Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night   Rewatch 
August 29, 2016 6:33 PM - Season 6, Episode 17 - Subscribe

You might think that it wouldn't be possible to hate Dukat any more than you already do, because you already hate him with the hate of ten thousand burning suns, but ask yourself: are those suns supernovas? Well, they are now. [TW: rape]

Am I exaggerating? Memory Alpha doesn't think so: [spoilers for future episodes]

- The writers next decided to do a show about Kira and the Occupation, which they hadn't touched on in some time, but they wanted to do something original, not just a flashback episode showing her activities during the Occupation (à la "Necessary Evil"), or a show where she meets up with some old acquaintances (à la "Shakaar"), or a show where her actions are brought to the fore (à la "The Darkness and the Light") but something completely different. At the same time, Ira Steven Behr hadn't been entirely happy with how the Kira/Dukat relationship had ended in "Sacrifice of Angels", and he began asking himself "How can we take Gul Dukat and bond him close to Kira in a way that would just make her insane." These two ideas coalesced when Bradley Thompson suggested "What if Dukat was making it with Kira's mother?" They now had a show about Terok Nor and about Kira, but from a completely new perspective.

- This episode continues the complicated arc dealing with the relationship between Dukat and Kira. This arc began in the second season episode "The Maquis, Part II", and continued through episodes such as "Civil Defense", "Indiscretion", "Return to Grace", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "A Time to Stand" and "Sons and Daughters". As she has always done however, Nana Visitor remains steadfast in her belief that Dukat can never earn Kira's trust or respect; "Kira can never forgive Dukat. I think it's been made very clear in the show that she's past the racist aspects of hating Cardassians. This is truly about Dukat, the individual. He's like Hitler to Kira, and there's no forgiving. She can never let go."

- This show is a favorite among the writers and producers, not least because of the subtle ambiguity of the dénouement; the episode's refusal to 'push' the viewer towards a particular moral position as regards Kira Meru, the viewer is left to form their own views of her actions. According to David Weddle, "It was a muddy issue – did Kira's mother do the right thing or not? Or was it just a choice of survival for a Bajoran?" In the original version of the screenplay, there was no moral ambiguity at the end of the episode, with Kira clearly forgiving her mother and the viewers being encouraged to do likewise, but Nana Visitor argued that this wasn't true to the character of Kira, that there was no way she would be so clear about how she felt. As Visitor explains, "The writers originally had Kira feeling much more sympathetic toward her mother in the last scene of the show. Maybe Kira could be sympathetic about the subject in twenty years. But at the time, it was hard for her to deal with the fact that she hadn't killed her. In the end it is her mother. And Kira believed that the Prophets were guiding her, so I imagine she believes not killing her mother was in response to the Prophets telling her it was wrong."

- The title of this episode is a quotation from the 1820 Percy Bysshe Shelley lyrical drama Prometheus Unbound. The full quotation reads "To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;/To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;/To defy power which seems omnipotent;/To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates/From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;/Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;/This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be/Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;/This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory." It comes from Act IV, lines 572-580, serving as the epilogue of the play as spoken by Demogorgon.

- This episode is the first in which O'Brien and Bashir mention the Battle of the Alamo. Their holosuite recreation of this famous battle would become more important over the course of the following season.

"I only hope you won't condemn us all for the boorish behavior of one man."

- Cardassian legate to Kira Nerys and Gul Dukat to Kira Meru

"Mind telling me what you're smiling about?"
"The Prophets – I never realized they had such a sense of humor. When I was a child, I dreamed of having food to eat and pretty clothes to wear, and now look at me – I have everything I ever wanted and I feel horrible."
"That is pretty funny in a horrible way."

- Kira Nerys and Kira Meru

"Meru, I hope the Cardassians aren't lying to me, and that they really will send this message to you. I know it's only been a few weeks that we've been back home, but you should see the children. It's like they've been transformed. Reon and Pohl are laughing and playing together; they've never been happier, and I swear little Nerys must have gained five pounds. Of course, they keep asking for you. I've told them that you're still at the refugee center. I think that's best, at least for the time being. I can't believe how much I miss you. I think about you all the time. You've saved all our lives. I hope you realize that. Never forget it, not even for an instant. Every day, I pray to the Prophets that you'll find some peace in this new life of yours. I believe that even in the worst of times we can still find moments of joy, and kindness. If you can find that kindness, hold onto it. And remember, no matter what happens, I love you Meru. I'll always love you."

- Kira Taban

"Tell me something, Nerys...if you hate her that much, why did you save her life?"
"Believe me, there's a part of me that wishes I hadn't. But the fact is, no matter what she did...she was still my mother."

- Captain Benjamin Sisko and Kira
posted by Halloween Jack (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This story is bold as shit. No other Trek series could've pulled it off. It's hard to imagine another one even trying. Maybe VOY in one of its "We can be gritty too!" moods. But it would've ended up feeling like an after-school special.

I feel like no other episode even comes close to making the Occupation real. Even the other Terok Nor episodes, where we see Bajoran slaves toiling in ore processing, have a certain sci-fi distance from us—we don't know exactly what they're doing and we don't see exactly how they're living, but the makeup and dialogue assure us they're oppressed. Not like this one, where everything is so out in the open that even in its quiet moments it can be hard to watch…all the more so, IMO, because this stuff IS real.

The fact that we know Kira and Dukat so well by now also probably helps in making it real. The episode might've felt weaker and/or borderline gimmicky if it'd been done too early in the show's run. We're really in the point in the series where the good stuff has been earned.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:25 AM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd forgotten that Kira spends two weeks stranded in the past in a slave labor camp. Two weeks is a long time.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:55 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the original version of the screenplay, there was no moral ambiguity at the end of the episode, with Kira clearly forgiving her mother and the viewers being encouraged to do likewise, but Nana Visitor argued that this wasn't true to the character of Kira, that there was no way she would be so clear about how she felt.

The biggest thing these threads have done for me is make me appreciate what a force Nana Visitor was behind the scenes, and how much she added to DS9.
posted by mordax at 2:58 PM on August 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

Now that I think of it, it's a little odd that Dukat didn't recognize Kira later as the woman who'd saved his life. I mean, the Orb of Time is supposed to actually send you back in time. This isn't just Kira's vision or something. Admittedly it would've been nearly 30 years between the bomb and Dukat meeting the adult Kira. But even so, Kira has a distinctive appearance and manner, and Dukat in particular seems fixated on her. Wouldn't meeting the adult Kira trigger some sort of memory for him?

(Although, do we know if Kira looks like Kira on this trip back in time? Maybe the Prophets gave her a different appearance. Or perhaps, sci-fi time travel being as wonky as it is, when Dukat met the adult Kira he HADN'T experienced the bomb incident, and it never happened until Kira went back and made it happen, setting off an alternate universe.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:25 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Now that I think of it, it's a little odd that Dukat didn't recognize Kira later as the woman who'd saved his life.

I wouldn't be shocked if Dukat's racism toward Bajorans meant that he had a bit of an "All Bajorans look alike" kinda thing going on, which would help obscure his memories of the incident.

But really, my assumption has always been that, since the Orb is one of the less "sciencey" mechanisms by which time-travel has happened in Trek, the trip back really did happen AND it didn't—like maybe, it really did happen for Kira, but not for Dukat. I wouldn't put it past the Prophets to have the means and inclination to "filter" timeline changes in such a fashion, at least in local space. Especially since Orb experiences are generally portrayed as being "individual" in focus.

On the other hand, IIRC the only other time the Orb is used is when our heroes accidentally pull a Jurassic Park on the tribble species, which would suggest the Prophets…like small furry cute things? (Of course, in that episode, the writers kind of strained the Orb concept in order to facilitate the whole TOS episode hook.)

Or perhaps, sci-fi time travel being as wonky as it is, when Dukat met the adult Kira he HADN'T experienced the bomb incident, and it never happened until Kira went back and made it happen, setting off an alternate universe.

I don't think this is sufficient, since (minor spoiler) Kira and Dukat will meet again in a later episode, and at no point does he go "Waaaaaiiiiit a minute. YOU were that friend of your mom's!"
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

I try not to worry too much about time travel in Star Trek, since there has never really been a consistent explanation or definition of time travel throughout the franchise, or even really within an individual show. Take the use of the Orb of Time in "Trials and Tribble-ations": Arne Darvin spends all this time plotting how he's going to redeem himself, figures out how to use the Orb... and brings the Defiant, which is a century beyond what Kirk's Starfleet has, back in time with him, and then abandons it without trying to disable or destroy it in any way. It's as if a Russian agent had figured out how to travel back in time to just before the US' entry into World War I in order to assassinate a young Dwight Eisenhower in the hopes that that would change the course of the Cold War, but had also brought back the USS Illinois, complete with nuclear cruise missiles, to 1916.

But anyway. The real question behind the episode is, just how much is Kira Meru to blame for becoming Gul Dukat's mistress? My feeling, as I may have hinted in the tags, is "not at all," but Kira seems to think that she bears at least some responsibility for being a collaborator. After I watched this episode, I watched "The Collaborator", even though it focuses on Bareil, the living black hole of charisma. (It also has Winn, who is like Game of Thrones' Cersei, Littlefinger, and the High Sparrow rolled into one, so there's that. It's remarkable that, when they show Bareil orb-hallucinating, he just looks silly in the kai's robes; Winn looks born to wear them.) And the situation of the collaboration is all wrapped up in Bajoran politics, of course. But when Kira finds out the truth about who really collaborated, and why Bareil is covering up for them, she can come around to not only accepting what happened, but even accepting that the end result is Winn being elected kai, which is rather a bigger deal than someone becoming a comfort woman IMO.

But the latter involves Gul Dukat, who is just sleazy as fuck. As complicated and messy as the situation in "The Collaborator" is, it doesn't involve Dukat waking her up in the middle of the night just to tell her, "Hay gurl, banged your mom back in the day, just thought you'd like to know." And then she gets to watch him run his script on her mother, just like the skeeviest PUA. I think that it's the combo of the rage that she's felt all her life--a rage which may have its origins in the loss of her mother at that age--combined with the realization that her mother was with Dukat for at least part of that time; maybe she had thought of her mother when she killed her first Cardassians at thirteen. Or maybe it wasn't just that, but the idea that her mother was in effect abandoning her family and seemed to enjoy being Dukat's mistress. (At least the conspirators of "The Collaborator" didn't seem to enjoy what they did, with one committing suicide and Bareil feeling guilty years later.) Kira comes around when she sees how her mother really feels about the "arrangement".

Regardless, it still leaves me wanting to see Dukat get into a transporter accident that turns him inside out.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:12 PM on August 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Regardless, it still leaves me wanting to see Dukat get into a transporter accident that turns him inside out.

And then it exploded!

I've been thinking about collaborators - what makes people join up, go over. Desperation, hope, fear.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2016

This episode was fine, but the setup for it was so contrived that I had a hard time getting into it. We know Dukat is sort of slimy and sleazy, but calling up Kira to rub it into her face, "hey, I banged your mom!" was silly.

On the one hand, Dukat being in love with Kira's mom adds an additional layer to his infatuation with Kira. On the other, if he really banged her mom I think he would have rubbed it in her face a long time ago.

We already know how much Kira hates collaborators. But she didn't know that her mom was a collaborator until just now. It isn't as if she's spent her whole life despising her mother. So when Kira forgives her at the end it's sort of meaningless. She ends up mostly right where she began with regards to her mother.

I guess it didn't have the emotional impact on me that they were going for.
posted by 2ht at 2:29 PM on September 1, 2016

I am in agreement with 2ht, above - this episode is just daft in terms of the timing of it, after everything that has happened. Surely Dukat would have brought this up before? I mean, they were off together rescuing Ziyal, a show partly about parenting, and Dukat didn't bother to mention it in all that time they spent together, even as he was hitting on Kira? Really? Would have been better to mention this and then have it happen now, rather than come out of the blue like it did.

I appreciate that they were exploring ideas and mapping everything out at the start of season one would be ludicrous, but this is also ludicrous. It was a well made episode, they love dressing DS9 in its Terok Nor occupation days, and it looks amazing, but apart from that, a meh episode that doesn't have the impact they are going for.
posted by marienbad at 12:04 PM on September 4, 2016

I always explained it to myself that up until now, Dukat has always wanted to convince Kira of his essential wonderfulness. And even Dukat us self aware enough to know that mentioning that he used to keep her mother as a slave wife might ruin his chances of successfully seducing her. Now, in a moment of post-breakdown clarity, he realises how much she has always and will always despise him anyway, so in a bout of woman-hating fury and disgust he lashes out in the best and most malevolent way he possibly can.
posted by dng at 6:29 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

You may be onto something there, dng. This isn't the same Dukat we knew before. He snapped, and for the rest of the series his villainy and craziness are right there on the surface. (Well, except for when he's trying to charm Kai Winn.) He's not trying to win Kira over anymore, and maybe he tells her this specifically to hurt her.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:14 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

The biggest thing these threads have done for me is make me appreciate what a force Nana Visitor was behind the scenes, and how much she added to DS9.

I go back to the single most dumbfounding piece of DS9 trivia: the writers wanted Kira and Dukat to have a romantic relationship, but Visitor fought to stop it. It's such a terrible failure to understand the character that the pitch should have been immediately killed in the writers' room and forgotten.

I think that incident directly led to this episode. The writers still wanted to do something with Dukat's interest in Bajoran women, and Kira in particular. It was already set up as a big part of his character. The challenge would have been to do so in a way that is honest to the world the show established. Which this episode was.
posted by riruro at 9:54 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is a really good episode except for the fact that it starts with Dukat essentially calling Kira up to be like "Hey, I banged your mom". When Kira was talking about using the Orb of Time, I was joking to my husband that she should then use the orb to bang Dukat's mom in retaliation (it's what mirror universe Kira would have done!).

I think it would have worked better if Kira had been back in the past to get a maguffin and only ran into her mother on accident.

I don't think it's that weird that Dukat never made the connection that Kira Meru's friend was a time-travelling Kira Nerys, considering that time travel doesn't seem to be a common occurrence in the Star Trek universe outside of Starfleet, and the other ways it could be rationalized away. I do have to wonder if Dukat knew that Nerys was Meru's daughter from the beginning, though. Ew.

Still, this was a very, very good episode. I think that Kira's mixed feelings were the best way to end this episode - she's still very much a character who thinks in moral absolutes, it doesn't make any sense for her to fully change even when confronted with the fact that her survival was make possible by those moral gray areas.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:48 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just rewatched this one. Can't resist thread necro-ing to point out a huge missed opportunity.

In the early scene in Ops when Kira yells at O'Brien for loafing, and O'Brien gets that look on his face, he TOOOOTALLY should have murmured:
"Attention Bajoran workers…"
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:49 AM on June 18, 2020

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