Do Over: Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Space: the final frontier. These are the rotations of the station Deep Space 9. Its continuing mission to regulate trade and security near a recently liberated planet called Bajor; to just kinda wait for the civilisations to come at us through a big rotatey hole in the middle of space. Shouldn’t someone do something about that? It’s being administered by a cabal of gods, you say? Well, in that case there’s nothing to worry about…
With a rip-roaring premise like that, the series fans affectionately dubbed ‘Deep Sleep 9’ doused our television sets in engine oil, but for the most part forgot to light the match. For the first couple of series, DS9 lived up to its interminably boring status, featuring episodes where characters argued with supernatural beings about whether or not time was linear, or pissed off an alien race so much that they forced them to play games all day.
Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko is the main character of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – a single father and widower with a propensity to twist morals and bone smugglers, who is raising a son who could win an Olympic gold for whinging. Sisko enjoys pouring glasses of Romulan ale without drinking them and recording then immediately deleting his personal log in a sort of self-induced inverse-Alzheimer’s ritual. As a baseball-loving, Picard-reprimanding, single father whose hair had a habit of sagging to the bottom of his face, Sisko wasn’t a bad main character, but was still prone to making the viewer shake his or her head, whispering ‘Oh, Benjamin’ every episode or two. Meanwhile, son Jake enjoyed acting out by sulking for seasons at a time, drawing crappy little pictures, and getting excited over soil sample analyses.
So enter Odo – the most terminally uninteresting character in the entire history of Star Trek – DS9’s security officer who believes sarcasm is the most effective way of policing a vibrant station awash with smugglers, thieves, racketeers and terrorists. Don’t blame actor Rene Auberjonois, who does his best to deliver a grumpy, no-nonsense, old-school British constable-esque flavour to a character who is supposed to be a shape-shifting control freak. Odo has no physical brain. Security officer Kira Nerys falls in love with Odo, enamoured with his ability to change into absolutely anything in the universe, like a luxury bath or James Deen, though instead preferring to spend his nights in a bucket, doing his best impression of burger grease.
Dax is Sisko’s best friend and confidante from another life, who starts the series as a slug-like symbiote getting stuffed into a young lady named Jadzia (a woman with a freckle problem so severe even gingers mock her for it) via reverse-caesarean section. Sisko spends the majority of the series referring to her as ‘old man’ [because Dax’s host before Jadzia was an old man – Curzon), trying not to bone the ‘old man’ and exposing some extreme mommy issues in the process. Jadzia constantly gets chased around by Dr Julian Bashir, a man so pleasingly Arabic, he once played two characters called Prince Nasir in two completely different films, set almost a millennium apart, in the same year.
When not getting his end away, the more British-than-British-but-still-Arabic-British-or-is-he-Arabic-but-studied-summat-in-Britain? Bashir is having good old-fashioned adventures with his Irish drinking buddy Chief O’Brien, who, as you’ll recall, did some boning on the U.S.S. Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation and then promptly left to start a family on the edge of a warzone. Bashir and O’Brien are thick as thieves and are probably meant to represent the future relations of Irish and English politics in a ‘can’t we just get along without the threat of occasional bombing?’ kind of way. DS9 proves just how far Irish racial profiling has diminished when a bomb goes off on the station and O’Brien isn’t even considered as a suspect.
So far, the list of characters is incredibly boring, or at least more confusing than The Next Generation, so thank the almighty powers that be for Worf, who was reintroduced to us in series three, causing audiences around the world to leap out of their seats and whoop joyously as the greatest non-hero in sci-fi history got a second hurrah. Worf finally gets to pop his cherry in this series after becoming romantically entangled with the aforementioned Jadzia Dax. She then dies, comes back as another woman and tells Worf she doesn’t love him anymore. This is arguably worse than never ever getting laid.
With one Klingon-shaped exception, the major characters were never gripping or interesting until the final two seasons, so it is in amongst the crew of minor characters where we find the real fun. Chief among them is Quark, the smuggling-but-not-boned-by-Sisko illicit-tendencied Ferengi barkeep of the only drinking hole on Deep Space 9, who’d sooner sell his nephew than lose a profit. We also have Garak, the former-Cardassian-spy-turned-tailor, whose hobbies include buying deserts for Doctor Bashir and blowing up his own shop when necessary.
The only main bad guy who is in any way enjoyable in the series is Gul Dukat, a villain so camp that you’d believe he wrote AND directed Hairspray. Apparently he also went to sneering school with the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For all his pantomime posing, he outshines the insipid wormhole gods, or the shapeless shapeshifters and their Gem Hadar goons. In terms of minor villains, a shoutout must be given to Luther Sloan, an agent of the Federation’s secretive black ops program (think Jason Bourne’s Treadstone) played by William Sadler of Die Hard 2 baddie fame. At one point, Bashir and O’Brien go day-tripping through his head during a suicide attempt. This is a good point at which to remind yourself that absolutely none of this is made up.
After a couple of bumpy years, Deep Space 9 found its groove. Worf finally realised he no longer wanted to live in this universe of either not-getting-boned or getting-boned-then-getting-kicked-in-the-genitals. The crew went back in time, invaded an episode from the 1960s series and tried to disarm a bomb disguised as a tribble that was set to kill Captain Kirk. Sisko falsified evidence that brought a previously-uninvolved race as allies into the war the Federation were losing, becoming an accessory to murder, just as an addendum to his ever-lengthening list of war crimes. Odo and Garak (or Yawn and Yay) exposed a war plot and ended up accidentally getting kidnapped. Bashir was accused of being a spy by the Romulans, presumably because Romulan security reacts to Arabic-looking men the same way the TSA does, and played James Bond in one episode from a previous series. The holodeck is also where the rest of the crew go to live out deviant sexual fantasies, so, y’know, fair play to Bashir for being creative.
Deep Space 9 became increasingly grim as Ronald D. Moore (of Battlestar Gritty-lactica) gained more and more creative control over the series as the years went by. The Federation faced their toughest non-Borg enemy yet, in the shape of the Dominion – the megalomaniacal shapeshifting Founders, leading an alliance of races including, but not limited to, the Ketresel White (speedball)-guzzling Jem’Hadar. They were defeated by Odo turning into a permanent greaseball. Also threatening the safety of the galaxy were the evil gods known as Pah-Wraiths (which sounds like Usain Bolt saying ‘pirates’) who were similarly defeated by Sisko throwing himself into the fiery pit of Mount Doom in Mordor (well it looks like it, ok?) becoming the first person in history to simultaneously commit genocide *and* deicide. Oh, Benjamin.
These episodes became more coherent and a *little* less silly, Bashir and O’Brien’s picnic inside Will Sadler’s head aside. Deep Space 9 ended up generally being the most loved and focused of the modern Star Trek series, gaining huge praise for its tail-end seasons and its constant repetition of kicking Worf in the nuts. ‘Today is a good day to die!’ famously cried our Klingon buddy in Deep Space 9, but we know he won’t. At least not in our hearts.