Star Trek: DS9 Season 4 “Hard Time” and “Shattered Mirror”

Poignant scene.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Hard Time”


The episode opens with O’Brien being taken out of what seems like some kind of unconscious state. It turns out he was convicted of espionage on a rather unfriendly planet and the sentence was a kind of mental imprisonment which only lasted a short while in “real” time, but gave O’Brien the experiences of two decades of imprisonment. Back on DS9, O’Brien must deal with the torments of the mental imprisonment–experiences he felt were real. He finds himself sleeping on the floor for comfort, startling both Keiko and Molly. After one especially scary moment, in which his PTSD has become acute, he rushes to a weapons locker to end it all. Bashir, who has been treating O’Brien throughout, manages to stop him just in time and talk him down. O’Brien admits he killed his cellmate over a few pieces of bread in his mental imprisonment. He thinks he is a monster. Bashir disagrees, saying he would not regret it if he were a monster, and finds a treatment that begins to work.


I can’t say enough about how excellent this episode is. Seriously. First of all, it’s about as bleak as you can possibly get, and I love me some bleak episodes of Star Trek. But seriously–a society that sentences you to this kind of mental imprisonment and breaks you intentionally over the course of a few days? Wow. That is… wow.

O’Brien and Bashir truly shine throughout this episode. As a viewer, you can’t help but feel a deep sense of foreboding–something is deeply wrong with O’Brien, and we know what it is, but how will it manifest. Will he get better? And in the end, though Bashir is able to find a way to treat O’Brien, he’ll never be better. He has been permanently changed and scarred by what was inflicted upon him. It has been done. This episode gives us something that doesn’t always happen in Star Trek–long lasting, life-impacted effects on a character we have known for a long time.

Grade: A+ “A truly human piece of television which forces viewers to think on things like mass incarceration while also bonding deeply with Bashir and O’Brien in ways they hadn’t before. Truly, a magnificent episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A *sad face* “You know it’s good, because if it weren’t a Star Trek episode, it would be Oscar bait.”

“Shattered Mirror”


The Mirror Universe Jennifer Sisko kidnaps Jake Sisko in order to lure Benjamin Sisko, and it works. Once there, Mirror O’Brien convinces Benjamin Sisko to help repair the Defiant. They go to fight against the Cardassian-Bajor Alliance and chaos ensues, leading to several mirror-deaths, including the death of Jennifer Sisko (again!) and mirror Nog. Jake is left to mourn his mother… kind of.


Okay, so here we have an episode where almost nothing matters in the “real world.” The problem with the Mirror Universe, across the board, is that as a viewer you have close to certainty that the “real” characters will all survive, and that it doesn’t particularly matter to you what happens in the Mirror Universe because it’s just a kind of parallel universe. There are a lot of books from Star Trek about the Mirror Universe, so maybe reading those would get you invested, but on the show, it seems like an excuse for the writers to do whatever they want to the characters. That in itself is a cool concept, but it makes it so I as a viewer have even lest investment: they aren’t the real thing, so of course Kira could be allied with Cardassia and be happy about it. But that doesn’t jive with what we know about Kira whatsoever.

So I guess what I’m saying is the Mirror Universe’s strength is also its downfall–it allows for characters to act very differently from expectations, but it also means you aren’t invested in it. Where the writers made you get somewhat invested in this episode is by having the loss to Jake and Benjamin Sisko occur, again. It’s maybe a cheap shot, but it does at least get some interest because that’s a real world impact.  A tough sell, in my opinion, but not necessarily done poorly.

Grade: B- “Convoluted and a bit silly, but it is interesting to see how the writers play with characters when they can effectively do whatever they want. Also, poor Jake.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It’s not very memorable, but I feel done with the Mirror Universe. It is played out.”


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

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