Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Return to Grace"

***

Air date: 2/5/1996
Teleplay by Hans Beimler
Story by Tom Benko
Directed by Jonathan West

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Well ... it would seem that we're not ... worth ... destroying." — Dukat, after not being attacked by the Klingons; obviously hitting a low point in his life

Nutshell: Good but not great. An effective sum of many relevant parts.

As a personal request from Bajoran political leader Shakaar, Kira must attend a diplomatic conference between the Bajorans, Cardassians, and other worlds. Providing transport to the conference is Gul Dukat, now demoted to a freighter captain as a result of his disgrace for bringing home his half-Bajoran daughter Tora Ziyal (Cyia Batten), introduced in "Indiscretion."

As they arrive at the conference site, Dukat and Kira discover that the conference has been attacked. Detecting no life signs, they assume that everyone has been killed. Suddenly, the presumably responsible Klingon ship decloaks. Dukat's freighter doesn't have anything close to the weaponry required for a retaliation strike, so the Klingons get away. The plot continues as Kira and Dukat begin swapping secrets of the trade in their attempt to revamp the weapons and track down the Klingons to be brought to justice.

"Return to Grace" is another DS9 show that falls into the "good but not great" category. Although there's nothing that jumps right out as a hands-down terrific episode in this recent trend of good shows (since "Homefront"), it does display a valuable virtue DS9's fourth season has that Voyager's second season does not: a noteworthy consistency in the writing.

This episode once again pairs up Kira and Dukat to solve a problem despite their past differences. And while this works generally better than it did in "Indiscretion," there are still a few missed opportunities here, and the situation does not always feel quite genuine. In essence, "Return to Grace" has a strength that also proves to be its weakness: It deals with a smorgasbord of small but relevant issues. This is good in terms of continued overarching storyline development and thoughtful drama. This is faulty in that it throws all of these issues into the mix, exploring every one just enough to spark some reasonable interest, but not enough to turn any of them into something as compelling as they could have, and probably should have, been.

Let's look individually at the episode's many issues (in no particular order):

  • Dukat taking Ziyal back to Cardassia with him proves to have some serious consequences for a change. As we meet Dukat in this episode we learn that his family has alienated him, his government has reduced him to hauling junk, and he's virtually been exiled from Cardassian society. (In one amusing summing up of Dukat's downfall, even the Klingons don't find his vessel worthy of firing upon.) All he has is his principles and his daughter, whom he's glad he returned to Cardassia with despite the consequences.
  • Kira still has trouble accepting the reformed man Dukat has become since his position as slave overseer from the Occupation days. This is good to see, especially after the absurd scene in "Indiscretion" of the two laughing it up together. There's a strikingly probing scene between Kira and Ziyal where Ziyal says her father sometimes refers to the Occupation as a mistake.
  • The Klingons, virtually unseen since the season premiere, finally show the indications of being active troublemakers in the area. This is not played for a huge impacting payoff here, but more like an indication of things to come. This is good because it's done subtly and sensibly—an incident located away from DS9 and reasonably contained in scale. It's plausible—how I would really expect the Klingon situation to begin brewing.
  • Kira and Dukat working together as a team highlights two different schools of thinking—survival versus tradition. Kira telling Dukat that he has to think more like a Bajoran freedom fighter based on the resources he has makes a lot of sense, and is strangely ironic. Both remain in character, and it's nice seeing these personalities at work.
  • The idea of Dukat being attracted to Kira strikes me as an unnecessary plot angle, but at least Kira puts him in his place when he starts to get obnoxious. Somehow, though, the way Dukat talks, it seems like he condescends toward Kira. Maybe it's just Marc Alaimo's line delivery style.
  • The confrontation with the Klingons is kind of fun, albeit implausible. Somehow, I doubt Dukat would be able to beam his crew onto the Klingon's ship in the heat of battle, but what the hey? Dukat showing no mercy on the Klingons by beaming them onto his freighter and blowing them up seems appropriate enough.
  • After Dukat is reinstated to his military position for the capture of the Klingon ship and fleet information, he finds that Cardassia's defeat by the Klingons (in "The Way of the Warrior") has turned them into an effete people too paralyzed to fight for themselves. No one wants to launch a counterstrike on the Klingons. This leads Dukat on a new mission that changes the definition of his character. This is a rather eye-opening idea, but the episode doesn't really say what Dukat hopes to accomplish with just one ship, or why Kira would be such an asset to his cause. It's interesting but ultimately puzzling.
  • Kira realizing that the life Dukat is about to lead his daughter into is something Kira doesn't think Ziyal should have to face. Kira speaks from experience—she's been there. This is another of the episode's intriguing points. Consequently, Kira offers to take Ziyal back to DS9 and look after her. Ziyal could turn out to be a fresh recurring character based on her unique experiences, provided the writers find anything productive for her to do in the future. I wouldn't mind seeing the character again.

There are a lot of pieces to this show, and most of them work pretty well to a degree. Again, this could've been more than it was had it carried more overall depth, but in terms of seeing a broad canvas of material important to the series as a whole, "Return to Grace" is quite satisfactory.

Previous episode: Crossfire
Next episode: Sons of Mogh

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18 comments on this review

Destructor - Sun, Jul 19, 2009 - 7:43pm (USA Central)
Jammer, given that Dukat's disgust with his government in this episode ultimately leads to his engineering of the Dominion takeover of Cardassia in S5, would you revisit the score of this episode as an important precursor to that major event?
vince - Sun, Aug 9, 2009 - 3:47pm (USA Central)
I think that Dukat is not capable of refraining from hitting on any beautiful woman, but I still regret never seeing a scene where Dukat is running through DS9, turns a corner, and there is Major Kira. He runs right over her, but her hand or foot reaches out just enough to trip him, and then Kira expresses the intensity of her dislike for Dukat. A later comment from Dr. Bashier might be, "...but was it necessary for you to break both his arms like that?"
Nic - Wed, Oct 28, 2009 - 3:36pm (USA Central)
No, don't. An episode has to be able to stand on its own. Building up arcs slowly over the course of a season (or more) is not a problem, but if you get to the end of the episode with no overall satisfaction, and you're wondering what it was supposed to be about, then there's a problem. The same goes for your review of "Apocalypse Rising", which should have stayed at 2.5 stars for that very reason - you have to judge the episode on its own, not on how much of an impact it had on later episodes.
Paulj - Sat, May 1, 2010 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
Just in my opinion, the best episode of the series, tied with "His Way.'' Dukat sounds dumb 365 days out 365, but, hey, it's the "CARDASSIAN SOUND.''
Zack - Tue, Sep 21, 2010 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
Dude, can we get a spoiler alert (regarding future episodes) warning on these comments? That first one had some details I REALLY didn't need to see.
Jeff O'Connor - Mon, Oct 11, 2010 - 6:21pm (USA Central)
I sympathize, Zack, but the show has been over for eleven years. I simply wouldn't recommend combing through sites like this one until you're finished with it.
Jay - Sun, Dec 26, 2010 - 12:14am (USA Central)
Yeah, dude...the airdate is enough spoiler alert.
Justin - Tue, Mar 13, 2012 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
This is a good episode that stands up as a standalone and as part of the overarching DS9 Dominion storyline. It also had a nice bit of foreshadowing, intentional or not, when Dukat says under no uncertain and quite chilling terms, "Everything I have lost, I will regain. I'ts just a matter of time."
Cindi - Mon, Aug 13, 2012 - 2:51am (USA Central)
I agree with most Jammer's reviews, this one is where we part. Return to Grace is IMO one of the best episodes of DS9, hands down. A fantastic blend of a focused character development and a fun romp. Alaimo is absolutely fantastic and Visitor watchable, for once. The writers did a really good job with Dukat, at the end of the series he ends up being one of the richest and most developed characters of the whole ST universe.
William - Wed, Oct 17, 2012 - 7:58pm (USA Central)
I thought this was a very good episode -- 3.5 Jammer stars from me.

Mark Alaimo and Andrew Robinson added so much to this series.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 1:03pm (USA Central)

A great episode that further develops Kira and Dukat.

9/10
Jons - Sun, Feb 2, 2014 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
I really liked that episode! And well it might not be super subtle on the writers' part, but Kira and Dukat DO make a good team (as characters too! did you get that??)

You actually touch on an interesting point - the Cardassian delivery. I find it very satisfying that for once little things like that are observed - it's a cultural thing. Cardassians speak a certain way (with a certain vocabulary, certain intonations, references) and that makes them sound like a plausible people/culture. I don't think he sounds condescending - he just sounds playfully teasing, as Cardassians almost always do, whether it's genuine or passive-aggressive.

And I find it interesting that I found myself "rooting" for Dukat in a way. I want him to be nice and I want Kira to like him. However, I do think Kira's coldness towards him is absolutely appropriate. It just wouldn't be plausible if she suddenly started to like him so suddenly.
Niall - Mon, Feb 10, 2014 - 6:23am (USA Central)
This is a superb and overlooked episode that I find myself returning to. It's dialogue- and character-heavy, really well-written and works as theatre - essentially a 45-minute two-character piece between Kira and Dukat, with Ziyal and Damar in lesser roles. It's brilliant in its simplicity and the amount of meat and authenticity it was, and how logical and organic the plot. Nana Visitor and Marc Alaimo carry it effortlessly.
Dusty - Sun, Feb 16, 2014 - 7:27pm (USA Central)
A brilliant episode. Everything about it works. If it's not perfect, it's great enough to make us understand Gul Dukat better than ever before. Kira and Dukat are a little bit like Odo and Quark--two people who are too useful to each other to be enemies, despite fundamental disagreements. But thanks to the almighty spoiling powers of this site, I know that won't always be the case. That's fine, because even when he's working with Kira, I don't really want Dukat to succeed. I want him to pay for what he's done. I think he's charging into a Klingon resistance movement with the same blind militaristic ambition that probably led to his race occupying Bajor. All I have to do is think back to that, and I remember the kind of person he really is. I'm sure Kira would agree.
DLPB - Sat, Feb 22, 2014 - 7:22pm (USA Central)
The writers don't seem to know what to do with Dukat. At times he has wanted to: atone, seek revenge, receive forgiveness, receive vindication, get revenge.. and then at the end he becomes a fire monster who wants nothing more than to kill Sisko.

The character is all over the place.
Vylora - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
As a stand-alone and as a part of the on-going arc I thought this episode was great. Jammers review, as they tend to be, was spot on. Though I thought it was pretty clear to me why Dukat felt Kira would be an asset. The sum of its parts worked out wonderfully for this viewer and in turn made it a well-written, cohesive story.

3.5 stars.
Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 10:41am (USA Central)
This episode was fine.

Kira seems to end up on the bridge having to talk down a rabid Captain quite a bit! :-)

Funny how she gives Dukat what he needs to "return to grace", the Klingon Warbird.

Ziyal #2...

2.5 stars.
Greg - Wed, Sep 3, 2014 - 12:22am (USA Central)
Straight up 4 stars for me. One of the most underrated episodes of the series. Quality from beginning to end - strong acting, perfectly paced, solid FX. Dukat taking a Bird of Prey is also a creative twist on both the character and the series' mythos. Maybe it's because it reminds me of ST3, but having characters commandeer an enemy ship is a great way to add stakes and shake up the foundation a little. It's one of my favourite sub-plots in the series.

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