DS9 always struck a great balance with Jake Sisko. Though he’s in the opening credits, the most common trivia entry for any episode over on Memory Alpha is “Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.” And that’s nothing against either actor or character. Lofton is a fine actor who matured gracefully into his role, and Jake is what Star Trek always needed: a human who had no interest in joining Starfleet. DS9 used Jake sparingly, and in the process made Ben Sisko one of the truly great TV dads of all time, on top of that whole saving the universe and being Space Jesus stuff.
TNG never quite managed to do the same with Worf’s son, Alexander Rozhenko. For those unfamiliar with the character, Worf had a kid with a half-Klingon woman who wasn’t the biggest fan of Klingon culture. Alexander joined Worf on the Enterprise, but because the show wasn’t serialized, they had a tough time knowing how to use the character. When they were out of ideas, Worf sent Alexander to Earth to live with his foster parents in Russia. If this sounds like Worf is a lousy dad, you’re right. TNG never quite acknowledged Worf’s deficiencies as a parent, and in the show’s defense, consequences were never TNG’s bag. It would be appropriate then for DS9 to take up the slack.
Dukat is also, rather famously, a family man. Since Dukat is intended as sort of an evil mirror to Sisko, it’s appropriate that they have this in common. Dukat has a large, traditional Cardassian family who promptly abandoned him (Granted, we have only his word on this.) when he brought home his half-Bajoran lovechild Tora Ziyal. Now Dukat, like Sisko, is a single dad, though the circumstances are very different. Dukat effectively cut Ziyal off when she stayed on the station just before Dukat’s defection to the Dominion, and Kira sent her to live safely on Bajor until this whole war thing blows over. Well, Dukat’s brought her back to the station.
Make no mistake, while Dukat is painted in a gentler light than Worf, it’s clear Space Hitler is a terrible father. The difference between the two is that Worf is a good man. So, while he will see his deficiencies as a parent and want to atone and improve, Dukat can’t see anything beyond his own self-mythologizing. Dukat is one of those people who believes he is right because he is the hero of this story, so by definition whatever he says is correct. He also desperately wants the approval of those who hate him, specifically Sisko and Kira. His sick need for them to see his side of things is the only flaw in his oily façade.
Alexander has enlisted in the Klingon Defense Forces and in the kind of coincidence that only happens in fiction, is assigned to the IKS Rotarran: Martok’s ship, where Worf is the first officer. I personally believe that someone with a grudge against Worf (most Klingons, I think) made sure that happened. Anyway, Alexander is an absolute trainwreck of a Klingon. The kid is uncomfortable in his own skin, and to make matters worse, he endured a cycle of rejection from his father, eventually “sent away” (his words) to live in Russia. No offense to Russia, but that’s been used as a punishment multiple times in history.
Worf fears for his son, but because it’s Worf, this manifests violently. The Jem’Hadar are a ruthless and deadly foe, so Alexander is going to have to learn to fight them. Alexander just sees the dad that rejected him taking more time out of his day to berate and humiliate him. To Worf’s chagrin, Alexander does get a place on the crew - as the ship’s resident fuck up; however, he does get some redemption when, in the climactic battle, he volunteers to go shut down a plasma leak. He’s careless, clumsy, and accident prone, but he’s no coward. He does end up locking himself behind a bulkhead, though.
Meanwhile, Dukat brought Ziyal back to the station, and while this looks like a doting father reuniting with his daughter, it’s far darker. Somehow, Dukat convinced Ziyal that she was in the wrong for what happened. I might be misunderstanding the term, but isn’t that textbook gaslighting? It’s pretty obvious that Ziyal, who spent the bulk of her life in a nightmarish Breen prison camp, just wants to hold tight to whatever family she has. It’s not easy being half-Cardassian or the daughter of Space Hitler on Bajor.
Ziyal has come to think of Kira as her mother, as well. While she never gets outright into matchmaking, she puts Kira and Dukat into a lot of rooms together. A scene in which she shows them some art that was well-received at a Cardassian school plays like a daughter allowing her parents into a previously private area of her life. Kira is nearly seduced, as well; her parents died in the Occupation, and she would logically hold tight to whatever she could. Dukat sending her a slinky dress for Ziyal’s art show is the wake up call Kira needs. After this point, her feelings toward Dukat never waver. She loathes the man. And in true Dukat fashion, he gives the dress to Ziyal and pretends it was hers all along.
Worf ends up apologizing to his son and promising to do better. He stands with Alexander as he’s admitted into the House of Martok, formally accepting the Klingon form of his name, Alexander, son of Worf. The relationship is fragile, but both men are intent on strengthening it. On the other side, Dukat and Ziyal’s relationship is utterly broken, with a sociopath manipulating a needy innocent to get the validation he craves. Only Kira wants what’s best for the girl, but also knows that if Ziyal chooses, she’ll pick her toxic father.
Not all stories are happy ones.
Next up: Sisko gets promoted.