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Recap / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine S06E17 "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"

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"It seems my interest in you has gotten a lot creepier in hindsight, Nerys."

It’s the 60th anniversary of the birth of Kira Meru, the mother of Kira Nerys, who died during the Occupation in a labor camp. To honor the memory of her mother who she believes died when she was three, Kira orders Bajoran lilacs, her mother's favorite. She had always admired her mother, whom her father described as one of the bravest women he had ever known.

That evening, however, Dukat sends Kira a coded transmission. Ostensibly to come clean about his feelings, Dukat taunts Kira with the knowledge that her mother did not die in a labor camp but had lived for several years before passing away as Dukat's lover! Kira accuses Dukat of lying, but Dukat reveals that he knows Meru loved Bajoran lilacs and had a scar that very few people knew of. Starting to doubt her impression of her mother, Kira asks Captain Sisko to arrange for her to access the Orb of Time, so she can get to the bottom of the mystery.

Gazing into the Orb, Kira travels back in time to the labor camp where she grew up and her father said Meru died. There, she meets her parents and their children: Reon, Pohl, and little Nerys. After defending the couple from some desperate Bajoran toughs, she introduces herself as "Luma Rahl" and befriends Meru. Shortly thereafter, Cardassian soldiers and a Bajoran collaborator announce that some of the women working there were selected to be taken to Terok Nor to work as "comfort women" for Cardassian staff, with their families compensated with additional rations and medicine. Meru and "Rahl" are among those selected, and Kira watches as Meru is tearfully ripped away from her family.

Upon arriving at Terok Nor, the comfort women are lavished with fine dresses, fresh food, and showers before meeting with the Cardassian brass, including Gul Dukat, the station's Prefect. Dukat's comparatively kind behavior toward the women comes as a surprise to them. He takes a liking to Meru in particular and uses a dermal regenerator to remove her scar. At the ensuing party, Dukat comes to Meru's defense against an overly handsy officer. To Kira's chagrin, Meru seems taken with Dukat's act, which she learns has been employed on many Bajoran women before.

Kira returns to the quarters of her and Meru, only to find Meru gone. The Bajoran collaborator explains that she was now tending to Dukat personally. Kira lashes out at him and his Cardassian guards but is subdued and thrown into the refugee center on the Promenade for her trouble. For the next few weeks, she makes connections with the Bajoran resistance and learns what she can about Meru, who has been gallivanting with Dukat.

Dukat summons "Rahl" to catch up with Meru as a favor to his paramour. Kira is disgusted to see the pair so cozy. When Dukat leaves, Kira criticizes Meru for enjoying the luxuries that come with sharing Dukat's bed while forgetting about her family and people. Meru tries to assure Kira that Dukat is not the monster she makes him out to be, but Kira is unconvinced, seeing her own mother as a collaborator. After returning to the refugee center, Kira agrees to help the resistance try to assassinate Dukat. When her contact instructs her not to warn Meru about the bomb to save her life, Kira agrees without hesitation.

Kira asks the guards to let her be a comfort woman again and to be taken to Meru to apologize. Dukat takes his leave so the two can talk, but not before giving Meru a data rod. As Kira surreptitiously plants the bomb, Meru plays the message on the data rod. It's from her husband, Kira's father! To Kira's surprise, he thanks her for her sacrifice, telling her that the children have been well cared for and are eating better now. Dukat had kept his word! More shocking still, Meru's feelings for her husband had never faded, and she chokes up when he says that he misses her.

Kira suddenly has a change of heart, warning Meru and Dukat to flee the quarters just moments before the bomb detonates. The Orb's vision ends shortly afterwards, and Kira finds herself back in the present.

Afterwards, Kira discusses her experiences with Sisko. In the past, Kira had always believed there was a clear-cut difference between collaborators and patriotic Bajorans, and she admired her mother as a hero while despising the collaborators. Now, however, the line between the two is not as clear. According to her research, her mother lived for another seven years in comfort while untold millions of Bajorans died. Sisko asks Kira why she saved Meru's life, and Kira admits that a part of her wishes she left Meru to die... but in the end, no matter what she had chosen to do, it didn't change the fact that Meru was still her mother.

Tropes featured:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    Kira Meru: When I was a child, I dreamed of having food to eat and pretty clothes to wear, and now look at me –- I have everything I ever wanted and I feel horrible.
    Kira Nerys: That is pretty funny in a horrible way.
  • Blemished Beauty: Kira Meru is very attractive despite her scar. Dukat uses a dermal regenerator to remove that slight blemish.
  • Call-Back:
  • Faux Affably Evil: All the Cardassians who get "friendly" with the Bajoran women.
  • Foreshadowing: O'Brien mentions that he wants to try a new holoprogram based on the Alamo.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Dukat encourages or at least ignores bad behavior from his underlings so that he comes off better and more reasonable by comparison towards the Bajorians.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The idea her mother may be faking attraction and friendship to the Cardassians in order to see her family protected never enters Kira's mind. Meru herself once goes as far to claim the genocide on Cardassia isn't taking place because Dukat is fighting against Central Command to change their treatment of Bajor... until it's revealed this is her attempt to rationalize her own complicity.
  • Incest Subtext: Dukat's long-term 'interest' in Kira has a disturbing aspect after the reveal that her mother was his mistress.
  • Irrevocable Order: Once the bomb is activated, it can't be disarmed, meaning that anyone within 20 meters will have a very bad day.
  • Kick the Dog: What reason would Dukat have to tell Kira about the relationship he had with her mother on her birthday, other than to be vindictive?
  • Let Me Get This Straight...:
    Sisko: (to Kira) Let me get this straight — you want to travel back in time to see if Gul Dukat and your mother were lovers.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The title is a quote from the 1820 play Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • Love Martyr: One interpretation of Meru's behavior.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Dukat, whose Pet the Dog moments are just a ploy to manipulate women he's 'saving.'
  • Moral Myopia: Kira forgives Odo for being an In-Universe Lawful Neutral Constable working for the Cardassians during the Occupation. She is utterly incensed at the possibility her mother was a semi-willing mistress to Gul Dukat in exchange for her family being protected.
  • Parental Betrayal: Deconstructed. Kira, who's murdered Quislings during the Occupation, is completely ready to kill her own mother for being potentially evil. Even after realizing Meru's motivations, she admits that she's still disgusted that her mother lived in relative luxury while thousands and thousands of Bajorans suffered and died. But the whole affair is too messy for her to justify the action entirely.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Kira's dad had told Kira about Meru's struggles or if Meru told Kira her reasons for staying with Dukat, most of the conflict would not have occurred. (Granted, one can reasonably assume that it's difficult at best to tell your kids "your mother is sleeping with the leader of the occupiers of our planet to help us have a better life.")
  • Questionable Consent: In-universe. Meru doesn't really have much of a choice if the Gul takes an interest in her, though he tries to be charming about it. Likewise, she uses it to look after her family. Kira, however, reacts as if her mother ran one of the Cardassians' camps herself and assumes it was all voluntary until the end.
  • The Quisling: Basso Tromac. Contemptuous of his fellow Bajorans.
  • Rescue Romance: Invoked Trope; Dukat presents himself as a sympathetic Cardassian protecting a female Bajoran from a more abusive one. Apparently this is standard behavior for him, right down to the pickup line.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: When Dukat first meets Kira, he should remember that a woman who looked exactly like her once saved his life from a bomb, but apparently he doesn't. On the other hand, how much would you remember of one person that you met for a very short period of time many, many, years ago (also keeping in mind that if "Luma Rahl" had been 34 years old back then as Kira was, then she would be in her 60's in the present day)? It also appears as if "Luma Rahl" died in the explosion (to coincide with Kira returning to the present/the vision ending), which would make him less likely to make the connection. On the other, other hand, this might explain his attraction to Kira...
  • Sex for Services: More like, "Sex for not letting my family starve to death."
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Basso admires how different the women look when they're dressed up.
    Basso: Well done. I can hardly believe that you're the same women I met yesterday.
  • Smug Snake: The Bajoran collaborator who helps the Cardassian troops pick the next batch of comfort women.
  • Stable Time Loop: Not confirmed on-screen, but heavily implied when Kira meets her 3 year old self (introducing herself using the alias "Luma Rahl" which she seems to remember as part of an ontological paradox).

  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The time travel in this episode appears to work quite differently than in the previous ones. Kira affects her own past, but that doesn't seem to have any ripple effects. It remains unclear whether she even physically travels back in time, or whether everything that happens is some Intangible Time Travel-type of vision caused by the Orb. The previous time the Orb was used it worked like a regular time machine, though. The Prophets Did It. Indeed, the Prophets' treatment of Akorem's brief trip into his future strongly implies that time travel involving the Prophets (or their Tears) can work in strange manners. It's also entirely possible the Orbs work differently for the Bajorans they're intended for.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Kira is so incensed at what she finds, she takes part in a plot to kill Dukat, knowing her own mother will be killed in the explosion.
  • Your Favorite: Dukat knows what kind of flowers Kira's mother liked (Bajoran lilacs), the first clue that he's telling the truth.