Though this is apparently a highly regarded episode among those responsible for Deep Space Nine, for its dark, and in some ways ambiguous tone, once again I found myself less impressed than others, for the very reasons that the show is supposed to be so successful.
For most of its length, ‘The Darkness and the Light’ was an impressively taut one-off episode, a simple, almost simplistic thriller elevated by an excellent and intense performance at the heart of it by Nana Visitor, who hasn’t really been at the heart of things for a long time, thanks to her and Major Kira’s pregnancy.
Someone is killing the former members of Kira’s Resistance Group. Each killing is technologically advanced and surgical: only the intended victims are killed, no ‘collateral damage’. Each is accompanied by a short message in electronically distorted tones saying “that’s one”, “that’s two” etc., which Nog’s sensitive lobes identify as being recordings of Kira herself.
The Major is two to three weeks from giving birth (she gives both figures during the episode, though the longer one is to her captor so may be an exaggeration to try to buy time rather than an inconsistency), and not sleeping well, especially as the Bajoran herbs she’s taking to aid with the pregnancy are counteracting the sedatives. The loss of her friends is driving her into a frenzy as he can’t do anything about it.She even tries to get her old buddies Furel and Lupaza (the former played by William Lucking, who I’ve not long since encountered in Tales of the Gold Monkey) to leave it to the authorities rather than go off and kill the bastard, although they are promptly killed (offstage).
This last killing is the final straw. In the infirmary, laid low by grief, Kira removes her ear-jewellery, cradles it in her hands as she talks of her first mission for the Resistance, aged 13, and how Lupaza made her jewellery for her from metal from the skimmer she’d blasted. It’s a scene of peculiar intensity that lifted the otherwise straightforward plot to a higher level, amplified by how the steely determined Major than uses personal emergency codes to teleport into Odo’s office, steal and erase his list of suspects, and head off in a runabout all the more effective.
Unfortunately, and for me in particular, the episode collapses in on itself from that moment. Kira perfunctorily dismisses the first three names on the list and finds number four, Silaran Prin, to be the killer, ‘first time out’. It chops the legs out from under the credibility of the story on procedural grounds, especially as the Major is promptly stunned and restrained.
Prin’s the killer alright, and his dialogue about what he’s doing and why is supposed to be both poetic and loopy, but unfortunately only gets as far as loopy. It’s a confused and confusing series of contradictions on the theme of the opposition between darkness and light, meant to carry within it a degree of profundity but instead achieving meaninglessness. It’s wildly out of place with the utterly professional majority of the story, trying to wrap up an act of simple revenge in a philosophical construction.
Prin, you see, was badly disfigured in a Resistance raid led by Kira. But he was a non-combatant, a servant: he ironed shirts. And she, unheeding of consequences, was callously injured as ‘collateral damage’. Contrast this with his noble procedure of ensuring only the ‘guilty’ are killed. She is the darness, he is the light.
The episode reasserts itself for one golden moment as Kira eschews the cliche of admitting she done wrong, it was awful, I’m so sorry but we had to be extreme, in favour of a flat out accusation of Prin as an invader, an occupier, a despoiler of her planet no matter what he did, and good on you, Nerys, and bugger moral ambiguity.
But then it collapsed back on its quasi-poesy, with more darkness versus light as Prin prepares to distinguish between the two states by giving Kira an impromptu laser caesarian to spare ‘her’ baby. It’s all getting a little frantic here, as the cavalry isn’t even breasting the horizon but, as my once friend Linda told me, many years ago, escape is better than rescue. Kira fakes Prin out by asking for a sedative, pretending it’s worked, then kicking him in the Cardassian nuts and burning a hole in his chest with a phaser.
Which she then proceeds too spoil, when the cavalry teleports in, by going all poetic herself and musing that you can’t have darkness without light (Tritism 101) and how innocence is just an excuse for the guilty which, with the greatest of all possible respect, is simply bullshit and meaningless.
An ending that reeked of over-inflated ambition incapable of coherence that spoiled an otherwise well-formed and well-performed thriller. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.