‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ – 25th Anniversary Retrospective
Thanks to the success of Star Trek: the Next Generation, the franchise dominated television screens and was reestablished as a cultural phenomenon. Despite TNG drawing high ratings and critical acclaim, there was a contingency of people behind the scenes itching to do something different. Led by Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr, this group of writers wanted to remain in the Star Trek universe, but wanted to bring in elements frowned upon by executive producers on the show. In 1993, this group of writers were granted permission to craft their own Star Trek, spin-off, this gave us the critically acclaimed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. Dubbed by fans, DS9, this new series was far from either of its parent shows. Commander (not Captain until later) Benjamin Sisko and his crew did not go where no man has gone before; rather they were stationed at the Deep Space Nine space station. Positioned by the first known stable wormhole, Sisko was ordered to represent the Federation’s interest at the center of a conflict between the Bajorans and Cardassians.
This show was not the grand space opera expected from a Star Trek series, DS9 was edgier and more focused on character development and intricate plots. From the very first moments of the very first episode, viewers knew this was something different. After being present to provide our initial setup, the USS Enterprise departs from the station taking with it familiarity; and leaves us with our new lead for the show Commander Benjamin Sisko. Sisko lacks much of the idealism of Kirk or Picard; in fact he had every plan of retiring from the Federation with his son, after the death of his wife at the hands of a Borg-ified Picard. Joining him is fan favorite character Chief Miles O’Brien who came over after a stint on the Enterprise to be Chief Operations Officer. Serving as Sisko’s second-in-command is Bajoran freedom fighter Kira, who serves as his liaison to those on the station. Acting as head of DS9’s security is the shape shifting Odo, who is dedicated to his job, much to the chagrin of the Ferengi onboard. Providing the standard Trek, science and medical elements were genetically enhanced human Julian Bashir, and Dax, from a species of long living symbiotic aliens known as the Trill. Serving as a thorn in everyone’s side is the bar owning Ferengi, Quark, who is greedy and self-absorbed but was known to show flashes of goodness making him a truly complex character and a fan favorite. Benjamin Sisko was not alone on this mission, as he brought his son Jake with him, allowing audiences to watch his character grow into adulthood over the course of the series.
Joining producers; Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr were: Ronald D. Moore, Rene Echevarria, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Peter Allan Fields, and others. Initially they attempted to follow the pattern of a traditional weekly episodic show, but it became clear this would not work for Deep Space Nine. Over the run of the series, viewers saw the show morph into one that told grand story arcs over the course of several episodes. To this day fans talk about; the return to the Mirror Universe, battles with the Maquis; and other acclaimed story arcs. The ambitious nature of this storytelling style hit its peak with the Dominion War. This multi-season arc served as the culmination everything this series had been building on during its seven season run. In true Trek fashion, DS9 did not shy away from topical issues like: war, religion, civil unrest, colonialism, terrorism, and racism.
Being so drastically different from either of the preceding Star Trek shows kept it from ever being a true ratings or cultural juggernaut like they were, but DS9 drew a passionate cult following. In a recent interview, Rene Auberjonois, who played Odo, knew they were the forgotten third child of the franchise and this mentality constantly fueled them to be the best at what they were doing. In the years which followed, the fandom for the series has only grown, as the style of television it pioneered is now commonplace. Whether it is Battlestar Galactica (from DS9 alumni Ronald Moore) Game of Thrones or the Walking Dead; genre shows which are darker and edgier, featuring morally complex characters meet with great audience and critical success. Rightly so, many have pointed out that Deep Space Nine was simply several years ahead of its time. Now Star Trek Deep Space Nine has hit its 25th anniversary it seems more relevant that ever, and the show still holds up much better than some of the other entries in the franchise. While it never hit the same success as Next Generation, it was a major element in solidifying Gene Rodenberry’s brainchild as a dominate force on television during this era. Benjamin Sisko and the rest of the crew never boldly went far, but still managed to take viewers on many adventures.