Deep Space Nine: s04e14 – Return to Grace

Come on, ladies, would you ever, seriously? Really?

We’re now into the back half of this venture, nearer to the end than the beginning, and I’m a little uncertain how to respond to this latest story.

Our focus this week is Major Kira. There’s been a recent change in the character-centred stories, in that these are now being presented as a single story, with those cast members not involved having only minor, walk-on parts at beginning or end: the notion that a more or less unrelated B-story is needed to give everyone else something to do, has gone for the moment, and welcome this is too: there wasn’t even a single line for Quark this week!

Of course, this means the episode is utterly dependent upon its focus, which is where I found myself slightly uncertain. Partly, this was by being over-clever and anticipating a twist that never came. The set-up is that Major Kira, at the personal request of First Minister and bed-mate Shakaar, is to attend a Cardassian/Bajoran Peace Conference inside the Cardassian Empire, to discuss the Klingon threat. Enter Worf, to give the fair Kira a kist of Federation advanced devices and weaponry she’s not to mention to the Cardassians.

So, when Gul Dukat turns up as the pilot assigned to convey her to the conference, in a pretty lowly freighter ship, one heck of a comedown for him, I naturally assumed that the episode would revolve around the disclosure that the action ensuing was a set-up by Dukat to get these secrets out of Kira, by her effectively volunteering them to combat an unexpected menace. And I kept waiting for this long past the point I should have realised that what was going on was really happening.

Dukat, you see, has been severely demoted because he has brought his half-Bajoran daughter Ziyal back to Cardassia, per the episode ‘Indiscretion’, a couple of months back. Though he doesn’t regret Ziyal at all, his fall has been spectacular, and his frustration is Eifell Tower high.

He’s also behaving very creepily towards our dear Major. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, he’s trying to get into her Bajoran knickers, in a heavy-handed, pseudo-charming manner that’s about as phoney as Tony Blair saying anything. The problem is that Hell will be swamped with glaciers before Kira Nerys gives Dukat anything other than the most reluctant of professional time, yet Dukat persists, trying to paint a picture where he and she are the same below the skin.

Because when they reach the site of the Conference, the outpost has been destroyed and everybody killed by a cloaked Kilingon Warbird that, even after Dukat fires all phasers at the weak spot identified by the Major without making even a scratch, can’t be arsed taking out the freighter and just flies off.

This was just so improbable that I couldn’t help but think it was all part of a seriously elaborate scam by Dukat, but despite the implausibility, we had to accept that as genuine behaviour from an enemy combatant of a warlike and destructive race operating guerilla fashion behind enemy lines. Perhaps it was a truly Klingon cultural think and beneath their honour to step on an ant, as Dukat suggested, mortified at being to unimportant, but it didn’t ring true for me.

Nevertheless, it puts Kira back into terrorist mode, and her modifications to the freighter, including fitting a disruptor, not to mention teaching the Gul to think like a terrorist, sets up the climax.

First, some faked Dilithium crystal emanations attracts the Warbird’s attention, then the disruptor knocks out its engines, but it fires on the freighter and near disables it, so Kira transports herself and Dukat on board the Klingon vessel and messes with their transporters so as to swap the crews. Whereupon Dukat blows the freighter and all the Klingons to smithereens.

Dukat’s in seventh heaven. He’s not only avenged an attack on the empire, he’s captured an enemy vessel and hit the motherlode of intelligence about Klingon plans, craft, communications. In short, this is the ideal platform from which to take the fight back to the Klingons and, not unincidentally, see our boy Dukat back at the top of the tree. Life is good.

Except that it isn’t. The Cardassian Government doesn’t want to fight. It wants a diplomatic solution. The Cardassians have been broken by defeat. Dukat is disgusted by his people, but he is determined to stand up for his race’s as ugly, fascist conquering bastards. Dukat is going to become a terrorist, and he wants Kira as his right-hand-woman: after all, they’re so alike.

You can see that Kira is tempted, by a return to a life she knows and understands, and at which she is supremely talented. Nana Visitor shows us that. But she also shows us that Kira isn’t tempted enough. She’s been there and done that and doesn’t want to go back for a farewell tour. More importantly, she doesn’t want Ziyal doing it even once: there is too much of Kira in Ziyal for her to wish that.

So Dukat leaves Ziyal at DS9, under Kira’s guardianship whilst he flies off to fight. How that will go we’ll have to wait and see, but Odo doesn’t seem especially impressed…

Overall, a good episode,another excellent performance from Marc Alaimo, another step on his peculiar path. If I was less than 100% enthusiastic, I have my own misdirection to blame for a large part of that, but I also found the protracted pressure Dukat was putting on Kira to be unpleasant. It was unrelenting, and thus heavy-handed, a course that did more to repel her than attract her, which was offputting to watch in itself, but sat ill with Dukat’s intelligence: he must have known he was only making his already emaciated chances even slimmer, so why persist?

Then again, when it comes to male arrogance about their attractiveness to les femmes, I suppose I shouldn’t rule out anything…


8 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s04e14 – Return to Grace

  1. Oh, of course, I can see that. Apologies if it transpired otherwise. I was in no way criticising your reviews. I was replying to your comment regarding the character, not the actor. Albeit, in my opinion, Ms Visitor often overplays and this does not help her heroine.
    The point is there are two Dukats – one written by the authors, and the second played by Marc Alaimo. This discrepancy between their assessments of the character is well documented by Mr Ira Behr and Mr Alaimo himself. Mr Alaimo did not consider Dukat to be a villain and never played him as such. For a while he was allowed to reign and had a lot of freedom of interpretation, before the writers realised that the mass popularity of his version of the gul is threatening their own vision of him and the timeline of the character. This is why they had to hastily “dismantle” Dukat in the ridiculous series seven, making him mad and possessed at the same time, despite of Marc’ protestations. Simply because we would not believe that a sane Dukat was capable of such cartoon atrocities. But by then it was too late. Marc’s Dukat has been born and it is him that I and “many others” I was referring to love so much. Being such a great actor Mr ALaimo convinced us in his version of the character – a ruthless but thoughtful and extremely charismatic Cardassian warrior but no simple villain. Marc Alaimo loved his Dukat and so do we.

  2. Hi

    Thank you for that thoughtful appraisal, which I found very interesting, which comes from a far greater knowledge of DS9 than I currently possess.

    My appraisals are on the basis that, during the late Nineties, I started watching DS9 in repeat on UK TV, starting (I thought) somewhere round the middle, but being forced to stop at the end of season 5, when I took on a wife and three step-children. I saw neither beginning nor end. About eighteen months ago, I decided on a complete beginning to end watch, blogging each episode weekly. Though I’m old enough to have seen TOS first time round, and watched a lot of TNG, DS9 was the one that fascinated me most. As such, I try not to get any more advance knowledge than I would have had if this were still the pre-Internet days and the show were still only just coming out.

    It can make for some superficial, and wrong-headed responses, and my style has always been to mock what I think is wrong, or poor. My initial quip was more a response to Dukat’s persistence in pursuing Kira when irrespective of his merits, he’s surely the last sentient creature in the Universe that she would respond to, a point I was trying to emphasise by humour.

    We’re in the back half of season 4 and I’ve still not seen an episode I recall in the slightest. I strongly suspect I saw far far less of DS9 in the Nineties than my memories led me to believe. I do know the outline of Dukat’s villainy to come: my last pre-marriage episode saw him lead the invasion that retook DS9, so that future knowledge does colour my interpretations. You have the advantage of me in knowing the full story, and also of having studied the series’ background to a greater extent than I have or intend to. I want to watch and respond as purely as I can, and as independently of ‘canon’ thought as possible, even if that makes me wrong.

    But don’t think I don’t welcome other perspectives. I will be watching Dukat with your comments in mind, especially when it comes to season 7 (which I don’t expect to get to until 2018 at this rate…). I really do appreciate it.

    And I am definitely shallow when it comes to Nana Visitor…

    1. I’m late to the party, sinuses/cold/flu had me all over the place last week. As I mentioned before this is one where I remember what happened, but the episode titles get jumbled up between this one, Indiscretion, Crossfire and Rules of Engagement for plots, characters etc….

      I don’t remember it being super, but continued to build upon the events and elements from Indiscretion.
      I’ll agree with Alina, Dukat when written and set up right was another stellar weapon in DS9’s arsenal. DS9 used its set up as a station show to have a recurring cast and used it to almost perfection.
      And as Alina mentioned and glad to see didn’t really spoil anything for you, they took Dukat to cartoony status in the last season which ruined his character. Ira Steven Behr the showrunner viewed Dukat and another character, as Alina puts it as just being villains or not being able to see them as more complex than black and white. One of the key mistakes they made. Reducing depth and complexity and failing to grow and transform your characters generally doesn’t make for good tv, or movies or books….

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