Written by Toni Marberry & Jack Treviño and Nicholas Corea
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 4, Episode 4
Production episode 40514-477
Original air date: October 23, 1995
Station log: Kira gets a message from Razka, an old friend from the resistance, who claims to have a lead on the Ravinok: a piece of the ship’s forward sensor array. The Ravinok is a Cardassian prison ship that went missing six years earlier. Among the people on board: Lorit Akrem, the person who recruited Kira into the Shakaar resistance cell.
Razka is hiding in the Badlands—in trouble with the Tholians again, Kira guesses, though Razka neither confirms nor denies—so Kira has to go to him. Her departure is delayed, however, as the Cardassians want to send a representative to accompany her. Kira isn’t thrilled about it, but in the spirit of cooperation between Bajor and the new Cardassian civilian government, she agrees.
Yates informs Sisko that she’s applied for a job with the Bajoran Ministry of Commerce to captain one of their freighters—which would keep her in the sector somewhat permanently. Sisko is a bit gobsmacked, as this would be a bigger step forward in their relationship than he was expecting.
The Cardassian representative shows up: it’s Dukat. Kira is even less thrilled, but the two of them hie off in a runabout. Dukat is on this mission because the Ravinok was under his authority as prefect of Bajor—those were his troops on board. Dukat and Kira have a tense conversation on the subject of the occupation before Kira gets fed up and announces that she wants to spend the rest of the transit time in quiet meditation, mostly by way of getting Dukat to shut the hell up.
Over dinner, Yates enthuses over the job, which the Bajoran ministry offered her before the interview was over. Sisko, however, isn’t enthusing at all, which concerns Yates to the point where she thinks may be shouldn’t accept the job, and then she walks out on dinner. (Given how good a cook Sisko is, that’s a major statement of how pissed she is.)
In the Badlands, Razka brings the sensor array on board. He bought it from a Ferengi scrap metal merchant. Dukat confirms that the piece is from the Ravinok. (He and Razka also establish their mutually assured destruction: the Maquis have a price on Dukat’s head, and Razka has twelve outstanding warrants on Cardassia.)
The Ferengi Razka got it from salvaged it in orbit of Dozaria. Kira and Dukat are both surprised, as Dozaria is way off course from the Ravinok’s flight plan. Dukat reads ionic interference in the atmosphere, which interferes with sensors and transporters. Kira lands the runabout near a magneton signature Kira scanned, and they find the wreckage of the Ravinok. The hulk is covered in phaser hits. They also find twelve graves; there were fifty people on board, so they need to find out what happened to the other thirty-eight. But first, they have to identify the twelve corpses. Dukat takes care of that while Kira works on the ship.
In Quark’s, Sisko discusses his fight with Yates with Dax and Bashir, who both agree he royally screwed the pooch and needs to fix this.
While Dukat’s excuse for being the one to dig up the bodies alone is Cardassian funerary customs, the truth is, he’s looking for a Bajoran: a woman named Tora Naprem, who was Dukat’s mistress. Dukat insists it was more than that, of course—he even gave her a Bajoran pledge bracelet.
Kira, meanwhile, got from the Ravinok computer that the ship was attacked by two unidentified warships. She also finds traces of an isotope that resistance fighters were implanted with that would allow them to be tracked if they were captured.
The pair follow the trail until it gets dark, and they make camp—during which Dukat sits on a sharp spindle. The act of getting it out and Dukat applying a dermal regenerator to his own ass results in Kira collapsing in a fit of giggles—soon followed by Dukat doing likewise.
The conversation gets serious again when Kira asks who Tora Ziyal is. It’s a name she found on the manifest, obviously someone related to Dukat’s mistress. Both Naprem and Ziyal were civilian passengers, neither crew nor prisoners. Dukat admits that Ziyal is his daughter—and also that if she did survive, he has to kill her. Kira is very much not on board with this plan, especially since Dukat put them on the Ravinok in the first place to send them away to Lissepia to live out their lives in peace once he realized the occupation was coming to an end, and he’d no longer be able to protect them. But he can’t let the truth come out about his affair or it will ruin his reputation and hurt his wife and seven legitimate children—not to mention his precarious new career as a legate in the brand-new-and-very-unstable civilian government.
Over dinner Jake tells Sisko that he’s worrying over nothing, that he should let Yates do what she wants to do, and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Sisko is a bit taken aback by Jake’s detailed analysis (apparently arrived at with Nog’s help).
Kira and Dukat find the survivors engaged as slave labor in a dilithium mining operation run by the Breen. Ziyal is among them, dispensing food to Bajorans and Cardassians alike. They concoct a rescue plan, Kira making it abundantly clear that if Dukat even tries to hurt Ziyal, she’ll kill him.
They take out two guards and put on their suits as disguises. They learn from a Bajoran prisoner that Lorit is dead and that there are only thirty-two survivors left. (The prisoner, meanwhile, is stunned to learn that the occupation is over and there’s a peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia.)
During a firefight, Dukat sneaks off to find Ziyal. Kira catches up just as Dukat points his rifle at her. Ziyal says that the Cardassian prisoners insisted that this day would come, that Dukat would kill her if he found her, but the only thing that kept her going was the thought of his rescuing her. Dukat is unable to pull the trigger, and finally pulls her into an embrace.
Sisko goes to a cargo bay to apologize to Yates, who says that she already took the job on Bajor because she’s not about to pass up an opportunity because Sisko got cold feet. He promises to help her pick out quarters on the station when she gets back.
Before departing DS9 for Cardassia with Ziyal, Dukat says goodbye to Kira. He doesn’t know what will happen to him, but Ziyal deserves a home after six years in a Breen mine.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Bajoran resistance fighters were implanted with subcutaneous thingies that they could activate when captured that would leave a bread-crumb-like trail of isotopes that would enable them to be rescued. Dukat seems surprised by this, which means the Cardassians never figured it out.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko makes a pig’s ear out of Yates taking a job in the Bajoran sector that will bring them literally closer together, finally admitting—after being badgered on the subject by Bashir, Quark, Jake, and especially Dax—that he’s scared of getting involved with someone again, especially since his wife died because of his job.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira manages her usual balance of professionalism and passion, saying right off to Dukat that the mission is personal—to find Lorit—but she also leads the mission with consummate skill and brilliance. And she also sees through Dukat: she knows that if he really wanted to kill Ziyal, he would never have told Kira of that intention.
The slug in your belly: Dax gleefully pushes Sisko toward having to commit to a serious relationship with Yates, which is more than Sisko is willing to do, at least at first.
Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: As soon as Kira mentions the Ravinok Odo does his trademark eye-roll—but he also knows that Kira won’t rest until she finds out what happened to the ship, no matter what Odo may think on the subject, so he holds his counsel and instead wishes her good luck.
Rules of Acquisition: When trying to dispense advice to Sisko on his relationship with Yates, Quark asks, “Who knows more about women than me?” to which Bashir magnificently replies: “Everyone.”
For Cardassia! Dukat has been made a legate in the new Cardassian civilian government. He also says that his new position has gained him a lot of enemies.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: The Sisko-Yates relationship hits a roadblock when Sisko’s response to Yates’s job offer is, “It’s a big step,” delivered quite lamely. When discussing it, Dax and Bashir take some solace from the fact that at least he didn’t say “It’s a very big step,” which would’ve been disastrous.
Keep your ears open: “You’ve been talking to Jake.”
“How did you know?”
“Oh, he’s a smart boy. Must take after his mother.”
Yates making Sisko’s life hell while he tries to apologize for being a twit.
Welcome aboard: Marc Alaimo is back as Dukat and Penny Johnson is back as Yates. Roy Brocksmith—last seen as Kolrami in TNG’s “Peak Performance”—plays Razka.
Cyia Batten is the first of two actors to play Ziyal in this season; she’ll return to the role in “Return to Grace” before being replaced by Tracy Middendorf in “For the Cause.” Next season, they’ll be replaced by Melanie Smith, who will continue to recur in the role for seasons five and six. Batten, a member of the Pussycat Dolls, will also appear in Voyager, as the Terrellian woman Irina in “Drive,” and Enterprise, in “Bound” as the Orion woman Navaar.
Trivial matters: This is the first DS9 episode to be directed by LeVar Burton (a.k.a. Geordi La Forge), who had already directed a couple of TNG episodes (“Second Chances” and “The Pegasus”) and a Voyager episode (“Ex Post Facto”). He’ll become a regular director on all three spinoffs, with nine more episodes of DS9, seven more episodes of Voyager, and nine episodes of Enterprise going on his resumé when all is said and done.
After being mentioned in TNG’s “The Loss,” “Hero Worship,” and “Interface” and in Star Trek Generations, we finally see the Breen for the first time, who dress in much the same way that Princess Leia did in the opening sequence of Return of the Jedi. They’ll continue to recur on the show, particularly during the Dominion War.
The plot for this episode was inspired by the 1956 film The Searchers, directed by John Ford, a favorite of much of the writing staff.
Exterior shots of Dozaria were shot in Soledad Canyon, the same location used for the Cardassia IV labor camp in “The Homecoming,” and which will be used again in “The Ship” and “Rocks and Shoales.”
We’ll see the consequences of Dukat’s choice to acknowledge Ziyal and bring her home in “Return to Grace” later this season.
At one point, Dukat quotes Kai Meressa. The Terok Nor novel Day of the Vipers by James Swallow will establish that she was the kai at the time of first contact between Bajor and Cardassia, though she died before the occupation officially started.
Walk with the Prophets: “It’s a big step.” The humanization (so to speak) of Dukat continues, though it’s a mistake to think of this as an attempt to make him more sympathetic. It can certainly seem that way, what with his warm embrace of Ziyal at the end, his willingness to damage his career to bring her home (said damage, as we’ll find out in “Return to Grace,” will be considerable), and him and Kira sharing a laugh over his sitting on sharp spindle.
The real danger is in Marc Alaimo’s considerable charm in the role. He has such a great speaking voice, such tremendous charisma, such a larger-than-life presence (both in person and in reputation) that seeing him cry over Tora’s corpse and hug Ziyal (and bend over to apply a dermal regenerator to his ass) is even more impressive. Look at this massive figure—he’s just a regular guy! He cheats on his wife! He sits on spindles! He looks crazy bending over to apply a dermal regenerator to his ass! (Which never gets old...)
And that’s the danger. Forgive me for Godwinning the rewatch, but the thing that people don’t really remember about Adolf Hitler is that he was an unimaginably charismatic person. Most of what we remember of Hitler is caricature, the leering insane figure of American propaganda and Warner Bros. cartoons, so we forget that leering insane figures don’t generally turn destitute, broken countries into superpowers that rule most of Europe and plunge the world into war. He was incredibly compelling and attractive to people, which is how he rose to power in the first place.
For better or worse, Dukat is a Hitler figure, even though he didn’t actually rule Cardassia. This episode in particular is where the notion of Kira and Dukat as a romantic couple first started really getting legs, and I was always repulsed by the very notion, and the analogy to me was Anne Frank falling for Hitler.
Of course, the way it’s played, the interest is entirely on Dukat’s side. We already got hints of this in “Civil Defense,” and this episode firmly establishes that Dukat has a thing for Bajoran women. Kira would prefer to never have to deal with Dukat at all, and at the end she makes it clear to Dax that even their shared moment of amusement after Dukat sat on the spindle served mostly to give her a memory of Dukat helpless and in pain to cherish.
For that matter, the script takes pains to remind us that Dukat’s an asshole, mostly in the runabout when Dukat tries to claim that the occupation was good for Bajor in that patronizing-parent manner of his. Plus there is the fact that he cheated on his wife. Said wife has such a minimal presence (this is the first time she’s been directly mentioned) that it’s easy to forget she exists, but she does, and Dukat has treated her with the same disdain that he treats everyone.
Ultimately, everything with Dukat is about control. He kept Tora and their daughter on Terok Nor until he saw the way the wind was shifting, and shipped them to Lissepia. Once he learns that she might have survived the Ravinok’s disappearance, he thinks only in terms of how the two of them being alive will affect him. Even though Kira’s likely right that he subconsciously told Kira about his plan to kill Ziyal precisely so she’d stop him, that doesn’t change the fact that murder was his go-to notion.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Sisko, who’s been gliding along comfortably in his relationship with Yates, seeing her when she’s around, cooking her fantastic food, and getting lots and lots of smoochies (and likely more than that, but this is commercial television of the 1990s). Now, though, she’s looking at taking a job working for the Bajoran government which will keep her in the sector full-time. She tells this to Sisko and Dax and it’s the latter who points out that she could then take quarters on the station, and Sisko’s standing there with his mouth hanging open as the two most important women in his life at the moment completely change the playing field on him. Avery Brooks does a wonderful job of playing the rest of the episode gobsmacked, and it’s played for laughs (watching Bashir and Dax tag-team him in Quark’s is epic) at first.
The highlight, though, is the last scene in the cargo bay where we get a rare instance of Sisko’s vulnerability: the last love of his life died because of his job. That’s some emotionally scary stuff right there, and you get the feeling that Yates knew about it all along (which is why she took the job anyhow) and was just waiting for his dumb ass to get around to figuring it out.
What makes the plot work particularly well is the superb talent and chemistry of the actors. Brooks and Penny Johnson attained instant sparkage from their first nanoseconds on screen together in “Family Business,” and it just gets better with each of Johnson’s appearances.
And that goes double for the A-plot. Nana Visitor and Alaimo have already established themselves as powerful presences, and we’ve seen them paired up to entertaining effect before, most notably in “Civil Defense.” Note that at no point does Kira ever come to an understanding with Dukat, she never trusts Dukat, she never gives any indication that she will ever think of Dukat as anything other than a monster, except in the spindle scene, where she’s willing to think of him as a buffoon. That cliché is nicely avoided, and it’s all on the back of Visitor’s brilliance in playing Kira’s nuances. She’s regularly on her guard with Dukat, the armor only buckling when she’s with Razka, at which point we see the comfortable ease that we only see with Kira when she’s around fellow underground fighters (with Tahna in “Past Prologue,” with the remnants of her resistance cell in “Shakaar”).
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido is running a Kickstarter for a new story in the Dragon Precinct universe, featuring the characters of Gan Brightblade and his friends from that novel. He hopes you’ll support it—just two bucks will get you a copy of the story itself! Details can be found here.