This episode marks another crossover of sorts from The Next Generation, but it was still behind the scenes: LeVar Burton directed this one, his first for Deep Space Nine, but not for Star Trek as a whole. He joins Jonathan Frakes behind the camera for that designation (and in front when you remember the one-off appearance of Thomas Riker), plus obviously Michael Dorn as a regular cast member.
It’s not a bad episode, but the one thing keeping it from being even better in my mind is the B-plot which feels like it’s been recycled by dozens of other shows over the years, many of them so-so sitcoms.
So, let’s get the B-plot out of the way first: Sisko puts his foot in his mouth when he hears new love interest Kasidy Yates may be getting a job with the Bajoran government, allowing her to live on the station and see a lot more of him. He is less than enthusiastic when he hears the news, and she takes it poorly. To be fair, this is partially Dax’s fault for even suggesting Kasidy move to Deep Space Nine in the first place. I’d say many things are Dax’s fault, but Dax’s love life is kind of a mess even in normal circumstances. Once in the doghouse, none of the usual cast can offer Sisko any sort of worthwhile advice. Dax and Bashir can only agree with Sisko’s initial assessment that Kasidy’s moving to the station is a big step, and Quark’s Ferengi-inspired advice is of course terrible.
How many times have I seen this sort of romantic subplot? Enough times to know Sisko will apologize at the end of the episode and make things better. If anything, the thing that makes this subplot work at all is, of all characters Jake. He and the unseen Nog apparently chatted about Ben Sisko’s predicament, concluded the Captain would feel personally responsible if the job didn’t work out, and that is a rather unique twist to the sort of story I was expecting. True., Ben also tells Kasidy later that he saw his wife killed in a Borg attack, and he feels his job may be a wee bit too dangerous at times, but Kasidy personally already took the job as she didn’t need Ben’s permission, and yes, the two do kiss and make up.
I can do without such predictable storylines.
So, it’s with some interest that the other, main plot is much, much better. I remember when Deep Space Nine was new that Gul Dukat was a very popular supporting character, in large part because he seemed morally ambiguous and could, theoretically, be one of the good guys. There have been episodes where he’s fought or worked with the main cast, and even at his most despicable, it seems more like he’s just a guy who might gloat when things don’t go Sisko’s way more than anything else. True, the main cast doesn’t care for him much, including supporting player Garek (a character who doesn’t seem to actively dislike anyone else), and Dukat was in charge of Bajor during the occupation, but Cardassians as a rule are more tricky than hostile. Yes, they do a lot of bad things, but they do them as much to each other as anything else, and by this point in the series, there’s a new government in Cardassia that may be less inclined to do things like show trials for its citizens and the like. Without the Obsidian Order watching over everyone, that may even make the place freer.
I do know just enough about how this show goes to know that is unlikely to stick in the future.
But if Gul Dukat is the one character on the show the other characters all love to hate, then who better to pair him with than the one character who might best be described as his archenemy within the main cast in the form of Kira? Kira has been on the lookout for a lost Cardassian prison ship that held a number of Bajoran prisoners from the time of the Occupation, particularly since one of them was a close friend. She gets a tip of a new possible location, and while she is given the go-ahead to go look, the Cardassian government learns the same and requests she have a representative of their government along for the ride, and yes, it is Dukat.
It is worth noting that Garek accused Dukat of having a thing for Kira. That may or may not be true, but it doesn’t come up here. It is a little odd that someone of Dukat’s general stature would be the one to come along on a trip like this, but there he is. And he does seem especially eager to find the lost ship.
There’s a good reason for that, and it could be something to suggest that Dukat’s affections for Kira could still be a possibility: Dukat had a Bajoran lover on the ship with their daughter. Yes, he has a wife and seven kids back on Cardassia Prime, but he apparently was genuinely in love with this Bajoran woman. Of course, it also comes out the girl, Tora Ziyal, is someone Dukat wants to kill to either protect himself or her. She, and many others, turn out to still be alive. They’re on the planet the ship crashed on. And while Dukat’s lover didn’t make it, Ziyal did. She and the other survivors are being used as slave labor by a race called the Breen for a mining operation as the planet, while comfortable for a Cardassian, is far too hot for a Breen. And these armored jackasses like a little slave labor.
So, will Dukat murder his daughter? It looks like he might for a moment, but then again, that would shatter the character’s moral ambiguity. Ziyal isn’t even afraid to die when she sees it coming, but was it love for his daughter or her mother than changed Dukat’s mind? Was it Kira’s acting as his conscience? Some combination? The series doesn’t really say, but Dukat can continue to be that gray area figure that the fans loved so much, and the show can continue to make Deep Space Nine such an oddity in the Star Trek universe. On any other Trek series, we’d know whose side Dukat was on by now.
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