In which an insane Cardassian war criminal can carry an entire episode basically all by themselves.
We’re following Sisko aboard the Honshu, a spiritual successor to the Miranda-class with a Galaxy-style saucer. This is where Dukat has been kept, in his fugue state. Only he’s not catatonic anymore. He seems to have come to some measure of peace with himself, and is back to his old smug mannerisms. He’s being charged with war crimes. There are certainly a few acts we know of that could count – the extermination of the maquis, some ‘peacetime’ raids of Federation shipping, conspiracy to poison the Jem’hadar in advance of running out of Ketracel White. But any crimes committed during the Occupation may required Bajor to give some sort of dispensaition in order for the Federation to try him for them. I wonder if the Federation would extradite Dukat to Bajor, knowing the likely result, to bring them into the fold. We’d all like to think that such a demand would mean the Federation didn’t want Bajor any more because of Principles, but there’s still a war and a supply line to secure.
Dukat is still pretty choked up at the mention of Ziyal’s death, and the two fathers share a moment over the subject of the loss of a child. But before too long, Dukat is back, asking for whisky and a conjugal visit. Their parting is interrupted by an attack on the Honshu.
Kira gives the news to the rest of the senior staff – the Honshu was destroyed by a wing of Cardassian ships, but several escape pods were launched, and the Defiant has a deadline elsewhere in 52 hours. Minus the 24 hours to get there and to their destination, they have just over a day of actual searching for Sisko and any other (lesser) survivors.
Sisko is, of course, alive. He was burned up and Dukat saved him. They’re camped out in a cave, isolated from any other survivors that might be out there, with a distress beacon, supplies from a ruined shuttle, and the hope that the general beacon being sent out will attract the right attention for whichever team you happen to be on. Fair’s fair. Dukat set Sisko’s broken arm, set a fire, all sorts of survival-things, but didn’t use the bone-regenerator in the medkit because he’s ‘not much of a doctor. It’s nice to know there is some skill involved. Oh, and before you get suspicious that it could be a ploy, it totally is. Weyoun’s already there. But Dukat has some things to discuss. Oh, and also Weyoun is so focused on persuasion and demeanment that he’s got to be fictional and a personification of Dukat’s self-doubt. Dokat’s loopy!
Dukat admonishes Sisko for being a backseat cook, and for messing the cave after a bout of nausia. Dukat’s got a sense of humor about the whole situation, but Sisko really doesn’t. He’s also taking every opportunity to shut Dukat down, because appeasement isn’t his forte. Dukat goes on trying to justify himself as more benevolent this time, and Sisko keeps grounding him.
Damar is here too, in his role as Dukat’s overzealous but subservient comrade-in-arms. The Damar-personality wants Sisko dead so that Dukat can take his rightful place as ruler of the Alpha Quadrant, but Dukat insists that first he has to know that Sisko respects him. Meanwhile, while stumbling around, Sisko accidentally jars the comms relay and opens a panel that reveals that the main status panel is lying. Did Starfleet actually build these so that they could falsely appear to be broadcasting a signal, or does Dukat just know that much about hacking Starfleet hardware? Sisko closes it back up again until he can get time to work on it, and when Dukat comes back he reinforces the idea that he can’t move around much. This is by way of ‘proving’ to Dukat that he couldn’t possibly have found out. The trouble is that on a good day, Dukat could probably outguess this ploy. Lucky for all of us, he may not be at his best. Then again, if Dukat has a Tragic Flaw, it’s believing he’s always the smartest person in the room.
Next time Dukat’s gone for an appreciable time, Sisko gets to work trying to repair the comms beacon, and manages to get a signal out to the Defiant just before Dukat comes back with some padding from the shuttle for Sisko to lean against. And some more observations meant to bring himself and Sisko closer together. Next, Kira shows up to play Dukat’s self-loathing. Now that his breakdowns are happening in company, Dukat’s at least doing a passable job at passing these off as rememberances, rather than hallucinations, but I really appreciate the way he turns to look at Kira even in shots where she’s not on-camera.
Now that Sisko can see Dukat losing his grip, Sisko backs off the gas and holds on to the assertion that he can’t judge Dukat, since he wasn’t there. Once Dukat breaks and talks to Imaginary Kira, though, Sisko really backs down and starts placating Dukat, although he really can’t keep the sarcasm out of his voice. Imaginary Kira points this out, so Sisko has to pull Dukat back from the brink, hard. Also, bad news – O’Brien locking on to the survivors turns out not to be Sisko and Dukat after all, and after Dukat’s outburst, Sisko’s accidentally revealed his maintenance tools. Dukat now realizes that the comms are working, and destroys it just as Jadzia was trying to get a lock. Now the pretense is over, and Dukat’s hotbutton issue is betrayal, so he starts beating Sisko up.
So, you know that thing where a ship out of communication has to improvise sometimes? Kira’s prior instructions were very clear, but this communication was just this side of unintelligable, so Bashir breaks the ice and pretends that nobody understood what she was saying when she told Worf to abandon the search and go protect the convoy. The decision devolves to Worf, who declines to take the way out. Jadzia also stuck with that decision.
After the beatings have been handed out, Dukat takes a moment to deconstruct Sisko’s right to judge him, and they have it out. Dukat does have a legitimate claim, in that he took command of a 40-year-old occupation, and things were almost certainly entrenched by that point. And Dukat did reduce labor output quotas, abolish child labor, provide food and medical care, lowering death rates across the camp. In repayment, the Bajoran resistance blew up a drydock, forcing a response. What I love here is that Dukat really is the hero of his own story – he bucked Cardassian military values to be nice, and he saw betrayal, because he just can’t acknowledge that after a generation of occupation, the fact that the forced labor camps are still going is a bit of a sticking point. Sisko gets the chance to cross-examine, and gets Dukat to actually vocalize his ‘superior race’ ideology. I also appreciate the not-so-subtle reminder that the ‘superior race’ got harassed to the point of giving up. And there, in that cave, Sisko draws out the monster that’s always been inside Dukat, and clubs him on the back of the head.
Sisko gets out in the storm, finds the shuttle, and gets tackled by Dukat before he can lock up. Dukat beats Sisko up again, but leaves him alive, swearing revenge of Bajor for their ingratitude. The shuttle was, in fact, working the whole time, and Dukat does Sisko the favor of telling the Defiant where to find him. Dukat very clearly wants Sisko to be there, and to appreciate his revenge on Bajor. The good news for Sisko is that talking with Dukat really throws all the moral greys into focus.