Friday, December 16, 2016

Deep Space Nine, Season 7: Covenant Space Nine, Season 7
Airdate: November 25, 1998
157 of 173 produced
157 of 173 aired


Kira is whisked away from the station by an old friend to meet a cult of Bajorans and their unexpected leader - Gul Dukat.

Just so you know, there's no such thing as child support in the Pah Wraith religion...


Kevin: I like this episode a lot. Taken as a whole, there is a both a weirdness and tension that is very satisfying. I think you can break this episode into a few parts. The first is follow up to the Dukat arc. I kind of wish they had just skipped "Tears of the Prophets" and gone straight to this. I see this episode as setting up the board for the finale, one in which Dukat at his most unhinged is his most threatening. I also liked they anchored it on his parallel neediness to dominate and be loved by the Bajorans. Is Dukat having another affair with another Bajoran woman a tad predictable? Sure. But is it also fun to watch? You betcha.

Matthew: Lately, the concept of a thoroughly reprehensible and manipulative monster becoming the cult leader of a group of downtrodden people who normally should loathe him has been on my mind. So on a very basic level, I was interested in this reversal. How good this episode can be depends on how well this incongruity can be explained. I'll get to that later, but in the main this episode is quite enjoyable in that it gives us the villain we most love to hate, engaging in new and interesting behaviors. I liked pondering how sincere Dukat was in his belief, and I enjoyed the reveal of his duplicity during the mass suicide scene. But then, the episode troubles that duplicity further - maybe he believes he had to save himself for a greater purpose.

Kevin: I enjoy the exploration of Bajoran religious beliefs well enough. I think the problem is that since, like the Prophets, the Pah Wraiths objectively exist (see The Assignment), it makes faith in them less absurd. I wish the episode had engaged this more directly. I enjoyed seeing Bajorans who felt abandoned by the Prophets during the Occupation. Again, given that we have objective proof of their existence, those feelings aren't entirely unjustified. The use of Dukat as a funnel for those feelings makes a certain perverse sense. I particularly liked that they left the ambiguity on Fala's suicide. It gave some depth and complexity to their beliefs. Still, overall, I would have liked a more direct engagement on the meaning and nature of faith in general and Bajoran faith in particular.

Matthew: I do think some more work could have been done on showing why and how these people could basically shack up with their version of Hitler. I don't know whether this would have been better done with a Pah Wraith miracle, or some sort of brainwashing scenes, but it was a little underdeveloped. And I completely agree on objectively real deities - given that easy proof for their existence, more could have been looked at in terms of why someone would choose the Wraiths over the Prophets. What are the basic beliefs they demand of their followers? What is their cosmogony and eschatology?

Kevin: I understand why they used Kira as the main character in the episode. She has the most history with Dukat, and small stuff like him tweaking her about his relationship with her mother work great, but overall, I don't think enough really happened to her. She started the episode sure of her faith and scared of Dukat. She ended it as sure in her faith and slightly more scared of Dukat. I also think Fala's character was not sufficiently sketched out. It makes you really regret offing all her friends a couple of years back. Seeing one of her resistance cell here would have been amazing.

Matthew: I think this episode should have been a two-parter, with a longer imprisonment for Kira, and perhaps some doubt being sown in her. It seemed like the writers were trying to touch on several themes (like the forgiveness aspect mentioned early on) but there wasn't enough time to explore them all. I think a broader point could have been made as well that one man's cult is another man's religion, and that they really don't operate very differently.

Kevin: Nana Visitor does a good job restraining all her reactions. Her scenes with Dukat all sing. There is real, earned history and animosity and it works well. Her defenses of her faith have notes that support both interpretations that she is certain our trying to convince others she is certain. Alaimo is his slimy best. I believe he believes his sales pitch and that elevates everything. I don't know which class in acting school teaches you to fake rip out an earring, but I'm sure he got an A in it.

Matthew: Yeah, this is one of Visitor's best episodes, and it's because of her level of control. It's a shame this episode didn't go into even more complex territory, because I think she would have been up for it. And yes, Marc Alaimo gets some of his most complex material here, and nails it. He takes a journey just in his face and eyes, without saying anything. 

Kevin: The Bajorans on the station all did good work. Both Mika and Benyan portray the transitions from faith to doubt really well. Also, I have had a mild crush on Benyan for years, so there's that too.

Matthew: I think Norman Parker was excellent as Fala (incidentally, also the name of FDR's dog...), and I wanted to see more from him. I think he really could have excelled as the Paul to Dukat's Jesus, explaining and enforcing doctrine.

Production Values

Kevin: I bet the writers were patting themselves on the back for Empok Nor by now, right? It's as easy as redressing a standard set for instant horror story. Beyond that this was a bottle show. I liked the number of extras in the Pah Wraith cult. That worked well.

The number of extras was nice. The painting... why would someone fill in the red armbands first, other than to indicate to a TV audience that these are members of the cult? There were a lot of nice little touches, such as the services, the chimes, the little poison gel tabs, and the earrings. Nothing spectacular, but a solid bottle show.


Kevin: Some general murkiness on Bajoran religion and our main character ending up largely where she started hold this back from the highest score. Still, on the strength of acting, and a general tone achieved by the episode, I think this makes it into a 4.

Matthew: I think this is a 4 as well for a total of 8. It missed a lot of opportunities, listed above. But it was entertaining and interesting throughout, and was buoyed by some really nice performances from the leads and some supporting players.


  1. Dukat sort of becomes the Emissary of the Pah Wraiths, paired against Sisko's role for the Prophets. Which pairs well with their roles as the enslaving dominator from Cardassia/Dominion vs the liaison of freedom from the Federation.

    1. Yeah, I like the basic idea of making Dukat Sisko's counterpart in the religious story. So I was pretty on board for all of this stuff. (removing the makeup is another matter, though)