Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine



Air date: 6/14/1993
Teleplay by Peter Allan Fields
Story by Lisa Rich & Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Duet" is quintessential DS9. It's an issue-oriented episode that is brilliantly characterized, with some absolutely riveting performances.

The plot centers around a Cardassian named Marritza (Harris Yulin) who "happens" upon the station as a passenger on a passing ship. Kira promptly arrests him for being a war criminal and throws him in a cell. You see, he has a medical condition that he could only have acquired at a Bajoran labor camp named Gallitep. This labor camp was also the site of horrific Bajoran treatment at the hands of Cardassian atrocities.

As far as Kira and the Bajorans are concerned, any Cardassian at Gallitep is guilty. But a mystery arises concerning the Cardassian's identity—with a number of clues that don't add up—and Kira begins a search for the truth. The resulting dialog between Kira and the Cardassian pulls no punches in either content or delivery. Evidence indicates that Marritza is really Gul Darheel, the man who actually ran Gallitep and made it his mission to terrorize "Bajoran scum." Suddenly Kira finds herself face to face with one of the most hated Cardassians Bajor has ever known.

Nana Visitor delivers a powerhouse, emotional performance. Even better is Harris Yulin's turn as Darheel, whose absolute tour de force display of acting brings the raving, menacing, downright evil Cardassian frighteningly to life, with such lines as "What you call genocide, I call a day's work." Odo's subsequent investigation of the Cardassian's identity brings Dukat into the plot with a great deal of sensibility.

It turns out that Darheel is really Marritza posing as the Cardassian criminal (who has been dead for years), trying to martyr himself so the Cardassian government will be forced to acknowledge its guilt for the Occupation—a moving display of self-sacrifice for the sake of progress on all ends. "Duet" is all substance, completely engrossing in its conveyance, and it also features a tragic ending. It's one of the best moments in the entire series' run.

Previous episode: Dramatis Personae
Next episode: In the Hands of the Prophets

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44 comments on this review

idiotghos - Sun, Sep 9, 2007 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
It's a shame that many ignore the early seasons outside of four episodes: "Emissary", "Duet", "Crossover", and "The Jem'Hadar". Going back and watching the older episodes, one percieves that the series was originally intended to be more toned-down than the often-bombastic Next Generation. Some amazing episodes like "Progress", "Cardassians", "The Collaborator" and especially "Nessacery Evil" recieve very little recognition. I don't want to sound like I don't appreciate the later seasons - far from it- but there is a subtleness to some of these episodes that is missed once the dominion reared its head, and especially after "The Way of the Warrior".
SarahMae - Sat, Sep 6, 2008 - 4:34pm (USA Central)
The problem with DS9's first season wasn't so much outright /bad/ episodes as a lot of mediocre ones. I wouldn't put "Move Along Home" or "If Wishes Were Horses" on a list of the series' top worst offerings. But I don't need to see them again.

That said, there was gold there as well. "The Emissary" remains the best pilot to launch any Trek series and "Vortex" as a great teaser to Odo's origins. I enjoyed "Battle Lines" but in retrospect I wish Opaka's story had been revisited, or at least given a stronger closer. "Duet," of course, is one of the best DS9 ever did.
Gatton - Sat, Dec 27, 2008 - 11:27pm (USA Central)
Well I'm preaching to the choir of course but "Duet" is in my opinion one of the best episodes of any Trek series. For a heavy "talky" episode it doesn't get much better. Give two gifted actors a great script and a stage and just let them go at it. I'm glad the DS9 producers did just that.
PM - Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - 9:57am (USA Central)
Duet is amazing. It's kinda surprising that a show that built up such a background and such a large universe over 7 years never got any better than this little 2-character drama.
Jake Tettermon-Taylor - Fri, Sep 3, 2010 - 1:26am (USA Central)
After watching the pretty lackluster season 1 of Deep Space Duet is wonderful TV. Quality!
Maaz - Sat, Sep 18, 2010 - 3:37pm (USA Central)
I liked the way Progress and Storyteller were brought in, and even the B plots involving Nog and Jake. It made it seem like, yes, Bajor is a whole planet not just the capital city and the orbiting space station. It felt like we're learning about a whole planet's worth of people, not just the 15-20 odd that come into our stories.

Of course there's no way to review Season 1 without mentioning Duet, absolutely stunning performance from the Kira/Darheel story to even the little scene with Quark and Odo where Quark says "Gallitop. Imagine living through that hellhole. The horror. You think they like to gamble?"

Right down to the "I am alive. I will always be alive! It's Marritza who's dead! Marritza, who was good for nothing but cowering under his bunk and weeping like a woman. Who every night covered his ears because he couldn't bear to hear the screaming... for mercy... of the Bajorans."
That raises' the hair on my neck every time I watch him break down.
Marcel - Sun, Mar 27, 2011 - 1:36am (USA Central)
Best episode of the season, easily! One of all time favorites. Chills go up my spine in the end.
Marcel - Sun, Mar 27, 2011 - 1:38am (USA Central)
My comments are in regard of Duet of course!
Fortyseven - Wed, May 25, 2011 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
After ~18 years I'm finally watching this series, thanks to Netflix. I simply never got around to watching it.

I went from TOS to TNG to VOY and completely skipped right over it (no doubt thanks to the negative comments from people who were, in retrospect, idiots.)

Long after it ended, I'd finally heard all the great things about it, so I vowed to watch it. Someday.

That day came about a week or so ago. I just polished off Season 1; about to start Season 2.

It started off rather difficult to watch. Sisko's awkward "WHOOP!", along with an unusual acting style in the pilot bothered the hell out of me. Thankfully that didn't last and Avery Brooks settled in quite nicely. :) I can't remember precisely what it was that bugged me about him; I'd go look but I don't have Disc 1 available anymore. :D

As has been beaten into the ground by so many already, the TNG-style "anomaly of the week" plots are completely out of place here. DS9, even this early on, feels like a conduit for far more mature, intelligent stories. Predictable crap like "Dramatis Personae" comes off very much forced and awkward, like the episode was the tax paid to keep the name 'Star Trek' in the title. (Though I'll grant you there's a handful of rather cool moments in that episode, but most of that is credited to the talented cast.)

I went into 'Duet' not realizing it was so well-renowned. And damn, does it deserve every bit of praise it gets -- definitely one of the best Trek episodes I've seen. Ever. I know it's not him, but at times I could swear Harris Yulin (Marritza) was channeling Ted Knight. Imagine Ted Knight as a Cardassian? **head-asplode**

Anyway, really enjoying the series so far. Looking forward to the first disc of the next season to arrive in the mail. ;)
Van Patten - Wed, Jun 29, 2011 - 6:30am (USA Central)
Further capsule reviews to follow but suffice it to say 'Duet' is unarguably one of the finest five episodes of Trek ever filmed. I'd probably give it 4.5 on the Jammer scale if I could. Really has to be seen to be believed. Quite extraordinary how a 'box' episode could get evrything so right. Having studied many aspects of the Holocaust, and with most of its perpetrators now dead or infirm, Sisko/Odo's comments:

'He's not on any list I've got, Commander, and I've got them all'
'So that makes him a criminal just being there?'

are still powerfully relevant today. Indeed the default assumption is that any person serving in a forced Labour camp would be guilty by his mere presence, even if he were responsible only for the procurement of Paper clips. The last scene with Visitor/Yulin nearly had me in as many tears as the Marritza character! Absolutely stunning.
SchizoSmurf - Tue, Aug 2, 2011 - 10:39am (USA Central)
I rewatch Duet at least once a year, and it has yet to let me go without my crying. There is something about the hammer-stroke realization that hits Kira -- and its precursor outburst -- in the last scene that I don't think has a match in any drama ever produced, in any medium. I put it ahead of the final scene of Chaplin's "City Lights", and that's (I hope) saying plenty.
Justin - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
Isn't it interesting how some of the best Trek shows of all time (and this one is in the top 10) are "Bottle Shows," i.e. shows that almost exclusively take place on the main interior sets in order to save money for the more action oriented higher budget shows. They always involve lots of dialogue and, as a result, character development. TOS "The Doomsday Machine," and TNG's "The Measure Of A Man" and "Offspring" are other classic examples of essential Trek that were also Bottle Shows.
Hank - Thu, Apr 12, 2012 - 12:09am (USA Central)
Ive been rewatching ds9 for the first time in many years and just had the pleasure of rewatching "duet" - I may just rewatch it again. Harris Yulin's performance was particularly memorable and really makes the show standout. He was great as a menacing butcher, but the moment where he breaks and admits his identity is the moment of real magic. It could easily have devolved into melodrama - but Harris makes you believe in the pain he feels an empathize with him. Powerful stuff.
John - Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - 10:32am (USA Central)
Remove the end of the last scene and this is near perfection.
LondonBoy73 - Tue, Jul 10, 2012 - 8:02am (USA Central)
Amazing - right up to the last minute...

So Picard can be stabbed through the heart and live yet a blade about 1 inch long in the small of the back instantly kills?

Don't get me wrong its one of the greatest ever episodes of Trek but why spoil it with this!
Ian - Sat, Jul 28, 2012 - 10:24pm (USA Central)
This is a bit contrdictory, however, to how Kira reacts in the darkness and light episode where she states that all Cardassians who were on Bajor back then were guilty, no matter who they were...
Steve - Tue, Aug 7, 2012 - 1:43pm (USA Central)
"Duet" is a good example of how to kill an episode in the final act. The first four acts were great. Yulin put in a terrific performance as the alleged Cardassian warlord. But that final act was terrible!

I'm apparently in a minority here, but could the ending have possibly been any more heavy handed? Everyone on here praising this episode needs to take a good hard look at those last couple minutes. The clearly racially motivated killing of a Cardassian would have been enough to make the point without the witless dialogue between Kira and the man's blood-thirsty killer. The writer insulted the audience by assuming we needed the moral of the story spelled out for us.

One more story complaint. If this guy came to Deep Space Nine wanting to be held for war crimes, why did he initially give his true identity? The story would have been better if we could just dismiss him as a madman rather than a man on a mission. Because he was a madman! It was downright bizarre listening to Kira's nice chat with Darheel in the last scene just before his murder. Kira telling him he's a good person? What?! That guy was nuts!

The first four acts were so good it was a shame watching it all fall apart at the end.
LastDawnOfMan - Thu, Aug 9, 2012 - 5:59pm (USA Central)
I can gripe for days about the plotting, but for me, the standout aspect of DS9 was the quality of the actors. You had good characters on many of the other Trek shows, but I believe DS9 had the best core group of actors of all of them, or perhaps was in a format that let them shine the best.

And yeah, Star Trek medicine, like all Star Trek technology, changes dramatically episode to episode according to the needs of the script. Very annoying.
TC - Tue, Dec 25, 2012 - 8:06am (USA Central)
I'll forgive the final scene. Picard was a healthy man in his early 20s. Marritza was a sickly old man. I can see their deaths being consistent.
Comp625 - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 12:22pm (USA Central)
I am with "Steve" on this one - the ending was a little too dramatic. They didn't NEED to have Marritza killed at the end. Not to mention, the random townsfolk walking around DS9 didn't seem too shocked/scared when the actual murder took place. Then a small group of people gather around the dead corpse as the camera turns black.

In re-watching the ending, it felt like I was watching a stage show where the lights turned black and the curtains fall. Some people may prefer this type of screen-to-black ending that is infrequently used in Trek TV, but I walked away feeling like the ending was a bit contrived, taking the magic away from an otherwise fantastic episode.

My rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Paul - Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - 4:40pm (USA Central)
Steve makes a good point about Martiza's initial misdirection. That benefited the plot but really made no sense.

And while I was OK with Maritza getting killed -- and didn't think the ensuing lines were so heavy handed -- I did think it was odd that Odo did such a piss poor job AND that no one called for Bashir to try to save Maritza.

Still, a very, very good episode that puts this among DS9's top 10, maybe top 5. "The Visitor" and "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Call to Arms" were all stronger. But "Duet" is quite good.
NCC-1701-Z - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 1:09am (USA Central)
Decided to watch some eps out of order and randomly picked this one. Wow...just wow...I have no words.

This deserves to be up there among Trek's best. There are some small plot holes but it all paid off in the end and never resorts to excessive over-the-top melodrama. I almost cried during the end, that's how powerful it was.

4 stars easily.
Chuck AzEee! - Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - 6:16pm (USA Central)
A phenomenal episode, extremely well written and well acted. One of the reasons why Deep Space Nine dusted the other Star Trek series for overall excellence.
Patrick - Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - 7:42am (USA Central)
@Chuck AzEeel

It's easy to be the most hard-hitting dramatic Trek series when that respective Trek series completely sidestepped the whole "seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no one has gone before" credo.

TOS and TNG had to risk looking silly with stories that dealt with "out there" rather than play it safe like DS9 and which just played in its own backyard of the familiar week after week.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - 8:01pm (USA Central)
Wow. I am glad I did not know to be on the look out for this one before I watched it; that made the mystery and brilliance all the more enjoyable.

When the mystery was solved, I assumed Marritza was just trying to punish himself for his own feelings of guilt--to find out he was trying to bring Cardassia to answer for the genocide was a real surprise.

It's already been said many times--but wow the performances in this were amazing.

One other small thing--I liked that Dax and Kira seem to be developing a true friendship.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - 8:07pm (USA Central)
Some other commenters mentioned that they didn't think it made sense for Marritza to pretend to be Marritza at the beginning--I thought that made perfect sense because he wanted to convince Bajor that he was Gul Darheel, and the real Gul Darheel would not admit his own identity.

He thought that if they discovered he was lying at first, it would make his fake identity seem more believable.

At least that's what I thought.
wanderer2575 - Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
John, LondonBoy73, Steve:

You miss the point of the final scene. No, we viewers didn't need the moral of the story spelled out for us. The point was to show that the character of Kira finally understood it.

T'Paul - Mon, Jul 1, 2013 - 8:50am (USA Central)
What's best about this episode is that it moves away from the "one-dimensional alien" problem that tends to plague other incarnations of Star Trek.

And Star Trek or not it's an interesting look into war, war crimes, war criminals, victims, forgiveness etc.
Eduardo - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 12:38pm (USA Central)
It's impressive how this aired 20 years ago, was a very bottle-conscious effort, designed to save money, and it still pack a hell of a dramatic punch without making much effort.

Meanwhile, we have Star Trek into Darkness, while being a decent and entertaining movie, it has a 200 million dollar budget and doesn't even come close to matching this episode.
Alessandro17 - Mon, Jul 8, 2013 - 5:28pm (USA Central)
Masterpiece! It could have been written by the likes of Euripides, Shakespeare, Goethe, Mikhail Bulgakov...
The tragedy, the human drama, the soul-searching are unrivalled. It this were a film it would certainly deserve a few awards.
Ayesha - Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 1:40am (USA Central)
One of my most favorite DS9 episodes!
CaptainTripps - Sun, Aug 4, 2013 - 9:25pm (USA Central)
I think it's obvious WHY he pretended to be himself - you never make a lie more complicated than it needs to be. Why bring a third person into his identity? That just leaves more clues, more variables, and means copying the identity of 2 people rather than one.

Kind of like Garak's lies regarding his own identity- he seems to be telling partial truths that still obscure greater whole (that may in part add up to the whole, but not in the way he presents them). He's not completely making things up, just withholding enough to maintain confusion.
azcats - Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 12:36pm (USA Central)
1. he needed to die in the end do that we could see how Kira had changed. she will no longer be able to hate EVERY cardassian.
2. the best way to fool someone is to tell a lie that can be slowly uncovered. makdes very good sense he pretended to be the filing clerk.
3. odo and quark scene, great little punch.
4. i find that the Cardassians are the BEST alien culture. they easily make for the best characters and stories. Gul Dukat and Garak are great subcharacters. and Gul "darheel" is easily one of the best guest performance i have ever seen on star trek.
5. phenomenal story. i enjoyed this so much. if only all character stories could be this good.
6. perfect 4 star episode. i wouldnt change a thing.
Londonboy73 - Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 6:10pm (USA Central)

I think you misunderstood my point. It is the fact that a 1 inch blade killed someone almost instantly inserted in a relatively non lethal part of the body that spoilt things for me.

As I said previously Picard was stabbed through the heart and survived. It was just convenient for the plot that in this case he did not survive when logic says he should be cured easily. I thought this was lazy writing that spoilt an otherwise excellent episode.
Josh - Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 8:57pm (USA Central)
Well, I'm not sure I buy that Picard could have survived such a wound, but be that as it may, it's certainly not necessarily a "non lethal" part of the body.

Assuming Cardassian anatomy resembles that of humans, a well placed penetrating back wound just to the left of the spine would rupture the aorta, an invariably fatal wound.

Of course, that's true provided there is no close access to adequate medical facilities, and in that scene Marritza is just round the corner from the Infirmary. He wouldn't die in the space of the minute, though he would go rapidly unconscious. A quick call to Bashir and they'd start to transfuse fluid and blood and operate to repair the aorta emergently. He might still die, but it doesn't really make sense simply to do nothing.

This isn't exactly a type of dramatic license specific to this episode, DS9, or Trek, since it appears in death scenes in 95% of all films of TV shows. The major problem is that while it's true that people will lose consciousness as they are dying, this will usually happen well in advance of death, sometimes days or even weeks before it happens. It's not at all like the typical TV representation of someone going from lucidly saying goodbye to loved ones to death.

londonboy73 - Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 6:05pm (USA Central)

Great response to my post... I don't think I can argue against any of the points you made.

Excellent logic that would make a Vulcan proud (if they had emotion!!)
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
This episode is a masterpiece, 4 stars all around.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 2:12pm (USA Central)

Easily the best episode of season 1. Amazing acting by Marritza, an intriguing investigation and great background and development for Kira and the Cardassians.

Luke - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 7:32pm (USA Central)
An amazing episode, and great example of the kind of rich character-driven shows that made DS9 great. Just watched it again, and one thing struck me that seemed like a major plot hole. Kira eventually confronts Marritza that Gul Darhe'el was not at Galitep when the accident occurred and therefore does not have Kalla-Nohra syndrome. It seems to me that since this labor camp and Darhe'el were so infamous on Bajor, the knowledge of Darhe'el not having this very specific condition would have been probably common knowledge or at least so easily verifiable, that it would have seemed, to Marritza at the very least, ludicrous to attempt to impersonate Darhe'el. Marritza uses Kalla-Nohra as his entire hook to trick everyone into believing he is someone who doesn't have Kalla-Nohra. The only realistic hope for this plan to succeed lay in the assumption that the Bajorans would be blinded by the opportunity for revenge, and not be overly interested in establishing the truth (which is obviously not far off the mark, as it nearly happened).
K'Elvis - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 10:20am (USA Central)
Duet may be my favorite episode of DS9, but I thought the ending was unnecessary. It felt like Maritza was killed to eliminate lose ends, to make sure this was a bottle episode. We didn't need to see that Kira accepted that all Cardassians weren't evil, we already saw that. She's walking down the Promenade in a friendly manner, that itself demonstrates it.

I still agree that it is a 4-star episode.
William B - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 11:27am (USA Central)
@K'Elvis, I think the ending can certainly be accused of being OTT and a bit obvious in its demonstration of how far Kira has come. However, what I like about it is that it makes an important point: just because Kira has changed does not mean that Bajorans as a whole have. And just because Kira is now more forgiving than she was a day ago doesn't mean that she has fully escaped her past. Kira was never quite as extreme as the Promenade Bajoran, killing a Cardassian just 'cause, but he is still a reminder of Kira's attitudes only days ago, and how harmful those are. I think this is good drama: it does not let Kira off the hook for attitudes she used to have, just because she has decided to move on.
mitts - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 11:27am (USA Central)
Harris Yulin is BRILLIANT in this episode. I almost thing it would have been more powerful, however, if it turned out that he WAS darheel (his performance in this 'character' was just so amazing). Everything else could have been the same (living as Marritza, wanting to get caught by coming to DS9 etc.) but it would have been darheel who, after having believed in the way that he represents it to Kira (genocide a "day's work" etc.) found some horror in his personal guilt and decided the only way to, effectively, commit suicide was to have the Bajoran's execute him for his crimes as some kind of catharsis. I just think Yulin-as-darheel was so engrossing and convincing that when it was revealed he was, actually, Maritzza it didnt quite ring true.

Finally, to all those who dislike the ending scene -- I felt it was necessary. How inadequate would it have been for Yulin's character, after all he had done, to simply "take a freighter back" to some little outpost planet. Something more was needed, his death matched the tenor of the episode, and made it an unconventional Trek ending (cold blooded murder is rarely shown so clearly in the rest of the Trek universe).
Dusty - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 6:31am (USA Central)
I love this one. It's a spellbinding drama with a heavy, almost claustrophobic feel. There was almost no action, but they didn't need any. The idea of a Cardassian so overwhelmed with guilt at what his people did to the Bajorans that he can't live with himself and impersonates a war criminal in an attempt to ensure his own death--that's not only intelligent writing, but convincing as well. Yet despite his remorse, he's still Cardassian to the core: proud, manipulative, and loves to talk. Harris Yulin was amazing in his role. The whole episode rode on the shoulders of Marritza and Kira, and they delivered spectacularly. Best episode of the season, and up there with the best of the whole series.
Yanks - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 7:58am (USA Central)
Wow! What a great episode! I just watched it again and just had to come here and comment. Even knowing the outcome it's still a powerful episode.

Harris Yulin should have received some sort of award for his performance as Marritza!

I've read all the comments here and I don't know that the death at the end was needed or not. I do think the way he shrouded his identity in a lie at the start is very Cardassian. I will comment on Marritza's motives though. He of course beat himself up as being a coward because he didn't act, but this sacrific was for his race! This WAS for Cardassia in his view.

MARRITZA: No, don't you see? I have to be punished. We all have to be punished. Major, you have to go out and tell them I'm Gul Darhe'el. It's the only way.
KIRA: Why are you doing this?
MARRITZA: For Cardassia. Cardassia will only survive if it stands in front of Bajor and admits the truth. My trial will force Cardassia to acknowledge its guilt. And we're guilty, all of us. My death is necessary.

Great development for Kira in this episode as well. She's gone from "their all guilty" to:

"What you're asking for is another murder. Enough good people have already died. I won't help kill another."

I also liked the way Sisko handled this whole issue.

IMO, DS9's best episode of the 1st season.

Easy 4 stars.

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