cheeky of me, but frankly I wouldn't be surprised if that was the line of thought behind this episode. There were, admittedly, one or two bright spots here and there, but not nearly enough of them to redeem what sadly amounts to something of a mess. I'm sorry to have to say this, but The Emperor's New Cloak is, as Bashir so eloquently put it, a "worthless piece of space trash".

Assuming my little theory above is merely the facetious ramblings of a reviewer who's fallen far behind with his reviews, I wonder what Behr and Beimler were aiming for with this episode. My guess is that they were trying to capture the sense of fun and adventure of the season four episode Shattered Mirror. Now, Shattered Mirror wasn't a perfect episode by any means, nor was it the best to feature the Mirror universe. But it was a wonderfully entertaining outing, packed with comedy, adventure, action and even some poignant characterisation, courtesy of Sisko, Jake and Mirror Jennifer. It was so entertaining and enjoyable that you could easily overlook its contrived, almost comic book plot. It strikes me that Behr and Beimler were trying to duplicate the success of that episode. Unfortunately, second time round the whole thing falls horribly, horribly flat and as a result, The Emperor's New Cloak is dull, meandering, pointless and even a little insulting. Not that Behr and Beimler were alone to blame -- the directing was unspectacular, the special effects weren't up to their usual standard and even some of the acting was pretty poor, a complaint I very rarely have with DS9.

The story begins with the Mirror Ezri hopping across to our universe to blackmail Quark. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the way that characters casually pop between universes whenever they need something is not only silly but it takes away whatever novelty factor these stories had way back when. Out of milk? No problem, just pop across to the alternate universe to borrow a pint! Actually it's not milk Ezri's after, she wants a cloaking device which, we're told, don't exist in the Mirror universe. Reeeally? I seem to remember Alliance ships de-cloaking in Crossover and Through the Looking Glass. And if the Rebels have a duplicate of the Defiant, then wouldn't it have a cloaking device, too? Anyway, the girl wants a cloaking device -- and Quark has to get it for him, or else Grand Nagus Zek, who's made his way into the Mirror universe and been taken prisoner by the Alliance, will be killed.

I must say I actually found the scene where Quark and Rom stole Martok's cloaking device a genuine hoot. The sight of them carrying the device, which is cloaked and therefore invisible, was quite amusing and a nice bit of physical comedy. When they hear Sisko and Martok coming, they quickly put the device down and try to "act normal". Sisko and Martok walk past, stop, look and each other and then look behind them. When Sisko asks what the conspicuous-looking Ferengi are doing, they pretend they're admiring the bulkhead. "Rom was thinking of painting his quarters this colour," Quark tells him. "They're already that colour," Sisko responds. "Well, no wonder I like it!" exclaims Rom. "It's a very soothing shade of grey." Once they manage to get rid of Sisko and Martok, they can't remember where they put cloaking device! I definitely enjoyed this scene, so credit, I guess, where credit is due.

Once we get over to the Mirror universe, things start to go downhill from there. There could be a multitude of reasons for that. A primary one would definitely be the lame plotting. The story unfolds in as routine, dull and uninteresting a way as seems possible. The characterisation is paper thin and, as I said above, I wasn't all that impressed with the acting on some fronts, either. I was particularly disappointed with Armin Shimerman, as a matter of fact. Now, don't get me wrong, Shimerman is a first-rate actor, you need only watch The Siege of AR-558 to recognise that. But throughout this episode he appeared to be sleep-walking, delivering one of the weakest performances I've ever seen from him. He didn't seem to put any effort at all into the role and just about every word that came from his mouth fell flat. Need an example? How about "Rom, you're driving me crazy" or "I hope you two are very happy together". Throughout the episode I was aware that I was watching not a character, but a weary, disenchanted actor who just couldn't be bothered to put the slightest effort into his part. Armin, I can quite understand if you were unhappy with the material, but let's face it dude, you get paid either way, so you still should have at least tried to make it work.

Thankfully Max Grodenchik was still game and there were moments when I quite enjoyed watching Rom. Mind you, there were also times when I wanted to throw a vase at the screen, for his constant "but this is an ALTERNATE universe" witterings were overdone and ended up being rather annoying. And then there's Ezri, who takes centre stage as the most prominent Mirror universe character. As far as she goes, it was again a combination of poor writing and lacklustre acting. Aside from looking like an ten year-old girl glammed up to try and pass herself off as a teenager, Nicole deBoer wasn't particularly good, delivering a weak performance, seemingly unable to display the necessary range or ability to bring Mirror Ezri to life. I didn't find the character remotely interesting or engaging and frankly I didn't give a toss whether she was actually a good guy or a bad guy. She was set up as being somewhat like the Mirror Sisko from Crossover, a man with connections to the Alliance, but with a burgeoning conscience also. The main difference is that Mirror Sisko was actually an interesting, compelling and well-performed character whereas the alternate Ezri is flatter than a piece of paper.

As for the hoo-ha surrounding her lesbian relationship with the Intendant? Yes, well. I think that if anything, instead of making the show look liberal and "cool", Ezri's eeeevil lesbian affair could be construed as offensive. After all, unless you count Dax and Lenara's relationship in Rejoined, this, the only open gay relationship we've seen in Trek takes place in the evil, savage Mirror universe. How come that practically any female villain you'd care to mention has something of an exaggerated libido? You'll notice that male villains rarely have this preoccupation with sex. Equating sex with evil is a preposterous cliche, so you'll forgive me if I don't view the Ezri/Intendant relationship as anything more than a misguided attempt to make the writers look "cool" and "fashionable" by including a lesbian relationship. There's no way, in a million years, that you'd ever see two men kiss on Trek, so it's difficult not to view this as superficial, cheap thrill as opposed to a demonstration of liberalism on the part of The Powers That Be. 

Superficial and cheap are two adjectives that would equally apply to the Intendant, by the way, at least what has become of her. Gone is the complex, almost mesmerising character that we were introduced to back in Crossover, as she has long since been reduced to a transparent, one dimensional Evil Bimbo With A Hyperactive Sex Drive (TM). Whilst Nana Visitor is still fun to watch strutting about in that leather catsuit, clearly having immense fun, the Intendant has become as predictable as the sunrise, as became increasingly clear to me when I could literally guess what lines were about to come out her mouth next. There were one or two moments which were reasonably effective -- such as her casual murdering of Brunt -- but most the time watching the Intendant just made me nostalgic for the good ol' days when the character had an ounce of depth. Which is equally true of Garak, who even moreso is a pale shadow of the character he once was. The devious, scheming mastermind we saw in Crossover is long gone, in the place of which is a snivelling, @$$ kissing toad who I presume has undergone a complete lobotomy. Last time, in Shattered Mirror, I found his interaction with the Regent an absolute scream, and one of the highlights of the episode. But this time round, that delicious interplay is completely missing and not even Andrew Robinson can salvage the awful material he's given. The Regent perhaps fared slightly better, because although he's a one-note cartoon villain without a trace of depth (or intelligence), Michael Dorn is sporadically amusing in the role and I did get a grin or two from his temper tantrums.

On the Rebels' side of things, the real standout was Colm Meaney's Smiley. Although he only had about four lines, Meaney -- ever the pro -- managed to instil a sense of depth and complexity to his character. What can I say? The man's a gem. The less said about Bashir the better, but a real surprise was Brunt. Normally I can't stand Brunt, but Jeffrey Combs did a more than respectable job and he successfully created a fairly rounded, interesting character. I should have known, however, that Brunt was going to be the latest Ferengi to be killed by the Intendant.

Anyway, the plot (such as it is) reaches a climax when the Defiant must battle the Regent's flagship...except that it's more of an anti-climax. Remember the visually-stunning, adrenaline-pumping battle in Shattered Mirror? Well, this is the complete opposite. The special effects consist of ONE meagre shot of the Defiant opening fire on the Regent's ship, some exploding consoles and shaky camera-work -- and, hey presto, the battle is over! Do forgive me for being somewhat nonplussed. Frankly, I didn't care who won and I wouldn't even have objected had the whole lot of them been blasted to smithereens. Even once the whole thing's over, there's absolutely NO sense of closure to the Mirror Universe arc. Are we to take it that the Rebels have defeated the Alliance even though they've only captured one of their ships? And why did the Intendant just slip off like that? Didn't the character, after having killed numerous people over the past five years, deserve some sort of comeuppance? This lame non-conclusion made it feel like I'd sat through the whole thing for nothing, a feeling of unfulfilment which doesn't exactly engender any favour.

A few other quick comments --

Every so often (on average once a year to be exact) along comes an episode that is poorly realised or executed on a number of levels, resulting in something of an unpleasant mess. The Emperor's New Cloak is one such example. At the base of it is Behr and Beimler's patchwork script, complete with its lousy dialogue, paper thin characterisation and its lamentably disjointed, uneven -- not to say pointless -- plot. Whilst most the performances were passable, a few of them were jarringly poor and the directing clearly didn't do much to redeem things, either. This isn't the worst episode of DS9 ever to air, but it's sure as hell among them. Clearly we've visited the Mirror Universe a few times too many.

One last thing -- at one point Leonard Nimoy told the writers that he'd be willing to appear on DS9 as the Mirror Spock. The Man himself offers to appear on the show and they decline his offer in favour of this trash? WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING??!!!!!!!!

Rating: 3

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