"Return to Grace"
Airdate: February 5, 1996
84 of 173 produced
84 of 173 aired
Kira is sent to a conference in Cardassian space to help with their war efforts against the Klingons. The ship sent to ferry her there is captain by a disgraced Dukat, now left to shuttling cargo after the revelation of his half-Bajoran daughter. Upon arriving, they find the conference destroyed and a Klingon ship bearing down on them.
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Kevin: This is another one of those watershed episodes in season 4 for me. Along with episodes like Way of the Warrior and The Visitor, and more recently Homefront/Paradise Lost, there is a clear sense of stories that are both working on the Big Picture and full of life. I remember being really invested in both the character work and the larger political story of this episode. I am thrilled beyond on all proportion that the Ziyal storyline was followed up with so quickly. It would have been a shame if Dukat's presumed fall from power kept him off the show, and had they just overlooked it the next time he showed up, I would have been really disappointed. I liked that this episode also tied into the ongoing Klingon story. Again, given that the comment at the end of "Way of the Warrior" was that the Klingons were "here to stay," it's good to see that's true. Even better, the episode progresses the major story. Dukat is a now a one-man army against the Klingons? New recurring character on the station? Awesome. I have only one real quibble with the overall plot, and it's that I have a hard time believing that even in the name of stopping Klingon expanionism, the Federation, let alone the Bajorans would actively aid the Cardassian war effort to the degree the conference seemed to imply they were. It's a thin reason to get Kira on a Cardassian ship, but since the rest of the show is so good, I can forgive it.
Matthew: Knowing the eventual shape of the series, it is clear that this episode is carrying a lot of water for future plots. And on that score, I think it succeeds. I think the overall plot is basically entertaining, but I do note a distinct lack of science fiction on display. I agree on the contrived nature of Kira going to a "conference" with Bajoran participants on a Cardassian world. I have a hard time believing that Bajor would have that level of sympathy, though I suppose it could have been explained to a good enough degree.
Kevin: Well, when is Dukat not a hoot to watch? Other scenes with Kira, like the ones in Civil Defense, really crackle with energy, so having a whole episode full of them is great. They really landed on a great thread of his personality that he wants not just forgiveness, but thanks for the role he played in the Occupation, and that it usually manifests itself in his interactions with Kira. It makes him a far more interesting villain that he clearly believes his own PR that he was a good man in a tough situation. It was also great watching him chafe against his new position. There was a great moment in the Maquis when he finds out he's being framed for the Cardassians supplying the colonists, and it's a whole episode of that moment here. On the Kira front, I like this episode a lot too. She doesn't back down from Dukat, but I don't think there's a moment where she courts conflict with him, either. Coupled with the scenes with and about Ziyal staying with Dukat's new "rebellion," it really gives some teeth to the idea that she has grown as a character. First season Kira would be unable to separate her hatred for Dukat from his daughter, let alone care enough to recognize the negative parts of the life she is contemplating. It's also fun to watch competent people be competent, so watching her use the ship at her disposal to fight the Klingons was fun. Gone are the days of female characters smashing pots on people's heads.
Matthew: I think the motivation of gaining vengeance for Bajoran casualties was a bit thin. For one thing, we never see them. But I just have difficulty believing she would get that involved with what she can clearly see is just a vehicle for Dukat's advancement, which puts her and Ziyal at such risk. That level of commitment kind of justifies Dukat's feeling that Kira wants to bang him, which of course we the audience know is not true. So it feels just a little bit off.
Kevin: This episode happily abandons a needless B plot, and the result overall is 43 minutes of solid action and tension for me. The pacing is good and builds momentum well. The transporter trick is just on this side of the line for solving the problem how a small freighter crew beats a Bird of Prey. I remember being slackjawed for a second when Dukat destroyed the Grumall. This episode lacks a science fiction plot or grand philosophical aspirations, but I definitely think it's up there as among the better action focused episodes.
Matthew: I agree on focus, and I am happy that DS9 seems to be getting better at just saying "you know what, let's focus on a character" instead of straining to find reasons to put cast members on screen. for 10 or 15 minutes. It leads to stronger A plots. I do think, however, that this episode lacks a satisfying resolution to its own plotline. It feels like a "part one," to which a "part two" never materializes.
Kevin: Alaimo is to DS9 what De Lancie was to TNG. It's almost not worth the keystrokes to restate what a good actor he is. His character is big, but it never crosses the line into overacting. I bought, and even found myself caring a little about how defeated the Cardassians are. His interactions with Kira are great, and most surprising of all, I bought the father/daughter relationship with Ziyal.
Matthew: Yeah, he really makes Dukat vibrant and complex. His irritation at his new position is very believable, as is his eventual feeling of fresh possibility. The character stays slimy in his flirtations with Kira, and Alaimo make it just interesting enough and charming enough to keep from turning off the viewer.
Kevin: Visitor was great this episode as well. Her restrained anger was well played against Dukat's button-pushing. I also bought the rapport with Ziyal. I would have liked a little more in the script about how maybe they had continued to correspond or had bonded on the trip home after "Indiscretion," but that's a writing problem, but the actors carried it. Cyia Batten makes her second and last appearance as Ziyal, and she was good. I really liked her in the knife fight scene. I know the writers eventually wanted an older actress to expand what they could do with the character, and I will say that I did really like Melanie Smith in Season 5 and 6, but I certainly liked Batten here, too.
Matthew: I liked Visitor's performance a lot. It didn't have any of the fakeyness that I sometimes get from her (like her smarmy lovey-dovey stuff last episode), and had a good layer of complexity in her interactions with the Ziyal character. Yeah, I have no idea why they axed Cyia Batten. It can't be for what is on the screen. She brings plenty to the role, making us believe that this willowy character migt have a hidden reserve of strength to draw on.
Kevin: Casey Biggs makes his first appearance as Damar, and it's a small part, but he certainly committed to it. He certainly wasn't acting like it was a bit part. Apparently, they told him they were laying the groundwork for bringing the character back, and he took that and ran with it.
Matthew: Casey Biggs does exactly what you're saying - bringing to life the saying that there are no small parts, just small actors. You get the feeling that he realizes how down and out they are, and that though he is dubious of Dukat, he knows this is his only train out of the station so to speak.
Kevin: The Grumall was great. We got three sets, and that's more than we get on some planets. I'd bet money the quarters are redressed Defiant quarters, and the cargo hold is a standing set redress. The bridge seems like that has to be a new set, and it's great. I loved all the Okudagrams.
Matthew: Yeah, this must have been a Defiant and cargo bay redress, but it looked good. The ship felt like it had a real character. The Bird of Prey bridge was nice, too - I presume it was a standing set re-use from at least previous DS9 Klingon shows, if not from the movies (Generations would have been the last filmed appearance).
Kevin: The space battles were great too. The shot of the heavily damaged Grumall was neat, and the Klingon sets were awesome. Any of the individual sets were dark and claustrophic, but together, everything was really neat and nothing felt lazy or boring. I would have liked at least an orbital shot of the conference, but there was so much else here, I can't really complain.
Matthew: I agree on the space battles, though yet again we get some Trek Fu in which a 5 foot 2 woman takes down a Klingon warrior in armor. So I'm never going to feel good about that.
Kevin: This is a 4 for me. It lacks some of the higher aspirations of truly great episodes, but as an action episodes, there's lots of good character interactions, a main character gets to show how she has grown as a person, and in the balance, this was a fun, entertaining, and engaging episode to watch.
Matthew: The lack of ambition and the generally unfinished feeling of the story keep me in 3 territory here. I was interested and never bored, but I was left unsatisfied. That makes our total a 7.