Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by ananta, Jan 5, 2021.
Well, in Kira's defense falling in love tends to make people blind to most anything else.
“RETURN TO GRACE”
“I’m NOT AT ALL CREEPY—you take that back, Major!”
“Return to Grace” serves as something of a sequel to “Indiscretion”, our previous Kira/Dukat adventure, and, as with that episode, I think this one is good, but not great.
Dukat’s character arc is a long and, at times, meandering one. Upon rewatching, it strikes me that the writers were never quite sure what they wanted to do with him and by this point it almost seems like they’re throwing everything at the wall just to see what sticks. Certainly, he emerged as an interesting and compelling semi-villain-but-sometimes-grudging-ally in the second season, until the third season went out of its way to emphasise “the Cardassians are our friends!” The twist in this fourth season is that the Cardassians have now found themselves in the position of the oppressed (as the Bajorans might say: boo hoo!). This episode explores the parallels by setting Dukat on a bold new trajectory: as a resistance fighter. I’m sure no one saw that one coming.
I’m not entirely sure how effective this latest twist is. It’s a reversal that wouldn’t last terribly long, as we’ll only see Dukat as freedom fighter one more time before the writers decided to do something even bolder. Maybe part of the problem, for me at least, is that although I love Marc Alaimo’s performances, I was never that comfortable seeing Dukat presented in anything resembling a heroic role. While I certainly appreciate the writers showing depth and nuance to the character, the bottom line is I find him a deeply reprehensible and repugnant man. He’s clearly a malignant narcissist at best, and a psychopath at worst. I find it difficult rooting for such a character and, although he can be compelling, he also makes my skin crawl—and never more so than when he’s with Kira. Really, this guy is one sick puppy (particularly as we later learn about his liaisons with Kira’s mother) and I find an episode full of his posturing and creepy advances, which are largely rooted in a need for power over Kira and approval, not a great deal of fun to watch. I feel this is one episode that might have benefited from a sub-plot just to balance the tone and give a little light relief.
What I do like is that “Return to Grace” doesn’t follow “Indiscretion”’s trajectory of softening Kira’s feelings toward Dukat and any implication of sexual interest is clarified as being strictly one-sided. Thank the Prophets! We also get to see some of Kira’s fire here, and it’s strangely a relief to see that she is unwilling to forgive Dukat for his crimes during the Occupation. Ziyal serves as an interesting link between the two characters, and I do wish they’d kept Cyia Batten in the role.
There’s definitely some compelling drama here, particularly toward the end as Dukat tries to coax Kira to join him. Fortunately, we see Kira come to the realisation that what she went through was hell, so why the heck would she want to go back to that? Also, the very notion she’d ever, ever throw away her life and love to travel around kicking Klingon ass with Dukat was ridiculous. Frankly, I wonder how much of Dukat’s decision was done to elevate himself in Kira’s eyes, and in his own eyes. The man is all about power and image and I never for a second believed that it was really Cardassia he wanted to fight for. Nope, he was carving out a new, elevated position for himself; one that, in his eyes, set himself above the currently passive, oppressed Cardassian government.
On paper this is an excellent episode, filled with conflict, action and some interesting twists. In spite of some good performances and engaging dialogue, something just doesn’t quite ignite for me. Jonathan West’s directing is somewhat pedestrian and lacks pace, punch and visual flair (the battle aboard the Bird of Prey seemed particularly poorly directed). Similarly, Jay Chattaway’s score adds nothing to the episode.
It is, nevertheless, an important episode for a few reasons. To begin with, it’s the first appearance of Damar, who would go on to become one of the show’s most important characters, even though he’s little more than a speaking extra here. Secondly, Dukat’s disillusionment with Cardassia is a pivotal plot point because it would eventually lead him into the arms of the Dominion. So, whereas the “Dukat as space pirate” twist won’t stick for very long, it’s nevertheless an important bridge to the second half of the show’s run and the heating up of the Dominion arc. Rating: 7
I actually rate this one an 8, not only because of the performances but also on how pivotal this episode is.
If there is one episode I would illustrate as the perfect showing of Dukat's complete narcissism, it's this one. That is the one trait that has been constant in ALL his appearances. It's the reason he even bothers with going on a hunt for Klingons. It's why he kept Ziyal around. It's why he told Sisko he was such a lenient dictator when he was Prefect of Bajor during the Occupation. It's why he got in bed with the Dominion. Hell, it's why he told Kira about him and her mom... he wanted to say, "See! I'm not such a bad guy if your mom loved me!"
There is no bigger narcissist in the entire franchise, yet he was entertaining to watch every time. Not a small feat, thanks in large part to Alaimo's superb portrayal. I hate narcissists... they grate on my nerves to no end. But he somehow manages to make it fun to watch.
Of all the STAR TREK shows, I think the casting department of DS9 was the best one.
This is a point I always find interesting when I talk with people about characters that I find interesting. The idea that because they are presented as feeling morally right or superior necessitates that I root for them or cheer them on to their goals might miss the point of the presentation.
Great review! and I have pretty much the same assessment of the episode as you do.
Speaking of Cyia Batten, she came back on Voyager as an alien terrorist and on Enterprise as an Orion girl (I almost said "slave girl" but as we learn in that episode the Orion girls are really the ones wearing the pants (in spite of visual evidence to the contrary.).)
BTW, the dalliance of Dukat and Kira's mother makes his command of DS9 a couple of decades longer than initially said. That's no small potatoes!!!
I fully dislike this episode: it feels like it was set up to make Kira captive to Dukat's harassment. The performances are good, not great, but I tend to feel the same way as Kira by the end of the episode: a constantly throbbing headache, brought on by megalomania. 4
“Return to Grace” seems sharply ironic as a title… Dukat lost everything when he chose not to murder his illegitimate daughter -thanks to Kira. But we can’t really expect to feel sympathy for him, the way he continues to lie and manipulate--e.g. telling Kira that Shakaar is a ladies’ man. Damar, on the other hand, seems to grow and redeem himself by the end of the series.
Didn’t know till now that Cyia Batten played both Tora Ziyal and the Orion dancer Navaar in “Bound” ENT -! Such different roles.
I had mostly forgotten this episode and I agree . . . what a waste of potential. There's this whole Cardassian underground thing that could be fascinating and instead things grind to a halt every time we get to Quark and Natima waxing poetic. Absolutely the worst, you're correct, is after she shoots him. As for the climax, I wonder how it would have changed the tone of the episode if there had been a traumatic ending: everything plays out as in the episode, and then . . . the ship explodes as it's escaping. Was Quark's cloaking device defective? Or did Garak tamper with the ship, setting up some sort of car bomb? And just leave that ambiguous. I'm not saying such an ending would have been good, but watching the episode I was halfway expecting something like that.
It's also ironic because Dukat refuses the honor and decides to wage a one-ship war against the Klingons.
Ironic perhaps, but the title is actually on point with the end of the episode.
Instead of being a figurehead military leader, he gets to be a hero for his people. At least, in his mind. He's the big man of his hill by staying as the captain of that ship. It clearly worked, because he had people like Damar have his back fully.
This was definitely a better deal for Dukat, at least in his mind.
Good point...Dukat was not restored to his former position, but in his own eyes, he still saw potential for glory.
“SONS OF MOGH”
“If you EVER try to murder someone on my #@&*&$!ing station again, I will murder YOU, $€&#@*!er!”
This one was a lot stronger than I remember. As an hour of drama, it’s engrossing and more than held my attention throughout, something the previous episode, “Return to Grace” failed to do (I actually found my attention wandering a little as I rewatched that one). “Sons of Mogh” boasts an excellent script by Ronald Moore, once again returning to one of his favourite themes of years gone by—Klingon culture—and superb directing by David Livingston. I’ll begin with the latter: Livingston keeps the pace tight and has a wonderful eye for visual detail, with a number of beautifully set up shots that utilise effective and unusual camera angles and brilliant use of colour and light. David Bell also contributes a superb score which really adds to the drama, underscoring the emotion, tension and drama quite perfectly. The directing and music were both weak aspects in “Return to Grace” and watching this episode just highlights to me how important they are in bringing an episode to life. A good script and solid performances aren’t in themselves enough; the craft has to be there, and admittedly Nineties’ Trek was frequently prone to fairly lacklustre directing and tepid music. Full marks for this episode, however. An episode that’s well directed, shot and scored will automatically get higher marks from me.
Thankfully, there’s also a great deal of substance here. What I love about “Sons of Mogh” is that it shows the consequences, in very real and personal terms, of Worf’s difficult decision to stand against the Empire and face social exile. That’s something we never really saw during his discommendation in TNG’s third and fourth seasons. The most we saw there were Klingon characters being rude to him—ruder than normal, that is. Here Worf learns that his decision didn’t just impact his future, but also his brother’s. It’s wonderful to see the excellent Tony Todd return so soon after “The Visitor”, and he’s virtually unrecognisable as he slips back into the role he first played in TNG’s “Sins of the Father”.
It’s quite painful to witness the previously spirited and larger than life Kurn so desolate and suicidal. This strikes me as perhaps the first time Trek has ever attempted to depict a character who is clearly suffering from clinical depression. While ordinarily, we’d hope that such a character could learn to heal and move beyond their pain, perhaps with the help of a psychologist and occupational therapist, it’s clear from the offset that this isn’t possible for Kurn. “Sons of Mogh” offers a fascinating exploration of cultural values and how one’s entire sense of self and self-worth is often inextricably tied to those values. Whereas Worf has the ability to question the predominant values of his culture and reject them where appropriate (as he does in this very episode when he realises that Kurn’s suicide ritual is not something he truly believes in), Kurn has no such ability. Kurn is a product of his culture and has never opened his mind to different cultural narratives and values the way that Worf, as a Starfleet officer, has. It’s desperately sad, because Kurn’s inability to question his conditioning and belief system means that, for him, there’s no way out for him other than death.
Tony Todd is superb throughout, and Michael Dorn also delivers one of his best performances, and manages to really sell Worf’s conflicted emotions. Terry Farrell also gets to shine, proving an incredible source of support for her new comrade, and also managing to sell the beginnings of what would rapidly become a burgeoning romance between the two. Worf’s attempts to find Kurn a new job and sense of purpose make for compelling viewing, and I also liked the way the minefield sub-plot eventually dovetailed into the main plot.
The episode’s conclusion generated a lot of controversy, although, unlike “Tuvix” for instance, I never had a problem with it myself. I have to level with you and say that I have a friend who suffers horribly with mental health issues: depression, anxiety, self-hatred, paranoia and delusions. He routinely self-harms and, on occasion, has attempted suicide. If I could press a button and prevent him from continually running the same thought processes and mental/emotional patterns that keep him trapped in this self-perpetuating loop of hell—if I knew that he could reset his mind and live his life afresh—well, I wouldn’t hesitate. Our sense of self, of who we think we are, is basically just a collection of thoughts and memory. This episode made me ask, if you have different thoughts, different memories and a different name does that actually change YOU, the one that witnesses it all? It does, but it doesn’t. Kurn is still alive, even if he’s not called “Kurn” anymore and he has a second chance at life. Because he’s no longer blighted by self-limiting and self-destructive thoughts, he has the potential to live a happy and fulfilling life. What alternative was there? This guy was clearly incapable of seeing beyond his predicament and sooner or later would have found a way to kill himself. Worf was dutiful to a fault; he gave his brother the chance of a new and happy life by letting him go. It’s a gut-wrenching ending and really adds an extra dimension of depth and tragedy to the character.
I do have an issue with the lack of moral deliberation, however. There needed to be a scene where Bashir wrangles with the moral implications of wiping a man’s memory without his consent (it’s never explicitly stated, but is implied that this procedure is being done without Kurn’s consent). As it is, Bashir seems altogether too willing to perform the procedure—which I suppose wouldn’t be surprising given that he effectively turned Bareil into a lobotomised robot-zombie a year earlier! It would have helped if we’d seen Worf having to fight to convince Bashir, although I guess it may have diverted the story’s focus by turning it into a medical ethics story at the eleventh hour.
In retrospect, also think was a missed opportunity that we never followed up Kurn’s story once Worf regained his honour. Heck, this reminded me of bizarre real world example. Back in the Nineties, there was a popular boy band called Take That. All the girls at school were absolutely obsessed with these guys. When the band broke up in the mid-Nineties, schoolgirls across the country were so distraught that a national telephone helpline was actually set up to help them (I kid you not!). Sadly, at least one girl actually committed suicide because of the band’s breakup. If that wasn’t a tragic waste of life in itself, just a few years later the band re-formed and has remained active to this day. What adds to the tragedy of this episode is that, in about a season’s time, Worf’s House and reputation will be restored. If only Kurn had been willing to hold on and push through. I’d have liked to see another Kurn story at some point after this, perhaps one in which Bashir’s procedure had started to wear off and he found himself struggling with emerging memories of his old life as two personal identities collide.
As it is, I thought this was a great hour of drama; well-written, nicely performed, with superb directing and production. Controversial, yes, but sometimes a little controversy is good. The themes are weighty, important and worthy of discussion. Oh, and I know most people seem to hate it when Sisko shouts, but I rather perversely kind of enjoy it, and the scene where he chews out Worf and Dax (“now, both of you, GET OUT!!”) is just awesome. Picard would have been far more restrained and measured, but I love me some Sisko badass mode. Rating: 9
Great insights on “Sons of Mogh” - especially the contrast between Kurn being completely ruled by Klingon culture, and Worf having a more open mind, broader experience.
I admired Sisko’s passionate speech on how far to tolerate alien customs on the station.
Enjoyed the first glimpse of Worf and Jadzia having obvious chemistry in the holodeck scene. It helps that she was once a Klingon--she defends Worf when Sisko confronts him, prevents Worf from killing his brother and comes up with a workable solution to Kurn’s dilemma.
Tony Todd said “I didn’t like what happened to Kurn in 'Sons Of Mogh,' but I signed the contract to do that before I had read the script….otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to do it. Kurn started to turn out a bit like Hamlet, and I think the fans missed some resolution to him. They should have done something. Kurn should have gone out in a fight!”
Worf’s last words, that he has no family… sad. He had to let go of Kurn, but what about Alexander-- Or the Rozhenkos, and Nikolai.
I think Worf’s statement about having no family was meant to reflect that he was no longer part of a Klingon house. After all, he still had the family you mentioned and his awesome human parents. But Kurn was his only real tie to the Empire.
intetesting what Tony Todd had to say. I can understand him feeling that way, particularly as this was a completely different Kurn to what we’d seen before. But in the context of the story and Klingons’ complete overemphasis on the concept of “honour”, it made sense to me. If he truly believed there was no hope of honour left in life, he probably would probably be seeking death, as Klingons don’t seem to view death as a particularly big thing anyway. Again, the tragic part is that Kurn was unable to see beyond his cultural conditioning, whereas Worf could because he had a foot between worlds. I definitely think they should have revisited the Kurn story, though, as this felt like an interim ending but not a final ending for the character.
Great review for a great episode. It's definitely a gut wrenching one.
I'll address one thing first. I don't think a moral dilemma scene between Bashir and Worf was needed because I think Bashir was fine with this solution. He had already healed Kurn from attempted suicide... TWICE! I think Bashir knew if this wasn't done, Kurn would certainly finish the job.
Another thing... in a sense, Worf's house never did recover. Think about it for a second. Worf was brought into a big house, the House of Martok, as a brother. Alexander, later on. But no one else from Worf's family. Any cousins or whoever else would essentially be left out in the cold. In a very real sense, Kurn was the last Klingon tie to his Klingon family for Worf. Once he finished the procedure, Worf was quite factual when he said he had no family. And that hurt. Every time I hear him say that on rewatches, it hurts.
This is definitely one of the best acting performances for Michael Dorn, on TNG and DS9.
Agreed about David Livingston. There's a reason why he's directed more episodes than anyone in the franchise... by a wide margin. (62 episodes between TNG, DS9, VOYAGER, and ENTERPRISE. The closest person is Winrich Kolbe with 50 across the same shows.) He also has a very distinctive directing style... he's big on really close closeups of faces. Which is not a bad thing, just something I noticed. Most directors tend to have that one thing that defines them... Frakes, for example, seems to love using the overhead cranes a lot. But if you look at the episodes David Livingston has directed... "IN THE HANDS OF THE PROPHETS", "CROSSOVER", "THE DIE IS CAST", "THE VISITOR", "SONS OF MOGH", "MANEUVERS", "DEADLOCK", "DISTANT ORIGIN", "SCORPION", "NOTHING HUMAN", "SHUTTLEPOD ONE", "REGENERATION", "THE COUNCIL"... you can easily see why he always got called back to direct. (He actually was a supervising producer for TNG and for several years on DS9 and VOYAGER before he went to directing full time. The production side of things, not the writer side.)
This episode easily gets a 9 from me. Sometimes a 10, depending on how emotional I am. Another home run for the season.
I am not sure. Until he got the Dominion to secretly deal through him with Cardassia he was little more than a (self) glorified vagabond and then he was the traitor who sold his people to an unscrupulous invading force. Some hero!!!
Excellent point. It's hard to appreciate that how one perceives their options and their future is shaped by their peers and the society to which they belong. Indeed, a lot of current literature emphasizes how much both emotions and reasoning are shaped by culture. It's unlikely Kurn could be talked out of a suicidal or self-harming act, given the intensity of his despair and the immediacy with which he wants to act. This episode is hard to watch, given Tony Todd's talents and the sentiment of the relationship between Worf and Kurn. While this is not technically an episode focused on the right to die, I can't help but think that it was easier to accept Q's suicide in Deathwish because we don't empathize with him as much as we do Kurn.
I think this tends to get blown up too much. Crusher and Pulaski were willing to erase memories, on Picard's orders, not on the basis of the wishes of the individual, but because the consequences of the memory would be legally inconvenient for the crew. While we don't see Bashir consulting with Kurn or an evaluation, I think that the drama of the story establishes that Kurn would have likely been deemed a legitimately and irreversibly suicidal--it would take a lot of time from the story to include medical and psychiatric examinations. I'm also glad that they didn't revisit Kurn: any story that brought him back would be driven by cheap irony, like if a cure for cancer had been found a week after someone died.
@ananta: Great review, although I wouldn't rate this episode that high. Tony Todd is great as ever as he always is with roles like that. For example, he plays a very convincing Hirogen on Voyager, arguably the best we get to see. It's funny how he manages to look awkward in that Bajoran uniform, even before he says so to Worf.
Speaking of overzealous fans, about four decades ago (Wow, I never realized it!) a successful singer died (because of his own stupidity), and the same day two of his fans, two girls, threw themselves in a river, apparently to drown but they were both fished out alive and well.... Ironically nobody remembers that singer anymore... Well, that's the fleeting nature of fandom for you, although four decades is a very long time.
Very nice! I used to love that series.
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