- Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
- January 3, 1993 to June 2, 1999
- Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko-Avery Brooks
- Jake Sisko-Cirroc Lofton
- Odo-René Auberjonois
- Julian Bashir-Alexander Siddig
- Jadzia Dax-Terry Farrell (Seasons 1 to 6)
- Miles O’Brien-Colm Meaney
- Quark-Armin Shimerman
- Kira Nerys-Nana Visitor
- Worf-Michael Dorn (Season 4 to 7)
- Ezri Dax-Nicole de Boer (Season 7)
- Gul Dukat-Marc Alaimo
- Nog-Aron Eisenberg
- Rom-Max Grodénchik
- Elim Garak-Andrew J. Robinson
- Keiko O’Brien-Rosalind Chao
- Grand Nagus Zek-Wallace Shawn (Seasons 1–3, 5–7)
- Vedek/Kai Winn Adami-Louise Fletcher
- Female Changeling-Salome Jens (Seasons 3, 4, 6, 7)
- Chancellor Gowron-Robert O’Reilly (Seasons 3 to 5, 7)
- Leeta-Chase Masterson (Seasons 3–7)
- Kasidy Yates-Penny Johnson Jerald (Seasons 3 to 7)
- Brunt, Weyoun-Jeffrey Combs (Seasons 4 to 7)
- Ishka-Andrea Martin, Cecily Adams (Seasons 3, 5 to 7)
- General Martok-J. G. Hertzler (Seasons 4 to 7)
- Tora Ziyal-Cyia Batten, Tracy Middendorf, Melanie Smith (Seasons 4 to 6)
- Damar-Casey Biggs (Seasons 4 to 7)
- Adm. William Ross-Barry Jenner (Seasons 6 to 7)
- Vic Fontaine-James Darren (Seasons 6 to 7)
- Morn-Mark Allen Shepherd
Bajor, having just freed itself from decades of Cardassian occupation, seeks to join the Federation. Now a newly discovered stable wormhole has put this once minor world on the forefront of space exploration.
I did not start out as a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I did not hate it but I felt it lacked purpose. I thought that it was uncertain of what it was and what it wanted to be. It threw different things against the wall to see what stuck. But I stayed with it because I was young and was thirsty not only for Star Trek but for televised science fiction.
By the end though this was appointment television (and that could be tough considering it was syndicated). It was series that could do fine drama as well as lighter comedic stories much like the original could. The talent in every aspect of the show was more than one could have hoped for at the time. And it started with the cast of characters and the actors that portrayed them.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was an ensemble series with a set of core characters (those announced in the opening credits) but one that also contained a large number of supporting characters that could move forward and become prominent in an episode or even the focus of a story.
In the pilot episode “Emissary” they introduced us to Commander (eventually Captain) Benjamin Sisko in a rather ballsy fashion for a Star Trek series at the time. He is a single father and carries a great deal of anger over the events of his past and has not been able to forgive himself for not being able to save his wife. He also at the start of the series hates Capt. Jean-Luc Picard for being enslaved by the Borg and being used to lead the Battle of Wolf 359 that took the life of his wife Jennifer.
TNG was still running at the time and on his first meeting with Picard, Sisko essentially says to Picard “F*ck off. You’re why my wife is dead”. That was a bold move to introduce the new guy/new show with such a scene. It also set the tone for the entire series.
While the Federation and its ideals would be with the show, the characters in it would be much more like you and I and would struggle at times to live up to the high ideals of the Federation. Add in that Sisko was the Bajorans savior and he had to find a balance between religion and work.
Colm Meaney came from a supporting role on TNG to be a central character here. In story O’Brien left the Enterprise to become Chief of Operations on the titular station and brought along his wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) and daughter Molly (Hana Hatae). During the course of the show O’Brien suffered ridiculously. He was meant to give an everyman perspective to the series, and often did, but much like Wesley causing a problem/saving the Enterprise, if somebody was going to suffer it was probably going to be the Chief. It has become a source of jokes among fans.
Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig/Siddig El Fadil) is a young and idealistic doctor who goes through several changes during the course of the series. He was the charming and naïve rogue at the start but become a mature individual by the end. One thing that carried through Star Trek from the early days until only recently was that we should not use artificial means to improve the human race. This was a holdover from World War II. It is brought into focus here by the character of Dr. Bashir late in season five when it is revealed that his parents took him to a non-Federation world when he was young to improve him because of learning deficiencies.
Bashir developed a close friendship with O’Brien with the two spending a great deal of time playing darts or in the holosuites on the station. They were not just colleagues but brothers. As different as they were they found common ground and genuinely bonded. Bashir was more okay with it than O’Brien, but they were both still close.
Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) was of the Trill species first introduced in TNG and, after receiving a welcome makeover, were featured here. She contains in her what is essentially a giant slug that merges with various hosts during its lifetime. Here its previous host was a friend and mentor to Sisko leading to the nickname of “Old Man.” Ferrell left at the end of Season 6 for Becker (Ugh!) and was replaced by Nicole de Boer as Ezri Dax. I really think they could and should have finished out the final season without Dax. There was just not enough time to develop the character (AGAIN!). Worse, they gave her a few really good episodes that showed potential.
Worf (Michael Dorn) crossed over from TNG to DS9 in Season Four as part of their Klingon War storyline and continued on until the final episode. He was much better here than on TNG. Not only did the character blossom and grow, but Sisko was a superior fit for him as compared to Picard. I could believe Worf respected Sisko.
I never got how Worf could respect Picard. I know Worf was raised by humans and more comfortable with them than Klingons, but he still had that side to him and Picard was more of a talker than fighter. Klingons prefer action over talk. Sisko on the other hand was much more of a fighter and much closer to being a Klingon.
Odo (René Auberjonois) was the obligatory alien character outsider that allowed the writers to examine humanity. All good Star Trek has one. Odo was a shapechanger from at the beginning an unidentified alien species. One thing I never got though-and this is a general rule-when and why do shapechangers mimic clothing? I am willing to buy that they do people or other living things but fabrics and apparently his Bajoran com badge were all copyable. And why did he not need to eat?
The character of Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) was just too much of a hard ass in the beginning but softened over time. Her purpose was to be the anti-Starfleet officer since she was current Bajoran militia and a former freedom fighter. It felt like she was there to be difficult not because it was her character but because the producers felt the stories needed friction for some reason.
Quark (Armin Shimmerman) was the Ferengi bar owner on the station. He started out the series as an embodiment of all the usual Ferengi stereotypes but over time grew into what could best be described as a traditionalist and a good guy. He upheld Ferengi values but was not a caricature of capitalism and greed by the end.
The Ferengi early on after their first appearance became comic relief in the show and for much of DS9 that was true but Star Trek as it often does uses alien culture to examine human social issues. For example in the dynamic between Quark and his mother they examined sexism and traditional family values coming up against modern society.
There was a broad cast of minor and supporting characters in this show. Rom (Max Grodénchik) was Quark’s brother and generally a punchline but grew into an allegory of finding your own way despite your culture. His son Nog (Aron Eisenberg) was even more interesting.
Nog seriously broke the mold established by the previously portrayed Ferengi characters. And it was done in a very way human. He approached Sisko in season three to join Starfleet in a bid to not only provide himself with a future but not become like his father as he feared. It was a heartbreaking and well-acted moment. The idea between behind Star Trek, at least one of them anyway, was to examine humanity in a science-fiction setting and that final moment began that road for Nog.
Nog developed a friendship with Sisko’s son Jake that started out with Nog just being a bad influence but grew into more. Their story became about two individuals getting past their cultural differences and becoming friends. And the serialized nature of the show made it one of the most satisfying arcs of that type on television. Normally such a story occurs in one episode but on DS9 it was drawn out over seven seasons and that allowed for a complexity and depth that other shows of the time and some even currently can’t equal.
Cardassian Elim Garak (the brilliant Andrew J. Robinson) was intended as a one-off character that by the end of the series was a prominent and intriguing character. Very little concrete is known about the character. He was more of a plot device than a character but what they did with him somehow crafted an amazing character. Robinson was so delicious to watch in the role. He created an endearing dark character that you wanted more of.
All we really know is that Garak was a member of the Obsidian Order-the feared Cardassian secret police. He was the illegitimate son of Enabran Tain (Paul Dooley) and at some point an incident with prisoners or refugees towards the end of the Cardassian occupation caused him to be permanently exiled to DS9 with the possibility that if he ever left he was to be killed. And there is also the rivalry with Dukat with the only concrete detail being that Garak tortured and killed Dukat’s father but that may have been minor in the context of Cardassian society.
And the villains were some of the best ever. Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo who had appeared a few other times on TNG) was a supporting character that over time grew complex and into one of the best Trek villains ever. I think only Khan (Ricardo Montalban) was better. Damar (Casey Biggs) started out as Dukat’s subordinate and during the course of the show became his loyal friend. He was a good Cardassian. He was not necessarily evil, but did what was best in the context of the culture of his people. What he did was understandable even if it was not good.
Louise Fletcher was the conniving and ambitious Winn Adami who started out as a Vedek (Bajoran priest) who eventually becomes Kai (Bajoran pope). Jeffrey Combs played Ferengi liquidator Brunt and the Vorta Weyoun. And this is scratching the surface. There was a rich and full cast of well-done characters. The villains were often complicated and not necessarily evil. Sometimes the heroes in the show could see reflections of themselves in the bad guys or there was the glimmer of good subdued by evil. Characters struggled with their natures.
The core characters all liked each other here. They may have had differences of opinion, but they were all on the same side. They developed friendships and relationships and lives. While not perfect they were the best of the best and they were positive characters.
This show touched on religion and politics and how both can be perverted towards questionable ends. Kai Winn was not above using religion to advance her power and personal position. Season Two took a step in the right direction with its premiere. It opened with a multi part story where the government of Bajor was beginning to fall apart. Xenophobia and nationalism and outright bigotry were all touched upon in this episode as the Cardassians attempted to use proxies to regain control. It was an absolutely amazing storyline.
Deep Space Nine produced an episode that was not only fine piece of drama but also one of the best Star Trek episodes in a very long time. It was called “Far Beyond the Stars”. In it Sisko, in the midst of the Dominion War, considers leaving Starfleet and begins experiencing hallucinations where he is a science fiction writer named Benny Russell living in 1953. It was very direct in its discussion of racism, and it also stands out because all the actors appeared as other characters without their makeup.
A major complaint about the show from the start was that it was set on a space station. Up until that time Star Trek was all about exploring strange new worlds and new civilizations and the whole boldly going where no man has gone before thing. How do you do that on a space station? How do you maintain Star Trek without extensive space travel?
Star Trek though is not about spaceships or cool aliens or great battles though Star Trek can contain those things. It is about exploring the human condition with topical stories. It is a character driven narrative to give you something to think about. And this show did that in spades.
The scripts were amazing. There may have been one or two episodes that I don’t really care for but on the whole the scripts were great and the acting was always top notch. Everyone was just so good. I can’t cite one standout performer because they were all standout performers. I can think of very few shows with this much talent.
A prime example of this comes from Season One called “Duet.” While I take issue with the ending, the acting between Nana Visitor and Harris Yulin as possible Cardassian war criminal Marritza is stupendous. The episode is traumatic, and chilling and you cannot take your eyes off of it. It raises some serious moral and ethical issues and is quite possibly the finest episode prior to the advent of the Dominion War. I do give them points for the moment of the breakdown and the Cardassian confesses his true identity. In that moment he goes from a monstrous war criminal to a soldier feeling guilt for having done nothing when he should have who is now trying to make up for the lack of action.
And they weren’t afraid to elevate some characters and push others to the background when necessary. Garak was a one-off character that got put in more and more of the show. Dukat was a go to villain when they needed some tough guy who eventually became the chief nemesis of the series. Rom was a minor character to give someone for Quark to berate and he eventually became very close to the level of Quark. Morn, a character that never spoke on screen, had a whole episode dedicated to him! The way they structured the show allowed them to do amazing things. It was a true ensemble series and it benefited greatly from that.
They could even do things to reset characters. Sometimes they got stuck in a rut with a character. It was obvious from the stories that they were doing. Martok (J.G. Hertzler) who was simply a mean Klingon general was turned into a multi layered charismatic leader. Bashir through the storyline involving the alterations to his DNA really grew. Jadzia was the young woman who was really wise. That got boring pretty quick but once Worf was introduced they took a nugget of her character’s biography and developed a relationship between the two and she grew by leaps and bounds.
Odo was always pining for his people and being the only one he knew of his kind and that schtick got stale but the revelation concerning what his people really were and how he had to deal with it and the consequences from him interacting with them as well as going against their wishes brought the character to a whole new level. And Sisko went from reluctantly trying to stay away from his role as Emissary to embracing it as strongly as he did Starfleet.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did not start out as a favorite of mine. In fact I was only kind of interested in it. It was good enough science fiction adventure set in the world of Star Trek. Yet by the end it became my favorite spin off. With a combination of amazing acting and great stories it remains the best done and most topical and the most relevant of the Star Trek spinoffs. It took the elements of the original series, what made it a classic, and brought them into the modern era. This show is a must see from beginning to end for all Star Trek fans.