There are lots of great and fun nerd debates surrounding Star Trek. I’ve spent hours arguing why Sisko is better than Janeway or how the Enterprise would have done if he was taken away like Voyager was. Or far more fun debates like why the Dominion would beat the holy hell out of the Borg.
The debates get really intense when it gets into what’s the best Star Trek series. Fists will fly… err… I mean.. necks will be Vulcan neck-pinched and peoples gonna get bat’lethed!
When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came out, it started a minor war in the science fiction community. You couldn’t talk about Deep Space Nine without someone saying it was a ripoff of Babylon 5. Yeah, there’s evidence that the studio heads looked at B5 and took elements from it for DS9. Nothing concrete, but enough to strongly hint something shady was going on. But even if the show’s origins were clouded, that should not detract on how the show developed and became something truly unique within the world of Star Trek.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was unique. Yes, all the Star Treks were unique in their own way, but DS9 took it a step further. It was easily the most complex Star Trek of them all. They explored topics like survivor’s guilt, race, war, resistance, death, birth, coping with loss, perception vs reality, religion, humility, duty, identity, and so on. Even more than the topics, this was a Star Trek that didn’t have massive amount of exploration as in Gene Roddenberry’s vision. His Star Trek was all about space exploration. He wanted to have his characters explore new places. DS9 sought to flesh out the Star Trek universe as well as introduce new, creative, enemies.
So there’s a reason why this article is being written right now. To praise DS9. There’s a lot to like about it and I want to share some of those reasons to convince you to go and see it.
Powerful Stories and Themes
Most Star Trek episodes, from the original series through Voyager, are nothing more than “alien of the week.” They never bothered with a consistent story arc. It was always about the exploration and finding that new awesome thing. Believe it or not, it is very well possible to take the entire seven seasons of The Next Generation and watch the episodes completely out of order and still get relatively the same experience as watching them in order.
DS9 had huge story arcs and themes that could only be truly appreciated by watching the series in order. Take a look at the picture up there. That quote comes from a very long story arc with the Bajorian people recovering from the brutal Cardassian occupation. There were victims on both sides of the occupation, Bajorians killing and torturing Cardassians as well as Cardassians committing horrible war crimes against the people of Bajor. Many episodes explored the ramifications of it, revealing that there were no true victors. Everyone was hurt by the experience.
The premise of the show was the overarching storyarc. A stable wormhole was found in Bajorian space. This was a wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant. This was viewed as very important, so the Federation offered their help to the Bajorian people to protect and study it. This led to interesting religious conflicts, as Commander Sisko was selected by the gods of Bajor (the Prophets) as their Emissary. The entire thing was… well.. complex. One can expect that with the premise being the overarching story for the entire run of the show!
There were dozens of other compelling stories and themes that linked episodes. Like the growth and change of the Ferengi culture (slowly integrating women into society)! The episodes that had that were freaking hilarious! There was another powerful underlying story to do with the gods of Bajor, the Prophets, and their eternal struggle against the Pah Wraiths. Again, that was a truly complex story with so many twists and turns, I was kept on the edge of my seat.
Expanding and Exploring the Star Trek Universe
There was always a lot about the Star Trek universe that was left unsaid or just not looked at. DS9 had a great opportunity to explore many facets of the Alpha Quadrant. Like the Klingons. The show looked at every aspect of Klingon mating, from the act of it… marriage… divorce… death of a loved one. It looked at Klingon House politics: how houses rose and fell from power, proper and improper actions for a house to take, and how houses can be dissolved. We even learned that the Klingons had their own clandestine spy network! What impressed me the most was the way they shown how Klingons treated their leaders.
You see, on The Next Generation, they had Captain Picard hand-pick the Gowron to be Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. That never sat right with me. The Klingon people were proud warriors. They would want their strongest to lead. So in the 7th season, Worf killed him and temporarily became the leader. Worf then forced Martok to become leader by arguing Kahless would have done the same thing.
DS9 expanded on far more than just Klingons. We saw more of the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Bajorans, the Federation, and Ferengi, and yes… even the Breen. The Breen are scary as hell. They even unnerve the Klingons, and that’s saying something.
I’ll make this part brief. Star Trek: Deep Space 9 saw two wars break out. One war against the Klingons and one war against the Dominion. The Dominion War lasted three seasons and was one of the most intense struggles I’ve ever seen in any television series. Hell, we saw giant space-battles! Space battles!!!!
This was what the other series was lacking. You can’t have super-powers like you had in the Star Trek universe without them clashing. God, I wish I could talk about the war. Wait… you know… I’ll do a separate blog post or twenty on it. That war was one of the most complex events in Star Trek history. It was filled with spycraft, betrayals, hidden alliances, a Federation officer selling out his values, poisoning, treachery, rebellions, and so much more.
A Star Trek series like DS9 would never have gotten made if Gene Roddenberry did not pass away. His vision of Star Trek was upbeat, if not heroic. We had the dashing heroes (Kirk, Picard) going throughout the galaxy and upholding the highest values of the Federation. In a way, Star Trek was like a space western… with Kirk going around and seeing new things… righting wrongs.. etc.
DS9 helped expand on Roddenberry’s vision. I know.. I know.. there are those purists out there (as well as those who knew Roddenberry best) who would say that DS9 violated his vision by having Sisko participate in what amounted to deceiving the Romulans into attacking the Dominion. They would probably go further than that and point out that war violated his vision, as the Federation would do their best to preserve life rather than take it.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was great because it refused to stand by Roddenberry’s vision. It had a fascinating scenario and the writers let the story progress naturally. Battles would be fought over resources. Egos would flare up, leading to conflicts. Different races would battle because they were different from each other. Hell, we even saw an exploration of race through a couple of time travel episodes. Nothing was ever easy on that show.
God, I love DS9.