Friday, January 23, 2015

6-17. Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night.

During the Occupation, Kira's mother (Leslie
Hope) catches the eye of Gul Dukat.















THE PLOT

On the birthday of Kira's mother, who died during the Occupation, the major receives a coded message from Gul Dukat. He is also celebrating the birthday - remembering a woman who was his lover until the day she died. He smugly informs Kira that he wants to share with her "the clarity to see beyond the lies, the self-deceptions" in her life.

Kira tries to dismiss this as the lies of an enemy, but she just can't. So she goes to Sisko, not as her captain but as The Emissary, to arrange for her to use the Orb of Time. The Orb sends her back to the time and place in which her mother, Meru (Leslie Hope), was taken from her family to become a "comfort woman" for the Cardassians. Meru catches the eye of then-Prefect Dukat, who rather than simply claiming her as a prize uses all his charm to seduce her into becoming his willing lover.

When it becomes clear that Meru is enjoying her new life, Kira becomes disgusted and labels her a collaborator. But neither life nor people are generally as simple as she would like to believe...


CHARACTERS

Capt. Sisko: As a Starfleet officer, his reaction to Kira's request to use the Orb of Time is to fear for possible changes to the timeline. When she appeals to him as the Emissary of the Prophets, however, he gives in almost instantly - which shows just how much his attitude has changed toward his spiritual role on Bajor. After Kira returns, he listens to her. He does note that Kira's mother had good reasons for the choices she made, but does not try to tell Kira what to think about what she saw.

Major Kira: Even though Dukat discloses his past relationship with Kira's mother to hurt her, I think that on some level he does think he's doing her a favor. And honestly, I'm not sure he isn't. Kira has long tended to look at the world in black and white. Looked at through Kira's perspective, what she finds is horrible - Her mother not only not kicking against a relationship with Dukat, but enjoying his company and defending him. Stepping away from Kira's viewpoint, though, it's clear Meru had no better options. Her "collaboration" saves the lives of herself and her family, at the cost of not one single Bajoran life. That's cold comfort to Kira, when she reflects on how many Bajorans were dying during the years that her mother spent with Dukat... but how would joining them in misery and death have helped anyone? The episode's end leaves Kira with all the facts she was seeking but no clue how to feel about them - whether to empathize with her mother or hate her for choosing to survive.

Odo: Notices Kira's foul mood. When she refuses to talk about it, he respects that and doesn't press. However, he does add one piece of advice that sends her on her journey: "Well, if you won't talk about it, perhaps you should consider doing something about it." It's a short scene, and his only scene in the episode. But it captures the Kira/Odo dynamic so perfectly, and is so wonderfully performed by Rene Auberjonois, that it demands a mention.

Gul/Prefect Dukat: We only see the present-day Dukat in one scene, delighting in getting under Kira's skin with the most painful weapon at his disposal: The truth. Past Dukat is very much as he always was. He's all smiles, not only civil but actively charming. And also always performing, as we see when a Cardassian legate whispers to Kira what Dukat is about to say in his seduction of Meru, word for word, because this isn't the first such performance he's witnessed. But Dukat isn't a simple cad. Against our (and Kira's) expectations, he does make good on his word, and her family is better off than it's ever been. Nor is Kira's mother a simple conquest that Dukat throws away when tired of her - We learn at the end that they were together for seven years, right up until she died. I do consider Dukat an evil character... But he's still a complex one, capable of great kindness to those he cares for. We saw it with Ziyal, and we see a glimpse of it again in his relationship with this woman.


THOUGHTS

Star Trek has a habit of reducing complex situations to pat homilies. Writers Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler respect the complexity. We are left, like Kira, with all the facts about her mother's relationship with Dukat, and nothing clearly telegraphing what opinion we should hold. We are left to make up our own minds - Which I consider to be a good thing.

The return to Terok Nor and the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor is a very welcome one. Every episode that has looked at the station's dark past has been excellent, and Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night is no exception. This slice of the Occupation is very different from what we saw in Necessary Evil or Things Past. There is little direct violence on hand - but the threat of it hangs in the air: in the conditions in which Meru's family lives before her capture, in the watchful and sneering gaze of Bajoran collaborator Basso Tromac (David Bowe), and in the meek whimpering of one "comfort woman" who is too afraid to do more than quietly sob when a Cardassian pulls her onto his lap and starts pawing her.

The families in the refugee camp and the women taken to the station are very different from the Resistance fighters we've seen in previous episodes. They are members of what was almost certainly Bajor's majority - beaten and cowed, too afraid to do anything but obey and cooperate. We see only one Resistance member (Tim DeZarn), and he comes across as small and petty - hardly a powerful foe for anyone.

Performances are largely excellent, and Leslie Hope's Meru is just sympathetic enough for the episode to engage without being so sympathetic as to negate the ending's ambiguity. She may weep at being separated from her family, for example - But she is quick to defend Dukat from Kira's ire, and clearly enjoys the good food and comfort of her abduction.

This falls short of full marks, in part because Basso the Collaborator is a cartoon character, a caricature who would be more at home in a Ferengi comedy than in a multilayered piece such as this; and in part because as good as this is, it doesn't ultimately have quite as much weight to it as Necessary Evil or Things Past.

It's still a terrific episode, though, reminding us of Bajor's past as we wait for the next major event to take us into the future.


Overall Rating: 9/10.


Previous Episode: Change of Heart
Next Episode: Inquisition


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