How 'Star Trek: Voyager' Helped Save 'Deep Space Nine'

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. It turns out the series may not have lasted its seven seasons or be so fondly remembered today if Star Trek: Voyager hadn’t come along at just the right time.

Deep Space Nine broke Star Trek’s mold by telling a serialized story instead of focusing on entirely self-contained episodes. Ira Steven Behr, who started off in the show’s writers room and eventually became showrunner, tells SyFy Wire that the executives wanted a more tradition Star Trek model.

“Everyone was against any form of serialization and continuing storylines,” Behr says. “It was basically, ‘You're killing the show. The audience can't follow from week to week. We want TNG type episodes, self-sustained episodes where the story is summed up and completed in one episode and then they go off to another adventure.’

“We kept saying they're not going off anywhere. That's the cool thing and the different thing about this show. They're a space station. Every decision they make will haunt them one way or the other because they're going to stay there, so it was not pretty in lots of ways. But we just had a very tight writing staff even though it would change over the years a little bit, and we just kept doing the show we wanted to do and thank god Voyager came on and they left us alone."

The launch of Voyager meant the executives had another show to focus on, one that fit much more neatly into the mold of The Original Series and The Next Generation.

Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Deep Space Nine, said, “I feel that Deep Space Nine really took a huge risk in taking the franchise in a whole new direction, being kind of like the black sheep of the family. Stepping away from what we know to be Trek and telling a whole new story in a whole new way. At that time, serial shows were not huge. We didn't have Netflix, we didn't have all the DVRs so we could binge watch something… They really took a huge risk and to be honest, I don't know if we would have been able to do that if CBS wasn't more focused on Voyager.”

Things worked out and CBS was able to have things both ways for a while, with Deep Space Nine trying something new and Voyager continuing Star Trek’s episodic tradition.