Happy birthday to Star Trek! Today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s first episode airing, and to that, I’d like to talk about the show and the specific series that made me a Star Trek fan for life. =)
If you haven’t watched Star Trek for some awful reason (it’s okay), it has aired a number of series over the decades, covering different time periods, starship captains, and dramas. The Original Series (TOS) is a favorite for how groundbreaking it is. For one thing, it’s science fiction that shows a future world of hope and optimism — very different than the dystopian futures we often see. For another thing, it had a diverse cast — even an interracial kiss! — which was a bold act of representation in the 1960’s. Since then, other series of several seasons have aired. In the 1990’s, that series was Deep Space Nine.
I started watching Deep Space Nine (DS9) several years ago. I hadn’t grown up on Star Trek, but space stations have always interested me. (All the way back to watching Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century on the Disney Channel when I was a kid… yeah. That movie is awesome.) Because what sets DS9 apart from other incarnations of Star Trek is that instead of being set on a starship and showing the lives of the crew, it depicts the captain and crew of a Starfleet space station. It also features an overarching drama (rather than monster-of-the-week a la TOS), covering the lead up to a large-scale war.
There are a many things I love about Deep Space Nine, so these are just a few — and must-watch episodes if you haven’t seen it yet! (Minor spoilers to follow.)
Holosuites, Raktajinos, and Book Clubs
The real fun of DS9 is watching life aboard a space station. After hours, the characters spend time at Quark’s bar, playing dabo or in the holosuites. They drink caffeinated drinks and alcoholic ones, a favorite of mine being the Raktajino that Sisko often orders from the replicator. (I totally want to try to make it, by the way — this Food Replicator Tumblr has a great recipe!) And one of my favorite scenes is when doctor Julian Bashir meets up with Cardassian tailor Elim Garak to talk about books. It’s everyday living that makes this series feel like a realistic taste of the future.
The Dax-Worf Romance
Jadzia Dax is a Trill who is joined with a symbiont. As such, she has the memories of several Trill/symbiont ancestors who have gone before her. Compared to some of the other aliens in Star Trek, she looks very human — just a few spots along the sides of her face set her apart.
Once she meets the Klingon Worf, she becomes brazen in chasing him. I love that she has a crush on him and makes the first move. She fights to impress him. She convinces him to let himself fall for her back. Their wedding is an interesting ceremony for showing their alien customs.
And they remain in love until Jadzia dies, giving way to a new Trill host for the symbiont, Ezri Dax. Ezri has all of these memories of Jadzia’s relationship with Worf — and a part of her is Jadzia — but she’s also a new person with a partially different history, a different chemistry, and different desires. She doesn’t have the same feelings for Worf as Jadzia did.
I’ve never encountered a romance quite like this one, and it’s fascinating to see how it evolves.
Favorite Character: Kira Nerys
Kira is probably my favorite character ever from Star Trek. She’s Bajoran, and for some 50 years, her planet has been occupied by the Cardassians. Many Bajorans even worked in labor camps for the Cardassians. Kira spent time as a freedom fighter. Though the occupation is now over, Kira’s background makes her suspicious of Cardassians when she meets them or, in some cases, is forced to work with them. Her relationship with the Cardassian Gul Dukat is especially intriguing.
Apart from that, Kira has a fierce personality that reminds me of an awesome Renegade Shepard in Mass Effect. She’s tough, opinionated, and forward. But all of that stems from an inner passion that is as compassionate as it is fearless. For instance, she becomes a surrogate mother to give birth to a child for her friends. She also falls in love a few times in the series — eventually with the sometimes misunderstood changeling Odo. She seems to really care about his need to shapeshift, and their conversations about this are some of most interesting in the show to me.
Another fascinating facet of Kira is that she is deeply religious. She is of the Bajoran religion, and there are episodes where she prays or goes to her church. I like that this is part of who she is, as I don’t see a lot of science fiction with religions like this.
I guess my favorite thing about Kira is that she’s full of surprises, yet makes no apologies for who she is. I’d say she’s even a role model of mine.
Love to Hate: Vic Fontaine
Later seasons of DS9 introduce Vic Fontaine, a holographic singer from the 1960’s who appears in the holosuites. At first he’s just an entertainer, but several episodes have him giving advice to characters in the show. Now, I have nothing against his singing or him being a wise man, and it’s actually fun to see the characters enjoying themselves at the old-fashioned lounge in the holosuites…
But in the midst of this escalating war and all the drama of the later seasons, the last thing I want is to spend a whole episode listening to characters whine to Vic about their problems. It slows down the pace of the show. Eventually, this became my biggest pet peeve about DS9!
Most Fun Episode: “Our Man Bashir”
If you want to unwind with a Star Trek episode that’s smart, stylish, and hilarious, “Our Man Bashir” is the way to go. You don’t even need to watch the whole series to enjoy this episode. It depicts Julian Bashir spending time in a holosuite program where he plays a James Bond type of character. When others find out about this hobby of his, he is upset at the invasion of his privacy. It’s role-playing, a way for him to de-stress — but running around in a fantasy world taking down bad guys and spending time with beautiful women is not something he advertises.
Things get crazier when his crewmates get caught in the holosuite program, acting out the parts of characters in the program without being able to escape. Now, it’s up to him to get them out — by playing the exact kind of “spy” character he usually plays in this holosuite!
Captain Sisko’s Arc
Sisko is an amazing captain. He’s tough but compassionate. He loves baseball. He has a son but has lost his wife, who he misses. His father was a cook in New Orleans, and he also loves cooking with fresh ingredients. He falls in love with a freighter captain. Most of all, he always strives to do the right thing.
During the course of the show, he has to make a lot of difficult calls. It’s interesting to see him agonize over the right course of action. A really stirring episode here is “In the Pale Moonlight,” which is considered one of the best Star Trek episodes ever. It explores Sisko wrangling with his own conscience, as he goes to a Cardassian he doesn’t completely trust to do things that push him outside his moral comfort zone. Even though Starfleet gives him the go-ahead, Sisko’s forgery and lying for the greater good take a major toll on his conscience.
Sisko is also deemed the Emissary of the Prophets of the Bajoran religion. Because he’s not religious himself, he’s not sure what to make of his visions — or the things he is supposed to do as Emissary. (Kira pushes him sometimes!)
All of these things make Sisko a fascinating character, and he seems to deepen as the show progresses and he faces more challenging situations.
Most Moving Episode: “The Visitor”
I need to rewatch this episode, because the details are getting lost in my mind. But what remains strong is the emotion of this story.
It’s about Sisko and his son Jake, about death and human connection. It made me cry so hard. If you want to see a Star Trek episode with true heart, that skips war and technology and all of the other sci-fi things Trek is known for, watch this episode. It’s really beautiful.