Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Duet   Rewatch 
June 24, 2015 11:20 AM - Season 1, Episode 19 - Subscribe

After a Cardassian man arrives on the station suffering from an illness that he could only have contracted at a Bajoran labor camp during the Occupation, Major Kira leads an investigation to determine whether he is actually a notorious war criminal.

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Longer Summary
"Once upon a time, the Cardassians controlled Bajor, and they did horrible things. We’ve heard about the occupation before, but in “Duet,” Kira gives a speech about what she saw while liberating a forced-labor camp, and it’s the most direct description of the atrocities committed against her people that the show has given us. She talks about broken bodies, minds destroyed, and of captives humiliated, starved, and beaten, and her voice catches on the words. So when an apparent survivor from the camp arrives on the station, she’s eager to meet him. The visitor requires immediate treatment for an affliction known as Kalla-Nohra, which only affects individuals who were at Gallitepp, the labor camp, during a mining accident. Kira rushes to the infirmary to greet the new guest, but instead of a Bajoran, she finds a Cardassian named Aamin Marritza receiving Bashir’s ministrations. Kira demands Marritza’s immediate arrest, because she knows he had to have been there, and he has to be responsible. Except Marritza denies any direct involvement in the torture of Bajoran citizens; he claims he was just a file clerk. Kira thinks he’s lying, and that’s when things get interesting."

* A bottle episode.
* Significant character development for Kira.
* The story was inspired in part by Robert Shaw's stage play (and movie) The Man in the Glass Booth, which tells of a Jewish man who is accused of being a Nazi war criminal. That play in turn is based on actual events that took place after World War II, such as the Nuremberg Trials and the hunt for top ranking Nazi officials who escaped Germany and made up new identities for themselves, such as Adolf Eichmann.
* The intent of the episode was to establish the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor as a metaphor for British, American, Japanese and German imperialism circa World War II.
* Both Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys) count this episode among their favorites. Shimerman observed that the episode works because of "the writing and the directing and the acting all coalescing perfectly", which Nana Visitor believed was because it had "such important things to say".
* In The New Trek Programme Guide, the authors comment that "Duet" was "the pinnacle of the season, a tightly plotted and allusive tale that could be 'about' the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the modern Nazi's re-writing of World War Two or even Bosnia. Although the juxtaposition with the previous episode is less than ideal, with Kira seeming to go behind Sisko's back to get what she wants, the strength of the script and the performances more than make up for this. Harris Yulin excels as the coward who personalised the guilt of an entire race. This powerful and absorbing drama is also very Roddenberryesque: Kira realises, just before the clever twist ending, that his being a Cardassian is not reason enough to want to kill him".
* Episode was critically acclaimed and featured in the Museum of Television and Radio's 1994 "Tribute to Excellence"
posted by zarq (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This was my 'holy shit, this is actually a good show' episode.

My husband still refers to it as 'Munich in Space'
posted by dinty_moore at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

So utterly glad zarq got this episode.

What an epic episode! I actually went back and watched it again, even though this episode is in my top three of the show.

I remember, watching this one for the first time, thinking that it was nice that Kira finally came to a different emotional place about the Occupation. I think I kind of missed the point, though, or perhaps missed the emotional depth. It's about so much more than Kira feeling better, or justice, or even about the peculiar form of (survivor?) guilt that Marritza feels. It's about revenge and the aftermath of awful things, when one has the chance to stop and take a breath. What choice does one make? Hate, revenge or forgiveness? This episode holds that human desire for revenge at arms length, a little, in that neither of the main players are human, but it's still rather close to home. Marritza has the right of it, with the comment that his death won't change anything. I don't know how I think about that.

I love the colour palette change between Kira and Marritza. Kira is warm reds and browns, while Marritza is grey and black (also see Odo's yellowish brown hues). I think the gossiping right at the start was a nice touch, because it contrasts so well with the rest of the episode. The way Marritza weaves his story is amazing too. "In that case, I'll try to make my lies more opaque." I have a lot of respect for someone who can write that kind of material.

Odo is completely in character. Always the investigator, thinking critically about every tone of voice or offhand comment. Dax playing the Wise Elder was a little bit of a failure, I think, though. Visitor's acting is amazing throughout.
posted by Solomon at 2:38 PM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Geez Visitor is amazing.

It's fascinating the way Kira works. It would be easy to let her hatred and desire for justice/revenge/whatever you want to call it blind her, but you really believe that those things instead motivate her to find the real truth.
posted by dry white toast at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is just a killer episode. Visitor and Yullin are both great, and the story takes you on a hell of a ride emotionally.

My girlfriend kind of ruined the ending for me, though. (Spoilers ahead:) She pointed out that when Marritza gets stabbed, it's weird that there's no attempt to save him. It's just a stab wound, and if they beamed him to sick bay it seems pretty likely they could wave some future tech at him and revive him, even if he'd been dead for a few seconds. Bashir has saved people from far worse injuries! But dramatically, of course it makes sense for him to die on the spot. A sequence where they tried and failed to save him would probably just ruin the punch of the ending we've got now.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:18 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Outstanding episode (except for the ending). DS9 does a great job of character development and focusing on issues that at that time in television, were more complex than usual.

The issues of how one conducts themselves during a war and other horrible situations is handled repeatedly throughout the series and by a variety of characters. The actors do a wonderful job.

Much of the first season has to do with emerging relationships between the crew and the relationship that Kira and Sisko develop is one ultimately of trust and respect. Sisko's command style is firm but enabling. Kira's hostility to Starfleet slowly changes throughout the course of the first season and others just as her hostility to Cardassians changes. Sisko of course develops tremendously as well from hating the very idea of his post on DS9 and his role as the Emissary to coming to love Bajor and for the most part, though it is hard at times, accepting his role as the Emissary. I know this is a central principle of Star Trek, that people can excel and change (or at least realize their potential) in the right circumstances but even though it can be over the top at times there's something about DS9's writers and actors that makes it subtle (compared to say Voyager that has to telegraph everything as if the audience risks not getting the point, sort of like the ending of this episode). In this way DS9 treats it's audience like the characters treat each other. This may be why it didn't fare well ratings wise, but is now generally regarded as the best of Trek and certainly, for those who do regard it as the best of Trek, is so loved. I remember hearing David Simon sort of crap on questions about people wondering what was next for Bubbles or Kima or Slim Charles as if people, in their wondering, were asking for more seasons and in many cases this may be true, but the other side of that is that it tells people just how much these characters affected them and how well developed they were. The same is true for DS9's characters.

And what to say about most of the actors who play Cardassians, and the variety of Cardassian characters. Harris Yulin (Marritza) had only this episode but his performance is right up there with Alaimo (Dukat), Robinson (Garek), and Biggs (Damar), all of which develop throughout the series as well.
posted by juiceCake at 4:46 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I remember hearing David Simon sort of crap on questions about people wondering what was next for Bubbles or Kima or Slim Charles as if people, in their wondering, were asking for more seasons

TV is weird that way, where you can follow characters intimately for years, going into their homes and seeing them wrestle with agonizing issues at 3 AM, and then one day the show ends and those characters just go away and you'll probably never find out what happened to them unless they do a guest spot on the spinoff or the show gets a movie follow-up or something. In real life you do lose track of people, but usually you can at least track them down on Facebook or something and get some idea how they fared. When TV shows end, it can leave you wondering what happened to a big cast of characters, or even, in the case of sci-fi shows, what happened to entire worlds you've come to care about.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:05 PM on June 24, 2015

Love this episode so much. for the Kira character development, the fantastic performances by Yulin and Visitor, and the incisive dialogue that's just a joy to listen to. It's a twisty plot that mostly makes sense even on rewatch, when you know the truth (as opposed to a lot of shows where there's a twist for the sake of a twist and it doesn't make a lick of sense when you put all the twists together).

I also really like the investigative help Odo offers Kira here. The way these two support each other as coworkers and friends in the early seasons is just lovely.
posted by creepygirl at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2015

This is not only one of the best episodes of the series, but one of the best episodes of any series. It's staged like a play. Not a lot of action or movement, just words. Ideas. History.

Marritza's death is like a brick to the face, and his breakdown while playing Darheel, and absolute contempt for the lowly filing clerk, is wrenching.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:33 PM on June 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think this is the episode I remember most vividly from the original run. Some of the line readings were exactly as I'd recalled (the way Yulin said "The Butcher of Gallitepp!" especially).

It's interesting though, how differently it plays knowing from the start that Marritza is just pretending to be Darheel. Watching it the first time, I think as a viewer I was feeling it from Kira's perspective, how repulsive he was with his condescending teasing of Kira, building up to his Evil Speech of Evil before the breakdown. But I can never get that perspective back; on this first re-watch I felt sympathy for him from the start. I don't mean that as a criticism of the plot twist - it's certainly not one of those badly-written twists that retroactively wreck an episode - it's just one of those 'you can never step into the same river twice' moments.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:42 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Watching it in reruns is certainly a different experience, but it impressed me a different way. It's a great twist at the end, but it's not the kind of "gotcha" twist that makes the story feel like a little puzzle that's been solved so you never need to revisit it. The dialogue is so good and Yulin's performance is so intense and frightening that I kind of got swept up in hating him as Darheel again, even as I KNEW he wasn't really Darheel. It was sort of like how you can get swept up in any good drama and forget the actor is just an actor, except in this case the actor was Marritza, as played by Yulin.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:18 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

The week this episode first came out, I read the description in the TV listings and got so upset at this stupid new show doing an episode that was so clearly a retread of The Conscience of the King. Couldn't they come up with anything new?

So, yeah, I had some crow to eat. It's now one of my go-to episodes of DS9. I've lost count of how many times I've seen it.

One of my favourite small things is how we get just a little more definition into Odo's character, and his willingness to pursue the truth no matter what. He knows what his superiors consider to be the right answer, what his friend considers to be the right answer, and it would be easy to stop investigating once he found that answer. Yet he can't overlook the one small oddity in Darheel's story.
posted by Banknote of the year at 11:25 PM on June 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've been watching select DS9 s1 episodes (Emissary, Past Prologue, A Man Alone, Jax, The Nagus, Vortex, Battle Lines, The Forsaken), and all of Babylon 5 s1 (less than half-way through), for the first time for the past month.

Most episodes have a fun setup, deflated by a "...but not really" ending, and for those episodes with a twist, it's twist you can see coming a mile away. After the "...but not really", everything returns to normal and nothing changes. "Jax is a murderer! ...But not really." These episodes come close to an interesting idea, but then back away.

This one? It earns its "...but not really" ending, because unlike a lot of the above-mentioned episodes (with the exception of, maybe, Battle Lines and The Forsaken), the "...but not really" actually has punch. The twist is that Marritza is deeply damaged, to the point of effective insanity, by what he witnessed. It's not some Cardassian plot, they don't negate the issue and its drama to put a tidy bow on it at the end of the runtime. It's just a man who regrets years of his very existence who is trying to repent on a grand, public scale and, ultimately, failing... but still receiving some form of grace through Kira, the person least likely to deliver it.

This was really good.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:37 AM on November 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm watching the series for the first time and this episode is an all time favourite immediately. There's been some rather clunky episodes throughout this first series but this is just brilliant and while it works in isolation, the relationships and character of the preceding episodes give it extra weight. It's also fully playing into the central conflict between Bajor and Cardassia with the Federation in the middle in a way that I feel the rest of the series hasn't...
posted by slimepuppy at 12:55 PM on September 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

My one question is what's Kainon's relationship with the fact that Garak lives on the station? If he's ready to murder just any Cardassian, why hasn't he made an attempt on Garak yet? Has he, but Garak is just too good?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:17 PM on August 25, 2022

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