Warp Factor Trek

The Star Trek Fan Website

Throughout the 1990s, the Star Trek franchise grew in leaps and bounds with the success of The Next Generation and its subsequent films; the launch of Voyager; and the proliferation of many novels, comics, and marketing tie-ins that further proved that the hunger for more Star Trek was greater than ever. But if I had to pick one branch of the franchise that saw the greatest growth and development, it would have to be the third live-action series: Deep Space Nine. Even before its birth, this chapter in the Star Trek franchise promised to be the most ambitious series in the franchise to date.

Shortly before his death in October 1991, Gene Roddenberry gave his blessings to executive producers Rick Berman (who now oversaw the Star Trek franchise) and Michael Piller (who, at the time, was the head writer on TNG) to create a third series to be set concurrent within the TNG framework. Their direction of the series, inspired by the Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s, established Deep Space 9 as a station on the border of unexplored regions of outer space. Whereas I had heard over the years that the original Star Trek was akin to Wagon Train, DS9 was clearly a tip of the hat to Gunsmoke. And all of the immediate comparisons were there: the town leader, the sheriff, the doctor, the shady barkeep with his house of ill repute, etc. were all represented in this new series, where alien cultures, merchants, and the military all met at the farthest outpost in the galaxy.

Among the characters that made up this new cast, the one that most stood out to me was the science officer, Jadzia Dax, played by Terry Farrell. Her character description was particularly interesting. Here was a Trill character who on the outside was an attractive, motivated woman in her late 20s, but on the inside was a slug-like symbiont who was a good 300 years older than her. (Talk about a case of multiple personality disorder! Then again, this IS Star Trek we’re talking about here, where anything is possible.) As the show progressed over the seven seasons, Jadzia Dax’s character would grow beyond the original description that, at the time before the series’ premiere, I had not thought possible.

Jadzia Dax and Dukat, two of the DS9 characters I found interesting (CBS-Paramount)

Another of the characters I found notable was Gul Dukat, played with marvelous duplicity by Marc Alaimo. Dukat’s agenda at the outset of the series was very straightforward – regain control of Deep Space 9 and enslave the Bajorans at any cost. However, over the course of the series, his agenda would evolve from control to paranoia, and even selling his own soul to the false prophets of Bajor, all for total domination.

Meanwhile, the show made good on its promise. From its premiere in January 1993 to its epic ten-episode finale arc in 1999, DS9 proved to be the most original Trek of them all. The show not only pushed the rules of the franchise that Gene Roddenberry had established three decades earlier in the original series and later in The Next Generation, but it also dared to sometimes bend and occasionally even break those rules as well.

It was a rich mixture of politics and religion, combined with an ominous threat of war that loomed on the forefront of the series and became an integral and continuing part of the series in its latter years. Right off the bat, the show featured religious fanaticism, military drama, and parallels to World War II. These were combined with the humanity of one man, Benjamin Sisko, who balanced his career as a Starfleet officer with the prophecies of the Bajoran race that he would lead them into a new golden age.

Commander Sisko became Captain Sisko during the course of the show (CBS-Paramount)

That doesn’t mean the show didn’t stop and have a little fun along the way, with appearances from Q and Lwaxana Troi, a time-travel romp to the events of “The Trouble with Tribbles”, a wacky baseball game against a group of smug Vulcans, a wedding party, and a 1960s-style heist worthy of the Ocean’s Eleven films. But the series also had its share of heartbreaking and life-affirming events as well, from Jake Sisko’s journey without his father (“The Visitor”) to his exposure to the brutality of war (“Nor the Battle to the Strong”); from an all-Klingon episode (“Soldiers of the Empire”) to Captain Sisko’s deception bringing the Romulans into the Dominion War (“In the Pale Moonlight”) and his journey into the racism of the 1950s (“Far Beyond the Stars”).

By the time it reached its finale in May 1999, the show proved to be the darkest and most daringly ambitious Star Trek series ever. Its explorations of the darker nature of man, religious themes, the horrors of war and revolution, terrorism, racism, and more, made it enormously relevant. With all the series and films over Star Trek‘s fifty-five-year history, DS9 continues to remain one of the most relevant series because of the many issues it addressed.

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