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Space - the final frontier. These are the non-voyages of the Space Station Deep Space Nine. Its continuing mission: to explore no strange new worlds, to seek out the same old life and the same old civilisations, to boldly stay in the same spot every week.
- The reason Deep Space Nine didn't have an introductory speech.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or DS9 for short, was launched at an optimistic time in the world of Star Trek, despite the recent death of the franchise's creator, Gene Roddenberry. The Original Series (TOS) cast had just signed off, literally, in their final film, The Undiscovered Country. The Next Generation (TNG) had just started its sixth season and its ratings were high. Star Trek had become the jewel in Paramount's crown, so it was only natural that they would milk it a little bit.
Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek series that wasn't created by Gene Roddenberry, although fan lore suggests that he did approve its creation before his death. It was radically different from the previous series, and it was about to set the Star Trek franchise on a much darker path than it had ever been down before.
It's important to note that unlike the other Star Treks, Deep Space Nine actually has several on-running storylines, so if this introduction has given you a sudden urge to watch the show, then you had better not read this entry as it contains many spoilers.
Gone are the days of the peaceful exploring of the starship Enterprise (unless you change the channel and watch TNG). Deep Space Nine is set on a space-station at the mouth of a wormhole, an anomaly which acts like a shortcut to the distant Gamma Quadrant. The show over-lapped TNG for its first two years, and their time-lines are identical to one another. Despite this the Enterprise only ever visited the station in the pilot (and once more in TNG, but that wasn't mentioned in DS9).
Deep Space Nine is a Cardassian-built space-station, owned by the Bajorans, and run by Starfleet. The Cardassians had brutally occupied the planet of Bajor for over fifty years, but due to a resistance movement by the native Bajorans, and external pressure by the Federation, the Cardassians recently left the world. The Bajoran provisional government realise that they can't get by on their own, so they ask the Federation to send help. The Federation sends a detachment of Starfleet personnel to the abandoned mining station of Terok Nor in orbit around Bajor, and they re-designate it as Deep Space Nine. Over the course of the pilot they discover the first stable wormhole known to exist, and the station is moved to its mouth to lay claim to it in the name of the Bajorans. As soon as the Cardassians realise that there's a wormhole in a region of space they left just one week ago, they want that region back, but they can't as Starfleet is protecting it, and they won't risk a war with the Federation.
An important aspect of the show is the relationship between the Federation and the Bajorans. The Bajoran government has applied to join the Federation, realising that this would create long-term security for their world. The Federation can't accept the Bajorans until they are deemed ready to join, and it's the job of Commander Benjamin Sisko, who runs Deep Space Nine, to make sure that the Bajorans meet the requirements for membership. This isn't easy as many Bajorans, including his Bajoran first officer Kira Nerys, don't believe that the Federation has any business being on Bajor.
An important part of the show is the Prophets. The Prophets are the Bajorans' gods who live in the wormhole; in fact they're the ones who created it, and the Bajorans believe the wormhole to be the mystical Celestial Temple. The Prophets are non-corporeal beings, which is just a fancy way of saying that they live outside of time. They, in some unspecified way, are connected to Bajor and they try to protect it. Since Sisko is the first person to make contact with them, the Bajorans declare him to be the Emissary to the Prophets, a Bajoran religious icon. His position as the Emissary helps to ease the distrust that Bajorans have for the Federation, but it also forces Sisko to make many tough calls between his position as Emissary, and his role as a Starfleet officer. Every religion has to have bad guys, and for the Bajorans, these bad guys are the Pah-wraiths. They are trapped in the Fire Caves on Bajor, but they one day wish to return to the Celestial Temple and kill the Prophets.
At the end of the second season, an alien civilisation led by shape-shifters called the Dominion reveals itself. They are from the other side of the wormhole, in the Gamma Quadrant, and they don't like the way Federation ships have been going through the wormhole and exploring their space. This leads to a cold war of sorts between them and the races of the Alpha Quadrant, including the Federation. The fact that the Dominion is led by shape-shifters makes things worse, and paranoia spreads throughout the Alpha Quadrant as people fear that important officials may have been replaced by the shape-shifters. Eventually this cold war is ended when full-scale war breaks out at the end of the fifth season, and the final two seasons deal mostly with this war.
DS9 did use the tried and tested stand-alone episode format used by the other Trek series for its first two seasons, but by season three the show started to become more and more serialised. In the other shows, Kirk or Picard would sort a planet's problems in one episode and fly away at impossible speeds, never to meet those aliens again. The fact that DS9 was based on a space-station meant that they didn't have that liberty. Actions in one episode would have repercussions, and they would be explored in later episodes. The final ten episodes of the show are one long serial, and those ten episodes were needed to try and tie up all the loose ends that had built up over the seven years.
As you can see, it's quite a bit more complicated than 'explore strange new worlds'.
DS9 is a much more character-driven show than the other Star Treks, and the characters evolve so much that anybody who watches the first episode and then watches the final episode would have trouble recognising the characters, especially Dax. DS9, due to its stationary nature, also builds up a large number of recurring characters.
Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko (Avery Brooks)
Sisko is the first, and so far only, black leading captain in Star Trek, something that means nothing in the Star Trek universe since such things don't matter there. He is only a commander for the first three seasons, something that was done to differentiate him from Captain Picard, but he is finally promoted to Captain in the final episode of the third season. He was born in New Orleans where his father, Joseph, runs a creole restaurant. Sisko was married to a woman called Jennifer, but she was killed by the Borg at the Battle of Wolf 3591, and Sisko was forced to raise their son, Jake, alone. Initially Sisko doesn't want the assignment to Deep Space Nine, but after his encounter with the Prophets, he decides to stay. Eventually he falls in love with the planet and its people, and makes plans to build a house there. In the final season Sisko learns that his mother isn't his real mother, and that his real mother was a Prophet.
Colonel Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor)
Kira is initially a Major in the Bajoran Militia, but she is promoted to Colonel in the final season. She was a terrorist in the Bajoran underground during the occupation, and as a result she has built up a hatred and distrust of all Cardassians, something she has to learn to get over. At first she opposes Bajor joining the Federation, and she can't stand taking orders from Starfleet officers. Eventually she mellows out and accepts that the Federation aren't an evil conquering force after all. Her belief in the Prophets is one of the major features of her personality. At first she refuses to accept Sisko as the Emissary, but the two slowly begin to grow a trusting friendship.
Lt Commander Worf (Michael Dorn)
Worf was originally the Klingon character from TNG, but he was brought into the DS9 cast at the start of the fourth season in the hope that it would boost sagging ratings. After the destruction of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations, Worf fell into a depression, and considered leaving Starfleet in order for him to return to the Klingon home world. He is temporarily assigned to DS9 to sort out a crisis with the Klingons, and his decision to side with Starfleet over the Klingons leads to him losing his honour in their eyes. Since he can't go home, he decides to stay at DS9 where he becomes the First Officer onboard the USS Defiant.
Lt Commander Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell)
Jadzia is a Trill host, a human-like alien that have spots down the sides of their bodies2. Dax is a Trill symbiont, which is a large worm. These symbionts live for hundreds of years, and spend their lives in the bodies of Trill hosts3. Once the host dies, then the symbiont is put in somebody else's body. The two beings become one, and if separated then the host will die, of course. Jadzia was a somewhat quiet and nerdish girl before becoming the eighth host of the Dax symbiont, but now she's very outgoing. Her previous host was an old man named Curzon, who, coincidentally, was Sisko's mentor, and so Sisko gives her the nickname 'old man'. After being romanced by Dr Bashir and Quark in the first few seasons, she eventually marries Worf in the sixth season. She is killed only a few months later by a demonically possessed Gul Dukat.
Chief Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney)
O'Brien was one of the 'little people' on TNG - the transporter chief, in fact. The character of O'Brien was relocated from the Enterprise to Deep Space Nine so that fans would recognise a familiar face. He's the station's Chief of Operations, which is just a way of calling him the Chief Engineer without calling him the Chief Engineer despite the fact that he's the Chief Engineer. His wife, Keiko, and his daughter, Molly, moved to the station with him, and this causes him domestic problems as Keiko hates living on the station. In season four, Keiko becomes pregnant with another child, but due to an accident Kira is forced to carry and give birth to the baby, a boy called Kirayoshi. O'Brien is the show's everyman. Around once a season the writers would write an episode where he's emotionally tortured in some way, seemingly without realising that they were doing it.
Dr Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig)
Dr Bashir runs the station's infirmary. When the show starts he's only a year out of Starfleet Academy, and he's eager to get to work at this distant outpost. He's rather naive, and he has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. As the series progresses he begins to realise that life on the frontier isn't all it's cracked up to be, and he becomes more cynical, partly due to his regular lunches with the machiavellian Garak. Initially his eagerness annoys many people on the station, especially O'Brien, but the two eventually form what's perhaps the greatest friendship in Star Trek, and the two spend hours every week in the holodeck getting killed by enemy armies. In the fifth season it's revealed that Bashir was genetically engineered as a child and that he's actually a genius.
Odo (Rene Auberjonois)Odo is a shape-shifter who worked as a security officer on Terok Nor during the occupation, but now he heads Bajor's security on the station. At the start he's the only known shape-shifter of his kind, and a large part of his character is his yearning to find his people. When he does, at the start of the third season, he finds out that they're the evil rulers of the Dominion, and so he decides to stay on Deep Space Nine. He has been secretly in love with Kira for a long time, and the two finally get together in the sixth season. He's the outsider of the series, much like Spock in TOS, or Data in TNG.
Lieutenant Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer)
Ezri is the ninth host of the Dax symbiont, and she replaces Jadzia in the final season. Ezri is quieter and more nervous than Jadzia, and she finds it hard to separate her feelings from those of her previous hosts and as a result she and Worf end up having sex while hiding from the Dominion on a jungle planet. Eventually she and Bashir end up getting together just in time for the show to end.
Quark (Armin Shimerman)
Quark is a Ferengi who owns a bar on the station's promenade. Like all Ferengi he's greedy, conniving and misogynistic, but as he's forced to spend more and more time with 'hew-mons' on the station, he begins to become more open-minded. He's mainly used as comic relief on the show, and about twice a year there'll be a Ferengi episode, which are essentially sit-coms used to lighten the show from its usually darker themes. Despite this, Quark does have some of the show's most insightful lines, and his frequent banter with Odo is one of the show's highlights.
Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton)
Jake is Captain Sisko's son. When the show starts he's fourteen years old and acts like any normal teenager. He's not like Wesley from TNG because Jake isn't a super-genius, and he's not a god-like being, he's just the son of one. Jake becomes friends with the Ferengi boy, Nog, and this friendship lasts throughout the show. Jake doesn't join Starfleet; instead he decides to become a writer. During the Dominion war he gets a job with the Federation News Agency as a reporter on the front lines.
Elim Garak (Andrew J Robinson): To sum up Garak in one paragraph, no matter how long it is, is an impossibility. He's a Cardassian and a former member of the Obsidian Order, Cardassia's secret police. He was exiled for reasons that he doesn't divulge (at least not truthfully) and now he's forced to make a living on DS9 as a tailor. He strikes up an unusual friendship with Dr Bashir with whom he often has lunch. He's the master of a witty one-liner, but he can turn sinister at a moment's notice.
Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo): Dukat is the show's main 'bad guy'. He was the Cardassian Prefect of Bajor during the occupation and the former commander of Terok Nor. He believes that he was a benevolent ruler, and doesn't understand why the Bajorans hate him so much. He eventually sells Cardassia out to the Dominion and becomes Cardassia's new leader. He's a complicated figure who eventually goes insane, abdicates, and begins worshipping the Pah-wraiths.
Tora Ziyal (Cyia Batten, Tracey Middendorf, Melanie Smith): Ziyal is Dukat's illegitimate half-Bajoran daughter. He gives up his career to save her life, but when he sells Cardassia out to the Dominion she secretly works against him. She's killed by Damar in season six, and this loss is part of the reason that Dukat goes insane. She was in love with Garak, but he could never figure out why.
Damar (Casey Biggs): Damar was Dukat's right-hand man, and he eventually succeeds Dukat as leader of Cardassia. The way he's treated by Weyoun eventually causes him to revolt against Dominion oppression on Cardassia.
Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs): Weyoun is a Vorta diplomat assigned to advise the Cardassian leaders. He doesn't think much of Cardassians, and his frequent insults towards them causes cracks in their alliance.
Female Changeling (Salome Jens): The Female Changeling 4 is a shape-shifter, like Odo, and was the first of his kind that Odo ever met. She wants him to join the other Changelings in the Great Link, but Odo won't join the Dominion. She got trapped in the Alpha Quadrant during the war, and takes charge of the campaign during its final months.
Rom (Max Grodenchik): Rom is Quark's idiotic brother. Despite being a complete fool, Rom is a genius when it comes to technology, and his idea to deploy self-replicating mines around the wormhole saved the Alpha Quadrant from the Dominion. It just shows what even the littlest minds can do.
Nog (Aron Eisenberg): Nog is Rom's son. At the start he's just a mischievous teenager who's a bad influence on Jake, but he aspires to better himself and joins Starfleet.
Leeta (Chase Masterson): Leeta is a Bajoran dabo5 girl in Quark's bar. She's a bit of a bimbo, and she eventually marries Rom.
Ishka (Andrea Martin, Cecily Adams): Ishka is Quark's feminist mother who lives on Ferenginar.
Zek (Wallace Shawn): Zek is the Ferengi Grand Nagus who makes near-annual visits to see Quark. He's followed everywhere by his silent servant Maihar'du.
Brunt (Jeffrey Combs): Brunt is a member of the Ferengi Commerce Authority (FCA) who hates Quark.
Chancellor Gowron (Robert O'Reilly): Gowron is the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. He's originally from TNG, but he also appeared in many DS9 episodes.
General Martok (J G Hertzler): Martok is a general in the Klingon Fleet, and a good friend of Worf.
Admiral Ross (Barry Jenner): Admiral Ross is a Starfleet Admiral involved with strategy during the Dominion war.
Lt Commander Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall): Eddington is a Starfleet security officer assigned to Deep Space Nine, but he leaves to join the Maquis, a terrorist organisation made up of Federation cizitens fighting to win their land back from the Cardassians.
Kassidy Yates (Penny Johnson): Kassidy is a freighter captain, and is Captain Sisko's girlfriend. They eventually marry in the final season, and by the final episode she's pregnant with their child.
Keiko O'Brien (Rosalind Chao): Keiko is O'Brien's wife. She's a botanist and she also worked as a teacher on the station.
Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim): Bareil is a Vedek who ran for the position of Kai and lost. He is also Kira's lover. He died in season three.
Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher): Winn is the woman who beat Bareil to be Kai. She distrusts the Federation, and she is resentful that a non-Bajoran is the Emissary.
Vic Fontaine (James Darren): Vic Fontaine is a holographic lounge-singer who becomes popular with the main cast in the final two seasons.
Morn (Mark Allen Shepard): Morn is Quark's best customer. Although he appears in episodes throughout DS9, he never utters a word in the show6 and a recurring joke in the show is that he's highly talkative.
The Station and Ships
Deep Space Nine
Being of Cardassian design, Deep Space Nine looks nothing like anything seen on Star Trek before. The station was originally used to refine ore brought up from slave-mines on Bajor, but now it operates as an all-purpose docking-point for ships heading into, or out of, the Gamma Quadrant.
The external design is very odd. In the centre is the station's Central Core, where all the important things are. Outside that, and connected by six sections, is the habitat ring, where all the people live, and where the station's Runabouts are stored. Outside that, and connected by three sections, is the docking ring, where most of the ships dock. Connected to this docking ring are three upper-pylons, and three lower-pylons at the ends of which ships can also dock. The reason the station looks so bizarre is because the designers had three months to design it, and they went a little bit mad.
Deep Space Nine originally only had 6 photon torpedoes, which they then used in the pilot. Once the threat from the Dominion became apparent, the station was upgraded and became a battle-station equipped with over 5,000 torpedoes, enough to take out a small fleet of attackers.
The inside sets aren't the traditional Bridge, Engineering, Sickbay, etc of the other series. The main set in DS9 is Ops, which is a Bridge, Engineering and Transporter-room in one. The other major set is the Promenade, which is like a little town-centre that contains Quark's bar, the Infirmary and Odo's office. It all looks very... alien.
The Defiant was assigned to protect Deep Space Nine from a Dominion attack at the start of the third season. The ship was originally designed to fight the Borg, but it was found to be too powerful. When the Dominion threat was realised, the Defiant was refitted with less weapons. That being said it's still one tough little ship. Externally, the ship looks more like a tank than a graceful Starfleet vessel.
The ship was fitted with a cloaking device given to the Federation by the Romulans, but it's only for use in the Gamma Quadrant. Naturally, Sisko was always using it in the Alpha Quadrant without telling the Romulans.
The inside sets are cramped to make it look more like a submarine. Its main sets are the Bridge and Engineering.
The runabouts are shuttles based on the station, only they're bigger. They were the predominant way for the crew to get away from the station for the first two seasons, but they played a smaller role once the Defiant was introduced. Only three are assigned to the station at any one time, but they keep blowing up, or crashing, so they go through around 12 of them during the show's run.
DS9 had the same recurring aliens used by TNG and TOS, but it developed them further.
The Bajorans look like humans in every way, but they have a wrinkled nose (that's what passes for an alien on Star Trek). They were originally introduced in TNG, but they only came to prominence on DS9. They're a culturally rich society, and art played a large part in their history. Unfortunately they were conquered and occupied by the Cardassians for fifty years, and have only recently become a free people once again. They are ruled by a provisional Government, which never actually seems to become an actual government. They're very religious, and their religion that worships the Prophets is a major aspect of their society. The religion is led by a Kai, which is like a Pope, but elected by the people. Their military is called the Bajoran Militia and it's made up of Bajorans who took part in underground terrorist cells during the occupation. They wish to join the Federation, but they are not yet ready.
The Cardassians are a lizard species with pale skin and spoons on their foreheads. They too were introduced in TNG, but only became a major enemy during DS9. Much like the Bajorans, the Cardassians were once a peaceful and artistic species, but like all peaceful people their government was terrible and famine and chaos took over. To stop this, a military dictatorship was formed and order was restored by the introduction of a harsh legal system. Family is very important to Cardassians, and if a Cardassian official is seen to have failed his family then he'll be thrown into ill repute. Patriotism is strong on Cardassia, and people who question the government's policies are dealt with quietly. When Cardassia is weakened by a war against the Klingons and the terrorist Maquis, they join the Dominion to make themselves strong once more.
The Dominion is the anti-Federation. Whereas the Federation is a society of people brought together in the spirit of peace and cooperation, the Dominion is a society of conquered people run by fear and aggression. There are three main races in the Dominion.
The Founders: The Founders are the Changelings, Odo's species. They were persecuted by the races of the Gamma Quadrant for being different, so they used their expertise in cloning to make an army of warriors to conquer the Quadrant. They reasoned that this was the only way to stay safe. All their clones worship them as gods, which is rather handy. They live in the Great Link, which is an ocean of Changelings in their liquid state.
The Vorta: The Vorta were a primitive species until the Changelings came across them and cloned better versions of them. They are used as the administrators of the Dominion on the Founders behalf.
Jem'Hadar: The Jem'Hadar are the Dominion's cloned soldiers. If their faces don't scare away their enemies, then they have impressive physical strength. Their Achilles-heel is the fact that they are addicted to a drug known as ketracel-white that is distributed by the Vorta. If they rebel then they get no white and they die.
According to the official story, the initial idea for DS9 came from Paramount who went to the executive producers of TNG, Rick Berman and Michael Piller, and asked them to make another Star Trek show. They thought that there was only three ways you could go with a Star Trek show; a show based on a starship, a show based on a colony world, or a show based on a space-station. The starship show was rejected right away as the new show and TNG were going to overlap and they didn't want two starship shows running at the same time. The colony show was considered, and sketches were drawn up, but this was rejected as it would require them to build a town someplace, and they wanted the show to be done in the studio. So they decided to do a show set on a space-station. After months of decisions on what type of show it would be, DS9 was the finished product.
The show was very expensive from the beginning; its two-hour pilot cost the same as a major motion picture. The show, like TNG, was produced into syndication, and this allowed the writers more freedom to write what they wanted without network interference. The show was under Michael Piller's stewardship for its first two and a half seasons, and used the same stand-alone episode format used on TNG. But many fans found the show to be too dull, and too dark, and so the ratings went down.
The hope was that the show's ratings would go back up with the introduction of the Dominion, and the Defiant, in season three, but it wasn't to be. Part of the reason of this was the launch of Star Trek: Voyager meant that most of the advertising went to the new show. The continued focus on Voyager led to some people calling DS9 the bastard child of the franchise. The truth is that this focus on Voyager may have helped DS9's writers do things that they wouldn't have been able to do had the spotlight been on them. As DS9 writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe once said, Voyager is away in the Delta Quadrant, so DS9 was free to play with the Alpha Quadrant.
Halfway through season three, Michael Piller left the show to work more on Voyager, and Ira Steven Behr became DS9's new executive producer. He constantly tried to push the show to its limits by making it darker and more serialised. He co-wrote the season four opening episode, 'The Way of the Warrior', which was a re-launch of the series done in another futile attempt to gain ratings. He abandoned a lot of the traditional Trekian morality that embodied the other Star Trek shows in favour of better drama.
Of course, this wasn't easy for him to do. The show's other executive producer, Rick Berman, tried to make the show more conservative. His primary focus was on Voyager, but on many occasions he tried to stop some of Ira's more radical ideas. It's reported that Rick approved the Dominion war, but only if it lasted for only four or five episodes. The DS9 writers ignored this and the war lasted the final two years of the show.
The show's low ratings put the final season in some doubt, but it was made and DS9 has the traditional seven seasons that all the shows try to reach. It's final episode, 'What You Leave Behind' ended the show in a way that many fans believed was a set-up for a DS9 film, but Ira Behr has said on many occasions that a DS9 film is never going to be made.
DS9's darker themes are a subject for debate among trekkers even now that the show has been over for many years. Some believe that its willingness to take risks makes it the best show in the franchise, and DS9 is usually the critics' favourite. Others believe that DS9's abandonment of Gene Roddenberry's morality makes it the worst in the franchise. Some believe that it was just plain boring.
DS9 abandoned Gene's ideas in many places. Earth is meant to be a utopia, but in DS9 a Starfleet Admiral stages an attempted coup to take control of the planet for 'its protection'. Earth is even attacked by enemy fleets, and terrorist bombings. Gene's family protested against the Dominion war believing that Gene didn't want war in Star Trek. Perhaps the most controversial part of the series was the introduction of Section 31, a Federation secret police (so secret that nobody ever heard of them before) that carries out assassinations and genocide. Gene certainly wouldn't want that.
Others believe that DS9 was the truest Trek of all, even though they didn't go anywhere. They feel that DS9's focus on its characters, and how much they changed and were affected by their experiences, would have made Gene proud as that's what Star Trek is all about. These people are seriously deluding themselves in their interpretation of Gene's views to justify DS9 being their favourite series.
Those who think that it's boring clearly didn't watch it as it has numerous battles involving thousands of ships blowing one another up.
There are, of course, those who just like the show and don't make excuses for it.
Let us end with this; at the DS9 wrap party, Ira Behr said that he pushed the envelope with DS9 and he believes that Star Trek is in a stronger position because of it. Six years later, and Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled due to terrible-ratings. Ira may be many things, but he isn't a psychic.