June 19 2024


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Retro Review: Return to Grace

6 min read

Demoted because of his half-Bajoran daughter, Dukat asks for Kira’s assistance in regaining his place as a leader on Cardassia.

Plot Summary: Shakaar persuades Kira to attend a conference where Bajoran operatives will share intelligence about the Klingons with other Bajorans and Cardassians. Dukat, who has been demoted after revealing the existence of his half-Bajoran daughter, Ziyal, is dispatched by the Cardassians to ferry her there. Kira is happy to see Ziyal again but much less pleased by Dukat’s aggressive flirtation. Yet when his freighter arrives at the outpost for the conference and they discover that all of the diplomats – Cardassian and Bajoran alike – have been killed in an attack, she agrees to help him pursue the Klingon Bird of Prey they find leaving the carnage. Kira suggests they take weapons from the heavily damaged outpost to install on the freighter and tries to teach Ziyal some basic self-defense, since she needs to be able to protect herself in her father’s aggressive world. Dukat suggests sending out a false signal to suggest to the Klingons that his freighter is carrying valuable dilithium, which lures the Bird of Prey in close. When the Klingons lock on a tractor beam, Dukat fires the enhanced disruptors, damaging the Klingon ship and enabling Dukat and Kira to beam their crew onto the Bird of Prey while beaming the Klingons onto Dukat’s freighter. Dukat then upsets Kira by blowing up the freighter, killing the Klingons, which Dukat believes is necessary to impress his government. But although the Cardassians agree to restore Dukat’s position as military advisor, they order him to stand down, planning to negotiate with the Klingons instead of seeking revenge for the murdered diplomats from the conference. Vowing to take on the Klingons by himself if necessary, Dukat asks Kira to join him before more Bajorans are killed, but Kira says that after the Occupation she has no wish for more bloodshed and asks to take the untrained Ziyal back to DS9 where the girl will be safe. Dukat reluctantly agrees, telling Kira that this means their lives are now entwined.

Analysis: When it first aired, I really disliked “Return to Grace” and its characterization of Kira; I thought that, along with the tight bodysuit and the more girly hairdo and the hunky boyfriend and the conciliatory dialogue, it was yet another step in turning Kira from an unapologetically strong, aggressive woman into one who was more palatable to the male viewers Star Trek was then aggressively courting, on Voyager as well as on Deep Space Nine. Nearly twenty years later, knowing how all these arcs are going to end – why Dukat is obsessed with Kira, what’s to be the fate of Ziyal, how the Klingon-Cardassian conflict will be resolved, whom the minor lackey assisting Dukat will become – it’s an entirely different story, and enjoyable as the groundwork for so much not yet written. In fact, the very gaps in “Return to Grace” create some of the problems that the writers will have to fix later with increasing creativity. So while I still wouldn’t say I love the episode, it’s pivotal to nearly every major storyline of the next few seasons, and I’m willing to pretend that, rather than having become conciliatory, maybe Kira is playing Dukat all along. Also, and here’s something I never would have dreamed I’d say before the last half of the seventh season, OH YES IT’S DAMAR! In this episode we are introduced to the character who perhaps changes most of all, even counting Dukat’s insane Pah-wraith conversion and cosmetic surgery. Damar in “Return to Grace” is remarkable mostly for being unremarkable: he follows Dukat’s orders, he doesn’t sneer overmuch at having a Bajoran on board, he’s polite to and works well with Ziyal, he doesn’t get drunk, he doesn’t appear to covet command. In other words, there’s nothing to hint at all that’s under the handsome exterior.

I’m allowed to notice the handsome exterior because the writers are trying so hard to shove Shakaar upon us as the perfect love interest for Kira, merely one week in TV time after deciding to pair them up, though already they seem to be noticing the problems they’ve created. We start off with Kira professing to Bashir that she’s not a diplomat, she’s attending this conference strictly as a favor to Shakaar – and not in his role as First Minister, but because he courted her – before Dukat says aloud the very thing that troubled me from the outset of Kira’s relationship with Shakaar, that she appears to have a real thing for men in positions of power. It’s surprising that Kira doesn’t protest Dukat’s appointment as her chauffeur in the first place – even if she feels she owes him for saving Ziyal and she trusts a crew of Cardassians to protect a new Bajoran ally, she knows that Dukat personally is a loose cannon in so many ways – and even more surprising that she doesn’t threaten his private parts when he starts hitting on her, which she’s done before. Maybe now that he’s no longer a powerful man among the Cardassians, she can’t even take him seriously. This isn’t the Kira we know, and matters just get worse after they learn of the Klingon attack, when Kira allows Dukat to set the agenda for retaliation even though she’s the high-ranking conference diplomat while he’s merely the guy sent to ferry her back and forth. It’s not all bad – she demonstrates a lot of technical and weapons knowledge, she shows off her martial arts skills for Ziyal – but she was more aggressive trying to talk Tom Riker out of starting a war with the Cardassians and she had better chemistry with Dukat all along than she’s ever shown with Shakaar. Where is the character from “Past Prologue” and “Duet” and “Necessary Evil” who would have gone absolutely berserk at the discovery that someone had killed Bajoran diplomats, and would have immediately wondered whether the Cardassians were somehow involved, peace treaty or no peace treaty?

Dukat is not at his sharpest either, though he’s handicapped by sub-par equipment and confusing paternal feelings for Ziyal. Kira seems far better informed not only about Klingon intelligence, but about Cardassian freighter technology; on the rare occasions when Kira barks out orders, he follows them. He seems to realize that all this Bajoran influence – maybe all this female influence – may have blunted his edges, but even so, I find it odd that he’s willing to let Ziyal go live among strangers so quickly. I’d expect him to fight harder to keep her and Kira both fighting at his side; if Shakaar has confidence that Kira can be a fine diplomat, Dukat has even greater confidence that her finest role is as a warrior and he’d rather be fighting with her than against her. When he says things about how the mention of Cardassia used to inspire fear, I can’t tell if he’s trying to impress Kira or trying to see if the old furious Kira is still there under the diplomat. She turns down his offer to join him not, as she should, because it’s an incredibly dangerous, foolhardy idea that is just going to get a lot of people killed, but because she’s tired of being a terrorist, which sounds like a cop-out; why doesn’t she fight with Dukat like she used to do, now that she knows she has his attention? It’s Ziyal with whom Kira quarrels about Dukat’s role in the Occupation, not Dukat himself. Supposedly the concept for this episode came from curiosity about what would have happened if Jews and Nazis were forced to work together shortly after the Holocaust – and the best the writers could come up with was flirtation and letting the Nazis try to start a new war? We should be seeing so much more of Kira’s anger and Dukat’s inherently selfish, vile, exploitative scheming. If it works, it’s because now it’s obvious that those things will return later with a vengeance.

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19 thoughts on “Retro Review: Return to Grace

  1. Oh, you’re allowed to objectify guys because…. whatever. Typical feminist hypocrit.

  2. “Where is the character from “Past Prologue” and “Duet” and “Necessary Evil”…”???

    I’d say she’s mellowed out over the interceding seasons. As for not protesting Dukat as her chauffeur, maybe secretly, Kira was gloating over how the mighty had fallen.

    “…who would have gone absolutely berserk at the discovery that someone had killed Bajoran diplomats, and would have immediately wondered whether the Cardassians were somehow involved, peace treaty or no peace treaty?”

    What??? How would that have fit into the plot? Kira knew at this time the Klingons are the enemy.

  3. Do those of Jewish heritage understand the origins of “Fall for Grace” and “Return to Grace”?

    This whole spiel doesn’t ask why the episode is actually called this, which comes from Paul’s warning Galatians 5:4, for those attempting to interpretation of the law and the Gospel/Bible to justify one’s actions. [Paul here talks, for example, with male circumcision, with a fall from grace being deemed as unacceptable by God/Jesus and those who profess this will not benefit from it when doing so.] When Dukat “Return to Grace”, is because he losses everything, demotion from his military / government position, his mother disowning him, his wife leaving him and her taking his children. He is utterly humiliated. All he has left is Ziyal, and as he says; “it gives me reason to live.” He throws away all this ritual, explaining his change of behaviour, and leaves to try to restore his honour and position before returning to see Ziyal again. Here his megalomania is quashed but is twisted into obsession of his own views of the world. His open comment he is the only “true” Cardassian left. I.e. “What Cardassians? I am the only Cardassian left.”

    The reviewer’s opinion here immediately and directly mirrors that said at the “Memory Alpha” site and the “Star Trek : Deep Space Nine Companion” I.e. Memory Alpha http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Return_to_Grace_(episode) says; “…original idea for this episode came from the question of what may happen if the Jews and the Nazis were forced to work together after World War II.”, while the reviewer her says; “..the concept for this episode came from curiosity about what would have happened if Jews and Nazis were forced to work together shortly after the Holocaust.” Awfully close, methinks. (So is this the reviewer’s own opinion here?)

    Considering Hans Beimler and Ira Steven Behr’s religious sensibilities, not doubt they modelled Dukat on the megalomania of Adolf Hitler. If they decided on this title for this episode, they might not know what it truly means.

    In reality, it has little to do with the opinions made by this reviewer, who seems caught up in her own atypical biasses of woman, men, relationships, and sexual preferences. (I’d recommend she looks at this episode again, but this time just a little more objectively.)

  4. So you criticise her for own opinions, then criticise her saying she is (despite years of doing this) without opinion so steals opinions too.

    *slow claps* You clearly hate Michelle’s reviews – the last line shows your bias – and you’re going out of your way to find fault.

  5. “So you criticise her for own opinions”
    Yes I do. Most of this text in the review have a distorted view, especially regarding negativity or misunderstanding of men, and the bias towards “woman, men, relationships, and sexual preferences.”

    As for “…steals opinions too.” I never said ‘steals’ I actually said “mirrors.” and this was in regards just one sentence. “Supposedly the concept for this episode came from curiosity about what would have happened if Jews and Nazis were forced to work together shortly after the Holocaust – and the best the writers could come up with was flirtation and letting the Nazis try to start a new war?”

    Mostly, I actually like Michelle’s views, but what I don’t like is the irrelevant distortions of the storyline that are just not there. Much of this review I think she missed the central point of the episode. I.e. Dukat here reaches his lowest ebb, after which he bounces back and becomes more ruthless and self-obsessed in the following episodes to the end. His behaviour is in retribution of those who wronged or deserted him.

    Note: My last line reflects mine (and others) in past reviews.

  6. I don’t disagree with everything you said, in fact, I agree with most of it. However, with regard to her taking an opinion from somewhere else and presenting it as her own, that just didn’t happen. Even in the line you just quoted, she’s clearly attributing it to another set of sources, even if she doesn’t enumerate those sources.

    “Supposedly the concept…”

    If it were her opinion, or one she was attempting to pass off as her own, she wouldn’t have said “supposedly”. And that she brought up what others have previously stated as fact doesn’t suggest it’s her opinion, merely that she’s addressing a commonly held belief or tidbit of trivia reality from the show.

    Should she ignore what is commonly held as true? Or should she ignore what the known motivations of the writers were? I’d much rather her delve into the psyche of the writers than the interpretations of the actors… since those don’t actually matter much, while the intent of the writers does.

    Now, I completely agree that everything she focuses on is to the exclusion of actual things she should be focused on, but it’s not remotely plagiaristic or derivative, or anything like that, which is what was implied. Again, I’m far from Michelle’s biggest fan, but I can’t be pissed at her for being wholly delusional and making shit up as she pleases to only then turn around and do it myself… no thanks.

  7. hostile_17 “…steals opinions too.” I never said ‘steals.’ I actually said “mirrors.” Also, where is it stated what Michelle’s views actually are? Reviewer’s are generally meant to state an opinion based on what they see, often to highlight something that might interest the viewer in the same program. I’ve also have never said it was “plagiaristic or derivative,” She says “holocaust” the unmentioned source(s) say; “WWII” Why the difference?

    I think her review stems her words are central around this mirrored quote, and just expands on this likely meets her Jewish sensibilities. Yet the title “Return to Grace” is a Christian concept by Paul, and historically has defined against the ritualism of Judaism. I.e. Making male circumcision as ritual and doing this just to appease God, when Paul says doing such things matters not to God/Jesus, and is in fact abhorrent. Dukat throws away his duty by not undertaking the Cardassian ritual in killing Ziyal, and Dukat feels remonstrated by everyone who has reproachful of him. By doing this he “returns to grace.” That is what it means.

    Why they say; “…original idea for this episode came from the question of what may happen if the Jews and the Nazis were forced to work together after World War II.”, would be the reversion of Nazi ritualism, where working them together would see the Nazis equally reviled and humiliated in front of the Jews that they had persecuted. Moreover, such forced work might have discarded both Jewish ritualism and Nazi ritualism — and in see how may dead their were for their inhuman atrocities — perhaps a punishment of sorts levelled by Christian sensibilities.

    In Judaism, grace involved prescribed sacrifices I.e. Lambs at passover, but after the Temple was destroyed by the romans, grace was substituted for obeying the Torah. I.e. Male circumcision at a certain age. Between Jews and Christians, the basic difference is you are saved (redemption) by God alone, but Christians believe you are saved through Jesus. [Hell. I know this, and I’m a confirmed atheist!!]

    If “Supposedly the concept…” here really means the reviewer didn’t get the concept either!!!

    My point was this reviewer misses this point completely, and the quotes on this are also misinterpreted elsewhere. My implication was only she missed it, NOT that she stole it! In this case, Dukat’s redemption through his actions, which in time as we find, he completely losses himself in the “Pah-wraith cult” and his eternal death in big finale with the Pah-wraiths.

    Really, DS9 is a story about Bajorans and their rituals, their religious sensibilities, which are diametrically opposite by the Federation’s science and its agnosticism. Religious overtones are everywhere to be seen in both the good guys and bad guys. If you have a general understanding of symbolism and religion, such things as this story become crystal clear.

    Furthermore, my main question is why do many think this is the best DS9 episode of all?

  8. Note: I made an unintentional derogatory comment above with my own careless typing. This has been properly been corrected. I really meant no disrespect.

  9. “Awfully close, methinks. (So is this the reviewer’s own opinion here?)”

    I took that to mean you were suggesting that co-opting, mirroring, stealing, however you want to define it, that having that same notion was somehow not right… as in, wrong to do, not wrong about the episode. I agree wholly with your assessment of the episode and the themes therein. But in your first comments, you clearly take issue with her having the same take on the episode as those other sources. It’s not just about the expansion from WWII to the Holocaust… If it was, this wouldn’t have been what you said:

    “Worst though, is this original quote mentions the worst scenario of the Holocaust, than the broader World War II. Here the connotations are different, showing the reviewer’s likely own religious background.”

    Worst… Which means, it was bad enough that her opinion could’ve possibly been influenced by other Trek sources and whatnot over the years… Or what?

    I agree that she changes the notion from WWII to the Holocaust, and I don’t even differ on her likely reasons… the question is, why is it worse, rather than bad? To be worse, there had to be something bad to start with… What was bad? The context of your initial comments, and even your clarification, seem to indicate that it’s her familiarity with and agreement in sentiment with other Trek sources… And by saying, “awfully close, methinks”, it certainly implies that the closeness of her comments to the sentiments of others is somehow not right… If I’ve misunderstood your implications because of your use of “worst”, well, that’s why.

  10. I have been very careful with my words here, and it is not my place to say if this is plagiarism or not. I.e. I don’t know if the reviewer wrote the text at Memory Alpha. That is judgement off the readers here.

    I care not where the text comes from, but I do care of the reviewer’s opinion on this. I.e. I said “So is this the reviewer’s own opinion here?” It might explain the missing piece of information that should have been in the review.

    Yet we see, again, the usual “Accuse the accuser.” which is the oldest lawyer’s trick in the business. Ultimately it shows the basic weakness of the facts and the truth. Bullying me about the motives of someone else’s words is simply madness. Really I’ve mostly given fairly the reviewer the chance to formally respond, and from the lack of it, says heaps!.

    (All it just shows the sub-normal level of all the criticiser’s EQ, which is clearly between 50 and 70.)

    Believe me or not, I frankly don’t care. You ask for comments, and your then admonished. Why then bother to ask for comment then?

  11. LOL, so, you’ve resorted to calling me stupid because you cannot construct a simple statement that is internally consistent. Nice.

    For some reason, you think Michelle owes you some direct communication. She doesn’t. She’s the reviewer at this site, she’s not your personal lapdog that is required to answer at your whim. She, to my recollection, has never responded in the comments section of this site. Why she would begin doing so when someone who can barely string together a coherent English sentence accuses her, of what, I’m still not exactly sure, I’m also, not exactly sure… But she’s not going to, and that has no bearing on her, her review, or anything else. Her reviews she lets speak for themselves. And, while I find them maddening, most of the time, they’re her reviews. This comment section isn’t for you to demand a response from her. It’s for you to put forward your own thoughts. However, since you demand it of her, I’ll note that you haven’t declared that everything you have said is your own opinion… Oh, right… because that’s relatively obvious… just like, when she says “Supposedly the concept” it clearly suggests she read or heard the basis of the notion that followed from elsewhere… That she follows the line of thinking obviously suggests she agrees with the line of thought.

    So, yes, the original idea may have originated elsewhere, which her review clearly indicates, but she also has co-opted it into her own thinking about the piece and elaborated from there. See, she never referenced Memory Alpha or anything else. Meaning, she wasn’t defending or supporting, or even presenting their interpretation as being a WWII allegory, but rather, she was telling us her opinion all along, which included the Holocaust bit. Now, we can both agree that she’s not really on target with this episode, the themes, etc, but the simple fact is, by the nature of what she said and how she said it, it was clear that it wasn’t based on her original notion, but what was then presented was how she felt it related to that notion…. Not hard to understand if you aren’t trying to find things to complain about.

    And if you really want to start insulting people’s intelligence, we can review all your idiotic sentence structure anytime… For someone from New Zealand, you write English like someone who speaks Mandarin.

  12. Eh? Let’s see. You say I’ve “resorted to calling me stupid.” The word “stupid” from me to you appears nowhere!
    Nothing more needs to be said…

  13. “(All it just shows the sub-normal level of all the criticiser’s EQ, which is clearly between 50 and 70.)”

    So, no, you didn’t use the word stupid, but then again, “to call” doesn’t necessarily mean to use the exact verbiage in question. Again, obviously another area where you are shockingly deficient with English.

    You can’t even own up to your own actions when they’re right there for everyone to see. And yet, you want to criticize someone else for not declaring their opinion to be their own or based on other material… lol.

    Just so there’s no question, I think you’re an idiot.

  14. EQ is emotional quotient not the same as IQ or intelligence quotient. I.e. “The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth.”

    My comment was on “Bullying me about the motives of someone else’s words is simply madness.”

    I called no one stupid. (though after this I might be correct in doing so!)

    Attacking me on a general blog on something so esoteric just proves my point very precisely.

    Comprehension? No doubt you failed that at school. Pity.

  15. Your diatribes are so consistently filled with grammar, diction, and spelling errors, I just ascribed that as one of them. I’m also not particularly interested in your dime store psychology.

    Michelle did nothing wrong within the context of how she wrote this review. You take exception to what she wrote, but couch it in the manner of her delivery. Even the last thing you said on the subject drips with accusatory tonality:

    ” it is not my place to say if this is plagiarism or not. I.e. I don’t know if the reviewer wrote the text at Memory Alpha. That is judgement of the readers here.”

    So… you are implying that it’s plagiarism, if, in fact, she didn’t author the article at Memory Alpha… Even though, she clearly ascribed the initial comment to thoughts other than her own with “supposedly”….

    Why not stop playing word games you’re ill equipped to play, and be straight… You clearly think she’s a plagiarist.

  16. I just watched this episode again after starting in halfway through season 6, and revisiting the early stages of all the characters here is interesting on so many levels: Kira and her guerilla past, Ziyal’s devotion to her father, Dukat’s huge ego which is as always the forefront of his character, and YES Damar, who really grew on on me, especially with his epic guffaws and deadpan deliveries in season 7. It’s rather jawdropping how handsome he is, even with all the Cardassian makeup and standard slicked hairstyle – Cardassians must go through hair gel very quickly.. I agree with OP that he’s smouldering. 😉

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