Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #12 - Star Trek Deep Space Nine


This is the best Star Trek series.

Hands down.

And yet, I think that it is one of the most undervalued and under-appreciated.  It came after the more popular Star Trek The Next Generation and before the highly hyped Star Trek Voyager.

But DS9 was different than all the other Treks.  They were not about exploring new worlds but in preserving the world they had.  Slowly over the course of the series, the show became a show about war.  And that high-stakes drama made it stand apart from all the other shows.  It was amazing to watch the evolution of characters that you did not get a chance to see on the original series or on TNG.  The complicated alliances and betrayals brought the series to fantastically frustrating emotional complexity.

Like other Treks there are a bevy of strange and exotic characters, the best of which is Constable Odo, who is to my mind the most complicated and tragic Star Trek character of all time.  Back this up with some fantastic performances and you have the makings of a science fiction that looks at the darker side of violence and human nature, but with that same ultimate Trek optimism about human life.

This was the episode when I realized that DS9 was not a TNG clone.  In this episode the perennial omnipotent villain Q shows up to mess with the crew of the space station.  As before, he transports the characters to exotic fantasy locales and taunts them.  And then came the moment when Commander Sisco (Avery Brooks) punches Q in the face.  When told that Picard would never hit him, Sisco's response is perfect: "I'm not Captain Picard."  And it was at that moment that I realized that this show was more violent, more dangerous than I had anticipated and that the old rules didn't really apply.

"Trials and Tribbilations"
I know that there is a lot of nostalgia for this particular story from the original series.  And there were a few clever easter eggs spread throughout.  But the story felt like a weird stretch by the producers to connect to older fans as a way to increase the fan base.  It felt very out of place and out of character for the show.

"Move Along Home"
It is unfortunate that the worst episode of the series happens so early.  I can imagine a number of fans being turned off at this point.  Thankfully it occurred after the TV Threshold episode.  The problem with this story in which Quark enters into a game where the crew are pawns, is that it is a story without purpose or consequence.  It forces the crew into strange and awkward actions (I do not need to see Sisko singing and playing hopscotch).  And at the end of it all, the whole experience feels pointless.

"Homefront" and "Paradise Lost"
Here you can see the seeds of paranoia that will later play out in series producer's later project Battlestar Galactica.  In this episode, the Changelings have infiltrated Earth and the entire planet is riddled with fear.  There is a wonderfully tense seen where Sisko even suspects his own father.  The show is a good balanced mediation of freedom vs. safety.  But the best part of the episode is where a Changeling imitating O'Brien speaks to Sisko and asks him how many Changelings he thinks there are on the entire planet causing all of this chaos.  He says to Sisko, "What if I were to tell you there were only four?"  The horror of what this statement implies is terrible and profound.  And from this point on, the dire stakes of the entire Star Trek universe is placed in a desperate perspective.


This show deserves a revisit from fans of science fiction and Star Trek in particular.  You will find some true TV treasures here.


  1. This is certainly the best Star Trek series I've seen.

    The threshold for me was "The Adversary"; it was the first episode that had me glued to the screen. Plus, it completely changed the direction of the series.

    As for jumping the shark...well, there were plenty of those types of episodes mixed in with the really good ones, but the dumbest decision to me was what they did with Dukat in the last season. I mean, when you think about it, he basically joined a science fiction Satanism, but I found that the way it was executed diminished the warmonger that he was up to that point.

    The worst episode for me...I could count most of the Ferengi-centric episodes in this category (though a couple of exceptions are in my top ten favorites), but I gotta pick "Meridian", where Dax fell in love with that guy who could only appear every sixty years or whatever. The premise was stupid, and Quark reached yet another low blow by trying to make a pornographic hologram of Kira (though the punchline to that subplot was admittedly pretty funny).

    The best episode for me...I might have tie between "The Begotten", which was the most touching, "Sacrifice of Angels" which was the most exciting. Granted, I have yet to rewatch these episodes since I first saw them, so I'm basing my opinion off of what I experienced two years ago.

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