Dukat character - writer's mess?!

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by Dal Rassak, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    To start off, I'd say that in many ways he's better described as an anti-hero, or shall we say hero-villain?, because the character does have certain qualities - courage, assurance, intelligence, the force of his convictions - which in and of themselves are admirable. Many such people in real life do; that's how they get others to follow them in the first place.
    [LEFT]He has a lot of what it takes to be the great man he undoubtedly thinks himself to be, it's what he does with these in and of themselves admirable qualities that's despicable - and this is because he's also self-obsessed, power-hungry and entirely ruthless. He lacks a moral compass, and like most narcissists he lacks self-knowledge - the latter being the reason he ends up his own worst enemy more often than not.
    Of course, from the first appearance it's obvious that this is going to be the main adversary, but the charisma the actor Marc Alaimo imparts to his role also gives the immediate impression this isn't going to be your run-of-the-mill villain.
    Therefore the character could take development, but he didn't need turning on his head! For instance, "soft" I just don't buy from this person. The same goes for some sort of quasi-religious conversion. When he comes to Weyoun telling him he's no longer interested in power and conquest - I mean what's this man about if not power and conquest?! - that was it for me. I'd say that's where the writers lost me if they hadn't already done so by the end of the "Sacrifice of Angels" episode. I know the scene was meant to be moving, but I simply couldn't believe this man turning into a blubbing pathetic wreck from one second to the next.
    I know the writers said it wasn't their intention to show him as losing his head over the love of his child but that's how it comes across. What made the character perfect for me was the fact that there were things that made him impressive while being reprehensible, so as a viewer you're forced to admire him almost against your will. It adds to his ambivalence: he may be a bastard, but he's a magnificent one. So he was someone you could really love to hate. There's no point in a good villain if you can't hate him and feel the precarious satisfaction of being justified in hating him. Yet paradoxically that needs a certain amount of respect. Strip the character of his dignity, and you can only despise and there's a difference. The fatal flaw in that scene to my mind is that he hasn't somehow fundamentally changed, he's not become likeable, you can't suddenly feel for him; therefore rather than making him sympathetic, he's made simply to appear pitiful. His apparent grief doesn't ennoble him or make him a better person. He is still vile; only now he's weak, and there's nothing more despicable than a creature who is both vile and weak. A spectacular fall from grace only makes sense if it can inspire compassion - all this inspired in me was a mixture of disbelief and disgust.
    Ruining the character entirely just went in progressive stages from there.
    First, turn him insane. Oh yes, the insane evildoer, lame cliche here we come. The truly frightening, and much more intriguing thing is the fact that the most atrocious deeds can be, and have been, committed and rationalized by perfectly sane people. Next, make him not merely insane, but the insane self-styled leader of some evil religious cult. I had my tolerance and my credulity stretched so far by that episode that I actually switched off the TV. Forget merely lame cliche, it's preposterous we're at now.
    Next step, have the man who not so long ago professed his hatred of everything Bajoran in an outburst that, mental state notwithstanding, sounded as though he meant those words, willing to turn himself into one??
    And to finish it all off, just go the whole hog and have the lame and preposterous and tasteless B-movie cliche of demonic possession, complete with the red devil eyes.
    Why even invest originality and personality in the character in the first place if that's how he ends up? Why insult such a talented actor by wasting him on that kind of utter tosh?
    What about the writer's much-vaunted avoidance of one-dimensionality? He's less than one-dimensional by the end, he's reduced to a caricature. Besides, insanity lets him off the hook, because you're hardly fully responsible for your actions if you're insane, even less so, if you're taken over by some malign spirit. It is lazy and counter-productive.
    I want a character like that to be fully accountable and responsible for his actions and choices. Lastly, he doesn't even decently die, so there's no catharsis. The viewer is denied the one cliche he could justifiably expect, and the only one that would have been satisfying: the bit where the bad guy gets what he deserves. Only what he gets is the equivalent of eternal damnation - presumably his body burns up and dies but it's hinted that the essence of him is still in there somewhere with those fire things. Literally eternal torment? No-one deserves that. Even punishment for the worst crimes must end at some point because the crimes themselves cannot be endless. So his final fate is at one and the same time too much and not enough.
    Simply watch the first meeting between Dukat and Sisko and the last confrontation and compare. That first scene packs ten times the impact and subtle meaning than the o.t.t. sledgehammer of the last. The first time they come face to face, volumes of antagonism are spoken with very few words, a look, a fleeting expression. In the final showdown by contrast, nothing very much at all is said with a lot of fireworks. Well, I rest my case...
    Sorry for the length. It was a bit of a rant. I needed to get this off my chest for quite some while now![/LEFT]
     
  2. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    SFDebris had a review of the episode where Dukat and Sisko are stranded on a planet together and how the whole series would have been better served if Dukat had actually died at the end of the episode.
     
  3. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    His religious conversion to the Pah-Wraiths seemed a bit of a stretch, but I've known people who became "born-again Christians" after a wild life of sex and drugs and sin. They can become rather unnerving working God and Jesus into every other sentence, and fully believing it because it gives them inner peace.

    Despite all of Dukat's strange turns, Alaimo keeps him interesting.
     
  4. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I guess that depends how you define 'Greatness', whether the word has any moral implications to you. He possessed the personality qualities of a real dictator, so if you consider 'Great' to be a function of significance and power and not of morality or overall quality of person, you could call him 'Great'.

    I agree the glowing red eyes thing was a little over the top but I don't see his conversion as inappropriate for his character.

    Dukat's thought process is like this: "I am awesome and ought to be important and powerful. Therefore, whatever means available to me to gain that power is who I am." First it was his military position, then his position in the civilian government, then his alliance with the Dominion, then finally it was the Pah'Wraiths. If he could have become important and powerful by playing piano music, he would have said he was always destined to play the piano, and that music burned within his soul.
     
  5. Ziz

    Ziz Commodore Commodore

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    The villain is the hero of his own story.
     
  6. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I agree that the character became a mess in the last few seasons. Apparently there was some behind the scenes stuff with certain writers(I think Behr and maybe some others?) thinking they'd gone too far in making Dukat complex and multi-faceted, so they decided to turn him into a more cartoonish and one-dimensional villain.(I mean, I don't think the memo was to literally turn him into a cartoonish villain, but that was the effect of the changes)
     
  7. toughlittleship

    toughlittleship Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've never understood why a minority of fans get so annoyed by this; they wanted Dukat to be Sisko's ultimate foe by making him the "anti-Emissary". The Pah-wraith connection would also help Dukat seek his revenge on the Bajorans, by killing their gods and releasing the Pah-wraith on them.
     
  8. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    I really wanted to read your "rant" and discuss your opinions, but the wall of text you posted is unreadable.
     
  9. Anwar

    Anwar Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The problem probably came from him becoming insane and fanatical. If he had remained the same personality wise, but just wanted to use the Pah-Wraiths to get rid of the Prophets (instead he ends up possessed by them) then it'd have gone over better.
     
  10. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Double-spacing the paragraph breaks might help, Dal.
     
  11. JustKate

    JustKate Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    While I wasn't 100% thrilled with exactly how it was done, I found the premise of the Pah Wraith arc very compelling and even in its own way believable. What happened is that - as genuinely happens - Dukat was given a choice of good or evil. He choose the Pah Wraiths - they didn't force him - and in choosing them, he knowingly chose the path of evil. I agree that the glowing red eyes were over the top but a lot of the rest of it was very compelling, I thought. That episode (can't remember the name) where he preached to his followers was fantastic - creepy, horrifying and yet rooted in reality. It alone was almost enough to make that arc worthwhile.

    Oh, and may I add that I agree that some paragraph breaks would have done wonders for your post, Dal? That wall o' text is particularly unreadable on my tablet, on which it looks almost as dense as the US tax code.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  12. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I don't think the problem was the storyline itself so much as Dukat's behavior. He got all 'BWA HA HA I WILL KILL EVERYONE'. If he had said "I am using the Pah'Wraiths to get myself into power" it would have made it come off better.
     
  13. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    Dukat was complex, but overall was a villain IMO.

    He had some positive traits though, such as charisma, loyalty (to Cardassia above all), a sense of family, and charm.
     
  14. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I usually put in spacing! It sort of all came off in one go because I'm using a public library computer and someone claiming he'd reserved the one I was using was literally standing behind me and hurrying me along...
    I think I'll go and put in some spacing to make the stuff more readable 'cause I'd love to have a bit of a discussion about this...
    P.S. no time now will be back Thursday. Cheers.
     
  15. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    To JirinPanthosa: (haven't read up on how to do the "quote in a box" thing):

    completely agree with your reply, only would like to point out that I said he had some of the qualities that could have made a great man, which is what he was certainly convinced he was, not that he actually was that great man.
    True greatness in my opinion definitely does take a moral compass. Just wanted to be clear on this - I don't share Dukat's opinion of himself! (well only sometimes, haha)
     
  16. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I've always compared Dukat's fate to the fate of that guy in Dante's Inferno who ended up being dragged into Hell and his body inhabited by a demon while he was still alive. It was the penalty for treason, in Dante's depiction of Hell.

    "Covenant"--and yes, the acting was superb there. You could tell Marc Alaimo had studied cult leaders very closely before he began on that episode.

    I think that was how it started with Dukat, though...he thought he could control the Pah-Wraiths to his own ends, but they ended up rewriting his mind. Just as Dukat wanted to make others love him--that's what the Pah-Wraiths did to him in the end: forced him to love them. In effect, he sold his soul and threw away his free will.
     
  17. LobsterAfternoon

    LobsterAfternoon Commander Red Shirt

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    Dukat as a character is fantastic, but the writers seemed to falter a bit when it came to properly integrating him into the later Dominion War stuff. The fact that he just walked into Central Command and was like "gimme some weird old Bajoran junk" when his overconfidence cost them control of DS9/the wormhole/access to Gamma Quadrant reinforcements was pretty asinine. Not to mention he had been held prisoner by Starfleet for at least a while, how did Weyoun/the female Founder know that he hadn't been compromised or replaced by a Starfleet operative?
     
  18. Worf'sParmach

    Worf'sParmach Commander Red Shirt

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    I was fine with the Pah-wraith thing, like others have said it made Dukat an anti-Emissary of sorts. I thought the whole "turn Bajoran and sleep with the Kai" angle was too much, but thankfully that was the end of the series, otherwise it would have definitely been a jump-the-shark moment for Dukat.

    (For the record, I also was not a fan of the whole Sarah Sisko Mom-prophet thing either. They could have still ended the show the way they did without all that.)
     
  19. lurok

    lurok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^This :). Too tired/lazy to post anything more incisive.
     
  20. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    ...aaargh! I absolutely hated "Covenant"; first time round I literally couldn't watch it through. The way he loses every last bit of dignity practically grovelling onhis knees begging those entities, and then his deluded followers, to basically "please,please love him" was so pathetic it turned my stomach.
    I think the character worked best when he was military through-and-through (civilian clothes don't suit him), secular as most Cardassians are, and above all not so damn needy.