Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
email: bluemarie at gmail.com
Spoilers: entire series
Edit: For those who asked, I've added a short discussion of the infamous sandspine incident. Thanks for bringing the omission to my attention!
Disclaimer: I'm just a baby fan, actually; certainly not the most knowledgeable about this show or this pairing. Any comments, corrections, or criticism would be a welcome addition to what I've put together here. With that out of the way ...
I'm a latecomer to DS9; I had never seen an episode until my fiancé brought home season 1 on DVD. I was skeptical: could a show set on an immobile space station be as exciting as the voyages of the Enterprise? Could an unfamiliar cast of characters make me care about them the way I loved McCoy or Picard? I sat down to watch, prepared for disappointment -- and instead I was blown away.
One of the reasons why DS9 is now my favorite Trek is that it excels in character development. The characters are rich and complicated -- no one is either perfectly pure and moral or irrevocably wicked; everyone is portrayed in infinite shades of grey. The most honorable and upright of characters have dark sides and flaws, while the most vile and amoral have bright spots of virtue, and nowhere is this duality more apparent than in the characters of Kira and Dukat. Kira, one of the heroes of the show, has a violent past for which she still hasn't forgiven herself. When we meet her, she's a racist (perhaps understandably, but it's certainly not admirable) and is unwilling to trust or cooperate with anyone -- she believes only in herself. Dukat -- well, Dukat begins as an annoyance, nearly redeems himself, and finally becomes the arch-villain of the series. At his best, he is still arrogant and self-deluded; at his worst, he retains his love for his family and his people. From the beginning, these were two of my favorite characters; picturing them together, however, took a bit longer.
This is not a canon ship; in fact, there are many serious obstacles to overcome in order to even conceive of this pairing. These two come from species which are enemies. At the beginning of the series, Cardassia has just ended a fifty-year occupation of the resource-rich planet Bajor, during which the Bajoran people were enslaved and killed in large numbers. Nana Visitor, the actress who played Kira, stated bluntly and repeatedly in interviews that Kira would never forgive Dukat for his actions during that time, and certainly would never be attracted to a person she thought of as evil.1 As if that starting point weren't discouraging enough, over the course of the series Dukat betrays the entire quadrant in a Faustian bargain with an invading power, allows himself to be possessed by a malevolent alien/spirit, and goes totally insane; meanwhile, Kira falls in love with someone else. And yet, over the course of watching the series, I came to believe in this ship passionately, if only as an AU possibility. It seemed to me that, despite the explicitly stated intentions of the actors and writers involved, there was more than enough canon evidence to suggest that under only slightly different circumstances, this pairing could have happened. After all, when it comes to sex, doing things we shouldn't is often more than half the fun.
So, what exactly led me to start shipping Kira/Dukat? The short answer: There's a scene in the second-season episode "The Maquis, part II" when Dukat and the crew, forced into cooperation with each other, are chasing a ship they suspect of smuggling weapons. The captain of the ship refuses to surrender until Dukat basically causes him to wet himself with fear. Just as I'm thinking Whoa, badass!, Kira shoots Dukat a ... very interesting look. My brain goes, Hey now -- what was that? Rewind. Ah. Yeah. That would be the expression of a woman who is trying very hard not to admit to herself how hot that was. For me, that was it. The long answer? I guess that would be everything below this point.
"I'm a much more complicated man than you give me credit for."
From startrek.com: "Volumes could be written about this Cardassian -- loyal officer, tyrant, family man, philanderer, outcast, political sellout, cult leader, conspirator with evil spirits..." An amoral, intelligent, arrogant, charming, ruthless, eloquent bastard of a man, Gul Dukat2 is one of the most complex villains in Star Trek history. As the last Cardassian Prefect of Bajor, he oversaw that planet's mines and labor camps from the space station Terok Nor (now Deep Space Nine). He remains convinced that he was a fair and even gentle dictator who had his subjects' best interests at heart, but the Bajoran Resistance must have disagreed; he survived five assassination attempts in the ten years before the end of the occupation.
"You never cease to impress me, Major. I've got a lot to learn from you."
Kira Nerys3 grew up on Bajor during the occupation. Under Cardassian rule, she lost her family and many friends, prompting her to join the Resistance. From the age of 12, she spent her life in hiding and on the run, doing everything she could to hurt the Cardassians even when it meant taking innocent lives. At the end of the occupation, when the Bajoran Provisional Government invited the Federation to Deep Space Nine, she was made a Major in the Bajoran Militia and installed as the Bajoran Liaison (effectively, first officer) on the station.
"Some traditions are hard to break."
"You’ll get used to it."
During the first three seasons, Kira and Dukat have very little canon interaction, but there are a few nice moments (besides the aforementioned look in "The Maquis").4 For example, in an interesting little throwaway scene that opens the episode "Battle Lines," we learn that Kira has at least an egotistical interest in Dukat's opinion of her. The DS9 crew has found some of his personal files, still stored on the station's computer system, and upon reading the file on herself, she reacts with rage at being called a "minor operative" of the Resistance. Only when Captain Sisko teases her for "feeling underappreciated" does she calm down. Another important moment -- the first hint we get of Dukat's fascination with the major -- occurs in the episode "Civil Defense." Trapped with the crew onboard a station ready to self-destruct, he confidently addresses Kira as if they are the only two people in the room:
DUKAT: I set up this program, and I assure you, Major, I'll find a way to defeat it. There's no problem that can't be solved by a disciplined Cardassian mind.
GARAK: It's not going to work, you know.
DUKAT: What are you babbling about?
GARAK: I'm talking about Major Kira.
KIRA: What about her?
GARAK: She's much too busy trying to save this station to be impressed by your incessant posturing. And even if she weren't, she has much better taste than to be attracted to you.
DUKAT: I should've had you executed years ago.
The first time Kira and Dukat interact at length is the episode "Indiscretion," when they're thrown together on a mission to recover the survivors of the crashed transport ship Ravinok. Dukat's assessment of Kira inadvertently reveals a good deal about his views on the occupation:
DUKAT: I hope you won't take this the wrong way, Major, but I've always admired you.
KIRA: If you're waiting for me to return the compliment, you've got a long wait coming.
DUKAT: That's exactly what I mean. You're so determined, so competent. You're the embodiment of the new Bajor. A Bajoran born out of the ashes of the occupation, a Bajoran tempered with Cardassian steel.
KIRA: (laughing) Captain Sisko's right. You are in love with the sound of your own voice.
Edit: During the mission, the two stop to rest for the night in a cave, where Dukat has an unfortunate accident -- he sits on a "vicious-looking plant spine." Kira, of course, finds this hilarious:
DUKAT: It's not funny!
KIRA: It is from this angle.
This scene is notable for being one of the only times that Dukat is shown as utterly helpless. He does nothing but yell about how much it hurts until Kira grows impatient and helps him -- basically throwing him down, bending over him and yanking the offending barb out of his posterior (which was totally not intended as visual innuendo at all *cough*). Kira is laughing pretty much the entire time, but after a while, even Dukat has to laugh at the absurdity of his predicament. When their hilarity subsides, their smiles fade and they look at each other consideringly. The script notes, "This is a bonding moment. And though it's probable that neither of them would ever discuss it, after this, their relationship will never be quite the same again. They've started to see each other as people."
It is during this mission that Dukat reveals to Kira that he had a Bajoran mistress for many years: Tora Naprem, a woman he claims to have loved. Their daughter, Tora Ziyal, is among the survivors of the Ravinok. Dukat is determined to kill her, for a half-Bajoran child (aside from having no place on either planet) will undoubtedly end his career and disgrace his family.
DUKAT: I have no choice.
KIRA: There's always a choice. You don't want to do this. If you did, you never would have told me about Ziyal.
Kira is right about Dukat; ultimately, he cannot bring himself to kill the girl. He decides to take Ziyal home to Cardassia, despite the consequences he will face.
DUKAT: I just wanted to say ... thank you, Major. For a most interesting journey.
KIRA: You're taking Ziyal back to Cardassia with you.
DUKAT: After six years, she deserves a home ... and a father.
KIRA: Won't that make things difficult for you?
DUKAT: (a beat, and a slow smile) -- I'll let you know.
In "Return to Grace," we learn that because of his decision, Dukat has lost everything. His family has abandoned him, and the man who was once one of the most powerful figures on Cardassia has been demoted to commanding a small freighter. Assigned to transport Kira to an outpost which turns out to have been destroyed by Klingons making forays into Cardassian space, Dukat convinces the Major to help him find the ship responsible. During their voyage, he tries repeatedly to get under her skin:
DUKAT: First it was Vedek Bareil, now the head of the Bajoran government. You do like powerful men, don't you?
KIRA: Shakaar is an old friend. Besides, what business is it of yours?
DUKAT: Let's just say it's further incentive for me to regain my former position.
KIRA: I see you haven't lost your sense of humor.
KIRA: Why is it that every time you smile, I want to leave the room?
DUKAT: I suppose it's because my charm is overwhelming.
KIRA: Not bad.
DUKAT: I told you we made a good team. You are as insightful a woman as you are intriguing...
KIRA: I thought we agreed to keep this strictly business.
DUKAT: Major, is it my imagination, or do you have a hard time accepting compliments?
KIRA: A hard time accepting them from you.
DUKAT: I'll try to restrain my enthusiasm, but I can't promise you anything.
Dukat's half-Bajoran daughter, unwelcome on Cardassia, is also traveling with them. Ziyal, having already formed an attachment to her rescuer, desperately wants her father and Kira to get along:
ZIYAL: I can see why my father likes having you around. ...You don't like my father much, do you?
KIRA: No. I guess I don't.
ZIYAL: I understand. He did some very bad things during the occupation.
KIRA: Yes, he did.
ZIYAL: It bothers him, you know.
KIRA: Does it?
ZIYAL: Very much. He talks about it sometimes. He'd never admit it to anyone else, but he thinks the occupation was a mistake.
KIRA: Somehow I don't think he’d be saying that if the Cardassians had won.
ZIYAL: Maybe not. But maybe losing made him a better person.
KIRA: Then a lot of innocent people died to pay for his education.
ZIYAL: I know. I think about that a lot. But when I look at my father, I have a hard time seeing a murderer.
KIRA: And when I look at him, I have a hard time seeing anything else.
ZIYAL: My father says the two of you have a lot in common. That you both did things during the war that you regret. That's why he cares so much about what you think of him.
KIRA: Ziyal, what your father really wants from me is forgiveness. And that's one thing I can never give him.
After tracking down and commandeering the marauding vessel, the two discover Klingon military intelligence detailing future attacks on Cardassian territory. Dukat is furious when his government refuses to authorize military action, and resolves to fight the Klingons alone in his captured ship. He tells Kira he needs her help:
DUKAT: It would give you a chance to do what you were meant to do.
KIRA: No thanks. I already have a job.
DUKAT: You mean on that space station? We both know your talents are wasted there. Coordinating docking assignments and leading training exercises. On Deep Space Nine, you're nothing but a bureaucrat, an administrator ... but if you come with me, you can be a soldier again. Think about it, major! The chance to fight against a superior foe in a righteous cause... to protect a defeated and broken people from a cruel aggressor. You know as well as I do that if Cardassia falls, Bajor is next. Help me stop the Klingons before you become their next target.
KIRA: You're really serious about this.
DUKAT: Absolutely. Look, Major, I'm not asking you to like me -- or to be my friend. I'm asking you to join me. Fight at my side. You know what I'm doing is right. And what's more... it's what you want to do as well.
The script notes that "for a moment, just one slight moment, the possibility crosses Kira's mind," but she "doesn't like admitting -- even to herself -- that Dukat's offer is the least bit enticing." Ultimately, she turns him down.
DUKAT: And I thought I was so eloquent.
KIRA: (smiles) You had your moments. But the fact of the matter is, I've already been where you're going. I've already lived the life you're choosing. Fighting hit and run, always outgunned, living on nothing but adrenaline and hate. It's not much of a life, and it eats away at you so that every day a little part of you dies.
DUKAT: Very inspiring, Major. But I have no choice in this. No more than you did when you were fighting against us.
KIRA: ... No, I don't suppose you do.
Though she understands Dukat's determination, Kira tells him that a pirate vessel, constantly in combat, is no place for a young girl -- and asks him to leave Ziyal in her care. At first he is incredulous that she would even make the offer; then he is reluctant to give up the daughter he only recently recovered. Finally, he admits that Kira is right, and the episode ends with Dukat leaving alone.
DUKAT: Well, it would appear that whether you like it or not, our lives have become deeply intertwined.
KIRA: That really pleases you, doesn't it?
DUKAT: Pleases me? Why, Major, it gives me reason to live.
All too soon, however, their tentative friendship is destroyed when Dukat, convinced that it is the only way to make his beloved Cardassia strong again, allies his people with the hostile Dominion threatening to invade the Alpha Quadrant. Shocked at this betrayal, Kira vows to kill Dukat if they meet again. Actually, the next time she sees him her reaction is fairly tame:
DUKAT: Major. Sorry to disturb you.
KIRA: Sorry enough to leave?
She is impatient with his taunts:
KIRA: You're enjoying this, aren't you? All these sick little games.
DUKAT: I have to admit, I do get a certain perverse pleasure out of it.
KIRA: I promise you, Dukat, I'm going to make you pay for this one day.
DUKAT: Maybe. But not today.
Dukat is correct; indeed, his position only improves, and the next time he sees Kira she is conceding the station to him and the Dominion after the Federation is forced to flee. Ensconced in his former role as commander of Terok Nor, Dukat revels in the day-to-day contact with Kira his position affords him.
KIRA: You wanted to see me.
DUKAT: I always want to see you, Major. And therein lies the problem.
DUKAT: I'm a patient man. I can wait.
KIRA: Wait for what? What do you think is going to happen here, Dukat? You think you're going to wear me down with your charming personality? That I'm going to be swept off my feet by that insincere smile? Are you really so deluded that you actually believe we're going to have some kind of intimate relationship?
DUKAT: We already do.
Aware that the closest bond Kira shares with him is the love they both feel for his daughter, Dukat brings Ziyal to DS9 from Bajor, where she has been studying. The girl's presence briefly eases the tension between the two enemies. When Dukat learns that Ziyal's paintings have been accepted at a prestigious exhibition, the first thing he does is tell Kira:
DUKAT: I'm hosting a celebration for her tonight in my quarters. I hope you'll join us.
KIRA: What time?
DUKAT: Twenty-one thirty. Unless I'm unavoidably delayed.
KIRA: The busy life of an interstellar despot.
DUKAT: I prefer the term "tyrant."
But the cease-fire doesn't last, as Kira begins organizing resistance to the Dominion presence aboard DS9. Dukat eventually orders the arrest of the conspirators, but is curiously lenient in his treatment of these would-be saboteurs:
Make sure they're not harmed -- in any way. Major Kira is important to my daughter. And to me.
During the Federation's retaking of Deep Space Nine, Ziyal is killed. Dukat, insane with grief, is captured. En route to his trial, he and Captain Sisko crash on a deserted planet, and despite Dukat's claims of regained sanity, his demons take visible form. He is relatively calm until he hallucinates Major Kira taunting him relentlessly with his failures and inadequacies:
SISKO: Dukat? Dukat! I thought you wanted to talk to me.
DUKAT: Yes, but Nerys won't leave well enough alone. She's always interfering, always trying to upset me.
SISKO: There's no reason to get upset. We're just talking. Two old soldiers talking around a campfire.
KIRA: I'm going to enjoy watching this. He's going to beat you, Dukat. He's going to escape and then he's going to go back to Deep Space Nine and his friends and we're all going to have a good, long laugh at your expense.
His vision of a contemptuous, mocking Kira crushes Dukat; in his fury, he completely loses his grip on reality. He escapes the crash site, vowing enmity to all of Bajor for failing to appreciate him.
Even while on the run, Dukat can't resist contacting Kira. He tells her that he and her mother were once lovers, a possibility that bothers Kira enough that she finds a way to travel back in time to see if it's true. It is,5 and Kira struggles with her inability to understand how her mother could ever have come to see Dukat as anything but a monster.
KIRA: Don’t let the smile fool you -- he's still the enemy.
MERU: It's not that simple.
KIRA: Yes, it is.
While in the past, Kira plants a bomb in Dukat's quarters, planning to prevent ten years of Bajoran suffering (and the later Cardassian/Dominion alliance which has forced the Federation into a horrific war) by assassinating the Gul before he can cause any of it to happen. At the last second, she not only gets her mother out of harm's way, but also warns Dukat about the bomb, saving his life.
To avoid at least one pivotal series spoiler, I'll skip ahead to Kira and Dukat's next significant interaction: through a set of bizarre circumstances, he has become the leader of a Bajoran religious cult on DS9's sister station Empok Nor. He kidnaps her and tries to convince her to stay in his strange community:
Open your heart to me, Nerys. We're bound together by destiny. You belong at my side.
But again, Kira refuses, and again Dukat escapes while vowing revenge. This incident is their last meeting in canon; at the end of the series, Dukat dies6, having failed to obtain either his vengeance or Kira's love.
"Think about it, Major ... think about the possibilities."
What attracted me to this ship -- besides my affection for both characters -- was that Kira and Dukat have such a mutable and intriguing relationship in canon that it's difficult not to want to play with it, to explore other possibilities of how it could have turned out. Over the course of the series, they're shown as oppressor and rebel, pursuer and object of desire; as enemies, as allies, and as equals. Why not lovers? Using any of the phases of their relationship as a starting point, one could posit many courses for this union to take. Kira and Dukat coming together when he is ruler of Bajor and she is a Resistance fighter, for example, would necessarily happen in a different way and result in a different sort of bond than would occur during the time when the two are co-parenting Ziyal and forming a tentative friendship. Or perhaps the relationship never happens; perhaps it remains a desire that Kira cannot bring herself to acknowledge, or an obsession solely in Dukat's mind. Even more possibilities come to light when one remembers that DS9 comes equipped with its own parallel dimension: the Mirror Universe discovered (and altered) by James Kirk in TOS. In this world, Kira is the Intendant: the ruler of Terok Nor and the Bajoran Sector, and every bit the despot Dukat was in DS9's home world.7 Everyone has a double in the Mirror Universe, and in most cases their lives have followed dramatically different trajectories than those of their counterparts. Given this information, it's intriguing to wonder what Mirror Dukat is like, and what sort of interaction the Kiras and Dukats could have with one another. The possibilities really are nearly endless.
Regardless of the form their relationship takes, I believe that it is worth exploring. Kira and Dukat each complement and challenge the other in a way no other character does. For Kira, Dukat represents a moral ambiguity which she finds maddening. Even when taking innocent lives as a Resistance fighter, she always saw her world in clear, black-and-white terms. She was fighting for a righteous cause -- Bajoran independence -- against evil fascists who relentlessly butchered her planet and her people. When we meet her, she is still thinking in those terms: Bajoran good. Cardassian evil. It doesn't cross her mind that there are nuances -- that, just as she can justify her own acts of violence, her enemies had their own reasons for what they did -- until Dukat confronts her with his own views on the occupation. Kira's vehement rejection of Dukat -- her insistence that she finds him completely repugnant, that she can never forgive him for the harm he did her people -- reads to me as the kind of blind absolutism that cries out to be tested (even if only to be eventually proven right). For Dukat, Kira embodies the straightforward principles that no Cardassian can afford to live by. He has grown up in a culture of doublespeak and treachery; she is blunt and truthful to a fault. He is ambitious enough to think only of himself, and egotistical enough to believe he can do no wrong; she thinks (and reminds him) of the rights and needs of others. He has experienced treatment from his own people ranging from fawning hero-worship to deepest contempt, depending on his social and military rank at any given moment; Kira reacts to him as a person, behaving the same whether he rules Cardassia or pilots a freighter. This kind of integrity is a rare thing in Dukat's life -- no wonder he values her opinion so highly.
The bottom line for me is that I find it intriguing that so many hints of -- something interesting are there in canon, despite the stated intentions of the writers and actors involved. It is a treat for me to see the many ways in which fan authors interpret the dynamic between these characters; whether or not there's a happy ending, it's always a fascinating journey. I like how this article at about.com puts it: the Kira/Dukat pairing is an excellent vehicle for exploring "the role of the tormentor and the resistor, sexual and psychological power struggles, guilt and shame, as well as redemption, forgiveness and salvation."
"I know that our past makes it hard for you to accept me as an ally. I know every fiber of your being is telling you to say no, no, no ... but somewhere among all those "no"s is a yes. You need to listen to that yes."
The DS9 fandom seems pretty stagnant, since the series is done, but there’s good stuff out there.8 Trekiverse is a great resource for all kinds of Trek stories, and Ariana’s site is the place to find fic about all the Cardassians on DS9 (though I’ve linked to the K/Du search results). Here are a few of my favorite stories (most may be found on both archives), as well as a few fics that aren’t on either site.
Halfway (Ariana, also found here) - PG-13 - A "missing scene" story, set during the episode "Return to Grace." If these two had ever gotten together in canon, this would have been the time and the way.
The Agreement (Ariana, also found here) R - When the Dominion imprisons Jake Sisko for espionage, Kira offers herself to Dukat in exchange for the young man's life. But Dukat declines the offer, proposing a different kind of agreement altogether. Set just after the episode "Call to Arms."
Wow (Ariana, also found here) - One of the only lighthearted K/Du fics I've found. It answers the pressing question, "sure, you can throw these two into bed, but what on earth would they talk about afterwards?"
Skin Deep (Marlissa Campbell) - It’s got everything – smut! plot! Cardassian politics! The premise (Dukat maneuvers Kira into a relationship while she’s on Cardassia undercover as Iliana Ghemor) works so well that I’m surprised there aren’t more fics exploring the possibilities of Kira-as-Iliana.
The Serpent and the Hawk (Laura Taylor) - AU - One of the first and most popular K/Du fics. Ziyal’s death leads to a reconciliation between Kira and Dukat.
Quid Pro Quo (Laura Taylor) - A PWP in which a comparison of battle scars quickly escalates into a passionate encounter.
Five Things Which Never Happened (selenak) - Not a romance, but dark and very cool. Uses canon moments as starting points for explorations of what could have happened.
Fire Once Brought (kidu) - AU, around the time of "Covenant" – Dukat and Kira are possessed by a Pagh-wraith and a Prophet, respectively, and the experience leaves them with a mental connection that forces them to work out their differences. The warm-and-fuzziest of the bunch; one of the few K/Du fics with a happy ending.
Dislocation, Condemnation, Revelation, In Temptation (iamsab) - A second person POV, circular-structured fever dream of a story, set during the Dominion occupation in s6.
Lauren Francis (aka Kelpie) is the only fanartist I’ve found who does K/Du. Unfortunately her site is currently down for overhauling, but these gems are still accessible:
Friends? (gorgeous sketch)
I Think She Likes Me (SO cute)
1Although she did once admit in an interview posted on her website, "All the grey areas between Dukat and Kira are very interesting to me."
2A note on the name: "Dukat" is pronounced to rhyme with "plot," with the accent on the second syllable. "Gul" is a military rank, roughly equivalent to a Federation captain or admiral (depending on the post of command, a Gul's authority varies widely). We never learn Dukat's given name in canon.
3Bajorans place their family names first. Second (given) names are used only by those who are very close: family, dear friends, and lovers. Kira's is pronounced to rhyme with "piece," with the accent on the second syllable.
4One incident in the episode "Destiny" involves neither Kira or Dukat directly, but is (I believe) quite important in contextualizing their often-antagonistic relationship. A Cardassian scientist visiting the station is confused and angered when her romantic overtures are rebuffed by Chief O'Brien: "Why have you been leading me to believe that you wanted me?" He is equally shocked: "I haven't been! All we've done since we met is argue." She explains: "And I took your overt irritability toward me as a signal that you were interested in pursuing a physical relationship."
5I stubbornly maintain that this was an ill-considered device inserted by the writers in an effort to speed Dukat's unfortunate late-series transition to OMG PURE EVIL.TM All I have for proof is the fact that this episode contradicts the previously-established timeline of events; DS9 is ordinarily so good about continuity that this incident baffles me.
6Well, sort of. We're left with the clear implication that he's gone for good, but there's enough wiggle room for future-fic to be possible without completely shattering canon.
7Nana Visitor remarked more than once that to create the character of the Intendant, she merely imagined Kira as she would have turned out had one or two events in her life occurred differently. In my shippy heart of hearts, I like to think of that as further proof that Kira and Dukat are more similar than either of them realize.
8Caveat: I'm a lurker by nature -- in fact, I've never actually been involved in fandom per se of any kind, despite the fact that I'm as much of a LOTR/HP/Trek/etc. geek as the next person. Therefore, I doubt that I'm the most qualified person to discuss what is and is not out there in terms of the DS9 fan community. If anyone reading this knows of more archives, fics, resources, etc., I'd be eternally grateful for recommendations left in the comments.