So far, Deep Space Nine has done right by Major Kira. The series has clearly seen her as the interesting character that she is, a former freedom fighter turned government bureaucrat and operative. We’ve seen her past as someone whose religious faith clashes with what she did in her past and how much her new position is in many ways an unwelcome change in how she operates in her current job.
But that does that mean she believes in justice or vengeance?
That, in many ways, is what is at the core of this episode. A ship comes to the station with a sick passenger. Said passenger has an illness that needs treatment but he forgot his medicine. Can the station take care of it? Bashir says the illness is rare, but he does manage to find the treatment; however, Kira knows what this disease is. It only hit people who worked at a Cardassian prison mining camp that Kira herself had helped to liberate during her days with the Bajoran underground. And, it turns out, the patient is a Cardassian, so Kira has Odo arrest the man on suspicion of being a war criminal.
Now, Sisko points out, and Kira agrees, that simply being at the camp doesn’t automatically make him a war criminal, so an investigation to figure out exactly who he is will need to be done, and though that would normally be Odo’s job, Kira asks Sisko to do it herself, and Sisko agrees. True, he’ll need to deal with Gul Dukat over all this, but he’s somewhat used to that by now.
The Cardassian in question initially says his name is Marritza, and after some denials and lies, does admit to being at the prison camp as a file clerk. The accident that caused the illness didn’t just hit the Bajorans there. It hit the Cardassians as well. But this man, he seems rather brave and cavalier about the whole thing and his story just doesn’t add up. He claims he’s a teacher at a Cardassian military academy, but he taught filing. He says his superior, actual war criminal Gul Darhe’el, praised his methods. Marritza seems to really admire Darthe’el, but then comes some more evidence that says Marritza actually is Darthe’el.
And he not only doesn’t deny this from his holding cell, but he revels in this. The Cardassian in the cell seems to be bragging about killing Bajorans in ways that M. Bison could only dream about. First he accuses Kira of only wanting vengeance and how any Cardassian would do, and the audience knows that can’t be because Garak walks around loose all the time. But then, the more Kira questions him, the more he seems inclined to say he did things or enjoyed things, and how the Bajorans were losers who deserved to die and all that sort of stuff.
It’s like this man wants to die since it sure does seem like the likely end to a war criminal. He told some lies that were somewhat easily disproven, and all the evidence says he did it. He seems proud of the dead Bajorans. Kira can barely contain herself when she talks to him. At the very least, he’s looking at a harsh punishment from the Bajoran government. Is that what he wants? He’s not acting like someone who’s feeling guilty even as he proclaims his guilt.
And that’s where this episode pulled out a brilliant twist. Sure, he looks exactly like Gul Darthe’el, but two pieces of evidence say he isn’t. Bashir finds evidence of a drug in his system often given to people recovering from facial reconstruction plastic surgery. And Odo has more luck with Ducat than Sisko did because, well, Dukat and Odo used to work together and they have a professional understanding. The man in the cell can’t be Gul Darthe’el because Gul Darthe’el died six years before. He wasn’t at the colony the day of the accident and couldn’t have the disease. He was a war hero back home, so he was getting some honors the day of the accident. His funeral was attended by thousands. It was open casket and everything. Heck, Dukat was there.
Guest star Harris Yulin did a fantastic job here as the Cardassian. He got the bombast right, and then when his scam was exposed, the guilt. The man was Marritza the whole time. He was a file clerk. And the things he saw at the mining camp haunted his nights as he knew there wasn’t much of anything he could do to fix anything. He did all this because someone had to pay for what happened to the Bajorans, and he decided he would even if he had to wear Darthe’el’s face to get it. This is the sort of stuff I watch a show like Deep Space Nine for. He was a good man trying to do right in a corrupt society. And Kira, who wants justice for those who deserve it, even though Marritza actually chose to go through Deep Space Nine on purpose so she would catch him, feels pity and connection for the man, not anger.
And then, as she’s escorting him off the station to do more work to reform his home world, another Bajoran stabs Marritza in the back anyway because while Kira may not want every Cardassian dead, she doesn’t represent all Bajorans. What a downer. It may accurately reflect how violence and misery only create more of the same, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be that way, and we can all strive to be better people. We just have to want to like Kira and Marritza both did.
Man, that was depressing. I don’t think I’ve seen too much like that on other Trek shows, but then again, Deep Space Nine has already established itself as a different sort of animal.