Saturday, December 11, 2010

1-19. Duet

Marritza (Harris Yulin): The Butcher of Gallitep?


A transport ship requests permission to beam a passenger with Kalla-Nohra to Medlab. The condition is a chronic one, the result of a mining accident at the Bajoran forced-labor camp at Gallitep. Kira eagerly heads to Medlab, expecting to reunite with one of her former comrades - Which makes it a double blow when she sees that Dr. Bashir's newest patient is not one of the miners, but one of the overseers - a Cardassian!

Marritza (Harris Yulin) initially denies having been at the camp. Confronted by Dr. Bashir's confirmation of his Kalla-Nohra, he is forced to admit that he did serve there... as a filing clerk. He then tells Kira that there were no atrocities at Gallitep, that those stories were spread by the Cardassians to keep the Bajorans in line. When she refuses to listen, he mocks her for seeking not the truth, but only vengeance. As Kira and Odo continue to investigate, they make several discoveries, each of which seems to contradict the others. Exactly who is Marritza, and what game is he playing?


Commander Sisko: The Bajoran government wants Marritza, in part to take vengeance on somebody - anybody - who was at Gallitep, in part to strengthen their provisional government. The Cardassians see Marritza's arrest as a violation - A private Cardassian citizen boards a shuttle, breaks no laws, and is arrested in large part for being Cardassian. Sisko is caught in the middle, navigating a political minefield.  He makes it clear to Kira that he will not hold Marritza if he proves to be the file clerk he claims... but he also will not release him if he proves to be a genuine war criminal.

Kira: Another standout episode for Kira. When Marritza demands to know how many Cardassians she killed personally, and how many of them were civilians, Kira never does answer. She says she regrets some of what she had to do, which Marritza dismisses as a cowardly deflection. She is obsessed with proving the man in the cell is responsible for atrocities, and even admits to Dax that she wants him to be guilty. Which proves to be a case study in being careful what you wish for...

Odo: Like Sisko, he is not interested in agendas, be they Cardassian or Bajoran. He does not want vengeance, just the truth. He picks up on inconsistencies that Kira would otherwise be too blinded by emotion to see, and follows up on every one of them. Rene Auberjonois is exceptional, showing a crusty compassion in his scenes with Kira, then turning around and bargaining for information from Gul Dukat.

Marritza: Harris Yulin is a veteran character actor, with a string of film and television credits, a quick scan of which will verify that he probably never gave a bad performance in his life. Yulin is outstanding here, whether trying to escape from Kira in fear, bragging about his filing system, or proclaiming the glory of the Cardassian Empire. "What you call genocide, I call a day's work," he smirks to Kira, with so little emotional inflection that his very impassiveness is chilling.


The episodes dealing with Major Kira and the Bajoran/Cardassian conflict have consistently been the series' strongest. Duet puts focus on the Occupation more intensely than any previous episode. The script is superb, balancing emotionally intense confrontations between Kira and Marritza alongside a series of twists that keep the viewer wondering exactly who this Cardassian is.  Performances by Nana Visitor and Harris Yulin are superb, and Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois are also first-rate in support.  The result is easily the best episode of the first season, and probably the best episode of the first three seasons.

The details of what occurred at Gallitep are unusually horrific for Star Trek. We only hear about the atrocities - mothers raped in front of their children, men beaten so badly that their wives could not recognize them, the elderly buried alive because they could not work - but those details are vividly conveyed. The backstory of the show demands this type of emotion and detail. It's what makes the scenes between Kira and Marritza feel true. Because the script is willing to explore dark places without whitewashing the horror, we understand what Kira is reacting to when Marritza recalls how Cardassians would go out to kill Bajorans and "come back covered in blood (and) feel clean... because they were clean!"

Credit to writer Peter Allan Fields, who provides several memorable exchanges. The line about genocide being "a day's work" is one that lingers in the mind, along with the final exchange of the episode.

The ending is a little heavy-handed, though it does line up well with the themes on display. Still, the show's overall effectiveness, both as a mystery and as a study of the survivors of both sides of an occupation, is difficult to deny. A fine, thoughtful piece of genuinely adult television drama.

Rating: 10/10.

Previous Episode: Dramatis Personae
Next Episode: In the Hands of the Prophets

Search for Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Review Index

1 comment:

  1. Easily the best episode of DS9 so far, and definitely one of my favorite Star Trek episodes of any series.

    The way the mystery unfolded really worked my brain hard: Who is this person really and what was his actual role at Gallitep? Right when I thought I had it figured out, I found out that it couldn't be possible. When Marritza finally admitted to his position and how he felt during the occupation, I have to admit that I was in tears and that doesn't happen very often - this episode moved me that much.

    The description of the atrocities at Gallitep were shocking and wholly believable as part of the brutality of war - I was reminded (predictably and purposely, I assume) of the stories that came out of the Nazi concentration camps.

    The ending was shocking and for me a bit disappointing - the writers could have let him go and left the audience with a more hopeful feeling, but I've found that they don't necessarily do that in this series.

    A good strong performance by Nana Visitor, and Harris Yulin was just phenomenal as Marritza. The dialogue between the two was excellent and occasionally quite powerful. I don't often give a 10/10 rating, but this one deserves it.