The Good: Plot, Characters, Acting, Make-up, Social commentary, EVERYTHING!
The Bad: Not a single one!
The Basics: With sharp characters, a twisted plot and incredible acting, you don't get better television than "Duet;" it is the absolute best "hour" of television. EVER.
The name of the episode is "Duet" and it is, without a doubt the finest hour of television ever. I don't simply mean of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, I don't mean of just the Star Trek franchise, or best science fiction show, I mean this is the best hour of television in the history of television.
The plot is anything but simple, but it begins with Cardassian filing clerk Amon Marritza (played masterfully by Harris Yulin) being brought to the station suffering from a disease called Kalla-Nohra. This instantly piques Major Kira's (Nana Visitor) attention as the only people she knows who suffer from this disease are Bajoran laborers from an especially brutal Cardassian camp called Gallitepp. Kira has Marritza arrested and as she begins to interrogate him and discover his place in the Occupation, she discovers all is not as it seems.
If you've never seen Star Trek Deep Space Nine the backstory is surprisingly simple for the purpose of watching this episode. The Cardassians occupied the planet Bajor for approximately fifty years, enslaving the Bajorans and strip mining their planet. Hey . . . that almost sounds like . . . yes, the Cardassians are analogous to the Nazi regime in Germany during World War 2, the Bajorans are analogous to the Jews that were enslaved in concentration camps. Never are the allusions so thinly veiled as in this episode.
"Duet" is the search for the truth, coupled with the exploration of the motivations for seeking the truth. The episode masterfully explores the nature of "human" cruelty to one another, the nature of war and the atrocities that ensue as a result, it is the ultimate societal exploration of the need to punish the criminals. The episode is remarkably evenhanded. It presents both sides of Empire and enslaved. Harris Yulin's acting in Marritza's darkest moments is truly chilling.
The characters are brilliant - Marritza is portrayed not simply as a villain; one of the greatest moments of the episode is when Major Kira says, "You're insane!" and Marritza responds with an ultra-rational response that says, "you can't write me off that easily." It's a sharp moment and the episode is filled with moments like that where suddenly everything turns a corner and we're left looking at an entirely new perspective.
There are a lot of surprises in this episode, but it holds up exceptionally well over multiple viewings. I, personally, have seen the episode 30+ times and I still sit down and watch it with excitement when I can. It is that good. It is the best.
My advice is to see this, it's an experience that is brilliantly acted, amazingly written with bold, deep, multifaceted characters in a very twisted plot.
Furthermore, I advise the following: if you do watch this, don't read the back of the video and if at all possible, don't even look at the back. The front has the Cardassian Amon Marritza holding a plate and fork, standing up. Reading the back ruins the first major surprise and looking at the pictures on it ruins the final scene. Whoever made the packaging should be shot, they were that insensitive to the work inside.
"Duet" is the perfect catharsis for all hate and it is the hands-down best episode of all television ever. There is nothing finer and if you don't watch it simply because it contains people who look different and is set in a mythical future, it's your loss; it's all about who we are as humans right now.
This is part of the essential Star Trek Deep Space Nine and marks the return of Gul Dukat.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the first season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode and film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2008, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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