As Paramount looks to solidify its streaming service, what was once wide access to beloved franchises like Star Trek has become slowly but surely tighter — until a future where Paramount+ is going to be the only option to access Trek new or old. Which makes it a problem when any episode of the series seemingly vanishes from the streaming ether. Especially when it’s one of the franchise’s strongest.
Yesterday, U.S.-based Trek fans found themselves in a bit of a panic when the 19th episode of Deep Space Nine’s first season, “Duet,” was seemingly nowhere to be found on Paramount+. Paramount has aimed to make its service more lucrative not just by creating what feels like a metric buttload of new Star Trek to entice viewers, but by gradually making Paramount+ the only place to stream classic Star Trek too, as series like Voyager, Deep Space Nine, TNG, and more begin to fall off platforms like Netflix to make way for an exclusive home within Paramount. So it’s never great when episodes you could previously access just fine happen to fall into the digital equivalent of a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, and Paramount+ itself is forced to claim that a streaming rights issue for one of its own shows is somehow the problem:
Hi! We're sorry we don't currently offer season 1 episode 19 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as part of Paramount+ due to streaming rights. Please check back often, as we're always working to make even more available to you. Thank you! *AV— Paramount+ Help (@askparamount) April 14, 2022
Frustrating for fans at the best of times, but even more so when it’s an episode as beloved as “Duet.” Although later seasons of Deep Space Nine — which focus on the dramatic, morally grey areas of the Federation being pushed into a devastating war with the Dominion — often led to the first few pre-Dominion-War seasons of the show being left a little under-appreciated as the thematic vegetables before dessert, “Duet” is an example of just how early on DS9 could prove it was capable of some incredible emotional storytelling.
The episode focuses on the lingering trauma Major Kira, a former Bajoran freedom fighter turned liaison officer between her people and the Federation aboard DS9, feels about the Cardassians’ brutal occupation of her homeworld prior to the series’ beginning. When a Cardassian suffering from a lethal condition caused at a former Cardassian work camp during the occupation comes to the station for treatment, Kira is furious, accusing the man of heinous war crimes. At first, the Cardassian claims to have been a filing clerk at the camp, but under Kira’s emotional interrogation, he reveals himself as Gul Darhe’el, the “Butcher of Gallitep.”
Only, the Cardassian isn’t. As Kira comes to learn, “Duet” is about the pain felt by people on both sides from the Cardassian’s occupation of Bajor, and Darhe’el is indeed none other than a filing clerk named Marritza, impersonating the war criminal as a way to process his own trauma and shame for playing a part in the horrors of the occupation. The episode offers a gut-wrenchingly emotional story about prejudices in the wake of a devastatingly traumatic event, and how people caught up in the horrifying acts of oppression are forced to process that, no matter how uninvolved they might have been in the larger conflict. It’s a truly incredible piece of Star Trek storytelling, with brilliant performances from Nana Visitor and Harris Yulin as Kira and Marritza — and a stellar example of why Deep Space Nine’s early seasons shouldn’t just be critically dismissed as the predecessors to the really interesting stuff.
So you can see why Star Trek fans got a bit miffed at it randomly vanishing from what will soon be the sole home of streaming any kind of Star Trek. And not just any, either. Eventually, DS9 producer Steven Ira Behr weighed in on the absence of “Duet” on Twitter — and it was only then that Paramount+ backtracked, with its absence no longer an issue of rights but an apparent miscommunication:
Sorry for the miscommunication! There was an issue, but our team was able to get the episode back up and available to stream. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. You can watch the episode here: https://t.co/LInIFbds4D— Paramount+ Help (@askparamount) April 15, 2022
“Duet” lives to tug on your heartstrings on Paramount+ once more. But should it take commentary from a show’s producers to fix issues like this? It’s not the first time that Paramount’s been caught in a Trek streaming snafu lately either — on the international front, as the studio pushes to bring Paramount+ to more markets, Discovery fans were enraged to discover that the series had been completely pulled from its international home on Netflix just days before the premiere of the fourth season. That also necessitated intervention from members of the cast and crew, leading to a hasty retreat and compromise so international viewers could keep up with the show alongside U.S. ones.
For now, classic Trek still exists in part on streamers in the U.S. outside of Paramount+. But if Paramount wants its own platform to be the definitive home of Star Trek streaming, it can’t really afford to have any episode, let alone iconic ones, randomly vanish into inaccessibility. Gizmodo’s reached out to Paramount for comment on the situation over “Duet,” and will update this post if we hear back. But in the meantime, why not watch “Duet” yourself? Some people might say it’s pretty damn essential.