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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71 comments on this post
Sun, Jul 19, 2009, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 9, 2009, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 28, 2009, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 1, 2010, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 21, 2010, 8:16pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 11, 2010, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 26, 2010, 12:14am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 10:25pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 13, 2012, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 17, 2012, 7:58pm (UTC -5)
Mark Alaimo and Andrew Robinson added so much to this series.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 2, 2014, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 6:23am (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 7:27pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
The character is all over the place.
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 10:41am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Sep 3, 2014, 12:22am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Feb 12, 2015, 6:48am (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 28, 2015, 2:03am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 8, 2015, 10:04am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 29, 2015, 10:35am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 30, 2015, 1:42am (UTC -5)
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! :)
Sat, Aug 1, 2015, 2:33am (UTC -5)
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 ;)
Mon, Aug 3, 2015, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
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 :-)
Tue, Sep 1, 2015, 2:44am (UTC -5)
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 ;)
Tue, Nov 17, 2015, 11:11am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jan 1, 2016, 9:13am (UTC -5)
Probably the only bit that rings true is the Ziyal story line - at least here both Dukat and Kira do have something in common. And we do get to see Damar for the first time too. 2.5 stars.
Fri, Jan 1, 2016, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 26, 2016, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 26, 2016, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
I assumed through most of the episode that everything going on was a trick to get Kira to share technology with the Cardassians. Worf had told Kira at the beginning that there was technology that could not be shared, and she hid her laptops in a cubby when anyone walked in on her. Those details, like the fruit bowl, turned out to be extraneous and confusing.
Mon, Mar 28, 2016, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
No, you're right, Cyia Batten's performance is very wooden in this episode, which does take a little of the shine away from this episode. She is, after all, the reason behind Dukat's current dilemma which is the focus of this episode.
Fortunately, her part's small enough that didn't really matter. This was more or less a Dukat episode, and maybe even a Damar episode if you consider that this is his entry to the series.
Mon, Apr 4, 2016, 11:42am (UTC -5)
I've never been really all that accepting of the whole idea of Kira and Dukat as a possible romantic couple (and apparently Visitor herself wasn't either - she absolutely refused to do it when they tried to have Kira and Dukat in a past "romantic" entanglement in "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"). However, I do think this episode is very interesting for the character development it gives Dukat because he stays totally in character (he's a patriot first and foremost and completely believes in what made Cardassia a great power) while still growing to respect Kira for what she did during the Occupation. I guess finding yourself on the other end of the stick has a tendency to do that to you.
I also love the development "Return to Grace" gave to Kira. She's realized that while she's not ashamed about doing the things she had to do (even if she now sees them as little more than a necessary evil), she's also mature enough to see that it's not a life worth living. And having her see a lot of herself in Ziyal seals that deal - she doesn't want her half-Cardassian self to go through the hell she had to endure. Nicely done. And her decision to take Ziyal back to DS9 with her makes so much sense. With nowhere to go on either Cardassia or Bajor, and a possible life as a resistance fighter, bringing her to the station is the only way to save her and does intertwine Kira and Dukat without making them lovers. It's a shame we won't see Ziyal again until "For the Cause", where her chief role will be to fall in love with Garak. After this she's not really given much to do until the Dominion Occupation arc, which is a shame as she is a character with a lot of unrealized potential.
Mon, May 23, 2016, 12:24am (UTC -5)
Perhaps ships have some kind of offscreen transporter jamming tech to prevent this sort of thing? (Apparently this particular BOP didn't or Kira's knowledge of Klingon transporter codes allowed said jammers to be bypassed) Well, as Garak once said, it's best not to dwell on such minutae.
Mon, May 23, 2016, 10:46am (UTC -5)
I think it's because generally a ship would have to lower its shields to get through the transporter. Even if you'd disabled the enemies' shields, one lucky shot from them with your shields down for transport would be disastrous.
Of course, there's episodes like "Relics" where people forget about shields and transporters, but that's likely a script error.
Sun, Jun 4, 2017, 4:12pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 6:03pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 3, 2017, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Some of the things that bugged me about the episode:
I'm surprised the Klingons didn't initially blow the freighter to bits after being fired upon -- after all, they just wasted an outpost and killed far more people. The freighter did fire on them as well. The episode doesn't shed any more light on what consequences of that act by the Klingons might be -- it becomes too much of a plot device.
Kira's able to transport all the Klingons aboard the freighter and all the Cardassians aboard the bird of prey -- definitely a stretch as far as I'm concerned. Not sure how the Klingons can be so sloppy/stupid/careless.
The best parts about the episodes are the interactions between Kira and Dukat and also with the daughter thrown in there. Does give a good presentation of Dukat's fall from grace and his desire to return to glory and his daughter's plight.
I rate this episode 2.5 stars - basically a set up to get Kira/Dukat together and let the characters go at it. Dukat is a bit nuts with his desire to go after the Klingons all by himself, clearly it should not convince Kira. I liked Kira in this one, did what is "reasonable" to help Dukat but also maintains a logical understanding of the bigger picture.
Fri, Jan 12, 2018, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Dukat was one of the three characters along with Quark and Garak who kept the fire burning until season 4, where things for obvious reasons gets heaten up and burns on its own.
And perhaps it's because of my fondness for this character that I feel a bit disappointed now midway through this season. It just pains me to see this development where he all of a sudden is a freighter captain, with a terribly uninteresting bastard daughter on his side, acting (albeit still excellently delivered by Alaimo) nothing less than non-sensical with this not very thought through rebel call.
Usually I don't have much trouble looking past logical fallacies as long as it add some spice to the narrative, but in this case, because it concerns one of the main reasons to watch this Trek, I have to bow out to a notion of leeriness.
Fri, Jan 12, 2018, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 1:44am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 2, 2019, 11:43pm (UTC -5)
--More Kira and Dukat flirting. Dumar has to listen.
--Dukat says "I'm a much more complicated man than you give me credit for." Later he says he can't understand how Kira can be attracted to Shakaar, "a lumbering, simplistic field hand." And he says Kira doesn't know him well enough to compare him with Shakaar.
NEXT SCENE: Kira is worth Ziyal. She's comparing a "simple, solid," reliable gun to one that has more options, and is "more complicated" so more things can go wrong with it.
She suggests sticking to the simpler gun, should they "get boarded."
I know what you mean, Kira. I hate it when those complicated guns go wrong at just the wrong time.
Darn it. The 4 yr old woke up and is calling. Must finish this ep tomorrow
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:47am (UTC -5)
Each of your posts contains at least one outstanding observation. I like that you try to pick up on nuance in use of language to interpret connections between scenes. In this case the connection between Dukat and Shakaar, and then between a Starfleet and Cardassian rifle, is a huge contribution to interpreting not only the scene but the series.
But I would pose one question regarding that most interesting lesson to Ziyal: which is the "complicated phaser": Dukat, or a simpler seeming equivalent like Shakaar? At first glance Shakaar is the simple phaser and Dukar the Starfleet phaser; more can certainly go wrong with a man whose head is tied up in self-involved knots. But *on the other hand*, perhaps we will find out one day that being self-serving is actually quite a simple matter regardless of how it's packaged and presented on a given day, whereas even for a simple-seeming man like Shakaar there are complicated conflicting values he must weigh in order to determine what's right and wrong; the good of his people; of his friends; of his province; of the relationship with the Federation. For someone who believes in the simple act of doing good the matter can become complex indeed! Whereas for someone uninterested in anyone's good but their own all of the seeming "options" might be little more than smoke and mirrors. And what's more, Kira's speech even suggests subtly that the Starfleet phaser is in some sense better, but requires correct circumstances for its qualities to shine, such as knowledge and proper care. Perhaps this description suits a moral person after all; certainly a morality like Bashir's for example needs certain preconditions to be met before it's able to be lived. Whereas the Cardassian weapon is crude but effective in its stated goal; and that crude primitiveness is perhaps better descriptive of someone "effective" in achieving goals, however crude they may be. This type of description may well fit a Klingon more so than a nuanced moral agent.
So the puzzle of who the Starfleet phaser is supposed to be, versus the crude Cardassian weapon, is an interesting conundrum. Could the writers truly have packaged such a complex problem in so short a scene? If so there's a genius in that. Or maybe it contains more than they intended.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 9:45am (UTC -5)
Despite Alaimo being a good actor, I'm surprised anyone would find Dukat charming in this episode. The way he kept track of Kira's relationships came off pretty creepy, but maybe that's just me.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 11:53am (UTC -5)
In one scene, Dukat says he's complicated, but Shakaar is a simplistic "field hand." He also says Kira doesn't know him well enough to make a comparison.
In the very next scene, Kira is comparing a "simple" gun to a "complicated" one. Those are the words she uses, the same words Dukat used to describe himself versus Shakaar. She also says the complicated gun would not be as good "in the field."
This gun (an obvious phallic symbol) comparison comes right after Dukat is plainly coming on to Kira.
To me, there is absolutely no way this could be unintentional. No way.
Peter G, I definitely agree that exactly which gun represents Dukat, and which Shakaar, is open for debate. It's interesting that the Cardassian gun is the simple one. This may handed been to obscure the symbolism a bit, but like you, I think it's likely more about how complex the picture is.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
The more I think about it, the more I think that this is a subtle way of saying that what Dukat excels at - and preens about - is basically skill at the application of force to achieve his ends. He is certainly very clever and resourceful, but if all a person aims to do is to use force effectively this is a very narrow aim in life compared to a Starfleet person who would have a number of tactical and moral problems to contend with all at once. The typical senior staff meeting in the Enterprise ready room is the prototypical Starfleet thought process: do we weigh more heavily the medical considerations (Crusher), the tactical (Worf), the logical (Data), the pragmatic (Geordi) or the moral (Picard)? I never quite thought of it this way before, but those meetings were probably the heart and soul of the show, delineating through multiple characters how many issues a civilzied person must balance. But Dukat's 'senior staff' is just Damar, basically a brute. Now there are budget issues and script issues making it more convenient for Dukar to just have one prominent lieutenant, but still it's telling that the extent of his council is basically a guy who relishes the use of impressive force. That really does seem like the simple phaser to me, regardless of how clever Dukat is in dressing it up.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
I suppose it can apply to the two men and the choice of wording may very well indicate that's what the writers intended. Although, I feel I need to really squint my eyes to make the analogies work on that level, so perhaps it wasn't a fully-realized scene.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Interesting extrapolations. My thought was more along the lines that Kira's subconscious comparisons, of the two men, were being expressed through the gun scene. We still have the question as to which is which . . . I tended at first to feel the complicated one was Dukat, but it could go either way, as you make a very good point regarding Dukat's crude methods. Also, Kira disagrees with Dukat, that Shakaar is simple. And it's interesting that Kira says the Cardassian gun can be dragged through the mud and still fire, in a ep where Dukat basically describes how his name has been dragged through the mud, but he still plans to fight.
I don't doubt that the gun comparison may be based on the real guns you mention. And I also have no doubt that the writers inserted this gun scene in to the ep intentionally, using similar words and phallic symbols, to give us some subtext regarding the Kira, Dukat, Shakaar triangle (such as it exists, mostly in Dukat's fevered brain right now).
Kira does tell Dukat she wasn't very tempted by his offer to work together, but she also basically offers to mother his child, and agrees that their lives have now become intertwined. Not the actions of a woman who's shutting him down cold.
I agree Dukat's not charming. But he's trying to be.
This is the second time the writers have thrown these two together in an ep with considerable sexual subtext, and overt "bonding moments" as well.
I definitely think the writers were considering a relationship between the two, but (I'm guessing, from spoiler stuff I read) decided not to go there.
I don't really think there's that much chemistry between the two . . . if the writers were thinking they might jazz up the storyline with some building sexual tension, I'd say that it may have just plain fizzled out. Without truly explosive chemistry, such a pairing would be difficult to sell.
I wonder where we're going, with Dukat's decision to fight, and with Ziyal on DS9? I'm curious to see if we get any reaction from Garak on the latter.
An interesting episode, well done overall.
Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 7:57am (UTC -5)
"I don't really think there's that much chemistry between the two . . . if the writers were thinking they might jazz up the storyline with some building sexual tension, I'd say that it may have just plain fizzled out. Without truly explosive chemistry, such a pairing would be difficult to sell."
Perhaps the idea was far-fetched in the first place, but it was never given a chance to begin with. The long and short of it is that Nana Visitor saw what they were doing with Kira and Dukat and told them in no uncertain terms that they would pair these two up over her dead body.
Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 8:49am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 10:18am (UTC -5)
Interesting regarding Nana V nixing a Kira-Dukat relationship. I do agree with her. He was brutal to her people. It's just too much.
They may have been able to make it work with more chemistry, and well . . . Kira being a lot different than she is.
But it's not as if Kira is a naive, desperate young thing who'll get charmed by the bad boy, make a huge mistake, and learn her life lessons. She's a grown woman who's been quite the bad girl, all on her own. She learned her lessons about dancing with the dark side a long time ago. It makes zero sense for her.
Just wrong, and I'm glad Visitor called them on it.
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
Kira is getting a series of booster shots from Bashir (insert Siddig/Visitor fourth-wall breaking joke) in preparation for a safari or whatever. She's been asked by Shakaar to share Bajoran intelligence on the Klingons with their Cardassian allies. Two things: it is once again conveniently forgotten that the Bajorans are supposed to be barely making ends meet, which is the entire reason Shakaar was elected, and secondly, sending your girlfriend on diplomatic missions is only marginally better than that rule by theocracy we narrowly avoided. The scene struggles a bit for comedy in having the vaccine-ridden Kira try and cope with symptoms while being briefed by Worf. Meh.
We then find Kira packing her bag for the trip when Dukat arrives to greet her and inform her that he is commanding her Cardassian escort vessel. The reveal is nearly cut-and-paste from “Indiscretion,” but this of course by design (in case his “I was INDESCRETE,” didn't hit you hard enough over the head). It was the fallout from that episode which has brought him to grace her doorstep once again as he has been publicly shamed for his half-Bajoran daughter. Not only shamed, but disowned, divorced and demoted. His attitude, made clear in a patented little Dukat speech, is one of contrition for his sin, but assurance that he will eventually recover his status. It's important to remember that Kira didn't ask him to account for himself, and obviously she could care less about him gaining power again. At this point, Dukat's arc can go several places. He could go back to his old ways, or he could be redeemed. This characterisation is quite plausible, showing signs of growth but without abandoning his core aspects. With Ziyal in the picture now, the dynamic between him and Kira has a divorced parents kind of vibe to it. They are past the days of open hostility, finding that they have enough mutual goals to maintain a functional relationship. For now.
Act 1 : ***.5, 17%
Ziyal and Kira catch up on the Cardassian freighter (which is the most sex-toy looking vessel this side of the USS Pasteur). Her assessment of her father is glowing, citing the way in which he kept her at his side, pridefully, despite the scandal this caused him on Cardassia. This flows straight out of what we saw of her previously; she has a Cardassian mind and understands that for Dukat, this act was one of the bravest things he could do. Kira doesn't see it that way, having a different perspective on his legacy. And being Kira, she doesn't exactly hide this view from the girl. Their chat is interrupted by a battle drill—yeah. Dukat is running this space-truck/taxi like a warship and forcing his crew to attempt battle-readiness against the Klingons, with pathetic results. In a surprising move, Kira doesn't take the opportunity to condescend or lecture Dukat. Rather, she has some technical advice on how his crew might shore up their performance.
She's rewarded for her kindness with a romantic dinner. Lucky her. Dukat even has some spring wine for the occasion which means, if he can get her to agree to a foot-rub, she'll have to accede to whatever perverted request he makes of her. In another example of wry one-liners we get:
KIRA: I talked to Ziyal. She's a lovely girl.
DUKAT: I'm very glad that you convinced me not to kill her.
This “good” will doesn't last too long as he decides to bring up Shakaar and Kira's history with “powerful men” (I'm not sure I'd put Driftwood in that category, but the less said on this topic, the better). Dukat actually seems to think that if he were to regain his old power, this might put him in the running, which makes Kira laugh (though mercifully, it's a much more believable version than the sand-spike bs). He has a really hard time taking a hint, as he attempts to turn her off to Shakaar by suggesting he fucked his with through his entire contingent of female resistors. This from the man who is being actively punished for not keeping his dick in his pants.
They are again interrupted by an alarm. The outpost to which they were headed has been destroyed by a Klingon Bird of Prey, which decloaks right then and there.
Act 2 : ****, 17%
As though under orders to shame Dukat by whatever means possible, the Klingon vessel decides to casually stroll away, unconcerned by his tiny ship. Well, Dukat and his totally not micro-penis aren't going to stand for that, by god, as he orders Dumbass or whatever his name is to charge weapons. Kira is unable to talk him out of this suicide attempt, but it doesn't matter as the Klingons just troll them and warp away. You can almost hear the laughter and tankards of blood wine clanking through the view screen. Very effective. Likewise, Marc Alaimo is given the chance to show us a different side of Dukat for a brief moment—his voices goes up in pitch and he seems unaware of how others in the room might be seeing him, totally deflated.
Kira seems affected by this sentiment, which is something I'll come back to, but for now, this prompts her to suggest they go after the Klingons themselves.
DUKAT: A few moments ago, you were advising caution.
KIRA: That's because a moments ago we were in no position to fight back. I have no intention of letting them get away with what they did.
So, she has them retrieve the disruptors from the outpost and have them installed, make-shift, aboard the Prostate Master 3000 or whatever this ship is called. The irony is thick as she tries to get Dukat to start thinking like a terrorist instead of an officer. Like I said, that's not a very Cardassian mode of thinking, but it's the only option the Cardassians, as a people, have to hope to win this lopsided fight (mirroring the lopsided Occupation), and the only hope Dukat has to try and claw his way back to the top, or so it seems.
Act 3 : ***, 17%
With Kira's help, they manage a more successful (albeit still far from perfect) battle drill with their new disruptors. Dukat and his penis are just thrilled with this turn of events. The dialogue continues to deliver:
DUKAT: But you must admit it is rather amusing. When we do destroy that bird of prey, it will no doubt go a long way toward restoring my reputation. And I have you to thank for it.
KIRA: I'm trying not to think about that.
Kira claims that the only reason she's willing to help here is in order to avenge the dead Bajorans from that outpost. That's *almost* believable. We have seen Kira to go some extremes for her people before. But it seems far more likely that there's something else at play here. Dukat thinks it's some latent attraction to him, of course, but that's not quite it. She is attracted to what he is doing. Despite what Dukat said over dinner, Kira is attracted, in every sense of the word, to those who snub authority. This didn't quite add up with Driftwood, as Kira was supposed to be from the same conservative sect as Bitchwhore, but the sentiment was expressed nonetheless. Then there was her brief dalliance with Riker in “Defiant,” and now of course, she's dating the man who subverted her own government's laws to assume power. On the other hand, she takes the opportunity to chastise Dukat for his single-minded narcissism. Being an intelligent man, he turns this around on her, citing the fact that he cares about his people as much as she does for hers. So if she's going to use the patriotic excuse, he gets to as well. Of course, he also continues to hit on her.
In contrast to the sexual harassment on the bridge, Kira is showing Ziyal how to use a gun. Oh, good, just what the state of Florida ordered. The comparison of different culture's weapons provides the series yet another opportunity to allegorise the differences between Trek series:
KIRA: [The Cardassian disruptor is] a good weapon, solid, simple. You can drag it through the mud and it'll still fire. Now this...this is an entirely different animal. Federation standard issue. It's a little less powerful, but it's got a more options. Sixteen beam settings. Fully autonomous recharge, multiple target acquisition, gyro stabilised, the works. It's a little more complicated, so it's not as good a field weapon. Too many things can go wrong with it.
In other words, it's the weapon of the ivory tower, impressive but lacking in practicality when one needs to get into the mud. As usual, I hate the sentiment, but the metaphor is less clumsily-executed than similar such scenes. Besides, all I can picture when I see the Federation rifle is Worf beating Borg drones to death with it. Ziyal, in her relative naïvety, wants to talk about why Kira doesn't like her father, referring to the atrocities committed during the Occupation as “bad things.” It's very interesting stuff. Imagine for a moment she isn't describing Dukat, but Marritza:
ZIYAL: It bothers him, you know...He'd never admit it to anyone else, but he thinks the occupation was a mistake...Maybe losing made him a better person.
KIRA: Then a lot of innocent people died for his education.
Dukat isn't at the point that Marritza was in “Duet,” of course, but we don't know for how long he struggled with this conscience before deciding to don the guise of Dar'heel and attempt to force his people to atone for their sins. Does the fact that Dukat's ego is far more real than the persona Marritza played make the former undeserving of redemption? Kira insists that she can never forgive Dukat, the one thing he wants from her. I'm not so sure it's forgiveness he's after, however. He hasn't actually said the Occupation was *wrong* he said there were mistakes he regrets. However, Kira seems to believe that Dukat believes the Occupation was wrong, and wants to be forgiven, which she won't do. So, what the hell? If Kira recognised the fact that Dukat wants something else entirely, I can see why her cynicism is justified, but otherwise...this seems suspect. I don't know. Maybe she just didn't want to say, “your dad just wants to bone me to prove how awesome he is to himself,” to a teenaged girl.
Dukat and Kira put their heads together and reason the next likely Klingon target, as well as devise a way to lure the Klingons to the Prostate Master. He keeps laying on the oily charm, to her (and my) irritation. The sentiment of Dukat feeling the need to hit on her is perfectly fine—dramatically, I mean; it's extremely creepy, but that's the point. The way this is conveyed is a little too Hollywood for me, though, showering Kira with compliments like some sort of Romeo and Juliette parody, or cut elevator scene from “Mad Men.”
While they wait for the Klingons, Dukat muses about his younger rival on Cardassia, comparing him to Shakaar, blah blah blah. In his mind, he's already demoting the upstart citing their success-to-be. Well, the plan seems to be working as the Klingons de-cloak and the patented tension music rises.
Act 4 : **.5, 17%
The trap proves successful, as the Prostate Master manages to get in its good shot and damage the Bird of Prey. Unfortunately, the Klingons aren't out of the fight. This means that Kira and Dukat—alone—board the vessel and use the Klingon transporters to exchange the crews. Well. That's a neat trick. Don't think too hard about that little ass-pull, however, as Dukat clearly has not grown out of all his toxic tendencies, choosing to destroy the Cardassian ship and the entire Klingon crew.
Ziyal and Dumbass report to the bridge. Dukat is elated to see his daughter serving Cardassia with her big fucking gun and lovely blue dress on. Yes, it's a lot of good news as this vessel and the contents of its computer will prove to be a major boon to the Cardassian military effort.
This victory is short-lived, however. He returns from a call to the Council, which has rewarded him with news that the Cardassians are taking a very Federation approach to the war effort, looking for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
DUKAT: They've ordered me to return to Cardassia Prime to resume my post as Military Advisor.
KIRA: I thought that's what you wanted.
DUKAT: It was. But what is the point of being a Military Advisor to a government that won't fight.
I guess being on a Klingon ship has given Dukat a taste for needless violence. It's darkly amusing that of all things, Kira and Dukat share a distaste for peaceful solutions, as she tries to convince him to egg his people into a fight. In fact, it's really sad that Kira can't see the irony of pushing the man she can't forgive for murdering people to try and kill more people on purpose. So rather than resuming his old post, Dukat resolves to go rogue and stand against the Klingons alone. Good job, Kira.
Act 5 : ***.5, 17%
Realising the enormity of his task, Dukat all but begs Kira to join him on his quest. He throws everything at her; using her real skills as a terrorist/soldier instead of a bureaucrat, being the righteous underdog, and pre-emptively guarding her people against the Klingons. His arguments aren't exactly vacuous, and do seem to have an effect on her. Hell, if either this weren't Dukat, or if this were Kira from a season or two ago, she might have agreed up to a point.
DUKAT: I also know that every fibre of your being is telling you to say “no, no, no,” but somewhere I know there's a “yes.” You need to listen to that “yes.” Not for my sake, not for Cardassia's, not even for Bajor's, but for your sake.
And she doesn't have a reply.
We pick up with Ziyal trying to impress Kira by showing her a cool new move she learned from Dumbass, but Kira isn't amused, demonstrating that no amount of guerilla tactics or fun with guns is going to keep her alive the next time they get into a fight. She realises that the only way Ziyal is going to survive on this ship is to become as ruthless and broken as Kira herself is deep down, in that dark place that is tempted by Dukat's offer. And it's that realisation that prompts her next decision to bring the girl along with her back to DS9. Dukat is resistant to this idea at first, but there is one thing that convinces him to agree. Kira's sentiment that Ziyal deserves a chance to have a “normal” life aren't really going to get to a Cardassian military officer to joys in seeing his family dutifully serve the state, per his culture's idiom—an idiom that is being actively subverted at this moment by the peace-seeking government—probably means very little to Dukat. Rather, this proposal fortifies the bond between Kira and himself. If he can't have Kira at his side, having her essentially adopt his daughter can only bring them closer together. The rest of the cast have a couple of brief lines marking Kira's return and Ziyal's introduction to the station, and we're out.
Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%
Jammer said that Dukat “finds that Cardassia's defeat by the Klingons  has turned them into an effete people too paralysed [sic] to fight for themselves.” I would argue that we don't have much evidence to suggest the Cardassians were any other way. They've always been portrayed as rather effete, mewling sadists. They inflict cruelty upon others, but only when they have an infrastructure which allows them this option without risk to themselves. We saw this in “Chain of Command,” in “Emissary,” and in “Tribunal.”
I like seeing Kira struggle between the seasoned officer she has become and the terrorist like which her instincts have honed her to think. This struggle is what was missing in “Shakaar,” when Kira just decided to rejoin her old cell without a second thought (and which would have been helped by expanding that story into a multi-parter). Kira's role in this story is mostly to play against Dukat, but the writers manage to take the opportunity to explore her character a bit, giving her a crossroads that is surprisingly believable considering the outlandish life-choice Dukat ends up making in the end. It's not flawless, however, as her stated reason for withholding absolution from him runs counter to the lessons she's already learned on this series (most notably in “Duet”), while the actual reason she should definitely not go along with his proposal seems to elude her. This would seem to reenforce the idea that on one level, she *is* attracted to Dukat, despite herself, which is a problematic and rather gendered take on the character (see problems related to her appraisal of Odo in “Crossfire”).
All of that aside, this is an excellent Dukat story, probably the best of the series so far, with “Cardassians” falling in just behind it. Pairing him up with Kira does really good things for him and fleshes him out more effectively than with Sisko, I think. As I said, his growth here feels entirely plausible and sets him up to be transformed into a kind of anti-hero without abandoning those traits which make him an interesting villain. I'm not saying that's the direction the series *had* to go in (spoiler: it doesn't), but the foundation for that story is rock-solid, and Alaimo's performance is superb.
Final Score : ***.5
Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 5:09pm (UTC -5)
Considering what the Cardassian neck looks like, the male Cardassian "bone" might have bones of its own...
Thu, Jun 20, 2019, 6:09pm (UTC -5)
I had exactly the same thoughts during the phaser rifle comparisons. Her comment about “dragging it through the mud and it will keep firing” has often been said of the AK-47.
Sat, Jul 6, 2019, 4:53am (UTC -5)
Regarding the episode, it felt kind of surreal and disconnected from the main plotline, with actions being taken by both sides seemingly having more weight than was acknowledged. Wouldn't the Federation have responded in some way after 27 dignitaries, even though from non-federation planets, were killed? Though following on from The way of the warrior, the klingon scuffle seemed like it had come to an end, and I was perplexed why we suddenly have the klingons being bad guys again. It all felt reminiscent of an alternate universe episode.
Also it looks like Kira is becoming the Troi of DS9 in that she is the woman everyone sleazes over every week, which feels kind of off. Yes its in character for dukat, but do we really need yet another kira lust angle?
Combined with the cut scene in which we take on trust that a massive planetary defence cannon was just welded into place in a matter of hours, the whole episode felt like a bit of a hand wave, like it was a script they had laying about but didn't know how to fit it in. Rare low point for me in an otherwise stellar season.
Sat, Jul 6, 2019, 5:25am (UTC -5)
So why go and attack an outpost full of non-federation people, presumably Cardassian as Dukat feels it is his reponsibility to defend it, and diplomats? Didn't they abandon their decision to wipe out all cardassians, after determining that they had not been infiltrated by the Founders? Maybe I was just making dinner when I watched a certain key episode, but I am still struggling with the klingon motivations here.
Sat, Jul 6, 2019, 10:35am (UTC -5)
They never intended to "wipe out" the Cardassians, just conquer and subjugate them. And the claim that the Cardassian government was infiltrated by the Founders was just a pretext.
At the end of WOTW it was stated that the Klingon fleet was fortifying itself in Cardassian territory. So the invasion didn't end, it just slowed down after their attempt to decapitate the Cardassian government failed.
Sat, Jul 6, 2019, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 9:28am (UTC -5)
I always thought, though, that DS9 missed a trick by not keeping Dukat on board the freighter for a few more episodes. The show should have prolonged this arc, have Dukat fester with bitter resentment, and then slowly climb back up the ranks throughout an entire season. Have him capture a larger freighter, then a bird of prey, then a Klingon battle-cruiser, then have his own little fleet, then have the Cardassian High Command bow to pressure and reinstate him as some kind of grand, fleet commander. Really milk Dukat's rise to power, and then his desire for total vengeance.
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 11:26am (UTC -5)
I really liked this episode. Kira, as the unmovable realist, Ziyal and her two antagonistic surrogate parents and Dukat in his delusional desire to win over Kira. Good stuff but for the end. Dukat gets fired from the highest military post for his deeds, striped of almost everything, then catches one bird of prey (the first one ever even;dumb) and is immediately promoted back to being the highest military officer. What?!
Fri, Apr 2, 2021, 6:53am (UTC -5)
Also had the thought that Kira (if real) would have said at the get-go, " No thanks Dukat, I'll take a taxi." More than that, she (if real) would have thought to herself "I Kira Nerys, former anti-Cardassian terrorist and Bajoran patriot, will likely be extradited for immediate trial and execution on Cardassia Prime, as soon as I step aboard Dukat's stupid freighter."
Nevertheless, the writers force her character to step aboard, and instantly they have her all but overlook his war criminal status and help him out of several jams, all to show basic Bajoran superiority.
I just wish she had said "Listen Mr. B.F. Goodrich-shirt, I'm just helping you because it's in my contract."
Fri, Apr 2, 2021, 9:06am (UTC -5)
This guy is just so splendidly manipulative. We even see him pulling off a similar scenario in Wrongs Darker than Death or Night when he sets himself up as the saviour of Bajoran comfort women.
I truly wonder if the writers had all this in mind or if things just fell into place by chance. But for me Dukat's psychology (right up to and including Waltz) is amazingly consistent and true to life regardless of the writers' intentions. Only Babylon 5 had similarly elaborate character arcs over multiple seasons.
Fri, Apr 2, 2021, 9:13am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 15, 2022, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
I agree. Dukat is Dukat throughout the whole series, he does not change, he always does the best thing for Dukat. Sometimes that puts him on the same side as the DS9 crew, sometimes when that happens, like in this episode, he is almost likable. Ultimately it's all about Dukat. Although, it does seem like the character truly does love his daughter, that is the one relationship where he seems to be willing to do what's not best for Dukat.
Sat, Jul 9, 2022, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 31, 2022, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Anyway, lovely, lovely episode. The action was great, the antagonistic bonding between Keera and D-Man was nicely done, and the ending was bittersweet. Three to 3-1/2 stars does me!
Tue, Sep 20, 2022, 6:58am (UTC -5)
And the fact that she's portrayed as such a passive, delicate little princess bothers me so much. She spent 3 years in a labor camp where she surely had to fend for herself and witnessed death frequently (including her own mother's death). You would think she'd be a bit more hardened and self sufficient.
The only time I felt like the character was developing her own sense of initiative was the episode where she first meets Garak. That's the only episode where she's played by Tracy Middendorf and that's my favorite portrayal of Zyal. She makes it clear in that episode that she has her own wants and interests now that she's on the station and Garak is welcome to join her if he wants. But then in subsequent episodes after that she just becomes a smiley cheerleader for Dukat, Kira and Garak again.
Tue, Feb 21, 2023, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
Really top pacing.
Already a highly impressive performance from Casey Biggs as Damar here as well. One of the best supporting actors in all of Trek in my opinion.
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