Indulge me… I suspect on TES I’m mostly known for short pseudo-humorous interjections but I’m going to outline something in a bit more depth. I’m going to argue for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For many of you this will trigger an automatic response of ‘huh?’ and that’s fine. But the recent Star Trek thread has got my brain churning and I’m letting the churn out. You might say ‘Lanokia, why not post of that thread? Why a new thread?’ but that thread is primarily about the Captains and this is going to be about the show as a whole. Warning …. Spoilers ahead. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the best Star Trek show. It’s that simple. I’m not going to argue it by knocking the others but by highlighting the positives of DS9 [as I will from now on refer to it]. DS9 came about as an effort to expand the Star Trek franchise as The Next Generation was booming. But the creators recognised that another starship show would be creatively moribund, so decided to try something new with the franchise [some plagiarism accusations from JM Straczynski should be recognised here]. By placing the characters in a static setting, where the story had to come to them, or the story evolved out of the setting, the show attempted something new with the universe. DS9 is a Cardassian [aliens!] space station in orbit around the world of Bajor. This world had been previously established in TNG as one under Cardassian occupation, the people subjected to an ongoing genocide of slave labour. In the DS9 series the occupation has ended and the world of Bajor has been freed, is rebuilding and looking towards membership of the Federation [Star Trek government]. Starfleet sends a crew to man the abandoned space station which will also have a Bajoran crew. Immediately the show sets itself about, placing conflict and non-Starfleet characters at the core of its dynamic. Major Kira Nerys is not Starfleet, she is in conflict with Commander Sisko, her past as resistance fighter means she has a journey to fulfil of adjusting to peacetime. Later episodes will have her resistance past drawing her back and eventually in season 6 these threads, still ongoing, will play into the larger arc of the show. Commander Sisko is not a simple ‘leader-hero’ model. Losing his wife in the Wolf 359 battle which devastated Starfleet he is unsure of his leadership abilities and wants only what is best for his son. The show uses this to show a man adjusting to command, to his leadership role, one partly acquired through promotion but also thrust upon him by fate, which I’ll come to later. Other characters, Julian Bashir, Miles O’Brien [the excellent Colm Meaney from TNG] and Jadzia Dax flesh out the Starfleet complement. Meanwhile Jake Sisko, son of Ben, provides a civilian eye on the station. And it’s in the non-Starfleet characters that the show begins to thrive. Odo, a changling, seemingly the only one of his race, possible collaborator with the Cardassian occupiers. Quark, Rom, Nog, Ferengi bar-owners on the station, providing more moral grey areas [and yes, at times becoming the comedy characters] but managing to flesh out the Ferengi after TNG had failed to make them a suitable threat to the TNG crew. Later, in season 4, in an effort to give the show new vitality, Michael Dorn was introduced from TNG as Worf. The Klingon was a natural fit into the crew dynamic and gave the story telling new life as new conflicts were established and new settings (Quonos) were explored. There were also the side characters, Garak, the exiled Cardassian tailor, who taunted and teased Bashir, the viewer never quite knowing the story behind him. Martok, General of the Klingon Empire. Dumar, Cardassian soldier and later leader. Weyoun, conniving and duplicitous. The Female Founder, alien in all but form. And Gul Dukat. Gul Dukat is close to being one of the greatest villains in television history. Former commander of DS9 when it was the Cardassian prison station, he was the ruler of Bajor and responsible for millions of deaths. Yet for much of the show he is portrayed as unapologetic for his actions, believing in their righteousness. Superbly portrayed by Marc Alaimo, Dukat is a character that we love to loath, his appearances on screen a highlight of each and every episode. And his character took the show to dark places, the madness of power, his guilt and thirst for forgiveness, his lust for power. The trajectory of his career, up and down throughout the seasons, from the low point of commanding a cargo freighter on the Cardassian frontier to planning and leading Dominion armies as they invaded the Federation. The Dominion? Ah… see the Bajoran system had a secret… a wormhole. No-one knew of it but Sisko discovered it in the Pilot, encountering aliens and discovering a route into the Gamma Quadrant. Initially this served mainly to introduce new exotic [and at times silly] aliens. But gradually the show hinted at something else, a power, a force lurking in the dark recesses of space. And then the Dominion emerged. I won’t spoil the plot too much, suffice to say the Dominion gave Star Trek the opportunity to tell adult stories like never before. Politics, war, conquest, battle… not just ships exploding in CGI flashes but the cost of war, the impact. Long before Battlestar Galactica was heralded for political sci-fi, DS9 tackled occupation, collaboration, genocide and conquest. The show also threw in religion, something the original series had handled but now it got serious. The wormhole was actually a home for aliens, who were worshipped on Bajor as Gods. Sisko became their emissary, representative to the Bajoran people and this plot thread was a consistent one maintained throughout the show right up to the finale. I’m now going to outline some of the best episodes of this classic show. Duet… a former Cardassian prison camp commanders arrives on the station and forces Kira to confront her own feelings towards the former occupiers. An excellent meditation on forgiveness. The Search – the crew of DS9 use the new ship USS Defiant to search for the Dominion leadership. That they find deep in the Gamma Quadrant will transform how they see the galaxy and their comrades. It’s only a paper moon… deep in the Dominion war, Nog is injured fighting in Starfleet. Having lost his leg he retreats into the Holodeck to find sanctuary and comfort. This episode relegated the main cast to the background and focused on a lesser seen character. But the job they did was excellent. The Visitor – one to make you weep. Sisko is [seemingly] killed in an accident and his son, Jake, spends a lifetime trying to reunite with this father. Guest star Tony Todd [the Candyman] shines so bright in this top class episode. In the pale moonlight… the Federation is losing the war, Earth will fall. Sisko needs to turn the balance of power, bring the Romulans into the war. But to do that he must cross a line, more than one line. The way of the warrior… the Alpha Quadrant is terrified of the Dominion threat, the Klingons make their move, invading Cardassia, Starfleet sends DS9 Commander Worf. The Klingons must be persuaded to end their war. Far Beyond the Stars … this isn’t even that heavily sci-fi. It isn’t even set on the space station. Instead the whole cast perform as if in 1950s America with Sisko as a struggling 1950s sci-fi writer with dreams of a space station. It’s a superb look at the bigotry and tensions of the period. What you leave behind… the best show final episode Star Trek ever did. A war story, a religious battle, Cardassia under siege as the Grand Alliance of the Federation, Klingons and Romulans go for the jugular of the Dominion, 700 million dead in a race to save a species from extinction. And the best… Trials and Tribble-ations… the crew of DS9 are flung back in time to the era of James Kirk and Spock, and through very clever CGI trickery they interact with the original series crew. The creativity and imagination of this one episode is a testament to the passion and resourcefulness of the crew of this top flight TV show. Are they all? No…The Siege of AR558 springs to mind, Sacrifice of Angels another, In Purgatory’s Shadow and By inferno’s Light are a great two parter… Homefront and Paradise Lost see the Earth itself under threat… and the excellent two parter Past Tense sees the crew trapped in the mid-21st century, dealing with riots in a homelessness prison camp. Does that mean there aren’t bad episodes? No, there are… some of them very bad... Profit and Lace for example. Seasons 1 and 2 are creatively tethered to the ongoing existence of TNG. But with the end of TNG, DS9 came into its own and challenged preconceptions of whatever TV Sci-Fi should be. Look, if Sci-Fi isn’t your thing then this means nothing to you. It’s all bumpy headed actors and computer generated whizz bangs. But the depth of character and story-telling was supreme. For the first time Star Trek dealt in the long term with cause and effect. The impact of one episodes actions fed into the next and the next. The narrative developed organically, the story was told because that was how the characters molded the story and how the story formed them. Secrets were revealed, flaws hidden and then surfaced… and Star Trek took a big step into the adult world. Thank you for taking the time to read this far. I appreciate that not everyone will agree with me. I doubt I’ve managed to convert anyone [and it’s not that crucial a topic anyway] but this show [In my humble opinion] remains a high water mark for television science fiction and should be recognised as such.