"Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" 
Season Six, Episode 17
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Jonathan West
Music by Jay Chattaway
Main Cast:
Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko
Rene Auberjonois as Odo
Michael Dorn as Lt Cmdr Worf
Terry Farrell as Lt Cmdr Jadzia Dax
Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Armin Shimerman as Quark
Alexander Siddig as Dr Julian Bashir
Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys

Guest Stars:
Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat
Leslie Hope as Meru
Thomas Kopache as Taban
David Bowe as Basso
Wayne Grace as Legate
Tim deZarn as Halb 

"Let me get this straight - you want to go back in time to see if your mother and Gul Dukat were lovers?!"
-- Sisko, as incredulous as us!

On the anniversary of her mother's birthday, Kira receives a subspace transmission from Dukat, who informs her that her mother did not die in the Singha Refugee camp as Kira was told -- he claims that she left to become his mistress. Kira has to know whether this is true or not, so she uses the Orb of Time to take her back in time to when she was three years old and her mother allegedly abandoned her. Kira finds herself in a filthy Bajoran refugee camp, where she meets a woman named Kira Meru -- her mother. Posing as a stranger, Kira befriends the mother she never knew. But the Cardassians arrive and drag several women, including Kira and Meru, away from their families to be "Comfort women" for the Cardassian officers on the mining station, Terok Nor. Dukat, as Prefect of Bajor, takes an immediate interest in Meru, using his charms to try and win her heart. Kira is shocked when Meru does start to succumb to his wooing, branding her a collaborator and even going so far as trying to plant a bomb to kill both she and Dukat. But, realising that the situation isn't quite as cut-and-dry as that, and that Meru is doing this to ensure her family are well cared for (as Dukat promised they would), she saves them just in time, returning to the present.

To say that Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night is something of a mixed bag is an understatement.  Based on plot alone it's rather shambolic. I really don't know what Hans Beimler and Ira Behr - both of whom ought to know better - were thinking when they came up with such an appallingly half-baked story. Aside from that dreadfully melodramatic, pretentious title, Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night not only blatantly contradicts established chronology, but also uses time travel with a discomfortingly blase disregard. Add to that a final act where Kira undergoes a temporary lobotomy and you have an exceptionally unconvincing story. Still, in spite of its multitude of plotting problems, this is not a bad episode. Indeed, it's far more compelling and watchable than it ought to be and is at least partially redeemed by some powerful performances and directing and an effective emotional core. But more on that later. 

This episode marks the first time we've seen Gul Dukat since Waltz where he descended into a raving loony, hell-bent on destroying Bajor and Sisko. Here he pops up to send Major Kira a message on the anniversary of her dead mother's birthday to inform Kira that he and her mom were lovers. Well, I suppose it's possible - even if that would make Dukat a lot older than he appears. But why would he never have brought this up before? He's had plenty of opportunity, including his recent return to the station during the war. It stretches credibility that after six years Dukat would only now choose to drop the bombshell. 

I guess it could be due to the new, post-Waltz Dukat. Which leads me on to my next point. Dukat has obviously calmed down a tad since his last appearance, but what exactly is he up to? Last we knew he was furious at Sisko and the Bajorans and now he's apparently grateful for Sisko for giving him "the clarity to see beyond the lies". That's a pretty nebulous statement and I have absolutely no idea what it's supposed to mean. Dukat may have clarity, but as far as this "new Dukat" goes, I certainly don't. Dukat has always been a complex character, but I still managed to get a feel for who he is. Now I'm just utterly confused and I can only hope the writers know what they're doing. 

And while we're on the subject of Dukat; his portrayal during the Occupation is much along the same lines as in Things Past - he's a seemingly charming yet insincere man, and you get the impression that his benevolent, caring demeanour is merely an ego trip. But this is a far cry from the raving madman in Waltz who declared in detail how he hated everything about the Bajorans. If this was the case, why would he bother what they thought about him, and why would he seduce Bajoran women? I'm totally confused by this inconsistent characterisation of Dukat - for heaven's sake, we're the ones who need clarity! 

Anyway, Kira decides to take a trip back in time to check whether it's true. This is really my main problem with the plot! Good heavens, since when has time travel been such a run-of-the-mill occurrence?! Gee, something's spreading nasty rumours about my mother! I know, why don't I go back in time to see if they're true?! The use of the Orb of Time back in Trials and Tribble-ations worked fine because at the hands of deranged Arne Darvin it was perfectly plausible (and let's face it, the method of time travel in that episode was merely means to an end - and thankfully one that doesn't necessitate any technobabble whatsoever!). But the use of the Orb was totally inappropriate here, particularly as its use was pre-meditated. 

I can't believe Sisko agreed to let Kira use it - it's not as if her "dilemma" was at all important. It may be a bit disillusioning, but the past is the past, so why doesn't she just forget about it and move on as people do? If her ridiculously trivial request was important enough to be granted use of the Orb, then why not use it for more important reasons, like going back in time and saving lives or defeating the Dominion? Wouldn't it have made more sense if it had been the Orb of Wisdom and the whole experience had merely been a vision? And whatever makes Kira think the Prophets will guide her and prevent her from screwing up the timeline - did they do that for Arne Darvin? Oh dear, the more I think about this, my brain is starting to ache. 

Fortunately, if you can swallow those immense lapses of logic, the episode goes quite a bit uphill from there - up until the last act, anyway. The episode's emotional core is very effective and I think that's due to the outstanding performances as much as anything. It's hard to go far wrong with Nana Visitor, one of Trek's best actors and she simply shines here, delivering a powerful, emotionally- charged performance. Despite the shakey plot, she makes Kira's reactions and emotions seem believable, even when they defy logic! She's ably supported by Leslie Hope, who gives a wonderful turn as Kira's mother, Meru. Other stand-out guest stars include David Bowe (no, not Bowie as I thought it said when the credit first appeared on screen!) as the thoroughly dislikable Bajoran collaborator and, of course, Marc Alaimo gives his usual solid performance. 

As a result of the strong acting, the emotions seem quite real. The first scene where Kira "meets" her mother (and herself!) was quietly touching, as was the bond which develops between her and Meru. And I must say that the scene where Meru and the other women were dragged from their families to be "comfort women" for the Cardassians was quite wrenching - particularly Meru's "Don't let them forget me!" 

And the relationship that develops between Dukat and Meru was well developed, working on subtle levels with Meru slowly falling victim to Dukat's charm. At first, Kira's concern seemed only natural; after all, Kira knows Dukat a lot better than Meru does. Kira's anger escalates to rage as she brands Meru a "collaborator". This seemed particularly harsh until I began to realise that it's no wonder things seem so clear-cut to Kira, a Bajoran. Subjegated to Cardassian brutality their whole life, as far as the Bajorans are concerned it's a case of them and us; good and evil; black and white. You are either a hero or a collaborator. Much of the development of Kira's character over the course of the past six years has involved her acknowledging that things are rarely so simple (examples that come to mind include Duet, The Collaborator, Things Past and Ties of Blood and Water). It basically boils down to DS9's brilliant portrayal of life in shades of grey, and many of the finest Kira episodes are those where she must deal with life's complexities. As far as her attitude here is concerned, this episode seems to suggest some character regression in that respect. Kira cannot seem to accept that Meru is making the best of a bad situation, and in doing so has saved the lives of her families, as her husband tells her in his message. 

Which leads us up to a highly implausible ending which basically seals this episode's fate. Kira may be angry, but has she gone mad?! In attempting to kill Meru and Dukat with a bomb (a twist I didn't believe for a second) she made herself look not only like a spiteful murderer, but also one with absolutely no brain! Remember her speech to Dax in Blood Oath where she says that whenever you kill someone, you kill a part of yourself? Why would she want to do that? And what about the repercussions to the time-line if she had succeeded in killing Dukat? Well, considering he's the fool who made Cardassia join the Dominion any changes would probably have been for the better - but what if his replacement had been even worse? The whole bomb twist was utterly unconvincing and aside from making Kira look like an idiot with more spite than sense, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Finally she comes to her senses when she apparently realises that perhaps morally dubious though it may be, Meru has done the best thing for her family. 

Except in the closing scene where she discusses it with Sisko, she still doesn't seem to have learnt her lesson!! Just after it appears that she's finally grasped the fact that things aren't quite so clear-cut - pow! - we're back to square one. When Sisko (who ought to be livid with her, by the way) asks why she didn't go ahead and kill Meru, Kira's answer isn't that she couldn't bear to commit murder, nor is it because she's realised that her judgement was way too harsh. She simply didn't kill her because it was her mother! Bad answer, Nerys. 

A few other comments; 

I don't think I mentioned Jonathan West's directing. Very well done, and some scenes were strikingly shot. I particularly liked the sun shining through the windows and hitting Kira and Meru in the scene in their quarters. He also got a nice pace going, which helped iron over some of the logistical problems.
I mentioned above that the events in this episode completely contradict established chronology. It's previously been inferred that Dukat didn't become prefect until near the end of the occupation. Why didn't they make him assistant prefect or something? It just didn't seem right Dukat being on charge all those years ago. And how old is the station anyway? According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, it was established in Babel that DS9 was eighteen years old at the start of the series. Well, not according to this. Little Nerys was about three at the time of this episode, and Kira must now be in her mid-to-late thirties at least (I believe Nana is about 40). That would make the station over thirty-two years old, and mean that Dukat must have been prefect for at least that amount of time. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't fit.
At first I thought that Kira's resistance friend was meant to be Roy Brocksmith's character from Indiscretion. He looked quite similar, but was probabaly too old (considering this is 30+ years in the past).
And why is Kira's hair long?! Sure, it made her blend in more with the time period, but why would the Prophets go to the trouble of doing that for her? They didn't do that to anyone in Trials and Tribble-ations!
Anyway, that's about it. The plot is very poorly thought-out and full of gaping holes - indeed, I've had a field day picking it to pieces! But this is still a very watchable episode courtesy of the strong acting and directing and some genuinely emotional moments. It's a shame, because as it stands this is something of a lost opportunity. Given a lot more thought on the part of the writers, it could have been quite powerful.    

Rating: 5.5

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