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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Entry updated 24 August 2020. Tagged: TV.


US tv series (1993-1999). Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller, based on Star Trek (1966-1969) created by Gene Roddenberry. Producers include Berman, Piller, Peter Lauritson, Steve Oster, Ira Steven Behr, René Echevarria, and Ronald D Moore. Directors include David Livingston, Les Landau, Winrich Kolbe, Allan Kroeker, LeVar Burton, and Jonathan Frakes. Writers include Berman, Piller, Behr, Echevarria, Moore, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Hans Beimler, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle, Peter Allan Fields, and Bryan Fuller. Cast includes Avery Brooks as Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko, Nana Visitor as Major/Colonel Kira Nerys, Rene Auberjonois as Odo, Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien, Terry Farrell as Lt Jadzia Dax (seasons 1-6), Alexander Siddig (credited as Siddig El Fadil in seasons 1-3) as Doctor Julian Bashir, Michael Dorn as Lt Commander Worf (seasons 4-7), Armin Shimmerman as Quark, Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko, and Nicole de Boer as Lt Ezri Dax (season 7). 120-minute pilot and fourth-season premiere, 171 60-minute episodes.

The second of the modern Star Trek series built on the foundation of settings and themes established by its predecessor, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), but deviated from its conventions – and from the conventions of television storytelling in the 1980s – in several significant ways, resulting in the best of the Star Trek series and one of the finest science fiction series of the last two decades. The series breaks with Trek tradition by laying its scene not on board an exploratory Starship traveling from planet to planet, but in a fixed location, the titular Space Station in orbit of the non-Federation planet Bajor. Recently abandoned by the Cardassians, who had occupied Bajor and subjugated its people for decades (both species and their predicament were introduced in The Next Generation), Bajor's political situation is precarious, and as the series begins its government has invited the Federation to place a delegation on Deep Space Nine in the hopes that it will provide a stabilizing influence, eventually paving the way to Bajor's admittance into the Federation. Upon arriving at the station, however, Commander Benjamin Sisko (the first and, currently, only Black Star Trek captain) discovers the opening to a stable Wormhole to the distant gamma quadrant, making Bajor one of the most strategic locations in the galaxy.

Despite its deliberate deviations from its parent shows – as well as the non-Federation setting, most of the station's personnel and much of the main cast are Aliens, and instead of the Enterprise's close-knit camaraderie these characters greet the Starfleet contingent with suspicion and ill-will – Deep Space Nine spends several seasons trying to tell Next Generation-style stories in which strange aliens arrive through the wormhole, or are discovered when the characters explore the gamma quadrant. Bit by bit, however, the show begins to find its own voice. The internal politics of Bajor, struggling to come to terms with its difficult past and with the challenges of its present, become a recurring theme. An antagonist race, the Founders, is encountered in the gamma quadrant. As Shapeshifters who view "solids" as a potential threat that must be colonized and subjugated, the Founders react to the discovery of the Federation and the wormhole with a slow-burning campaign of infiltration and encroachment that spans several seasons before exploding into an all-out War that involves most of the major Trek races.

Deep Space Nine's setting outside of Federation space and among aliens who were not Federation citizens allowed its writers to examine and undermine many of Trek's most cherished assumptions, chiefly the benevolence of the Federation. Many of the alien characters view the Federation as a cultural colonizer, albeit a well-meaning one, whose citizens' conviction of the superiority and desirability of their way of life comes to seem arrogant and condescending. The Federation characters quickly find their ethos of multiculturalism hard to live up to, as the cultures and norms they encounter challenge their own values, and many find themselves relinquishing their own culture and becoming subsumed in an alien one. A particularly fine example of this theme can be found in the show's handling of Religion. When Sisko discovers the wormhole he encounters the aliens who live in it, who are revered as deities on Bajor, and confer upon him the role of an important Bajoran religious figure. As the series draws on, Sisko finds it increasingly difficult to maintain a balance between respecting the Bajorans' religious beliefs about him while remaining detached from those beliefs, and by its end that detachment becomes untenable. The alien setting also allowed Deep Space Nine to delve more deeply into the alien cultures of the Trek universe – besides the Bajorans and Cardassians, the series also spends a lot of time exploring the Klingons (especially after Next Generation alumnus Dorn joins the cast) and the Ferengi, who are transformed from The Next Generation's one-note villain race into the standard-bearers of a humanistic, individualistic ethos, a counterpoint to the other races', and even the Federation's, willingness to sublimate themselves to an ideology.

Stylistically, Deep Space Nine could be described as a series caught between the stilted, overly-formal conventions of The Next Generation, and the looser, more innovative genre series of the mid- and late 1990s. Like The Next Generation, the show affected a dialogue and acting style that was stiff and unrealistic, and its plotting, especially towards the beginning of the series, was geared towards self-contained stories. However, unlike the Enterprise crew, whose friendships and romances with guest characters rarely extended past a single episode, the fixed setting of Deep Space Nine allowed the show to develop a large cast of recurring characters with whom the main cast could form long-lasting relationships, carrying over emotional significance from one episode to another and developing the main cast's personalities in ways that Next Generation characters were never allowed to. As Babylon 5 (1993-1998) gained popularity and authority within genre fandom (and as fans of the two shows squabbled over the question of which was superior), Deep Space Nine began imitating its arc-driven plotting. These attempts met with only limited success, but this is compensated for by Deep Space Nine's higher production values, superior acting talent, and more sophisticated handling of its themes, all of which ultimately make it the better show despite its old-fashioned style and plotting.

Deep Space Nine remains an aberration in the Trek canon. Subsequent Star Trek series returned to the Spaceship model, and though both Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001) and Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) featured serialized storytelling (by that point an industry standard), neither developed their setting, alien cultures, or Political themes as deeply or as well as Deep Space Nine. Unlike The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine did not spawn movie sequels, possibly because the series's conclusion, though leaving room for more stories, definitively ended the one told within it. These stories have been told, however, in a series of tie-in novels which feature the remaining cast members alongside original characters in the years following the series's conclusion. Authors of Deep Space Nine Ties include Dafydd ab Hugh, Kevin J Anderson, Steven Barnes, Mike W Barr, Ira Steven Behr, John G Betancourt, Diane Carey, Greg Cox, Peter David, Keith R A DeCandido, J M Dillard, Michael Jan Friedman, Mark Andrew Garland, David R George III, Mel Gilden, L A Graf, Robert Greenberger, Heather Jarman, K W Jeter, Jeffrey Lang, Una McCormack, David Mack, Andy Mangels, Michael A Martin, Rebecca Moesta, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Andrew J Robinson (who acted in the series) and Brad Strickland. [AN]

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