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Overview – A Cardassian arrives on the station seeking medical attention. When it is revealed that he has Kalla-Nohra Syndrome, Kira has him arrested on suspicion of being a war criminal. As Kira interrogates the man, identified as Aamin Marritza, suspicions arise on the true nature of his identity. He is identified as Gul Darhe’el, commander of an infamous labor camp that Kira had helped liberate. In spite of this revelation, the evidence does not fully add up, and as Kira discovers the truth of the man they have in custody, she is forced to examine the truth of her feelings towards Cardassians.
Score: 9/10 – This is arguably the strongest episode of the entire first season. We are given a remarkable character story that provides us an in-depth study of the effects of war and genocide from both the perspective of the oppressed and the oppressor. The aftermath of the occupation of Bajor is a common theme in the early seasons of DS9, and “Duet” shows us how we got great television out of it. Kudos to Nana Visitor and guest star Harris Yulin for a tour de force in their roles. The writing was just as strong as the acting, and when superior acting is given an amazing script, the result is a brilliant story. There is little in the way of physical action, but it is the intrigue and dialogue that gives us the dramatic power that fuels this superior episode.
Relevance - 2 points. One point is scored for the first mention of the Shakaar resistance cell. We would eventually meet Shakaar and other members of the cell in future Kira-centered episodes. Another point is scored for introducing the character of Neela, the Bajoran engineer that would play an important part in the season finale.
Continuity – 3 points. Story and universe continuity are both maintained here. For universe continuity, there is definitely a pattern that is respected with the verbose nature of Cardassians. Marritza makes monologue after compelling monologue, much like Dukat and Garak were famous for. Where we have a possible issue is in character continuity. In the previous episode, “Dramatis Personae”, Kira and Sisko seemed to have come to an understanding and respect for each other. In this, the very next episode, Kira goes behind Sisko’s back to get her way in dealing with Marritza. In spite of the new-found respect for Sisko, I do not see this action as going against Kira’s character. Some habits are hard to break, and the effects of the Cardassian occupation on Kira are difficult to overcome overnight. Besides, the power of the story would have been diminished if she hadn’t acted the way she did.
Character Development – 2 points. This is one of the strongest episodes for Kira’s character. She had a deep hatred towards Cardassians at the start of the series, and though she mellowed somewhat during the season, the reality of how the occupation affected her hits her with full force. The most important part of her journey in this episode is when she sees that some of the Cardassians showed true remorse and guilt over the actions of their people. To see Kira’s demeanour change from suspicion to realisation to sympathy for Marritza. Then, in the final scene, a Bajoran fatally stabs Marritza. As Kira asks the Bajoran why when Marritza was innocent, the killer states that him being Cardassian was enough of a reason to kill him. Kira, in a brilliantly acted and written line, admits that it is not enough anymore. This is a huge leap for Kira and continues to grow throughout the series.
Social Commentary – 3 points. This episode is an example of not only how relevant DS9 was in its time, but it was ahead of its time. When this episode was first aired, it served as a reminder of tragic and horrible events such as the Holocaust. There were some obvious parallels for us to follow. We were also witnessing the then current ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia. Since that time, we have seen similar conflicts in Rwanda and several places in the Middle East. We still, to this day, see racial unrest in America. With all of this, it is very likely for all of us to see one group of people as the enemy where everyone is guilty for the sins of some in the group. The trick is realising that not all who look like those who wronged you are guilty of their sins. Even if we may be the victims of oppression, we should not make the mistake in hating everyone who look like those who harmed us. There is also a great message in the character of Marritza. We see a man that truly feels responsible for the sins of his people, even though he himself was innocent. His desire to sacrifice himself was not only motivated by a desire to right the wrongs that his people committed against Bajor, but he recognizes that while Cardassia refuses to accept responsibility for their actions, they cannot truly move forward as a people.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. Definitely a point scored for the performances of Nana Visitor and Harris Yulin. Kira goes on an emotional roller coaster ride as Yulin pulls off an almost perfect deception for the most noble of reasons. I also score a point for the final scene. I was in high school then, and twenty-five years later I still remember the power of seeing Kira crying over a dying Cardassian that was willing to sacrifice his life to help both the Bajorans and the Cardassians emerge as better people.
Rank – Admiral (21 points). This episode shows the strength of DS9 and Star Trek in general when it comes to exploring the human condition in a science fiction setting. We have a powerful journey of one of the main characters learn to care and even forgive a member of a species that oppressed her people for decades while at the same time give us something to think about with respect to our own situation. More than ever we need this type of television.
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