I’ve recently finished watching Deep Space Nine. The last time I left off in my irregular series of reviews was season three, so I’m picking up again with the season four opener, Way of the Warrior.
This is the point where Worf joins the cast. I’ve got to say this episode doesn’t feel like Star Trek with violence ultimately winning the day. The spaceship and hand-to-hand battles felt more like a Star Wars thing. Sisko not checking for survivors after a space battle because it might give away their position was particularly callous. I did like Garak saying that while the Klingons beat him up, he got in a couple of cutting remarks sure to cause emotional damage for years to come. Despite its reputation for being dark, Deep Space Nine is actually the funniest Trek series to come out before Lower Decks.
There’s a lot of stand out episodes in season four. I’ve got to admit I didn’t much care for The Visitor when it originally aired, but upon rewatching it, it’s hard to imagine a more touching unstuck-in-time story. Rejoined featured one of the first same-sex kisses on TV way back in 1995 and Our Man Bashir was a fun James Bond parody.
Homefront/Paradise Lost is a good two-part episode about paranoia run rampant on Earth and a good criticism of McCarthyism. They see enemies everywhere, but don’t catch a single one. Since changelings can beat the blood test, it does nothing to improve security. Like the TSA, it’s an inconvenience that makes you think you’re secure without actually making you secure.
Rules of Engagement is a good courtroom drama that breaks the fourth wall. I loved the Klingon lawyer.
Season four also introduces another great character in the form of Weyoun. It’s interesting that both Vorta and Jem Hadar consider changelings gods and the Bajorans consider the wormhole aliens to be gods. Amongst all Star Trek series past and present, Deep Space Nine is the only one not afraid to delve into religion in a big way.
I feel like each season gets better than the one before and this continues into season five. When redshirts die in The Ship, Sisko mourns them in a way Star Trek typically doesn’t, mentioning something unique about each one.
In …Nor the Battle to the Strong, Jake thinks going to the battle lines will be exciting, but discovers he’s a coward. Bashir tells Jake there’s many ways to test your character that don’t involve death and destruction. The episode debunks the myth that battle is where you find out who you truly are. Parents never stop worrying about their children no matter how old you get. As Sisko says, it takes courage to admit cowardice, and even more courage to admit it to others. It’s braver than pretending to be brave.
I like that the aliens have different senses than humans. For example, Quark has better hearing. Trek hasn’t really done this in previous series.
The Darkness and The Light is pretty cool. An episode in which a pregnant Kira tries to stop someone from killing the former members of her resistance cell using high-tech spy gadgets. Another episode that stood out for me is The Begotten in which Odo raises a baby changeling with the help of the man who raised him. The episode is a metaphor for children understanding why their parents hurt them and an examination of fear-based parenting vs nurturing parenting.
Season six opens with a multi-part episode, something quite rare for TV of the time. The Jem Hadar do a better job of keeping their concept of honor consistent than the Klingons do. Rocks and Shoals is a good war episode, showing us that it’s good to have morals, but at a certain point they can stand in the way of survival. Does make you ask why the federation isn’t using the stun setting on their phasers anymore, though.
Worf’s bachelor party in You are Cordially Invited… consisted of five men of color and only one white man. Deep Space Nine was certainly much more racially diverse than other shows of its era, although I never bought the Worf-Jadzia relationship.
Far Beyond the Stars portrays 1950s sci-fi magazines as being more racist and sexist than they actually were. Many women of the 1950s wrote sci-fi using their full names rather than initials or pseudonyms. It’s one of the best episodes of Trek, though.
Honor Among Thieves is a great episode in which O’Brien goes undercover and gets too close to a mob boss. In In the Pale Moonlight, Sisko uses deception, bribery, and lets Garak murder to get the Romulans to join the Dominion War. He feels bad about it, but would do it again. Perhaps the darkest episode of Trek to date.
I like that instead of the typical white savior narrative, the overarching story of Deep Space Nine is about a black man saving the more primitive largely white culture of Bajor.
Deep Space Nine also focused more on relationships than other Trek shows. Miles, Worf, Sisko, Rom, and Odo are all part of a couple towards the end of season six with only Quark and Bashir remaining single. It’s a bit old-fashioned that men have to pursue women, though. Why couldn’t Kira ask Odo out or Lita ask Rom out? Instead they have to wait for the man to get up the courage to ask them.
Take Me Out to the Holosuite was another standout. It’s nice to have a holodeck episode in which it doesn’t malfunction. Chimera is a great episode about prejudice and love. Odo doesn’t let others see who he really is and pretends to be like them. A metaphor for someone passing as a member of the dominant culture. The humans are OK with Odo being different as long as he doesn’t remind them he’s different by being himself.
The final ten episodes of the series are all one continuous story, which was rare to see in broadcast TV. Damar, who started out as a henchman, becomes a fascinating character in his own right.
Overall, I think Deep Space Nine is the best Trek series. It’s simultaneously the most serious and most funny series. It’s the most racially diverse, and featured one of TV’s first same-sex kisses. It delved into religious issues, racial issues, and taboo sexuality. It has better, more fleshed-out characters who don’t always get along with each other. It’s more about families and relationships and had a continuing storyline at a time when this wasn’t normal. It does have its problems, especially in the way some of the men treat women. So while it was progressive in some ways, it was certainly a product of its time in others. I’m glad I rewatched it, though.