Entertainment,  Television

Star Trek Sunday: DS9

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine began its run while I was in my fourth year of university.

By then I’d long grown beyond the Star Trek Club, which yes, I joined in first year to be with other like-minded Trekkies, though I found myself not quite as like-minded as I might have liked. I wonder now if it was just a vocal few, who, when we got together each week to watch and discuss the most recent episode, were just keeping everyone else silent on topics. But I remember a strongly expressed dislike for Wesley, which I didn’t share because I saw shades of myself in the character, and disparaging comparisons between Picard and Kirk. In fact, thinking back, I remember far more complaints about the show than enjoyment. I think that’s what drove me away from the club. I loved the show, and while I could certainly see issues with it, I couldn’t see as many as some of the people around me seemed to. I didn’t feel the need to rip apart any given episode on the basis of one tiny flaw or perceived character shortcoming I didn’t see.

But I wonder what the Star Trek club might have made, or did make, of Deep Space Nine when it began to air.

You probably heard the jokes. The one that got the most play around me was, To boldly stay where no one has stayed before. And there were lots of comparisons to Babylon 5, a lot of them less than flattering. I might have cracked a joke once or twice myself, and I might have made a couple those comparisons. I will admit, watching the first episode in my room on a fourteen-inch colour TV, that I had a hard time liking it. The first few minutes were awesome, with a different perspective on the battle with the Borg cube at Wolf 359. But after that, there wasn’t a lot going on, and there wasn’t a lot to give me a taste or understanding of the characters who were going to make up the crew. It was neat, I supposed, that the captain was black and his first officer was a woman. But what did they have going for them beyond that? And who were the rest of these people anyway? And why wouldn’t the director let the actors act? Especially that first officer and the young doctor? Build a bridge out of them and be done with it or turn them loose to give me some belief that they’re actual characters.

There were some cool ideas on the nature of time and existence in that episode, and that’s probably what got me to the end. There didn’t seem to be a lot of cool ideas to carry the later episodes, not for the first, short season.

Deep Space Nine didn’t grow on me so well. I did pick the show up again closer to the end of its run, when there was a lot happening, when the characters were well-rounded and well-developed, when the writing was great. I enjoyed the last couple of seasons, but I got there almost accidentally.

Again, in today’s television market, Deep Space 9 would not have a chance. Its first season would not have carried it through to renewal, except by the strength of being Star Trek, and that probably wouldn’t save it after the second season, at least not by what I saw of the second season. To be fair, I probably still have a biased view. Like I said, the later seasons were good, and I like what I’ve seen of them, but it took until I was deep into my 40s to try watching the series from the beginning again, and it took my oldest daughter’s interest in it to actually gain a little momentum in the watching of it.

At this point, we’ve reached about a third of the way into Season 6, and I have a decent recollection of the major events left to come, so I know I like a lot of what’s left, but I’ve struggled all the way along with this show. The characters have grown (and the actors have mostly been allowed to act) and I enjoy most of them, and a lot (though not nearly all) of what I’ve watched has definitely been good science fiction, but much as I like the show, most of it is missing the essential Trekness that puts things properly into what TOS and TNG gave me most of the time. Star Trek isn’t just another form of science fiction. It’s supposed to be about the work towards a better future, a more positive one, a place where we strive to be who we want to be, to be better than we are, to explore the universe and ourselves and what it means to be human. DS9 has some great characters and some great stories and is often really good science fiction, but it mostly doesn’t give me that.

And I’m skipping all of the mirror universe episodes because they annoy me to no end.

Live long and prosper.

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