Wednesday, January 11, 2012

DS9–Kira and Dukat

Hellooooooooo.  Anybody there?

Yes, it has been a while since I’ve been here.  Life has been … busy.  To say the least.   But in the midst of all that busyness I watched all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  I’d seen it before but after watching Enterprise I wanted to watch it again to see if it was as good as I recalled.  It was.  Oh, it was.

It’s a wonderfully written series and the entire ensemble cast is terrific.  And there is a plethora of recurring characters, all as well developed as the regularly appearing characters.

But, even the second time around, I still found myself wishing the writers had let Kira be the character who conquered Gul Dukat instead of Sisko.   But this time through I found myself suspecting that women writers would have allowed that to happen and maybe part of the problem was the dearth of women writers on the series.

The relationship between Kira and Dukat through 5 1/2 seasons was one of the best television relationships ever between a series character and a recurring character.  In many ways it was even better than the relationship between Captain Picard and Q (wonderful though that was).  

Gul Dukat is probably the best villain in Star Trek history because he is such a complex villain.  The writers understood that Bad People don’t think they are bad.  Dick Cheney didn’t wake up every day and think “Ah, I’m so evil.”  No, Bad People usually think they are good.  And in certain parts of their lives they may, in fact, be not that bad. 

The joy of having a recurring character is that the writers can have the character make wide character arc swings.  If the writers did that with regular characters, from week to week, the audience wouldn’t buy it.  The audience needs to believe that they know the regular characters, so character changes have to be incremental.  But recurring characters are those people you don’t know all that well, who always surprise you. 

As Gul Dukat appeared in occasional episodes he was charming and grating and generous and evil.  The swings didn’t jar because we were always trying to figure out who he really was.  Kira knew he was evil and couldn’t be trusted but we, the audience, hadn’t lived through the Bajoran occupation and so we weren’t so sure.

And then the writers did a very clever thing.  They sent Dukat and Kira on a mission together and they had Kira let her guard down a little.  And, yes, there was something between them.  Some connection. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was never one of those people who wanted the writers to have Dukat find redemption and end up with Kira.  Dukat was not Spike from Buffy – if he saved the world it would only happen because it was good for him.  But I liked that they made the relationship between the two of them more complex.  Because let’s face it, sometimes people we dislike are also very attractive.  And we can find ourselves sucked into their orbit only to later kick ourselves for letting our guard down.

And that’s what seemed to happen at the beginning of Season 6.  The Cardassians had captured the Space Station, Gul Dukat was occupying Captain Sisko’s office and Kira was forced to play her part and try to get along with him.  He had the upper hand; he had all the power.  He could bait her and she could not fight back. 

It was a perfect scene of the kind of subtle sexual harassment that often happens in an office environment.  The person in power knows they can make insinuations that just brush against the bounds of decency but they have plausible deniability and the person without power must just stand there and take it.  It was a great scene and so well played by Nana Visitor and Marc Alaimo.

Ah, I thought.  This is really going to make their relationship interesting.  He’ll just keep pushing and pushing but one day, she’ll get him.  And he’ll be sorry.

But no.  Instead they shifted Dukat’s story away from Kira and over to Sisko.  Oh, they had an episode where Kira had to find out that Dukat had a relationship with her mother (the revelation of which seemed to come out of nowhere) and there was the episode where Kira had to watch as Dukat tried to be a messianic cult figure – but those episodes seemed to lack something.  They weren’t really about the relationship between the two characters, they were about other things.

Instead the writers tried to make the key antagonistic relationship be between Sisko and Dukat.  I never really bought that because for 6 years Sisko mostly treated Dukat as a minor annoyance.

This time through I found myself wondering if  the male writers found themselves in a situation where they had created great tension (sexual and otherwise) between Kira and Dukat but they just couldn’t imagine a scenario where that tension didn’t resolve itself without a hookup of the two characters.  I’d like to think that women writers would have seen the potential in the harassment aspects of the story and run with it.  Kira was such a strong character.  In the end she could have taken Dukat down. 

And that  would have been so satisfying.

But despite my disappointment with the end of that particular story arc, I still love the series.  I’m finding myself thinking about all of the other story arcs and wishing that Hollywood had seen fit to make follow up movies of DS9.