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

Season Index

28 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.

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.
Caleb - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 9:24pm (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."

Completely disagree... well, sort of, that's just the thing... Dukat himself doesn't know who is, Dukat's existensial crisis and continually evolving identity is the point. Most people in life ARE all over the place because most people are not self-actualized, and Dukat's character makes perfect sense in this context, and it's part of what makes him one of the most compelling characters. His "fire monster" act near the end... well, I can see why some people can't jive with it, but for however over the top it is I still see it as a development that works in the larger context. Insanity can indeed be the eventual outcome of an existential crisis that only builds and where no self-actualization or realization is ever reached.

Oh, and 4 star episode for me.
MsV - Thu, Feb 12, 2015 - 6:48am (USA Central)
Good episode. I liked Kira's total resolve. I can work with you for the right cause, but I still can't stand you. I also loved it when she took Ziyal under her wing. Strong Kira story.
Vii - Sat, Feb 28, 2015 - 2:03am (USA Central)
Just finished watching most of the seventh season, and coming back from Legate Damar, who became the symbol of resistance and freedom for Cardassia to a lowly 'Course laid in sir' helmsman, is oddly satisfying. Also the foreknowledge that he's going to kill Ziyal in comparison to "I'll go and help her.. Klingon technology is odd," and Ziyal's "Damar showed me a new knife trick" is very poignant. Honestly, though, imagining him and Ziyal practising the knife wrestle till he thought she had 'mastered' it - the idea of the two of them continuously rolling around the Klingon engineering room is a bit weird but also funny. Makes you wonder what could have been..
Icarus32Soar - Sun, Mar 8, 2015 - 10:04am (USA Central)
Fantastic ep, I could watch it on a loop forever. Sexual and dramatic tension betwem Kira and Dukat sizzles on the screen. This is the side of Kira I love not the doe eyed little girl just obeying orders. Great moral themes with Dukat saving his half Bajoran daughter and living with the consequences. Kira becomes her Bajoran mother in the end, a dramatically satisfying resolution because the girl is half Bajoran and it was Kira who dissuaded Dukat from killing her in Indiscretion, another great great episode. Alaimo is awesome, a snake that yet charms and mesmerizes you at the same time.
Robrow - Sun, Mar 29, 2015 - 10:35am (USA Central)
An interesting episode: a lot of Dukat's rhetoric seemed slightly insincere to me. Like he was saying stuff he didn't believe 100% in order to impress Kira and get inside her knickers. A little like the bitching about her current lover - claiming he had a file on Shakaar's many conquests. One womaniser slagging of another. The technique wasn't subtle, but it was all absolutely in character and well played by Alaimo. Quite rightly Kira didn't fall for most of it, but it seemed to me she was sufficiently seduced to lend Dukat vital assistance against the Klingons. And I bet he had a little private preen over her decision to take his daughter to DS9. 'Now we're closely connected'. I'm sure he was sincerely grateful, and concerned about his daughter, but the way he said it showed just a little preen I thought. As one commenter put it, he's incapable of not hitting on a beautiful woman. A great character: different to Garak, but just as fascinating.
Teejay - Tue, Jun 30, 2015 - 1:42am (USA Central)
Definitely one of my favorite episodes of the season.

Man, the speech he gives to Kira when he's trying to convince her to join him on his crusade(and seems to me to convince himself as well) was awesome. I would've fought with him after that speech, and I'm a pacifist! :)
romemmy - Sat, Aug 1, 2015 - 2:33am (USA Central)
Um.. is it just me or is no one wondering how they are operating the bird of prey without its command codes? Sure, the computers may be unlocked (since they were using them), but being a military vessel it's highly unlikely you don't need codes/passwords to access a significant number of functions on board! Without the codes (and thus the ability to change them) the Klingons should be able to override the computers and take the ship back.

None of them were, as far as we know, capable of hacking the computers (stands to reason that the Cardassians wouldn't waste a valuable technical resource on a freighter, and neither Kira, Ducat or Damar are engineers).

Of course it's another example of rules (and common sense) going out the window to enable the plot, but it's annoying some times! I love Star Trek, and they at least do usually consult scientists to make things plausible (with the exception of the Abrams stuff), but these plot holes are annoying some times ;)


Yanks - Mon, Aug 3, 2015 - 12:25pm (USA Central)

Codes in trek historically haven't been very difficult to break aside from Data and that REALLY long one he created.

One could and probably should assume that the Klingon codes are easier to break.

I'm sure the Maquis had them, they had every other code/key in the galaxy :-)
romemmy - Tue, Sep 1, 2015 - 2:44am (USA Central)

That may be true ordinarily, but the Klingons were at war.. and in literally the very next episode (Sons of Mogh) they talked about procedures the Klingons were taking to totally secure their vessels - including "entire directories of false information" - which was done in case the ship was taken (which means presumably their security would be massively increased.

Even *todays* security is better than that!

Also, you could say that, in response to the stolen Bird of Prey, that's why they increased security by the next episode.. but in Sons of Mogh Worf said he couldn't get ahold of Kurn for a long while, and that Kurn had been stripped of his rank and position months before when Worf originally told Gowron he wouldn't help them. Since Kurn knew of the security procedures, it stands to reason he found out *before* he was stripped, which is, in all likelihood significantly earlier than when Dukat stole the ship....

Finally, as for easy to break codes, there have been numerous occasions where the various different crews have said something like "Computer - lock out all command functions!" - without resorting to the long code Data used in TNG:Brothers.. And then it seems to take days or never for the intruders to break the code (e.g. Ferengis in TNG:Rascals).

I know, I'm guilty of over thinking it, but the technical inconsistencies can be annoying... Still love Trek tho ;)



William B - Tue, Nov 17, 2015 - 11:11am (USA Central)
Dukat, to me, is a classic narcissist, who has limited (but not totally insignificant) ability to see others as not being direct extensions of himself. That narcissism tends to come with a difficulty knowing who he is besides in relation to others, and thus a constant need for attention and, in Dukat's case, a tendency to morph who he is and what his values are according to the person whose esteem he is trying to extract at his given moment. Ziyal is the transformative element in his life, who *maybe* can represent real growth, and Dukat is able to start more or less fresh with her, despite his first encounter with her after years being his just barely *not* killing her. The two adults, main cast members, in the somewhat adversarial position Dukat seems most intent on seducing, convincing, transforming, and ultimately demanding to see him the way he wants them to see him, are Sisko and Kira. "The Maquis" two-parter opened up Dukat/Sisko, and this episode follows up "Indiscretion" in showing Dukat doing everything he can to worm his way into Kira's good graces.

I was going back over what I wrote about "The Maquis." In that episode, he quite casually said that some people believe they should have killed every last Bajoran before leaving the planet, and shrugged it off as if whether he actually agreed with that or not was of little consequence, because what's done is done. When Ziyal tells Kira that Dukat even says that he regrets the Occupation sometimes, it is hard not to compare. And the thing is, I think that the two sort of are consistent. Dukat can believe both that it was a failure of strength to leave the Bajorans broken but still alive when he is obsessed with proving his strength to Sisko, and that it was an evil action to oppress them as much as he did when he is proving his goodness to Ziyal, and can also try to split the difference and insist that the Occupation is responsible for Bajor's current strength out of some attempt to convince Kira that she is essentially his creation and that she owes her good qualities entirely to him. I'll grant that circumstances have changed significantly that his casual bringing up the genocidal option to Sisko might not happen so easily now, but regretting the Occupation when talking to his daughter who looks to him as protector and holding it up as responsible for Bajoran strength when talking to the woman whose strength he admires is the kind of contradiction that Dukat can easily deal with, because he says what he thinks those around him want to hear, and in the moment believes it. It just happens that he has a better understanding of what Ziyal wants to hear than what Kira does.

I guess the real question is whether someone like Dukat can change, and if so what that change actually means. He is not without moral feeling or without compassion, but he requires constant adulation and will twist himself in order to get it. For now, that actually means something like becoming a rebellious hero. Dukat traded his military might for the love of his daughter, and, to his credit, he genuinely seems not to regret that move. But Dukat's pride is wounded and he needs to rebuild it. His romantic overtures to Kira are far more explicit than they were in "Indiscretion," and seem to me to be partly about Dukat trying to reconstruct his image, as if he can somehow get Kira to view him as heroic for the feat of not killing his daughter, and then for Dukat to convince her that his defense of Ziyal represents evidence of his hitherto hidden longstanding heroism in championing and identifying with Bajoran people. To some extent, whatever it is that leads Dukat to do some reevaluation of the Occupation is "good," but Dukat's newfound openness about his half-Bajoran daughter and his new theories about how Bajor and Cardassia belong together and his attempt to seduce Kira show someone who is not all that chastened, but wants to be the universally admired hero of just a different story than the dictator-with-an-iron-fist universally feared military hero he was before. He has been shot down enough to recognize that he needs to change, but he cycles through attempts at cosmetic changes that can restore him to the prominence he desires.

He is now in the position of the underdog, and, as becomes a running thread in the series, Cardassia's fortunes falling brings them into closer parallel with Bajor. Dukat's early attempt to convince Kira that Bajorans learned from Cardassians become reversed, as Dukat learns from Kira how to fight a resistance-style war against a superior enemy. And this raises its own set of moral problems. Now that Dukat is the underdog, and the Klingons *are* aggressive, launching unprovoked attacks which the Cardassians (and Dukat) did nothing to deserve it. That Kira recognizes the need to teach Dukat how to fight this battle that she knows so well, because Cardassia and Bajor's fates are now intertwined and their positions in the galaxy are equivalent (and on their way to reversing) makes sense. But what will Dukat do with what Kira teaches him? We get a taste of this when Dukat destroys the cripple Klingon ship, and Kira simply asks whether that was necessary; it's an interesting moment partly because I do somewhat suspect that Resistance-era Kira would not have balked at destroying a crippled Cardassian military target, but Kira has a greater sense of the value of enemy lives, even enemy military lives, which is part of why she is willing to help former enemies figt injustice...but she is also maybe giving him the tools to become the monster he used to be. Or maybe those Klingons deserved it; what does Kira's value system actually say now, and does she know?

That Dukat gets his old position back because of this coup is a bit improbable, I think, but that Dukat chooses to reject it to go off on a rogue mission of a one-man war against the Klingons tells us that as much as Dukat likes his position, that is not all that he cares about. So then the question becomes, is Dukat so invested in the fate of his people that he will give up comfort and respect to do whatever he can to help them, in an honourable way? Or does Dukat simply recognize that he will have no real power in his position (he asks out loud what good it is to be the head of a military that won't fight), and he has just enough self-awareness to recognize that he needs greater power and influence to satisfy his ego and that he's more likely to get it in battle in a small ship than as the leader of an impotent military. The events of season five somewhat shift the balance of how I read this here, but as with other Dukat events of this episode I don't think it's ambiguously one or the other.

So, yes, Dukat is looking for forgiveness from Kira, but he also wants approal and even worship, which is not the same thing. He wants to help his people, and he wants to help himself. Kira cannot quite figure him out, because there is no absolute thing to figure out about him; he is the same evil dictator just with less power, and he is a changed man due to the changing circumstances. But he does love Ziyal. I think he likes that with Ziyal he can construct a heroic narrative of himself, probably spinning particular version of the events of the Occupation that make him out to be as much of a victim as the Bajorans. But it is something that he likes being viewed as good rather than merely strong. And he cares about Ziyal enough to give up everything for her and then to let her go.

It's a strong character outing, though one which as a transitional work is somewhat more interesting for what changes it *signals* in the characters rather than for the drama in and of itself. The action is good-but-not-great, Dukat's giving up his military position happens very quickly, and the story presents Kira's conflicted reactions to Dukat in a somewhat jumbled matter rather than having a strong arc. It is still a high 3 stars, which I could maybe see going to 3.5; I will say 3 for now.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2015, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer