1.19: “Duet”

W H E W!!!! Even by Deep Space Nine standards, this one is intense. This is the good shit, y’all. Cardassian war crimes! Kira struggling with trying to build something out of her anger and trauma! It’s even got Dukat being horny at Sisko!

(On that note, I feel like this is the place to mention that, title-wise, I always get this episode mixed up with season six’s “Waltz”, in which Dukat and Sisko get trapped in a cave together and Dukat calls Sisko “Benjamin” a lot.)

“That makes him a war criminal? Just being there?”

Okay, this is not ultimately the biggest question in the episode, once the story really gets going, but I have a bone to pick with my imaginary husband Benjamin Sisko on the point he raises early on, before Marritza’s identity is called into question. I…am kind of on team Kira from the beginning on this one. Sisko’s “so that makes him a war criminal? Just being there?” is just…my guy, you are well-informed enough on the uglier parts of human history to have heard of the Nuremberg Trials. “I was just following orders” is not an excuse. If the guy was at a camp, and he wasn’t a prisoner, then he was working there. “Just being there” suggests that he, like, wandered in accidentally, somehow ended up there through no fault of his own. He didn’t — he made the choice to be there.

The ending muddies the issue further: no, simply being Cardassian isn’t enough to make someone a war criminal, let alone warrant being murdered in the street…but the question of how much culpability ordinary Cardassian civilians bear for the crimes of the Occupation is not actually applicable here, because Marritza wasn’t a civilian. He was an active participant in the Occupation. Hell, having been a filing clerk means he enabled the more efficient oppression and persecution of Bajorans. Yes, Sisko, he is 100% a war criminal.

I dunno. I am a queer Jewish woman living in a time when actual fucking Nazis are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and people at the highest levels of government are enabling them. An ICE employee literally ran down Jews who were protesting concentration camps, and every damn headline suggested that the truck just drove itself. If I ever gave much credence to the idea that not having personally murdered, beaten, tortured, or raped anyone in the course of genocide makes someone blameless, that time is past. My imaginary husband and I will be Having Some Words about this.

Like, Dax has a point when she suggests that Kira wants something more dramatic than “just” a file clerk, that she wants a bigger figure, but also…guy is still a war criminal, even if he wasn’t running the camp.

But don’t take my word for it…

…Marritza agrees with me!

As I said, “how culpable is a file clerk in a work camp” ends up not being the biggest issue in the episode. And WOW, what an interesting story this instead ends up being, in taking a different track. Marritza doesn’t view himself as blameless in the least. Just the opposite; as Darhe’el, he makes a point of mentioning how thorough and efficient that filing system was, how much information he had access to, how much easier it made doing the work of the Occupation. He’s trying to force his people to reckon with their culpability, to acknowledge the fact that the Occupation of Bajor wasn’t just some unfortunate aberrance in Cardassian history.

We get hints, throughout the show, of a Cardassian dissident movement, and it’s something I wish we saw a lot more of from the Cardassian point of view, got more information on. The episodes like this one, where Cardassians are something besides stock militaristic villains (Space Israelis to the Bajorans’ Space Palestinians on TNG, somewhere between Space Nazis and Space Romans in much of DS9), add a lot of depth to the show, and the greater universe.

Area woman still can’t deal with Kira Nerys

Oh my lord, Nana Visitor brings her A-game in this episode. Apparently a big reason they made it in the first place was that they couldn’t afford to do a lot of locations, so wanted something confined entirely to the station with a relatively small cast. That it was partly done out of necessity is funny to me, because of course, for my money, the more contained episodes focused mostly on the central cast are the places where Deep Space Nine really shines.

I love, love, love that Kira’s conversations with Opaka in “Battle Lines” do not mark some magical turning point where suddenly everything is healed. I love that she has to work, all throughout the series, to move forward, to find healing and justice and peace. Here, she’s clearly struggling with trying to find the line between justice and vengeance, and the show doesn’t offer an easy answer: Marritza may be redeemable, is clearly trying to do the work of atonement, but it’s only the beginning, and we’ll never know whether he might have succeeded or not.

Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but I love how Kira and Sisko’s relationship continues to evolve! She says she wants to meet someone she thinks is a Bajoran labor camp survivor and he immediately tells her to take all the time she needs! Even when he thinks Odo should be running the investigation, he 100% has her back against both the Bajorans (who want Marritza/Darhe’el brought to Bajor immediately for trial and execution) and Cardassians (who insist that there’s no reason for his detention)! I just love their friendship so much!!!!

Because we need it, a few lighter notes

  • Kira and Jadzia sharing stories of doing punk-ass kid stuff at the beginning was so lovely!
  • The use of ZOOM AND ENHANCE, while perhaps more believable in the 24th century, is still hilarious to me.
  • One of my notes consists solely of “LMAO FUCKIN DUKAT”, in reference to Odo’s “as I recall, we only played one game, and you cheated”. This motherfucker is one of my favorite villains in all of fiction, I swear. He’s just such absolute irredeemable garbage in every possible way, and the show never, ever forgets it, and I love it.
  • Quark is on the side of the survivors!!!!! Oh Quark, no matter how much you try, you can’t help sometimes being halfway decent.

Horniness rankings

“How can you even suggest there might be horniness in this episode?” LOOK, Y’ALL. LOOK. Gul Dukat is in this episode; this is not on me. When he tells Sisko how much he’d hate for this to ruin their relationship? Come on. Everyone in this fandom focuses on how horny Dukat is for Kira, but that doesn’t get introduced until the third season; he is horny for Sisko right from the start. Take it up with the show.

2 thoughts on “1.19: “Duet”

  1. Sisko’s belief that Marritza isn’t “really” a war criminal is SO TONE DEAF.

    I think I’ve blogged before about the fact that, last time I watched “Duet”, it was right after the death of Oskar Gröning, the so-called Accountant of Auschwitz, who went public with his experiences in the ’80s. Even for the ’90s, it just feels like a major misstep on the writers’ parts.

    (Having said that, of all the Kira Bonds With And Performs Emotional Labour For Cardassians Who Only Participated In War Crimes A Bit episodes, this is by far the best.)

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  2. So I think the script felt it needed to have *someone* in the episode ask whether it really made Maaritza a war criminal just to be at Gallitep in order for the episode to go on record refuting that view and establishing that, yes, it did. Having it be Sisko was a weird choice, especially given his sensitivity to and knowledge of 20th century Earth culture shown later in the show when he rejects the Vic Fontaine program as not reflective of the real Las Vegas in the 1950s. It did have to be a Starfleet character. Bashir could have said it; it would have been obnoxious but a more believable thing for him to say than for Sisko to say, and I would have loved it if he’d said it and Sisko had been the one who rebuked him.

    So one thing that I blinked at several times in this episode was the statement that Marritza/Darheel would be executed on Bajor after trial. No one brings this up in the episode (not in this way, anyway) but practicing capital punishment has got to be a dealbreaker for Bajor joining the Federation, doesn’t it?* I mean, I get it; for one thing, the sentence is Bajor’s to carry out (Prime Directive and so on) and for another, who is to say Darheel didn’t deserve it, but is that a Bajoran thing to do? Is it controversial, or is it universally accepted that Cardassians they get their hands on after the Occupation ends will be put to death by the state? That would have made an interesting exploration. Terrorist tactics probably aren’t very “Bajoran” things to do either but they’re what got Bajor through the Occupation. Just a lot to unpack there that wasn’t addressed, no doubt because the episode was already doing a lot.

    * I am choosing to forget that TOS established “visiting Talos IV” carries the death penalty because I think it’s idiotic, and my personal head canon establishes that that rule was put in place when the 23rd-century version of Dick Cheney ran the Federation and rescinded forever immediately afterwards.

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