Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Waltz"

***1/2

Air date: 1/5/1998
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Behold ... Benjamin Sisko: supreme arbiter of right and wrong in the universe." — Dukat, about to prove and then disprove shades of grey

Nutshell: A little too extreme at times, but mostly a very, very intense and gripping hour.

One of the most interesting things about Dukat, the Cardassians, and the entire Deep Space Nine universe is that they have always been filled with such challenging grey areas.

It is a bizarre irony, then, that an episode that effectively deletes many of those shades of grey from Dukat's character can still be extremely complex and interesting, and equally challenging. There have been many times in the past when sympathizing with Dukat—despite his incessant need for his actions to serve his own interests—was not a difficult thing. But after "Waltz" I find myself only partially understanding Dukat and not exactly wanting to understand the rest of him. And I truly hope that if I'd personally known Adolf Hitler the way I've come to know Dukat over the years, I wouldn't be a fraction as sympathetic or interested in knowing more about him as I am with Dukat.

That's not to say I sympathize with a man who admits to a pattern of thought that Dukat admits to by the end of "Waltz"; I'd probably react just the way Sisko did—with a determined "him or me" attitude that can't see the man as anything more than "pure evil." What, rather, I am saying is that virtuosic scripter Ron Moore has done something very interesting: He has gotten me to see things from inside the twisted mind of a mad, raving, racist, self-serving yet broken and tortured dictator who has lost everything—his empire, his daughter, his mind, and his entire sense of reality—and now plans on making up for lost time. Is that somewhere I really want to go? The answer to that question is probably the reason "Waltz" is so extremely psychologically intense for such a long time. Dukat is one of the most fascinating characters that Trek has ever maintained—but at the same time, some of the dimensions he takes on here scare the hell out of me, and I don't think I'd be doing my job if I didn't say his raving display was disquieting.

If you haven't gotten the idea, I think this makes for very powerful, wonderfully executed drama. Marc Alaimo's performances rarely disappoint, and here he does a balancing act unlike anything I've seen him do before. Dukat has changed in some ways, while remaining the same in others. He's definitely no longer stable. Alaimo offers us the witty side of the Cardassian that has always been likable, sympathetic, and interesting. He often seems like the same Dukat we've always known: self-serving but doing what he believes is in everyone's best interests. At the same time, when his buried feelings finally come exploding out into the open dialog, we see a frightening display of repressed hatred (powerfully conveyed by the actor). In between Dukat's surface and inner-self are the voices of dissension in his head, which take on the form of Weyoun, Damar, and Kira—a device which is effectively utilized.

The rudimentary plot does a good job of staying out of the way. The whole game begins when Sisko, who is to give a statement for Dukat's initial Federation hearing, is on the same ship that is transporting the Cardassian criminal. The ship is suddenly attacked by Dominion forces and destroyed. A handful of survivors make it out alive, including, of course, Sisko and Dukat, who are the only two people on one shuttle that escapes. Sisko is injured, the shuttle is damaged, and Dukat is forced to land on a barren planet. The two then have nothing to do but wait for rescue … and, of course, discuss everything that has been left unsaid for years.

This is of course the core of the episode—a very solid core, at that. It's interesting to note that the crux of the way both Sisko and Dukat see "Dukat, the person" is not simply in context of the Dominion War, but mostly in terms of the Cardassian Occupation, where Dukat served as prefect. Just what were Dukat's intentions as he oversaw the Occupation? To what extent was he responsible for the genocide? It's an issue that's on both men's minds throughout the episode, though Sisko obviously wants to avoid it—he'd rather not address Dukat under the given circumstances.

But would Sisko ever have wanted to find the real answers to Dukat that "Waltz" eventually supplies? I'm not so sure. Sisko, contrary to some things he says early on, does have an opinion of Dukat, even though he knows he doesn't have all the "evidence." Disliking Dukat's self-serving motives (which led to the whole Dominion/Cardassian union, for starters) and coming to a middle-ground decision based on Dukat's reputation from the Occupation days (whether it's fairly or unfairly deserved) seems like the only somewhat comfortable position Sisko could ever reside in. Finding out Dukat's true intentions for overseeing the occupation of Bajor could either complicate matters with unexpected grey areas, or simplify them with the contempt in realizing that Dukat is as guilty as many say he is.

It's a great credit to "Waltz" that the final payoff manages to push the envelope to an extreme that I didn't see coming—yet, in a way, accomplishes in simultaneously painting shades of grey and exposing the contemptible side that one can rightly call "evil." As we learn, Dukat hadn't truly intended widespread death or destruction for Bajor; he wanted justice and control over the Bajoran resistance—at a point when it was far too late. As he puts it, he tried to "save lives" by "reaching out" with a kind hand—a hand which the Bajorans consistently "slapped away." He would answer terrorism with equal and opposite terror, and in his mind he was fully justified and right—far more generous than most people in his position would be. Well, maybe that's true (as echoes of "Duet" and the butcher Gul Darhe'el arise). But what Dukat fails to realize is that the Cardassians had no right in being on Bajor in the first place. Dukat's wrong-headed observation that the Cardassians were obviously the "superior race"—and that, therefore, he had free reign in telling Bajorans where their place was on their own planet—is precisely the kind of poisoned thinking that causes tragedies like the Cardassian Occupation (or the Holocaust, for that matter) to happen.

Yet Dukat could still probably be understandable despite his extreme, backward oversights—if not for the fact that his repressed rage reveals his utter hatred for Bajorans and the pride they wear as "twisted badges of honor," and the ludicrous fact that he blames the Bajorans' resistance for bringing out the worst in him and all Cardassians. And it's Dukat's rage that Sisko takes advantage of to trick the Cardassian into revealing his uncensored mind—a mind that deep down believes he should've simply killed every Bajoran he could've when he had the opportunity.

One relevant question is whether we judge a person on their actions or their beliefs. Dukat tried to do the right thing in wielding a gentler hand, even if it was a misguided attempt and for all the wrong reasons. But does that alleviate his evil now that we know the real truth—that Dukat is a Bajoran-hater that wants to be its enemy unlike anything the world has ever seen? Once we see the evil emerge, another question this episode demands we ask is whether Dukat's hatred grew out of his recent loss and madness, or if it has always been something he has held beneath the surface. Or did Dukat's hatred grow out of his own hopeless situation of trying to be the prefect that Central Command wanted him to be? How might he have turned out if he were never prefect of the Occupation? Even in what seems like a black-and-white case of terrible darkness and evil, Moore's script finds troubling shades of grey. While Dukat's hatred, admittedly, turns a little too extreme by the end (his desire to continue "unfinished business on Bajor" seemed a bit excessive for Dukat, even considering his instability), there always seems to be a confidently scripted reason behind everything Dukat thinks and does, even if it's difficult to decipher.

Returning to the voices in Dukat's head, I thought the use of the other characters as figments of Dukat's imagination was very appropriate. Each voice was there to provide Dukat with a chance to do what he wants to do more than anything—convince himself that he is justified in carrying out his actions. Whether they support his claims or refute them (causing Dukat to respond with his own rebuttals), they're always present as the symbol of embarrassed guilt and unremittingly determined rationalization—a running element of commentary. And when he Dukat doesn't get his way (even within this battle in his mind) he loses his temper and becomes violent, sometimes even turning his phaser upon thin air. Such behavior, and what these characters have to say, is very true to Dukat—a man who does not respond well to being told he is wrong or unjustified.

Execution-wise, Rene Auberjonois' direction was adept, particularly in utilizing these invisible characters. One effective choice has Dukat closing himself inside a shuttlecraft along with his three other "voices"; another has "Kira" mocking him, as she turns into a surreal, invisible laugh that drives Dukat to the brink.

Although Alaimo is the real show-stealer here, another performance I'd like to praise is Avery Brooks'. Brooks and Alaimo have always worked well together, but never has the situation felt so tense and personal. This show is about Dukat wanting Sisko's respect and understanding—an understanding that Sisko will never grant him. As a result, a lot of Dukat's dialog is answered with a reaction from Sisko. Brooks' performance is right on target, particularly in scenes where Sisko manipulates Dukat by playing to the Cardassian's ego and telling him exactly what he wants to hear.

Even the subplot, involving Worf taking the Defiant to look for Sisko and the other survivors, was handled well. It was understated, sensible, and featured some nice touches, which was about all it needed. (I particularly liked Kira's calm explanation concerning the limited time for searching for the survivors, and Worf putting Bashir in his proper place by quietly telling him, "You may leave the bridge, doctor," when the situation warranted it.)

On the other hand, Dukat's escape, while reasonably handled, seemed just a little too much like the obvious outcome of bringing Dukat back into DS9's main action. After his broken defeat in "Sacrifice of Angels," it seemed almost unfathomable that this guy could ever end up going back to where he came from. Yet that's exactly what this episode does by the time it ends. It seemed plausible enough, but at the same time it felt a little like a return to how things were before Dukat's downfall. I'd hate to see the Dominion/Cardassian storyline run around in a circle, but Dukat's return to the mix makes it all the more possible, because we all know he's not someone who's going to simply disappear. Hopefully this won't turn out to be character regression. If Dukat's madness doesn't continue to haunt him, and if Dukat ends up unaffected and at Weyoun's side the next time we see him, I'm going to be skeptical. At this point, I don't think it really hurts the episode, so I'm keeping an open mind.

Really, this episode would've been perfect four-star material if not for the final scene which has Sisko reiterate what we've already been adequately shown. It was the only scene in the show that rang false. Despite the substantial dialog in this episode, the dramatic undercurrent of "Waltz" was primarily "show, don't tell" mentality—until this lackluster final scene. Having Sisko slowly turn to Dax and explain how he has seen the face of "pure evil" was completely excessive and unnecessary. While Sisko's interpretation of the situation certainly felt genuine, the scene's existence seemed glib and rather intelligence-insulting after nearly an hour of deep and thought-inviting Sisko/Dukat interaction.

But other than a touch of excess here and there and this final scene, "Waltz" is a big, big winner—a dark, meaty, intriguing chapter that's probably the most ambitious and probing hour of DS9 since "Rocks and Shoals." Bravo to Mr. Alaimo, Mr. Brooks, and Mr. Moore.

Next week: Speaking of great episodes, "Rocks and Shoals" airs again. Catch it if you haven't.

Previous episode: The Magnificent Ferengi
Next episode: Who Mourns for Morn

Season Index

39 comments on this review

idiotghos - Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - 11:01pm (USA Central)
Spot-on review. One of the best-concieved episodes, with some solid writing, the only outstanding flaw being a tendency toward the bombastic, especially in Sisko's dialog at the beginning and ending of the show. Otherwise, this is my choice for Trek's best attempt at the psychological thriller.

I think anyone who has seen nuBSG could guess that Ron Moore penned this outing. It's interesting to note the similarities between Dukat and Gaius Baltar. Both are egomaniacs who have sold out their respective peoples. Both feel a great deal of regret, and try rationalizing their actions by communicating in their heads with important people from their past.
HipsterDoofus - Sat, Nov 10, 2007 - 7:45pm (USA Central)
Is it just me, or was the title of "Waltz" chosen for the story's similarity to the story of "Duet?" I'm no music theory expert, but I believe duets generally feature harmony, and waltzes feature counterpoint.

Anyway, I can't add much to the review that hasn't already been said by the esteemed Mr. Epsicokhan, except for a few thoughts on Dukat himself. Not just in this episode, but over the whole series' run.

I believe it was always (or at least from very early on in the series) intended that Dukat was insane from the very beginning. I mean, how can it not be insane to commit the atrocities he did and yet (apparently) sincerely believe his actions were somehow benevolent or compassionate?

No, I think he was insane from day one, but he had enough self-control that it was more or less disguised and expressed as a sense of perverse nationalism and extreme egomania. So, all those years; during the occupation, and a few years after; he was insane, period.

But, after Damar killed Ziyal, then he was no longer merely insane, he was *broken*. Completely.

Unfortunately his "recovery" was a false one. He didn't really *heal*, he *rebuilt* himself, without actually healing at all. And the "new" Dukat was even more insane than the old one. The old Dukat, despite his insanity, actually experienced real guilt from time to time, and he also experienced real love, for Ziyal, and for Ziyal's mother.

The new Dukat? Nope, don't think so. Not in this episode, or any that follow. I think from this point on, the only thing Dukat felt was powerlessness, which was more enraging to him than anything else ever could be, hence he sought power , period. Any power. It didn't matter from where, and it didn't matter over whom. How else could the man who once ridiculed Bajoran "superstition" turn around and embrace it?
Ol' Rudyard - Fri, Sep 12, 2008 - 7:02am (USA Central)
Take up the Cardassian Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

And so on and so forth. Whether or not Dukat is "pure evil", his attitudes provide insight into the twisted psychology of colonial paternalism. Notice how he starts by appealing to his own special brand of imperialism toward the Bajorans (kinder, gentler!), but very soon descends into a desire for outright genocide. Fact is, anyone who lords their alleged superiority ("militarily, technologically, culturally") over another in the name of benevolence will always be walking on a slippery slope. In this case, it looks like Dukat slid all the way down.
J - Mon, Nov 2, 2009 - 5:51am (USA Central)
"But what Dukat fails to realize is that the Cardassians had no right in being on Bajor in the first place. Dukat's wrong-headed observation that the Cardassians were obviously the "superior race"--and that, therefore, he had free reign in telling Bajorans where their place was on their own planet--is precisely the kind of poisoned thinking that causes tragedies like the Cardassian Occupation (or the Holocaust, for that matter) to happen."

Well, that should probably be "free rein," but it's definitely an interesting observation--especially when I think about the fact that most of the major Trek powers other than the Federation seem to think this way, and are dominated by a single species. I guess it is believable that the attitude "we should control your planet because we can, and we can control it because we should" might take a long time to disappear, even after Trek-level technology has made it strictly unnecessary to apply such views to the universe at large. You'd want to ask Dukat if he'd have ever bowed down to the Bajorans should they have occupied Cardassia Prime, if he'd have been farsighted enough to love them for being gentle conquerors instead of cruel ones. But he would probably only refuse to accept such a parallel, believing in Cardassian superiority to an extent that he could hardly imagine things otherwise.

Odd to think the Federation becomes much friendlier with the Klingon Empire when, as far as we know, they *are* still an empire, and I imagine they have many worlds under their control the same way the Cardassians had Bajor under theirs. In fact, it seems likely the Klingons are continuing to conquer new worlds. =\
Hiroshi - Tue, Dec 22, 2009 - 9:45pm (USA Central)
For me this was pretty much the entire opposite, and perhaps it has something to do with tastes in story writing and what I find works for me and vice versa.

I felt that stripping away Dukat's shades of grey and rendering the character in pretty stark black and white was one of the worst character directions they could have gone. Deep Space Nine was, if nothing else, never just about black and white. Everyone and everyone tended to have a shade of grey here and there. I mean even Kekfa from Final Fantasy VI, who had a very similar personality, was able to be completely stark raving mad without losing his shades of grey and personality. The new Dukat was just a pale imitation of the man I'd grown fond of as a villian. All the depth, the character, the believability... it was all taken away with this one episode. The way he "embraced" the Bajoran way while he was disguised later on was so horribly out of character for him that it was like I was watching another show that he happened to be in.

Then again, I also don't like the new Battlestar Galactica and think of it as too "soap opera"-esque in it's writing, and I know a fair number of the DS9 writers/production staff moved over there. I suppose that's not a coincedence. And it's a shame, because I genuinely liked Deep Space Nine through the first 5 seasons and most of the 6th save a few episodes...
A - Sat, May 15, 2010 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
Did anyone else notice in the last scene, when Sisko is talking to Dax about "truly evil" and how he's not going to let Dukat destroy Bajor, he says the exact phrase "I fear no evil" and very slowly at that. Now I don't want to see biblical references where there aren't any, but this just jumped out at me as something that the writers couldn't have let slip without realising what it meant. (Psalm 23, one of the most well know bible passages "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil"). DS9 has never been a show to shy away from religious issues. It sounds like Sisko is putting his trust in the prophets that they will protect him while he hunts down man he has come to see as the devil. However, I still see Dukat with shades of grey, he is an extremely conflicted man after the death of his daughter, the loss of his empire, etc. Sisko seems at the end of this episode to become one of those people who uses religion to justify his actions unfairly, and I really dislike those people.
Nic - Mon, Jun 14, 2010 - 10:08pm (USA Central)
Hiroshi, I agree with you 100%. I thought this episode was a very fascinating follow-up to Dukat's descent into madness in "Sacrifice of Angels" (I especially loved his hallucinations, I almost felt sympathy for him). But then the final act went completely off the rails, jettisonned Dukat's multi-faceted personality that had been so wonderfully developped in the last five seasons and turned him into a paper-thin villain who wants revenge. WHY RON, WHY? I hope to see the real Dukat back next time.
Polt - Wed, Feb 2, 2011 - 4:31pm (USA Central)
Sorry, I'm the opposite, apparently the only opposite. I was bored by this episode. I don't believe it revealed anything about Dukat. The man's mad. At least at this point in time. He's seeing people that aren't there, hearing voices that aren't there. He's not fully recovered vrom his breakdown yet. So why should we take anything he says as being his 'real thoughts and feelings'? This whole episode, he seemed to me to be doing nothing but rambling on and on like the delirious man he is.

I found this episode too 'talky', a smidge to sadistic than needed, and, as I said, boring.
Jay - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 10:47pm (USA Central)
I agree with you, Polt. I found this episode rather cloying. It took itself far too seriously. I found wishing Dukat would sit on another stone spike like he did in Indiscretion.
Kevin - Mon, Nov 21, 2011 - 8:42pm (USA Central)
Just finished another viewing of this one (yay Netflix), maybe the third time I've seen it since its original broadcast. The last two acts do seem over-the-top, making the whole come off a little too much like an overwrought morality play between the two characters, "Pride" vs "Justice."

That aside, there's a plot point I still don't understand, and perhaps someone can explain if I'm just being dense. Why does Dukat rig the distress beacon to malfunction? Understandably he doesn't want to be "rescued" by Starfleet, but if that's the case and the shuttle is flightworthy, why does he lie about that as well and wait around on this deserted rock, with or without Sisko? I guess I'd rather not resort to chalking up what seems like unsound tactical behavior to Dukat's emotional instability. What is his motivation?
Scott - Fri, Dec 23, 2011 - 2:25pm (USA Central)
@Kevin Well, it can mostly be chalked up to his emotional instability, but what Dukat seems to really want is Sisko to acknowledge he respects and admires him, and doesn't want to be rescued before he can get what he wants from Sisko. This is, of course, a crazy thing to do, since he would probably kill them both in the process, but this was his reasoning as I understood it.
Andi - Wed, Mar 21, 2012 - 8:36pm (USA Central)
I have a few issues with this episode.

The first thing is the premise that Dukat is going on trial for war crimes... Prior to Cardassia's entrance into the Dominion, Sisko and Dukat, and even Kira and Dukat, were on fairly cordial terms. Kira and Dukat even teamed up a few times and, although Kira didn't exactly like him, she was on decent terms with him. She helped him track down that Klingon ship, she helped Ziyal, she even joked with him a few times, etc. Knowing Kira and her past and remembering her reaction when she thought she really did have a war criminal on the station (in Duet), I can't believe that Dukat is, in fact, a war criminal. If he was a war criminal, why would Kira, of all people be so cordial to him? It's unfathomably. In Duet, it was mentioned that Bajor had a list of war criminals who, if ever on DS9, were to be turned over to Bajor and tried for the crimes they committed during the occupation. Obviously, Dukat, a fairly frequent visitor to DS9, was not on that list. If the fact that he was in charge of Bajor during the occupation makes him a war criminal, why was it never addressed before this episode? Why was he never previously brought to justice?

My second issue with this episode is that Sisko, who knows that Dukat is hallucinating, comes out of the encounter believing that Dukat is "evil"... I don't think that anything that Dukat says here can be seriously taken as his "actual" beliefs. I've certainly heard of mentally ill people hearing voices or seeing people that tell them to kill people, etc, but I would never assume that this constitutes "pure evil"... they're mentally ill. And it's clear, with Dukat carrying heated conversations with imaginary people and even firing his phaser at thin air, that Dukat is suffering from severe mental illness and that his words are the ravings of a lunatic, not the truthful confessions Sisko takes them to be.

And overall, I don't like where they've gone with Dukat this season. DS9 is about exploring shades of gray, be it Kira's past acts of terrorism, Eddington and the Marquis, Cardassians occupiers (like in Duet), and even the Jemhader (like in Rocks and Shoals). Up until this season, Dukat was a shade of gray, something rarely seen in a TV "bad guy". But now,season six, they want to paint him black. Sure he's an opportunist, sure he's an arrogant, self-serving asshole... But evil?

Hiroshi - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 5:56pm (USA Central)
While I do agree with the notion that Dukat's appeal as a character had always been his shades of grey, that he's not always depicted as either good or bad, but that his perception of events and situations cause his actions to be interpreted as one or the other.

In his mind, he actually believes that the occupation was good for Bajor because in the long-run it's become so much stronger than it originally was. Likewise, he doesn't necessarily claim that Bajor's beliefs and culture are "stupid" or "pointless", merely "backwards" compared to the beliefs and culture of Cardassia. This is actually a mindset many modern people have of other countries and communities.

I seriously disliked how they suddenly swept aside everything they'd been working towards or striving for in earlier seasons with Dukat's development and started trying to paint him as "pure evil", going so far as to give him glowing eyes and heat lasers when he's possessed by the ... crap, can't remember what they're called, the "anti prophets". It's like they were attempting to make Dukat into "the devil".
Ian - Tue, Jul 31, 2012 - 1:37am (USA Central)
This was one of the worse episodes because it did strip away the shades of grey from Dukat.
Unlike the character named in in "Duet," we have come to know Dukat over the years, and while he is a would be conquerer, a Casaer, a Napoleon, a Khan, he was never depicted as a Hitler. Other Cardassians played that role far better. This seemed to be the initial set-up for the series finale which was less than stellar...a
John (the younger) - Thu, Sep 27, 2012 - 4:07am (USA Central)
Agree with you pretty much 100% Jammer.

Ironic that, like the semi-related 'Duet', the last scene should have been removed. Or at least severely altered.

I'd just like to add that I enjoy the way the writers never made Dukat particularly.. well.. smart. I mean, compared to Weyoun or the Changelings or Eddington or Sloan or even Winn (etc, etc) he wasn't really portrayed as a classic evil mastermind. As Garak once put it, he's a "swaggering, self-important Gul with too much vanity and not enough ability." I think that actually made him much more real and much more human.
Keiren - Tue, Oct 23, 2012 - 4:42am (USA Central)
This one was BORING! :O
And awful direction... :(
Arachnea - Tue, Nov 27, 2012 - 9:30am (USA Central)
Andi, in my opinion, Dukat is a war criminal. He was never arrested as such while being on DS9 because for the series, it wouldn't have been good TV ;-). And I'm sure that every dictator or criminal, as a person, have something to be liked in them, not meaning they don't have to answer for their acts; so the way the villains are depicted in DS9 rings true (Dukat, Garak, Winn, Klingons), until now.

I'd like to agree with some of the comments here. Dukat has gone completely insane and his twisted ideas have become more twisted. We already knew why Dukat thought Cardassia (and particularly himself) were doing a favor to Bajor and before he became mad, he was sincere about it. So, this episodes depicts the insanity of a broken man, not evil...

And I could have done without the comic-book end: I fear no evil (religious ?) - It's him or me... eek.

Oh, and by the way, I was glad Worf made the right choice by not continuing the search. I was perplexed by O'Brien and Bashir in particular reaction: is the protection of 30'000 people in the convoy less important than the rescue of one (even if it's the captain)?
DavidK - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 3:06am (USA Central)
I actually don't mind this episode in and of itself. I think Dukat's descent into madness and his realisation and acceptance of his hatred of the Bajorans is an interesting next step for the character. My problems with Dukat towards the end actually start after this episode, when the pah-wraiths really come on the scene. So yes for that reason I think Waltz is a good episode and it did set up something interesting, it's more where they went with it that was disappointing.

Also I thought this quote from Memory-Alpha was interesting: "He was supposed to be the villain of the show, and while they were proud to have created such a multi-dimensional villain, they were shocked when they saw fans online actually defending Dukat's behavior during the Occupation." That's something I can sympathise with. Even if it led to some mistakes in the final season, I'm glad that their thought process is something that I can understand.

I think they needn't have been concerned though. For whatever reason, villains are always more fascinating than heroes. That doesn't mean the viewer necessarily likes or sympathises with the character, they're just a lot more interesting to examine. I think their choice to really pick a side with Dukat and say "yes he had shades of grey, but here's what he's really thinking, this is why he's truly irredeemable" is a good one, it was just the execution that failed.
Jack - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 3:22pm (USA Central)
Was bit creepy how the senior staff seemed annoyed that the two women they rescued weren't Sisko. Yeah he's the captain but I almost got the sense they would have phasered the two women if it meant Sisko would be back...
Michael - Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 12:15am (USA Central)
Everything Andi (and others) said is spot on, as is the review. Dukat is clearly mentally ill, and his statements here can't be taken as true representation of anything. HipsterDoofus raises an interesting idea that perhaps Dukat was always insane, a psychopath at least, and that certainly seems consistent. I understand why the writers felt they had gone too far in humanizing Dukat. In the Maquis or the Defiant he seemed very much a counterpart to Sisko and not really an enemy. But then in reference to the original Bajoran occupation he seemed much more sinister, so there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction. Regardless, Sf Debris review probably said it best in that Dukat should have died when the station was retaken, or at least they should have chosen a different angle than him losing his mind. A lunatic can't really be a worthy adversary. Nothing that comes after this really feels like the same character and it offers none of the complexity that defined him. But Dukat is just so much fun to watch, you can't really blame them for trying to keep him around. Unfortunately, this reinvention of his character just doesn't do justice to what came before.
Bryan - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 6:35pm (USA Central)
Dukat, as dark as he was painted, did in the end, save Sisko's life.
William B - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 4:13pm (USA Central)
Reading some comments here.

Re: why Dukat wasn't put on trial before this episode: Dukat was still a citizen/officer of the Cardassian Empire and protected by said Empire up to the end of "Sacrifice of Angels," when he stayed behind in Bajoran space/on a Federation-run space station when the rest of the Cardassian-Dominion forces pulled out. I presume he had diplomatic immunity on Deep Space Nine and arresting him as a war criminal while he still enjoyed protections of the Cardassian empire would be impossible to navigate diplomatically. I don't get the impression that he Cardassians/Dominions are interested in protecting Dukat, though Damar does have personal feelings of affection for him still (which are complicated).

Additionally, of course, Dukat seemingly was aware of and possibly a participant in the plot to destroy the entire Bajoran solar system in "By Inferno's Light," which if it had succeeded certainly dwarfs the entire Occupation and makes the importance of trying him as a war criminal much the greater.

It's moments like that that make the depiction of Dukat in this show so frustratingly inconsistent, since it's hard to believe that a guy who apparently wasn't bothered about wiping out the Bajoran people entirely could still view himself as an erstwhile benefactor who loved the Bajoran people and wanted to protect them from themselves etc. afterward. If By Inferno's Light had followed this episode's Dukat's becoming totally unhinged and deciding on genocide as the Only Answer the story arc direction would have been at least consistent. I think it's "By Inferno's Light" that does the most damage to Dukat, really; in comparison to wiping out the entire Bajoran system nothing that he does afterwards is even in the running for extreme evil.

Note -- I do think it's possible to have "shades of grey" in characters who don't mind exterminating other species, such as the Female Shapeshifter who cares deeply about other changelings but is utterly disinterested in the solids as forms of life. However, Dukat's depiction in almost the entire series hinges on him viewing the Bajorans as people, albeit inferior people who need his "protection," and it's hard to reconcile this with signing onto the destruction of the Bajoran system in BIL and maintain any shades of grey in the character.
Paul - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
@William B: That's a really interesting point. And you could take it further ...

After "By Inferno's Light", how could the Bajorans have possibly signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion? I know Sisko told them to do it, but wouldn't the Bajorans have held a grudge? Early in the sixth season, it's kind of amazing that they'd led Vorta administrators on Bajor. The Dominion tried to destroy their entire population AND are allied with their greatest enemies.

Actually, I've wondered about Bajor's role in the sixth season. Were they cool that their space station was used by both sides in a galactic conflict? Did they throw out the non-aggression pact after "Sacrifice of Angels"?
William B - Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 10:28pm (USA Central)
@Paul: or, for that matter, the Romulans signing a non-aggression pact despite almost having all their ships blown up by a nefarious underhanded plot, that was only *just* prevented from being brought to its conclusion by a plucky team of humans, Klingons, Bajorans, and an exiled Cardassian (the Runabout team plus the Defiant). Though this is less implausible since it wasn't their homeworld.

I'm starting to think that it's best to pretend that the Dominion plan to destroy the Bajoran solar system didn't happen. It was a neat plot idea but the attempt would change the entire tone of future episodes in a way that it doesn't.

I do wonder about Bajoran political status with the Dominion after "Sacrifice of Angels," too.

Probably Kira's actions to undermine the Dominion during their occupation of DS9 would be viewed as Bajoran aggression, if the Bajorans didn't ditance themselves from Kira, which they obviously didn't (eventually promoting her and all). Certianly the non-aggression pact would have to be out of commission by the end of the series, right, or else Kira going to Cardassia to train insurgents would not go over well; she is given a Starfleet field commission though so maybe that removes the Bajoran authority.

Also, the Dominion probably wouldn't take too kindly to the Bajorans given that their Gods wiped out their fleet.
Paul - Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 1:28pm (USA Central)
@William B: I think the Romulans could get past what happened because it was just a fleet of their ships -- we don't really know how many were there.

We're sort of discussing one of the big failings of the final two seasons of DS9. Namely, the scope of characters is too small considering the weight of events.

In the first couple seasons of DS9 and possibly into the third, the Starfleet footprint on DS9 was pretty small. It was believable that a commander, a lieutenant and a Bajoran major et. al were making so many key decisions.

But as DS9 became the center of this huge galactic war, the fact that so few characters -- and, really, the characters that we already knew -- were the big players was pretty implausible. A great example of this occurs in "Tears of the Prophets" when O'Brien -- who wasn't even a commissioned officer -- gives a briefing to Sisko, Ross, Martok and some high-ranking Romulan.

The creators addressed this situation in some small ways -- like making Martok a permanent presence on DS9. But they still lost points, in my book.

This was bad in moments for the Starfleet situations, but it was worse for the Bajoran and the Dominion/Cardassian situation.

I still hate that Kira's resistance cell included no Bajorans other than Leeta. That was just crazy. Given the Bajorans' recent fight for independence, the fact that Kira didn't think to or couldn't recruit any Bajorans to her cause was a major plot hole. And the fact that Bajor for the final two seasons is basically Winn and Dukat in the final episodes -- and I guess Kira's small fleet of ships early in the seventh season -- was a missed opportunity.

But the Dominion stuff was even worse.

Every time Weyoun and Damar are shown in their command center on Cardassia Prime, I cringed. The set was so unimpressive. It looked like a basement! What about the command center Dukat took Sisko to in "Defiant"? Also, the fact that Damar and Weyoun seem to have so few agents -- didn't they both go to DS9 to meet with Bashir's mutant friends? -- made no sense.

I know TV viewers watch shows for characters that they know. But the scope of the Dominion operations on Cardassia was just kind of sad.
William B - Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 3:05pm (USA Central)
@Paul: True, though the Dominion's willingness to destroy entire solar systems without any formal declarations of war should have given the Romulans pause when evaluating the Dominion's reliability. But I grant that the Romulans might be prepared to overlook this.

I agree with the rest of what you write. Up to "Sacrifice of Angels," it makes sense for DS9 to be the centre of the galactic conflict because, hey, wormhole. But after the Prophets wipe out the Dominion fleet, there is not a peep from the Gamma Quadrant for the rest of the series, nor does anyone seem to expect there to be one. I get that Bajor and thus DS9 are close to Cardassia, but it's surely not the only station close to the battle lines, and if it was I don't see any reason why Sisko would be kept the ranking Starfleet officer on the ship and not have Admiral Ross or whoever permanently stationed there the way Martok is. Additionally, details like Sisko being the one to talk to Vreenak seems hard to believe. Either Starfleet should give Sisko a field promotion to admiral or commodore or something, or assign someone else to do Sisko's duties, which often seem to have him be in charge of fleets or at least the second in command after Ross. But it is probably acceptable contrivance to keep the main characters involved in this bigger-than-life situation.

I agree about the Bajorans being worse. Winn becomes essentially the entire Bajoran government from about season five onward (Shakaar never really appearing), Kira the representative of all Bajoran militia in s6 onward and Leeta apparently the representative of all Bajoran civilians. There is the occasional Vedek, like the guy in "Rocks and Shoals" and Winn's assistant in late s7, but that's it. And Bajor itself is reduced entirely to a battleground for Prophet/Pah-Wraith battle. As far as I can tell, Kira's Bajoran-ness ultimately has about as much impact on these seasons than Ezri's Trill-ness.

I agree the Dominion stuff is silly, but it bothers me less than the Bajor material because the diversity of opinion in the Dominion is likely to be less than on Bajor. Why exactly Damar was the sensible choice to be promoted to the head of the Cardassian military is anyone's guess -- was he even a Gul in early season six?
Daniel - Tue, Jun 25, 2013 - 7:15pm (USA Central)
@Willam B

Damar was a glinn and Dukat's second in command. He was promoted into Dukat's position since he was essentially his vice president and because it was essentially a puppet government under the Dominion so who ran it was irrelevant (see the analysis of his speech in Statistical Probabilities which showed that he had little say in policy - or anything, really).
Paul - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
@William B: Making Damar the head of the Cardassian government makes sense if the Dominion wanted a figurehead whom the Cardassian people could link to Dukat. The Dominion liked order, so Dukat to Damar was sort of orderly.

One thing that's always hard to figure about Star Trek is proximity. Early in DS9, Bajor was considered to be "the edge of the galaxy." But that makes storytelling hard, because you can't jump in a ship and get to, say, Earth or Kronos in a few days if you're on the edge of the galaxy. So, the creators kind of fudged that point after the early episodes for better storytelling.

Why is that important? Well, we don't know if DS9 is the closest outpost to Cardassian space, because we don't really know what the border looks like. We do know that Sisko and Cal Hudson were the two senior officers on the border way back in season 2, but that could have changed.

So, DS9, even without an active wormhole, might have been the closest outpost to Cardassia. Having Ross, Martok, Gowrwon (and Romulans) on DS9 for much of the final two seasons would seem to indicate that DS9 is the strategic command center closest to Cardassian/Dominion space.

Anyway, Sisko certainly became more important in the final years of the series, so I can buy him briefing admirals and high-ranking Klingons and Romulans. But a lot of other "scope" issues made little sense.
Douglas - Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - 5:33pm (USA Central)
I just watched this episode again. While I enjoyed it and thought it was a great hour of TV, it actually damaged the show, I thought.

To this date in DS9, Dukat had been one of the most clever, ambiguous, and most importantly, nuanced characters in the show. His wit, and his ability to retain diplomacy in the face of anger is something I have always loved about his character.

I felt like this episode did a disservice to him. His character has always been so complex, giving the watcher enough tether to really make a case for him as a "grey guy", someone who might have been good in another life. However here, he acts so out of his character that it's almost implausible. The episode could have been saved if they would have really examined the struggle Dukat was facing -- he had just suffered the greatest military and political defeat of his career, followed by watching his own daughter get murdered. Even the most rational person under those circumstances would have been taxed well to the limit, if not completely past the breaking point.

I think Ds9 could have shown a LOT of character here if they would have recognized just how far gone he was -- the acute hallucinations he experienced would have been enough of a symptom alone to show that his mental faculties were dire -- and they could have even shown Sisko as a person who's a little more willing to seek the truth.

Instead, we have + and - roles painted for us, with Dukat being a genocidal madman, and Sisko sitting back on his pedestal and judging him (Dukat was spot on with that, by the way).

Were I to direct this episode, I would have liked to see Dukat put Sisko into his shoes as a Cardassian and really force Sisko into some hard choices: Kill some terrorists and you maintain power. Choose not to kill them, the government deposes you, installs a new dictator who's 5x as bloodthirsty as you. There was a lot of room here to make for political discussion, and since Dukat is Cardassian, he would have a huge advantage of being "in the know" versus Sisko. It would have been equally as dramatic and highly vexing to have Dukat put Sisko into an unwinnable circumstance and then screw him into making a hard decision. At which point, Ben would have had to concede that the situation is incredible taxing and that he didn't always have an answer, or he could have challenged Dukat to "be the bigger man". Then Dukat could have hit Sisko with the entire situation involving Eddington as a method of knocking Sisko down a peg. It would have been a marvelous exchange to see.

Then, afterward, if absolutely necessary, Dukat can have his manic episode, but it would have been veiled by the preceding events, and Sisko could have reflected on how obviously deranged Dukat was at this point and yet still managed to make a convincing argument. I think it would have been a 4 star episode if this had transpired, and while it might not have resulted in physical confrontation, the entire crux of this series of exchanges is all mental anyway. The fight was incredibly superfluous, and Sisko's comment at the end about how some men are pure evil robbed a classic Star Trek antagonist of his ability to be anything more than something to be fought, not understood, rather than a living breathing person with his own desires and wants. They showed how relatable Dukat could be when his daughter was killed, and then they completely destroy that in the very next episode he's in. A pity, really. Dukat was to this point one of the most nebulous, charming, *interesting* characters in Star Trek history. An "enemy" who purports himself to be a positive force for change, and shows a tendency for both. Sad that the writing had to resort back to basic "good guy bad guy" philosophies.
Nancy - Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 1:30am (USA Central)
I agree 100% with Douglas and anyone else who was extremely disappointed with the way Dukat was turned into a cartoon character after so many years of character development. I could perhaps buy it if it were just a manifestation of his madness (although I would still consider it a waste of a fascinating villain) but worse, according to Sisko at least, this was the "real" Dukat all along.

I've decided I'm just going to go with this being lunatic ravings and dismiss Sisko's evaluation that he has seen "evil" even though I know that's not what the writers were going for: their decision was such a character assassination that to buy into it completely nullifies all of Dukat's growth until now.
Kotas - Mon, Oct 28, 2013 - 8:27pm (USA Central)

Decent episode but I think they could have done a lot more with it.

6/10
Jamie Stearns - Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - 10:25pm (USA Central)
As this episode prominently features Dukat interacting with people who aren't really there while trying to hide it from Sisko, I looked up the episode credits just to be sure...

Yes, it was in fact written by Ronald D. Moore. ;)
eastwest101 - Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - 4:33pm (USA Central)
I also agree with Douglas and disagree with Jammer on this one, I found the whole episode boring, tiresome, campy and a massive dis-service to all the good work they had done previously developing Dukat's character.

I can get that Dukat was or has gone insane, its just that they could have taken this in other much more interesting directions.
Toraya - Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - 10:06am (USA Central)
This episode really angered me. Dukat -- villain though he is -- had my utter sympathy in his first scene aboard the ship, when the subject of Ziyal comes up and his brokenness and anguish shows clearly through his arrogant facade. (Brilliant acting by Alaimo.). From there, Dukat descends into raving lunacy.

When Sisko starts calling him "evil" I was thrown - since Sisko's assessment was clearly wrong. Was the episode intending to show Sisko as a merciless judge, stripped of empathy by the hardships of war and the burden of command? That would have been understandable and an interesting development of the character! But by the last scene it seemed that viewers were meant to actually agree with Sisko and consider Dukat evil rather than sick. WTH?

I just came away thinking Sisko was a self-righteous jerk. Now I am hoping for Dukat to regain his sanity and either redeem himself somewhat or hand the Great Sisko his comeuppance.

Additionally, when the Defiant locates "a signal! It's from Dukat!" - leading to Sisko's rescue - my understanding was that Dukat deliberately signaled so that Sisko would be saved. (He had spent the whole episode preserving Sisko's life, I thought because he desperately needed validation/forgiveness). Seemed damn ungrateful of the Great Sisko to have not even a shred of mixed feelings.
Vylora - Wed, May 7, 2014 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
And so the slow decent into madness that is Dukat hits bottom. He is logically irrevocably a changed man for the remainder of the series which makes this episode all the more important. The final scene seems to be a point of contention. Personally, I found it nothing more than a flawed statement from a character (Sisko) that just went through a tumultuous experience. A bit on the heavy-handed side, sure, but not to a fault.

Masterfully written. Intense. Gripping. Definitely a classic.

4 stars.
Nonya - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 12:34am (USA Central)
What bothers me here is that Sisko literally steered Dukat to his end. Dukat was vulnerable, emotional, and more or less putty in Sisko's hands. What does Sisko do? Make Dukat face his worst side of himself, without offering alternate perspectives or even so much as telling Dukat he needs to own up to his actions.

Dukat has always had this darkness inside of him ever since the occupation, but it's Sisko's behavior here that makes this darkness come forward, in the worst way.
Yanks - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 5:06pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode until the end.

Dukat has spent all his time since the end of the occupation seeking gratitude/thanks for his role in the occupation. From Kira many times Garak at least once and now Sisko. This is just more of the same, but now it's after his meltdown. He still believes that he was good for the Bajorans and Sisko will not cave. Finally Dukat just says F#$k it, death to all Bajorans....

I can't stand Dukat, so I have no problem with Sisko "rubbing it in", but the ending TOTALLY kills this episode because now it's a religious thing and Dukat & the Cardassians are not religious. Good v evil. The Prophets v Paraiths. The Emissary v Dukat. As far as Bajor/Winn/Dukat I think DS9 lost the ball from here on out. I would rather Sisko killed him in this episode rather than he take the path the writers put him on. He was a megalomaniac that had a meltdown, now he is a loonie-toon.

2 stars for me because of the ending.

Oh, this DOES have Ron Moore written all over it. Just like BSG, he pummels the characters and doesn't know how to wrap things up.
M.P. - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 10:31pm (USA Central)
I agree with everything the above commentators say. Not much to add to that.

I also agree with William B points concerning the characters and station. For such a daring show, DS9 did stick to the safe formula quite a bit. Sisko "should" have been promoted to at least Rear Admiral. (Commodore is gone; its now Rear Admiral Lower Half)

We are never told of any age restrictions on rank, and I find it hard to believe Ross is more than 5 or 10 years older than Sisko.

For a real life example, look at the various Allies forces during WWII. Especially in the infantry. Field promotions were granted left and right, sometimes against age restrictions. True, it was a desperate, all-out time; but what would you describe the Dominion War as?

A promotion would have made so much sense; especially if everyone got a promotion. It would have broken the Trekkian Status Quo.
$G - Sun, Sep 28, 2014 - 11:53pm (USA Central)
This is a really, really great hour of DS9. Without repeating the good points everyone already mentioned, I want to point out a couple of things that bother me about the comments here:

---
@ Nonya:

"What bothers me here is that Sisko literally steered Dukat to his end. Dukat was vulnerable, emotional, and more or less putty in Sisko's hands. What does Sisko do? Make Dukat face his worst side of himself, without offering alternate perspectives or even so much as telling Dukat he needs to own up to his actions."

I'm not sure what alternate perspectives Sisko could or should have offered here. He eventually plays Dukat's game (after being beaten with a pipe, don't forget) and Dukat reveals himself as a racist, narrow-minded monster. He isn't looking for a new perspective on his conscience or a new way to see the world; he wants Sisko's approval for what he already is. The terrifying thing about Dukat is that he genuinely believes he was benevolent. His frustration all comes from being unable to articulate it so that others can see it as he does. Problem is, Dukat's views are too twisted and, yes, evil to make others agree.

"Dukat has always had this darkness inside of him ever since the occupation, but it's Sisko's behavior here that makes this darkness come forward, in the worst way."

Dukat has darkness inside of him, and so does every other Cardassian military officer who's been indoctrinated with the Central Command's propaganda. The Bajoran occupation had already been running for 40 years before Dukat took over - so what does that say about Dukat? What does that say about the type of person who would seek out that position? Certainly the occupation took its toll on him, and regardless of his efforts to run a "kinder, gentler" occupation, his view of Cardassians and Bajorans was one of racial supremacy. Like Jammer pointed out, the Cardassians shouldn't have been there at all. Full stop. His inability to even see this as a possibility damns him and entire generations of his people. A philosophy can be evil and those who both act on it and BELIEVE IT should be called out as evil as well, excuses be damned.

---
@ Toraya:

"When Sisko starts calling him "evil" I was thrown - since Sisko's assessment was clearly wrong. Was the episode intending to show Sisko as a merciless judge, stripped of empathy by the hardships of war and the burden of command? That would have been understandable and an interesting development of the character! But by the last scene it seemed that viewers were meant to actually agree with Sisko and consider Dukat evil rather than sick."

I just don't understand this interpretation. What sympathy does Dukat deserve from Sisko? This is a man who climbed the career ladder into becoming the prefect of an enslaved world. Before he even committed any atrocities, he was *already* a racial supremacist. Despite years of opportunity to reflect, he still doesn't see the problem that makes all of his reform excuses moot: superiority (however one defines it) does not justify slavery. His version of Kira doesn't even bring this up, instead saying only what he is able to understand about the situation: "we hated you and didn't want peace!" He doesn't understand why the Bajorans hate him, though, or why fighting was what they felt was their only option. That's what's damning.

Dukat is clearly mentally ill in "Waltz". I am not going to dispute that. But his mental state is not an unsympathetic or misguided portrayal of evil on the part of Moore. It's simply the dramatic breaking point that causes him to open up and reveal his true colours. The "shades of grey" that everyone trots out about pre-"Waltz" Dukat shouldn't be misunderstood as ambiguity in his belief system. Dukat's "grey" comes from the fact that he was charming and witty, and that his character arc occasionally brought his goals into alignment with our heroes'. His stories were rarely 'good guys vs. Dukat'.

But don't fall into the trap that “greyness” means his brutal, racist beliefs are up for ethical debate, because they are straight up black as night. The writers and Alaimo's performances did such a good job giving personality to Dukat up to this point in the series that they created a monster who the viewer doesn't hate, and probably even likes. But for some viewers “not hating” ends up as sympathy, which then usually ends up as approval or apologism. The number of internet posts I've seen over the years that glorify characters like Walter White, Tony Soprano, or Vic Mackey is pretty immense. It's a really bizarre halo effect that takes place.

tl;dr: Dukat is mentally ill, but he is also evil and has been for far longer than he's been ill. Don't confuse the two.

---

Anyway, my own review of this episode would be pretty glowing and I'm not going to write it all since I've already written enough. I love “Waltz” for Alaimo's performance and for Sisko's characterization. At the beginning of the hour, our hero chastises himself in his log for wishing death on Dukat – it's all very Star Trek and to be expected. By the end, he's been forced to unload both barrels on the man and suddenly that Federation party line for procedure and tolerance gives way to the raw passion of a man whose belief in utopian values goes far deeper than a simple oath-taking.

My only real issue with “Waltz” is Dukat's escape. I understand the character is too valuable to be killed, and I wouldn't presume to out and out say that killing him would have been “better”, but “Waltz” feels like such a natural conclusion to Dukat's story that having him live to fight another day almost makes me feel like the episode pulled its last punch.

I know where the story goes from here, though I won't judge it until I finish my re-watch. A lot of commenters seem to see this as the beginning of the end, but any failures on the part of future episodes to interpret what should move forward from “Waltz” shouldn't be blamed on “Waltz” itself.

3-1/2 stars, though “Waltz” probably contains enough excellent material to make it a full 4 star gem. Regardless of star ratings, this is a DS9 classic and my close-second favourite Dukat show after S4's secretly excellent “Return to Grace.”

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