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Series / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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The main personnel of Deep Space Nine.note 

"Think of it: Five years ago, no one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine. And now all our hopes rest here."
Chancellor Gowron

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the second of the "next generation" of Star Trek shows, airing after The Next Generation for two years, then alternating with UPN's Voyager for the remaining five years. The show was aired from 1993 to 1999, and like TNG, was offered through First-Run Syndication as opposed to any exclusive television network. Set on an orbital space station, DS9 traded the Wagon Train to the Stars premise for "Fort Apache in Space". Ira Behr, the showrunner, cited The Rifleman as another influence (particularly the father-son dynamic).

When we last left Next Gen, the remote world of Bajor had just booted out its occupiers the Cardassian Empire through a war of attrition and a fair amount of terrorism. With the planet and its people battling the aftermath of several decades of exploitation and spiralling into disorder, Starfleet sends a detachment of officers led by Commander Benjamin Sisko as a diplomatic liaison to provide aid and help Bajor rebuild; they take up residence at formerly Cardassian space station Terok Nor, rechristened Deep Space 9, as a makeshift Starfleet outpost. In the pilot, a one-of-a-kind stable wormhole leading to an uncharted corner of the galaxy is discovered. Instantly, Bajor is transformed from a rustic backwater into the most valuable piece of real estate in the Alpha Quadrant, and DS9 is assigned to monitor the wormhole's traffic. What's more, the appearance of the wormhole is seen by the Bajorans as fulfilling a religious prophecy and Sisko is declared to be "The Emissary", adding further complications to his duty of mediating relations between Bajor and the Federation. The appearance of the wormhole also catches the attention of the Dominion, a far less cuddly counterpart to the United Federation of Planets, and the tensions between the two governments shape much of the show.

DS9 changed the franchise's approach to Worldbuilding, since the fixed location and proximity to one particular planet allowed the show to delve more deeply into the political landscape of the Star Trek universe, fleshing in details and nuance. If you thought of the Enterprise-D (and, later, Voyager) as out there exploring the frontiers and sketching the outlines of the known galaxy, then this show was coloring in the drawing that had already been made.

At the time, Star Trek tended towards a The Main Characters Do Everything and Monster of the Week approach, with the result that the number of characters who managed to appear in every season of a show, despite not being in the main cast of that show, was very small: four in the three seasons of The Original Series (at least one of whom never spoke a word), and then a nameless (at first) TNG speaking part who went on to operate the transporters. DS9 added the next seven such Fake Guest Stars: Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), Max Grodenchik (Rom) and Andrew Robinson (Garak) had their characters introduced within the first two episodes and held prominent roles all the way up to the series finale. Relatedly, this is also where that nameless speaking part — Miles O'Brien, played by Colm Meaney — became an Ascended Extra, joining the opening credits of this show and managing to get his wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) and daughter Molly (Hana Hatae) into all seven seasons. (O'Brien appeared in two episodes of TNG Season 6 prior to transferring to Sisko's command, and returned for the Season 7 Series Finale, making him one of the only characters in the history of television to appear in every season of two shows.) The last major recurring character was Morn, the never-heard-but-always-talking extra who hung around the bar; he appeared in more episodes than actual opening-credits star Cirroc Lofton, and even had an episode revolve around him... despite the fact that he never once had a line.

Another part of the Star Trek formula left behind was the sense of actions without consequence. Part of that was due to former TNG writers (namely Ira Behr and Ronald D. Moore) rebelling against Gene Roddenberry's spotless, optimistic future: at the beginning of the story nobody on the station or on Bajor particularly got along with each other; and, unlike the ship-based series that had come before, the crew couldn't simply jump to warp at the end of the episode and leave the Problem of the Week behind to sort itself out. Rather than simply being standard Planets of Hats, the Bajorans, Cardassians and even TNG's failed recurring villains the Ferengi were thoroughly developed, with their societies, politics, conflicting factions and beliefs becoming crucial aspects of the narrative. The show employed Myth Arcs more extensively than other Treks, and by shifting the focus away from Starfleet's bold explorers to DS9's overworked jarheads, living and interacting on a daily basis with people who at first regarded them with varying levels of suspicion, resentment and contempt, the writers were able to scrutinize the Federation as it appears to outsiders: a toothless alliance which still has problems with bureaucracy and some skeletons in its closet. Though the show still comes across as optimistic about the future of humanity, it asks several questions about the Federation's place in the galaxy and the capacity for humans to accomplish great things — even if those great things become I Did What I Had to Do.

Deep Space Nine is very frequently compared to Babylon 5, the other 90's cult Space Opera show set on a space station incorporating matters of faith, interstellar war, and Deconstructing the future. (Indeed, J. Michael Straczynski has implied that Paramount effectively stole a treatment he pitched to them and stuck a "Star Trek" brand on it.) Both shows are were ahead of their time: their strong focus on Character Arcs, Gray-and-Grey Morality and Story Arcs feel much more normal to audiences that have since seen shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad turn those tropes into the holy grails of Peak TV. Today, they're Better on DVD; when they aired, both shows struggled: B5 had to be Uncanceled at one point, and DS9 is the Love It or Hate It Oddball in the Series of Star Trek as a whole.

The show originally aired in syndication but has gone on to be shown in reruns and on numerous streaming services.

In 2017, Ira Behr and Adam Nimoy announced they were crowdfunding a documentary about the series, What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which was released in June of 2019. In addition to bringing back most of the major players (including Aron Eisenberg and René Auberjonois before their untimely deaths), the film examined DS9's cultural impact, particularly its post-wrap rise in popularity in syndication and streaming, and featured Behr getting the old writers' room together to plot a "what if" season 8 pilot.

Related works in the Star Trek Expanded Universe include the Terok Nor trilogy, a sub-series of Star Trek: The Lost Era which chronicles the Occupation of Bajor and features many of the Bajoran and Cardassian characters, and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch continuation series; Star Trek Online features DS9 as a player hub, with many of the characters from the show (voiced by their original actors) returning for the Victory is Life expansion.

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

Alternative Title(s): Deep Space Nine


Never Tell the Same Lie Twice

Dr. Bashir tells Garak the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," telling him that the moral of the story is that if you keep lying eventually nobody will believe you even when you're telling the truth. Garak ask if he's really sure if that's the lesson and Dr. Bashir asks what else it could possibly be. "That you should never tell the same lie twice," Garak tells him and walks off, leaving him shaking his head.

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5 (22 votes)

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Main / AlternateAesopInterpretation

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