Aug. 10, 2021

033: DS9: Return to Grace

Dukat Dresses for the job he wants, not the one he has.

On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Deep Space 9, Return to Grace (Season 4, Episode 14). 

This episode focuses on the relationship between Major Kira and a disgraced Dukat. Surprisingly, many of our lessons come from Dukat in this one. Despite being disgraced and being put in charge a freighter, he follows the advice of an age-old saying: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. 

Seeing Kira work with someone that was once her mortal enemy opens the door to interesting takeaways as well. 

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Welcome, everyone! Thanks for joining me today. I’m so excited to be watching Deep Space 9 and even more excited to be watching it with all of you. In this episode, we’re going to learn about WIFM, dressing for the job you want, and, how to take on the entire Klingon Empire by yourself in the 14th episode of the 4th season, Return to Grace.




As Deep Space 9’s 3rd season came to a close, Paramount forced some changes on them. While the show was moving along the Dominion storyline, they wanted to introduce some more familiar elements for viewers. That led to Worf coming on board, and what I like to call the one-season detour of DS9 which is the Klingon War.


This started with the Klingons attacking the Cardassians and then, the Federation got pulled in as well. Cardassia had undergone an uprising that ousted the military government and reinstituted the Detapa Council. The Klingons saw this as an opportunity for glory and conquest. Beyond that, it very much changed the role of prominent Cardassians like Dukat.


All of that really happened over the first few episodes of the 4th season and set up everything that happens in this episode. Ok, let’s get to it.


Kira is getting inoculated, boot camp style, to get ready for a trip to a Cardassian outpost for a meeting to share intelligence on the Klingons.


I so know how she feels here! I’ll never forget my P days in boot camp. Well, I’ll never forget parts of them! Reality is we slept so little it was all just a haze even while it was happening! But we got in a line, rolled up our sleeves and walked through a parade of needles that were, supposedly, vaccinating and inoculating us against all kinds of stuff! All I know, is I had the Ricky Crud for a good 2 or 3 months even after getting out of boot camp!


If you know what the Ricky Crud is, you know. If you don’t…consider yourself lucky! I wonder if they even call it that anymore. Hmm.


Well, since the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, disease is running rampant, and since she’ll be meeting with them, she needs to be protected. But seriously, how wild is this? Bajorans and Cardassians coming together to stand against the Klingons! Maybe there’s something to the enemy of my enemy thing.


Kira has been dating the First Minister of Bajor, Shakaar. He ran a resistance cell during the Cardassian Occupation. He personally asked her to attend this conference.


She’s packing her things and recovering from the vaccinations “Do you see spots? Good, it’s working.”  in her quarters when Dukat comes by. I probably don’t need to remind you, but I will, Dukat was the Prefect of Bajor during the Occupation. To say Kira hates him would be a dramatic understatement. That said, we’ve been learning more about him recently that has, well, softened him, or, humanized him.


He says he will be escorting her to the conference and then he shares a little about his job and the family, “They demoted you.” And says he’s commanding a freighter now which has been assigned to get her to the meeting.


On the freighter, Kira runs into Dukat’s daughter, Tora Ziyal. She’s been exiled from Cardassia and doesn’t really have a home anymore. She talks about what a great and loving father Dukat has been. Kira is surprised but is happy for her. They’re interrupted by an alarm. Despite running a freighter, Dukat is running it like a military vessel, running drills and striving for improved performance. “That’s pitiful.” It’s a great example of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have!


Kira tries to offer some advice, but he responds by explaining about what a piece of garbage the ship is. They sit down to dinner and it gets awkward fast. He gets way too personal “you do like powerful men.” And then takes it a very inappropriate step further. “Incentive for my former position.” Yikes.


Throughout the episode, Dukat continues leaning full force into super creepy, inappropriate, misogynist behavior. He keeps doing that thing where he’ll talk about Shakaar, making it sound like he’s complimenting but undercutting him to Kira “you were the only one he didn’t charm.” Yeah, there’s a lot of this in this episode. But, because Deep Space 9 is an incredible series, this is more than him just being a creep. Over time and through the series this ends up being another step in a pattern with him. In fact, I mean, it’s so bad, but so awesome in terms of Dukat and who and what he really is. When we get into the 6th season, we learn some stuff about him that…yeah, no more spoilers there. I’ll just leave it that this gross behavior totally has an even more disgusting payoff in later episodes and I can’t wait to get there!!


Their dinner is interrupted by another alarm. This time, it’s legit and it’s bad news. The outpost where the conference was taking place has been destroyed. No survivors. There’s a single bird-of-prey waiting there. Dukat fires on them, he wants revenge!! The ship has its shields down and Kira even offers some intelligence on the weak points of the ship. But despite all that, they do no damage and the bird-of-prey just warps away. “There’s no honor in destroying a freighter.” Dukat is personally defeated.


But Kira goes into full resistance-fighter mode. She proposes alterations to the ship so they can put some of the planetary defense weapons from the outpost on board. “You have to stop thinking like a military officer.” They grab one of the phaser weapons from the outpost, repair it and integrate it into the ship. Kira’s out for vengeance but she’s going to put it all on the line. Her experience impresses Dukat and, while she wants to go after the Klingons, she’s absolutely feeling pretty awful partnering up with him. “I have a lot to learn from you.” “Why is it when you smile I want to leave the room?”


They’re going after the Klingon ship and getting ready for an engagement. Kira is spending time with Ziyal teaching her how to use phaser weapons. She’s preparing her for the possibility of getting boarded. They talk more about Dukat and their differing opinions about him. It’s easy to sympathize with Kira here, but it goes another step further in adding complexity to him and, for lack of a better word, humanizing him.


Kira and Dukat are going over possibilities for where they can find the Klingons. They agree it’s likely a small outpost called Loval (Low-Vol) and set course. He has Damar set up a signal to act as bait to lure them in.


Oh, Damar! This is our first time meeting him on the Starfleet Leadership Academy and it’s his first time on the series. In another great example of planting seeds, he’s really just a side-character in this episode, but he goes on to be a serious force in the series!


While Damar is making the adjustments and they’re on their way, Dukat starts talking about his dreams of being restored to power. He really sees the engagement with the Klingons as his opportunity to get back in the good graces of the Detapa Council and get back into a position of power.


They arrive at Loval and they’re correct! The bird-of-prey is there and it takes the bait! The Klingons say they’re going to confiscate the cargo and the ship. They drop their shields to beam over and then they blast the ship! “We’ve breached their hull.” A short but intense battle ensues! Kira and Dukat board the bird-of-prey. She has a brilliant idea. She uses their transporter to beam all of their crew to the Klingon ship and all the Klingons to the freighter! They’ve taken the bird-of-prey!! Not letting well enough alone, Dukat destroys the freighter, killing all the Klingons. “I can’t wait to see his face. They won’t have the chance.”


Kira finds a treasure trove of Klingon intelligence so Dukat goes to inform Cardassian Central Command. He is so full of himself. Confident they’ll make him a Legate again and he’ll be restored.


But…that’s not what happens. The Detapa Council has other plans. “They’ve ordered me not to engage the Klingons.” They want to pursue a diplomatic resolution. Dukat is falling apart. He’s lost all faith in his government and his people. He decides he will stand alone against the Klingons. “If no one will stand against them, I will.”


He goes on and tries to convince Kira to join him “You’re a bureaucrat, an administrator.” Ouch. That hits super close to home.


She turns him down, and she’s able to convince him and Ziyal that, while he’s on his, well, his quest, that she should move onto DS9 with Kira. That’ll allow her to have a life and to be safe. “I love her. I know you do.”


Where Dukat has only been worried about himself and his status, here, Kira shows she is concerned with others and their well-being. These are two very different people whose “lives have become deeply intertwined.”


<<Red Alert>>


I’ve owned this before and I’ll say it again here. Deep Space 9 is my favorite Star Trek and this episode really shows why. They take so much time and care to develop the characters. And, as Trek has almost always done, everyone has depth, dimension and many, many layers. What this episode did for Dukat, and more specifically Kira and Dukat, is awesome.


Quarks -


Dukat is one of the best villains in Star Trek. Who do you think of when you think of Trek villains? Khan, the Borg, Lore, maybe even Q? Well, I think Dukat and Kai Winn. And a big reason for that is they took time on DS9 to be sure we not only understood that they were evil, but also the intentions and reasons for that.


Dukat’s monologue in this episode about helping his people that is layered with self-serving motives is beautiful! I mean, he’ll step over anyone to be sure he’s the most important person around, but he does it by truly believing he’s helping others. Makes for a villain that you kind of almost feel sorry for…until you learn more about him and then you feel awful for ever having felt bad for him…so good!


And knowing they were detoured by Paramount in Season 4, they still set the table for a lot of future stuff. They didn’t waste the season at all. Dukat and Kira’s relationship gets deeper and more complex, not only with her taking responsibility for Ziyal, but also in helping learn to think more like she does. We also meet Damar. Damar ends up being one of my favorite characters in the series and his introduction here is perfect. Like, he’s just a hint at this point; another Cardassian with a name. But what he becomes, and his impacts on galactic politics. Wow!


I really enjoy this episode and think it was very well done. In a rare occurrence in 90’s Trek, there’s just the one story. No Quark schemes, or Bashir and O’Brien getting into trouble. Just Kira and Dukat. The two of them, with a couple of supporting characters carry the whole story. Super good.


<<Command Codes>>


Dukat did a lot in this episode to show us how not to act. Not only as leaders, but also as men and as people in general. He was a pretty disgusting look at unchecked ego and power here. But, as we’ve done with Lorca, we’ll learn from him through the absence of a few things, specifically, his interest in other people! He is 100% focused on him and what his actions will mean for him.


But he also shows us, along with Kira, the value of innovating and dressing for the job you want.


And then Kira shows us how our experience, whether we’re proud of it or not, makes us who we are and that we aren’t locked into one niche our whole lives.


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Let’s start with Dukat’s positive lesson here. He’s commanding a freighter. A freighter that attacks the Klingons and they don’t even care. But he doesn’t see it that way. As far as he’s concerned, he’s still commanding a Galor class war ships. You’ve probably heard the adage, dress for the job you want, not the one you have, before. Well, this is that saying in action.


First off, this doesn’t just mean to wear the clothes of the position or job. This is about carrying yourself like you have the job, communicating like you do. If you’ve heard or thought, “Wow, she sounds just like a CEO,” before, you know what I’m talking about. You don’t have to be a CEO to sound like one…you just have to sound like one!


And that’s what Dukat does here. It would be so easy for him to just lean into running a freighter. Just focus on schedules and streamlining his operating costs. Instead, he wants to be on top of the Cardassian military again, so he carries himself, treats his crew and runs operations as if he were Gul of a Galor class ship.


We see the benefit of this too. With Kira’s help, his drilling and the operational culture he’s fostered allows them to not only overtake a bird-of-prey, but also not miss a beat when taking over its operation. The crew is on top of repairs and getting everything online because that’s what they’ve been taught to do.  


The same goes for you. We all have roles or positions that we want, or we want to make an impact in a different or bigger way. If you just wait until you have those things, you won’t be prepared for them when they do come. So begin carrying yourself and performing as if you already have that role.


A few years ago, I had the honor of serving on a task force the Governor of my state put together. We were tasked with improving our systems to prevent elder abuse. There were 12 of us ‘at the table’ about 10 others that served in supporting roles. Being ‘at the table’ meant your name was on the task force list, you were responsible for outcomes and you essentially got to vote on key issues. Sounds like a big deal, right?


Well, I’m on this task force with high-ranking law enforcement officers, elected state officials, executive directors of labor unions and professional organizations. And I’m basically a mid-level manager working for the state. But I was expected to contribute, to make decisions, and dedicate resources to our assigned task. It would have been really easy for me to sit there, take notes, participate where I was able and then go ask permission from my leadership to actually do anything. But if I did that, at best I wouldn’t have contributed much of anything to the mission, and worst, I would have been active barrier to their progress.


So I behaved and acted as if I had the full authority of our Director. I didn’t do that in a vacuum, of course! I met with her and kept her informed of what all was happening, but I also worked with her to be both empowered and enabled to make the decisions that needed to be made.


I dressed for the role I wanted: an active contributor working to prevent elder abuse, instead of the role I had. Through that, I was able to help write and pass legislation that did exactly that! I was an active part of a team that affected real change. And to this day, because of that work, because I carried myself and behaved as if I had the role and authority of others at the table, I’m called upon by our state legislature to testify on and contribute to legislation that impacts the quality of life and safety of vulnerable people.


So how do you do this? What does it look like to dress for the job you want? Let’s break it down into two areas: how you carry yourself, and what you produce.


What do I mean when I say, how you carry yourself? Well, what’s your posture when you sit, or walk down the hall? Do you avoid interactions or even conflict or do you take it in stride when it comes.


When I think of this, I think two scenarios. First, is the more intimate of the two. Walking down the hall in the office when others are there too. Do you keep your eyes forward and kind of hope no one notices you? Or do you walk with some confidence and respond to others when they wave or try to interact? Now, I am not saying that you need to be “that guy” in the hall. All pointing fingers, being like “what’s up, yo!” or anything like that. But walking with confidence, like you belong there and you know it.


The second is more big-picture. It’s presenting or participating in a meeting. For this scenario, let’s make it an online meeting, because goodness knows that’s what the world does these days. But imagine that person in the job you want. For me, that person is a confident presenter that makes virtual eye contact through the camera, speaks in an engaging manner, doesn’t use garbage words like “you know” or “um,” and generally are well prepared.


You don’t have to be the CEO, or the project lead, or the supervisor or whatever to do those things. But if you do do them, when you’re offered one of those positions, it’ll be a totally natural transition.


Then there’s what you produce. Have you ever received a report or seen a slide deck and without even meeting the person that put it together or hearing them speak you just knew this person was at a high level? I know I have. By ensuring your work products have that professional shine to them, a polish, if you will, goes so very far!


About, wow, 20 years ago, I had to calculate out a resource ask for a new body of work we were taking on. My boss at the time was an objectively not great person. I handed them my ask and the calculations behind it. They looked at it for about 2 seconds, turned out around and threw it in the recycling. It was garbage. So I worked with a team member that was really good at putting that professional polish on things. She helped me put it in an appropriate format, with an executive summary and clean, readable calculations and projections so I could submit it again. When I turned this one in, my boss – and I call them a boss intentionally. Like, they just told people what to do. There was next to zero actual leadership here – but, my boss loved the report and sent it up to HR to start kicking off recruitments for my asks.


The punchline of that whole story is that my ask never changed. My projections and calculations were accurate, but they looked like a middle-schooler put them together using ClarisWorks. There’s a throwback for some of us, right? It was all in how it looked and how it was presented.


Learning how to put a report like that together in a professional manner made a huge difference for me and my career. When people get reports from me, they think I’m some sort of professional, and they take it seriously.


To put all of this just a little differently, and wrap this piece up, don’t ever wait to have a role to behave like you have that role. If you want to be a Senior Vice President, act like an SVP even if you’re still in your entry-level inside support role. Ghandi says be the change you want to see in the world. Well, Jeff says be the person you want to be in the world.


And speaking of who you want to be in this world, Dukat wants to be a big deal! He wants to be some military celebrity that causes people to tremble in fear while he lives a violent and lavish lifestyle. In fact, he is so wrapped up and obsessed with what he’s going to get out of defeating the Klingons, he can’t get Kira to join up with him.


Now, there is A LOT more to that decision than just Dukat’s out of control narcissism and ego, but there is a very different way he could have conducted himself that may have gotten him very different results.


Human psychology is complex. And I am not an expert in it. I did take a psychology 101 course when I was in high school and could access some classes at our community college, but that’s about all I’ve got there. But there’s a weird, counterintuitive truth, that people don’t often talk about, when it comes to motivation.


If your motivation is to serve yourself, you may have short-term success, but no one will truly support you and you’ll end up failing. And not in the good failing way we talked about in Elementary, Dear Data.


But if your motivation is to serve others, you will have longer-term success and, ultimately, get the things you wanted.


Let’s take Dukat. He wants to be legate again. In the Cardassian military, a legate is a very high-ranking flag officer. Similar to an Admiral or a General. Legates live lives of luxury and excess while executing brutal military campaigns.


In this episode, all he is focused on is becoming legate and the lifestyle he’ll lead. He’s bragging, loudly, on the bridge, he talks about it, one on one with Kira, it’s really all he is focused on. And, in the end, Kira turns him down and so does the Detapa Council. Total failure that has alienated him.


But, if we pretend he was focused on justice for the Cardassians that were killed by the Klingons, and in learning all he could from Kira, since she seemed so willing to share, we could have seen a different outcome. If he bragged about the skill of his crew and the innovations Kira brought when he was on the bridge, if he talked to Kira, one on one, about what she could get out of working with him, made it a WIFM, or a What’s In It For Me, discussion, with Kia being the Me, and if he was focused on bringing the Klingons to justice, she would have at least been tempted to join with him, and he would have been willing to partner with the Detapa Council. And, in most worlds, partnering up leads to more opportunities which could have included a reinstatement of his legate rank.


Yeah, that’s all speculation, but if you play the game to its conclusion, what we saw in the episode leads him to exile from Cardassia and alienation from his peers and colleagues while shifting his focus to be about anything but himself, to be about justice, Kira and his crew, that puts him on a path where he ends up achieving his goal.


So, I said this was counterintuitive, but it is simply how it works. If he wants to be legate and focuses only on becoming a legate, he will most likely fail. But if he wants to be a legate but focuses on the people around him, his team, and the overall mission, he may achieve his goal but only as a side effect of his actual focus. Honestly, once you understand and embrace that, you’ll find that success comes your way more easily, but it is the result, the side effect, of your selfless focus.


Finally, Kira comes to accept her new place in life. She was born into a guerilla war. A resistance fighter from day one…or terrorist, depending on your point of view. But now she’s part of so much more and plays a pivotal role in the politics of her people, as well as in the growth, safety and development of the people around her.


There’s a great lesson there. We are not locked into who we are. To be grandiose, we are not locked into a destiny. Our experience shapes us and turns us into new things over time. And thank goodness!! I mean, if I still saw the world and played the role I did when I was like 21…yikes!


But there’s more to this takeaway from Kira. She doesn’t try to hide away or forget who she was. She knows she did things she’s not proud of today. She knows the desperate situation and environment she grew up in, and she embraces all of that! Those experiences, good, bad or indifferent, shaped her into who she is now. And, she has unique and useful skills as a result! I mean, without her, that freighter would have been a joke to the Klingons, but her experience paved the path for her to use it to take the bird-of-prey over. Pretty cool!


So don’t you be ashamed or try to hide what brought you where you are now. I have a cool story on this I’m going to share but I’m going to change a lot about it. The real specifics of this story belong to the person that lived this, and I’m not going to take any of that from them. I’ll stick to the high level stuff and keep that true, but, let’s just say that the reality of what I’m going to share is a lot more impressive than the version I’m going to share. But, the takeaway is the same.


So this person, let’s call them Mary Jane, worked from about the time they were 13 till almost 30 as a drug dealer. Started on street corners and high school hallways and progressed all the way to a pretty significant cog in an international distribution network for mostly cocaine and marijuana. She was super good at what she did and made a lot of money.


But in her late 20’s, Mary Jane had her first kid. And her world changed. She decided to give the life up. Now, I don’t know if any of you ever worked for a drug lord that barely spoke English and only ever really did when they were furious about something, but this isn’t the kind of job you just submit your resignation and quietly serve your final two weeks. No, no, Mary Jane went through some stuff to walk away from that world. Stuff that now, over 10 years later she still has to deal with. But, she did it.


Now, she works for a legitimate, global distribution company and runs their entire shipping and receiving operation. Her experience in the past uniquely qualified her not only for this new job, but specifically for the situation when the world’s supply chains fell apart as we all responded to the pandemic. She was able to find unbelievable and innovative solutions that their competitors couldn’t that gave them a tremendous advantage. And to this day, she credits her time working for that drug lord as the reason she was able to do this.


So please don’t hear me say that you need to go sell drugs or anything like that. Instead, hear me say that whatever you did in your life is what brought you to where you are. Don’t be ashamed of it and, more importantly, use it to your advantage! Life calls for unique skill sets all the time. Don’t miss your opening because you’re embarrassed about something you did. Kira doesn’t do that, and things turn out ok for her.



<<Hailing Frequencies>>


Keep those reviews coming in! Go into the app you listen to the Starfleet Leadership Academy, leave a review, grab a screenshot of it and send it my way. I’ll be giving some shoutouts to people that do it!


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Computer, what are we going to watch next time….


Oh no. Ok. Wow. It’s a 1st season TNG episode. One that I knew would come up eventually and, well, here we are. It’s the 4th episode, Code of Honor.


You know what, though, I am always up to a challenge and I couldn’t ask for a better crew to head in there with. Here’s the challenge I’m putting out for myself and I want all of you to hold me accountable to it: I will find valuable, leadership lessons in what is widely considered to be one of, if not the worst episode in all of Star Trek.


What do you think? Can I do it?? We’ll find out, on the next episode of the Starfleet Leadership Academy!


So, until then, Ex Astris Scientia!