May 22 2024


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Retro Review: The Darkness and the Light

7 min read

An assassin is killing off the members of Kira’s Bajoran Resistance cell, including some of her oldest friends.

Plot Summary: While Kira struggles with late pregnancy discomforts, she is horrified to learn that Latha Mabrin, a fellow Resistance fighter, has been murdered during a religious ceremony and even more horrified when she is sent a cryptic message saying “That’s one.” She is afraid when others from her Resistance cell may be targeted and is soon contacted by a terrified old friend named Fala, whom Kira offers to rescue from Bajor. But when Dax attempts to transport Fala to a runabout, the Bajoran is killed by an illegal device, and Kira receives another message, “That’s two.” While working in Odo’s office, the two of them hear, “That’s three,” and a panel shows the face of Mobara, another member of Kira’s cell. Since he has not been reported missing, they contact Bajoran authorities and Odo insists that Kira should have security protection. When she hears noises in the O’Brien’s quarters, she pulls a phaser, only to find that her Resistance friends Furel and Lupaza have snuck in and attacked the bodyguard in case he might be a threat. They want to hunt down the assassin or at the very least to protect her. While Odo learns that Mobara has indeed been killed, Dax and Nog try to unscramble the recordings counting the victims and are stunned to find that it’s Kira’s own distorted voice. Odo takes this as proof that whoever is committing the murders has a personal vendetta against Kira, which is quickly proven when Lupaza and Furel are killed in an explosion in the O’Briens’ quarters. Though Kira suffers from a placental tear fighting her way past security to see the damage, she breaks into Odo’s office to steal his list of suspects and takes a runabout to seek them out. After ruling out several suspects, she goes in search of a reclusive Cardassian named Silarin Prin, who tricks her with a hologram and captures her, telling Kira that she will die for disfiguring him in a Resistance bombing that killed innocents. She persuades him to be a better person and spare the O’Briens’ unborn baby, then pretends to pass out from the sedative he gives her so that when he comes close, she can attack him. By the time Sisko, Odo, and Bashir have tracked her down, the murderous Cardassian is dead.

Analysis: Although I think “The Darkness and the Light” is a wonderful Kira episode that restores her character to its first- and second-season strength, I dislike it pretty intensely because of the last act, so it’s not on the list of episodes I’ve rewatched repeatedly since Deep Space Nine went off the air. It’s obvious that producer Ron Moore realized that they’d made mistakes putting Kira in a catsuit and trying to “soften” her for viewers, and he does an admirable job in the screenplay here bringing back her earlier characterization without demolishing continuity, so that it feels like meeting an old friend who changed greatly during a war and the peace afterward, like Kira’s associate who went from violent freedom fighter to introspective Vedek. There are still moments that make me grit my teeth, like the way Kira’s pregnancy is treated by all the men who try to make decisions for her – when O’Brien tells her that she shouldn’t worry herself about an assassin killing her friends because right now she’s needed there, protecting his unborn child (not protecting herself!), I kind of hope the next attack will be on him – and Sisko does a number of things that make me raise my eyebrows from failing to try to coordinate with the Bajoran authorities to not treating a bombing on his station as an attack on Starfleet and the Federation with a weapon that could be used to kill far more people. Given that these are Resistance members being targeted, and given that Kira’s Resistance leader is now also the leader of Bajor as well as her lover, it’s very strange that he only gets mentioned in passing for his role in Kira’s involvement as a freedom fighter; he might well have been a target, if not THE target. Perhaps it’s necessary to sideline Shakaar in order to highlight Kira’s solo abilities, but it doesn’t say much for his leadership or their relationship when he’s so peripheral to these events. Even if as First Minister he’s somewhat protected, a killer who could successfully deploy a probe on a freighter, scan through windows, and blast a hole in a Starfleet station could surely work around one man’s bodyguards.

I’m also very sorry that two wonderful Bajoran characters are killed off to further isolate Kira. I suppose it makes sense that two characters we know by name be sacrificed so that we feel her pain, but she’s been giving a lot of lip service of late to how much she feels part of the Federation now, even if Bajor has postponed joining because of Sisko’s prophecy, and these are two people who anchored her to that planet and her past on it in an affirming, positive way, since we see so much “Duet”-type regret at the terrible things she had to do there, even as she’s talking to the murderer at the end of “The Darkness and the Light.” Lupaza and Furel are people with whom she shares traditions and food and laughter; they’re also people who understand all the pain and confusion she carries around with her. Since I can confess now, long after the fact, that I always thought Kira and Odo should be together and resented the contrivances the writers came up with to diminish his feelings for her over several seasons, I am sure it surprises nobody that my favorite scene of all is the one in the infirmary where Kira tells Odo about her earliest days in the Resistance and how Lupaza stuck up for her when Shakaar doubted her. It’s reminiscent not only of her confessions to him in “Past Prologue” and “Duet,” when he was the only person she trusted with her feelings about the Occupation, but it suggests that they’ve forgiven each other for the deceptions of “Necessary Evil” and “Things Past,” when each feared being judged by the other for the things they had to do while the Cardassians controlled both their lives. Even without romantic overtures, Odo is both fiercely protective and intensely respectful of Kira here, and he is in many ways her only true confidant. We were long overdue to hear the story of Kira’s first time – her first killing, that is, at thirteen – and Nana Visitor is stunningly powerful in the scene. It’s just a shame that she doesn’t trust Odo enough to tell him what she’s planning, though given that all the men are treating a pregnant woman like she’s fragile glass, I can’t say I blame her.

The Cardassians are at their most chilling when they’re like Dukat in those flashback episodes, unable to comprehend why the Bajorans hate and resent them so much. So I find Prin to be a cheap shot in a number of ways. I’m not at all a fan of The Silence of the Lambs, but even if I were, putting a war-maddened Cardassian in the role of a murderer who calls his victims “it” and addresses them in cryptic third person proclamations would bother me. Kira comes off well – we get hints of her ambivalence about her actions as a terrorist, even as we get her outrage when he compares Cardassian “victims” to Bajorans – but to have the Cardassian echoing a pop culture serial killer undercuts the power of that dynamic and turns the climax into a rather sordid excuse for her to overpower and kill him. I’m not going to complain that after babying her all episode, they let the pregnant woman kick the psycho-killer’s behind, but compared to the subtle, scary dynamics of both past and future Dukat episodes plus the ones involving Kira’s Cardassian would-be father Ghemor, this is predictable, sensationalistic stuff. It’s less surprising that the writers would have her argue not for her own life but for that of the unborn baby, given all the pro-life rhetoric in circulation about protecting the innocent fetus even when its existence is threatening the mother’s life; O’Brien has already made me afraid that if he had to choose between Kira’s safety and his gestating son, Kira would be in dire straits. At least Kira never apologizes either for using the “innocent” ploy to save herself or for the role she played in getting the Cardassians off her planet, both those who actively tortured Bajorans and those who stood by and let it happen. A lot of people seem to interpret her last line as regretful, but I take it as quite the opposite: she may regret that so many people had to get their hands so dirty, but she really does believe that no Cardassian was innocent simply by virtue of not questioning being on her planet in the first place. Despite all that Federation influence, she hasn’t given up on the idea that there are some absolute wrongs.

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4 thoughts on “Retro Review: The Darkness and the Light

  1. That’s two.
    That episode always made me feel uneasy.
    We see a badass Kira again that does things with a total disregard for the life of the unborn baby she is supposed to protect.
    And why? Not because it was needed. Odo was capable enough to get the vilain himself.
    As for the vilain: a big disapointment after all the build up.

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