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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-19: Duet

Episode:19|Writer:Peter Allan Fields|Air Date:13-Jun-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm up to the penultimate episode of DS9 season one!

Duet is the third episode of the season with Peter Allan Fields' name on it, following Dax and Progress, and it's got yet another one-word title! What is this, Voyager? Out of curiosity I checked his season two episodes and noticed that they all had two-word titles... until he ruined his streak with Crossover. And then he retired from his staff position as a producer, so no three-word titles for the third season.

I'm going to go through the whole episode, writing comments under screencaps, so you probably don't want to read any further unless you've already seen it. The episode's all about a mystery, so my SPOILERS could really do some damage to your enjoyment. I may also spoil events from earlier Star Trek episodes, but nothing that happens later.



The episode begins with Kira and Dax hanging out in Ops, pressing buttons as necessary, when suddenly they receive a message from a Kobheerian freighter requesting medical assistance.

It's nothing very dramatic, someone on board has Kalla-Nohra Syndrome and forgot his medicine, but it gets Kira's interest. Kalla-Nohra is an amazingly specific condition that somehow only affects people involved in one particular accident at one particular forced labour camp on Bajor called Gallitep, and no one else in the Alpha Quadrant.

Kira actually helped liberate Gallitep from the hated Cardassians during their occupation of her world and would like to meet the patient, as the survivors are a symbol of strength and courage to Bajorans.

There's supposed to be a shocking reveal here, with the camera slowly panning across as Bashir steps out of the way, but we can already see that the patient is actually a Cardassian from the forehead, so that didn't work. It just makes it seem like he's someone we should recognise (he's not).

So it turns out their visitor isn't a survivor of the labour camp, he's one of the people who ran the place! Kira immediately calls security, cut to opening titles.

Maybe not the most dramatic teaser so far, but it's got a Cardassian in it at least! They were set up to be the main antagonists of the series but we haven't seen a single one of them show up since the second episode.


ACT ONE.


The Cardassian makes a slow-motion run for it, but he's obviously not up to a daring escape right now and is caught just outside the Infirmary door by Odo. Kira wants him locked away, on the charge of being a war criminal.

He's played by Harris Yulin by the way, who's possibly not a well known actor but he is a good one. I remember him mostly from Buffy, but I should remember him as the angry judge with ghost problems in Ghostbusters II because he was great in that.

Kira, Sisko and Odo have a bit of a chat about their prisoner in the Security Office, and it's revealed that he's called Aamin Marritza. This is a bit of a problem, as that name isn't on any lists they have of Cardassians wanted for war crimes. Kira doesn't much care about the lists though, as the man was at Gallitep and that means he shares responsibility for the atrocities committed there. The atrocities she witnessed twelve years ago, when her cell liberated the camp.

So Sisko decides to have a friendly chat with the guy, alone, to see if he can shake any answers out of him.

Marritza claims that the whole Kalla-Nohra thing is a misunderstanding, as he's got Pottrik Syndrome. It's very similar and requires the same medication so it's an easy mistake to make. He's no war criminal, he's never even been to Bajor! He spent the occupation working as a filing clerk for the military.

Later Bashir confirms that his claims are bullshit. He's got Kalla-Nohra so he was at Gallitep. He seems pretty convinced that no other series of events that have taken place anywhere else in the universe could've given him this condition.

Their chat's interrupted by the Bajorian Minister of State who's just called to congratulate Sisko on capturing a war criminal. Sisko explains that he's not sure they have grounds to hold him, but the minster makes it clear that if he was at Gallitep, they will be taking the man to Bajor for trial.

So there's a bit more pressure on his shoulders.


ACT TWO.


Sisko decides that Kira might just be maybe a little too emotionally invested in the outcome of the investigation so he chosen to give the job to Odo instead. So Kira figures that the best way to get the job of investigating Marritza back is to make an emotional plea and admit that she's not objective! But she owes it to the victims of Gallitep to catch people like Marritza and she's asking him as a friend to let her do this.

Well Sisko's not about to let his friend down, so he relents and puts Kira in charge and Odo doesn't complain about it or threaten to resign for once!

Kira goes to the cells and finds this miserable Bajoran on his way out. The guy's not happy about having been locked up in the same room as a Cardassian and asks them to let him know when they hang him.

She steps inside and begins the interrogation, doing her very best to be as reasonable and professional as possible, like she promised she'd be to Sisko.

So the two of them begin to have a long chat, with Kira pointing out that his lies have been very transparent so far, to which he replies that he'll make an effort to make them more opaque in future.

I hate to point this out, but Marritza's makeup seems kind of lopsided and it's bothering me. He's a wonky Cardassian.

Anyway, she wants to know what his duties were at Gallitep and he's still claiming that he was a filing clerk. In fact he brags about his filing skills, saying that Gul Darhe'el himself told him how fantastic his computer filing system was. It seems a little strange to Kira that a mere filing clerk like him went on to become an instructor at a military academy, but he claims he was there to teach filing.

It's not a great start for Kira, but she's got him to admit that he worked for Gul Darhe'el at least. He denies witnessing atrocities though. Sure people died at Gallitep, but it was due to accidents, illnesses and fueds amongst the workers. Gul Darhe'el was smart guy and knew that fabricated reports of brutality and mass murders at the camp would spread fear and keep Bajorans feeling helpless.

If he's trying to rile her up, it's working. Though he'd like to be released now.


ACT THREE.


After the break Sisko gets a phone call from Cardassia and it's GUL DUKAT! He's been AWOL since the pilot episode, but he's come back right at the end to be a face on a monitor screen and I appreciate it. I've missed you Gul Dukat!

Sisko's had to explain to the Bajorans that he may have to let Marritza go and now he has to explain to the Cardassians that he might have to hold onto him.

They're doing that trick with the screen again, with the displayed image jumping between zoom levels as the scene does. Look how the blue logo in the background's cut off now.

Sisko explains that they're just trying to verify the man's identity so that they can let him go, and he'd like Dukat's help. Dukat tells him that if he says he's called Marritza, then he's Marritza and he's got no business holding him.

Down on the Promenade, Kira's doing a little soul searching. She admits to Dax that she doesn't want Marritza to be a file clerk, she wants him to be something worse. But regardless he is guilty, just working at that labor camp makes him guilty. And his punishment will give all of Bajor some satisfaction.

Dax tells her that she can't just punish him without reason as it won't mean anything. She already knows that the vengeance she wants isn't going to help.

By the way, this alien who walks past is awesome. We never learn what he is, he doesn't have a line, and he's got zero involvement in anything, but his head's a work of art.

Up in Ops we get an interesting angle on Dax's console, some more tech hidden behind a panel, and a brand new assistant for O'Brien to share two lines with!

Why we're focusing on these two for a moment when it has nothing to do with the episode is a mystery, unless you know that the writers were trying to establish O'Brien's assistant for a later episode. When Anara didn't work out in The Forsaken they needed to quickly set up Neela here as a replacement.

They've been re-routing a signal enhancement module or whatever, as they've gotten a photo of Marritza from the Bajoran archives and it needs a bit of clean up. In the future it seems that plug-ins will need to be literally plugged in.

So then we get the most bullshit 'enhance photo' scene since Blade Runner, as the characters reconstruct an clear picture of a Cardassian standing behind another man. Did they use reverse ray-tracing or something? Is it a crazy future photo that contains data on the entire 3D space?

Anyway, through the magic of technology they've discovered the bloke from their cells is in this photo. The thing is, this guy isn't Aamin Marritza! The caption says he's Gul Darhe'el, the guy who ran Gallitep! Seems that Kira's caught herself one of the biggest war criminals of the whole occupation.

Kira confronts him back in the cells, so 'Marritza' drops the act. But he's a bit confused why he'd be put on trial for war crimes when... there was never a war. Bajor just gave up and let itself be occupied.

He was trying to get under Kira's skin before, but how he's turning it up to 11, bragging about how Gallitep was the model of order and efficiency. How his word was always law, and the verdict always guilty. He's pretty much gone full M. Bison from Street Fighter: The Movie at this point.

I mean he doesn't miraculously end up dressed in Raul Julia's costume, though it really does suit him.

Now he's ranting about how he sent his men out to go and murder Bajoran scum. He admits all his atrocities, because he was damn good at what he did! Not like Kira in her crappy little Shakaar resistance cell, who achieved very little. This is the first mention of the Shakaar by the way, though that'll come back in later episodes.

Poor Kira barely knows what to say to the guy, especially as he points out that he can't possibly pay for every death as there were so many and they can only execute him once.


ACT FOUR.


Kira really looks and feels like she's spent time arguing with a Nazi at this point, so Odo actually goes and gets her a drink from Quark... who hasn't actually appeared in this episode yet now that I think about it.

She tells him about how hard it was listening to him talking about the Shakaar, which gets his attention (and wakes the music up). How would the head of a labour camp know what resistance cell she was in? So then he basically asks the computer to list all Google searches for Major Kira in the last 8 months.

Kira goes back for another chat with Gul Darhe'el, who's a little surprised that he hasn't been dragged off to Bajor yet. Hang on, if he's lying in front of us from this angle, then we must be inside the wall right now.

Darhe'el explains he knew about the Shakaar because he read all the reports. Marritza was a brilliant file clerk remember? Now he turns it around on her, asking how many Cardassian civilians she's killed. After all, random violence is one of the best weapons that a terrorist group has to put fear into an enemy! She doesn't brag about what she did, she regrets it in fact, but she insists it's what she had to do to survive the occupation. Darhe'el replies that everything he did was for Cardassia's survival, as they needed Bajor's resources!

He's straying a little too close to having some kind of justification for his crimes here, so he suddenly goes full M. Bison again with the line: "What you call genocide... I called a day's work!"

While Kira and Darhe'el have a chat, Bajorans start to gather outside the cells. Survivors of Gallitep, waiting for justice. Well Kira's finally gotten her chance to meet one I suppose.

Though they mostly seem to be here to give Quark an excuse to finally make an appearance, as he wonders aloud if they like to gamble. Odo's doesn't even dignify that with a quip.

He does go chat to Bashir though and then gives Dukat a call, gathering information on their prisoner. Turns out that Dukat's a bit confused that the man they're holding has admitted he's Gul Darhe'el as he was at Darhe'el's funeral. He believes this is a plot to embarrass the Cardassian empire, and Odo points out that he'll have more luck proving that if he has the info Dukat refused Sisko earlier.


ACT FIVE.


Odo brings what he's learned to Kira and Sisko. Not only did Gul Darhe'el die 6 years ago, but he never contracted Kalla-Nohra Syndrome! Of course the info could've been forged, they have to consider the source, but they also know that Marritza resigned at the military academy, put his affairs in order and then went out of his way to book passage on a vessel scheduled to make a stop at DS9.

Oh plus he was taking a dermal regenerative agent to keep his face together after cosmetic surgery.

So Kira goes to have another chat to the Butcher of Gallitep.

She calmly confronts him with the facts, and he tells her to get out. She asks him why he had his face altered to look like Gul Darhe'el, he yells for security. When she continues, he starts going on a rant about the end of the occupation, how he started executing labourers while the useless office clerks packed up their files. Or copied them to isolinear rod, whatever people do in the future.

Kira's not buying any of it any more though. He's no war criminal, he's just a file clerk!

The poor guy loses it at this point, with his bragging transforming into a confession mid-sentence. He breaks down, talking about hearing the Bajorans screaming for mercy, how he let the horrors take place and did nothing.

He changed his face and made sure Kira would catch him so that his trial would force Cardassia to admit the truth about what it did and acknowledge its guilt. He feels his death is necessary, but Kira feels differently. "Enough good people have already died. I won't help kill another."

So Kira and Odo escort Marritza off the station, as they can't exactly punish a file clerk for war crimes. Sure that's exactly what she wanted to do at the start of the episode, but her time spent with Marritza has made her soften her long held 'all Cardassians are evil' stance. Gul Dukat shouldn't expect to get any Christmas cards from her this year though.

Hey there's that drunk he shared a room with earlier; you can see him hanging around at the bar on the left.

Then he suddenly gets up and stabs Marritza to death, right in front of the watchful eye of the head of security! Not because he was a war criminal, just because he was Cardassian. No wonder we haven't seen Garak for a while, the guy must be hiding.

Odo can't take the murderer back to the cells just yet though as they all have to pose for the ending. The camera pulls back to reveal people gathering around to watch and give us a moment to reflect on what just happened. It's all very theatrical... except for the camera bit.

Well Dukat said he'd hold Sisko responsible if any Bajoran hate-mongers got their hands on Marritza, so now he's got that to look forward to. The end.


CONCLUSION

So that's the famous Duet is it? An ultra-cheap remake of Vortex without the phaser fights and space battles, just about the liar in the cell.

I'm joking, I love this episode! Well maybe love's a little strong, but I definitely appreciate it coming along when it did. After Dramatis Personae my enthusiasm for finishing the season off had reached a new low. This on the other hand is a definite step up from a typical season one episode, which is impressive considering that it's obviously a bottle show designed to save a bit of money, with limited effects, standing sets and one photo of a cave.

There's no jeopardy here, if this Marritza goes to Bajor to stand trial absolutely nothing bad will happen to the station, or the planet, or the wormhole. But the story feels like it's actually about something in a way that the other episodes generally haven't so far. And when I look back at my top five episodes so far, Emissary, Past Prologue, Babel, Progress, The Forsaken, there's a clue to why that is: the heart of this season (for me) is the consequences of the Bajoran occupation, how Kira is dealing with them emotionally and how Sisko is keeping things together. The more a story strays from that, the less I care. Well okay The Forsaken has nothing to do with it, but I'm not putting Battle Lines anywhere near in my top five... and I don't have to now that Duet has taken the #1 spot.

Most of the episode features Kira chatting about the occupation to a miserable old man who's deliberately pushing her buttons, so it's not entirely unlike Progress, but this is far more interesting as there's a mystery to the monster in her cell, and not a rubbish one like in Vortex. He's the personification of the evil she's been fighting all her life and she has to work through how to deal with that while trying to stay objective. The ending is incredibly stagy but the point's made: Marritza is exactly the person he presented himself as at the start, but Kira has changed in the meantime, to the point where she's genuinely sad that a Cardassian has died. Sure she's been genuinely sad about killing them in the past, because despite the terrorist acts she committed as a freedom fighter she's a good person, but this is the first time she's had to consider that maybe some of them are good people too. Maybe some of the people who helped to run the forced labour camps are good people in fact, which is quite a big step for her to make.

But even though this is a Kira focused episode, it wouldn't have worked if the guy in the cell gave her nothing to react to. Fortunately Marritza's scheme requires him to be an obnoxious moustache twirling villain and annoy the shit out of her, and the actor is up to the task. Harris Yulin makes him fun to watch, horrifying and then ultimately sympathetic as it becomes obvious even to a person who's demonised his race that his hammy performance is just a performance. Kira on the other hand is entirely unfiltered and transparent, and Nana Visitor nails her disgust and rage. She even pulls off a "You're insane!" at one point, which is a line no actor should be forced to say.

Duet is a twisty turny episode that keeps you guessing what's going on right to the end, and I'm happy to discover that it's still great even when you know what's going on. In the Hands of the Prophets is going to have to work bloody hard to top this as my favourite episode this season. That huge six word title gives me hope though.



COMING SOON
Deep Space Nine season 1 will conclude with In the Hands of the Prophets. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching Babylon 5's Legacies.

If you've got anything you want to say about Duet or my website, you're welcome to use the comment box below.

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