Star Trek: Discovery is preparing to return from midseason hiatus. Discovery's return comes days after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's 25th anniversary, and the timing is appropriate considering how Discovery carries on Deep Space Nine's legacy.
This applies both to the story of the series and its extra-textual elements. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine broke new ground for Star Trek by casting a black actor as its lead. Star Trek: Voyager followed that by casting a woman in its lead role. This was decades ahead of the curve for most science fiction franchises.
Many franchises are catching up now. Wonder Woman was a DC Entertainment sensation in 2017. The Star Wars franchise is now led by a black actor and a female actor. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is on its way to Black Panther, its first movie led by a person of color. Its first film led by a woman, Captain Marvel, will follow in 2019.
While those franchises are still playing catch-up, Star Trek has marked another first by casting Sonequa Martin-Green, a woman of color as its lead. Women of color are an often overlooked group when talking about representation in entertainment. That Star Trek: Discovery is on the forefront in that area makes it akin in spirit to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Representation isn't the only place where Discovery follows in Deep Space Nine's footsteps. The first nine episodes follow Deep Space Nine's themes in a way no other Star Trek series has.
When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was at its peak, it was during the Dominion War. As discussed, Deep Space Nine was about how far its characters would go to keep the Federation safe. As we've also discussed, Discovery is about sacrifice and struggle. It's about the weight of ideals and the price of keeping them.
Discovery even mirrors Deep Space Nine in its storytelling. In a way, it perfects the serialized storytelling model Deep Space Nine pioneered. Deep Space Nine told a long story over seven seasons, but had to keep things somewhat episodic. It was the 1990s, and broadcast television needed to be accessible and ready for syndication. That Discovery is on CBS All Access allows it to be fully serialized in a way no past Star Trek series could be.
Deep Space Nine star Rene Auberjonois made the comparison himself in an interview.
“What I think is happening now is that since it is on Netflix and streaming, people are watching it and seeing the whole story,” Auberjonois says. “People love to stream the original episodes and all the other versions, but ours is the one that is almost like a Russian novel. My sense of there is a growing base of an audience that really is getting it. Where people weren’t quite sure about it while it was happening episode by episode, now that they get to evaluate it as a whole piece, it’s being recognized in a way it wasn’t before.”0comments
Of course, things may pivot significantly in Discovery's second chapter. The war with the Klingons seemed to have ended in the previous episode. Now the Discovery is adrift in unfamiliar space, putting it more in line with Voyager. We won't know until the series returns, but it hints at how all Star Trek history inspires Discovery.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.