When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine first aired in 1993 it bacame the foundation for a totally different Trek. We had a single father, trying to raise his son in “less than ideal circumstances”, the show was based on a space station rather than a starship, we had the galaxy’s first stable wormhole but what we didn’t have was a Captain, enter Commander Benjamin Lafayette Sisko.
The first episode, the two part introduction “Emissary”, we see parts of the Battle of Wolf 359 that we didn’t get to see in the Next Generation 2 parter “Best of Both Worlds”. We learn that Sisko loses his wife Jennifer at the hands of assimilated Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the deep resentment Sisko harbours towards Picard when the Captain is onboard the former Cardassain station of Terok Nor, to give Sisko his orders. Sisko openly shows hostility towards Picard and blames him for his wife’s death and is contemplating resigning his Starfleet commission.
Below are some of the groundbreaking features that set DS9 apart from the other Trek shows.
It’s not long before religion creeps into the Star Trek world for the first time in detail. Deep Space Nine orbits the planet Bajor,
a planet that has recently been annexed from the hands of the brutal Cardassian occupation that showed that not all is well within the Alpha Quadrant. Sisko and Dax find the first stable wormhole in the galaxy and moves the station closer to its entrance, thus giving him the status of the Bajoran Emissary, the wormhole aliens are their gods (the Prophets) and the wormhole itself is the long-prophesied Celestial Temple, where they reside.
This religious theme provides the core story arc of the series, with Sisko at first openly uneasy with his new label, but by the latter part of the series, he embraces his role as both Starfleet Officer and Bajoran Emissary.
There were plenty of other meaty story arcs in DS9 that were perhaps new territory for Star Trek. The Maquis feature prominently in the early seasons, rooted in the events of The Next Generation episode “Journey’s End”, in which Native American settlers refuse to leave when their colony world is given to Cardassia as part of a treaty, the Maquis is an example for the show’s exploration of darker themes: its members are Federation citizens who take up arms against Cardassia in defense of their homes, and some—such as Calvin Hudson, a long-time friend of Sisko’s, and Michael Eddington, who defects while serving aboard the station—are Starfleet officers. The show’s sharp departure from traditional Star Trek themes can be seen in episodes such as “For the Cause”, in which Eddington complains to Sisko, “Everybody should want to be in the Federation. Nobody leaves paradise. In some ways, you’re even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You assimilate people and they don’t even know it.” The Maquis also allows DS9 to subvert some longstanding Star Trek icons: Thomas Riker, a duplicate of Enterprise-D first officer Commander William Riker(first appeared in ST:TNG’s “Second Chances” episode), is revealed in the episode “Defiant” to be a member of the Maquis who gains access to the station’s crew and facilities by impersonating the Enterprise’s Riker.
We also have a darker theme with regard to the Federation, a rougue agency known as Section 31, the organization’s title came from the original Starfleet Charter, Article 14, Section 31, which allowed for extraordinary measures to be taken in times of extreme threat. We meet one of it’s operatives, Luther Sloan, who tries to recruit station doctor Julien Bashir into the organisation. It is revealed that Section 31 is responsible for the degenerative illness that is spreading amoung the Founders, commiting genocide.
The thought that a rogue agency existed as part of the Federation was very hard for the station crew to take, but it was also something that devided you, the viewer and more importantly, to those close to the vision created by Gene Roddenberry.
The threat posed by the Dominion was one of the most long running story arcs not only in Star Trek, but in Sci-Fi in general. The Dominion War turned an episodic franchise into a near serial, events that happened in the previous episode would have strong repurcussions later in the season and the series, giving the stories and the characters more depth than of any episode of Star Trek or The Next Generation.
Early in the second season, in the episode “Rules of Aquisition”, we have the first mention of the Dominion, a ruthless empire in the Gamma Quadrant, though they are not fully introduced until the second-season finale, “The Jem’Hadar”.
Absolute rule of the Dominion remained in the hands of the Founders and their Great Link, whose decisions could not be disputed under any circumstances. However, the Founders were largely content to leave the administration of the Dominion’s daily affairs to the Vorta. The loyalty of the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar was genetically-engineered, which in most cases ensured absolute obedience to the Founders. The Founders themselves were rarely seen, even by their servant races, and were treated as gods or myths. Due to such a social standing within the Dominion, most of what the Dominion’s member races carried out were often for the glory of the Founders, or to please them in some way, similar to how religious figures prayed or carried out an action to please their gods.
The initial idea was to make the Dominion a kind of anti-Federation, similar in structure but with very different ideologies. The Dominion was to represent a wide array of alien races, just as does the Federation but it was to be fascist-like, ruled by coercion and domination, in contrast to the cooperation and freedom of the Federation.
During the run of the show, we mainly see three members of the Dominion, the Founders, the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar. The concept of introducing three species at once, as opposed to the more traditional Star Trek method of introducing major races one at a time, was Ira Behr’s and came from the fact that he didn’t want to risk introducing only one species which may not work. If the Dominion was basically a single race, and the audience didn’t accept that race, the ramifications for the show would have been disastrous, so Behr felt it better to err on the side of caution, feeling that if he introduced three races, at least one of them was bound to work. As it turned out, all three were readily accepted by viewers, and all three would become major players in the later years of the show.
The Dominion started an all out war with the Federation that would last for three seasons, and would create some of the best television science fiction had ever seen. Standout episodes include The Search, The Jem’Hadar, Home Front, Paradise Lost, By Inferno’s Light, Call to Arms, A Time To Stand, Sacrifice Of Angels, In The Pale Moonlight, The Siege of AR-558, It’s Only a Paper Moon and What You Leave Behind. All these episodes relate to each other in some form, either through acknowledgment of past events or through dialogue.
The badass Captain of Starfleet, the one man who can make the really tough decsions, the one man who can put aside his Federation ideals for the greater good by becoming an accessory to murder and the one man who took no shit from Q and punched him squarely in the face. (Q was never seen again on DS9).
Sisko has to be one of the most complex Captains seen in Star Trek, he was a family man, he liked his comforts, the was a devoted father and career man who had ambissions on being an Admiral, loved his father, mourned his wife and had to contend with a new and dangerous enemy.
While sharing the same core values of Captains Jean-Luc Picard and Kathryn Janeway, Sisko shows a tendency to compromise those values in extreme situations. The most striking example is in the episode “In the Pale Moonlight”, in which Sisko lies, obstructs justice, and is an unwitting accomplice to murder in order to turn the tide in the Dominion War. Afterward, Sisko records a personal log regarding his feelings about the entire affair, lamenting the fact that he appears to feel no remorse for his actions (which, by bringing the Romulans into the war, significantly increase the Federation’s chances of survival) before having the computer delete the entire log entry.
Another example of this Machiavellian approach can be found in the episode “For the Uniform”, in which Sisko poisons the atmosphere of a Maquis colony in order to catch the traitorous Michael Eddington.
Sisko demonstrates a bold and no nonsense persona to the point of exasperation, even to the extent of his best friend (the latter host of the Dax symbiont shown in the series, Ezri) stating that his personality intimidates Worf. Relative to other Star Trek captains, Sisko shows strength in strategic/operational military planning, as evidenced by his chief role in the Federation’s Dominion War effort. While not as schooled in philosophy as Jean-Luc Picard, or scientifically geared as Kathryn Janeway, Sisko also highlights strength in engineering capacities (as seen in “Explorers”, “The Visitor” and “Civil Defense”) having served before being posted on Deep Space Nine as the commander of the Federation Shipyards at Utopia Planitia on Mars.
Deep Space Nine had a bevy of well developed recurring characters, each with as complex a back story and as much screen-time as regular cast members of other Star Trek series, below are a few of them.
Gul S.G. Dukat has got to be one of the most complex and fully developed bad guy in Star Trek history, in fact, the most developed recurring Trek character ever. He was a Cardassian military officer who served as Prefect of Bajor in the final years of the Bajoran Occupation. As the last person to hold the position, Dukat lost favor withCardassian Central Command and fell into a downward spiral for several years. However, he became ruler of theCardassian Union overnight after he negotiated Cardassia’s entry into the Dominion. Following his defeat in Operation Return and the death of his beloved daughter, Ziyal, he suffered a complete mental breakdown and was captured by the Federation when they reclaimed DS9. He subsequently escaped, and became a disciple of the Pah-wraiths. Along with Kai Winn Adami, he attempted to release the Pah-wraiths into the Bajoran wormhole. Dukat was imprisoned in the Fire Caves with the Pah-wraiths after a fateful confrontation with the Emissary of the Prophets. Dukat appears in 35 of the series’ 176 episodes.
My fav bad guy, Weyoun is manipulative, slimy, sarcastic, ruthless and loyal. Weyoun was a Vorta diplomat and leader in the service of the Dominion during the late 24th century. Like all Vorta, he was a clone; at least eight copies were known to exist, five of which were encountered by the Federation. Weyoun became a well-known Vorta in the Alpha Quadrant during theDominion War, serving as the Dominion representative to theCardassian Union. In this capacity, he personally oversaw most aspects of the war, although his presence was largely to ensure the loyalty of Cardassian leaders such as GulDukat, Legate Damar, and Legate Broca.
The role of Weyoun was created specifically for actor Jeffrey Combs by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler, as Combs’ previous appearances on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had been in two roles for which his face had been covered by heavy prosthetic make-up. Combs has said that Weyoun is his personal favorite out of all the Star Trek roles he has played, due to his relatively increased input on the role. The actor has also commented about Weyoun,
“I love about him his grace and poise and ruthlessness and loyalty. Something that I really wanted to instill in him was, you know, you kinda have to fly by the seat of your pants. I really didn’t know what he looked like, I didn’t know anything about the design concept of the character when I arrived that first morning. I’d had a script for a couple of days, but I tend to really get a lot of hints from the outside, that tells me who I am inside. It does with all of us, the kind of shoes you wear tells you who you are. So when the process started, I began to see how sort of royal and regal he was, and there was something kind of Japanese, but also he was the courtier in the court, he was the foppish, coiffed, graceful diplomat who would go from one party to another and make them all run smoothly. And he would do anything he could, with a smile, to make it look as easy as possible, and get exactly what he wanted. So I took a little spice from the French court as well.”
“I didn’t think of Weyoun as evil, I think that’s a mistake; it’s always best to play them as if everything they do is justified. I played him as if he prided himself on how eloquent and elegant he could be, and on his ability to manipulate and cajole. He considered himself really adept at the political game. Sometimes I think he felt misunderstood, but he was a good actor too, feigning shock or surprise. Pretending you’re vulnerable and that you’re genuinely taken aback by someone’s harsh words can be a useful tool, making the other person think that you’re off balance when really you’re two or three steps ahead.”
Another well developed character is that of Elim Garak, the station’s tailor, and former Obsidian Order operative. Trained in espionage, torture techniques and a Cardassian exile, he stayed on board the station when all the other Cardassians left after the occupation. Garak kept contacts in the Cardassian Union after his exile, and when Starfleet took control of Terok Nor, renaming it Deep Space 9, he attempted on occasion to use his position as the only Cardassian still aboard to regain his usefulness. Many on the station believed Garak was still a spy. He befriended Dr. Julian Bashir, and began to reveal small bits of information to the doctor about his past and current events. When once asked by Bashir whether he was an outcast or a spy, Garak suggested that maybe “he was an outcast spy.” The Doctor asked how he could be both, and Garak simply replied “I never said I was either.” (DS9: “Profit and Loss”) Bashir and Garak began to have weekly lunches, where they grew to be friends.
Andrew Robinson was involved in the development of Elim Garak as a character, particularly in the later stages of the series where he became a key part of DS9. Robinson kept notes and memoirs about his experiences from Garak’s point of view, later publishing them in the form of the novel A Stitch in Time. The novel also portrayed Garak’s life on Cardassia following the Dominion War, and the role he played in rebuilding Cardassian society.
Garak’s profession as a tailor was an homage by producer Peter Allan Fields to the 1960s television show The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in which Del Floria’s tailor shop served as the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Fields was a writer on that show.
For me, Deep Space Nine is the best series of Star Trek for its serialisation, it’s darker themes, it’s well defined characters and for showing that the life of a Human in the 24th century is not the paradise that we were all lead to believe.