Hello and Welcome to Truth OR Myth, in today’s episode we’re taking a look at Star Trek: Deep Space 9, it’s history, it’s fan base and whether or not it deserves the negative labels it’s received over the years.
On January 3rd, 1993, when Star Trek: Deep Space 9 debuted, no Trek fan knew what to expect. And almost immediately the series became known as the black sheep of the family, but is that classification justified?
With the successful series Star Trek: The Next Generation ending in about 2 years time, The powers that be decided to explore the possibility of taking that franchise in to the movie world and replace it with a new series, something different and something that had never been done before, thus the idea of a Space Station Trek series was born.
This was the first series to not have Gene Roddenberry’s involvement and as such was an immediate thorn in the side of fans. Continuing a hopeful space exploration storyline would have at least been following in Gene’s footsteps, but this? How could a stationary starbase ever be exciting enough to warrant an entire series? And the thing is, the fan base was kind of right.
As initially planned, the Entire series would revolve around a station commander taking over a starbases operation, a starbase that once belonged to the Cardassians and orbited Bajor, a planet previously occupied by Cardassian forces. It would constantly feature the conflict between the Federation and Bajorin personal learning to work together to rebuild a war-torn society. This was the 2nd point the fan base was ticked off about, Gene would NEVER have approved that.
To allow for limited Space Exploration storytelling, a new class of Small Starfleet Ship would be added to the station, these would be known as runabouts, but would NEVER become the sole focus of the series. Personally, I never liked the Runabouts, to me they were just visually unappealing, but that’s ok, I could overlook something like that in favour of great storytelling.
So let’s talk a moment about the elephant in the room, that elephant being Babylon 5. Often times people complain that DS9 was just a carbon copy of B5, this is simply incorrect. Let’s start off the fact that B5 wouldn’t debut until over a year later, meaning when season 2, where they were clearly foreshadowing the Dominion, B5 had barely begun. So NO it wasn’t a copy of B5, nor was B5 a copy of DS9. Any true fan of both series can see they are like night and day. Just because a Sci-Fi show has space battles, a space station and starships, doesn’t make it a copy. Nor does having a Space War. These are just normal everyday SciFi elements utilized constantly in Science Fiction. Deep Space 9 is as much a copy of Babylon 5 as The Expanse is a Copy of Firefly, so in other words, it simply isn’t.
Now let us talk season 1 of DS9. I actually enjoyed the premiere, it was a solid start for the show, but then afterwards DS9 suffered from a lot of clunker episodes. Move Along Home always comes to mind. It was quite obvious that the showrunners were still trying to get their footing on exactly how a station based Trek series would run, and with their fairly solid ending to the first season “In The Hands Of The Profits,” I made the conscious decision to continue to give it a chance, after all TNG wasn’t very good in it’s first OR second season. So with that, I patiently waited for season 2 to come along during the summer hiatus.
Season 2 would not see very many changes, however, better storytelling was evident right off the bat. The 3 Parter opener and episodes like “Blood Oath,” showed that they were really beginning to get it, but there was still a problem. With the looming threat of this Dominion, we keep hearing about having drama coming to the station every week just didn’t seem feasible, especially when you only had runabouts as a line of defence and to whisk our crew into Gamma Quadrant dangers.
So when season 3 was being planned the showrunners decided that the fan base was right and the show needed a starship, thus the U.S.S. Defiant was born.
Being a ship designed after Wolf 359 to fight the Borg, The Defiant was a powerful starship of a type NEVER before seen. It was designed for battle, plain and simple, thus the split in the fan base grew wider, after all, Starfleet isn’t in the business of creating warships right?
The Defiant actually became a breath of fresh air for the series. Now you could have a mixed bag of stories to tell… Ones that took place of the station, the ship or a combination of both. Also having it is not a run of the mill Starfleet science vessel meant that the audience could explore something different in the Star Trek Universe.
So season 3 saw the full-on addition of the Dominion and it’s leaders the Founders, but instead of plunging the Federation into an automatic war, they took their time, carefully planning out the arc that would become the sole focus of the series.
Season 4 would see the addition of Michael Dorn to the cast as Lieutenant Commander Worf and this was another stroke of genius. Worf has always been an interesting yet seemingly underutilized character often described as fairly 2 dimensional. You can some up most of his appearances in TNG with word Honor and the line Today is a good day to die. But DS9 set out to change this and ultimately succeeded, fleshing him out into a better more believable character.
In fact, if you step back and take a look at DS9 with an unbiased eye you can see that it has some of the best writing in any of the Trek series. Because it was such a different premise for a show it seemed it was willing to take chances shows like TNG and Voyager simply weren’t willing to touch.
Questions of Race, Ethics, Morality would often lie at the centre of episodes, and this series would answer the question what’s it like to be a Federation officer on the outer edges of Federation space? An area where the high standards of the Federation Core Worlds simply couldn’t and wouldn’t apply.
In my Star Trek Religion Episode, I explained how excellently DS9 rode the line on Religion and that still holds up today. The audience is left wondering and thinking in those episodes about possibilities rather than being told the answers, and the answer is always science as Voyager would do.
Season 4 would also re-introduce the Klingons as the cold war, bad guys, that they had been in TOS. The Klingons having invaded Cardassia and starting a war with them and being ticked off that the Federation didn’t support them.
And DS9, the Station Itself, would see upgrades that would make it itself a force to be reckoned with. For me, everything was falling in to place.
Ultimately the Klingon Cold War wouldn’t last and by the End of season 5, we would see DS9 fall to the Dominion with the Crew being split up and an unsure future ahead. Though maybe not as heart-wrenching as the best of both Worlds cliff hanger, this was certainly a high point for DS9 and I waited in anticipation for where they would take the series in season 6 and beyond.
Ultimately season 6 was a success as well for me, having a sort of arc to retake DS9 as opposed to making a two-parter to explain a retaking was wonderfully satisfying, even if some of those arc episodes really lacked any substance. And when Sisko walked through those doors standing back on the deck of the promenade I almost cheered, it was all very impactful!
At this point id be remiss if I didn’t mention 4 characters, that would be Garek, Kai Winn, Gul Dukat and Weyoun. All these characters as secondary, occasional guests to the storyline never seemed as such. They were all so well written an acted that even though you were supposed to dislike or distrust them you couldn’t help but love them. In fact, as far as villains go, DS9 writers actually had the best, well thought out ones of the entire franchise to date.
Gone were the black and white 2d characters that had served Trek for so long since the start of TNG in favour of well thought out 3-dimensional realistic characters that you could see things from their point of view.
Unfortunately, however, all good things must come to an end and as often happens politics and personal views get in the way of making a good show. So in season 6 finally Dax, the main character that people loved tremendously was killed off in favour of new Dax, Ezri Dax.
The truth behind this is kind of murky, but Terry Farrell, an excellent actress, in my opinion, wanted to become an occasional character so she could pursue other ventures. The showrunners didn’t want this, and in sort of a vengeful way, instead of giving her her own command or having her not being in the bulk of season 7, they simply killed off her character much to the dismay of the actress.
The death was handled on screen fairly well, but having the main character switched in its last season is always a hard thing to do to make it feel right. Nicole DeBoer did do an excellent job as Ezri, but unfortunately, it was just too late in the game for most fans of the series to get really attached to her. In fact, in order to try to achieve the attachment before the series ended, a lot of stories would be dedicated to her. whether that was just including her in every scene possible, or have fully fleshed out Ezri stories it just made things seemed forced rather than natural, but really what choice did they have?
To finish off the series DS9 decided to do something unprecedented at the time, and that was a multi-part ending arc. It would tell the story of the ending of the Dominion War, A new beginning for the profits, The toppling of a religious leader, and the ultimate fate of Sisko and his nemesis Dukat.
It really was a well thought out story arc, not too long, not too short, to me just right, even if the war was just wrapped up with a nice bow. It would also see something else that had never been explored in any other Trek series and that would be the splitting up of the officers at the end of the finale.
As we pull back from Deep Space 9 we suddenly realize that Kira is in Command of the station, Odo’s left for the founder homeworld never to return. O’Brien is teaching back on Earth, Worf is off to Kronos as an ambassador and Sisko is off living with the Profits with a promise to one day return to his pregnant wife Cassidy Yates-Sisko. It was a very touching goodbye scene.
So with all that said, is DS9 really the black sheep of the Trek TNG era Family? ye,s it is, but that’s ok because sometimes being the black sheep is a good thing.
Though never having the viewership numbers of TNG it always had a strong showing and also had better numbers then Voyager and Enterprise.
There’s something to be said about a show that was willing to experiment and step outside Gene’s established Trek Box. Somehow it allowed this show to not only to feel different, but also feel more realistic, and relatable to humanity as a whole. Its always great to watch perfect people of the future always winning against the odds and having huge moral values that win the day even when it makes no sense, but to have a show where everything wasn’t always black and white made for great discussions and debates. Allowing Trek Fans to talk about issues that they normally wouldn’t even dare think of except alone at night under their covers.
This show allowed for a new breed of Star Trek fan, one that could find hope even in adversity, and would lay the groundwork for shows like Enterprise and Discovery. Shows that would grow out of the mould Trek had created that while at first succeeded ultimately proved it’s undoing.
I’ve always liked DS9, and even today when stepping back I have to say it’s a great black sheep of the family, and I’m looking forward to the possibility of character cameos in future Trek projects.
It’s aged well and still is very relevant today, exploring issues way before the day when those issues would be widely talked about.
I know there is a segment of the Trek Fan population that simply can’t stand this show, and that ok, you’re free to like or dislike whatever you want. but if you haven’t given it a try since the mid-’90s, having not seen an episode since season 2 as so many I’ve spoken with has said, then I highly recommend you suck it up and give it a try again. Plough through those clunkers and actually see the gem that shines underneath. You might be surprised…
Thank you for watching today’s episode of Truth OR Myth, what’s your opinion of Deep Space Nine? Leave a comment in the section below. And if you haven’t done it yet, give the video a little love by pressing the like button and subscribe to the channel hitting the little bell icon so you won’t miss a single video we release.
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