Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Celebrating 25 Years of Deep Space Nine

It was twenty five years ago that we boldly went somewhere that we had, as Trekkies, never gone before. It was January of 1993 and Star Trek was basking in a glow of popularity that was unparalleled for the franchise. The Next Generation was riding high in the ratings and the producers were eager to bring another installment into the franchise. However, unlike before, the idea was to not jump ahead in the future and have a new crew on the Enterprise, but instead look at a new crew in a completely different situation. Instead of a starship, the new show would be set in a space station. Instead of a captain, there would be (at first, at least) a commander. Instead of a Starfleet crew, there would be mixed crew. The characters would not be in perfect harmony, as before, but face inherent conflict that had not been seen in Star Trek to this level. The groundwork had been set on TNG for the past few years. Aliens such as the Cardassians, the Ferengi, the Trill and the Bajorans were all going to be a part of the new landscape. A stable wormhole would be discovered and through that the crew would encounter new species and new civilizations. There would be some familiar faces, particularly with transporter chief Miles O'Brien and his family would be transferred from the Enterprise to the space station.

As with every new series, there was a mix of excitement and apprehension among the fan base. Would the new series live up to the high expectations that TNG had established? Would the characters be as lovable and enjoyable as the likes of Spock, McCoy, Data, and Picard? What new stories and aliens would we see? When the show aired, we boarded the ride and began a six-and-a-half year journey. We had new heroes in new uniforms using new gadgets that expanded our costume options for conventions. We had new stories, and for the first time ever there was two hours of new Star Trek every week. It was the beginning of a new era, and it brought about some great memories and moments.

Over seven seasons we followed the adventures of Benjamin Sisko, a Starfleet officer and single father who was hurting from a grievous personal loss. With him was a mixed group of characters that soon became as familiar as the other crews. There was Kira Nerys, a tough former Bajoran freedom fighter. Chief O'Brien would take on the role of chief of operations. A new science officer in Jadzia Dax further developed the Trill species, providing us a more in-depth look at this symbiotic species. There was a new alien in the shape shifting security officer, Odo. He had a particularly entertaining rivalry with the local bartender and con man, Quark, who gave us a greater understanding of the Ferengi. Rounding out the cast was the brilliant yet naive doctor, Julian Bashir, and Sisko's son, Jake. As the series progressed, Worf was brought into the cast as a regular, and gave us even more development for our favourite Klingon. In the final season, Jadzia Dax was replaced with a new host Ezri. It was a multi-faceted crew that brought us excitement into our homes on a regular basis.

One of the greatest strengths of DS9 was not only a talented cast of core performers portraying memorable characters, but an equally talented cadre actors playing a rich and intriguing group of recurring characters. It soon became an ensemble show and we were thrilled as we learned more of these brilliantly written characters. It would be impossible to imagine the show without names like Garak, Dukat, Weyoun, Rom, Leeta, Nog, and Kai Winn. More than any other Trek series to date, no show had such a rich and diverse group of characters. They were not set in stone according to their motives as well. They would switch between hero and villain, crook and cadet, while adding to the interest of the story.

The stories, as well, became a calling card for the show. In the previous series, there were the occasional two-part episodes, but DS9 took that to a new level. Multi-episode story-arcs were tried and were largely successful. More than any other series in Star Trek (with, perhaps, the exception of Discovery) did the effects of one episode have such a lasting impact over the course of the show. Themes such as love, war, betrayal, and honor were woven into commentary of our world. Racism, genocide, terrorism, and socio-economic divisions were addressed in typical Star Trek fashion. They caused us to think about the world around us while we watched these characters explore the galaxy. New ground was broken and some classic episodes were made. From "Duet" to "the Visitor", from "Far Beyond the Stars" to "The Way of the Warrior" and "In the Pale Moonlight", storytelling was at an all time high.

Deep Space Nine kept true to the roots of established Trek while making some noticeable changes. The Trill may have looked different from when Beverly Crusher fell for Odan, but so many other cultures were further deepened. The Klingons were added into the mix heavily in Season 4, and the Ferengi were finally able to find a niche that they could comfortably fit into. The Bajorans and Cardassians that were created in TNG were given much context and depth. We even had a chance to
see some familiar faces from the past. There was a visit from Q, the Duras sisters, Vash, and Riker. We had Gowron do far more than he did in TNG, and a blast from the past with three original series Klingons reprised by the original actors with Kang, Kor, and Koloth. With all the nods and respect to the past, DS9 still went boldly forward with new races. Most notably were the many races related to the Dominion, which became one of the most intriguing and deadly enemies of the Federation.

It is sad that DS9 did not garner as much attention as TNG did. It would have been great to see at least one DS9 movie, but that does not diminish the greatness of this series. While it was not a perfect series, I must say that it is one of the most underrated television series that has aged very well. It's almost as applicable today as it was a quarter century ago. To celebrate this wonderful show, I will do as I did last year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of TNG by giving you ten episode reviews of some of DS9's best and brightest episodes. Hopefully they will include your favourites. So, grab some raktagino, fire up some Vic Fontaine music, and dust off the DS9 dvd set and relive some great television and science fiction.

To look at some previously reviewed episodes, click here.

For my favorite DS9 episodes, click here.

For my top 5 reasons why I love DS9, click here.

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