The Star Trek Universe is full of inspiring women with strengths spanning the spectrum. When it comes to appreciating boldness, shrewdness, and fiery determination, we have to take a moment to recognize Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Kira Nerys. Played by Nana Visitor, Major Kira is the liaison officer assigned to DS9 and her distrust in the Federation — yet another unwanted presence in her home world — is both warranted and useful. As a non-Federation officer and former Bajoran Resistance member she brings a rebellious spirit to the Federation’s sometimes strict adherence to protocol. Not to mention her keen ability to sniff out a liar or plot.
Whether you want to get to know Kira Nerys, bask in her badassery, or experience her meaningful arc over DS9’s seven seasons, here are some of Kira Nerys’s best episodes.
"Emissary, Parts 1 and 2" (Season 1, Episode 1)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s pilot episode starts out with a bang for a multitude of reasons, but amidst phaser fire, wormholes, and bodiless alien species shines Major Kira Nerys. Our first introduction to this Bajoran Militia Officer is her doing what she does best, asserting herself loudly, shouting for resources at a Minister of the government. Major Kira embodies the tumultuous history of Bajor and its occupation by the Cardassians, but also its fighting spirit. Her prickliness toward the Federation’s dominating presence is entirely reasonable, but it doesn’t keep her from taking charge and holding her ground when Deep Space Nine is immediately put in peril by a newfound wormhole and the ever-lurking Cardassians. Commander Sisko may have the emotional transformation of the episode, but Major Kira is the one who saves the day.
"Progress" (Season 1, Episode 15)
The episode title here may as well directly apply to Major Kira as she faces being on the receiving end of the same tenacity that kept her alive as a refugee for years. When DS9 oversees the evacuation of a Bajoran moon in order to tap its core for much-needed energy, Kira discovers a lone holdout refusing to leave his home. As Kira gets to know the farmer, Mullibok, she recognizes their similar stubbornness and how it has contributed to both their survival during the Cardassian occupation. Though Kira is at odds with herself, feeling as though she has become the oppressor she has so long fought against, she starts to see the level of strength she will need to help lead her people into a future of freedom, and the tough love she exhibits is both surprising and admirable.
“Duet” (Season 1, Episode 19)
In one of Nana Visitor’s most memorable performances, a Cardassian patient comes to Deep Space Nine seeking medical attention and Major Kira places him under arrest believing him to be a wanted war criminal. What ensues is the unraveling of the mystery of whether this Cardassian is who he says, and Kira confronting the fury she feels toward this possible participant in one of the worst labor camps of the occupation. When it’s revealed that not all is as it seems, Kira’s myopic view of Cardassians is forced to expand, giving her a new and nuanced view of longtime foes.
“Crossover” (Season 2, Episode 23)
In what is only the second episode of a Star Trek series to enter the Mirror Universe, we get double the fun with double the Kira. Major Kira and Doctor Bashir are returning to Deep Space Nine when a warp field distortion causes them to slip into an alternate universe. There they are promptly taken to Terok Nor, AKA Mirror DS9, by the ominous Alliance. Here Kira comes face to face with herself, here known as the Intendent, a black pleather-clad evil version of Kira. Truly a narcissist, the Intendent is only too eager to adopt Kira as a pet, delighted to have found a plaything. Watching as Kira humors the Intendent as she devises an escape plan, while the Intendent grows increasingly more controlling, is the exhibition of two great performances.
“Second Skin” (Season 3, Episode 5)
In this intriguing Kira-focused episode, Major Kira finds herself turned into her greatest enemy: a Cardassian. When she is captured and wakes up with the body of a Cardassian, Kira questions her entire life as a Bajoran and freedom fighter. Her captors give a very convincing argument that she was never truly Bajoran, but instead an undercover Cardassian operative and that her memories will soon return. It’s another episode where Kira is forced to see that not all Cardassians support the fascist government that devastated her planetl, as well as further face her own identity and the staunch views she has clung to.
“Life Support” (Season 3, Episode 13)
Love and loss are at the heart of great performances and in this episode the usually stoic Major Kira faces them both. In an episode that centers around Doctor Bashir’s medical expertise and the final stages of an important peace treaty, Kira isn’t the primary focus. However, the outcome of the tragedy that occurs affects her deeply. It’s impossible to stay dry-eyed watching Nana Visitor be both a Bajoran who grieves in her own headstrong way and a lover faced with saying goodbye.
“Return To Grace” (Season 4, Episode 14)
Major Kira’s sparring relationship with Cardassian leader Gul Dukat is always a pleasure to watch as they trade back and forth barbs like a well-choreographed knife fight. In this episode Kira has the upper hand as Gul Dukat has been demoted for coming clean about his half-Bajoran daughter. As captain of the Groumall, Gul Dukat is incensed and determined to chase after a Klingon Bird-Of-Prey that destroys the destination Major Kira was headed to. Kira has no choice but to help him rather than risk a Cardassian-Klingon war that would inevitably affect Bajor. As Kira maintains her deep distrust and dislike of Dukat, and Dukat continues his efforts to hit on Kira and extort her affection for his daughter, we truly see the extent of Kira’s ability to rise above trying circumstances and trying people.
“The Darkness And The Light” (Season 5, Episode 11)
Among the intriguing storylines involving Major Kira, one most viewers will recall was her pregnancy as a surrogate for Keiko O’Brien, protecting Keiko and Miles’ unborn child. While mostly a way to cover up Nana Visitor’s own pregnancy in real life, this development certainly added a new element to Kira’s often action-packed life. In this episode she’s quite far along and meant to be taking it easy when a series of murders prove someone is hunting and killing the members of Kira’s old resistance cell. As the body count rises, Kira takes matters into her own hands, in turn hunting her would-be killer. When she finds him, it becomes clear that the violence of her past led to some collateral damage and a now very angry bystander. The lines of innocence and guilt are blurred as Kira reckons with the past and present.
“Ties Of Blood And Water” (Season 5, Episode 19)
Tekeny Ghemor, Kira’s adopted Cardassian father, comes to DS9 to inform Kira he has a terminal illness. He asks to perform the Cardassian ritual of Shri-tal, where Ghemor passes on his Cardassian secrets to Kira. The process brings up memories of her biological father and his death, for which she was absent. Meanwhile, wishing to extradite Ghemor, Gul Dukat shares with Kira Ghamer’s brief history in the Cardassian army and an atrocity he was present for. As is often the case for Kira, she is forced to reconcile with the hatred that fueled much of her life’s work, and the affection she has come to have for Ghemor. In the end she gets closure in a multitude of ways.
“His Way” (Season 6, Episode 20)
This episode is a must-watch if only to finally see a conclusion to the romantic tension that has built between Kira and Odo over the years. While it’s primarily been Odo pining after the sometimes single, sometimes taken Kira, here we see Kira facing the truth when the two of them are duped by a holo-character into having a romantic dinner. Watching her have the revelation that she feels the same for Odo is cathartic, especially when the two finally come together in the most Kira/Odo way possible.
“Shadows And Symbols” (Season 7, Episode 2)
Sometimes in Deep Space Nine we just get pure unadulterated badass Kira and it’s always a sight to behold. When Captain Sisko is away and Major Kira is left in charge she discovers the Romulans, their allies, are storing unsanctioned weapons on a Bajoran moon. After confronting them and demanding the removal of the weapons, the Romulans stand their ground. With the Federation too timid to put their much-need alliance in jeopardy, Kira puts on her game face and takes matters into her own hands devising a plan that is both non-confrontational but pointed, backing the Romulans into a corner and inspiring the Federation Admiral to step up as well. Once again, Major Kira gets things done.
“Covenant” (Season 7, Episode 9)
Of course there has to be the final episode with Gul Dukat in this list as Kira’s complicated archnemesis. Here Kira is mysteriously transported from DS9 only to find herself in the midst of a cult, the Pah-wraiths, where their leader emerges and is revealed to be none other than everyone’s favorite scumbag. Dukat claims a transformation: the gods now speak to him and he’s a reformed man who’s walk with the Prophets has led him to be a spiritual leader. Kira is rightfully dubious, choosing to investigate further. Once again we see the ways Kira must hold tight to what experience has taught her; namely that Gul Dukat is an evil despot, even despite the many cult members who vouch for him. Dukat’s obsession with Kira as the one person he can’t break is also the weakness that allows Kira to understand him so well. Here she once again plays her part as the skeptic amidst Dukat’s lies, calling his bluff and continuing a now tradition of protecting anyone Dukat preys on.
Ananda Dillon (she/her) is a digital editor for Paramount+. She believes the scariest episodes of Star Trek are the best episodes, and in the holosuite of her imagination, it will always be Chakotay and Janeway forever.