DuetBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 12, 2004 - 4:06 PM GMT
Deep Space Nine allows a ship to dock in order to save a passenger who has a rare disorder contracted by Bajorans who survived a disaster during the Cardassian occupation. Kira asks to meet the war hero, but when she arrives in Sickbay, she is appalled to discover that the patient is not Bajoran but Cardassian. She calls for the man's arrest, claiming that he must have been a jailer at the Gallitep concentration camp if he contracted the condition. Sisko and Odo agree to hold the Cardassian until Bajor decides whether to charge him.
Kira interrogates the prisoner, who intially claims to be named Marritza and says that he was a mere file clerk and knew of no atrocities at Gallitep. He begins to goad her, demanding to know whether she was in the Resistance and how many Cardassians she killed. An old photo reveals that the prisoner is not Marritza but Gul Dar'Heel, the "Butcher of Gallitep," the man who slaughtered thousands of Bajorans. Kira tells Odo that she can't rest until he is brought to justice.
Further investigation, however, reveals some odd indiscrepancies in the man's story: Dar'Heel was away from the camp on the day of the accident which infected all his workers and prisoners, and furthermore, as Dukat tells Sisko, he's dead - half of Cardassia attended his funeral. Odo realizes that the man he has in prison is in fact who he initially claimed to be - Marritza, Dar'Heel's clerk.
When Kira confronts the prisoner, he insists that he is Dar'Heel and has always been alive - it is Marritza who is dead, that coward who hid under his bed and covered his ears because he could not tolerate the screams of the Bajoran prisoners. Then the man breaks down, begging Kira to prosecute him for his superior's crimes, insisting that all of Cardassia must pay for the war crimes, and he is as guilty for remaining silent as Dar'Heel was for the atrocities.
Kira frees the Cardassian, but he is murdered as he leaves his cell by a drunken Bajoran. When Kira demands to know why, the Bajoran says that the man was Cardassian and that's reason enough. "No," Kira whispers, "it isn't."
I'm not sure I can write a coherent analysis of this episode; I cried just thinking about it for two days after I saw it, and I still cry when I try to discuss it. This episode aired in the midst of a trial in Israel where an extradited U.S. citizen was accused of being a Nazi war criminal; he was exonerated within days of the airing of "Duet," so the timeliness was stunning, as was the resonance with the Holocaust in general. I have always thought of the Bajorans as being vaguely similar to the displaced Palestinians, which always bothered me vaguely; this hour made me rethink that entire equation, the way in which Jews and Palestinians have been constructed by history into adversaries rather than sharing common persecutions.
This is the best hour of Star Trek and one of the best hours of television I've ever seen, despite being a "bottle show" - one of the low-budget, talky episodes with minimal sets and no action which always get put together at the end of the season when the money's running out. It's about ideas and emotions, with little plot, but it didn't even need a B story. Nana Visitor and Harris Yulin, and to a lesser degree Rene Auberjonois, carried the drama, but the dialogue writing is as good as it gets.
We knew before that Kira was a terrorist who killed Cardassians during the war, possibly even civilians, but I don't think we ever saw so clearly the price she paid for those killings, even though she believed in the cause for which she fought. We saw all sides of her here: the diplomat who's outraged to have a criminal on her station, the terrorist who wants to kill her enemy, the spiritual person who's appalled at war, the idealist who wants to believe that not everyone involved in the atrocities condoned them. Marritza had a dark, spooky attraction to her - he singled her out as the person to whom he wanted to confess, and did extensive research on her to make sure she'd buy his story. She didn't run away from him, nor from the common elements in their past which she wanted so much to deny.
From a distance, I can see that this is the episode when I first realized the depth of Odo's feelings for Kira, and to some extent the reasons for them. He witnesses her courage and her struggle with her violent impulses, he hears her confessions--she lets him into her soul in a way that no other humanoid ever has. This incident marks the beginning of Kira's ability to let the past go--it probably made it possible for her to fall in love with Bareil, and to deal with the conspiracy which would unfold on Bajor in rapid succession. This was really the start of a five-episode arc spanning the beginning of the second season, and the resonances are stunning.
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.