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#1
Old 09-30-2004, 12:03 AM
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Gul Dukat: Crazy? Evil? Or just misunderstood:(? (long)

Note: Unboxed spoilers for Star Trek DS9.


So, recently I started rewatching seasons 5 - 7 of Deep Space 9 and was really struck (again) by Dukat's character. The Cardassians in general got fleshed out a lot, and I was really getting into them as a race in the last five episodes, but Dukat has really stuck out among them for me. I've been mulling him over for a while by myself, but I'd really love to do a cooperative character study. Since there are a number of aspects of his character that I want to bring up for discussion, I'll go for a bulleted list:

1. At times, counter to the tone of the rest of the series (it seems to me), the writers try to paint him as purely evil. A great example of this is Sisko's final lines in season six's "Waltz": "You know something, old man... there are times when life seems so complicated. Nothing is truly good or truly evil. You start to think that everything is shades of gray. Then you spend time with a man like Dukat... and you realize there is really such a thing as evil after all." In that episode especially, he's painted as genocidal. (I'll come back to this episode in particular in the next bullet.) It's a testament to the character and the actor, I think, that he manages to throw his assignment as the Ultimate Evil off for a season and a half before they try to saddle him with it again in the series finale.

Whenever Dukat's past comes up for discussion, he gives the same general story: he tried to help the Bajorans by changing tactics subtly, in such a way that his superiors wouldn't reassign (or "reassign") him, but still hoping to do some good. In a few episodes he gives specifics, which no one ever denies directly; they just ignore him and say again "people died under your command. You are responsible. You are evil for allowing them to die." To be fair, if that happened to me every time I tried to carry on a discussion, I might get a little frustrated, too. Obviously, they have a point. But that doesn't discount Dukat's point of view, either.

From what we know of Cardassian politics (i.e., their justice system), Dukat's story actually makes a lot of sense. Those in power in Cardassian society seem to uphold order above all else. Therefore, it's not much of a stretch to imagine that his superiors were, in fact, handing down brutal orders for mass extermination and the actions Dukat actually took were highly mitigated by his own sense of justice and pity. See also bullet number three!

2. About his character in "Waltz," specifically. (Here's a script!) In that episode, he brutally beats Sisko (with a lead pipe, on the godforsaken planet) and then, having finally ... goaded... Sisko into revealing his opinion of him, makes a raving admission that he hates all the Bajorans, hates everything about them, and that he will now go forth and finish what he started, wiping their horrible little species out of existence.

I think it's an understatement to say that there's some psychological pressure acting on both characters during this episode. A few weeks? months? ago in storytime, Dukat had his ambitions for conquering the Alpha Quadrant resoundingly crushed at the last moment, lost his idolized daughter Ziyal at the hands of his most trusted deputy Damar, and as a result spent a good chunk of time in the tender care of Starfleet Medical having his psyche reconstructed. You could say he was in a delicate frame of mind. Especially since Sisko was the one who acted as the catalyst that set those specific events in motion. As for Sisko, I can't imagine it's very relaxing spending several days with a crudely tended broken arm on a storm planet with someone like Dukat. So I choose to believe that these declarations and confessions of good and evil are extracted under duress and therefore inadmissable as evidence. So mote it be!

Though the hallucinations are really fascinating.

3. What's up with his obsession for Bajoran women? He doesn't look twice at anyone else, and if a Bajoran woman's in the room, he can't think about anything but getting in her pants. He's even willing to try and sweet-talk Kira on innumerable occasions, even though he surely must realize that if they were ever in a position like that, he wouldn't live to enjoy three seconds of it. Is this some kind of patronizing colonial thing? Or does he have something more deeply psychological going on?

4. What's up with his relationship with Ziyal? I haven't got an episode to quote for an example, but I'm almost certain Dukat states at least once that he has several children back on Cardassia, with his legitimate wife (wives?). But, obviously, we hardly ever hear a word about them. Meanwhile, Ziyal exerts such a pull over him that he's willing to sacrifice almost anything for her sake, and her death unhinges him.

5. Dukat as anti-Emissary. Once Dukat discovers "the love of the Pah Wraiths," his actions all become tempered by the fact that he actually does have visions of these beings, who give him instructions. Is he evil, or just repeating the past, acting as he thinks best to carry out the wishes of his superiors? The case that other believers make for the Pah Wraiths are also compelling: why did the Prophets abandon Bajor during the occupation? why do they seem to act so arbitrarily (i.e., closing the wormhole only when The Sisko demands they act to protect Bajor/save his life)? are they truly good, or just the victors writing history?

So are the Pah Wraiths evil? And, by extension, is Dukat as their Emissary evil? Or are they all just misunderstood?

The things Dukat does and the pretensions he makes seem very consistent, overall. This leads me to wonder if he's got any particular psychological "type" (aside from the obvious "genocidal, megalomaniacal dictator"). Thoughts?
#2
Old 09-30-2004, 12:27 AM
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Y'know, Marc Alaimo was the first actor to play characters of four different species, beating Mark Leonard's record.

Yeah, and Dukat started out as Evil, the slid into Crazy. He looked good doing so, though. It's just a pity what's-her-name's ratched acting served as a distraction in the later episodes.
#3
Old 09-30-2004, 12:28 AM
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I think of Dukat as like one of those officers in the Nazi Regieme entrusted to watch over a city or worse a concentration camp. The type who did barbarous acts and placated themselves with the small good deeds they did. They would butcher an entire city but give toys to orphans and feel it somehow balances out. It is their way to make themselves feel like they are not evil men.

So like Dukat they say "Hey, I did terrible things but not as terrible as others did." Or they justify their murders as being less horrible by the fact that they were done "Humanely"

Dukat is an interesting character in that he is a study of that type of person. One who does evil things under the banner of "following orders"

He has little imagination, in that he fails to see that others may have stronger convictions and would rather have died than become killers. He simply believe that all beings put their own personal survival before all other matters including morals.

He has a tendency also to put his position and status in life above all other things. But more important than that is his need to survive at all costs.

His survival instinct also allows him to take on those many guises he showed throughout the series. First he was a loyal Gul, then when change came in the government he knew to switch sides. If that meant friendly relations with Bajor and the Federation he would simply try to become their friends in any manner he could. By chumming up to Kira and Sisko.

He easily fell in with the Dominion because in his world (universe) view they were the next to rule and so he became a staunch supporter of the Dominion. Better to rule under them then be destroyed fighting them. Though he chaffed with them it wasn't until he discovered something more powerful (The Pah Wraiths) that he abandoned them freely.

Quite simply the man had no moral compass. He had no strong beliefs in anything except his own survival and ambition. He floated along and attached himself to anything that would keep him in a position of prestige and power.

No matter what he ever claimed about his convictions it was a lie. He had none, nor loyalty to friend or family.

now look what you've done.... made me babble
#4
Old 09-30-2004, 12:34 AM
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1) It was always the intention of Behr, Wolfe, et al to portray Dukat as evil and one of the reasons he was portrayed so one-dimensionally in the last two seasons was to get across this point.

In the DS9 Companion, it is stated repeatedly that he is the moral equivalent of Hitler and that his broad fan base, amongst which were apologists saying things like "he only killed a couple thousand(!!!) people, it's not like he killed millions!", forced them into making him less of a heavily grey character with hints of humanity into a monster.

I think it could have been handled better but Marc Alaimo is superb and was able to make the now cartoonish Dukat just as riveting as he had been the six years prior.

2) Under stress, one of two things happen.. either you're goaded into saying things you don't neccesarily mean or you just let everything out, including things you'd've never revealed otherwise. While your belief that he was goaded holds merit, I tend to believe that he was finally through with pretense after finally finding out that Sisko had not even the slightest amount of affection for him and let everything out.

This is probably colored by what I read in the DS9 Companion, of course. Knowing what the writers intended sometimes helps.

3) It's just him lording his superiority over the provincials.. pretty similar to antebellum plantation owners raping or otherwise having relationships with their slaves. Or, to put a face to it -- Strom Thurmond.

4) When he first found out she might be alive, he went to find her with the express purpose of killing her to retain his honor but Nerys and Ziyal managed to change his mind.. the former by threatening to kill him and the latter by her love. He then took her home with him and was then busted in rank from military advisor to the Detapa Council to captain of a freighter.

Ziyal stayed with him through all of it, never wavering in her love and support of him.. something Dukat obviously craves.

5a) He's evil, as are the Pah Wraiths.

b) Sisko is The Emissary. Sarah, his mother, was possessed by a Prophet and made to fall in love with Joseph (I just realized the Biblical implication here) so that he would be concieved and born. Once he was, Sarah was released and promptly left Joseph as she never would have been with him if it had been her decision.

His entire existance is because of the Prophets. He is the link between them and Bajor.

c) I'm an atheist so I'll leave the really theological stuff to others.
#5
Old 09-30-2004, 01:24 AM
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Dukat was an evil man - but not inherantly, or irredemably so.

He was evil by nurture, not by nature. He does evil because, until sometime after the war, he doesn't know of another way.

In the middle seasons he was on the road to redemption. Kira and Ziyal lit his way. It was a long road, and he stumbled, but he was on his way.

This was destroyed in the end. Now, while I like the Pagh Wraith storyline, I don't think Dukat was handled well. His redemption arc came to an abrupt non-end when he was seduced by the Wraiths. I'm not saying he couldn't fall again, but it wasn't, really, properly played out. Just: Here's Dukat with a glimmer of humanity. Here's the Pagh Wraiths. Here's Dukat as a cartoonish villain.

Knowing how the Wraiths seduced him would have been a good start. Presenting him as the same evil but complex man he was early on would have been a good continuation.

Early Dukat was a good villain. Middle Dukat was a good character. Late Dukat was a medicre plot device, who could have been a good villain again.
#6
Old 09-30-2004, 02:14 AM
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I'll have to give DS9 another shot. I lost interest partway into the 2nd season, then saw some random lame episodes in the middle of the series. I didn't start watching again until almost the end, and it seemed much better but of course I didn't know what was going on.

Was Gul Dukat the same guy that captured Picard and tortured him nearly out of his mind?
#7
Old 09-30-2004, 09:59 AM
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I saw the TNG episode where Picard gets tortured a few days ago, and the Cardassian deffinately wasn't Dukat.

The way Dukat was given a story arc just as complex and interesting as the "good guys" was one of the great things about DS9.
#8
Old 09-30-2004, 10:26 AM
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That was gul madred played by David Warner. (another great performance)

I'm gonna have to go with kingpenvin, he is evil, but due to extreme selfishness. His survival is the only things that matters. He has a guilty conscience about that, and occaisionally tries to placate it, but never at the risk of losing any power of his life. UNTIL Ziyal. When he brings Ziyal to Cardassia, throwing away everything (but still manging to survive, or course), it's her unconditional love and understanding that tips his consience over the edge. (Remember what he said to Sisko at the end "Sacrifice of Angels," he wanted forgiveness and understanding for what he did, and Ziyal was his last hope of that.) When she died, he obviously went batshit insane. But again, it was all selfishness. Selfishness defined his character. It was almost love for Ziyal that drove him mad, but not quite love. The selfish need for love.

Can't really comment on the wraith part, since I don't remember it too well.
#9
Old 09-30-2004, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Gul Dukat: Crazy? Evil? Or just misunderstood
No.

Merely the Heartbreak Of Psoriasis.

It'll get ya every time....
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#10
Old 09-30-2004, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
No.

Merely the Heartbreak Of Psoriasis.

It'll get ya every time....
How does a Cardassian tell when he has psoriasis, anyway?
#11
Old 09-30-2004, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by jayjay
How does a Cardassian tell when he has psoriasis, anyway?
Psoriasis gets em all...Di Maggio, Hitchcock, Lamour, Gul Dukat, Flipper...all the Greats.
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#12
Old 09-30-2004, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jayjay
How does a Cardassian tell when he has psoriasis, anyway?
Cardassians consider it a sign of beauty. Perhaps you've heard the expression, "You're a sight for psoriasis."
#13
Old 09-30-2004, 12:53 PM
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Nice first thread, Trekibilia! Welcome to the boards!
#14
Old 09-30-2004, 03:17 PM
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The best analogy I can think of would be an antebellum slave holder. Dukat was born and raised to uphold the system that produced him, and he couldn't comprehend how that system could be anything other than good and right. And like a slave holder, he had a paternalistic desire for his victims to love him, to exhonorate and justify his beliefs. In a horrible, morally blind way Dukat is an innocent, compared with other Cardassians who know and are proud of the fact that they're ruthless conquerers. In his own eyes, he never did anything but absolute necessity with the best of intentions. By the time he cracked up and and fell under the Pah wraiths influence, he was as lost as a soul can be.
#15
Old 10-02-2004, 03:12 AM
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Thank you all so much for these fascinating takes! I hope you'll excuse my persistence, but... I have some responses. This is long again.. sorry, but I'm really into this.

From kingpengvin :
Quote:
He has little imagination, in that he fails to see that others may have stronger convictions and would rather have died than become killers. He simply believe that all beings put their own personal survival before all other matters including morals.
Like who? Kira? Certainly not. Sisko? Maybe, but he's pretty calm about mass murder for his causes. (Not to mention his noted fall from grace in In the Pale Moonlight.) Odo? No... Bashir, maybe, is the only one I can think of whose convictions and ideals lead him to do anything to prevent needless death, but he's certainly not presented in glowing terms for that. And I don't remember him being set up opposite Dukat (though he may have made comments about him I don't recall). It tends to be the first three casting the most stones, that I've seen.

Quote:
Quite simply the man had no moral compass. He had no strong beliefs in anything except his own survival and ambition. He floated along and attached himself to anything that would keep him in a position of prestige and power.
How is that evil? Isn't that what people do to get promoted, to get scholarships, etc, etc? It's how power works. Wouldn't we all be in a better position if our leaders were as flexible as Dukat showed himself to be? As sensitive to the opinions of those beneath them? It's not admirable in an idealistic sense, but practically it's a very good trait.

From Aesiron:
Quote:
In the DS9 Companion, it is stated repeatedly that he is the moral equivalent of Hitler and that his broad fan base, amongst which were apologists saying things like "he only killed a couple thousand(!!!) people, it's not like he killed millions!", forced them into making him less of a heavily grey character with hints of humanity into a monster.
I'm sure this won't come as much of a surprise, but.. I think the writers were wrong to approach his character this way. I don't want to come off sounding like I have half the vision they did to have crafted a story as fantastic as they did, but! This aspect is a definite failure.

My reason for this is pretty simple: there's no force of pure good in the DS9 universe, so how can there possibly be pure evil? Every episode up to that point, we're led to examine institutions we had previously held as unimpeachable (Starfleet Medical, anyone?) and break them down into gradations and mixtures of good intentions and bad intentions, in addition to simply good actions and bad actions. And then, along comes season six and seven, and surprise! Here's a force of pure evil trolling around the galaxy, waiting in the shadows to eat your babies and blight your crops? I don't buy it.

To be fair, the only force of pure good I can think of in opposition to Dukat is Ziyal. But she operates on nothing approaching the scale he does, so I can't convince myself that it's a valid parallel. I don't feel that the Prophets/the Sisko qualify as Dukat's antithesis for the reasons I gave above.

Quote:
5a) He's evil, as are the Pah Wraiths.

b) Sisko is The Emissary. Sarah, his mother, was possessed by a Prophet and made to fall in love with Joseph (I just realized the Biblical implication here) so that he would be concieved and born. Once he was, Sarah was released and promptly left Joseph as she never would have been with him if it had been her decision.

His entire existance is because of the Prophets. He is the link between them and Bajor.
Wouldn't you say that this level of manipulation taints the Prophets? They manipulate who knows how many lives for their own ends, without telling anyone involved more than the bare minimum required to elicit the "right" responses. At least the Pah Wraiths gave Dukat a choice, eh? The Prophets gave Sisko life, and they're fully willing to destroy anything in it to get what they want from him.

I'm not feeling a great urge to get my ears pierced.

Also, I'm an atheist, too--part of the reason I find the Prophet/Pah Wraith thing so interesting, I suppose. But it also means that the obvious parallels to Jesus suffering and dying for the rest of mankind aren't going to make me any more sympathetic to the Prophets' methods.

From Tengu:
Quote:
Knowing how the Wraiths seduced him would have been a good start. Presenting him as the same evil but complex man he was early on would have been a good continuation.
I agree completely, and this is why I have trouble accepting the writers' vision of the character as the be-all, end-all of what he is. They made ssome bad choices in regard to utilizing him as a source of conflict and decided to just turn him into the antithesis of Our Side.

From gonzoron:
Quote:
It was almost love for Ziyal that drove him mad, but not quite love. The selfish need for love.
Nice distinction! I don't have the background to decide for myself either way, but this is something I'll have to keep in mind.

From the episodes I have seen, he makes plenty of sacrifices for Ziyal--and the only ones I've actually witnessed were of the variety of "Let me undermine the Dominion, father! I thought you were a great man, a forgiving man... won't you let me endanger myself and you?" ".... all right, Ziyal. But be careful!" "Yay! I love you, father!"

The fact that he took Ziyal back to Cardassia and then was willing to leave his former life, with her, says more to me that he honestly did love her. He gave up far more public respect than he could have possibly gained in private adoration, no matter how unconditional her love was.

From Lumpy:
Quote:
In a horrible, morally blind way Dukat is an innocent, compared with other Cardassians who know and are proud of the fact that they're ruthless conquerers. In his own eyes, he never did anything but absolute necessity with the best of intentions. By the time he cracked up and and fell under the Pah wraiths influence, he was as lost as a soul can be.
I love the first part of this, but sort of lose the glow by the end. I'm such a sympathizer. A dirty fangirl.

But all the same, I find it hard to judge Dukat as anti-Emissary for the reasons I mentioned above-- the bias of the writers at the end, but also our inability to say whether the Pah Wraiths really are evil, or are just out of power. The things they advocated have all been shown up to good effect in other places in the series. The Ferengi come instantly to mind. "Ambition is bad. But ohoho, isn't Quark's latest scheme darling?"

A good example of this in the real world would be... that age-old trinity of mutually hateful beliefs: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Are one or another of these "evil" just because certain prophecies say that a person with X characteristic will perform Y action (which just happens to describe Z religion and its rituals) and it will be a sign of the end times?

There's nothing concrete (I saw) that says indisputably that the Pah Wraiths are evil except that they're expressed by red. Their ambition seems to be offset by the Prophets' complete aloofness, making the two camps more opposing forces than "good" and "evil." I picture it kind of like Yin and Yang with politics. (... this might be kind of a self-hijack, but... as the OP, I stamp my approval!)

Thanks again for all the great responses so far. Woo, Star Trek stimulation. ^^
#16
Old 10-02-2004, 01:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekibilia
Thank you all so much for these fascinating takes! I hope you'll excuse my persistence, but... I have some responses. This is long again.. sorry, but I'm really into this.
I can't speak for the others but I welcome the debate. Deep Space Nine is my favorite of the Trek incarnations and I'm happy to see that I'm no longer alone in my naked fanboyism for it.



Quote:
Like who? Kira? Certainly not. Sisko? Maybe, but he's pretty calm about mass murder for his causes. (Not to mention his noted fall from grace in In the Pale Moonlight.) Odo? No... Bashir, maybe, is the only one I can think of whose convictions and ideals lead him to do anything to prevent needless death, but he's certainly not presented in glowing terms for that. And I don't remember him being set up opposite Dukat (though he may have made comments about him I don't recall). It tends to be the first three casting the most stones, that I've seen.
Deep Space Nine is all about moral and ethical ambiguities. Not one character in the entire run of the show, save Ziyal, is presented as being pure. Everyone else has their own demons or skeletons in the closet.. but some, like Dukat, have so many that they're past any hope of redemption.

The opposite of this, being wholly good, is pretty much an impossibility, at least in my opinion. I don't believe it is possible to be completely selfless.. there is something that everyone yearns for and given the chance to take it, everyone will do everything in their power to do so. Take Winn, for example. I sincerely believe that, in her heart, she was a True Believer of the Bajoran religion but she also hungered for power and recognition and her need for the first twisted her into the manipulative person we were first introduced her to and the second twisted her more and more over the years until she finally snapped and became the Pah Wraiths' key. Even her final redemption -- betraying Dukat -- was not a virtuous act. It was just her taking vengeance since she had been slighted by not being chosen by the Wraiths.

Quote:
I'm sure this won't come as much of a surprise, but.. I think the writers were wrong to approach his character this way. I don't want to come off sounding like I have half the vision they did to have crafted a story as fantastic as they did, but! This aspect is a definite failure.
I think they could have done it better myself but I am not that bothered by its end result.



Quote:
Wouldn't you say that this level of manipulation taints the Prophets? They manipulate who knows how many lives for their own ends, without telling anyone involved more than the bare minimum required to elicit the "right" responses. At least the Pah Wraiths gave Dukat a choice, eh? The Prophets gave Sisko life, and they're fully willing to destroy anything in it to get what they want from him.

I'm not feeling a great urge to get my ears pierced.
Odo : Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you believe the Founders are gods is because that's what they want you to believe? That they built it into your genetic code?
Weyoun 6 : Of course they did, that's what gods do. After all, why be a god if there's no one to worship you?

Faith, Treachery, and the Great River


While that may be a Vorta talking to a Founder, I think that that sums up the relationship between any god and its worshippers. Gods, including the Judeo-Christian one, want worship and manipulate lives in order to get it.
#17
Old 10-02-2004, 02:56 PM
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I'm a little rusty on DS9. I don't have the money for the DVD set, or a DVD player. Reruns are still shown on channel 48, but most of the time I get more noise than signal.

Re Pure Good

What about the first Kai? Upon learning she's trapped on the prison of the Ennis and the Nol Ennis, her response is 'Eh. It's no biggie. These people need somebody to help heal their hatred. I think I can do it. It'll take a few centuries, but I can do it.'

Vedic B'rial (I'm sure I've misspelled that) also comes rather close.
He ends up being sacrificed by Kai Winn.

So in the DS9 universe, being completely evil can take you to the Tau Shiar, Obsidian Order, or similar position of power. Being completely good, will result in your being used by other people.
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#18
Old 10-03-2004, 05:44 AM
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I always hated Kai Winn more than Gul Dukat.

The way I saw it, Dukat ended up being on the losing side of a war-crime committing regime, and it's necessary to remember that the occupation went on for a looong time. He's a slave-keeper, murderer, and I'm not really sure if he ever saw Bajorans as 'people' (I'd say human, but...). I'm sure he had guilty days and nights when he couldn't stand the blood flowing, but he made the easy choice to stay within the system.
And then he had to negotiate and deal with upstart Feddies working with the Bajorans, who demonstrated that they could get more productivity out of Bajor than he ever could. That definitely rubbed him the wrong way. But throughout it all, I always pitied Dukat, since he is, at the core, weak. That weakness created terror and brutality, but it was still weakness nonetheless.

Now Winn, on the other hand, chose to be a power-grabbing murderer when she had other options.

It's strange, but Winn and Dukat are close to being the same character, one on the rise, another on the descent. But ultimately, both were failures. Dukat tried to cloak himself in respectability after the fact, while Winn portrayed herself as loving and caring while being two-faced. I guess I prefer after-the-fact hypocrisy to a current liar.
#19
Old 10-03-2004, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Barbarian
I always hated Kai Winn more than Gul Dukat.

Dukat also has the entire Kardassian system telling him what to do and how to feel. Look at how far Maritsa was willing to go because he felt that system needed to be fought.

Winn is the leader of the system. She doesn't care about her people or the Prophets. She cares only about herself.
#20
Old 10-04-2004, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by DocCathode
What about the first Kai? Upon learning she's trapped on the prison of the Ennis and the Nol Ennis, her response is 'Eh. It's no biggie. These people need somebody to help heal their hatred. I think I can do it. It'll take a few centuries, but I can do it.'

Vedic B'rial (I'm sure I've misspelled that) also comes rather close.
He ends up being sacrificed by Kai Winn.
Both of these were tainted a bit in the episode The Collaborator. IIRC, Kai Opaka gave the cardassians the location of a resistance group including her own son so that the cardassians would stop sweeping the entire province for them and killing as they went. For the greater good, yes, but not pure good. And Bariel covered for her so that the Bajorans wouldn't lose their perfect unstained martyr.
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