One of my favorite and key characters of Deep Space Nine was Gul Dukat. From the very start he was an intriguing character of whom you never fully understood, he definitely went on a journey throughout the seven seasons of DS9, however did this river meander too much?
Looking at where Dukat started in season 1, he was the recently displaced prefect of Bajor, there was a certain degree of resentment towards the Cardasian civilian government (as demonstrated in the episode “Cardasians”). Returning to being a military officer he was the more conventional “bad guy” counterpoint for Sisko. However, despite the glimpses of the evil committed towards the Bajorans, Dukat was evasive but extremely personable. The character was well acted and there was scope for development. This was being demonstrated in “Defiant” where Dukat was almost the force for good, attempting to expose the obsidian order which would have led to saving Cardasian and Romulan lives in the resulting battle of the Omarian Nebula. He was even the voice of reason, citing the real tragedy of hatred being passed down the generations simply by missing his sons birthday party. Sounds ridiculous but it really did make sense.
The next phase of Dukats development involved him becoming some sort of Cardasian vigilantee/freedom fighter following the Klingon invasion of Cardasian space. I found the irony of this a little too much to take. Up to this point I had found him a more selfishly driven character. His actions for me were more motivated by ego than love for Cardasia. This new “swaggering” Dukat I found not only annoying but unrealistic (within the realms of science fiction). This heroic figure in my mind was a temporary blip in the arc of the creation of a super villain.
I believe that by far the greastest moment for Dukat was him brokering Cardasia joining the Dominion.
I remember being shocked at the time but also being thrilled that finally Dukat was living up to the potential I had seen in his character. There was no messing around with him any more, he had finally committed to his darker side. His conversation with Weyoun perfectly summed this up when discussing how to deal with Earths population. He prefered the idea of breaking a person as opposed to simply killing them. Teamed up with this we saw the quieter, sinister side to Dukat. I was never entirely comfortable with his relationship with Zial, I found it strange that he would in effect turn his back on his other children to pursue a relationship with his half bajoran daughter, especially given his history with that world. I’m aware his indiscretion resulted in his family turning his back on him, however I believe being the man he was he was too quick to give up the fight for them. It was not only the intensity of this relationship that I wasn’t comfortable with, it was as if he were displacing any guilt he felt towards the Bajoran people onto Zial. With her death it not only inexplicably pushed him into insanity but also put an end to any chance of redemption for his past deeds. Given his past ruthless nature, I found this entire relationship bizarre to say the least. It never quite sat right with me and I believe it at best diluted Dukats character. He seemed at his best when Zial wasn’t in the scene. Despite this I believe this period was Dukat at his best, devious, double crossing and at times evil.
What happened next with Dukat was in my small opinion the beginning of the confusion that began to surround this character. Dukats descent into madness following the death of Ziyal really amplified his hatred of the Bajorans, his promise to return in the episode “Waltz” and wreak destruction and suffering on the Bajorans people became a little too “pantamime villain”. The subtle and clever glimpses of true evil I had come to enjoy was replaced with clichéd wickedness. This deviousness briefly returned when he found himself a cult leader and manipulated his followers into mass suicide simply to protect his secrets. Again, his return to the series saw him in yet another guise.
As for being the ” Emissary of the Pah-wraiths” I felt the writers gave in too much to provide a true counterpoint to Sisko. I felt the true conflict with Dukat was with Kira.
After all he had done to her people, not to mention her mother a more fitting resolution to the character would have been with her. Even an ending with Worf seeking revenge for the loss of Jadzia would have been more fitting. His relationship with Sisko had largely been amicable throughout the series, I didn’t feel the bitterness that was supposed to exist between them. The whole relationship with Wynn and Bajoran appearance thing….erm…. Really not sure what to say. It just seemed too weird.
By the end I felt that Dukat was somewhat of a confused figure. I simply didn’t understand a lot of his motivations or character, and not in a good way. Looking at the outstanding Garak, this was a character we knew little about, however we continually got snippets of information and development that made him intriguing and brilliant whilst appearing in a fraction of the shows Dukat did. I feel Dukat almost had too many hats to make a true connection to the character. Whilst I really enjoyed seeing him, in later seasons that enjoyment always came with a touch of frustration.