Louise Fletcher: Her 3 best appearances as Winn Adami

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 12: Actress Louise Fletcher attends day 1 of The Hollywood Show held at Westin LAX on January 12, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 12: Actress Louise Fletcher attends day 1 of The Hollywood Show held at Westin LAX on January 12, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images) /

Louise Fletcher played Winn Adami in only 14 Deep Space Nine episodes.

If you’d asked me before Louise Fletcher died on September 23 how many episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine she’d appeared in as Winn Adami, I would have guessed many more than 14. As Rachel Carrington wrote on this site, Fletcher’s “performances were so impactful that it always felt like her presence still walked the Promenade even when she wasn’t there.”

It’s testament to Fletcher’s talent that she made such an impact with such relatively little overall screen time. On the other hand, Winn Adami was never relegated to supporting status in any episode in which she appeared. Even during her final five-episode run, from “‘Til Death Do Us Part” to “What You Leave Behind,” with all its spectacular space battles, political intrigue, and emotional farewells, Louise Fletcher commanded every scene featuring her. I will not say she “stole” scenes. Actors of the skill and status of Louis Fletcher do not “steal” scenes. They earn every moment of attention they get.

To my disgrace, I still haven’t seen Fletcher’s Academy Award-winning performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), nor have I see any of the other performances in her impressive filmography. I had, alas, stopped watching the superhero drama Heroes by its third season, when she guest starred; and I didn’t see her share the screen with Star Trek alums Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks in her turn on 7th Heaven.

But having recently rewatched the whole of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I can honestly say Louise Fletcher looms large in my mind as the actor who brought to life one of the franchise’s most complicated and consistently compelling antagonists.

Here are my nominations for three standout performances from Louis Fletcher as Winn Adami.

“In the Hands of the Prophets” (Season 1, Episode 20)

Louise Fletcher helped close out the first season of Deep Space Nine with a literal bang. The episode in which a bomb explodes in the station’s school is a chilling story about the lengths to which extremists will go to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

As still-Vedek Winn, Fletcher flashes a smile more menacing than any expression of anger or hate. Her talk of reasonable responsibility—preemptively absolving herself of any should the very violence she seeks to foment erupt—thinly disguise the prejudice and intolerance of which she accuses Starfleet.

“You live without a soul, Commander,” Winn tells Sisko. “You and your Federation exist in a universe of darkness and you would drag us in there with you.” As the remainder of the series shows us, Winn is the one whom darkness ultimately consumes.

“The Collaborator” (Season 2, Episode 24)

“The Collaborator” is the episode in which Winn achieves her ambition. Although Vedek Bareil appears to be on the cusp of being chosen Kai when the episode begins, Winn undermines his popularity with an accusation from Kubus Oak that Bareil betrayed Bajoran rebels during the Cardassian occupation of the planet.

More accurately, Winn maneuvers Kira, who is in a romantic relationship with Bareil, to undermine Bareil’s chances for her. Watching Louise Fletcher and Nana Visitor play the confrontation between the two women spanning the episode’s second and third acts is a delight. Visitor brings to her portrayal of Kira the right amount of outrage and indignation, and Fletcher plays Winn with a mixture of shrewdness and sanctimonious sweetness that can make your flesh crawl.

How can you not admire the facial and vocal shifts Louise Fletcher makes delivering that last line? “Oh, and child, one last thing. I know you’re under a terrible strain, but if you’re wise, you will never speak to me with such disrespect again.” She leaves no doubt the soon-to-be Kai is as dangerous than ever.

“Strange Bedfellows” (Season 7, Episode 19)

Granted, it’s hard to choose one standout Louise Fletcher moment from her sweeping story arc in the home stretch of Deep Space Nine. But I think Winn’s confession to Kira that she, spiritual leader of Bajor, has strayed from the Prophets’ path is a more than worthy candidate.

Fletcher plays Winn’s contrition with a truly moving vulnerability. To watch Winn openly weep before a woman with whom she has, as she acknowledges, been in conflict so often is startling. The first time I watched “Strange Bedfellows” I thought, for a moment, we might actually see Winn cross to the side of the angels. As Kira tells Winn, “It’s never too late. The worst of us can be redeemed.”

But then we see Winn react to Kira’s suggestion that all the Kai needs to do is step down from her position, and we know redemption is not to be Winn’s fate. We’re still several episodes away from Winn’s death in the Fire Caves. But the way in which Louise Fletcher delivers Winn’s key line—”But Bajor needs me”—we know, with Kira, that Kai Winn’s fate is sealed.

The self-delusion and pathetic pride makes Winn not just a villain, but a truly tragic figure. Star Trek is fortunate to have had such a master of her craft as Louise Fletcher to bring Winn to life—even if for only 14 episodes.

Next. Kai Winn is an often overlooked villain from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. dark