The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Covenant

When Kira is visited by her good friend Vedek Fala, the last thing she expects is for him to take her to space station Empok Nor. The station has been taken over by members of the Pah-Wraith cult, as led by none other than Gul Dukat. Dukat seems to have truly found religion, but will Kira be able to uncover the cracks in his seemingly flawless leadership?

As you know by now, I’m no fan of the whole Pah-wraith cult storyline, and so I was expecting to have to endure this episode rather than enjoy it. In fact, I spent much of the time puzzling over the development of Dukat’s character, and trying to make it into a consistent narrative. Other than that, it was good to see Kira being her usual strong self, whilst this episode also does a good job of tackling the subject of cults. Like many cult leaders, Dukat is charismatic and yet also selfish and manipulative, as eager to be loved by devoted worshippers as he is to adhere to his religion. The planned suicide was highly reminsicent of the real life Heaven’s Gate cult, but fortunately, even the dark emo child of the Star Trek franchise pulled back at the last minute, with only one out of the fifty cult members ultimately dying.

The evolution of Dukat

I really want to try to understand Dukat’s character, and put together some kind of plausible explanation for how his character has evolved throughout the series. I may revisit it to append the events of the end of the series, but for now, here’s how it goes.

  • As leader of the Occupation, Dukat saw himself as a paternal figure to the Bajorans. They were lesser beings who needed strong, intelligent leadership, and he was the man to do it. His egotism meant that he was desperate to be loved by the Bajorans, and infuriated by their resistance. If he hurt or killed them, it was for their own good.
  • Like racists who sleep with ethnic minorities, or homophobes who have same-sex relationships, just because Dukat thought of the Bajorans as lesser people, didn’t mean he was averse to having sex with them. His extramarital affairs gave him the physical intimacy he craved – plus he got to have power over someone and make them love him – but in the interests of saving face, he would do anything to cover up any evidence of his activities.
  • After the end of the Occupation, Dukat remained politically savvy, eager to maintain his own status and disadvantage his rivals. He was unhappy about the loss of Bajor, and eager to cause trouble for their new allies, the Federation. Nonetheless, he could be pragmatic about working with them when it was the optimal thing to do.
  • It was also around this time that Dukat developed a bit of a thing for Kira. To Kira, he was a monster who represented the evils of the Occupation, but Dukat nonetheless remained desperate for her approval and admiration. After all, the more she resisted his charms, the more he wanted to own her.
  • Once the new Cardassian government took power, Dukat lost his status – his second great loss in only a few years. He became determined to ‘make Cardassia great again’, even going so far as to make a deal with the Dominion in order to put himself and Cardassia back on the galactic stage.
  • During this time, Dukat also took back his half-Bajoran daughter, Ziyal. Despite initially wanting to kill her in order to hide his indiscretion, he ultimately accepted her and grew to dote on her – after all, she provided him with the unconditional love he needed. Ziyal’s senseless death at the hands of Damar was a major blow to his mental health.
  • Despite now being somewhat mentally unstable, to the point of hearing and seeing illusory versions of Damar, Kira and Weyoun, Dukat was still savvy enough to pretend that the Federation had cured him. Nonetheless, being stranded on a planet with Sisko was enough to reveal that Dukat was from well. After being tormented by the illusory voices, Dukat admitted that he hated all Bajorans, and wanted nothing more than to kill them all.
  • That being said, instead of becoming a genocidal maniac, Dukat instead becomes obsessed with the Bajorans, particularly the religion of the Pah-wraiths. He once again tries to help Cardassian become great again by releasing a Pah-wraith into the wormhole.
  • From here, Dukat manages to feed his ego and need to be someone special by declaring himself the Emissary of the Pah-wraiths – after all, he must have hated how the Bajorans love Ben Sisko, the Emissary of the Prophets. He gathers together cult members to serve him, fulfiiling his fantasy of having Bajorans who love and worship him. However, when it all starts going wrong, he thinks nothing of having them all kill themselves and start over.

So, does Dukat really hate all the Bajorans, or was the ending of Waltz just a bit melodramatic? I can imagine that he’s angry at them for never loving him, so perhaps that was a childish tantrum. As during the Occupation, he may have just wanted to throw his toys out of the pram and demonstrate his power over the Bajorans, in an attempt to cow them into adoring him.

Also, does he really believe in the Pah-wraiths, or is it just a convenient mechanism for power? I think we’re supposed to accept that he does believe in them, but that’s probably self-delusion as much as anything else. He wants to believe that he’s special, and that the Pah-wraiths are guiding him, as it’s so much more noble than admitting that he’s doing things for his own selfish ends.

Other points

  • In DS9, Bajorans have always worn their earrings on their right ear – hence the Pah-wraith worshippers wear their red earrings on the left ear. It’s worth noting that, although this is clearly meant to be an important symbolic move, Ensign Ro was wearing her silver Prophet earring on the left earring long before any of this began.
  • Also, the Pah-wraith cult’s red earrings look really cheap and tacky compared to the standard silver ones.
  • We get a sense in this episode of how Kira’s faith was really important in getting her through the Occupation. Of course, to others such as Fala, the events of the Occupation caused dillusionment in the Prophets, and caused them to turn to a new religion – not that the Pah-wraiths helped out during the Occupation either!
  • Odo wishes he could believe in the Prophets so that he could attend services with Kira, which seems like a pretty specious reason to get religion (and yes, I know there are people who go along with religion to please their partner more than because they truly believe). It’s sweet that he wants to spend time with her and share something that’s such a part of her life, but it also feels a bit clingy. This is Kira’s thing, and it’s special and important to her – so treat it with respect. Going through the motions of a religion for Kira’s sake would feel a bit patronising at best.
  • Surely 24th century contraception is good enough that Dukat didn’t need to worry about fathering a child. Unless he was just lazy, or secretly wanted to have another half-Bajoran child.

Summary – Covenant: Keep it in your pants, Dukat.

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