Duet (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 18) Kira is convinced an ailing Cardassian is a notorious war criminal

Rewatching ST:DS9

Kira is convinced she’s captured a Cardassian war criminal, but Sisko insists on giving him due legal process. 

Marritza is not on any list of wanted criminals, but he is being treated for a disease that can only have been caused by a mining accident in a notorious labor camp. He is arrogant, yet insists he is not a murderer. Kira, the Bajoran government, and even a rando In the drunk tank are all eager for the chance to punish a brutal Cardassian war criminal. From his cell, Marritza praises his brutal commander and the racist policies of his government, but no evidence pins the prisoner to any crimes.

Sisko is concerned that Kira is too emotionally close to the problem to investigate fairly, but after she appeals to their friendship, he relents.

Marritza and Kira start out seeing just what they expect to see. Each new clue rearranges the power dynamics, and the two sparring partners adapt. (The episode title, “Duet,” is well chosen.) 

Gul Dukat appears in a supporting role; I think this is the first time we get the clear idea it was he who ran DS9 before the Cardassians withdrew.

A classic “zoom in and enhance” scene was enjoyable eye candy for police procedurals in the 1990s, but its inclusion dates this episode. Having said that, the security cameras and desktop video displays seem very integrated into the set, not added in post-production, so they create a believable environment.

In the last few episodes I noticed a female Bajoran engineer has gotten a few lines, but I can’t quite figure out why. In at least one case, Dax was not around and O’Brien needed someone to talk technobabble to, but TNG regularly had LaForge talking over the comm link to someone who was not in the room, or doing all the talking while extras hand him PADDs or gesture wordlessly. She didn’t feature in any plot points (unknowingly passing along an infection, being possessed, being bribed etc.). There are already so many characters in DS9 (including nonspeaking ones, like Morn) that any recurring character who gets lines is noteworthy.

The ending was predictable. (Remember the rando in the drunk tank who wanted the Cardassian dead?) But the writing, Harris Yulin’s performance of Marritza as a complex character, and Kira’s final line (“No! It’s not!”) all hit the right notes. The script works as a stand-alone episode, giving us all the exposition we need in order to understand why Bajorans would want revenge, and it’s very engaging to see how quickly Marritza adapts to plot twists, and rewarding when Kira finally figures out what’s going on. Because we have had a whole season to get to know Kira, and even before then several episodes of TNG to understand the Cardassian backstory, Kira’s arc in this episode is very satisfying.

A brief scene with Quark shows him displaying what appears to be real empathy, and then pivoting immediately to a business opportunity; but why wouldn’t Quark believe that the cure for suffering is entertainment purchased from his casino? It’s a good comic bit that also insists that DS9 won’t let us laugh at “the other” or — as Kira learns — hate them — without looking closely in the mirror.