Welcome to the second to last round of the Star Trek Villain Showdown! As we wait to see who will face off against Khan, we’re reviewing the impact that both Gul Dukat and Q had on their respective opponents. Both villains were an astronomical force of change for both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and without them, they wouldn’t have had the same stories to tell.  

Gul Dukat, in particular, is a unique villain in the Star Trek canon. As Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek series to embrace a more serialized form of storytelling, Dukat was the first major recurring villain whose arc paralleled the main characters. He experienced growth — albeit negative growth — throughout the course of the show’s seven seasons, and his journey definitely was intertwined with that of major players such as Captain Benjamin Sisko and Kira Nerys

Captain Sisko and Gul Dukat face off in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Cardassians'
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Cardassians'

Sisko and Dukat were on a path to their final confrontation from the first episode of Deep Space Nine. Dukat resented Sisko for taking over his former station, and Sisko too resented being sent to the station. Sisko’s role as the emissary of the Bajoran prophets put him at direct odds with the Cardassian Dukat as well. Obsessed with the Bajorans, Dukat believed they were better off under the “mercy” of the Cardassian occupation. 

Dukat frequently sought Sisko’s respect, but the Starfleet captain never had any time or any patience for Dukat’s posturing. Dukat viewed himself and Sisko as being similar men; however, Dukat’s cruelty put him at constant odds with Sisko’s intense morality. In a pivotal Season 6 episode, “Waltz,” Sisko was marooned on a planet with Dukat. Dukat, grieving the loss of his daughter and tormented by visions of Kira mocking him, attempted to prove his goodness to Sisko. However, Sisko accused him of being a hypocrite, which finally broke Dukat, who revealed his hatred for all Bajorans and desire to destroy Bajor. He escaped from the planet, leaving Sisko to vow to defeat him no matter the cost. 

Gul Dukat and Captain Sisko fight in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Waltz'
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Waltz'

This was a turning point in Dukat’s arc. Until then, the Cardassian had always pretended to be a benevolent dictator who was “kind” to those he oppressed. He tried to present himself as a heroic yet complicated figure — a man just trying to do what was best for his planet. However, this episode forced him to confront the truth about himself for the first time, ultimately leading him to choose a path of violence. 

As Dukat sought to impress Sisko, he also sought the attention of Kira Nerys, a Bajoran officer stationed on Deep Space Nine. Dukat even had romantic feelings for Kira, which she rebuffed. Kira hated the Cardassians for what they had done to her planet, a view that was challenged when she later met Cardassians who were not solely evil beings. However, she always saw through Dukat’s attempts at charming her, viewing his actions insincere and as a means to use her. 

Kira Nerys and Tora Ziyal look at a window in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Return to Grace'
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Return to Grace'

Kira did develop a strong friendship with Tora Ziyal, Dukat’s half-Bajoran daughter. Ziyal, an artist, did not possess her father’s cruelty. In fact, Dukat attempted to murder her in her first appearance so that he wouldn’t have to carry the shame of fathering a daughter with a Bajoran. However, Kira saved Ziyal. She would later develop a close relationship with Ziyal, acting as a guardian, when the young girl studied on Bajor and when Ziyal relocated to the station when it was re-taken by the Cardassians.  

It was Kira who showed Ziyal the truth about her father. Ziyal ultimately came to see that her father was a cruel man; when she tried to stand up against him, she was murdered. This death hit Dukat hard, leading to his capture by Starfleet and his ultimate confrontation with Sisko in “Waltz.” 

Gul Dukat kills Jadzia Dax in the temple in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Tears of the Prophets'
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Tears of the Prophets'

Another key moment when Dukat’s villainy impacted the crew was the death of Jadzia Dax. Dukat arrived on the station possessed by a Pah-wraith and determined to use it to infect a Bajoran Orb on the station. Unintentionally in his way while praying in the temple, Dukat killed Jadzia. This death greatly impacted both the crew and the fandom, as it ended Season 6 on a heartbreaking note

A DS9 resident not part of the crew but still deeply impacted by Dukat was Elim Garak, a spy-turned-tailor. Garak and Dukat had a strong rivalry, no doubt impacted by the fact that Garak had Dukat’s father executed for treason. In Garak’s second appearance on the show, he used his relationship with Dr. Julian Bashir to help get revenge on Dukat, which was noted by both Cardassians. In another episode, Dukat exclaimed that he should have had Garak executed years before when the tailor Garak shamed him for flirting with Kira. 

Garak and Gul Dukat face each other in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Cardassians'
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - 'Cardassians'

Dukat had moments of cruelty and rivalry with most of the crew on DS9, from facing off against Bashir during “Cardassians” to becoming an adversary of Worf’s following the death of Jadzia. His journey was entwined with that of the main DS9 story, and it was his defeat that proved integral to the ending of the entire series. It wouldn’t have been the story of Sisko or Deep Space Nine without Dukat being a cruel mirror into the evils they were trying to defeat.  

What was your favorite Dukat relationship throughout DS9? Let us know @StarTrek on social, and continue voting in our showdown to see who’s worthy of facing off against Khan!   

Julian Gardner (they/them) is on the editorial team for StarTrek.com

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Captain Sisko
Kira Nerys