Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Retro-active Backstory Makes Dukat More Creepy And Kira More Confused In “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night”

The Good: Decent acting, Good character development, Interesting continuity
The Bad: Weaker plot, Creates some disturbing questions to be raised
The Basics: In “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night,” Kira learns Gul Dukat and her mother were involved and she travels back in time to confirm that, quickly getting involved with the Resistance when she does.

One of the problems with having a whole room full of writers and not having the entire backstories for your characters determined in advance of ever starting a serialized television show is that sometimes, you end up with problematic inconsistencies. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine there are not too many huge problems that come from retroactively creating backstory for characters, but "Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night" is one where there are some issues.

“Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” marks the return of Gul Dukat following his disappearance in “Waltz” (reviewed here!). It also marks the return of a sane Gul Dukat, albeit through time travel. Despite all of the other problems with the episode, that is exceptionally refreshing to see. In “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night,” viewers are given a glimpse of a portion of the Occupation very different from what we’ve seen in “Necessary Evil” (reviewed here!) and “Things Past” (reviewed here!). It is one that is troubling because it offers a view of the Occupation from the perspective of the collaborators characters like Kira have hated all along. In true Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fashion, “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” presents a remarkably complicated view of those who went along with the Cardassians.

On the anniversary of her mother’s birthday, Kira gets flowers from Quark, which she refused to talk to Dax about. She is irked, then, to be awoken by a transmission from Gul Dukat who recognizes the lilacs as a favorite of Kira’s mother, Kira Meru. When Dukat claims to have known Meru, Nerys gets upset. When she is unable to find sufficient contradiction to Dukat’s claim, she asks Sisko for leave to use the Orb of Time to get answers. He consents and Kira Nerys is transported back in time to the Occupation. Assuming the name Luma Rahl, Nerys encounters her mother, Kira Meru at the refugee camp. When the women are rounded up for entertainment aboard Terok Nor, Rahl and Meru are selected.

Aboard Terok Nor, the two women – who manage to get assigned to the same quarters – are trained by the collaborator Basso on how to be a serving woman for the Cardassians. While Meru is shocked by the size of the room and the variety of food, Kira is all-business. When the women are put in a line-up, Gul Dukat takes notice of a scar on Meru’s face. Healing the scar, Dukat begins a relationship with Meru, a relationship that puts Kira at odds with her.

“Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” is an appropriately disturbing episode on several fronts. First, it is difficult for anyone with a reasonable amount of empathy to watch the Bajorans be enslaved by the Cardassians. The scenes in the past are pretty troubling, though they are not overly explicit. Even the idea of exactly what Nerys and Maru are expected to do as “comfort women” is kept appropriately vague.

Moreover, when Kira gets involved with the Resistance in the past, the viewer has to have a pretty good idea that she cannot possibly succeed in killing Gul Dukat. After all, if he is dead in the past, there would be no Dukat in the future to create an alliance with the Dominion that could cost Bajor and her allies millions of lives . . . wait, why shouldn’t Nerys kill Dukat in the past?! Oh, because it’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and it is about the character journey, not the plot elements. “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” is about Kira Nerys growing as an individual.

That character development is good and it takes Kira to a better emotional place where her character might well become a great leader in the Star Trek Universe, even though it is the logical corollary to the lesson she learned at the climax of the first season episode “Duet” (reviewed here!). Like most character journeys, hers does not come all at once and “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” takes her another important step on that road.

Unfortunately, the character growth for Nerys comes at the expense of one of the key elements of Gul Dukat’s characterization. Dukat has a photographic memory and has been characterized throughout the series as incredibly intelligent. Are we to assume that somehow he had a blind spot for Kira Nerys, a woman he has flirted with quite a bit? There is something beyond icky about the character who did not recognize Nerys when he first encountered her (“Necessary Evil”) despite her bearing a strong resemblance and the family name of the woman he had been, up until recently, having sex with. So Dukat’s backstory gets a little murkier as a result of “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night.”

The acting in “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” is very good. Leslie Hope has a good outing as Kira Meru and Thomas Kopache reprises his role as Nerys’s father well. Even Wayne Grace makes the most out of his brief guest starring appearance as a Legate who Kira gets stuck with, in the process revealing that Dukat has a routine for picking up Bajoran women. Grace has great deliveries, rambling his way through the lines in a perfect drunken fashion. By contrast, David Bowe is loud and in-your-face offensive as the Bajoran collaborator Basso. The lack of subtlety in Bowe’s performance actually makes his character work, much the way the subtlety in Grace’s acting makes his shorter role memorable.

The episode largely comes down to Marc Alaimo and Nana Visitor on the acting front, though. It is nice to see the two interacting where Dukat is not throwing himself at Kira. As a result, Alaimo retroactively illustrates how Gul Dukat could have obtained power and retained it using his impressive charisma. Similarly, Visitor makes what is a pretty complex character journey seem plausible in only forty-three minutes. Visitor softens Kira Nerys up in a reasonable way by playing the character as deeply conflicted for most of the episode. That works well for the purpose of “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night.”

Ultimately, though, “Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night” is not a great episode, but it is engaging enough to watch and rewatch and despite how creepy it is for those who remember the character traits of those involved, it holds up better than one might think.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season by clicking here!

For other works in which Wayne Grace appears, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Mulholland Drive
The X-Files - “Humbug”
Star Trek: The Next Generation - “Aquiel”
Dances With Wolves


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the Star Trek episode, movie, and season reviews I have written!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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