Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Boldly Went Where No Trek Had Gone Before

Twenty-five years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) premiered on syndicated TV and right from the start this Star Trek spinoff charted its own unique direction. Unlike other Star Trek TV shows, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stood out beginning with its premise and later by taking advantage of it. The show did not take place onboard a starship that traveled to different planets each week. The main character was not even a captain and was deeply troubled. More than any other Star Trek show, this one truly focused on its ensemble cast to create a rich tapestry of characters who actually grew throughout the run of the series.

When executive producer Rick Berman and writer/producer Michael Piller set out to create a new spinoff after the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation they did not take the easy route. Instead of just recycling the elements of Star Trek that made it so phenomenal they tried something different. The result was a show based on a space station with fallible characters that did not always get along with each other. Instead of having the cast explore other planets, other races came to the station, some coming from a nearby wormhole, and often the consequences of meeting the aliens were explored.  Showrunners like Ira Steven Behr took over and ran with the premise. Simmering political, social and religious situations were explored. Tensions boiled over into a long-running arc where the Federation went to war with the formidable Dominion and the impact of the war was fully examined in the program. For the first time, Star Trek became more serialized as season-long arcs were introduced, a rarity in ’90s television.

Unlike the more safe Star Trek shows running at that time, DS9 was edgier, took more risks, and went where no Trek had gone before by exploring volatile issues like social injustice, ethnic and racial tensions, taboo relationships and more. In fact, for all the noise made about Star Trek: Discovery with its non-white lead, homosexual relationships and hot-button issues, it has to be mentioned that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine covered all of this twenty five years ago.

To say that DS9 was ahead of its time is an understatement, but it can help explain why it was not a huge hit back in its day. More attention was paid to Star Trek: The Next Generation and later to Star Trek: Voyager since the latter show featured Trek’s first female lead. Yet both shows played it safe with its storylines and characters. After a while fans noticed that their familiar premise of spaceships exploring the unknown was becoming too pedestrian and predictable. DS9 on the other hand, took chances and the result was some of the richest and most memorable Star Trek stories.

Unlike many programs, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has aged well and is as relevant today as ever. Many are discovering the show and appreciate what it set out to do, which is why its reputation has grown over the years. While most will claim that the original Star Trek is still the best, a valid argument can be made that DS9 is actually the best Star Trek ever. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend you sample it, even though the earlier episodes are the show’s weakest. However, DS9 comes into its own and before long, you will be binge watching it.

 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the most groundbreaking Star Trek show ever made because it boldly went where no Trek had gone before with its unique premise and rich characters and stories.

Lewis T. Grove

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Top 20 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Episodes

Deep Space Nine

This past January marked the twentieth anniversary of perhaps the most underrated Star Trek show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It differed from the other Trek shows in that it took place on a space station (the titular Deep Space Nine or DS9) near a wormhole and the characters often had to deal with the political and social ramifications of galactic events and alien first contact. In so many ways, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is arguably the best Trek show and certainly the best spinoff of the original Star Trek. Many episodes were exciting, thought provoking and best exemplified the spirit of Star Trek. Being that it’s the show’s 20th anniversary, here’s a top 20 list of their very best episodes.

house of quark20. “The House Of Quark” A white lie about killing a Klingon warrior to boost business leads resident DS9 bar owner Quark (Armin Shimmerman) to unwillingly marrying the Klingon’s  headstrong widow (Mary Kay Adams). Later Quark must fight another Klingon for her honor in this humorous social clash of Klingons and Ferengi cultures.

19. “Homefront/Paradise Lost” This two-part episode is an eerie predictor of the besieged, mistrustful mentality that hit the U.S. after 9/11. A Changeling terrorist attack on Earth leads to worldwide paranoia that Changelings are everywhere and infiltrating the Federation. Ultimately this brings about an attempted coup by rogue Starfleet officers.

18. “What You Leave Behind” The final episode of Star Trek: Deep Space what you leave behindNine brings the show to a proper conclusion as the Dominion War finishes in an epic throwdown involving an armed uprising on the Cardassian home planet, the major space powers in a pyrotechnic space battle and Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) has a final confrontation with his arch nemesis Dukat (Marc Alaimo) and ultimately discovers his destiny.

17. “The Jem’Hadar” What a way to introduce an enemy race! Sisko, his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), Quark and his nephew Nog (Aron Eisenberg) are captured while camping on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant by the Dominion’s belligerent military force, the Jem’Hadar. Ruthless, deadly and formidable, the reptilian-like soldiers proved their extreme fanaticism by destroying a Galaxy-class starship fairly easily.

16. “Past Tense, Part I and II” Sisko, Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) and Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) are accidently transported to San Francisco in the 2020s and become involved in a calamitous social movement called the Bell Riots. When the leader of the movement is killed, Sisko must assume his identity in order to preserve the timeline, while trying to keep himself and hostages safe.

15. “Favor The Bold” The first few episodes of DS9’s sixth season had the Federation on the defensive in the Dominion War with the Dominion occupying the station. Tired of defeat, Sisko devises a bold battle plan to take back DS9 and gathers his forces. Meanwhile tensions boil over in DS9 as First Officer Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) confronts the Changeling Security Chief Odo (René Auberjonois) over his divided loyalties.

the circle trilogy

14. The Circle Trilogy (“The Homecoming”, “The Circle”, “The Siege”) Bajoran politics start off the second season with Star Trek’s first three parter. A legendary Bajoran freedom fighter (Richard Beymer) is found in a Cardassian prison by Kira, who frees him. This causes a chain of events that culminates in a plot by an anti-Federation, reactionary political group to overthrow the Bajoran government. Guest stars Frank Langella and Louise Fletcher played exceptional villains.

quickeing13. ” The Quickening” Dr. Bashir learns a lesson in the limits of his medical skills when he and Dax struggle to help a planetary population infected by the Dominion with a deadly and incurable disease. An allegory to the AIDS epidemic, the scenes of Bashir’s tireless efforts to ease the suffering and cure people were powerful and touching.

12. “Crossover” Kira and Bashir return to the infamous Mirror Universe last seen in the original Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror”. This time humanity has been conquered by the Klingons and Cardassians and the duo get to see a radically different DS9 with once familiar characters like Quark and Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) now complete strangers. Plus, it gave the actors plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery with their over-the-top performances of their doppelgangers.

DS9 Crossover episode

11. “The Way Of The Warrior” Worf (Michael Dorn) from Star Trek: The Next Generation joins the station crew in this fourth-season opener that sees the impact that the shape-shifting Founders have had with their infiltration of the Alpha Quadrant. The Klingons and the Federation break ties with each other and become adversaries. The climatic space battles between the station and a Klingon fleet and the intense fighting inside DS9  were an adrenaline rush of excitement!

in the pale moonlight10. “In The Pale Moonlight” One of the most controversial episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has Ben Sisko desperate over the state of the war against the Dominion, committing very questionable and treasonous actions to influence the Romulans to join the war on the Federation’s side. These nebulous actions by a Star Trek lead hero best illustrate the murkiness of DS9’s main characters.

9. “In The Cards” This very funny episode showcases Jake and Nog as they go through many headaches and make complicated deals just to obtain a rare Willie Mays baseball card for Jake’s father. Highlights include the mad Dr. Giger (Brian Markinson) and his alleged immortality machine. Meanwhile on an ominous note, on the eve of war, negotiations fail between the Federation and the Dominion.

8. Emissary” The pilot episode introduces the cast of characters and the Cardassian-built space emissary 2station orbiting the ravaged planet of Bajor. Intrigue and self-discovery abound as the intricacies of Bajoran society and the characters’ quirks are revealed, especially Sisko’s tortured soul. Still mourning over his dead wife and on the verge of leaving Starfleet, Sisko faces a moment of truth after discovering a nearby stable wormhole and the non-corporeal aliens inhabiting it.

7. “In Purgatory’s Shadow”/”By Inferno’s Light” Major changes happen in this two parter when the Cardassians, led by Dukat, unexpectedly join the Dominion. One of the show’s biggest shocks came when it was revealed that one of the major characters was actually a Changeling during several previous episodes and out to decimate the Alpha Quadrant powers.

6. “Far Beyond The Stars” Sisko finds himself in an alternate reality where he is a struggling science fiction writer in 1950s New York and must contend with racism as he tries to get his story published about a space station commandeered by a black officer. It was unforgettable and refreshing to see the show’s actors, many without makeup, portraying distinctly different characters, some good and some bad. Brooks deserves many kudos for captivating performance as Ben Sisko and writer Benny Russell.

5. “Trials And Tribble-ations” In this tribute to the original Star Trek, the crew of the Defiant (the Starfleet ship posted to DS9) time travel back to Captain Kirk’s (William Shatner) era and wind up trialspart of the classic Star Trek episode “The Trouble With The Tribbles”. The scenes where the DS9 characters interact with the original Enterprise crewmembers are still jaw-dropping and fun to watch. Some highlights include seeing the original Enterprise, Worf’s abrupt non-explanation about the classic era’s Klingons and when Sisko got to meet Kirk, one of his heroes.

battle strong YES4. “…Nor The Battle To The Strong” Jake and Dr. Bashir are stranded on a Federation outpost under attack by Klingons. This episode focuses on Jake (one of the few by DS9 to do so) and his impressions of war as he is recruited to be a medic and meets several characters who react differently to battle situations. He sees up close how filthy and demoralizing war is and is strongly shaken by its brutality and its senseless nature. This episode was one of the grittiest ever shown on Star Trek and the realistic elements such as the Starfleet officer who wounds himself and Jake’s scared reactions added much to the story.

call to arms3. “Call To Arms” The fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine closes with this exciting episode that is about the eve of war between the Federation/Klingons and the Dominion. Tensions boil over and negotiations break down leading to open warfare between the two powers. The episode’s writers skillfully set up many cliffhangers for the coming season and had astonishing multiple endings that could’ve each ended the season effectively. Still, that final shot that has the Defiant joining a massive Starfleet/Klingon armada makes one cheer.

2. “Sacrifice Of Angels” This epic conclusion to the storyline about the Dominion occupation armada2of DS9 rivals any big-screen sci-fi spectacular with its amazing special effects. Outnumbered and outgunned on board the Defiant, Sisko leads an armada of Starfleet ships against combined Dominion and Cardassian battle ships. It’s a race against time to break through the formidable fleet to reach DS9 before the mined wormhole can be opened to send through Dominion reinforcements. Meanwhile, Kira, Quark, Jake and other Federation loyalists on the station try to stay one step ahead of Dominion forces as they try to sabotage the enemy. After seeing the good guys losing ground in the episodes leading up to “Sacrifice Of Angels” it was a cathartic to see them finally confronting the enemy.

VISitor1. “The Visitor” One of the best time travel stories shown on any Star Trek series is ultimately about the bond between a father and his son. Sisko and Jake are on board the Defiant when a freak accident apparently disintegrates the captain. During his mourning Jake discovers that his father is actually alive but trapped in a timeless limbo. Life and time goes on while Sisko never ages and helplessly watches as Jake grows older, marries and then gives up his marriage and writing career to help him. The performances by Avery Brooks and Tony Todd (who plays Jake as an adult) will touch a soft spot in any viewer’s heart. The ending of “The Visitor” will be sure to leave a lump in one’s throat. More importantly, the episode illustrates how feelings and relationship trump any obstacle. These themes are why Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stood apart from the other Star Trek shows.

Other memorable episodes that just missed the list include in no order: “Explorers”, “The Siege of AR-558”, “Waltz”, “A Time To Stand”, “For The Uniform”, “The Magnificent Ferengi”, “Our Man Bashir”, “Inquisition”, “The Die Is Cast” and “Duet”.

defiant and ds9

José Soto

A Look Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Part Two

DS9 Cast

Continuing our look at one of the best Star Trek shows Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9), there are more reasons why the show stood out from the other Trek spinoffs. To start let’s look at the main character Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks).

The Sisko

While seeming distant from his officers, Sisko was a very passionate man with an affinity for cooking. He was one of the most dimensional Trek captains ever shown and portrayed. At the start of the series, Sisko was a very troubled man and for good reason. His suffering was one of the best plot lines in the series pilot “Emissary”. A flashback prologue showed that while posted on a ship that tried to fight an invading Borg cube during the Star Trek: Next Generation episode “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II” (the scene was from the Battle of Wolf 359, which took place offscreen in that episode), Sisko’s wife died in the futile battle. On an escape pod with his injured son, he watched helplessly as his ship exploded with his wife’s body still on it.

Angry, bitter and directionless, Sisko was assigned years later to command the Cardasssian-built space station Deep Space Nine orbiting the ravaged planet Bajor. His duty was to help Bajor get ready for admission into the Federation via rebuilding efforts. But still consumed by his wife’s death, Sisko considered leaving Starfleet before discovering a stable wormhole near Bajor and DS9.

What followed were a series of brilliantly shot scenes that represented the spirit of Star Trek in terms of meeting new life and mutual learning. Inside the wormhole, he encountered the “Prophets”, non-corporeal aliens who took the forms of people he knew–including his dead wife, in surreal, dream-like sequences. Every time a different person would speak, the scene would abruptly jumped to another time and location. For example, if a “Prophet” in the form of his first officer Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) at the station had a question, then she would be answered by a “Prophet” in the form of Locutus (Patrick Stewart) during the Battle of Wolf 359. They didn’t understand the linear nature of time and Sisko had to find a way to explain the concept. Sisko tried to use baseball to explain not just the cause-and-effect nature of time but the nature of human existence. After his explanation, the aliens pointed out to “The Sisko” (as they later called him) that if time was linear why was his mind occupied with his wife’s death? The station commander quietly realized that he was trapped by his past because of his grief and needed to move on.

The Bajorans looked upon Sisko as a religious figure because of his discovery and this made him uncomfortable. However, he took his role seriously of defending the Bajorans and helping them to rebuild their civilization after the Cardassian occupation.

Ben Sisko

His greatest tests came after the malevolent Dominion arrived from the other side of the wormhole. He wound up becoming a brilliant war-time leader in what turned out to be a critical post and thwarted the Dominion’s plans to conquer the Federation. During this crisis, he had to find time to be a single father to his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), act responsibly as a religious figure and maintain relations with the mysterious “Prophets” and other aliens. By the series end (“What You Leave Behind”) Sisko has a final confrontation with his enemies and discovers his ultimate fate with the “Prophets”.

Secondary Lineup

The show had a rich roster of characters who were well written and acted. They helped drive the show and made viewers care about what was going on. One advantage DS9 had over its Trek cousins were the secondary characters. Most of them were as well developed as the main ones and could’ve conceivably carried on as replacements for the main characters, they were that good. There was Nog (Aron Eisenberg), Quark’s (Armin Shimmerman) nephew. At first he was written to be a comedic foil and companion to Jake, but over time, the diminutive Ferengi expressed a desire to better his lot in life and joined Starfleet, becoming the first Ferengi to do so. Nog quickly proved himself and became known for his competence and bravery. Another Ferengi of note was Nog’s father Rom (Max Grodenchik), a seemingly dim-witted and good-natured soul who worked as Quark’s hapless assistant. While he was usually comedic relief, over time, he too wanted to better himself but was only lacking confidence. Eventually he joined the station’s engineering crew, married the very attractive Bajoran waitress Leeta (Chase Masterson), worked as a Federation spy and even wound up becoming the Grand Nagus –the leader of the Ferengi and began to bring about progressive reforms.

Quark, Rom and Nog

DS9 had complex and fascinating alien races like the Ferengi, the Bajorans and even the Klingons. But one of the most multifaceted aliens were the Cardasssians. First up was Garak (Andrew J. Robinson), an enigmatic exile who was introduced early in the show’s run. Demonstrating a fascination towards Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig), Garak reveled in being a mysterious source of help and information. Over time, it was revealed that he once worked for Cardassian intelligence dukatbut fell out of favor. As a former spy, Garak was quite deadly, he even carried out Sisko’s dirty work in the episode “In The Pale Moonlight” but by the show’s end became a liberator and helped to defeat the Dominion occupiers of his home planet. The other prominent Cardassian was Dukat (Marc Alaimo), the show’s arch nemesis. Originally the commanding officer of DS9 when it was in Cardassian hands, Dukat was a brutal dictator who took joy in terrorizing Bajorans. Dukat appeared several times as a menacing figure but apparently turned over a new leaf when the Klingons went to war with the Cardassians in the fourth season. He became a guerilla fighter and seemed regretful about his past, but the humiliation his people suffered under the Klingons was too much for him. Making a Faustian bargain, Dukat allied himself with the Dominion and allowed them to take control of the Cardassian Union (“By Inferno’s Light”). In the end all he wanted (as he ranted in the episode “Waltz”) was to be adored and respected by those he considered inferior to him. That included the Bajorans and Ben Sisko. Continue reading

A Look Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Part One

Star Trek DS9 crew

This month marks the twentieth anniversary of perhaps the most underrated Star Trek show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It differed from the other Trek shows in that it took place on a space station (the titular Deep Space Nine–DS9) near a wormhole and the characters often had to deal with the political and social ramifications of galactic events and encounters. In so many ways, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is arguably the best Trek show and certainly the best spinoff of the original Star Trek. A reason why the original is considered the best has to do with nostalgia and its iconic nature. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine  or DS9 isn’t as fondly remembered as Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation but it should be highly regarded.

Some early critics of the show complained that the stories were rather dark, bleak and depressing. This was because the show’s first two seasons dealt with rebuilding a shattered civilization. DS9 orbited an ancient world called Bajor and it had been occupied by the enemy Cardassians (who built the station using Bajoran slave labor), who were like the Nazis. The Bajorans were a rough analogy to the Jews after World War II and Israel at its beginning. The Bajorans were on the verge of a civil war and desperate. While their plight made for some terrific episodes (“In The Hands Of The Prophets” and The Circle trilogy), it probably turned off casual viewers who wanted to see the standard starship zipping around the galaxy and having the crew solving some kind of tech-based problem.

Spiritual Leanings

wormholeBeing that the deeply religious Bajorans were a focal point in the early episodes, the show touched on religious matters. In fact, it was one of its core concepts. In the pilot episode “Emissary” the show’s main character, Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) was assigned to the station and later discovered a nearby stable wormhole that was created by enigmatic non-corporeal aliens. While this was a major scientific and socio-political game changer for the Federation and helped put Bajor on the map, this event had religious ramifications. It turned out there was a prophecy in Bajoran religion that a non-Bajoran savior called the Emissary would discover the wormhole and the “Prophets” that the Bajorans worship. Therefore, Sisko became a major religious figure among Bajorans who they believed would eventually bring them salvation. This was a role that Sisko and Starfleet was very uneasy with chiefly because of their secular nature and the whole Prime Directive thing of non-interference.

Timing Is Everything

A reason for why the show wasn’t a runaway hit may have to do with the timing of when it premiered. During that time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was at its peak in popularity and some fans probably wanted DS9 to be more of the same.  Sure it didn’t make sense to go to the trouble of creating a new show just to regurgitate the same ship traveling premise but some just want the same formula repeated over and over. So DS9 in trying to be distinctive was probably too different, which is what Star Trek needed and still does. The show was murky in its morality, the main heroes often committed actions that were questionable. At the time, it was believed by the suits in Paramount Studios that people didn’t want Star Trek to be dark and ambivalent, which is one of the so-called reasons behind the creation of the next spinoff Star Trek: Voyager.

Star Trek DS9 wormhole

Now with all the publicity Star Trek: Voyager was receiving along with the continued popularity and coverage of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was difficult for DS9 to get any attention. It became the redheaded stepchild of the franchise. While that was unfortunate, one good thing to come out of that was that it was largely left alone. As executive producer Rick Berman concentrated on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s spinoff films, exemplary writers and producers like Ron Moore, Ira Steven Behr, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and René Echevarria were put in charge of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and made the show its own. They took risks with the characters and situations and it paid off creatively. Continue reading