By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 12:43 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Siege of AR-558' Episode Guide

Kira comes to Quark's from a Bajoran service and tells Odo about the sermon on forgiveness; he regrets that he doesn't share her faith. Later that evening Vedek Falah comes to see her; he was her teacher during the Occupation. He gives her a crystal as a gift, but when she picks it up, Kira is transported to Empok Nor. The crystal was a transponder and she is in the midst of the Cult of the Pah-Wraith, of which Dukat is master.

Dukat apologizes for abducting Nerys. "Your've changed it," he notes. "Your've pierced it," she responds. Dukat tells her that he wants to show her that the Prophets are not true gods, or they would not have let her people suffer during the Occupation. The Pah-Wraiths were thrown out of the Temple because they cared about the Bajorans, but he intends to bring them back. He says that being touched by the hand of a god changed him. Kira demands to know whether that was before or after he killed Jadzia Dax. Dukat expresses remorse but says Jadzia's death was necessary, and now he wants Kira at his side as he builds a community of love. Kira demands to know why; she suspects his goal is to rule Bajor again.

Falah comes to visit Kira in the quarters she's been given, explaining that he joined the cult long before Dukat - during the Occupation, in fact, to make sense of his people's suffering. Kira demands to know how a cult of love condoned a murderous attack on the Emissary, and scoffs at his calling Dukat a master. He says she should learn forgiveness, but Kira says some things can't be forgiven. When he offers to show her the community, Kira meets a pregnant woman named Meka and learns that celibacy is enforced among Dukat's followers; only those with special permission can conceive children. Falah says that it's ironic a Cardassian would lead them back to the old ascetic ways of Bajor, but Kira notes that Dukat's own appetite for the flesh is legendary.

During prayers, Kira steals a weapon and threatens Dukat, but his followers protect him with their own bodies. She awakens to him tending the wounds she received from his defenders, and points out that this covenant of his is all about him winning the love of the Bajorans who will never forgive him for the Occupation. Kira insists that even if her mother loved Dukat, she was coerced, and eventually he agrees: he is sorry to have caused her pain.

Kira then tries to show Dukat that his cult is like the Occupation - Bajorans waiting on him - and he says that she embodies what he loves about the Bajoran spirit, which must be why the Pah-wraiths want him to convert her to his side. They are summoned because Meka is about to give birth; her husband, Benyan, is nervous, but Dukat says he should feel honored. The baby is Cardassian. Dukat declares that it is a miracle from the Pah-Wraiths, who turned the baby into a Cardassian as a sign of unity.

Kira demands to know how Falah can possibly NOT believe that the baby is Dukat's child, but he says that her lack of faith makes her incapable of believing in a miracle -- if the Prophets could make a Dominion fleet disappear, why could a Pah-Wraith not affect one child? Kira asks Benyan whether Meka was ever alone with Dukat and then goes to see the mother herself, but Dukat gets there first. He apologizes for his weakness in having impregnated her, and she says she doesn't think she can lie to her husband if he demands the truth. Dukat tells her to pray for strength and opens the airlock, letting all the oxygen out. When Kira finds Meka, she is dying; a medic revives her but she remains unconscious. Though Kira accuses the Cardassian of adultery and attempted murder, his followers exonerate him, and Dukat prays for guidance.

The followers are summoned for worship. Dukat announces that when the new day dawns they will all leave their corporeal bodies to follow the Pah-Wraiths. Privately, he tells Kira he sent a message to Deep Space Nine to retrieve her and shows her the suicide pills which turn the bodies to dust within hours. Finally believing that he believes in his mission, Kira shorts the controls to her door and leaps on Dukat in the midst of the final service, just as he is about to take his pill which breaks in the struggle. When a follower hands him another pill, the Cardassian doesn't want to take it. Kira shouts that he never intended to die while Dukat explains that his work is not finished - he needs to recruit others for the Pah-Wraith. Benyan shouts that Dukat fathered the child. Dukat demands to know whom he is to judge, since the Prophets absolved him. Then the cult leader removes his earring, presses a transporter control, and beams away. Falah swallows his pill. When Kira asks why, the dying man says, "Faith."

On the Defiant, Kira tells Odo she doesn't know if her old friend died because he had faith or because he had lost it. She adds that Dukat has changed, though Odo finds his greed, manipulation, and murderous tendencies to be very typical. But Kira says no, he really believes, and that makes him even more dangerous.


Just when I thought Dukat couldn't get any more interesting...

This was a first-rate episode in almost every way. It was both a stand-alone moralistic story in Classic Trek style about the dangers of cults, and a terrific installment in an ongoing arc about Bajoran religion, plus a terrific Kira story and a stunning return of the greatest villain I think Trek has ever had. Much as I want to find Dukat utterly despicable, he's not. He never has been. He's extremely complex, and sexy as only the completely abandoned, power-mad can be; he's utterly self-confident even in his moments of despair praying to the Pah-wraiths, who of course "give" him exactly the sort of solution he wants. A man who's already rationalized the unjust deaths of millions of Bajorans is going to have no trouble asking a few dozen to die for what he chooses to believe is a spiritual cause. A man who convinced himself that a woman he enslaved really loved him is going to accept the worship of a demoralized and brainwashed population as true adoration.

I love that Kira never wavered: despite the sermon on forgiveness at the start of the episode, she never for one moment listened to Dukat or his followers, even her old friend the Vedek. Even forgetting that it was her nemesis in charge, she knew a cult when she saw one. I thought it was entirely predictable that the baby would be Dukat's, and I think she did too. Her reaction to the belief of the followers was priceless, as was her horror upon discovering what Dukat intended to have his followers do; her belief that he intended to die with them did not in any way exonerate him in her eyes, and she wasn't surprised at learning that his pill was not meant to kill him. I wonder how her own faith will be affected by the stunningly misguided faith of Dukat's followers - whether it will be weakened by a sense that all religion may be about misguided faith, or whether his insanity will strengthen her belief in the true Prophets.

Virtually no one else appeared in this episode, except for Odo as a foil for Kira, and they were not missed. Many of Deep Space Nine's best episodes have been bottle shows like this one, consisting mostly of Nana Visitor and another actor exchanging emotional dialogue, like the superlative early episode "Duet." She can carry an episode like no one else, and adding Dukat just serves to heighten the tension.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.