(written from a Production point of view)
|DS9, Episode 7x09|
Production number: 40510-559
First aired: 25 November 1998
|←||157th of 173 produced in DS9||→|
|←||157th of 173 released in DS9||→|
|←||543rd of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
Kira is kidnapped by a cult that worships the Pah-wraiths and is led by their "Master" - Dukat.
Ezri, Julian and Odo are sitting in Quark's ordering drinks. Quark comments that Odo doesn't drink and wonders why he ordered a beverage. Odo explains that he ordered it for Kira who will be joining them after she finishes attending services at the temple. When Kira arrives the group briefly discusses religion.
Later, Kira is visited in her quarters by Vedek Fala, one of Kira's teachers from during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor, arrives on Deep Space 9 and she greets him warmly. The two catch up on old times and Fala presents Kira with a gift. The gift turns out to be a homing transponder to transport her to the abandoned outpost Empok Nor.
There she finds a Cult of the Pah-wraiths who have chosen Dukat as their leader. Dukat is referred to as Master by the other residents of the community. He attempts to convince Kira to believe in the Pah-wraiths, telling her that they speak to him, and "opened his heart." She blatantly refuses to believe him, but he keeps her on the station anyway, still convinced she can be changed.
She also has an argument with Fala and he admits that he joined the cult years earlier because he had lost faith in the Prophets and Kira is shaken by her friend's admission. Fala then shows her the community they have built to show her she has nothing to fear. She meets a young pregnant woman named Mika, the first to get permission to have a baby with her husband, Benyan. Fala explains that it is part of their covenant with Dukat to take vows of abstinence. Kira is skeptical.
At a prayer meeting, as everyone else closes their eyes and chants, Kira grabs a weapon from another member of the cult and tries to kill to Dukat. However, several cult members shield Dukat from danger while one knocks her unconscious. Kira awakes to find Dukat taking care of her. She is outraged at his faux concern, since looking at the bruise on her back gave him an opportunity to undress her, and after another argument wherein she accuses Dukat of using his follower's religous devotion to build another empire complete with subjects who are devoted to him on the station, she is determined to expose his fraud. Dukat has had a meal prepared for Kira and Kira briefly considers trying to kill him with the cutlery on the meal tray. But, Dukat points out that even if Kira could kill him; there is no way she can escape and Kira would only make a martyr out of him. She cannot believe his followers are willing and that he is as changed as he sounds.
Mika soon goes into labor, but when her child is born, it is half-Cardassian. Dukat excitedly declares that the Pah-wraiths have sent them a sign and leads the assembled group in prayers of thanks. Mika's face shows she clearly doesn't believe this "miracle." Kira doesn't believe either, of course, but the rest of the congregation accept Dukat's explanation.
Kira immediately confronts Fala with this turn of events. Fala defends Dukat's words, arguing that a miracle is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. Kira on the other hand knows Fala too well to believe that he would accept this without question. When Kira pushes him hard enough, he admits to suspect her version of the truth, but he asserts that he has faith in his beliefs and that he wants to follow where his faith leads him. Her further conversations with Benyan make it obvious that Benyan has serious doubts about Dukat's version of events.
Dukat and Mika meet in secret to discuss the situation and Dukat asks her why she didn't tell him her child was his. Dukat apologizes to Mika and it is revealed that the two had sex during a prayer session. After he gets her forgiveness and learns of her husband's disbelief, he traps her in the airlock they were speaking in and flushes the air out, refusing to make eye contact with her as she goes unconscious. Kira and Fala who are looking for Mika to ask her about the "miracle," save her just in time. Mika is taken to sickbay and treated for her injuries. Dukat claims it was an accident, and everyone believes him -- except Benyan. When Kira loudly objects, Dukat sends her to her quarters.
Dukat prays alone in his quarters and asks for guidance. Later, at a sudden prayer meeting, Dukat then makes a great announcement: the pah-wraiths have asked everyone to shed their corporeal existences. To accomplish this, he says that everyone, including him, will commit suicide.
Dukat visits Kira and informs her that he has contacted Deep Space Nine; they will send a ship within a day. Kira does not believe he will die with them. He reassures her that all of their deaths will be painless, thanks to Promazine, a pill used by the Obsidian Order operatives to commit suicide in event of capture and the bodies become dust in hours and so he does not fear it. He will be with the pah-wraiths, and that is his salvation.
As the ceremony begins, Kira manages to escape from her cell. She rushes into the hall, and knocks down Dukat as he holds his tablet, knocking over a pedestal containing dozens. He starts searching in vain for his particular tablet as she is restrained.
When one of his followers hands Dukat another tablet, he cannot accept it. When Kira calls him on his duplicity, and the crowd becomes restless, Dukat protests that he alone must live to show others the light of the pah-wraith. None believe him, and, order falls apart; Benyan finally realizes the truth of his child's birth and turns on Dukat. As he loses control, Dukat shouts to them that the covenant is broken, transports out.
Fala, despite all this, ingests his tablet. Kira holds her friend as he dies and wants to know why he did it, his only answer is "faith."
Kira is convinced Dukat does believe in the pah-wraiths, despite his continued despotic patterns. Odo also notes the possibility that Dukat really did receive the suicide order from the pah-wraiths. Either way, he is far more dangerous now than ever...
"Faith has to come first."
"That's too bad. I have a feeling it must be very comforting to believe in something more powerful than yourself."
- - Kira and Odo
"I've always found that when people try to convince others of their beliefs it's because they're really just trying to convince themselves."
- - Kira
"Your hair, you changed it."
"Your ear, you pierced it."
- - Dukat and Kira
"The Master told us you wouldn't approve of our beliefs. He said we should be patient with you."
"Don't go out of your way."
- - Benyan and Kira
"You believe the Prophets are the true gods of Bajor. I believe the Pah-wraiths are. Let's just leave it at that."
"I'd be happy to. There's just one problem: we can't both be right."
- - Fala and Kira
"That was a long time ago, before he felt the kiss of the Pah-Wraiths"
"That was some kiss"
- - Fala and Kira; Kira said the same thing in "Image in the Sand" about her and Odo's first kiss
- This episode came about because the writers felt that since the six-episode arc and "Waltz" they had allowed the character of Dukat to slip too much into the background. As René Echevarria explains, "He's a wonderful character and well-liked by the audience, but he'd become a very peripheral villain after the six-episode arc at the beginning of Season 6. We'd done two shows with him after that ("Waltz" and "Tears of the Prophets"), but now he had no role to play." "Covenant" was created primarily so that Dukat could reclaim the role of Deep Space Nine's primary villain. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- As well as simply 'reintroducing' Dukat as a villain, the writers also saw this episode as playing an extremely important role in setting up the conflict between Dukat and Sisko which would act as the dénouement of the entire series. As Echevarria says, ""Covenant" brought him back into our story. Somehow it seemed like it was going to help us put him in conflict with Sisko. But we didn't really know much more than that: Pah-wraith versus Prophet, Dukat versus Sisko." Similarly, Ira Steven Behr states, "I always knew that the ultimate challenge would be Dukat, and not the War." Bradley Thompson concurs with this view; "It gave us a chance to ask ourselves, 'What is Dukat's madness and how is it manifesting itself now?' We could touch base with him and show that he's really getting hooked into these Pah-wraiths. And that would help us set up the end of the series." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In this sense then, "Covenant" acts as a sequel of sorts to "Tears of the Prophets" insofar as it demonstrates that Dukat's relationship with the Pah-wraiths is alive and well, and is not something that he is dabbling in merely for his own good; he has come to genuinely believe in the power of the Pah-wraiths, and this belief is what would form his primary raison d'être in the ten-episode arc which closes the series. Indeed, in relation to just how devout Dukat has become, Echevarria explains, "I came up with the idea of having him pray alone. He's not performing for anybody. In his own twisted, self-aggrandizing way, he genuinely would prefer to send these people to their makers with their faith intact than to allow it all to fall apart." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) Dukat has become a true believer, something which would have great repercussions in future episodes.
- The basic story of this episode came from David Weddle, who had been an investigative reporter and had written about cults for the LA Weekly and San Jose Mercury News. According to Weddle, "I've always been fascinated with cults. I'm interested in that hunger to find something to believe in that's bigger than the viewable reality. The desire to find heaven on earth often ends up leading people down a very twisted, paranoid road. Fundamental human longing can be twisted by a cult leader, because he can never deliver on his promises of bringing about a golden utopia. Then he has to come up with reason why, and it's always that there's a conspiracy out there, that something or someone is conspiring against the group. That's when paranoia gradually overshadows the whole thing. Vedek Fala is a good example of a typical follower. He's someone who desperately wants to believe. When you study cults, you find a lot of people who were brought up in traditional religions and who had a strong faith when they were young. But they became disillusioned with that faith when they saw hypocrisy. They cast aside the faith they were brought up with, but they still have the need. The hunger is still there. At the end, when Dukat turns out to be a total charlatan, Fala can't handle it. He would rather die still trying to grip the illusion than go on living." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Specifically, the episode was inspired by the Heaven's Gate cult led by Marshall Applewhite. The cult was inspired by the Comet Hale–Bopp, and in March of 1997, Applewhite and thirty-eight other members (including the brother of Nichelle Nichols) committed suicide, believing they were aliens and that their bodies would be transported to a space ship traveling behind the comet. The group has an official website, which is still accessible today. 
- In the original script, Dukat was the leader of a group of aliens. However, this was changed because the Cult of the Pah-wraiths had already been established when the Bajoran wormhole was closed in "Tears of the Prophets", and again in "Image in the Sand", when a member of the cult attempted to murder Sisko. As well as that, the writers felt the message of the episode would be more poignant to both Kira and the audience if Dukat's followers were Bajoran. Additionally, given Dukat's prior dealings with the Pah-wraiths and his love-hate relationship with the Bajoran people, this made sense.
- Initially, the producers wanted the baby to be fairly visible during Dukat's proclamation of a miracle, but the problem was that there are very strict rules as to how much prosthetic makeup can be used on an infant, and how long an infant can be on-set. As such, the producers decided to go with an animatronic baby, and they hired the people who made the Chucky doll for the 1988 Tom Holland film Child's Play. However, according to B.C. Cameron, "It looked like Chucky with a Bajoran nose. His eyes were blinking and he was really spooky looking." Ira Behr says that the first shoot of the scene where Dukat holds the baby up for the gathered crowd produced the biggest laugh ever seen in dailies; "This animatronic baby was moving its head, and Marc was holding it up for the camera, playing the scene for all it's worth, even though it looked ludicrous. It looked as if he were proclaiming to the world, 'Take a look! This is a phony baby! You can get one at Toys "R" Us! Thirty-five dollars and ninety-five cents!' We were howling with laughter and crying in frustration at the same time. The day will live in infamy." Needless to say, the scene was reshot sans animatronic baby. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The first shot of Dukat was purposefully designed by director John Kretchmer and cinematographer Kris Krosskove to give the effect of a halo above Dukat's head. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- This episode represents the final stage in the complex relationship between Kira and Dukat. In "The Maquis, Part II", Kira's attitude towards Dukat is shown to be changing slightly as her previously held antipathy towards him begins to soften. In "Civil Defense", Dukat is revealed as being sexually attracted to Kira. "Indiscretion" and "Return to Grace" see them forced to team up and fight alongside one another, much to Kira's irritation and Dukat's delight, "In Purgatory's Shadow" then sees Dukat blame Kira for his daughter's friendship with Garak. In "A Time to Stand", Dukat's attraction to Kira is very much to the fore, and is seemingly taking on something of a deranged quality. In "Sons and Daughters" then, Dukat briefly wins Kira over due to their shared love of his daughter, but Kira quickly realizes what she's doing and she ends their relationship completely. In "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night", Dukat reveals that he and Kira's mother were lovers. This tangled relationship led director John Kretchmer to state that "Kira and Dukat are locked together like two cats in a bag." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) This recalls Dukat's comment in "Return to Grace" that their lives are "deeply intertwined". When Kira points out that he takes great pleasure from this fact, he tells her, "Why Major, it gives me reason to live."
- This episode contains numerous references to previous episodes: Kira mentions Dukat's murder of Jadzia in the Season 6 finale "Tears of the Prophets" and the attempted assassination of Sisko on Earth by a member of the Cult of the Pah-wraiths in the Season 7 opener "Image in the Sand"; Empok Nor was first introduced in the fifth season episode of the same name, and was also seen in the sixth season episode "The Magnificent Ferengi"; Dukat mentions Kosst Amojan, the Pah-wraith he released and allowed to possess him in "Tears of the Prophets"; Dukat also mentions his desire for vengeance on Sisko, something which he vowed in the episode "Waltz"; Kira's mother and her affair with Dukat, as seen in the episode "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" is referred to; the Prophets' destruction of the Dominion fleet in the sixth season episode "Sacrifice of Angels" is mentioned by Fala.
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7.5, 7 June 1999.
- As part of the DS9 Season 7 DVD collection.
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Nicole de Boer as Ezri Dax
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys
- Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat
- Norman Parker as Fala
- Jason Leland Adams as Benyan
- Maureen Flannigan as Mika
- Miriam Flynn as Midwife
- Mark Piatelli as Brin
- Cathy DeBuono as M'Pella
- Frank Diresta as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Dan McGee as an operations division lieutenant
- James Minor as a operations division crewman
- Lauren Moore as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- Tom Morga as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- Mark Newsom as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- Sandra Rascon as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- Chuck Shanks as an operations division officer
- James Lee Stanley as a Bajoran security deputy
- William Steinfeld as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- Michael Wajacs as a Bajoran Pah-wraith follower
- Unknown performers as
- Leslie Hoffman as stunt double for Maureen Flannigan
- Denise Lynne Roberts as stunt double for Nana Visitor
- Laurence Rosenthal as stunt double for Marc Alaimo
Bajor; Bajorans; Bajoran Ancient Texts; Bajoran earring; Bajoran cargo shuttle; Bajoran transport; Bajoran wormhole; Cardassia; Cardassians; Celestial Temple; Cult of the Pah-wraiths; Dax, Jadzia; Defiant, USS; Dominion; Emissary of the Prophets; Empok Nor; fusion generator; god; homing transponder; hydroponics; Kira Meru; Klingon religion; Master; Obsidian Order; Occupation of Bajor; Orb; Pah-wraith; promazine; Promenade; Prophets; Quark's; ranjen; replicator; Romulan ale; springwine; Sto-vo-kor; Telna; tachyon energy; Til'amin froth; tea; transporter; tricorder; University of Bajor; vedek; welder
- Covenant at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- Covenant (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) at Wikipedia
| Previous episode:|
"The Siege of AR-558"
| Star Trek: Deep Space Nine|
| Next episode:|
"It's Only a Paper Moon"