Strangers In a Strange World
"The Emperor's New Cloak" Plot Summary:
While Quark seethes about Dax's apparent interest in Bashir, Rom rushes in shrieking that the Nagus is missing. Quark is sure Moogie's lover is merely having a fling on Risa, but that night, Dax visits him in his quarters...wearing black leather, with a knife. Quark confesses his love, but she plays him a message from the Nagus, who went into the alternate universe and was trapped there. Ezri - the OTHER Ezri, who is not "Dax" - tells Quark that if he doesn't get a cloaking device for her Alliance, Zek will die.
Quark and Rom steal the Rotaran's cloaking device and cleverly cloak it as they transport it through DS9, but when Martok finds them out, they transport with Ezri to the other universe to make sure the Regent keeps his part of the bargain and sets Zek free. When they arrive, an android Vic Fontaine steps forward to meet them...and is promptly shot by a scruffy Dr. Bashir. "I thought Vic was his favorite singer. Now I know why they call this the alternate universe!" Rom exclaims dimly. O'Brien, or Smiley, insists that he can't let the evil Alliance have the cloaking device, but as far as Quark's concerned, getting it to the Regent is the only way to save Zek, no matter who the good guys are in that universe.
Meanwhile, Zek is in an Alliance prison...having his ears massaged by the Intendant, who has been told before that she has nimble fingers. Garak wants her dead after her last set of stunts, but the Regent is keeping her alive for the time being in case something goes wrong with the cloaking device...and she hasn't changed, pinching Zek's ear violently when he worries aloud that Quark might screw up. The younger Ferengi is also in jail, though he is being held by the Rebels, discussing his loyalty to his Nagus which Ezri finds misguided; she works only for cash. The greedy Ferengi Quark and Nog know as Brunt comes to break them out, since in this universe, his loyalty is to Ezri.
Quark discovers that this Brunt is a good engineer and a good cook...and in love with Ezri, though Brunt warns Quark that most men don't stand much chance with her. When they arrive on the Regent's ship, Quark discovers what Brunt means, as the Intendant gives Ezri a passionate kiss for a greeting. The Regent never gets rid of anyone he finds useful, Ezri tells them, which explains why Worf lets the Intendant roam around...and why he decides to lock up Rom and Quark with the Nagus instead of killing them outright, once he has his cloaking device courtesy Ezri and the Intendant.
In the jail cell, Zek tells the sons of Moogie that he stole Rom's specs for an interdimensional transporter and crossed over to look for profit opportunities. Rom is very disappointed to discover that the Nagus was cheating on his mother with the Intendant, who bursts in on a discussion between Brunt and Ezri about the fate of the Ferengi. The Intendant says that she admires Brunt's passion but won't risk listening to his plans; then she slashes his throat with a knife. Sniveling to Ezri about all the people who have betrayed her - Sisko, Bareil, Brunt - she asks for help getting the depressing corpse outside, but Ezri says, "It's your mess, you clean it up." The Trill is very angry, but the Intendant admires Ezri's fearlessness.
When Garak is forced to admit that the cloaking device is not yet working, Ezri suggests to the Regent that Rom could hook it up. As he works, Rom stands up to Garak, insulting his lack of engineering skills and sneering at his threats. On the Bridge, the Intendant curls up in the Regent's lap, offering whispered favors in exchange for Terok Nor. They are interrupted by the completion of the installation of the cloaking device. The Regent orders the deaths of the no-longer-useful Ferengi. "I'm beginning to hate this universe!" Rom exclaims.
Garak brings a painful virus to kill the prisoners which he had hoped to use on the Intendant, but while he's deciding which to kill first, Quark scoffs that he's an amateur compared to their Garak and that if he had any brains, he'd interrogate them first. While Garak is boasting of his skills as a saboteur, the power suddenly goes out. When Garak gasps a question about what's happening, Rom crows, "Sabotage! What else?" As the Regent's ship drops out of warp behind Smiley's Defiant, its systems shut down. During the chaos, the Intendant slips away from the bridge and Ezri injects Garak with the deadly virus.
The Defiant blasts the Regent's ship until Worf agrees to unconditional surrender, then smashes his bridge, ranting that he didn't kill the Ferengi. The Intendant and Ezri bump into each other with weapons drawn; Kira asks the Trill to come to an escape pod with her, but Ezri tells the other woman she shouldn't have killed Brunt, and sends her away alone. The group accompanies O'Brien and Bashir to Terok Nor, where they are greeted with cheers and the Nagus' announcement that he intends to return to this universe to seek profit. Quark wants to come back to see this Ezri, but his romantic overtures are interrupted by the arrival of Leeta. She does not recognize Rom, but gives the Trill an enthusiastic once over, then declares saucily that she's been sent to debrief Ezri. The two women gaze at one another as Rom moans, "I want to go home."
A less-dark voyage to the other side than the past few alternate universe stories, this was also one of the more enjoyable Ferengi stories of the past few seasons. It makes TOTAL sense that Zek, the man who wanted to buy his way into the Dominion and to bribe the Bajoran prophets, would attemt to cross over looking for new markets; it's also predictable though rather sad that he would cheat on Moogie with the Intendant, a woman no one seems to be able to resist even though they all know better. I was puzzled about Quark's admission of familial loyalty to the Nagus - now THAT sounds like an alternate universe version of the character - and more so about Ezri's familiarity with Ferengi on our side, considering that as far as we know, she's never crossed over, and Ferengi are do-gooders in her universe.
This may have been Rom's best episode. Stupid as he sounded trying to reason out how things should work in reverse of the universe he expected, he had all the good lines and it was great to see him stand up to Garak not once but twice. It was also great to see him work his sabotage in complete isolation from his brother or anyone else who might tell him what to do. It is too bad the alternate Rom is dead, because the two of them together would be hysterically warped. Worf makes a fun Regent, particularly because he's so BAD at ruling the universe; the Sisko of Dr. Bashir, I Presume was genuinely menacing, but Worf's all bluster and bravado. Garak is also a scream on that side because he's a sincere version of the playing-dumb routine of Simple Garak the Tailor.
I'm going to repress my desire to complain about the sexism which permits women overt sexuality only when they're defined as bad girls - Kira and Dax NEVER let their hair down like this - nor do I want to think about the mentality which permits lesbianism only in an alternate universe populated by women who have been pre-defined as evil, loose, kinky, or contemptuous of men. I guess I'd rather have politically incorrect queer people in the 24th century than none at all...OK, OK, so I got a kick out of seeing Kira kiss Dax, too. If only we'd gotten to see Bashir kiss O'Brien as well, I'd be truly happy; the a/u versions have even more chemistry than the usual characters, I think it's that unshaven look of Bashir's and the scruffy hair. But I'm betting we'll see practicing Jews before we see gay men in canonical Star Trek.
The ending was predictable from the episode title, but that didn't make it any less funny when Worf suddenly found he had no cloak and no power. I would have been less pleased about everyone's plans to return to this universe if I weren't pretty sure this is the last episode we'll see there before the series goes off the air. And it's too bad, in a way: for all her problems as a character, the Intendant's definitely a keeper.
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