I find Covenant a mostly okay episode, mainly thanks to Dukat and Kira being such great characters. But I do agree the episode kind of fails to portray the cult well. I find it rather ironic that Babylon 5 portrayed a far more creepy cult who were supposed to be more or less sympathetic than DS9 portrayed a more or less villainous cult. I suppose that's a bit of a failure for both shows.
Maybe if the cult of the Pah-wraiths had better hair we would have had a better impression of them? Dukat has a bit of a mullet going on, it's hard to respect that. Byron's hair was dreamy.
Kira and Dukat work well together, though. Always have. There's a sense in which Kira is really a much more natural protagonist for the show than Sisko. The writers try to wrap up the Eddington story and make Dukat Sisko's nemesis, but Kira and Dukat are more natural adversaries. Especially since there's this sometimes-a-little-creepy sexual tension between them.
Agreed, Kira/Dukat is a more interesting dynamic than Sisko/Dukat. But I guess Sisko is the captain and the star of the show, so he's the one that gets to face off against the villain.
It's Only a Paper Moon (****)
I'm going to say something utterly unsurprising and say that Nog is the best Ferengi character in Star Trek. It's not because he's the least Ferengi-like Ferengi, it's because he's the Ferengi that most closely matches the spirit of 20th century humans, which is what it's claimed the Ferengi are all about. Modern humans care about profit and accumulating things, sure. But that's not all we care about. Nog wants to be rich in the same way that the rest of us do, but it's not the driving force behind his whole life. He has other things he wants to do, he wants to be a better person, and if he makes some money along the way then that would be swell.
This is part of the reason why Paper Moon
works so well, Nog's not just an eager Ensign out to prove himself, he's more like the audience than most of the characters in the show. O'Brien, Bashir, and Sisko all seem like they could handle losing a leg, even Jake seems like he could come to terms with it. But for Nog it's a huge deal, just like it would be for any of us. What they've done with this character is really impressive, and as the only episode to centre on the character this episode earns extra credit. This episode is also the final step in Nog's transformation from young thug to respected officer, which is easily one of the most impressive character arcs in the franchise.
This episode was also about Vic, and they did a damn good job here as well. Before, Vic was unnecessary fluff added to a show that already contained a lot of fluff. This episode finally proves Vic's worth as a member of the ensemble, not just because of his role aiding Nog through his trauma, but also because this is the first time Vic actually gets to act like a real person. He gets to live a life and develop a real friendship with another person, and he's willing to sacrifice the former for the good of the latter. Thankfully, this episode mostly avoided the over-indulgence problem that hurt His Way
, and while there are several musical numbers in this episode, they work better with the story. Vic's singing actually serves a purpose here, it's not in the show just because Ira Behr wanted to hear some of his favourite songs. I'm still not a fan of 60s lounge singers, but I'm more willing to give it a pass.
I have my problems with the idea of Nog living in a holosuite for several weeks, and the fact that Vic's program is left to run permanently from here on out, but it makes for a nice story, so whatever.