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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Best Trek Series Turns 20
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
This year marks the 20th anniversary of a movie and two TV series that are important to me, the first of which is the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
I wasn't always a fan of Star Trek. I'd watched the original Star Trek series as a kid in syndication and never cared for it all that much. I still don't. And when Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) first started airing in 1987 I didn't watch it because it was something my dad was into. And I was at the age that I thought anything my dad was into was positively lame.
In fact, it wouldn't be until I was in high school and the third series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) premiered that my love of all things Trek would be born.
Both the original series and TNG dealt with the crew of the Starship Enterprise during different time periods and their adventures around the galaxy. Each week the Enterprise would zoom someplace new, battle the Klingons, Borg and have Captain Kirk or Commander Riker woo the native babes. But DS9 was different. This series was set in a space station in a far-off outpost of the Trek universe where things were a little less shiny and a lot more gritty. The station, near the backwater planet Bajor, suddenly becomes an important galactic transportation hub after a wormhole is discovered nearby allowing travel to an unexplored portion of the galaxy.
And that's where DS9 was different than what had come before – the adventure came to DS9 rather than the other way around.
DS9 was a very complex sci-fi series, and I kind'a wonder if that's why it's been mostly forgotten since it went off the air in 1999. To be sure there were typical sci-fi-ish episodes of DS9 about space-smugglers, the crew being trapped in alternate dimensions or famously traveling back in time to interact with the crew of the original Enterprise. But there were also episodes of a planet recovering from a military occupation that bordered on genocide, a intergalactic war that would cost millions of lives and an ever evolving complex set of characters who felt like real people who had realistic hopes and dreams and flaws.
In DS9 the characters were always at a war with their very nature. They could do good or bad, and sometimes, much like in real life, good people had to justify to themselves that doing bad things is at times a very real cost of power.
I can remember reading about DS9 and following the progress of the show months before it premiered – something that was considerably more difficult 20 years ago before the internet. In fact, I'd cut out articles about the show from magazines and still probably have those in my files someplace.
For a time, DS9 and Trek in general were very popular, much more so than even today with the reboot feature film series. In the late 1990s here in northeast Indiana there was around 15 hours of different Trek series airing somewhere on the dial each week. And DS9 was so popular that it aired twice a week, on Saturday and again Sunday evenings.
Unfortunately, I think what made DS9 so great and different than what had come before is what's kept the series in near obscurity these days. While the adventure heavy original Trek and TNG have made ten feature films and TNG seems to be on several times a day on SyFy and BBC America, the crew of DS9 weren't as lucky. Since the series ended in '99 the series only aired once on cable and there were no feature films that followed the end of DS9 either.
But, then again, maybe that's a good thing? The last view we got of Deep Space Nine was of daily life on the station continuing and the crew looking forward to new adventures. Which, to me at least, isn't a bad way to go.
Currently, all episodes of DS9 are available on DVD and are available for streaming on Netflix. If you're considering checking out the series for the first time be aware that the first two seasons of the DS9 are a bit slow, but not bad, and it takes some time for the characters to develop. I'd say that the series really found its legs during the latter parts of the second season with the introduction of the alien Dominion.
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