Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Duet"

****

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

Season Index

47 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)
Wanderer2575

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)
Josh

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.

10/10
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.
Asehpe - Thu, Aug 7, 2014 - 1:11pm (USA Central)
I have also watched The Duet several times, and it always hits me in the end like a hammer coming down on an anvil. I agree with all comments concerning how this "money-saving bottle episode" ended up being way better than episodes (and even movies) that cost millions.

I wished the Star Trek franchise had invested more into this. As it is, there are some such episodes (I'm reminded of "Lifesigns" from Voyager), but not nearly enough. Maybe Star Trek, like other science fiction shows, thinks it has to deliever the oomph of "alien cultures" and "cool technology" rather than real human situations. The latter are invariably better, especially when the actors are up to the task -- as they certainly were in the case of "Duet".

All in all, this might be my favorite episode of the entire franchise, with the possible exception of (also DS9) "In the Pale Moonlight".
Elliott - Tue, Aug 26, 2014 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
...O woe is me
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see.

Teaser : ****, 5%

A brief minute of sororal joy is allowed to shine modestly as Dax and Kira exchange stories of youthful troublemaking. In this moment, Kira's childhood bears no mention of the Occupation or of dying, starving relatives or of resistance fighting. No, in this moment Kira simply recalls being a child, naïvety intact. A Kobheerian vessel arrives at DS9 while Kira is on watch. The vessel is carrying a passenger who suffers from a disease called Kalla-Nohra. Kira knows instantly that, as usual, tragedy has caught up to her as the sufferers of this disease were victims of a mining accident at a labour camp, Gallitep. Kira prepares to meet the infirmed Bajoran survivor and hero she knows to be on that vessel. Dax has the man transported to Bashir for treatment.

Kira arrives in the Infirmary to discover, to her horror, that the ill man is a Cardassian, prompting her to call for immediate security. As teasers go, this is just about perfect; mystery, brevity, character focus, theme and mood are perfectly balanced, while the episode's antagonist (for lack of a better term at this point) says not a word.

Act 1 : ****, 17%

Kira accuses Bashir's patient of being a war criminal, at which point he tries to run (“to get away from this Bajoran fanatic—look at the hate in her eyes.”), but Odo catches him and has him locked up on Kira's word.

On the verge of tears, Kira claims that this man (identified as Marritza) is to be treated as a war criminal despite his name not appearing on any official lists. What's clear is that Kira's contempt for this man stems directly from her past. No isolated fond memories from childhood can erase the image of strewn Bajoran bodies subjected to disgusting mistreatment at Gallitep. I don't think we've actually heard the word “rape” on Trek since Tasha talked about her childhood. There's a devastating urgency in Visitor's performance that is so many levels above what she has given us this season, it's hard to believe this is the same woman who kept beating her fists and gnashing her teeth in over-the-top histrionics. This is a vulnerable anger that perfectly suits her character and shows off tremendous acting skill. Perhaps it's the director. As a Cardassian with the disease, Marritza's guilt is a foregone conclusion for her.

Sisko goes to speak with Marritza in his cell. Marritza claims his disease is not Kalla-Nohra, but one similar to it. Notice how Yulin continuously avoids making eye contact with Sisko, continuously looking down at his feet, smiling feebly. It's a kind of self-conscious guilt—not overly broadcast, but severely externalised. It's a mesmerising feat. While he goes on, a drunk Bajoran man wakes up in his cell and starts complaining about sharing his prison with a Cardassian—any Cardassian. How much of Kira's outrage is this same kind of justified prejudice? After all, we can't blame any Bajoran for hating a Cardassian because of his race, given their history, but we still know that it isn't fair. Racism is racism, and to assume a Cardassian's character based on the political actions of his government or the personal actions of his comrades leaves little room for individuality or growth, or healing. What I love is that this is all subtextual—showcased in glances, read *between*the dialogue and resonating in the silences in the scenes.

Bashir is able to determine that Marritza is lying about his disease and that there is no doubt he was at Gallitep and that he has Kalla-Nohra. Sisko is contacted by a Bajoran official who initially thanks him for his “service to Bajor” in apprehending Marritza, and quickly devolves into self-righteous anger, demanding Marrtiza's head on a platter. I can't help but feel sorry for these people in a whole new way. After recovering their freedom from under the Occupation, they've been left scarred with a venomous need for revenge and deep-rooted hatred. Notice that the act is occupied by a single over-arching theme, introduced by Marritza's line that I quoted: hatred. This unifying factor creates a palpable sense of narrative drive without pushing the plot on us.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Sisko, for once, tries to do his fucking job and looks for a way to mediate between Federation and Bajoran interests. He assigns Odo to investigate Marritza's guilt rather than allow Kira to access him. Kira admits to lacking objectivity, which would seem to justify Sisko's original position, but Kira appeals to his proclamation of friendship, and he caves, letting Kira head the investigation. I have to hope that Sisko believes that this task is necessary as a cathartic part of the Bajorans' healing process. After all, they already have mixed feelings about Federation aid; it might do them good to take hold of their past themselves if they're going to eventually move on. However, I think it would have worked better in this case to follow through with some of the ideas from “Dramatis Personæ” and have Kira circumvent Sisko's wishes in order to interrogate Marritza, rather than doing so with Sisko's blessing.

Kira enters the holding area to confront Marritza. He projects an air of casual disinterest without being cartoonish. There's still aversion to eye-contact which betrays some deeper feeling lurking underneath his practised exterior. Marritza accuses Kira of having a “passion” for persecuting Cardassians. How could he know that? It's a beautifully hidden clue in the mystery plot, hidden because there's such a heavy air of racial tension, we can almost dismiss his comment as applying to Kira on grounds that she is Bajoran.

She interrogates him, but is frustrated by his nimbleness in speech “In that case, I'll try to make my lies more opaque.” He tells her he was a filing clerk at Gallitep, claiming she'll be disappointed in that truth, because it lacks the grandeur of a more vicious prize, someone who could really satiate that Bajoran need for vengeance, or was it catharsis? Marritza plays up his persona with a little sarcasm that even manages to break Kira's shell for a moment.

It was easy if painful to accept Kira's (and the Bajorans') accounting of Gallitep as a site of unparalleled brutality and cruelty on the part of the Occupiers, but Marritza quite credibly points out their bias. Bajorans killed each other for food or sex, after all. The conditions may have been created by the Cardassians, but the Bajorans were hardly blameless when they turned on each other. He even claims that the brutality itself was purposefully propagated by Gul Darheel (Marritza's boss). This is the complicated part of history we don't like to confront. It's easier to just encamp the players into “good” and “evil,” but it doesn't really work that way. We get the sense that Marritza is toying with Kira, baiting her into admitting that she's after him out of a sense of victimhood—which is precisely the effect the Cardassians were after, he says. There's something like pride woven in to his persona, pride that they succeeded in so fundamentally altering the Bajoran psyche, even after the Occupation ended. We end the act with him giving a terrifying smile.

Act 3 : ****, 17%

Hey, it's Dukat! Sisko has contacted him looking for background information to corroborate Marritza's identity. The theme of racial hatred has expanded and evolved to tackle political implications; Dukat implies that Bajoran prejudice has extended to their Federation allies when he asks Sisko if his suspicion about Marritza's truthfulness is fueled by Marritza's race. It's a deftly-written conversation replete with innuendo, subtle sparring and political overtones. Marc Alaimo is, of course, wonderfully duplicitous in his delivery. Brooks is rather flat, but it works well enough.

We get a callback to the teaser as Dax chats with Kira about her feelings of vengeance. She confirms Marritza's accusations that Kira is disappointed in his lack of infamy or easily-pinned guilt. She wants a less complex set of circumstances in which clear-cut solutions would salve her pain. The ambiguity itself is almost as painful as those horrific memories. As an aside, this is exactly the Dax we have needed most of this season, the one justified by the episode “Dax” and her history as a 300-year old being who has seen dozens of wars and lived whole lifetimes, enough to cut through the fog of the guilt-vengeance complex.

We are introduced to O'Brien's Bajoran assistant, Neela (I checked on Memory Alpha, and, as I suspected, Anara from “The Forsaken” was meant to be the recurring character seen here). The command crew analyses a photo of Gallitep which shows Marritza to be a different man than the one sitting in their cell. According the photo's caption, the man they have is Gul Darhe'el, “the butcher of Gallitep.” Looks like Kira got what she wanted after all.

She confronts Darhe'el again. Darhe'el's persona becomes relaxed and he stops looking at his feet, making eye-contact and casually discussing his butchery. The theme of victimhood returns; as mentioned in “Ensign Ro,” the Bajorans were once a peaceful people. The Occupation did far worse than kill innocent Bajorans in labour camps, it blackened their souls with feelings of vengeance and hatred.

In a fascinating turn, Darhe'el becomes urgent when Kira starts to walk out. He *wants* to talk to her. Does the butcher's masochism continue? Does he get off on seeing Kira struggle with her damage just as he enjoyed executing “Bajoran scum”? In his zeal, Darhe'el “lets slip” the nature of Gallitep's order and efficiency at its height, a testament to Marrtiza's efficacy as a file clerk and Darhe'el's leadership. Another clue is planted in the mystery as he confirms he knows more about Kira than he should—the name of her resistance cell, the “Shakaar.” Again, her anger and pain understandably blinds her to this clue.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Odo, ever the sharp investigator, picks up on the clue in his conversation with Kira, noting that Darhe'el knowledge of her is too intimate to be explained by his position.

She returns to his cell to confront him again. This man perfectly embodies everything we love to hate in history's evil men—he delights in his own cruelty, he regrets only those missed opportunities to display even more evil towards his victims.

Gallitep survivors arrive at the station, allowing Quark to make a little joke “do they like to gamble?”. It was a risky move to insert a joke near the climax of this tragedy, and I'm honestly on the fence about it. The pacing has been really excellent, giving us time to breath and absorb the dialogue and mystery, so I don't think this little interlude was necessary.

Odo pursues two avenues of investigation, one with Bashir and one with Dukat. Dukat alleges that Darhe'el is dead and memorialised on Cardassia. Odo latches onto Dukat's political paranoia in order to gain access to the Cardassian military files.

Meanwhile, “Darhe'el” and Kira continue their conversation. He continues playing up the love-to-be-hated angle, festering Kira's own wounds. Is he crazy? Or could this actually be sarcasm? Odo interrupts to inform her that the man “wanted to be caught.”

I take a small exception to the editing of these scenes. It was a bit jarring to have the Kira-Darhe'el conversation interrupted by the Dukat-Odo conversation.

Act 5 : ****, 17%

While there remains some ambiguity about the man's identity, the evidence would require a rather massive and intricate conspiracy in order for him to actually be Darhe'el. Kira again finds herself wishing that the man were guilty. Bashir delivers the final blow, finding evidence that Marritza underwent plastic surgery in order to pass for Darhe'el.

Kira returns to Marritza and confronts him with the conflicting evidence as to his alleged identity. In a subtle touch, he breaks eye-contact again, denying Kira's claims. He makes one last grand standing before slowly being broken down in a truly penetrating admittance of guilt, not of being the Butcher, but of being a the cowardly clerk who couldn't stop him. Cue the tears, folks. Kira releases him from his cell and he cowers in the corner, finally revealing his intent—he wants Cardassia to admit its guilt. He repeats, in a wholly new context, Kira's sentiment from earlier, that his death and punishment are necessary. And it a beautiful reversal, Kira denies this, claiming that she won't help kill another good person.

The expected dénouement is brutally circumvented when the drunk Bajoran from earlier stabs Marritza in the back, fully rounding out the bitter tragedy of this man and the Cardassian-Bajoran history. Kira's reversal is complete—it's not enough that he was Cardassian, he didn't deserve to die.

Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

Yulin manages to create a devastating character who changes profoundly from act to act: mysterious traveller to cynical clerk to bombastic butcher to guilt-ridden victim to tragic martyr. Visitor also puts in one of the best performances of the entire series, capturing a huge range of nuance and internal conflict. McCarthy also delivers a good score, underscoring the tragedy quite well.

Marritza's (as Darhe'el) line from early in the episode (“...they returned, covered in blood, but they were clean!!”) is the lode stone to the whole episode. It was clear during that speech, that Darhe'el attitude about the murder of Bajorans possibly being a noble act, a redemptive act, was totally hollow. How much more so when the drunk Bajoran stains his hands with Marritza's own blood. Still, in the tragedy, a glimmer of hope shines through; Marritza may not have managed to heal Cardassia by his sacrifice, but at least one Bajoran woman has embraced her journey to redemption.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despris’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?

Final Score : ****
dlpb - Mon, Dec 15, 2014 - 8:52pm (USA Central)
This is probably my favourite episode of Season 1, and certainly one of the best overall. Most of this is due to Harris Yulin and the script involving his character. The episode was, on the whole, well paced and scripted. The only real negative I have here is how woeful Nana Visitor comes across when compared to Harris Yulin. His acting puts hers to shame.

Most of the main characters are not up to scratch in this show. Nog (especially Nog), Jake, Sisko (oh, and him too), Nerys, Dax, and Bashir... All their actors underperformed throughout the entirety of the show. When compared to the actors who played Weyoun, Garak, Quark, Gul Dukat, Martok, and Gowron, it is painfully obvious.

The actors playing Odo and O'Brien did a good job, at least.

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