In which I probably don’t find much to joke about.
Memory Alpha says: After a Cardassian man arrives on the station suffering from an illness that he could only have contracted at a Bajoran labor camp during the Occupation, Major Kira leads an investigation to determine whether he is actually a notorious war criminal. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
For much of Season One I’ve been pooting along saying ‘man I can’t wait for this show to get really good when “Duet” rolls round.’ So now of course ‘Duet’ is here and I’m semi-intimidated by it. It’s a big, impressive drama episode., and it cements DS9 as the Dark Trek, the one that rolls up its sleeves and handles tragedy on a much grimmer, less romantic level than the others. I had better just get on with it and not try to think of clever prefatory remarks.
Full summary, because I kept saying I was gonna.
As we join Kira and Dax in Ops, Kira is telling some story that concludes ‘We never cared what we did, long as it annoyed the grown-ups.’ That’s the spirit! She and Dax are going about their technobabble business while chatting about their childhoods, and it transpires that young Dax wasn’t just mischievous, s/he was an actual CRIMINAL VANDAL, going around breaking people’s windows at night with rocks. Holy hell Dax, how many people did you give heart attacks? How many people were hurt by broken glass or, you know, rocks flying into their rooms? Did you also light fires? Hurt small animals?
Kira asks ‘Ah, which you are you talking about?’ which Dax doesn’t answer (I choose to assume that it was Joran, the eeeeeevil host), because she gets a call from an incoming freighter. Kira answers on the big screen, and the wrinkly, ridgey captain asks permission to dock. She directs him to a bay, very professional, and he adds that they have a patient on board requesting medical assistance. Sisko has emerged from his office during this exchange, perhaps bored, perhaps merely seeking someone’s day to make harder, and asks the captain what’s wrong with his passenger. (I suppose to make sure it isn’t one of those viruses that makes you act stupid and run around with a sword and possibly screw the crew.)
He says it’s a condition called Kalla-Nohra. ‘It’s apparently chronic, but he doesn’t have his medication.’ Kira looks up at the sound of ‘Kalla-Nohra,’ her eyes widening. Sisko gives permission for the patient to be beamed straight to Julian’s infirmary. Julian, it transpires in a comm conversation with Dax, isn’t aware of Kalla-Nohra and is going to have to look it up. Hopefully not in front of the patient.
Kira asks Sisko if she can go and see the patient, because the only cases of Kalla-Nohra she knows of are found among survivors of a mining disaster in a Bajoran forced labour camp, Gallitep, that she helped liberate during the Occupation. These people are considered a symbol of strength and courage, so she’d like to say hello, I guess. Sisko gives permission and tells her to take as much time as she needs, which is unusually supportive of early Sisko.
Kira gets the lift down to the promenade and walks along to sickbay, where Julian is doing something to a Cardassian with a blinkenlights device held over his (the Cardassian’s) face. Any hope we might have of a Garak appearance is quelled as Julian steps aside and we see this is a different man, a bit older perhaps, with puffier hair. He hesitantly opens his eyes, and Kira, her jaw set, calls Odo on her commbadge. Security, on the double.
You know, it is interesting to me how little variation there is in Cardassians’ ridgy scaly features. If you look at different individual Klingons they have all kinds of different patterns of ridges and bumps, sometimes even horn-like protrusions. The basic spoonhead, though, seems to be pretty standard. I suppose Cardassians may just be a much more homogeneous population than Klingons – I’ve only seen one Cardassian skin tone, for example, while Klingons range from a sort of generically swarthy shade to ebony. Indeed, being homogeneous would suit them down to the ground, so let’s assume that.
CREDITS OF MELANCHOLY GRANDEUR.
Julian asks ‘What’s the matter, Major?’ and she coolly replies ‘Your patient is a criminal.’ The old dude hops down from the bed, gently nudges Julian aside and takes off at a sort of loping jog onto the prom. Kira doesn’t attempt to stop him, presumably because she knows he will be immediately seized by a burly Bajoran deputy (he has a crew-cut, even) and subjected to sarcasm by Odo.
‘Good afternoon,’ Odo says snidely to the Cardassian, then says to Kira that he assumes this is the problem. Kira snaps ‘Lock him up’ and the man blusters ‘This is outrageous; on what charge?’ In the background, Julian indignantly wants to know what’s going on; this man needs medical care.
Kira says he can give it to him in his cell. The Cardassian claims he’s done nothing wrong, and Odo dryly asks him why, then, he ran. (Well, he didn’t exactly run. He barely trotted.) He claims that he was trying to get away from that ‘Bajoran fanatic. Look at the hate in her eyes. She’d like to kill me.’
This is not the smoothest move given how Kira and Odo have each other’s backs, and he asks why that might be. The man claims it’s obvious (I have no verb for how this guy talks other than ‘claims’); because he’s a Cardassian. Not just a Cardassian, Kira announces; a war criminal. Odo gives a curt little nod and they take the man away.
In Odo’s station, the Sisko recaps. This man, who Odo says is called Aamin Marritza, isn’t actually on any Bajoran list of wanted war criminals. Odo seems mildly rueful about this. Kira says she doesn’t care whether he’s listed or not. Sisko points out that, as he arrived on a Federation vessel and requested medical aid, they need a pretty good reason to have thrown him in the clink. Kira protests that even if it isn’t legal, it’s right. Marritza can’t have come by his case of Kalla-Nohra honestly. Only people who were at Gallitep have that condition, and the only Cardassians at Gallitep were running the place.
Sisko asks if it makes Marritza a war criminal just to have been there, and Kira gets impassioned, visibly holding back tears and trying to speak calmly as she tells him about the conditions at the camp when her group liberated it twelve years ago.
‘You know what Cardassian policy was? Oh, I’m not even talking about the murder, murder was just the end of the fun for them; first came the humiliation! Mothers raped in front of their children, husbands beaten until their wives couldn’t recognize them, old people buried alive because they couldn’t work anymore!’ Her voice cracks and she has to turn away from him to Odo’s little display of electronic Wanted posters to get her face under control.
Sisko… Sisko looks like he smells something. He glances over at Odo, then says ‘I think I’ll have a talk with our guest.’ Kira says she’ll come with him, but he puts her off, saying it’s better if he goes alone. (If Marritza is a torturing rapist bastard, presumably the sight of Kira teary and flustered would only give him satisfaction. Here I wish Sisko’s face and voice weren’t quite so impassive, because I really want to have some idea here: does Sisko want Kira to stay put because he thinks she’s overemotional about this case and unreliable? Or is he actually being protective of her, because of the torturing rapist bastard possibility above?)
Sisko enters the brig – which Kira and Odo can see through a surveillance screen. That was a neat scene transition. He smiles slightly at Marritza and asks how he feels. ‘Better.’
Sisko introduces himself, and Marritza says ‘Finally, the Federation to the rescue.’ Sisko asks him how he got his illness, and I find it very noticeable, in the background over his shoulder, that there’s a prisoner in another of the cells, apparently having a nap and turning over on the bed. I wonder if that will be important later, or if it’s just good detail.
However, Marritza says he doesn’t have Kalla-Nohra, but something similar called Pottrik syndrome. It’s treated with the same medicine. Far from serving at Gallitep, he says he’s never been to Bajor and was just a military filing clerk. His arrival at DS9 was just a coincidence (although he doesn’t say where he was trying to go).
The other prisoner is important, because he has woken up and seems to be recognising Marritza. As Marritza asks Sisko if he can go now, the prisoner, a scruffy Bajoran man, gets snotty, asking ‘Am I still drunk, or am I in prison with a Cardassian?’ He starts yelling for Odo like he’s the concierge, saying he won’t be kept with ‘one of those.’ Marritza shrugs ruefully, and chuckles ‘I put myself in your hands, Commander.’
It’s noteworthy that for most of the time, Marritza does not look Sisko in the eye; he keeps his head down while talking and only occasionally looks up.
Sisko turns away suspiciously.
In his office, he talks to Bashir, who confirms that Marritza definitely does have Kalla-Nohra, not Pottrik syndrome – he’s done a conclusive test. Kira is right – he can only have caught the illness at Gallitep.
Kira comes through on the comm: Sisko has a call from the Bajoran Minister of State. Minister Kaval starts out friendly and pleasant, congratulating Sisko on ‘performing a special service for Bajor,’ nabbing ‘a certain Cardassian’ for them. Sisko moais that he’s just holding Marritza temporarily, and he’s not sure he has the grounds to hold him long enough for a conclusive identification. He doesn’t agree that he’s responsible for that. Kaval tells him that if Marritza was at Gallitep, ‘we want him – is that clear?’ Sisko says stonily that it is.
‘Good. We’ll chat again soon.’ Ooooooooooh, people who call a work-related discussion a ‘chat’ get on my nerves. Kaval rings off, and Sisko looks impassive in the way that I think means he’s thinking hard.
Does Sisko feel sorry for Marritza? Did he find him that convincing? (Although he’s just had it confirmed for him by Julian that Marritza told him at least one direct lie.) Does he believe that the Bajorans wouldn’t give Marritza a fair trial? If so, on what basis? Is this a realpolitik thing where he fears repercussions from the Cardassians if he hands over one of their citizens to the Bajorans?
Sisko descends the spiral staircase from the upper walkway to the Promenade, where Kira is sitting at a café table having a cup of rrrrraktajino. He asks to join her, and she says she was just about to go and see ‘our friend’ Marritza. Sisko sits down and tells her he’d like Odo to handle the investigation, as he’s chief of security. Minister Kaval has put Kira in charge of it, but ‘Minister Kaval doesn’t run this station.’ Kira bristles up a bit, pointing out that the Federation has no right to tell Bajor how to handle its criminals.
Sisko promises that if Marritza is proven to be a criminal, the Bajorans are welcome to him, but for now, he’s only ‘a traveller under suspicion.’
Kira sighs wearily. ‘You think this is all some personal vendetta on my part, don’t you?’ Sisko hedges that he thinks she is too close to the situation to be objective. Kira replies that she is not objective, but she is his first officer and gives her word that she will conduct herself accordingly. She appeals to Sisko’s claim that they are friends (from ‘Progress’ – and you know, Marritza’s gruff voice reminds me oddly of the old man from that) and humbly asks to be allowed to run the investigation. ‘I owe it to them.’
‘You mean the victims,’ Sisko clunks.
‘That’s right,’ Kira says, her eyes welling up. ‘The ones who moved too slowly and never moved again.’ She has to drop her head and compose herself before she looks at him again. (I think very highly of Nana Visitor’s acting in this episode.) ‘I’m asking for all the Bajorans who can’t ask: let a Bajoran do this.’
After a moment, Sisko taps his commbadge and tells Odo that Kira will be in charge. Kira nods slowly, and huskily says ‘Thank you’ before she gets up and leaves. Avery Brooks does some more smell-the-fart acting to denote Thoughts.
Kira enters Odo’s station, where he’s releasing the scruffy drunk from earlier. The man is clearly unrepentant (scofflaw!) and as he leaves, smirkily asks Odo to let him know ‘when you hang the Cardassian.’ Hanging seems to be a Thing with the Bajorans – I think there was talk of hanging Odo in ‘A Man Alone’ and, years later, a Vedek will hang herself on the promenade in protest against, well, that’s a story for another time. Not that hanging Odo would do you any good; he’d just dribble out of the noose.
Kira gives Odo a wary look and he shakes his head before beginning to brief her: he’s begun a background check on Marritza and so far his story checks out. He’s been an instructor at a military academy for the past five years. They agree that Odo will keep looking, and Kira marches into the cellblock to talk to Marritza for herself at last.
As she enters, Marritza offers his compliments on the replicators, but criticises the semel stew – it could use yamok sauce. Cardassians are all about negging.
Kira stiffly says ‘I’m glad you’re enjoying it’ and he responds that he doubts that very much.
Now here we’re getting into a long, long exchange of dialogue, which I don’t have the energy to transcribe. I’m actually thinking of dropping into bullet points, not because this episode isn’t good (it’s excellent), but because I’m not feeling very well (I’ve been sick for a week and I’m starting to think it’s Real Flu) and they are easier to do. I don’t want to lose steam and not post any more entries, so I hope to compromise on continuing with entries in bullet form. In any case, nobody should ever read a summary of ‘Duet’ as a substitute for watching the episode.
- I like Marritza’s light grey, almost colourless eyes.
- ‘If all your lies are going to be this transparent, this is going to be a very short interrogation.’ ‘Then I’ll try to make my lies more opaque.’ That was almost a Garak line.
- I like the idea that while working Bajorans to death, the Cardassians kept thorough, detailed records of every individual.
- I wouldn’t actually be surprised if Bajorans in the camps killed each other sometimes – people do terrible things to each other under stress.
- Ooooh, look at him try to take her sense of victory out from under her – ‘leaving was a political decision.’
- Now there’s a shit-eating grin.
- WHEEEE GUL DUKAT APPEARS. Only on a little screen, but yay Dukat! Oh Dukat, you have some distasteful improprieties of your own. ‘I might remind you that neither one of us is Bajoran’ – but you’ve had your dick in a few, haven’t you? Pardon my vulgarity, I just think you’re a whoremonger, no offence.
- So, yes, realpolitik, trying to keep things chill between the Federation and the Cardies.
- Wow, that was a creepy-looking alien!
- Dax is kind of a helpful friend, but not much for comfort or reassurance like ‘I know you’ll do the right thing, Kira,’ is she?
- Oh hi O’Brien! Now this is actually semi-interesting behind-the-scenes stuff, the young woman Bajoran engineer he’s working with was supposed to be the same one who was assisting him in the previous episode with Pup. They wanted to introduce her as an apparently unimportant background character so it would be more surprising when she did something important later on. Unfortunately, the first actress to play the part ‘didn’t work out,’ a nice opaque phrase which could mean anything from ‘she didn’t want to come back’ to ‘we thought she was kind of a bitch,’ so they had to recast, and so we only get to see this girl once before she plays a key role in the season finale. It’s a shame, because it was a nice plan, but c’est la vie.
- So, again, DS9 is doing a detective story, with some CSI-y image analysis – isolate and magnify! At least I can believe that 24th Century computers can magnify and enhance digital images that effectively – when they show it being done with a present-day desktop I just snort.
- I really dig how they’re able to pan around to see the person from a different angle – I suppose it’s a hologram rather than a still photo.
- I like how this actor evidently made the most of playing with the napkin.
- Oh, Kira’s little face.
- Cardassians love to make speeches. Fair enough; I love to hear them.
- I really, really like how, when Kira’s feeling miserable, she goes to Odo. (And that Odo goes and gets her a special drink from ‘Quark’s private stock’ – he must have had to ask nicely for that, and Odo doesn’t use good manners on Quark lightly.) Odo’s so kind – always in a low-key, undemonstrative way, but utterly, gently kind. This is why, when I think about their future, I want to believe that eventually, he gets fed up with slithering around on Planet Slime and goes back to her and they get married (in Vegas, with Vic officiating) and they adopt some war orphans and are really good if very self-doubting parents.
- DETECTIVE ODO DETECTS A CLUE. And let’s face it, the Shakaar cell was no big deal.
- Aamin Marritza, filing system ninja.
- And now he wants to ask her some questions – quid pro quo, Nerys.
- Ooh, that was a satisfying line to think of! Patting myself on the back now.
- Well, Quark, I bet they could use a drink.
- More Dukat! I’d forgotten that he was in this episode, so each time he comes up it’s like a little bonus treat, like finding O’Brien in early TNG episodes. And you know what? I believe Dukat really remembers having played a lot of games with Odo, and in his memory, probably he kept winning and Odo was like ‘shucks, Gul Dukat, you sure are clever.’
- Interesting that they’re talking about lies and plots but neither of them mentions the possiblity that the man claiming to be Darheel is delusional and thinks he’s telling the truth.
- As you can probably tell, I’m glancing over some things because there’s nothing I can say beyond ‘This is so good.’
- ‘I wouldn’t put it past our friend Gul Dukat.’ They’re using ‘our friend’ sarcastically in this episode a lot.
- I love the fact that Cardassia has a ‘Proficient Service Medallion.’ Proficient. I hope that’s one up from the Competent Service Medallion.
- How ironic that Marritza, the filing clerk extraordinaire, has got such a crucial detail of this story wrong.
- The dawning of pity in Kira’s eyes is really beautifully shown. This episode is the one that really makes Kira for me, showing her pain and vengeful nature, and underneath that, the core of kindness that keeps her on the right side of the line. Do I talk about kindness too much? I just think it’s so important.
- The ideas of layers of lies and truth and guilt and taking blame for others’ deeds will be explored further, of course, through the character of Garak, particularly in ‘The Wire.’ I would like to think that the events involving Marritza helped make the case to bring Garak back and develop him.
- Nice one, Drunky – now you’re a murderer and you’ll be spending a LOT longer in jail than overnight. Actually, the two-pronged knife he used to stab Marritza looked an awful lot like the one that imbecile failed storyteller used in his attempt on O’Brien’s life – I wonder if it was the same prop?
Next time, ‘In the Hands of the Prophets’ establishes a fine DS9 tradition, the ‘shit just got real’ season finale. This episode features both Kai Winn and Keiko, so you know it’s going to be a bitchkrieg.