Friday, April 29, 2016

Still a Deep Space Niner

It surprises many people to hear there were actually five Star Trek series. Not to mention numerous movies. And of those series, perhaps the one most likely to be forgotten is my favorite, Star Trek Deep Space Nine (most likely forgotten because of it's real differences from all the other Star Treks):

Why it's the greatest I can explain. But it's worth noting that I watched Deep Space Nine on television as the episodes were released in the 90s. I waited with eager anticipation between season finales and the startup of each new season. While I watched most other science fiction stories without having to wait. That certainly explains some of my past enthusiasm for the show.

Now I see the series differently, with more cynicism. Deep Space Nine had some serious problems. For one, it started slow--many people stopped watching it in the first year, which had the worst plots of the entire series. It also made a number of story-telling missteps. As episodes explored various wars and dangers, the Ferengi characters (aliens with big ears) became increasingly used as comic-relief, so more and more episodes became "all-Ferengi all the time." And with a few fabulous exceptions such as "Little Green Men" and "The Magnificent Ferengi," most of those episodes were dreadful. And it bears noting that some of the episodes, especially the Ferengi-focused ones, were a bit sleazy, with scantily-clad women parading around.

Also among its faults was that the end of the series introduced a station counselor, Ezri Dax, who was mostly annoying, although she had a few good moments. And again, towards the end of the series a holosuite program recreated Las Vegas in the 1960s in a series of episodes that were mostly not all that interesting for a science fiction fan like me focused on the future.

Another potential criticism of DS9 was that its characters were melodramatic. I think that's a bit unfair, because the story deliberately selected people facing the types of circumstances that bring out powerful emotional reactions. It's more correct to say DS9 was operatic in scope, really more than any other science fiction series I've ever watched. Yes, I do think sometimes the show when too far with melodramatic aspects--I think specifically the character of Gul Dukat got bent into some highly improbable emotional conditions, probably too much. Even though Gul Dukat remains a favorite character of mine.

In fact, Dukat points to one aspect of greatness of the show, the Cardassians as an alien race and their relationship to the Bajorans. The series explored the meaning of racism in a way other series haven't done, over a long period of time. (Dukat was at his creepy best when his racism justified working male Bajorans to death, while he simultaneously tried to seduce Bajorian women.)

The series also wrote episodes with long-term connections to one another, events that built up over a time, instead of being mostly independent episodes disconnected from one another, as most of Star Trek (and science fiction in general) happens to have. As such it took a deep look at the nature of warfare, including its negative effects, along with genocide, corruption, the drive for power, the sense of identity in a group and much more. It contained powerful love stories and powerful hatreds. It had amazingly interesting characters. It also featured some stand-alone episodes that were brilliant, including the unique "Trials and Tribble-ations," which meshed with an episode of Star Trek's original series.

DS9 also looked at the nature of religion and for the most part showed how religion can be an influence for good in a person's life, something no other Star Trek series has done to that degree. Though it also showed how the power of religion can be used to deceive and abuse vulnerable people.

The greatest thing about Deep Space Nine is that even though it's fiction, it told a number of truths. I did not deny that evil exists in the universe. It showed flawed and conflicted people trying to do the right thing under trying circumstances, sometimes wandering into moral ambiguity. It did not wallow in the silly idea that Gene Roddenberry loved that human goodness will ultimately prevail and we will no longer suffer from greed, or suffering, or corruption. Though of course DS9 didn't show what ultimately needs be done to cure corruption and evil--it did not unambiguously point a finger to God or Christ. But I am at least glad it showed some of the truth about how bad evil can be, while at the same time regarding it as EVIL ("some" because not even DS9 showed the full depth of wickedness).

It's been almost forgotten now (or so it seems to me), passed by via a reborn Star Trek franchise that has an altered timeline which probably will never include a Deep Space Nine in it at all. The new Star Trek films are action-packed and fun. But not deep.

So that's why in spite of all valid criticisms that can be leveled against it, in spite of its relative obscurity, I remain a big fan of Star Trek DS9. I'm still a Deep Space Niner.



  1. "Most easily forgotten"?

    What? DS9 was way better than Voyager, which was way better than Entererprise. The few seasons were slow, but once it hit its groove it was really good.

    Don't forget "House of Quark" that was a really good feringi episodes. Best ever episode though is "Trials and Tribalations"

  2. House of Quark was OK. "Trials and Tribalations" was one of the stand-alone episodes that were brilliant. I didn't say much about them and maybe will go back and add a line about them.

    As for my "perhaps most likely to be forgotten" analysis, I didn't really explain it, but it's based on the fact DS9 is the one series which is the most different from all the rest. It is the only one set on a stationary platform instead of a starship. But that's not the only difference...

  3. Likewise DS9 is my favourite. Given the rumours that the new Star Trek series will be an anthology show (each season being a new stand-alone story in a new time), set in the prime timeline, it is possible we may get to revisit this grand old space station some time. I live in hope.

    Did you ever read the re-launch book that continued the story after the tv series Travis?

    Deep Space Niners forever.

    1. Adam, no I didn't read the book, but I was aware that the number of DS9 books are very limited...unlike other types of Star Trek books.

      Did you read it? Was it good?