Thursday, April 30, 2015

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

(Warning: Spoilers will abound. I'm trying to review a whole series here. It's not going to work if I don't. If you're one of the three people on the planet who a.) want to see this series unspoiled and b.) haven't done so yet it might be a good idea to find something else to do.)

Yes, I know that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a seven season series and that trying to cover all of it in one blog post is freaking nuts. Nobody ever said I was sane. That much being said, I just finished watching the series last week (and I haven't finished reading Trickster Noir yet) so I thought I'd share my thoughts. And what the hay? I'm declaring this a case of authorial fiat. As the author of the blog I decided I could do this.

ST:DS9 has always been treated as the unwanted stepchild of the Trek family and, in my humble opinion, for good reason. DS9 was a damn fine show. First and foremost it was a form of entertainment, but it went hard against social issues and didn't flinch. I may not always have agreed with the way a given problem was portrayed, but that was up to the producers of the show, with some help from the actors and directors. The cast was awesome, the plot-lines epic and the special effects amazing for a TV show. The heroes were heroes. The villains were scum. Wars were waged. Lives were lost. For only the second time in the history of Trek we lost one of our main characters. (Nooo!!! Bring back Jadzia!) With all of that being said, it still didn't fit with the rest of the series.

Gene Roddenberry specifically stated that he wanted his show to be optimistic in nature. There is a need for villains in this type of a show, and he recognized that, but he wanted the main focus to be on his characters and their struggles. The Klingons, for example, showed up more often than intended. They were supposed to be used in one episode of ST:TOS and then forgotten. The Klingons show up throughout the series as do the Romulans, the Jem'Hadar, etc. The other Trek series always managed to  largely avoid the questions of religion and spirituality. DS9 featured Ben Sisko, the Emissary of the Prophets of Bajor. Overall though, this is the series that brought a true war to the forefront of the Star Trek universe. This was the show with a setting that was truly dystopic, with an abused planet full of damaged people front and center, the title space station that always broke down and corruption everywhere. No other Trek series could have followed the doings of Quark, the corrupt Ferengi businessman, and Security Officer Odo quite so closely.  No other Trek show featured an enemy so insidious that they could look you in the face and you wouldn't know it was them. No other Captain could have taken the actions Sisko did in "In the Pale Moonlight" and dealt with it as well. This series stepped outside of everything that was Trek and it still carried the title. Yes, I loved it. No, it wasn't Trek the way I've always thought of it.

Any Trek fan with a function brain cell and five minutes to think about their hobby knows that Star Trek has always been about examining social issues. Roddenberry said it himself. This show was no exception and it managed to take on a lot of themes that the other Treks didn't. DS9 featured the Dominion War and the Marquis. It had the Bajoran Resistance and the Federation/Klingon War. This was a show that could consider questions about what was appropriate in war. This was a show that examined what it would take to stop a nuclear war (rephrased as a renegade Federation officer who used biogenic weapons) and whether or not lying was acceptable in diplomacy. Casualty reports became a regular part of the show in the sixth and seventh seasons. The cost was counted. The fight raged added up to an epic background. The characters took center stage and rightfully so. Good stories are, after all, about people. The technology still did

As always, technology played its role. A new class of weapon was deployed. The USS Defiant debuted a new type of starship armor. Self-replicating mines were sewn. Holosuites were featured. All of its job of providing the hook that the rest of the series hung on.

From beginning to end, the series kept up the pace. DS9 was the first Trek to feature multiple story arcs throughout individual seasons. The multiple appearances of the evil slimeball Gul Dukat never disappointed as he was always an equal opponent. There was a rebellion from within the Federation. A ship full of cadets took on the Dominion solo. Kai Winn was a member of the not-so-loyal opposition and an effective balance to Sisko's religious authority as the Emissary.

In any series this long, there are going to be disappointments but they were far outweighed by the good points. Other wrinkles added fun for some while being less entertaining for others. The Ferengi come to mind in the respect. Overall though, it doesn't get much better.

I am not going to try to go over all of the characters in seven series of DS9. I'll list a few favorites though:

Odo, the security officer. A shapeshifting police officer who would have been ruthless if Sisko had left him. He lived by a code though and he seldom deviated from it.

Major Kira Nerys was the second in command of the station, a highly religious individual and a hardcore asskicker.

Jadzia Dax was the science officer and  a bit quirky, being a Trill with multiple lifetimes worth of memories. She was one of Sisko's best friends and Worf's wife. She died a warrior's death at the hand of Gul Dukat.

Quark: The Ferengi bartender. A no-holds-barred capitalist. He develops a heart by the end of the series, but he never forgot the Rules of Acquisition.

I could go on but I won't. It's been a long day already. Suffice it to say that for anyone SF fan with a philosophical and/or spiritual side this is a must see. DS9 has caught some crap from Trek fans as well as fans of Babylon 5. It doesn't deserve any. Watch this series. It will entertain you. It will make you think. It will make you want more. And then, when it's over, it will leave you satisfied even if you feel a bit melancholy. It's worth your time.

Bottom Line: 4.9 out of 5 Wormholes

Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Paramount, 2004

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