Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (TV Series 1993–1999) - IMDb

Released: January 3, 1993 – June 2, 1999
Watched: September 20, 2020 – May 2, 2021

Garak: It’s vile.
Quark: I know. It’s so bubbly and cloying and happy.
Garak: Just like the Federation.
Quark: But you know what’s really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you start to like it.
Garak: It’s insidious.
Quark: Just like the Federation.

A conversation about root beer.
S4E01: The Way of the Warrior

Many of my friends are die hard Trekkies. I’ve seen random syndication rerun episodes from different shows. Several years ago, around the time that Star Trek: Discovery was premiering, I had no plans to sign up for CBS All Access (now Paramount+) to watch it, so I decided to work my way through all of Star Trek instead. I figured if I did 1 show a year, by the time I finished Voyager, ST:D would appear on Netflix/Hulu.

I started off strong, watching Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS) and Star Trek: The Animated Series (ST:TAS) in late 2016-early 2017 and Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) in Summer/Fall 2017. However, binging 7 full seasons of ST: TNG with 178 episodes burnt me out. I had no desire to start Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (ST:DS9) until 2020. When I bought a row machine, it became really easy to watch 1 or 2 episodes during my workouts.

I didn’t know much about DS9 when I started other than it’s very serialized and that it tends to be people’s favorite Star Trek.

As I started the show, I appreciated that it immediately set a different tone than TOS/TNG — Instead of a starship crew working together to explore space, people on Deep Space Nine had their own interests, motivations, and agenda for being on the station that immediately provided fodder for stories and dramatic tension. Commander (later Captain) Sisko is a different style of Captaining than Picard and Kirk — more pragmatic; he’s not afraid to use whatever means to accomplish his goals. I have more thoughts that I will share once I finish Voyager and Discovery and compare Captains across series.

I really appreciated Dax and Kira as distinct and interesting female characters, again in contrast with Troi (who got better once she got an Starfleet uniform) and Crusher (who ended up fading into the background because she was so defined by her relationship with Wesley and Picard).

So right off the bat, DS9 won me over with its characters. But the moment that really set it apart from TNG and truly hooked me in occurred at the end of “Babel” (S1E5). The set-up is standard: an virus developed by resistance fighters during the occupation is accidentally released on DS9, and the crew has to figure out how to cure it in quarantine. The people who invented the virus are dead, and there’s only one person who might have any knowledge of the virus. Kira tries to convince him to help, but he declines. So Kira beams him onto the runabout against his will and basically says “Well, the virus is airborne so you’re infected now. Guess you better help us if you want to live.” That would have never happened on TNG or TOS, and I was eager to see how the writers would push the envelope.

As the show went along, it explored more political storylines; freedom fighters vs. terrorism. Wartime governing. Willingness to portray Starfleet as an imperfect socialist utopia. Sisko doesn’t have the luxury that Kirk or Picard did — to impose an idealistic solution then fly away assuming it’d work itself out. He has to reconcile his actions with Federation ideals. The crew has to live with their actions, compromise their ideals, cooperate with their enemies. Serialization makes for interesting storylines.

Verdict:
Out of all the Star Trek I’ve watched (TOS/TAS/TNG/DS9/Lower Decks), I’d have to agree that DS9 is the best one. But perhaps not as easily rewatchable–It rewards binging over watching random episodes here and there.

Favorite Character: Kira Nerys
I really enjoyed her character arc. Having fought for the liberation of Bajor prior to the show, she had to learn that governing isn’t easy — that it means dealing with people she’d rather kill on the spot or learning uncomfortable truths about how people coped with the Cardassia occupation. She went from liberating Bajor from Cardassia to helping them with their own uprising, and it was fascinating to watch her grapple with these contradictions.

Most Improved Character: Quark/Rom/Nog
In TNG, Ferengis were portrayed as thinly veiled racist stereotypes masquerading as an alien race. I would cringe everytime they appeared on screen. DS9 really put in the work to add nuance to their portrayal. Still a problematic race, but Quark/Rom/Nog really put in the work to make them actually likable characters.

Favorite Recurring Character: Kai Winn and Gul Dukat
What a pair of despicable antagonists. It was great to watch Sisko and Kira spar with them over the seasons. Kai Winn was a much more fascinating villian — a power-hungry woman using her faith as a shield, and grappling with jealousy when her devotion wasn’t “properly” rewarded. Gul Dukat is a great villian — under a certain perspective, he could be a self-deluded tragic hero.

Most Ambivalent: Dax.
I loved Jadzia Dax — a old soul with a zest for life. But her episodes didn’t fully work for me. She worked better as a part of ensemble or in Klingon heavy storylines. I didn’t like that the writers went back to Bashir/Dax/Worf tension in the last few seasons — it cheapened Bashir’s friendship with Jadzia/Ezri. I know why Jadzia was written off and replaced with Erzi, and knowing that coming into the show, I didn’t mind the transition. There was an idea for an interesting arc: Curzon was Sisko’s mentor. Jadzia was Sisko’s best friend. Ezri was Sisko’s mentee. I just think it wasn’t timed well…Jadzia brought levity to Sisko and Worf that was much needed in wartime that her absence was deeply felt in the 7th season.

Best episodes:
I won’t do an top 10 list — There are many good episodes and quality has been very consistent throughout. I will however, pick noteworthy episodes from each season:

  • Season 1:
    • Babel; Progress; Dramatis Personae; Duet; In the Hands of the Prophets
  • Season 2:
    • The Homecoming/The Circle/The Seige; Rules of Acquisition; Necessary Evil; Paradise; Playing God; Blood Oath; The Maquis; The Collaborator; The Jem’Hadar
  • Season 3:
    • The Search; Second Skin; The Abandoned; Civil Defense; Defiant; Heart of Stone; Life Support; Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast
  • Season 4:
    • The Way of the Warrior; The Visitor; Hippocratic Oath; Indiscretion; Starship Down; Our Man Bashir; Homefront/Paradise Lost; Sons of Mogh; Bar Association; Rules of Engagement; For the Cause; To the Death;
  • Season 5:
    • Apocalypse Rising; Trials and Tribble-ations; The Begotten; For the Uniform; In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light; Soldiers of the Empire; Blaze of Glory; Empok Nor; In the Cards; Call to Arms
  • Season 6:
    • A Time to Stand; Favor the Bold/Sacrifice of Angels; The Magnificent Ferengi; Waltz; Far Beyond the Stars; Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night; Inquisition; In the Pale Moonlight; The Reckoning
  • Season 7
    • Once More Unto the Breach; The Siege of AR-558; It’s Only a Paper Moon; Field of Fire; Badda-Bing Badda-Bang; Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges; The Changing Face of Evil; Tacking Into the Wind; Extreme Measures;

Onward to Voyager and Discovery!

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