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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Indiscretion (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

Much like Hippocratic Oath before it, Indiscretion serves to set the baseline of quality for the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While The Way of the Warrior and The Visitor were ambitious deviations from form, Hippocratic Oath and Indiscretion offer a much clearer vision of what the show will look like from this point forward. As with Hippocratic Oath, a heavy two-hander a-plot is paired with a lighter b-plot that explores the day-to-day life on the eponymous space station, a structure that allows for world-building with sacrificing momentum.

Indiscretion works very well on its own terms. It throws together two of the show’s more fascinating a well-defined characters, putting Major Kira and Gul Dukat on a road trip from hell that inevitably throws them headfirst into conflict with one another. Watching Nana Visitor and Marc Alaimo interact is worth the price of admission alone, and Indiscretion throws a fairly heated personal conflict into the mix to create some tense and compelling drama. Indiscretion works very well as forty-five minutes of television.

Road trip!

Road trip!

However, it also works quite well as an exercise in setting up a longer game. As with most of the episodes that end up rippling through the continuity of Deep Space Nine, it is hard to be sure if the writers knew exactly where they wanted to go with the plot threads stemming from this instalment. Some of the difficulties dealing with the episode’s biggest legacy suggest that more thought might have gone into it. Nevertheless, Indiscretion is an episode that is clearly written with one eye on the future of the show.

As much as it stands on its own two feet, the episode is clearly written with a view to drama that it might enable further down the line. It is a story that seems to be written so that its consequences might fuel further storytelling opportunity. Deep Space Nine had toyed with the idea of serialised storytelling before, but this marks the point where the show just rolls up its sleeves and jumps right on in.

"You know, I think she likes me."

“You know, I think she likes me.”

In hindsight, so much of the show’s future hinges on the plot developments in Indiscretion. The episode sets Dukat on a fairly clear character arc that has massive repercussions across the remainder of the show. In a way, there is a very clear causal link between Kira’s refusal to let Dukat murder Ziyal and the Dominion War that consumes the Alpha Quadrant in the sixth and seventh seasons. Indiscretion arguably has a greater impact on the future of Deep Space Nine in a nuts-and-bolts cause-and-effect sort of way than The Way of the Warrior.

It is easy enough to trace out the arc as it flows from Indiscretion. Dukat’s decision to spare Ziyal in Indiscretion leads to the collapse of his career, which leads to his situation in Return to Grace. This leads Dukat to make his deal with the devil in In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light, which drives a major part of the rest of the show’s narrative. That is not the only thread; Dukat’s refusal to kill Ziyal in Indiscretion essentially enables the character arc that spins out of Sacrifice of Angels and which plays a significant role in the show’s end game.

"Well, why don't you stay here?" Dax asks. "I'm sure that Benjamin could arrange for some quarters." Forget Dukat. Sisko's true arch enemy is commitment...

“Well, why don’t you stay here?” Dax asks. “I’m sure that Benjamin could arrange for some quarters.”
Forget Dukat. Sisko’s true arch enemy is commitment…

From a purely production standpoint, it demonstrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the improvisational approach that the Deep Space Nine staff used in plotting the larger arcs of the show. Deep Space Nine was never planned too far in advance, which could lead to all manner of pacing problems and narrative cul de sacs when various plot elements refused to line up as the series approached the finish line. At the same time, it leant the show a much looser and more liberated feel.

One of the big recurring themes of Deep Space Nine is the idea that small choices and personal decisions can echo and reverberate – that history is not so much the story of a few great men as it is the alignment of intimate choices. Deep Space Nine might have dived into galactic politics in more depth than any other Star Trek show, but it always anchored those epic events in deeply personal motivations. The station itself is a case in point; Deep Space Nine was originally the Star Trek universe’s island of misfit toys, but it eventually became a nexus of intersecting interests.

"How come ships never crash on the pleasure planet or the temperate planet?"

“How come ships never crash on the pleasure planet or the temperate planet?”

The show has explicitly touched on this theme on a number of occasions. In The Jem’Hadar, the Federation’s first official contact with the Dominion occurs as the result of an unlikely father-son camping trip. In The Search, Part II, it is revealed that Sisko’s hunt for the Founders and Odo’s pursuit of his own people are the same quest. In Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast, a staged assassination attempt on a former Cardassian spt has massive consequences for the entire quadrant, as an old man’s quest for glory sets in motion horrific events.

One of the more interesting aspects of re-watching Deep Space Nine is watching all the separate ripples in the pond, knowing that some will converge and reverberate with far greater consequences than one might expect. After all, Indiscretion leads to the circumstances that bring Dukat and Damar together; given the massively important role that the character of Damar plays in the future of Deep Space Nine, his low-key debut is remarkable. Indiscretion also marks the first time that the Breen appear in the flesh environmental suits, another detail that will be relevant.

You know you're in trouble when you seek relationship advice from Bashir and Dax...

You know you’re in trouble when you seek relationship advice from Bashir and Dax…

In a way, this provides a nice thematic connection between both plots running through the episode. Kira and Dukat’s search for survivors of a missing Cardassian prison transport is juxtaposed against the developing romance between Benjamin and Kasidy. On the surface, this appears to be a rather weird combination – one that might evoke the horrific car crash that was Life Support. The primary plot is pretty heavy stuff, so combining it with a romantic comedy subplot is a risky endeavour.

However, the subplot in Indiscretion is essentially about long-term consequences. Sisko finds himself confronting the possibility that he might actually have a significant change in his life as a result of events and decisions in this episode. “You’re afraid of commitment,” Kasidy observes at one point, and she is not wrong. At the climax, Sisko tries to frame it in terms of the loss of Jennifer, but the point still stands. Sisko’s world is changing, and he is afraid of that change. “I haven’t been in a serious relationship for a long time, and I didn’t expect to be in one anytime soon.”

"That... could have gone better..."

“That… could have gone better…”

Indiscretion makes it clear that Kasidy Yates is not going to be a one-off (or even a three-off) love interest for the leading man. She is not Nella Daren from Lessons or Fenna from Second Sight. This going to be a long-term relationship, one that implies the character will become a fixture of the show and that it will affect Sisko. In fact, the show is so committed to the idea of a long-term relationship between Sisko and Kasidy that even the events of For the Cause cannot separate them.

This idea of consequences and implications plays back into the main plot of the episode. Indiscretion is an episode of television that can be enjoyed as a forty-five minute block, but it is one that introduces a whole host of elements that can be developed and expanded upon in the years ahead. The final lines of the script all but confirm that this is not the end of this particular story thread. Dukat announces he plans to take Ziyal home, prompting Kira to respond, “Won’t that make things difficult for you?” Dukat replies, as much to the audience as to Kira, “I’ll let you know.”

"Yep, Worf is going to be really stung when I pull out this list of his embarrassing failures..."

“Yep, Worf is going to be really stung when I pull out this list of his embarrassing failures…”

The key point here is that Indiscretion is not the end of either of these plot threads. These story elements are not neatly resolved, even if the episode provides all the characters involved with a clear arc. Indiscretion might not end with the words “to be continued…” and might not serve as an official two-parter with Return to Grace, but it does rather loudly trumpet that Deep Space Nine will be engaging in a more serialised type of storytelling from here on out. Over the fourth and fifth seasons, the show grows bolder with long-form plotting; it really begins here.

That said, it is possible to give the writers a bit too much credit. As much as Indiscretion demonstrates the wonderful potential of this loose style of serialisation, it also hints at some of the problems with the approach. Quite simply, Indiscretion introduces the character of Tora Ziyal. The show really struggles with how to characterise and develop Ziyal across the next two years. Ziyal seems to end up as an ideal more than a character, caught up in a tug of war between various more important players like Kira, Dukat and Garak.

"Major, you know I'm that stern genocidal daddy figure you always wanted..."

“Major, you know I’m that stern genocidal daddy figure you always wanted…”

Marc Alaimo noted as much in his own assessment of the character, observing that Dukat and Ziyal never seemed to have a real conversation:

“The whole thing with Dukat’s daughter has always been a little confusing to me,” admits Alaimo.  “There were three different actresses who played Ziyal and I never knew who I was going to be facing.  Because of this there was never a real bond set up between the actress and myself, so the relationship we had was always sort of subjective.”

Ziyal seems to exist more as “Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter” than as a character in her own right, and one who is primarily of interest as an embodiment of the show’s themes concerning Bajor and Cardassia.

"Well, it's the most artsy grave I've seen in a while..."

“Well, it’s the most artsy grave I’ve seen in a while…”

After all, Indiscretion arrives at around the mid-point in the show’s seven-year run. Deep Space Nine suggests a more symmetric view of time than most of the other Star Trek shows, and provides an interesting recurring juxtaposition between Bajor and Cardassia. Bajor begins the show as a planet in ruins, ravaged by occupation and mass murder; it evolves into a prosperous independent power on its own terms. Cardassia begins the show as an imperial power on cusp of decline; it ends the show as a culture in ruins after an enemy occupation.

In the middle stretch of Deep Space Nine, it almost seems like Bajor ascending almost catches sight of Cardassia descending. The peace treaty signed in Life Support offers new hope for an alliance between the two former enemies, suggesting that healing might be possible. This sense is reinforced by episodes like Destiny and Explorers towards the end of the third season. It seems like the perfect time for Kira and Dukat to mourn the shared loss of Bajoran and Cardassian life, and to introduce a major character who is literally of both worlds.

Never turn your back on a Cardassian in a Breen costume...

Never turn your back on a Cardassian in a Breen costume…

(In fact, Indiscretion even reinforces this strange sense of opposites intersecting at the half-way point of their separate journeys. Searching the remains of the crashed freighter, Dukat contrasts the different attitudes that the Bajoran and Cardassian people adopt towards the dead. “It would dishonour the dead for a non-Cardassian to view the remains,” Dukat states. “Bajorans are much more concerned with the souls of the dead than they are with the physical remains.”)

However, Ziyal never really seems to exist as more than the literal embodiment of these themes and ideas. She provides Dukat with a tangible link to Bajor, while allowing Kira to love a piece of Cardassia. She allows Garak to feel like he is not completely alone in the universe. The series never quite affords Ziyal the same development given to other minor (and younger) characters like Nog or Jake. Even what little characterisation she does receive seems borrowed from Jake; she is another young character who aspires to be an artist.

"Slave labour. I can really get behind that."

“Slave labour. I can really get behind that.”

The show never seems to have a long-term arc for Ziyal – a problem that becomes particularly clear after Sacrifice of Angels. The writers struggle with Ziyal while she is present, and seem to completely forget about her when she is absent. Ziyal should cast a major shadow over a number of crucial interactions during the final two years of the show, but she is largely ignored. The writers include a throwaway line in one such interaction during Tears of the Prophets, but she is never directly acknowledged during the show’s massive ten-part finalé, though she really should be.

There is also a sense that Indiscretion reinforces some of the more awkward elements of the show’s characterisation of Gul Dukat. Deep Space Nine has worked hard to humanise Dukat since The Maquis, Part II towards the tail end of the second season. Dukat is very clearly a monster responsible for millions of deaths, but the show made a conscious effort to emphasise that the character was still recognisable. Scripts like Civil Defense and Defiant reinforced the sense that Dukat was more than merely a butcher.

I'd make some remark about this not quite being the trip with Kira that Dukat had fantasised about, but...

I’d make some remark about this not quite being the trip with Kira that Dukat had fantasised about, but…

Showrunner Ira Steven Behr recognised this issue in the portrayal of Dukat, acknowledging that the production team often struggled to pitch the character correctly:

The problem I find with a lot of writers, including myself, is that once you get involved with a character you start to get to know him and you humanize him. Michael Piller did the rewrite of Defiant where he had Dukat talk about his children; My reaction was, ‘Uh oh, we’ve crossed the line.’ I realized that he was going to lose all credibility as a villain; we were going to shower him with our usual writerish empathy, and, like all good liberals, we’d see him as neither fish or fowl. I really responded against that. Here was the guy who had been in charge of Bajor, and right away we were looking for excuses for him.

Behr might be overreacting here, demonstrating a reluctance to trust the audience. Historical figures do not have their atrocities erased because they had families or because of small acts of kindness.

No stone unturned...

No stone unturned…

Dukat is a monster; he never stops being a monster. He just hides his monstrosity more convincingly (and more realistically) during the first five seasons of the show. The version of Dukat who appears in Defiant or Indiscretion is the type of man who could easily oversee a brutal occupation of a so-called “primitive” planet and who might resent the inhabitants of that planet for failing to love him. The version of Dukat presented in the first five seasons is precisely the sort of person who finds himself in the positions of authority so that he might abuse them.

The problem is that the version of Dukat from the later seasons of the show feels like a movie who escaped from a questionable b-movie. He is a ranting and raving maniac who exists for little purpose beyond being the show’s big bad villain. The decisions taken by the production team in the last two seasons of the show rob Dukat of his nuance and his sense of reality; he feels less like a commentary on the type of people who hold and abuse such power, and more like a comic book super-villain.

Quark, love doctor...

Quark, love doctor…

The writers felt a need to compensate for the perceived “softening” of Dukat during the middle seasons of the show. There was a sense that episodes like Civil Defense and Defiant and Indiscretion made the character too human and too sympathetic. This seems like a rather patronising position, one that does not trust the audience to understand that Dukat is not a hero in any story except for his own personal narrative. It seems like the writers were worried that certain segments of fandom might find themselves taken in by the glimmers of humanity and decency.

Then again, it seems like the writers occasionally allowed themselves to be taken in by Dukat’s charm. It is hard to overstate just how charming Marc Alaimo is in the role, how skilfully he plays to the idea of Gul Dukat as his own personal hero who has been misunderstood by the universe. Even Indiscretion seems to waver on the point. For all that scripts like Civil Defense and Defiant suggest that it might be possible to sympathise and empathise with Dukat, Indiscretion is the first point at which the show seems to actually suggest Dukat might be a good person under it all.

"I'm already packed!"

“I’m already packed!”

Indiscretion generally handles Dukat quite well. There is a lot of self-mythologising in his early interactions with Kira, as he tries to convince her that the Bajoran Occupation might not have been so bad after all. “You are the embodiment of the new Bajor,” he tells Kira. “A Bajoran born out of the ashes of the Occupation, a Bajoran tempered with Cardassian steel.” He continues, “I know you find this to accept, but I believe that in some ways the Occupation actually helped Bajor.”

It is an absurd argument, and one that is completely indefensible, but the fact that Dukat makes it underscores just how self-centred he is. Dukat genuinely believes he is the best thing that ever happened to Bajor. “I have no desire to debate the merits of the Occupation with you,” he assures Kira, before debating the merits of the Occupation with her. “I’m even willing to admit that perhaps we were a little harsh in our methods. But the fact is, the Bajoran people are stronger now than they have been in centuries.”

"Get onside with genocide!"

“Get onside with genocide!”

Indiscretion never buys into this. The audience would likely sympathise with Kira if she decided to strangle the life out of Dukat. Dukat is simply making up a story that allows him to feel vindicated and heroic. As such, the episode invites the audience to be skeptical when Dukat tells Kira about his love for Tora Naprem. “It wasn’t like that,” Dukat assures Kira at one point. “Naprem and I loved each other.” Kira rightly calls him out on it. “The head of the Occupation in love with a Bajoran?” she asks. How could consent – let alone love – exist in those circumstances?

After all, the episode repeatedly points out just how hypocritical Dukat is about the whole thing. He talks about love, but conveniently glosses over the fact that it was an extramarital affair. “Did your wife know?” Kira asks, before the two discuss Ziyal. “No,” Dukat replies. “And she’s never going to find out.” As much as Dukat might have claimed to love Tora Naprem, he refuses to acknowledge her because she is not convenient to him. Dukat’s arguments are appealing, but they are undeniably self-serving.

Meditating on it all...

Meditating on it all…

Much like The Way of the Warrior, the script to Indiscretion rather cleverly subverts the idea that Star Trek monocultures can be defined exclusively by their own claims and their own rhetoric. “There is nothing more important to Cardassians than family,” Kira reflects. “At least that’s what your people are always saying.” Dukat responds, “I have a wife and seven children. They are my family. They are the ones I must protect.” In love, as in war, there is nothing more honourable than victory.

Even his wife and children are just a shield behind which Dukat can hide. Kira acknowledges as much. Dukat is really only interested in one person, and Ziyal represents a very clear threat to his position and power. “Listen to you,” Kira taunts. “It’s not your wife or your seven children you’re protecting, it’s you.” Again, Dukat is quick with his justifications. Maybe he even believes them. “By protecting myself, I am protecting them,” he assures Kira. It is an easy enough choice to make when, as Kira points out, “the only one who suffers is Ziyal.”

Bent and broken...

Bent and broken…

The problem comes at the climax of Indiscretion, when Dukat is confronted with the Tora Ziyal. According to writer Jack Treviño, there had never been any intention of having Dukat follow through on the threat:

It was about six weeks after we had our second Star Trek pitch session, when Rene Echevarria called to say we’d better sit down. He told us we wouldn’t realize it till much later, just how lucky we were to sell not one, but two stories to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. At the time, Toni and I were trying to acquire an agent to represent us. After reading our script, an agent turned us down, citing it violated the Trek guidelines. I couldn’t bring myself to give up on the story because I knew it had dramatic potential. So, I re-tooled it, omitting the part about Ziyal being Kira’s sister. Instead, I focused on placing Dukat and Kira in a most difficult situation: Dukat having to ask Kira for help and Kira being forced to help him locate his daughter. A friend at work told me that when Dukat finally finds his daughter, he should kill her. I said, I couldn’t do that. But after thinking about it, I told my co-worker there wasn’t any reason why the audience couldn’t be led into believing he’s going to kill her.

There is never quite a sense that Dukat will actually kill Ziyal at the climax of Indiscretion, and the story is arguably much weaker for that.

Brace(let) yourself...

Brace(let) yourself…

(As an aside, it is interesting that Treviño’s original pitch suggested that Ziyal might have been Kira’s sister. While the context of that revelation likely changed in various iterations of the story, it does foreshadow the revelations about Dukat and the Kira family in Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night. In many respects, Indiscretion and Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night are two sides of the same coin, with Dukat’s professions of love for Tora Naprem in Indiscretion coloured by the fact that apparently Dukat shared his love rather freely.

In an interesting piece of overlapping continuity between the two episodes, the year of Kira Meru’s death in Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night coincides perfectly with the year of Ziyal’s birth as given in Indiscretion. It might be an example of reaching, but it is interesting to wonder if Kira Meru died in childbirth and Tora Naprem raised Ziyal as her own daughter. While it is hard to believe that this was the explicit intent of the writers, it is an interesting implicit textual connection.)

Over the ridge...

Over the ridge…

The climax of Indiscretion marks one of the very rare moments in Deep Space Nine where Dukat puts another person ahead of himself. Dukat has always believed himself to be a selfless individual who made impossible choices, but this is the only point in Deep Space Nine where it feels like that is the case. Dukat takes ownership of his own past mistake, refusing to kill his daughter even though it would make her life much easier than any other alternative. If a viewer wants to believe that Dukat is fundamentally decent, this is the vital moment in his character arc.

Even Dukat’s treatment of Ziyal in subsequent episodes is presented as something less than selfless. Dukat’s fixation on Ziyal after his exile, and his attempts to dote on her after his return to power, are framed around the idea that Ziyal is literally all that he has left – that she is an object of worth to him because she is his daughter and because he gave up so much to protect her in the first place. In later episodes, Dukat needs Ziyal to love him for the same reason that he needs Kira to love him; Dukat craves validation, particularly validation of the choice that he made here.

Crashing here...

Crashing here…

More than The Maquis, Part II or Defiant, this is the quintessential “Dukat’s not such a bad guy” moment. As such, it is the point at which the production team go too far by their own measure. Even Kira seems to buy into that logic, for a very brief moment. “There’s always a choice,” she promises Dukat. “You don’t want to do this. If you did, you never would’ve told me about Ziyal.” Of course, this glosses over the fact that Dukat didn’t tell Kira about Tora Ziyal; Kira found the name in a passengers’ register.

Given the difficulties that Deep Space Nine would have with Dukat and Ziyal, it is fair to argue that the climax of Indiscretion was something of a miscalculation. The episode (and the show) may have been stronger had it followed through on the threat to have Dukat kill his own daughter to secure his own power. Of course, this would not put Dukat in a position to follow his arc through the fourth and fifth seasons, but it would be easy enough to write around that. Kira could have leaked proof of Ziyal’s existence, making Dukat’s execution of the young girl pointless.

When Dukat suggested Kira might dress up as Princess Leia, this was not quite what he imagined...

When Dukat suggested Kira might dress up as Princess Leia, this was not quite what he imagined…

Of course, Deep Space Nine was never that cruel a television show. Even with the freedom afforded to a syndicated drama, such developments would have been too dark for a Star Trek show in the mid-nineties. As much as Deep Space Nine is considered the “darkest” of the Star Trek spin-offs, it was never entirely bleak or nihilistic. It was never as sadistic as something like Game of Thrones, to pick an example of a show that followed a similar story thread through to a harsher (but more logical) end point.

Indiscretion is notable as the first episode of Deep Space Nine to be directed by LeVar Burton. The actor had directed Ex Post Facto during the previous season of Star Trek: Voyager, following two directorial credits in the final two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Burton is frequently underrated as Star Trek director. As far as Star Trek actors-turned-directors go, Burton is much more prolific than Jonathan Frakes, even if he never got a chance to direct any of the Star Trek feature films.

Sundown...

Sundown…

Directing obviously meant a lot to Burton. Asked about his involvement with the franchise, Burton reflected, “I think I am most proud of the directing.” He was particularly busy during this season of Star Trek, credited with directing five episodes of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine and another episode from the second season of Voyager. Burton did not always get the best scripts, but his directorial contributions to the franchise are always impressive. He knows how to make good-looking television.

In particular, Indiscretion is striking for its desert cinematography. There are a number of beautiful shots as Kira and Dukat wander through the wasteland in search of survivors, whether it is the aerial shot of the duo approach the graves by the wreckage or the establishing shot of the duo walking across a cliff at sunset. That shot in particular seems like a nod to the depictions of Vulcan in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, reflecting Burton’s own fandom.

Love and life...

Love and life…

In keeping with the general aesthetics of Deep Space Nine, the script for Indiscretion draws rather heavily from classic cinema. More than any other Star Trek writing staff, the production team on Deep Space Nine had a great affection for stories that drew from classic cinema. Hippocratic Oath had been pitched as Doctor Bashir’s Bridge on the River Kwai story, for example. Indiscretion draws rather heavily from The Searchers, with Kira and Dukat on a mission to rescue the latter’s daughter.

Of course, Indiscretion is not a perfect or literal adaptation of The Searchers. Nevertheless, the influence of John Ford can be seen on the episode. In many respects, Deep Space Nine was the Star Trek show with the strongest thematic connections to the western genre since the broadcast of the original Star Trek series in the late sixties – as episodes like Shakaar or The Magnificent Ferengi would attest. After all, what is Deep Space Nine itself but an outpost on the frontier?

Breen and gone...

Breen and gone…

Also of note is the first appearance (so to speak) of the Breen. The enigmatic alien species had been mentioned a couple of times since The Loss during the fourth season of The Next Generation. However, like a lot of elements flowing from Indiscretion, they would become quite important in the later years of Deep Space Nine. However, The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion makes it clear that they were not intended for such great things:

“They’d been red herrings since The Next Generation,” says Wolfe. “They were these people who were out there who were dangerous but were never really responsible for any of the trouble going on. Sort of a running joke. But we needed bad guys in this particular episode, and we just struck on the idea to use the Breen.”

But even though we finally get to see the Breen… we don’t. Timing was partially to blame. Coming on the heels of episodes featuring many Klingons and many Jem’Hadar, Behr says, “I wasn’t really in the mood to come up with a new alien race. So I said, ‘Let’s not see them. Let’s just put them in costume because they normally live in the cold.”

It is a nice example of way that the Deep Space Nine writers would draw separate strands of continuity into the show. The Breen had only been mentioned in passing on a couple of occasions, but their appearance in Indiscretion fits rather comfortably with what little had been established about them at this point in the franchise. Appropriately enough, Indiscretion only enhanced the mystery surrounding the characters.

Grave discussions...

Grave discussions…

Of course, the franchise was never entirely consistent in it handling of the Breen. The mystery surrounding the Breen is incorporated into their characterisation. In Til Death Do Us Part, Worf suggested that nobody had ever seen beneath a Breen helmet and lived, a detail that seems a bit hard to reconcile with Kira and Dukat’s infiltration of the labour camp in Indiscretion. (Perhaps their suits come with a built-in failsafe mechanism if somebody tries to remove the helmet, like the aliens in Space: Above and Beyond.)

Indeed, it seems like the writers actively encouraged the contradictions and discontinuity around the Breen. For all that characters talk about the cold Breen winters, Weyoun suggests that it is actually “quite comfortable” in The Changing Face of Evil. For all that Star Trek tends to reduce entire alien cultures to a bunch of adjectives, it is fun to have a significant recurring species who have “mysterious” and “contradictory” as their defining attributes. The Breen are unlikely to be as iconic as the Klingons, the Cardassians or the Borg, but they are fun.

They're about dune...

They’re about dune…

In writing the novel Zero Sum Game, author David Mack decided that the only way to properly reconcile all the information about the Breen was to essentially created multiple species:

Then I hit upon an interesting idea: what if every canon detail we’ve ever been given about the Breen is 100-percent true and correct? What explanation would be able to reconcile all those different premises from the episodes? The answer I came up with was that “Breen” is not a species but a social construct, a mask for an entire culture that lives in a state of forced anonymity and equality. My inspiration for that concept was fifty percent George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, and fifty percent Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical dystopian short story “Harrison Bergeron.”

To be fair, that revelation does not have the same impact that it would before Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced the Dominion or Star Trek: Enterprise introduced the Xindi.

"Okay, so Worf definitely doesn't have more screentime than us?"

“Okay, so Worf definitely doesn’t have more screentime than us?”

Indiscretion continues the high level of quality of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, demonstrating that the production team were writing with an eye on the future – even if they were unsure as to what exactly that future might look like. Indiscretion would have quite a legacy on Deep Space Nine, for better or for worse. In a very real and substantial way, it was just as crucial to ushering in the final few season of Deep Space Nine as The Way of the Warrior had been.

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10 Responses

  1. “Dukat genuinely believes he is the best thing that ever happened to Bajor.”

    So does Garak. “We have taught many worlds (including this one) how to keep records!” I also love his cognitive dissonance in “Things Past”. “I never knew we were such messy conquerors!…The Bajorans are more suited for this sort of work than we.”

    Eh, I remain unconvinced that Dukat is any more culpable for the occupation than his government. One of the tentpoles of DS9 (and perhaps its undoing) was this idea that everyone in the series was sort of second-rate. Sisko had anger management issues, Quark’s bar barely breaks even, Bashir was SECOND in his class, Dukat took the fall for the occupation even though he was probably least responsible for the resistance movement (which had been around since before he arrived), and so forth. By the fifth season the crew was touted as “the best” or the best and so the villains had to be pumped full of steroids too. Which is fine, but Dukat is so likeable as the wormy turncoat. When he’s back in charge of DS9, he’s still over-compensating. That’s awesome. You never know which way he’s going to jump and that’s what I love about all Cardassian characters.

    It reminds me a little of Agent Smith: he’s a put-upon agent in the first film, cracking under the strain and in the sequels, he is suddenly Satan.

    • That’s a reasonably fair point about Dukat’s culpability. But the same is true of Damar.

      However, the difference between Damar and Dukat is that Damar is willing to change and evolve as his situation changes. One of the nicer touches of Dukat’s arc is that he simply refuses to change over the course of the show; change happens to him, but he fixates upon trying to restore his personal circumstances back to what they were before, to the ruination of everybody around him. (Even his cult leader stage is really just an attempt to recreate his glorious Terek Nor days, albeit with an audience of Bajorans who appreciate him this time.)

      And, yeah, one of the more interesting dissonances of Ds9 is the way that it seems everybody on the station ends up a degree of separation away from the heads of just about ever major power when the dust settles. (The Romulan Star Empire being the exception, perhaps; but, hey, Sisko knew Picard, right?) Part of me likes the idea that DS9 eveolved from a place at the dead end of nowhere to a place at the centre of everywhere, but it is a bit too much at times.

  2. That first picture of Sisko is pretty scary. Avery Brooks sure had some weird facial expressions.
    Though you had several pictures, I am surprised that you did not mention the Dukat, thorn in the but scene. I think it is out of place and does not belong, especially because as you mention there is already a comedic B plot in the episode.
    It would have been interesting to have Dukat kill Ziyal, but I think it would go against his character. Whatever his other flaws, he always does seem to have valued his family, as seen in The Defiant when he expresses his sadness at missing his son’s birthday. I think this partly explains why he goes into what you called “comic book” villain. He has lost his family by this point, which was probably one of the few things tying him to sanity. Therefore, for the rest of the show he is trying to rebuild his family through the Pah-Wraiths. This can be plainly be seen in the episode, Covenant, in which he is clearly taking great joy in being the head of a congregation.

    • “thorn in the butt”

      Which goes to show Kira is still the superior outdoorsman. I loved the juxtaposition of Dukat galloping across the sand (“you Bajorans are a bit fragile! ha ha!”) and then sitting on a cactus.

      “This can be plainly be seen in the episode, Covenant”

      Except the script says plainly the cult is a stand-in for Bajor, not his family.

      • I do love that observation about Dukat’s pomp versuses Kira’s actual experience. I hadn’t twigged it, until you pointed it out.

        I mean, it’s possible for the cult to be two things. Dukat does see his relationship with Bajor as a stern father dealing with unruly children. I think he comes close to explicitly stating it in Waltz. Which, arguably, makes his sexual fixation on Kira even creepier.

    • That’s an interesting observation about the Bajorans on Terek Nor as a surrogate family. I’ve always read them more as Dukat trying to retell the Occupation from his own perspective, as benign father figure to unruly children; however, as you’ve observed, it’s possible to read that into Dukat’s larger arc as well. Dukat is a very patriarchal figure, at least in his own mind. (Which arguably makes him more of a point of contrast to Sisko, even if the show is more interested in the Dukat/Kira dynamic.)

  3. “In Til Death Do Us Part, Worf suggested that nobody had ever seen beneath a Breen helmet and lived, a detail that seems a bit hard to reconcile with Kira and Dukat’s infiltration of the labour camp in Indiscretion. (Perhaps their suits come with a built-in failsafe mechanism if somebody tries to remove the helmet, like the aliens in Space: Above and Beyond.)”

    Another possibilty could be that the Breen just have some spare suits in storage, in case one of their suits gets damaged.

  4. Here’s the latest caption Darren when Kira and Dukat find the graves, The Children of the Sun. Kira did bring Ziyal up in When It Rains Darren, when she didn’t want to help Damar mount a resistance after he murdered Ziyal. Both Nana Visitor and Andrew Robinson felt that should have been more explicit but the DS9 writers were trying to redeem Damar at this juncture and bringing up old wounds from the past seemed (to them) a step in the wrong direction. Tuvok meditating against the sunrise in Gravity reminded me of the locations in Indiscretion; I wonder if they were the same? And we mustn’t forget the late Roy Brocksmith as Razka Karn. His confrontation with Dukat in the Runabout was as charged as any of the scenes between Dukat and Kira. He was so different here from Sirna Kolrami in Peak Performance.

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