Hey! Hallie here!
I’ve only just started mentioning Star Trek on this blog and I’m a bit sad about that. It’s one of the best geeky franchises ever created. Not only has the series massively impacted Sci-Fi as an entire genre, but its focus on deep societal and humanitarian issues make it immensely important to media in general. There’s so much I love about Star Trek, so why hasn’t it come up very often on this blog? The honest answer would be that I actually haven’t been a fan of Star Trek for very long. My parents both liked ‘The Next Generation’ series, so I did grow up watching the odd episode now and then, but it wasn’t something we often watched in my house. When I started college I watched a full season of ‘The Next Generation’, but between my busy schedule and some of the truly awful episodes in the first season, I decided to put Star Trek down for a while. (Aside from the J.J. Abrams movies which are a completely different beast.) Now I’m back to the franchise and more committed than ever to exploring the Star Trek content available to me. But it wasn’t ‘The Next Generation’, or even ‘The Original Series’ that sold me on Star Trek. It was their darker, crazier cousin, ‘Deep Space Nine’. So here’s a huge appreciation post on why this series in particular made me fall in love with Star Trek.
Every Star Trek series needs a good captain to succeed. The captain essentially takes the role of the main character. While Star Trek is an ensemble show, and fans will most certainly find favorite characters among the rest of the cast, the captain is tasked with anchoring in the audience for the majority of the episodes. This means that they need to be both relatable and respectable. Sisko did all of that for me from his first appearance. When I had attempted to watch ‘The Next Generation’ and ‘The Original Series’ for the first time, I hadn’t been able to relate to either Picard or Kirk very well. Picard was somewhat stiff and already so knowledgable at the beginning of the series that I felt it hard to relate to him. Kirk was a bit of a pompous jerk and William Shatner’s acting didn’t help matters much. (If you like William Shatner, I apologize for the amount of times I’m likely going to trash him on this blog. To put it simply, I don’t like him much as an actor or as a person.) Sisko started out his series with a grudge against Picard for something that Picard really wasn’t responsible for and a somewhat bad attitude over his assignment at Deep Space Nine. I clicked with him immediately. Sisko was introduced with relatable qualities. Namely, flaws and emotional trauma. Not only did these things make me feel for him, but I respected him too. Despite his constant struggle with the recent death of his wife, he was completely civil and competent in completing his job. He also spent his entire first two-parter trying to explain the existence of humans to beings we’d later come to know as “The Prophets” in order to create a mutual understanding between them and humans. Not only was this endeavor noble, but he even took some time to explain the emotional moments of his past to them, both baring his soul to the audience and demonstrating incredible grace despite all of his flaws. And Sisko continued to do those things throughout all of ‘Deep Space Nine’. He didn’t always make the best decisions. But he was a good man with a good heart. That alone made Benjamin Sisko great.
We can talk about all kinds of representation on this show. Benjamin Sisko was the first Black captain Star Trek had ever had. The show succeeded at not frequently patting themselves on the back for this move while also acknowledging the difficulties faced by the Black community with the character. Star Trek is supposed to show an idealistic future society where racism, sexism, and anything of that kind has been done away with long ago. But Sisko did have a few episodes where he was forced to acknowledge the hardships the Black community face, most often when the plot called for him to interact with past timelines. And Avery Brooks, the actor who played Sisko, had a lot of say in the exploration of these themes. The show did an excellent job of keeping this idealistic society the main focus while still holding up a mirror to the society of today. Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax were the first women in Star Trek who had full character arcs that weren’t riddled with stereotypes. In ‘The Original Series’ women were treated pretty poorly, as most women were in shows at that time, and in ‘The Next Generation’ even Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden, the actresses who played Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher, have expressed how lacking the writing for their characters were.
This wasn’t present at all with the two women leading ‘Deep Space Nine’. Kira Nerys was the first female main character in Star Trek to take the position of second in command. She also wasn’t to be messed with. She would throw a punch if someone insulted her, talk about her time as a rebellion leader during the war her planet endured, and loudly speak out for her people and her religion. Jadzia Dax also more than held her own. With multiple lifetimes of experience in her head due to the Dax symbiont, she was more intelligent than most of her peers, as well as hilariously sarcastic and tough enough to stand her ground against any Klingon she encountered. Jadzia also added more representation by both having a major female love interest in one of her episodes and, as a result of being a man in her past lifetime, frequently reintroducing her name and pronouns to old friends. This aspect of her character struck a chord with many queer individuals who had experienced similar situations. And on top of all that, while the series itself didn’t go through with this, we did get a good amount of cast and crew supporting a queer relationship between the characters of Julian Bashir and Elim Garak. Star Trek has always been known for trying to represent as many types of people as it can, but this series really did take it to an entirely new level.
Star Trek has always done a really good job of exploring the morality of its characters. While the characters we follow in every series are indisputably the good guys, Star Trek still finds a way to challenge their values and morals through complicated situations. In ‘Deep Space Nine’, the complicated situation is an ongoing war that encompasses multiple seasons. Nothing is simple in war, and the writers make a point of that in every episode. Sisko, our flawed hero, constantly has to face the decision between sticking to his morals or making the call that he knows will save more lives. Garak, a former spy guilty of war crimes, frequently demonstrates that he wants to redeem himself while still falling into old habits. Worf must balance his loyalty to his people with his loyalty to Star Fleet in nearly every episode where the war is discussed. Kira, especially towards the end of the last season, is tasked with putting aside her prejudices against the people who invaded her home world in order to ensure victory. Even Julian Bashir, who is established as being one of the most decent men in all of Deep Space Nine, finds himself making decisions that aren’t very becoming of a doctor in order to gain vital information. These storylines not only explore human morality and the things we hold important in dire situations, but also the beliefs and flaws of the characters. The character building in this series is genuinely almost unmatched.
These are only a handful of things I love about ‘Deep Space Nine’. As a viewer who admittedly focuses on characters more than anything else in the media I consume, I stuck to mostly the aspects of the show that involve the characters. But there’s so much more I love about this show. The location, a space station next to two planets that don’t get along, lends itself to some excellent world building. The show discusses topics that Star Trek didn’t venture far into before, such as religion and faith. Going back to the characters, the show develops character relationships with a strength that its predecessors lacked. I absolutely recommend this show. But I’m not done with my watch through of Star Trek content. While ‘Deep Space Nine’ might be my favorite piece of Star Trek media, there’s plenty I’ll address in later posts!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!