Rewatcher’s note: There will be no rewatch on Friday the 10th of October because your humble rewatcher will be at New York Comic-Con (find him at Booth #1157!). We’ll be back on Tuesday the 14th with “Inquisition.”
“Wrongs Darker than Death or Night”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Jonathan West
Season 6, Episode 17
Production episode 40510-541
Original air date: March 28, 1998
Station log: Kira has ordered flowers for herself: Bajoran lilacs. Today would’ve been her mother Kira Meru’s 60th birthday, and Kira’s father Taban always said lilacs were her favorite. Kira didn’t know Meru, as she died when Kira was three, but Taban always said she was the bravest woman Taban had ever known.
That night, Kira receives a comuniqué from Dukat, who says that Sisko helped Dukat achieve clarity, to see the truth of his life. He reveals that he knew Meru, that they were in fact lovers until the day she died, that her father lied about her dying at the Singha Refugee Camp because he couldn’t bear the notion that she left him for Dukat. Kira is convinced that it’s a lie, but Dukat knows a lot about her. So she investigates, searching Meru’s file in the Singha records, and is also generally snappish and irritable. Finally, she goes to Sisko, who is sure that Dukat was lying to get under Kira’s skin, but Kira needs to know for sure. She wants to use the Orb of Time to find out for sure, and she needs Sisko’s blessing as the Emissary, which he cautiously and reluctantly grants.
Kira goes to Bajor, opens the Orb, and then finds herself in the Singha Refugee Center on Bajor with a bunch of others—including Taban, Meru, little Nerys, and her two brothers, Reon and Pohl. Two bullies try to take the soup that Meru stood on line for, but Kira takes care of them in about half a second. She happily accepts the Kira family’s gratitude, and gets to introduce herself to her three-year-old self as Luma Rahl, shaking her own hand and everything.
A collaborator named Basso enters the cave with a bunch of Cardassian soldiers. He’s there to conscript comfort women for the new ore-processing station in orbit (Terok Nor), which is almost finished. The families in question receive extra rations in exchange. Basso takes both Meru and “Luma” to Terok Nor, with Meru’s last words to her husband that she loves him and to never let their children forget her. The women are all assigned quarters, told they can eat all they want—and the amount of food is overwhelming to Meru. She just wishes that Taban and the children were there.
Kira comforts her as best she can, hoping to contact a resistance cell on the station. She also sees the scar on her cheek that she covers with her hair—exactly where Dukat said it was when he contacted her.
The next day, they’re all dressed up and dolled up, and Basso informs them of their new purpose: to provide comfort and care to the Cardassian officers stationed on Terok Nor. He’s interrupted in mid-snide by Dukat. The prefect tries to assure the women that he will show them that Cardassians can be better than most Bajorans believe them to be. Meru speaks out of turn, asking about their families. Basso tries to suck up by yelling at her, but Dukat finds her interesting. When he sees her scar, Basso again tries to suck up by saying he’ll get rid of her, and he again fails when Dukat tells him instead to get a dermal regenerator, enabling him to eliminate the scar.
Basso says they’ve all passed their first test, and Kira is revolted to see that Meru was impressed by Dukat. The next test is a party, where the comfort women have to do whatever the Cardassians want. A legate goes for Kira, who’s apparently turned on by hearing how much Bajorans hate Cardassians, which is handy, as Kira’s more than happy to tell him. Another Cardassian has taken Meru into a corner and is pawing all over her. Dukat, livid, yanks the Cardassian away from her and tells Basso to escort her to her quarters and to see that her privacy is maintained.
The legate predicts Dukat’s dialogue to Meru, assuring Kira that he’s seen this little melodrama play out before. But since Meru has caught Dukat’s eye, it means she’s off limits to everyone else.
After sending the drunken legate back to his quarters, Kira returns home to find, not Meru, but Basso and two Cardassians carrying her stuff. She’s moving up in the world, moving in with Dukat. When Kira demands to see Meru, Basso refuses, and when Kira insists by punching the Cardassians, she gets tossed into the labor area.
Kira spends the next several weeks working in ore processing, getting it ready for when the station is fully operational. A soup server, Halb, informs Kira that Meru took a vacation with Dukat. He’s also trying to recruit her for the resistance—or at the very least get a map from her of the Cardassian side of the station. His pleading is interrupted by Basso, who brings her to Dukat’s quarters, where Meru is waiting along with Dukat. She assures “Luma” that Dukat not only hasn’t hurt her, but has been very kind to her. He even brought her Bajoran lilacs. Meru has asked Dukat to allow Kira to be her companion.
Kira, however, is disgusted. Meru insists that she’s doing it for her family, but Kira doesn’t see it that way. She’s a collaborator, and Kira won’t stand for being anywhere near it. She then goes to Halb and offers to plant an explosive for him in Dukat’s quarters, expressing no regret at the possibility that Meru will also be killed. She tells Basso that she wants to apologize to Meru, and she does so, being given quarters near Dukat’s and Meru’s. She surreptitiously plants the bomb.
Basso gives Dukat a communiqué, which he gives to Meru. It’s Taban, who expresses gratitude to her, as they’re living far better now than they were in Singha. He’s told the children that she’s still back there at the refugee camp, but Reon and Pohl are happy and “little Nerys” has gained five pounds. Kira is devastated, but she’s already set the explosive. So she warns Meru and Dukat both, getting them out of their quarters. “Luma” is seemingly killed in the explosion—but in fact Kira returns to the present.
She talks to Sisko about how she had always thought of her mother as a hero of the resistance, that she died for their people, and that collaborators were all horrible people. Sisko reminds her that she did what she did to save her family, but Kira says that doesn’t make it right. She checked the records, and found that she died seven years after becoming Dukat’s comfort woman.
Sisko asks why she saved Meru if she hated her so much, and Kira says she thought about it—but she was still her mother.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is reluctant to give Kira permission to use the Orb, at least in part because he’s pissed that Kira didn’t report Dukat’s communiqué initially, but she pleads to him, even calling him “Emissary” (which she almost never does to his face), and he gives in.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira goes back in time to become a woman named Luma who befriends Meru. There’s no indication as to whether there’s any record of Luma or not, although she’s the type of person whose existence could easily have never been recorded anywhere.
The slug in your belly: Dax tries to convince Worf to have another party in their quarters. She promises only 50-60 people, but Worf sees through that, knowing there will be 200 or so people jammed into their cabin. Dax’s promise that no one will smile does not work to convince him to accede, though he almost gives in until she suggests a dress-as-your-favorite-Klingon theme.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo sees that Kira is upset and offers a friendly ear to bend, but Kira doesn’t want to talk about it. Odo then suggests that, if talking about it won’t help, that she should instead do something about it, which is what leads her to request Sisko’s help in gaining access to the Orb of Time.
For Cardassia! The legate who hits on Kira makes it clear that Dukat makes a habit of staging incidents to make himself more appealing to Bajoran women he finds attractive. It’s also been established that he likes spirited Bajoran women (Tora Naprem, for example, plus of course Kira herself). Indeed, one assumes that he pulled the same act on Tora.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Male Cardassian officers regularly had their way with Bajoran comfort women. It’s never made clear whether or not male Bajorans were playthings of female Cardassian officers.
What happens on the holosuite, stays on the holosuite: O’Brien is trying to convince Bashir that the Battle of the Alamo would make a great holosuite program. Bashir is skeptical, to say the least. (We’ll find out in subsequent episodes that he’ll give in, and O’Brien and Bashir will replay the Alamo on the holosuite many times in the future.)
Keep your ears open: “You Bajoran women are so bony.”
“That’s because you Cardassians eat all our food.”
“I could have you executed for that remark.”
“And that’s why we hate you all so much.”
The legate and Kira engaging in sexy banter (from his POV) and disgust (from hers).
Welcome aboard: Marc Alaimo is back as Dukat, and Thomas Kopache again appears, this time with a silly wig, as Taban (following “Ties of Blood and Water,” which means he probably wins the award for most words in the titles of episodes he guest-starred in).
Tim deZarn plays Halb, having also been on TNG’s “Starship Mine,” and Voyager’s “Initiations” and “Repentance” (as two different characters). Wayne Grace’s appearance here as the legate is bookended by two Klingons, Torak on TNG’s “Aquiel” and Krell on Enterprise’s “Divergence.” David Bowe skeeves it up nicely as Basso.
Trivial matters: This episode contradicts two previous bits of Terok Nor timelines. It has Terok Nor constructed in 2346, as opposed to Odo’s assertion in “Babel” that it was built in 2351. The station isn’t fully operational, so it’s possible that Odo was referring to when the station was completely up and running. In addition, Dukat said in “Waltz” that he was made prefect after the occupation had been going on for forty years, but 2346 is only twenty years after the occupation started.
Dukat’s comment about how Sisko opened his eyes to the truth of his life refers to what happened in “Waltz.” It’s likely that the assassination attempt one month into his tenure that he told Sisko about in that episode is Kira’s abortive bombing of his quarters here.
It was established in “Shadowplay” that Kira has two brothers, but this is the first time they’re named.
The original intent for this episode was to have a Cardassian equivalent of Josef Mengele who performed experiments on Bajorans. While the notion never came together on DS9, it was the basis for the Voyager episode “Nothing Human,” which established Crell Mosett as the Cardassian Mengele.
The Terok Nor novels Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison continue Dukat and Meru’s storyline, showing how their relationship developed and then soured over time, particularly once Dukat took on Tora Naprem as a mistress (as established in “Indiscretion”). In an ironic twist, she’s established in the former novel as dying while in the care of Crell Mosett. Dukat continues to be loyal to Meru after her death by looking out for her family, including keeping Kira from being terminated by the Obisidian Order and replaced with Iliana Ghemor (from “Second Skin”), as established in Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods.
Walk with the Prophets: “I love you, Meru—I’ll always love you.” The best episodes that have shown the Cardassian occupation of Bajor have shown that it’s one big muddy mess of gray. There’s plenty of bad, but not a lot of good, and it just boiled down to what you were willing to do to keep yourself as clean as possible.
For Kira it was simple: fight the Cardassians by any means necessary. For Meru it was a more complicated choice: Dukat expressed an interest in her, and her becoming Dukat’s mistress made it possible for her family to live better lives. Ironically, the very thing that allowed Kira to make the choice to become part of Shakaar’s resistance cell was the very thing about her mother that absolutely disgusts her here.
And that’s why this episode is so wonderful. At first, Kira is solely concerned with knowing more about her mother and what happened to her. She does everything she can to avoid polluting the timelines, as Sisko requested of her. After all, she could very easily give Halb detailed diagrams of the entire station, since she’s been serving on it for the better part of six years, but she doesn’t, nor does she accept his inveigling to join the resistance—
—until she sees her mother, the woman she admired, the woman her father described as the bravest woman she ever met, apologizing for Dukat.
That’s the one thing Kira can’t forgive. She’s seen firsthand, both as a citizen of Bajor during the occupation and as the first officer of Deep Space 9, just what a shitheel Dukat is. So the notion of her mother not only being his mistress, but actually enjoying it is far more than she can bear. It actually leads to her contemplating murdering her own mother, because Meru is the worst thing Kira can imagine: a collaborator. In this very episode we get the skeeviest of collaborators in Basso, who’s a scum-sucking weasel of the highest order, but we’ve been down this road with Kira before. In “The Collaborator” we saw the opprobrium levelled at Kubus Oak for being part of the puppet government, and we saw the lengths Bareil would go to in order to prevent anyone from viewing Opaka as a collaborator. In “Rocks and Shoals” we saw Kira’s horror to learn that she had become a collaborator, so for her mother to be one also? That’s something she will not put up with.
At least not until she remembers exactly who it is. Until she had the Orb experience, she probably never even knew what her mother looked like. Then it’s all about making sure she’s okay, about finding out what happened to her that is so obviously not what her father told her.
Then, just at the moment of truth, she sees the message from Taban. He knows damn well what’s happening, and is incredibly grateful to Meru and impressed with her, and when Kira sees that, and sees Meru break down crying in gratitude that her husband understands and shows that she still loves him—and then Kira realizes that she can’t kill her. She even saves Dukat, probably belatedly remembering Sisko’s cautions about altering the timelines—plus, if Meru survives an explosion and Dukat doesn’t, none of the Kira family’s life will be worth a plugged nickel.
Best of all is the ending, though, which is not the unconvincing hearts-and-Bajoran-lilacs happy ending that Trek has conditioned us to expect between main characters and their estranged parent figures (cf. “The Icarus Factor,” “The Alternate,” “Sons and Daughters”). Instead, Kira still thinks ill of her mother, finds what she did to be repugnant, for all that her father supported, for all that it kept her alive and well fed.
The episode has its problems, goodness knows. The use of the Orb of Time is problematic to say the least, as Sisko using his pull as Emissary to let Kira use it for dubious personal reasons is specious enough, but the Orb also doesn’t act the same way that it did in “Trials and Tribble-ations.” Somehow, Kira shows up in the past wearing appropriate clothing and with a different hairstyle, which didn’t happen to anyone who used it in the previous episode. In general, the Orb is the hoariest and lamest of plot devices. It’s not as bad as the weird-ass vision Odo experienced in “Things Past,” but it once again showed that “Necessary Evil” had the right idea in keeping it simple and just doing flashbacks. Of course, this episode wouldn’t have worked that way, as Kira needed to see for herself that Meru was Dukat’s mistress, but still the contrivance to get Kira to the past was just that: a contrivance, and it reduces the episode’s effectiveness somewhat.
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at New York Comic-Con this weekend, spending most of his time in booth 1157 (in the small press area) alongside Megan Rothrock, author of The LEGO Adventure Book series. Keith will have several books for sale, including Star Trek: The Klingon Art of War, Farscape: The War for the Uncharted Territories, and his latest, Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution. He’ll also be on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer panel Friday at 5pm in 1A18 alongside Amber Benson, Thomas Sniegoski, Carol Goodman, Michelle Knudsen, Hillary Monahan, and May Chen; the panelists will be doing an autographing following the panel at Table 19 from 6-7pm.