Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why I Love Deep Space Nine

Celebrating the five full decades of Star Trek should be a yearlong event, so I thought I would spread the love of all things Trek. Previously in this series I wrote about why I love the Original Series and then why I loved the Next Generation. Next up, Captain Benjamin Sisko and the diverse crew of Deep Space Nine.

In 1993 we were introduced to a new type of Star Trek. Instead of being the adventures of the Enterprise and her crew, the focus would be the happenings of a space station with a motley crew of Starfleet officers and their Bajoran counterparts. The station, named Deep Space Nine, would find itself on the edge of a stable wormhole, and soon the focal point of intergalactic interest. What would follow would be seven seasons of intriguing characters, fascinating stories, and another chapter in the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine became a very unusual entry in the world of Star Trek. It was the first time that two Trek series would be on the air at the same time. Being set in the same era as the Next Generation, there was room for some good cross-overs, starting with Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the pilot. It brought certain species into the forefront of the mythos, most notably the Cardassians, the Bajorans, the Ferengi, and the Trill. Some fans looked at this new show as the Black Sheep of the family as it seemed to depart a bit from the usual “everyone in the Federation gets along” motif. Instead, there was more conflict among the main characters. There was more grit and less polish in the set. The stories were a bit darker in tone. People did not get along to the same level as we had seen in Trek up to this point. Building relationships was a lot dirtier than we had been accustomed to. For many of the fans, it felt more realistic. Less utopian, but more realistic. For seven years we were treated to powerful story-telling, intense action, and compelling characters. The third live-action series was a great ride, and it was one of my favorite series of all time. Here are Five Reasons I Love Deep Space Nine.

1.     The Dominion – While not always a sure hit, the Dominion provided something that had not been seen in the Trek for a while; a worthy adversary. The Original Series had the Klingons and the Romulans. The Next Geneartion continued with the Romulans and tried out the Ferengi and, more successfully, the Borg. Deep Space Nine had started with the Cardassians, then introduced the Maquis, and even mixed it up with the Klingons again, but it wasn’t until the Dominion that we had a really tough villain to go up against. One of the things I loved most about the Dominion was that they weren’t just automatically the military aggressors. They started with mystery, intrigue, and espionage. Then, in the Season 2 finale, the Dominion roared into the fray with the episode “The Jem’Hadar”. In the third season, we see that Odo is one of the Founders, the changeling race that created the Dominion, and we see a great story arc for our Constable. It was because of the Dominion that we saw some of the greatest fleet battles, something which we had never seen before or since. It was because of the Dominion that we finally got to see the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans form an awesome alliance. We had seen super soldiers in the past, but the Jem’Hadar took the concept to the highest level. We had seen manipulators in the past, but the Vorta proved to be masters of the craft. No other adversary took the Federation so close to the brink, and the Dominion was a huge reason many of us came back week after week.

2.     Secondary characters – I wrote an article that ranked the different series in their ability to develop secondary characters. It should be little surprise that Deep Space Nine reigned supreme in this category. So many amazing and fascinating characters came and went from our beloved space station. We saw great devious villains like Dukat, Weyoun, and Kai Winn. We found delightful humor in the likes of Grand Nagus Zek and Brunt. There were mighty warriors like Martok and Shakar. We also had some fascinating character development from some unlikely sources. Damar, going from Cardassian officer to Dominion puppet to resistance fighter was so multi-faceted. Plain, simple Garak became anything but. Nog, who went from thieving youth to promising Starfleet cadet. The list of compelling characters included everything from the loveable Rom who was often taken advantage of by his brother Quark to Klingon leader Gowron, who grew more in Deep Space Nine than in Next Generation, to a self-aware hologram who could croon the classics in Vic Fontaine. Heck, there was Morn, a popular character who appeared in over ninety episodes, even had his own episode, and he never spoke a word. These characters played excellent foils to our main cast and are a big reason for the success of the series.

3.     Fantastic storytelling – Like all series, every episode was not a home run. There were a few stinkers, but when you look at the depth of powerful stories, it’s easy to forgive those. One of the strengths of the series was that while most episodes were stand-alone tales, the thread of the overall story was skillfully woven throughout the seven seasons. We saw some real gems that dealt with real issues. Racism, specifically Earth’s racist history, was dealt wonderfully in the classic “Far Beyond the Stars”. PTSD was deftly treated by Nog’s coming to grips with his lost leg in “It’s Only a Paper Moon”. The horrors of war were grimly shown in great tales such as “Nor the Battle to the Strong” and “The Seige of AR-558” (where Nog lost his leg). We see excellent character examinations in greats like “In the Pale Moonlight” and “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”. We laugh at the fun had in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” and cry during the most touching episodes of all “The Visitor”. The storytelling in DS9 was exemplary and continued on this great Trek tradition. The list of great episodes goes on and on, but when one watches the show from the solid pilot “Emissary” to the amazing finale “What You Leave Behind”, it is easy to see why the fans of this show are so enthusiastic about it.

4.     Respect to the past – Many detractors argue that the different tone of the series was disrespectful to the legacy of the franchise. I strongly disagree. No other series in the Trek universe showed as much respect to TOS and TNG as DS9 did. Now, don’t get me wrong. TNG showed proper respect with “Relics” and “Sarek”, as well as great moments between the likes of Data and McCoy and Picard and Spock, but Deep Space Nine took it to another level. Think of the inclusion of classic Klingon characters Kang, Koloth, and Kor in the superbly done episode “Blood Oath”. The show gave Chief O’Brien the focus he deserved. Many argue that Worf was able to grow in so many ways that were difficult to do while he was serving on the Enterprise. What the writers did with the Mirror Universe that was introduced in the Original Series classic “Mirror, Mirror” was stupendous. I think, however, the best argument can be made with the best crossover episode “Trials and Tribbleations”. It took the classic tale of “The Trouble with Tribbles” and spliced Sisko and his crew in the actual footage. Great lengths were made to ensure that everything was just right, from the costumes and hairstyles to the sets and props. While Voyager had their own great crossover episode, Deep Space Nine hit a grand slam with this one.

5.     Ben Sisko – I love Captain Sisko. I think he is my favourite of all the captains. Don’t get me wrong, Kirk and Picard are fantastic, but Sisko was a very different captain, and it was necessary to keep the franchise fresh. I will admit that I didn’t always feel this way about Sisko. I thought in the first season and a half that the character had a lot of growth to do. A good part of it was how the character was written, a portion due to Avery Brooks trying to find the right rhythm with him. I would argue that once the writing and the acting meshed together in the perfect mix, Sisko became the man to look up to and admire. Q visited the station once, and Sisko knocked him flat on his rear end. I loved that. Sisko was a diplomat and a soldier. He had honor when dealing with his enemies (see “Rocks and Shoals” for a prime example). He was fiercely loyal to his friends and family, devoted to Starfleet, but he also had flaws. Kirk and Picard were almost too perfect, which is why they are so iconic, but Sisko had weaknesses that made him more realistic. He was the Emissary of the Prophets and the Starfleet officer who saved the Alpha Quadrant from the Dominion. He was a mentor to the first Ferengi in Starfleet and the next incarnations of his Trill mentor. He made decision on logic and passion. He had pride that sometimes worked in his favour, but sometimes it led him to make mistakes. In the episode “In the Pale Moonlight” he showed that he could dirty with the best of the scoundrels. In “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” he showed he could admit when he was wrong. Most of all, in my eyes, he was the best father depicted onStar Trek. His relationship with Jake was one of the best relationships in the show. Look no farther than “The Visitor” for proof. Some may argue that Deep Space Nine was a long story about Benjamin Sisko. I have no problem with that.

And there you are, my Top 5 Reasons for Loving Deep Space Nine. There are likely many reasons for loving this show, so please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. If there is a special episode you would like me review, feel free to suggest it and I’ll get to it as soon as I can. Next up, Star Trek Voyager!

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