Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Duet”

“Duet”
Written by Lisa Rich & Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci and Peter Allan Fields
Directed by James L. Conway
Season 1, Episode 18
Production episode 40511-419
Original air date: June 13, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Kira and Dax are reminiscing about childhood when a Kobheerian freighter asks to dock. They have a passenger on board who needs medical attention, as he suffers from Kalla-Nohra Syndrome. Kira wants to visit this patient, as the only cases of Kalla-Nohra she’s aware of are people who were at a labor camp called Gallitep, which she helped liberate. The survivors of Gallitep are considered heroes on Bajor, and Sisko is more than happy to let Kira go pay her respects.

However, the patient isn’t a Bajoran, he’s a Cardassian, which means he was an overseer at Gallitep. Kira immediately calls security and has Odo put him in a cell as a war criminal. He identifies himself as Aamin Marritza, and he’s not on any list of Cardassian war criminals that Odo has seen—and he’s seen them all—but Kira says that if he has Kalla-Nohra, he was at Gallitep. She enumerates the many horrors she found at that camp when she helped liberate it—rapes, murders, old people being buried alive because they couldn’t work anymore—and Sisko then decides to talk to the prisoner alone. Marritza claims he doesn’t have Kalla-Nohra, that the Kobheerian was mistaken. He has Pottrik Syndrome, which is treated with the same medication, and he says he was never at Gallitep. A drunk Bajoran wakes up to find a Cardassian in a nearby cell, and he’s not happy about it.

Bashir confirms that Marritza does, in fact, have Kalla-Nohra, not Pottrik, which means he was at Gallitep. Kaval, the Bajoran minister of state, contacts Sisko and makes it clear that they want Marritza ASAP. Sisko then goes to Kira and—after making it clear that Minister Kaval doesn’t make personnel decision on the station—tells her that he wants Odo to run the investigation because Kira’s too close to be objective. But Kira plays the friend card that Sisko first laid down on Jeraddo, and asks on behalf of all the victims that she couldn’t save to let a Bajoran do this. Sisko agrees.

Odo has already looked into Marritza. He’s been an instructor at the military academy on Kora II for the last several years, and he did board the Kobheerian freighter as he claimed.

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Kira makes it clear to Marritza that they know he lied about having Pottrik Syndrome and that he had to have been at Gallitep. After warning Kira that she’d be disappointed in his answer to her question of what his position was, he reveals that he was a filing clerk. He was an exemplary clerk, with Gul Darhe’el himself praising his computer filing system. When Kira asks if he witnessed the atrocities, he claims to have seen no such things. He admits to seeing bodies—Bajorans died all the time. “It was a labor camp,” he says blandly, but he only credits deaths to illness, accidents, and Bajoran-on-Bajoran violence over food or blankets. Marritza claims that Darhe’el made up rumors of brutal conditions as a propaganda tool, to let Bajorans continue to think of themselves as victims.

Gul Dukat speaks to Sisko, who demands that Marritza be released. Sisko needs to verify his identity, but Dukat refuses to be helpful, since they don’t have anything to charge him with. Sisko’s now getting it from both sides—Bajor and Cardassia.

Dax sees Kira staring out a window above the Promenade. Kira wants him to be more than a filing clerk, because she wants—needs—revenge for what happened. Dax rightly points out that Kira’s trying too hard for him to be guilty.

Odo has verified that Marritza was a filing clerk at Gallitep. The Bajoran archive has sent the only image they have of Marritza up to the station—but the image of Marritza doesn’t look like the person in their cell. But there is someone else in the image who does look like the prisoner: Gul Darhe’el.

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The prisoner admits, after only a little prompting from Kira, to being Darhe’el. Grinning, he says that Kira can only execute him once, which she views as a disappointment. He also scoffs at the war crimes trial being prepared by the provisional government, as there was, in his opinion, no war—Bajor surrendered.

Darhe’el rants and raves for a bit, gleefully telling Kira what a great leader he was and how Gallitep was a model of efficiency. His subordinates loved him, and gladly went out and killed Bajoran scum for him. Even if Bajor executes him, it won’t change his accomplishments. “The dead will still be dead!” He also pauses to belittle Kira’s resistance cell, referring to it by name.

Odo brings Kira a drink from Quark’s top shelf. She’s shaken by Darhe’el’s ravings. When she mentions his belittling Shakaar, Odo cautions her against discussing her personal life with him—and when Kira says that he brought Shakaar up, Odo’s spidey sense starts tingling. Darhe’el ran a labor camp, he was unlikely to know the specifics of who was in which resistance cell.

Darhe’el claims that he knew who Kira was thanks to Marritza’s brilliant filing system. There were times he thought he was all alone in cleansing the galaxy of Bajoran filth, but those reports on the resistance assured him that he was not. He found that comforting.

Some survivors of Gallitep camp out outside Odo’s office, waiting to find out what will happen to the prisoner. Odo learns that the real Marritza apparently requested information about Kira specifically. Over subspace Dukat informs Odo that Darhe’el has been dead for six years. Dukat was at his funeral and everything.

The prisoner wants to ask Kira some questions. Defiantly, Kira agrees to answer. She started fighting when she was twelve. Darhe’el asks how many Cardassians she killed—he’s particularly interested in how many civilians she murdered. But Odo interrupts with the revelation that Darhe’el is dead—and also that Darhe’el never contracted Kalla-Nohra, as he was on Cardassia receiving an award the day of the mining accident. Whoever this guy is, he’s not Darhe’el. On top of that, when he left Kora II, he put all his affairs in order, resigning his position at the military academy, and he also has evidence of cosmetic surgery in his recent past. Based on the evidence, he really is Aamin Marritza, but he wants people to think he’s Darhe’el.

Kira confronts him with this new evidence, but Marritza refuses to admit it, insisting that he’s Darhe’el, the butcher of Gallitep. He couldn’t possibly be Marritza, as he was a bug, a coward who hid under his desk, clamping his ears to block out the awful sounds of Bajorans screaming. It doesn’t take long for him to break. The guilt of what happened at Gallitep so overwhelmed him that he made himself into Darhe’el so that he could be punished, so that everyone could be punished. The only way Cardassia can survive is to stand in front of Bajor and admit what they did.

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And then Kira lets him go. Enough good people have died. She won’t kill another one.

As she and Odo walk him to the docking ring, where he’ll board a transport back to Kora II, the drunk Bajoran runs into the Promenade and stabs Marritza, killing him. When Kira asks why, the drunk says that he was Cardassian, and that’s reason enough. Kira probably surprises herself when she says, “No, it’s not.”

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The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko finds himself having to navigate the political waters of Bajor and Cardassia, as both sides want Marritza, and he doesn’t want to give him to either of them until he knows for sure who the prisoner is.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira joined the resistance at age twelve, and was part of a cell called Shakaar. Twelve years ago, she helped liberate Gallitep. She outlines in gory detail the atrocities committed in that camp, the first explicit reference to what Cardassians did to Bajorans during the occupation.

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For Cardassia! Marritza believes that Cardassia can’t move forward until it acknowledges the atrocities they committed on Bajor. He was devastated by the fact that Darhe’el died peacefully in his bed and was honored on Cardassia. Darhe’el’s body was on display for all of Cardassia Prime to see during his funeral, which strikes me as particularly tacky….

The slug in your belly: When Kira and Dax are reminiscing about childhood, Dax talks about how she was a window-breaker, but is deliberately vague as to which “her” she’s talking about.

Keep your ears open: “I do miss working with you, Odo. I miss our games of Kalevian montar.”

“As I recall, Gul Dukat, we played one game and you cheated.”

Dukat and Odo reminiscing about old times.

Welcome aboard: Marc Alaimo returns for the first time since “Emissary” as Dukat. Robin Christopher appears briefly as Neela, setting up her appearance in the next episode, “In the Hands of the Prophets.”

Norman Large—last seen as Proconsul Neral in the “Unificationtwo-parter on TNG, and who’ll next be on TNG’s “Dark Page” and also on Voyager’s “Cold Fire”—plays the Kobheerian captain, while Tony Rizzoli plays the drunk Bajoran and Ted Sorel plays the Bajoran minister.

But the big guest here is great character actor Harris Yulin, who is absolutely brilliant as Marritza.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Duet

Trivial matters: Quite a bit of history in this one: We learn that Kira was part of a specific resistance cell, which was named Shakaar. (The episode “Shakaar” will reveal that it was named after the cell’s leader, Shakaar Edon.) It’s confirmed that Odo worked directly for Dukat when the latter was prefect of Bajor, and also that Bajor initially put up no resistance to the Cardassians, welcoming them peacefully as friends, and the Cardassians basically took over.

Besides the obvious general parallels to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews, the plot of this episode in particular took some inspiration from the Robert Shaw novel The Man in the Glass Booth (later adapted into play and movie form).

The character of Anara from “The Forsaken” was intended to be the recurring role that eventually wound up being Neela. Apparently Benita Andre didn’t work out right as Anara, so they replaced her with Robin Christopher in this and the next episode.

The Gallitep labor camp is seen in detail, including the mining accident that led to its occupants suffering Kalla-Nohra, in the Terok Nor novel Night of the Wolves by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison. Darhe’el also appears in the novel Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods, and the aftermath of his death was shown in both Dawn of the Eagles by Perry & Dennison and The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack.

The site of Gallitep was also used for an internment camp on Bajor in the novel The 34th Rule by Armin Shimerman, David R. George III, & Eric A. Stillwell.

Walk with the Prophets: “How many Cardassians did you kill?” Many people view this as the first episode of DS9 worth watching after a poor first season. I personally think this does an injustice to “Past Prologue,” “Captive Pursuit,” and “Progress,” but still, this is absolutely brilliant stuff, deservedly lauded as one of DS9’s greatest, and indeed one of Trek’s finest hours.

Up until now, the Cardassians have basically been bad guys. We fought a war against them, they were re-arming in secret (“The Wounded”), they tricked an admiral into authorizing a murder (“Ensign Ro”), they tortured Picard (“Chain of Command”), and they occupied Bajor for decades. In fact, in Gul Darhe’el (or, at least, Marritza’s interpretation of his erstwhile boss) we get our most vile Cardassian, the leader of a labor camp the mere mention of which sends Kira into a righteous fury.

But this episode reminds us, both subtly as Marritza’s true character is revealed and bluntly at the end with Kira’s final line, that Cardassians are people and they come in all shapes and sizes. For every Darhe’el, for every Dukat, there’s also a Marritza who was just a frightened filing clerk who was stuck in a charnel house and too much of a coward to do anything about it. Kira can happily blame Darhe’el for being a villain, but though she’s more than happy to condemn Marritza just for being at Gallitep at first, ultimately she can’t fault him for not being a hero.

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What I like about this episode is that both Kira and Marritza have the exact same goal. Both of them have a primal need to speak for the dead, to give justice to all the people who endured indignity and humiliation and torture and rape and death. Both of them observed the horror of Gallitep, only to have the architect of that nightmare die peacefully in his sleep, given a grand funeral, and have a monument erected in his honor.

But Kira at least can take some solace from the fact that she helped liberate the place. Marritza just hid under his bed, held his ears, and hoped that some day it might stop, but did nothing to achieve that end. Not that there was much he could do, a lowly filing clerk assigned to work for a monster.

Kira wants Marritza to be Darhe’el as desperately as Marritza wants her to believe it, and it’s for the same reason: someone has to pay, and Cardassia must face up to what they as a people did to Bajor. Harris Yulin gives the performance of a lifetime here, playing Marritza’s double-bluff perfectly, from old man with an illness pretending like he doesn’t know why he’s in jail who deliberately gets caught in a lie to remain in a cell, to raving bigot when he’s pretending to be Darhe’el, to a broken man who needs to wash the blood off his hands. And Nana Visitor matches him step for step, Marritza’s deliberately provocative questions and comments designed to piss her off, to make her want to kill him, to guarantee that she’ll put the noose ’round Darhe’el’s neck. Visitor’s tremendous capacity for facial expressions serves her particularly well here, the way she modulates from sympathy to fury when she realizes that the Kalla-Nohra sufferer is a Cardassian overseer rather than a Bajoran victim, the magnificent give-and-take between her and Marritza, and then going back to sympathy after Odo and Bashir make it clear that this isn’t Darhe’el, but a filing clerk who wants everyone to think he’s the Butcher of Gallitep.

Honestly, if this entire episode had just been a series of scenes between Visitor and Yulin, it would’ve been one of Trek’s best episodes, and that’s justifiably what “Duet” is remembered for, but that takes away from the excellent supporting work around them, particularly from Rene Auberjonois and Avery Brooks. It’s Odo who pokes the most holes in Marritza’s story, and who’s able to get Dukat to release Cardassian records to confirm that Darhe’el is dead and Marritza’s the guy in the cell. (Marritza was no doubt counting on the Cardassians’ obsessive need to control information to allow him to pass as Darhe’el in the first place.)

And Sisko is a rock in this episode. Tellingly, three different people want Sisko to do something he doesn’t want to do: Minister Kaval wants Marritza sent to Bajor for execution and wants Kira to handle all of it, Kira wants to lead the investigation, and Dukat wants Marritza released unconditionally. The only one of those three who get their way is Kira, because unlike Kaval and Dukat, she doesn’t make demands or threats or try to play on sympathy that may or not be there. Instead, she makes an argument, a passionate one, and she asks to be the one to investigate, going so far as to use the friendship that Sisko claimed back in “Progress.” (I also like that, when Kira asks to be excused to the infirmary in the opening, Sisko gives her permission first, and then asks why.)

The ending is a little too depressingly free of subtlety, but it drives the point home, and I think it’s important for Kira to have had to say out loud that being Cardassian is not by itself enough to condemn a person.

 

Warp factor rating: 10


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be briefly at Wizard World New York on Sunday the 30th of June at 2pm to do a panel on “Storytelling Across Genres” with Cici James and Kaila Hale-Stern of Singularity & Co. and fellow authors Myke Cole and Alaya Dawn Johnson.

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