Dukat, a character from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine who was played by Marc Alaimo, has been described by StarTrek.com as being “the most complex and fully developed bad guy in Star Trek history.” Up until the Federation’s re-taking of the DS9/Terok Nor space station, he was a major player in the Cardassian government and military. His character went through more development than anyone else in the history of Star Trek. From evil overlord to messiah, Dukat has done it all.
In 2346, Dukat achieved the rank of Gul in the Cardassian military and was appointed to be the commander of the Terok Nor space station and prefect of Bajor during the Cardassian occupation. As prefect, he cut labor camp output quotas, abolished the forced labor of Bajoran children, and improved the food rations and health care available to the Bajoran people. However, he was still the leader of a hostile occupation and enslavement, and was responsible for many horrible things done during this period of time.
After the Cardassian withdrawal from Bajor in 2369, he was appointed to be the head of the Second Order and acted as a sort of ambassador between the Cardassians and the Federation. After the destruction of the Obsidian Order, a covert Cardassian military police force, at the hands of the Dominion, the people of Cardassia overthrew the military and created their own government. During this revolution, Dukat sided with the revolutionaries and was appointed to the post of legate and was made Chief Military Advisor to the Detapa Council. Shortly afterwards, Dukat went on a mission with Major Kira, a Bajoran official, to find the lost Cardassian ship, the Ravinok. They discovered survivors from the crash working as slaves in a Breen dilithium mine. Among the survivors was Tora Ziyal, Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter. Dukat and Kira rescued the survivors, and, despite the effect that a bastard half-breed child would have on his career and family life, Dukat took Ziyal back to Cardassia with him. After his return, Dukat’s family disowned him, and he was demoted and given command of a small freighter.
During a transport mission, Dukat found a Cardassian outpost that had been destroyed by Klingons. He was able to capture the Klingon Bird of Prey that was responsible for the attack, and he urged the Detapa Council to mount an offensive against the Klingons. When they refused, he defected and used his captured ship to wage a one-man war against the Klingons. During this time, he began having secret meetings with the Dominion and the Detapa Council. He was able to convince the Cardassians to join the Dominion, and he regained the rank of Gul. With the power of the Dominion backing him, he was able to easily drive the Klingons out of Cardassian space as well as retake Terok Nor from the Federation. He commanded the Dominion war from his space station, and was able to re-open the Bajoran wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, allowing thousands of Dominion reinforcements to begin coming through. In his moment of triumph, however, he was thwarted by Captain Sisko of the Federation, who urged the Prophets to destroy the re-enforcements before they could reach the Alpha Quadrant. As the Federation began to re-take the space station, Dukat’s second in command, Damar, murdered Dukat’s beloved daughter, Ziyal. This, combined with his rapid turn of fate, drove Dukat into a mental breakdown. He remained on board the station and was taken prisoner by the Federation.
After treatment by Federation psychologists for his hallucinations and paranoia, he was sent to Starbase 621 to stand trial for war crimes. However, the transport ship he was on was attacked by Cardassian warships, and Dukat escaped. Still mad, he made a pact to destroy the Bajoran people. After reading ancient Bajoran religious texts, he found a way to open his body to possession by a Pah-wraith, an evil prophet alien. He traveled to Deep Space Nine and used the Orb of Contemplation to release the Pah-wraith into the Celestial Temple, closing off the wormhole and killing Federation Officer Jadzia Dax in the process.
Dukat’s possession turned him into a staunch disciple of the Pah-wraiths, and he established a cult to them on the abandoned space station, Empok Nor. He was seen as a messiah by the cultists, but after he fathered a child by one of them and attempted to murder her, he was exposed and fled again. He underwent cosmetic surgery to make him appear to be a Bajoran, and he traveled back to Deep Space Nine to find Kai Winn, the spiritual leader of the Bajoran people. The Pah-wraiths sent Kai Winn false visions, and with their help, Dukat was able to turn her from worshiping the Prophets. Now a disciple of the Pah-wraiths, she agreed to assist Dukat in freeing them from the Fire Caves of Bajor. In the Fire Caves, Winn poisoned Dukat as a sacrifice to free the Pah-wraiths, but they restored him to life and chose him as their Emissary. Dukat then murdered Kai Winn and attempted to free the Pah-wraiths himself, but he was thwarted again by Captain Sisko, the Emissary of the Prophets. Sisko threw himself and Dukat into the Pah-wraiths’ prison, but Sisko was rescued by the Prophets. Dukat perished in the Fire Caves.
Dukat’s motives weren’t always clear. Before his breakdown, he often spoke with Major Kira, attempting to seduce her. He maintained that he felt guilty over the atrocities committed against the Bajorans during the Cardassian occupation, but that it made them a stronger people. He presented himself as a compassionate individual who was doing what was best for his people. He said that he had no malice towards the Bajorans, and actually liked them. It was true that he had several Bajoran mistresses, including Kira’s mother, and he claimed to have loved both her and Ziyal’s mother, Tora Naprem.
Were these claims the truth, lies to make himself look better in the eyes of the Federation and the Bajorans, or was he lying to himself, trying to convince himself that he was a good person to appease his guilty conscience? Because of the inconsistencies inherent in Star Trek that stem from conflicts between writers and simply changing characters to fit the current story, it is impossible to truly ascertain Dukat’s motives. Dukat certainly did have redeeming traits. His decision to embrace his daughter Ziyal instead of murdering her in the dilithium mines, which was his first impulse, at the cost of his family and his career certainly shows him to be capable of compassion. He and Ziyal were very close, as Cardassians have an extremely family-oriented culture. Her murder at the hands of Damar completely unhinged Dukat, as the last person who truly loved him was torn from him. He saw Ziyal as his redemption, the physical manifestation of his virtues. When she was killed, Dukat descended into true evil, manipulating everyone around him and attempting to destroy Bajor. When Ziyal died, so did the rest of his humanity (Cardassianity).
Through all of his defeats and triumphs, Dukat remained polite and deferential. He was the perfect portrait of the courteous villain. Until his breakdown, he was very nationalistic, always doing what he thought was best for Cardassia. He obviously loved his family. In a world of transparent TV villains who never change and have only one side, Dukat was a breath of fresh air. His complex nature and character development were almost unique in the world of Star Trek, and the series has never had such a compelling villain before or since.
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