I made a comment for the previous episode that Kira sure does seem to date a lot of powerful Bajoran men on this series. Then, funny thing, someone asks her about it in this episode. It’s a bit noteworthy on who that person is because once again, Kira is stuck on a ship with Dukat.
Though Wikipedia made a note that this episode has the first appearance of his second-in-command Damar. I don’t really know much about that guy…
Basic set-up: Kira, at the request of Shakaar, is going to a joint Bajoran/Cardassian conference. She needs a ride there, and there is a freighter taking her. Dukat, demoted since it came out he had a half-Bajoran daughter, is the captain of said vessel, and Ziyal is along for the ride. So, yeah, another Kira-and-Dukat episode, and the only character that might pair better with Dukat among the main cast is Sisko, but he doesn’t really do anything worth noting in this episode. Instead, it’s all about Kira and her longtime enemy, though at this point, he might be a “frenemy”.
That’s the thing I can’t quite figure out with Kira: she claims to hate Dukat. She should hate Dukat. Dukat was in charge of the occupation that ruled Bajor, the occupation she fought against for a good portion of her life, but she is willing to sit down over a nice dinner with Dukat and talk. Granted, Dukat’s attempts at small talk are not always so, shall we say, polite, but Kira doesn’t seem to be bristling with rage whenever she has to deal with him. She even says she hates him in this episode, but the two end up working together only after a Klingon ship blows up everyone at the conference they’re going to. Said Bird of Prey decides to ignore Dukat’s ship even after it fires on them because Dukat’s ship doesn’t have nearly enough punch to get through the Klingon ship’s shields, let alone the hull. Kira knows how to fight like a resistance fighter, and that means some retrofitting of some weapons to somehow work in Dukat’s ship and make it strong enough to actually pack a punch.
Dukat’s role in all this, after he and Kira manage to use the freighter’s transporters to switch places with the Klingons, is to blow up his old ship with the Klingons on it. That seems like a very Cardassian thing to do.
Now, I think the reason Dukat gets as much love as he does–I distinctly remember he had a lot of fans back in the day speculating he was not a villain before, well, he turned out to be a villain in a universe that doesn’t often do shades of grey–is due to how complexly he is painted as a character. Kira does outright say in this episode that she hates him, but she never really acts like she does. Dukat can be arrogant and cruel, but then the series will show he genuinely cares for Ziyal and he’s still a patriot for his own people. He’s as frustrated by the interim government as Kira can be with the Bajoran Provisional Government. Dukat may have an edge when he asks Kira about Shakaar, but at the same time, he is trying to make small talk, and it does seem to be more of a cultural difference between how Cardassians see things and how Bajorans do. In that sense, it isn’t much different from how Bashir and Garak try to explain each other’s cultures, where duty to the state for a Cardassian trumps most everything else, even love and family. That Dukat clearly holds Ziyal as closely as he does says a lot.
It says even more when Kira convinces him to let her take Ziyal back to Deep Space Nine while he wages his one-man war against the Klingons.
There’s a lot to Dukat as a character. That’s been clear for a while now. It’s moments like this that show what Deep Space Nine was doing better than most if not all other Star Trek shows, that they would take the time to do this much with a character that is not part of the main cast and whose motivations and goals are so important to the series as it strives forward to, well, wherever it is going.