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

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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