Right now my brother is halfway around the world serving his country.
Right now I am sitting comfortably in my house in sunny San Diego.
He is a better man than I, it’s true.
But there’s one thing we have in common right now. We are both rewatching that great soap opera in space, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
DS9 is the red headed step-child of the Star Trek universe. A little too dark, a little too stationary, a little too outside the norm compared to the other series. It started off with Commander Sisko showing obvious disdain for Captain Picard, one of the most beloved characters in the entire franchise and it continued to take the road less traveled. You either loved it or you hated it. I remember when the The Next Generation cast spoke of Nemesis being their last movie there was talk that Sisko’s batch of oddballs would be skipped over in favor of the Starfleet-full Voyager crew. Obviously neither was selected and JJ Abrams took the franchise in a completely different direction. But the message was clear, you’ve had your fun now don’t expect anything more.
In my opinion DS9 was the most poetic of the series. It wasn’t clean and bright. Instead of just adventure it had intrigue. Instead of a story of the week it had story arcs that spanned all seven years. It marked the first killing of a major character since Tasha Yar back in the first season of TNG.
It brought imperfection to a previously perfect universe.
I loved it for that.
Here are 5 more reasons why I heart DS9:
1. The Women
Y’all know I love strong women and Star Trek is full of them. In Star Trek women are equal to men. Period. It’s what our mama’s fought for. But one strong woman stands in a class all her own and that’s Colonel Kira Nerys. A battle-hardened freedom fighter, Kira struggled with her new role as part of the status quo, often picking battles with her superiors and searching for a new cause to believe in. If she lost a fight it wasn’t for lack of trying. Fiercely stubborn, she could quickly change gears and be extremely kind.
And on the other end of the spectrum you have the Dabo girls. Submissive, obedient, scantily clad but strong in their own way as they fought to find a place for themselves in the universe. Leeta, for example, started off as a Dabo girl, formed a labor union, joined the resistance against the Dominion and ended up the wife of the Grand Nagus.
However, the honor of my favorite female Star Trek character ever goes to Jadzia Dax. I’m pretty sure that we would be BFF’s if she was a real person. I was way into RPGing in High School and College and I was almost always a Trill joined with the Dax symbiont….usually Tra’cia Dax. I know, super original, right? What can I say? I have no excuse other than the fact that I love Jadzia so much. A friend and I used to promise each other that we’d name our daughters Jadzia. And while I don’t see that happening if and when I ever have a kid, I still totally love that name. I named my pet rats Jadzia Maria Dax and Ezri Ann Dax. Don’t ask me where the middle names came from; I totally pulled them out of my butt. I even painstakingly drew Trill spots down each side of my face when I wore my TNG uniform once. I cried the ugly cry when Jadzia died. Not when the possessed Gul Dukat went all Pah-wraith on her, but when she and Worf said their goodbyes. Ugh.
2. The Religion
The other four series dabbled in alien religions occasionally, namely Klingon rituals, but DS9 is the only series to have it be a major plot point. Some would probably argue that this made Gene Roddenberry turn over in his grave. Gene was famously agnostic and had a strict no-religion rule that was stretched occasionally but rarely broken. DS9 portrayed religion as a complicated and tenuous thing. It wasn’t always good, it wasn’t always bad. Politics got in the way. But even Sisko accepted it in the end. The powers that be got away with this because it was the Bajorans who were religious, not the Starfleet officers. Deep Space Nine itself acted as a gateway to the celestial temple and was therefore the location of many heated debates. Bajoran piety affected everyone on board, especially Quark. He not only lost a crapload of income during the Time of Cleansing, but got bitch slapped by a brand spankin’ new union when he tried to cut his employee’s wages. Because religion is such a hot topic in the world today, what with wars being fought and elections being influenced by them, it’s easy to see why Star Trek would want to discuss religion. Star Trek has always taken current events and explored them in such a way that it becomes clear when we’re getting it right and when we’re frakking it up. It took guts for the producers of DS9 to make it such a large part of the show and for that I applaud them.
3. The War
I’ve never been in a war. I don’t know what it’s like to fight for a cause or to fight merely for survival. I really hope that I never have to. I come from a military family and I hear the stories they are willing to share. I have stood by proudly and watched as my Dad retired and my brother graduated from boot camp. I’ve cried when they left and cried when they returned half a year later. I’ve never been in a war myself but I can tell you that it is not easy to send someone you love to one. Naturally, anything with a war in it has a bit of an impact on me.
War in space can seem remote when you’re watching it on TV or in a movie. You watch as spaceships get destroyed but you don’t see much about the people inside them getting hurt. Deep Space Nine took the battle to the ground. We didn’t just see the starships battling it out with phasers and photon torpedoes, we saw the soldiers in the trenches.
“The Siege of AR-558” is one of the greatest hours of television ever produced. I will freely admit that I cried like a baby the first time I saw it and every time I’ve seen it since. It showed war for the messy, confusing, exhausting thing that it is. It didn’t sugar coat it and it didn’t try to make it seem glamorous. Our loved ones fight for us so that we won’t have to think about these things but it’s something that people need to be reminded of every once in a while lest we forget to be grateful for their sacrifice.
4. The Money
In general Star Trek avoids the topic of money like the plague. They acknowledge its existence only long enough to balk at it and proclaim that they have no use for it, that the betterment of mankind is payment enough for their service. Don’t get me wrong, I love that. The idea of a world without greed is especially appealing in these perilous economic times. But there’s something very amusing about watching Quark scheme and plot for gold-pressed latinum. Or watching Jadzia Dax throw it down as she spanks all the Ferengi guys at tongo. Or having to pay to use the holodecks instead of just walking in, never knowing what dirty program had been played just a few minutes before.
As much as I would like for it to be true, I just can’t imagine a life without some kind of currency. They never satisfactorily explain how normal people within the Federation purchase clothing or food without money. I would argue that they simply replicate everything but I’ve seen too many shops and markets and bottles of Chateau Picard wine for that to be the case. So how does that work? Someone walks in and they just give him bottles of wine? Why doesn’t everyone have huge swaths of land to do with as they please? I know that World War III wiped out much of the population but it’s recovered enough that there’s not enough land on Earth for everyone to do whatever they want with it. I seem to remember that the DS9 crew gets some kind of allowance so that they can partake in Quark’s Bar and the holodeck for recreation, etc. etc. But if the Federation doesn’t have money, where are they getting the funds for the allowance? I’ve heard the term “credits” thrown around a few times but then a producer will say that credits don’t exist in Star Trek. I finally looked it up here but it only confirmed my suspicion that no one really knows.
At any rate, the presence of gold-pressed latinum on the station has made for some very amusing episodes and I’m glad that it’s there.
5. The End
I’m one of those people who likes things to be all wrapped up. I don’t like loose ends. Maybe it’s the list maker perfectionista in me. As much as I love Star Trek and The Next Generation, they didn’t have proper conclusions imho. Star Trek was cancelled before they could write one (although it was wrapped up nicely in the movies) and TNG’s left me unsatisfied (both on TV and in the movies). DS9 has a real, honest to God ending. Yes, it left on a cliff hanger with Sisko but it gave you the feeling that this was truly the end, the last time you were ever going to see your friends together in one place, that there would never be a moment like this again so you’d better savor it. I wept like a baby during that final episode.
In short, I love DS9 for all the ways in which it ISN’T like Star Trek. Which is kind of weird because I really REALLY love Star Trek.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
– Quark, quoting Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, last spoken line of the series