Monday, February 27, 2012

Classics: DS9 7:9 - Covenant

Overall Rating: 6.2

Fandom has a very negative view of this episode - a view I think is out of proportion.

Plot Synopsis:

Memory Alpha has the summary and some commentary by the production team here.

The Skinny:

The fan response to this episode generally includes three major criticisms:

  • Dukat's transformation from egotist and complex villain to true-believer in an evil faith (and thus, to something simpler and less satisfying from the perspective of the audience) is officially completed here.  At the end of Waltz, Dukat ruefully proclaims that he should have killed every Bajoran to complete his life's work.  He is nearly fatally wounded in the scuffle that ensues, but he manages to steal Sisko's runabout and get away.  Many fans believe that Dukat's realization about his darker impulses was the end of his character arc and he should have died at that point to maximize the effect of those words.  SFDebris, for example, reviewed Waltz and makes this conclusion.  I tend to agree.  But the show knew how popular Dukat was and wanted to make him the primary villain in the series finale (Prophets vs. Pah Wraiths, Sisko vs. Dukat).  Given that desire - and you may not like it, but to me, it does make some sense - there was a need to find a way to bring Dukat to the Pah Wraiths more fully.
  • Another line of thought was that the Pah Wraith cult came to their faith in rebellion - blaming the Prophets for allowing the Cardassian occupation and thus should never have accepted a Cardassian leader.  This criticism is, IMHO, completely off-base.  The writers even deal with this criticism more than adequately when Kira and Fala discuss Dukat after Kira's abduction.  Fala explains that he believes that Dukat's communion with the Pah Wraiths changed him.  He's right, FWIW...Dukat is different now - more determined, more focused, less personally petty, more twisted, more confident (and that's saying something).  Of course Fala believes that Dukat had changed for the better and he's wrong...but many very bad men have led cults of followers who would otherwise never have even considered associating with such people in their normal lives.
  • And of course...there is the group that wonders why, if Dukat is a true believer now, he would undermine his own work the way he does in this episode.  They mistakenly view this is a sick little game Dukat is playing - and to them, it therefore seems needlessly over the top.  I again think this criticism is off-base.  Even the most faithful among us will fall to sin and temptation if we are at the center of our own morality.  Listen to what Dukat actually believes within the episode.  He is not merely an emissary of the Pah Wraiths - he's rather more like their bastard child.  He might as wll be an evil version of Jesus Christ.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and there can be no doubt that Dukat's little utopia is centered around his absolute power - which he feels is divinely gifted.  Once he falls to temptation, all of his following actions (trying to space his mistress, lying about the origin of the Cardassian features of her baby, and eventually getting the entire group to prepare for mass suicide...they all make sense.  What's at stake, in his mind, is any hope of his mission to save Bajor from the evil ways of the Prophets.  In the face of that, an egotist like Dukat will certainly believe that he must be the one to do this...and will take any measures, including hitting the reset button, to achieve that.  This isn't some sick game...this is a life's work (interrupted).
The episode isn't without its problems.  For example, much of the dialogue is rushed...we don't really come to fully appreciate Fala (and his eventual suicide thus feels tacked on), and I rather wish Kira had been more affected by Dukat's faith.  Or...alternatively...if they intended to set this up as Dukat vs. Sisko...why didn't Dukat choose Sisko as his captive?  You wouldn't have the sexual tension (ew), but you could have had some awesome pissing contests between the two of them.  And that would have given Sisko some personal motivation a la Eddington's betrayal so he could become Mad Cap'n Benji! (tm).  Either way would have improved things, I think.

On the whole, if this episode wanted to hammer us with the point that, while faith is powerful and has great potential for good, it can be twisted if not properly challenged, they didn't quite succeed on that score.  The whole thing feels a bit fast and a bit larger than life and lacks any of the subtlety we've come to know and love in Dukat...even the EEEEEEvil!Dukat of Waltz.  But I don't think that makes this episode a catastrophe.  Many DS9 fans give Covenant votes as one of the worst episodes of all time.  I'm sorry, folks...but I just don't see it.

Writing: 5.5

The writing is rushed and lacked cinematic potential...the plot feels a little forced.

Acting: 7.0

The acting performances aren't horrid for the big names (Visitor and Alaimo), but the guest cast is pretty flat.

Message: 6.0

They tried for something that I could, indeed, have gotten behind...and they whiffed.  Leaving me feeling pretty "meh" about the episode.

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