To me, each of the Star Trek series’ have something special about them. TOS was groundbreaking, it’s characters quintessential. TNG brought a modernity and maturity to the universe and its ethical principles. Voyager tried something different and interesting, and brought us some of the strongest characters. I remembered DS9 for its longer, sweeping plot arc and character development, but it wasn’t until my most recent marathon that I really appreciated the depth of it.
It takes several seasons for the basics to be established or perhaps for the writers to find their direction, and in doing so DS9 moves from a standard self-contained episodic format to seasonal plot development. The discovery of the wormhole in the first episode leads inexorably to the discovery of the controlling force within Gamma quadrant (the Dominion) and the Founders as their sinister leaders, through to conflict and eventual full scale war between these two huge, powerful and distant parts of the galaxy.
The scale is certainly epic. However, what really impressed me most on a rewatch was the character development. In no other Star Trek series is there such full exploration and evolution in people and their motivations. There are some occasional exceptions, Seven of Nine, Spock, perhaps Picard – but on DS9 the entire crew matures and changes over the course of seven seasons.
Case in point – Miles O’Brien barely left the transporter room in TNG, but on DS9 he became a complex family man. Continually conflicted between his duties as a husband and federation chief (although, truthfully, not very conflicted), Miles developed strongly as a character, and as a friend.
Julian Bashir starts out year one as a bright, ambitious, funny and arrogant doctor – eager to be a hero at the front line. By seasons six and seven he is older, drawn and exhausted. Still retaining his core of enthusiasm and determination, but with his genetically engineered background exposed and his arrogance tested repeatedly, he is a changed man.
Kira, so recently part of the resistance of the occupation of Bajor and staunchly opposed to Federation presence on DS9, eventually became a loyal supporter of Sisko and Star Fleet, while maintaining her strongly religious motivations and deep patriotism. Jadzia and Worf developed a poignant, and heated relationship in the heat of battle. Odo, the changeling, sacrificed so much for the love of a Solid. Jake Sisko grew from a frightened young boy, into a brave and determined writer. And of course Benjamin Sisko, the confident commander of a far flung space station, eventually came to accept his true role as emissary of the prophets.
Garak and Quark demonstrate that DS9 was particularly adept at developing characters that were not at all simple in their motivations, that were at times hard to like (yet so easy to like).
Interestingly, while I did love Dukat and his portrayal by Marc Alaimo, I have to confess that I felt that they overreached his development. From leader of the occupation of Bajor, through to occasional ally, father of a Cardassian / Bajoran little girl, lover of Kira Nerys’ mother, legate of Cardassia, responsible for the alliance with the Dominion to his eventual possession by Pah-wraith (twice no less) – it all seemed a little too much and a little too convenient. But still, he was certainly interesting to watch.
Probably my favourite of all, was a young boy who started out on the station trading self-sealing stem-bolts, playing practical jokes and stealing. Later, he was the first of his species to join Star Fleet, became battle hardened and respected, while still maintaining his true sneaky Ferengi roots in the midst of battle – Lieutenant Junior Grade, Nog.
Seven seasons of DS9 – it was an epic few weeks. Even if you’ve seen it once, then I recommend a full rewatch. How do you feel about DS9?
And now, for me, it’s on to Voyager!