Today marks the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Its about time the series got its due from fans.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a series that's often forgotten by fans. There were no movies made with this show's cast. It's not the Star Trek your parents grew up with. It's not meme-able the way other Star Trek series are.
But despite the lack of buzz, Deep Space Nine offered some of the best Star Trek storytelling ever. It rewrote rules, not for Star Trek alone, but for television in general.
Considered a spinoff of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine occupied the same era as TNG. Yet somehow it managed to show a completely different side of that shared universe.
This became especially true after The Next Generation went off the air. With Voyager exploring the Delta Quadrant, Deep Space Nine was free to do the unexpected. That included plunging the Star Trek universe into a period of war.
Because of this, Deep Space Nine is often thought of a "the dark one." That's not wrong, but it doesn't do the show justice either. As our list of 10 best episodes shows, the series did deal with dark subjects. But it also knew how to have fun and how to speak to something greater than itself.
At the heart of these great episodes are great characters. Avery Brooks played Ben Sisko, the first black actor to lead a Star Trek series. Rather than a loyal crew, Sisko had to lead a disparate group that called Deep Space Nine their home. These included former rebel fighters like Kria and officers of the law like Odo. It also included entrepreneurs like the Ferengi Quark and his family. Of course, there were also loyal Federation officers like Dax and Bashir, and later Worf. And, perhaps most important of all, there was Sisko's own son.
These disparate characters became a community. These 10 episodes were their best stories, and some of the best Star Trek episodes ever.
Deep Space Nine hit the ground running with the strongest pilot in Star Trek history.
"Emissary" begins in the middle of the battle of Wolf 359. This is the attack on Federation space by the Borg, led by Locutus, the assimilated Captain Picard. It is also the battle in which Ben Sisko lost his wife and Jake Sisko his mother.
This turned Star Trek into a shared universe like never before. The animosity Sisko feels towards Picard is was also practically unheard for Trek.
Deep Space Nine leverages this strong start. "Emissary" got the show off to the right foot and helped it avoid any early season growing pains.
We're giving this spot on the list to the Deep Space Nine's Season Five finale. Really, it belongs to the extended arc that spans through the sixth episode of Season Six.
"Call to Arms" does what no Star Trek episode had done before: It goes to war. Sure, there were battles, including the Next Generation crew's struggle with the Borg. And there was that time that the Federation went to war with the Klingon Empire and called it off in the same day.
But this was the first war that actually changed the face of the Star Trek universe in a meaningful way. That change was especially felt in the early episodes of Season Six.
Some fans accuse Deep Space Nine of taking itself too seriously. Episodes like "Our Man Bashir" go a long way towards dispelling that notion.
"Our Man Bashir" is Star Trek having some fun by trading science fiction for the spy genre for an episode. Dr. Julian Bashir loves spy fiction and is fond of the holosuites. In this, he's joined by actual spy Elim Garak on a holosuite adventure.
Bashir and Garak get to interact with cartoonish version of their crewmates. The holographic Kira and Dax turn up the sensuality as Sisko becomes a mad supervillain.
The episode is almost pure James Bond pastiche, and it wrings that for everything its worth.
It is fitting that Star Trek's boldest series also has the franchise's boldest finale.
Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its episodic run with a fitting standalone story. It is also fitting that Deep Space Nine, which took a more serialized approach, refuses to put a neat bow on at the end.
Deep Space Nine succeeded by marrying high concepts to well-drawn characters. It blended optimism with darkness, and the finale did the same. These character's stories come to their individual crossroads, but they do not end.
"What We Leave Behind" manages to acknowledge the darkness while looking to a brighter day. Its a great summation of everything Deep Space Nine had done in the seven seasons prior.
“It’s Only a Paper Moon” took on the tough topic of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
All the young Ferengi Quark wanted was to join Starfleet. He had the unfortunate luck of going through the academy as the Dominion War began.
Nog soon became involved in a battle that cost him his leg. Upon returning to Deep Space Nine, Nog seeks solace in a single song played over and over again.
The episode focuses on Nog's PTSD, but also shines a spotlight on Vic Fontaine, the host of a holosuite club. Vic's attempts to help Nog humanize this holographic character in unexpected ways.
The Deep Space Nine crew met their heroes in episode "Trials and Tribble-ations."
The episode is a celebration of Star Trek's 30th anniversary. A surgically altered Klingon goes back in time to attempt to assassinate Captain Kirk, and the crew of Deep Space Nine has no choice but to follow.
As a result, the Deep Space Nine cast become part of the background of the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." There's plenty of fun to be had as the crew wonders at the change in uniform colors and Klingon's appearances.
The takeaway shot is of Sisko stealing a moment to salute Captain Kirk himself. Impeccable editing makes this episode a technical marvel as well as a fun romp.
The first season episode "Duet" offered the first glimpse of what Deep Space Nine would become.
The episode focuses on Kira, Siko's second-in-command. Kira is a Cardassian former resistance fighter. More of her history comes to light as she pursues a Bajoran who ran a labor camp.
Kira goes to extreme measure to force a confession out of the Cardassian. Doing so reveals that there is more to the story than even Kira believed.
"Duet" is the first step towards Deep Space Nine becoming the series that went to the dark places. It went to the place previous Star Trek series avoided, and it asked questions past series would not.
One of the greatest guest star performance in Star Trek history carries "The Visitor."
The episode features Tony Todd as an aging Jake Sisko in a version of the future where Ben Sisko became lost in time. An unexpected event in the Bajoran wormhole traps Ben in a time-space inversion. He flows in and out of subspace at regular intervals, though they pass by like moments to him.
The episode pursues this version of the future as Jake grows old, becomes a writer, and gets married. Only Jake loses all this in his obsessive attempts to save his father.
The episode begins and ends with Jake nearing the end of his life, preparing a final attempt to save his father.
"Far Beyond the Stars" is an episode with many layers that combine to create a beautiful story.
Directed by Avery Brooks, the episode finds Sisko lying dying during the peak of the Dominion War. While he lies on the floor, he sees himself living the life of a science fiction writer in 1950s America.
As a writer, he pens stories about Deep Space Nine. The most objectionable thing about these stories to his boss is that it stars a black captain.
"Far Beyond the Stars" is about real-world racism. It's about how science fiction is a tool to fight against it. It's about the importance of dreams of a better future, like those of Star Trek. It is about why anything about Star Trek matters.
Deep Space Nine early on established itself as a show willing to break all the rules of Star Trek. "In the Pale Moonlight" is the episode that dares the audience to try to claim it doesn't love the show for it.
In the episode, Sisko breaks every rule to manipulate the Romulans into the Dominion War. He betrays every ideal Starfleet holds dear. He does it all to keep the Alpha Quadrant safe and, to his own surprise, he regrets nothing.
One of the most memorable moments from Deep Space Nine is Avery Brooks' monologue in this episode. He speaks to the audience through Sisko's personal log. He lays out his case and stares the audience in the eye, daring them to judge him. Then he deletes the entire thing to cover up his and Starfleet's actions.
If any episode distills the essence of Deep Space Nine into a single story, "In the Pale Moonlight" is it.