20 years of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Avery Brooks at the Star Trek/Race conference in Philadelphia in 2009
Avery Brooks at the Star Trek/Race conference in Philadelphia in 2009

On January 3, 1993 the TV show “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” made its debut, set in the same period as the show “Star Trek: The Next Generation“, which at that time was still on the air.

The series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was conceived in 1991, shortly before the death of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the saga. It’s set on a space station, the Deep Space 9 of the title, in this unique in Star Trek, built by the Cardassians when they ruled the planet Bajor.

When the Bajorans resistance forces the Cardassians to leave the planet, the Federation is invited to administer the space station, the first step of their alliance. In the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” pilot episode the existence of a stable wormhole near Bajor is discovered. It gives access to the Gamma Quadrant and this changes everything for the planet.

Benjamin Sisko, who lost his wife in the battle against the Borg at Wolf 359, receives the commission as commander of Deep Space 9, originally a remote frontier but strategically important to the Federation. The discovery of the wormhole adds enormous importance to Bajor also from the commercial point of view for the new opportunities for contacts with the Gamma quadrant. Along with the opportunities, however, the wormhole also brings risks.

“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” cast consists of:

  • Avery Brooks (photo ©Alex Lozupone) as Benjamin Sisko
  • Nana Visitor (photo ©Beth Madison) as Kira Nerys
  • Rene Auberjonois (photo ©Beth Madison) as Odo
  • Alexander Siddig as Julian Bashir
  • Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax (seasons 1-6)
  • Colm Meaney as Miles O’Brien
  • Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
  • Armin Shimerman as Quark
  • Michael Dorn as Worf (seasons 4-7)
  • Nicole de Boer as Ezri Dax (season 7)

“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” is from the beginning very different from the previous Star Trek shows and being broadcast at the same time as “Star Trek: The Next Generation” the contrast is even greater. Historically, Star Trek has been the search for utopia but the new series shows all the dark sides of the Federation and humanity.

In “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” conflicts between characters are normal and not just because of the Federation staff must work together with the Bajorans, who often have doubts about their new allies. This is not only a way to differentiate the series from the previous ones but an element that is part of the characters development in time.

Sisko starts the show as the commander of an outpost and don’t want to be involved in the Bajoran religion and ends up as a key person in a big war embracing his role as a religious symbol. Kira starts the show as a member of the Bajoran resistance who wants to kill all the Cardassians and ends up fighting side by side with the Cardassians. These are just two examples because the other characters evolve in time as well.

The previous Star Trek shows had episodes almost always independent from each other and having in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” some plots developed through various episodes had already been groundbreaking. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was developed from the beginning as a great story composed of several story-arcs in which sometimes there’s a self-contained episode.

Someone consider the first three “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” seasons rather static but I think apart from a few episodes the overall level is high and shows the new approach to Star Trek. In particular, the episodes about the Maquis show a hypocrite Federation, perhaps the worse than the Borg because it assimilates people without them realizing it. In various episodes there’s also Section 31, a secret organization that apparently answers to noone whose members do what they believe is right to preserve the Federation at all costs.

From the fourth season onwards the war against the Dominion starts, with a setting that goes far beyond the space station. Many episodes are extraordinary with a dramatic level never seen before in Star Trek. There are several story arcs that include the Klingons and the Romulans because the war involves a large part of the galaxy.

Nana Visitor and René Auberjonois at the 2011 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas
Nana Visitor and René Auberjonois at the 2011 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas

“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” had seven seasons of audience and critical acclaim with the merit of having given something really new to the Star Trek universe. This show was published in DVD but also books – both novelized episodes and original stories – games and gadgets of various kinds becae available in time.

The end of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” left a huge potential for new stories and I think it was a mistake to produce a prequel, which in the long term led to the reboot with the new movies, rather than moving forward to boldly go where noone has gone before.

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