The Good: Decent character development, Good acting
The Bad: Very predictable plot.
The Basics: When Kira is transported to Empok Nor, she finds Dukat in charge of a Pah-wraith cult that he is hoping she will join.
Sometimes, the fundamental problem with an episode of television or a movie is not so much what is in the work as what is lacking from it. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had remarkably few episodes that could be characterized as “formulaic” or “predictable,” but “Covenant” in the seventh season certainly was one of them. While the episode is not actually bad, it lacks a certain spark to allow one to consider it anywhere near extraordinary.
Even so, “Covenant” is not bad and it marks the return of Gul Dukat to the Star Trek universe. For the first time since “Tears Of The Prophets” (reviewed here!), Dukat appears and there is a sense that he has been on a somewhat singular quest since he was last seen. Like a few episodes before, “Covenant” is very much a piece that focuses on Dukat and Kira Nerys. This time, they square off as a very different sort of adversary; people coming from diametrically opposed religious beliefs!
After being moved by a sermon on the importance of forgiveness, Kira meets with Vedek Fala, one of the religious figures from her youth. Begging her forgiveness, Fala gives Kira a transponder and she is immediately beamed away. Materializing in Empok Nor, Deep Space Nine’s abandoned sister station in Dominion space, Kira is shocked to find a community of Bajorans. The group is an organization that worships the Pah-wraiths and Kira is even more surprised to discover that Dukat is their religious leader.
Shocked that Bajorans would be willing to lay down their lives to protect Dukat and distressed that Fala is one of Dukat’s followers, Kira interacts with the followers and attempts to challenge them. One of the Bajoran women, a married woman named Mika, is very pregnant and when her child is born, it confirms that Dukat has not changed all of his ways. As Dukat attempts to spin the birth of a half-Cardassian baby to his followers, Kira works to stop him and escape from the distant outpost.
What is most disappointing about “Covenant” is how the writers of the episode mortgage a real opportunity for character growth for the character of Dukat in favor of a remarkably predictable Jonestown-style cult story. The first half of the episode, wherein Kira is forced to wrestle with the idea that Dukat may well have turned over a new leaf and is actually leading a community of Bajorans successfully is remarkably engaging. However, when Mika gives birth, the episode takes a turn into the unfortunately obvious. Dukat is, once again, backed into a corner and it is hard to stomach given how he has been touched by the Pah-wraiths before now and in the final arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he is truly their most devout follower.
As a result, it seems irksome that Dukat, who was initially characterized as a deeply determined individual, would not be able to control his own libido. Dukat makes a reasonably convincing spiritual leader in “Covenant” and while I usually thrill over seeing a televangelist brought down by their own hypocrisy, in “Covenant,” it just seems lazy. The debate between the role the Prophets have played in Bajor’s history versus the role the Pah-wraiths could play is an intriguing one. That debate is cut short by problems with the messenger (Dukat) as opposed to a fundamental issue with the philosophies.
That said, Marc Alaimo makes an electric return to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as (no longer Gul ) Dukat. Alaimo is articulate and presents Dukat without anger (until the final scene) in a way that makes it undeniable that the character believes in the faith he is espousing. While it is difficult to assess whether or not he truly cares about Bajor, Dukat is completely invested in the Pah-wraiths and Alaimo eliminates any trace of Dukat’s former craziness from the presentation to sell that.
Nana Visitor, as always, plays opposite Alaimo with an excellent adversarial chemistry. In “Covenant,” Kira cannot simply take a swing a Dukat or shoot him (as she quickly discovers). Visitor, then, is forced to play Kira throughout the episode with a quiet rage and she tightens her body language to help embody that constant anger. She does that remarkably well.
It is also worth noting that “Covenant” has one of the wonderful scenes that illustrates genuine chemistry between Odo and Kira. As the episode opens, Odo laments to Bashir and Dax how his lack of faith means that he has less time to spend with Kira. It’s a nice scene and it illustrates well how Odo’s character has grown. It also affords Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor a nice opportunity to play some mature on-screen chemistry and that works out nicely.
Ultimately, though, “Covenant” is a simple, predictable story that leaves little room for analysis or debate. This is simply another important step in moving the characters on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to their fates at series’ end.
[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode reviews, please be sure to visit my organized listing of them through the Star Trek Review Index Page!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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