As a few of our regular readers have probably figured out by now, I have been going through a bit of a Star Trek kick as of late; and with all incarnations of the television shows available for instant streaming on Netflix, it’s a prime opportunity to become reacquainted with the final frontier. And so for this week’s review, I decided to dive into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
And yet, there are many fans who seem to consider DS9 to be the ginger stepchild left under the stairs.
I prefer to consider it SPECIAL.
…as in EXTRA SPECIAL COOL, yo.
Conceivably one of the most divisive series among fans, Deep Space Nine has been considered to be the best of the Star Treks by many fans, and yet the worse by many others. This is because DS9 takes a completely different perspective, perhaps even a bold one, by Star Trek standards: it stays fairly much in the one location.
Each series of Star Trek has primarily dealt with exploration and wandering the galaxy; and yet, Deep Space Nine was the opposite. Set on a space station in a remote area of the ‘Alpha Quadrant’, the series provided writers the experiment of exploring character relations and developments without the external challenge of exploring unknown areas.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine first kicked off in the 1990s, on the tail end of The Next Generation‘s run on television. I recall seeing it on Australian television, when it was being syndicated across the world. Rarely were the episodes seemingly in order, but I remember the consistent conflicts between Odo and Quark, as well as some memorable episodes that have since become regarded as classics.
Nevertheless, approaching Deep Space Nine in an instant streaming context is a completely different and highly enriching experience. The sad fact of Star Trek being distributed haphazardly into international syndication is that many of the story arcs and sub-plots are unnoticed by casual viewers, while the hardcore fans would be keener to follow these developments.
With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on Netflix Streaming, I found the viewing experience to be highly rewarding. Back in the day it was being aired, I seemingly missed out on the Dominion story arcs, and the introduction of the Jem’Hadar. Being able to view the chronological order of the episodes enabled me to experience those moments with fresh eyes.
Fundamentally Deep Space Nine is a highly consolidated series with a storyline that remains steady throughout all seven seasons. While many television shows come across singular seasons that lose quality or standards (for example the sucky third season of the original series), DS9 remains very strong throughout, containing a fine balance of the serious science and/or war stories along with some of the more light-hearted humorous tales.
Star Trek: DS9 follows the life of Benjamin Sisko, played by the brilliant Avery Brooks. After losing his wife in the Battle of Wolf 359 – a conflict against the Borg – Sisko is assigned to command a space station orbiting Bajor called Terok Nor. After the Cardassians terminated their occupation of Bajor and abandoned the space station, it was renamed Deep Space Nine and placed under joint control of the Federation and the Bajorans.
After taking command, a stable singularity is discovered in the sector, opening a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant of the galaxy. What follows is the invasion of an aggressive force called the Dominion. Eventually forging alliances with the Cardassians, the presence of the Dominion causes a whole assortment of political and social complications for all species and alliances in the galaxy. Combined with the spiritual intrigue of the Bajoran religion and embroiled in the depth of prophecy, Deep Space Nine becomes a seven-season undertaking that reaches a highly satisfying conclusion with the last nine episodes forming the final chapter.
There are some unforgettable characters in Deep Space Nine. Beginning with the ones we have already met – Colm Meaney as Chief O’Brien forms a strong foundation in the series, from its very beginnings to its conclusion. Worf shows up partway through the series as well, portrayed by the memorable and indomitable Michael Dorn. Majel Roddenberry also serves as the ever-present Star Trek computer voice, and also shows up as Lwaxana Troi in some appearances that completely eclipse and outdo her appearances in TNG.
Nana Visitor is noteworthy throughout the series as Bajoran militant Major Kira (later Colonel); while Terry Farrell and Nicole de Boer take on roles as hosts of the Dax Trill symbiont. Alexander Siddig is okay as Doctor Bashir – but what really sells his performing and character is his ongoing friendship and “relationship” with Miles O’Brien. I have a pretty good idea what those two were REALLY up to in the holosuite.
Nevertheless out of the entire series, my most favorite character turns out to be Morn – an alien patron of Quark’s bar, who was there from the first episode to the last.
Every character remarks on how he never shuts up – and still the audience never hears him say a word.
There are a few memorable shows worth mentioning in this review as well. Firstly, and foremost, would be Trials And Tribble-ations. The episode is a time travel one, dealing with members of DS9 stumbling back in time to the Original Series era, staggering into the events depicted originally in The Trouble With Tribbles. There are so many amusing moments in the episode that is a tasteful tribute to the original era – including Worf making an embarrassing allusion to the conspicuous physical differences between TOS Klingons and TNG/DS9 Klingons.
Far Beyond The Stars is a delightful “removed from the space station” story, in which Sisko finds himself experiencing life through the eyes of a 20th century African American sci-fi writer – including the prejudicial and racial natures of the time. Each performer from DS9 takes on a human role, giving an amazing experience and a breath of fresh air from the normal pace. The episode also delivers one of the most passionate and emotional performances from Avery Brooks that will mesmerize you, and drive some to tears.
The Visitor is similarly of note – especially for horror fans – with "Candyman" Tony Todd taking on the role of an adult Jake Sisko (picking up from young Cirroc Lofton) in an alternative future. The episode provides Todd with an occasion to explore a character type he had never really explored before, with him often taking on warrior-like or evil/monstrous-like characters… he shows how much of a talented actor he is with this episode.
The special effects of DS9 are of a high standard for a 1990s television series, having riding the wave off the work done by TNG – and show a strong evolution of CGI effects history. Production values with set design and production and direction is also of a high quality.
On the other hand, one area that DS9 suffers from, along with its sister show Voyager, is something I call “rushed conclusion syndrome.” Several episodes rush to the finish line after complications are resolved, without providing closure or an afterthought. Some of these conclusions come across with some form of Captains’ Log Narration that quite literally states “and then this happened””¦ giving the feeling of a rushed episode, without a satisfying conclusion.
The Ferengi plots are also often misguided. With a wonderful undertone of the sleazy and negative sides associated with greed and capitalism and corporations, the stories have a large opportunity to make a big statement of community concerns associated with these issues. Yet, with each Ferengi episode that shows up, the performance turns to farce, quite literally forcing the tales into comic relief, instead of improving on the goofiness that the species was subject to in The Next Generation.
Furthermore, the spiritual Bajoran prophecy storyline reaches a rather unsatisfying conclusion. While it was necessary for Sisko’s Emissary storyline to reach some kind of closure, the manner in which it was portrayed on-screen was hurried. All of a sudden, Sisko just “knows” what he is destined to do, and demeans and weakens the significance of the overall Emissary plot.
Regardless of these criticisms, which I must add are minor, DS9 is a highly entertaining part of the Star Trek universe, often overlooked by viewers. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine serves as a wonderful series to throw in your queue and take a look at some of the episodes from time to time”¦ but sci-fi fans will probably want to watch the whole series to truly soak up the ongoing elements.