Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night

From: tlynch@alumnae.caltech.edu (Timothy W. Lynch)
Subject: [DS9] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"
Date: 1998/04/04
Message-ID: <6g6437$n21@gap.cco.caltech.edu>
Approved: trek-reviews@ravenna.com
Followup-To: rec.arts.startrek.current,alt.tv.star-trek.ds9
Keywords: DS9, Kira, mother, Dukat
Reply-To: tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu
Organization: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
Newsgroups: rec.arts.startrek.reviews,rec.arts.startrek.current,alt.tv.star-trek.ds9

WARNING: Of all the "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night", some would say the worst of all are unprotected DS9 spoilers -- so here's your warning.

In brief: Ehhhhh.

Written by:  Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by:  Jonathan West
Brief summary:  Kira travels back in time to investigate Gul Dukat's 
claim that he and Kira's mother were lovers.

I'm not even sure where to begin here. "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" strikes me as an episode that should never have been made, using a technique it never should have used to make a point that its central character should already know.

I mean, boiled down to its essentials, the episode is basically a flashback telling Kira that the Cardassian occupation was not a black- and-white issue. To borrow from the late, lamented "My So-Called Life", "Duh, squared." Kira *knows* the occupation wasn't clear- cut; she learned that on the Cardassian side as early as season 1's magnificent "Duet", and on the Bajoran side with season 2's "The Collaborator". I can see the occasional bit of reinforcement here and there as helpful, but an entire episode dealing with nothing but Kira coming to terms with a very old realization would need a lot of strength to be powerful. Simply involving her mother won't be enough; since we've almost never heard Kira mention her mother before, there doesn't seem to be any loss. The last attempt, "Ties of Blood and Water", came out rather lackluster; so trying again only makes sense if you're sure you can do it absolutely right.

This episode didn't do it right, for several reasons. The main one has to do with the incredibly cavalier use of both time travel and the Prophets. I've said this before, but the Prophets strike me as a race that can be used well dramatically *in moderation*; they work for the really earth-shattering, life-changing realizations (such as "Emissary" or "The Collaborator" or "Rapture"), but not run-of-the-mill stuff like this. For Kira to say, even somewhat casually, "Oh, the Prophets will protect me from altering the timeline," in this proposal is an absurdity bordering on the sacrilegious (at least to Bajorans). The Prophets help those who help themselves, methinks; there's this thing called "research" that she might want to look into one day.

As for the use of time travel, I'm pretty much appalled. Since when is a basic "Hey, I wanna find this out" an excuse to go back in time and endanger past history? I can almost, *almost* justify Kira having that kind of attitude; she's always been somewhat rash and is certainly emotionally tied to the issue. For Sisko to meekly go along with it, however, even as Emissary, is simply wrong. He paid lip service to "make sure you don't alter the timeline", but that's all it was: after all, the first thing Kira did when she got back was to involve herself in a knife fight and rescue her parents from thieves. That sounds like a pretty firm alteration of the timeline right there. Did she hear about it from Sisko later? No.

What's worse, she then goes out of her way to befriend her mother and warn her off Dukat, eventually going so far as to attempt to assassinate Dukat. I don't care *what* Kira's feeling; that's completely off base from any ethical use of time travel we've seen in Trek before, and it's the clearest example of why you don't allow time travel to satisfy personal grudges. Kira risked twisting the timeline into so many knots that it'd never be untangled again, and even in avoiding that has created lots of questions (for instance, Dukat should recognize her as "Luma" and should have been doing so for years). I simply do not understand how this story was considered important enough to justify all the garbage plotting used to get there.

All that said, the other main problem with "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" is that it was just dull. After Dukat told Kira about her mother's past, there were two obvious ways the show could go: either she'd find out it was false and part of a plot on Dukat's part, or she'd find out it was true, get really angry, and eventually come to forgive her mother. The remainder of the episode was a long, drawn- out way of getting to option number two. Okay, so it may tell us some interesting things about the present-day Dukat and it does show how easy one can become a collaborator; I appreciate the former, but not enough to think it was worth what we got in the process.

So is there anything in the episode to recommend it? Perhaps a few things. I liked Leslie Hope's performance as Meru; she seemed more on form than Nana Visitor did, actually. I also found the legate who was interested in Kira somewhat intriguing; he was a Cardassian used to power who had no problem with the Bajorans' treatment, but he did take no for an answer from Kira and his observations about Dukat's plans within plans were nicely intriguing.

Other thoughts:

-- This may be the first time we've heard of Kira's two brothers; I'd assume they died during the occupation, but one wonders if we're being set up to meet them one day.

-- Could the "let the actors get their residuals" scenes where Kira gets irritated with her co-workers be any *more* forced? Perhaps, but it's difficult to see how. (I did find the Alamo discussion interesting, since it might conceivably be foreshadowing.)

-- I'm trying to figure out how the timing works with that of Ziyal's birth. Given Kira's and Ziyal's ages, I think it works, but it means that Dukat and Ziyal's mother would have gotten involved almost immediately after Meru's death, and conceived a child extremely quickly. Touchy, but possible.

-- I also thought David Bowe did good work as Dukat's Bajoran liaison. He struck me as someone who knew exactly how he was being perceived by his people and who didn't give a damn.

-- Okay, so Kira decides at the last minute that she can't let her mother die; why did she call out Dukat? She's sworn to kill him in the past, and she already showed in the episode that she doesn't give a damn about the time line -- so why spare Dukat?

On the whole, then, "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" was the most disappointing episode I've seen in a long time from DS9. There are certainly worse episodes out there (most Ferengi episodes), but I'm used to those being bad: heavy-Kira episodes that deal with the occupation are often *good*, and given all the things we could be seeing about the present-day situation, taking time out for a weak time-travel story just feels like a waste. Here's hoping it turns out to be the weak point of the season.

Wrapping up:

Writing: Who on Earth thought this use of time travel or the Prophets was justified? Directing: Bits of the Sisko/Kira dialogue had awkward pauses that didn't seem intentional; there was decent atmosphere in the Terok Nor scenes, though. Acting: No real complaints, though no real standouts either.

OVERALL: 3. Not recommended.

NEXT WEEK:

Bashir is accused of being a Dominion spy.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu	<*>
"Why do you want to play a program where we *lose*?"
		-- Bashir, on O'Brien's suggestion of the Alamo
Copyright 1998, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the
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-----

Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <hwloidl.glasgow.ac.uk>
Last modified: Sat Aug 19 17:15:44 1995 Stardate: [-31]6158.38