Tacking Into the Wind
is one of my favourite episodes. I love the way in which the Klingon and Cardassian stories mirror each other while also standing in such fascinating contrast to one another. The Klingon plot is about Worf finally taking steps to restore honour and glory to the empire, and hopefully setting the Klingons onto a better path; one in which they finally walk the walk as well as talk the talk, so to speak. The Cardassian story then has something that is at once very similar to this but is also a bit of an inversion of it - Russot mirrors the comments we hear from Klingons about "restoring the glory of the empire", but Damar rejects that vision and makes progress by accepting that the old Cardassia wasn't glorious at all. It's wonderful writing when we hear the same goal proposed twice, but we get two different answers to it, answers that despite being almost exact opposites both manage to be uplifting and satisfying, and both offering hope for a troubled society. Well played, writers, especially as it seemed so natural and uncontrived.
One thing I will say: I think that, in a sense, the Cardassians have fallen further than the Klingons, but thanks to this they've also progressed further, and made (or are now equipped to make ) the bigger step forward. The Klingons were falling apart - as Dax said so well, they were dying and she could no longer even sympathise - but Worf took the step to "restore" them, hopefully to something more in keeping with his idealistic view of what the Klingon culture is "supposed" to be. In other words, the "true" Klingon Empire has a chance to come back. Worf managed - just - to start the process of reversing that long decline, driving out that rot. Cardassia by contrast can't come back. It wasn't just dying, it's actually dead. But in realizing that, and realizing that maybe the old Cardassia shouldn't
come back and that he has an opportunity to make a better Cardassia rise from the ashes, Damar gives us a satisfying conclusion that's very different from Worf's while also thematically similar.
To use Babylon Five
Worf is Emperor Turhan of the Centauri, trying to turn things around before the end:
"So much has been lost, so much forgotten. So much pain, so much blood. And for what, I wonder. The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast, terrible inbetween. But there is still time to seize that one last fragile moment. To choose something better, to make a difference, as you say. And I intend to do just that".
Damar is G'Kar of Narn, having already reached the end and gone past the point that it can be reversed, but seeing now opportunity for rebirth:
"You have the opportunity, here and now, to choose. To become something greater, and nobler, and more difficult than you have been before. The universe does not offer such chances often, G'kar..."
Having the Cardassian arc (which has been running since Season Two, when we were first given insight into the politics and gradual decline of Cardassia) and the Klingon arc (which, as TGB
notes, has been running since TNG season three) hit their payoff at the same time is one of the smartest moves the writers ever made, in my opinion.