“Fate has granted me a gift, Major. A gift to be a healer.”
--Dr. Julian Bashir
It’s tough to know what to make of DS9’s resident medical officer on first blush. He’s naïve, arrogant, and oblivious to all but the most blatant social cues. He’s eager for challenges, but doesn’t yet know what those challenges mean. He embodies the can-do, starry-eyed, boyish sense of adventure that the British Empire always imagined it had. He is a pretty bold creation by the writing staff, if they intended him as I believe they did: a character as intentionally obnoxious as possible, that they might eventually redeem somehow. Bashir’s character becomes even more fascinating in retrospect, as a later revelation places his early overweening arrogance in a much darker context.
“I’m telling you, I knew the man!”
“But, did you know the symbiont inside the man?”
-- Commander Sisko and Constable Odo
On my first trip through DS9, I always dreaded Dax episodes. Not because they were bad, but because they meant that this week I wasn’t getting a Kira episode, or an Odo episode, or the black tar heroin of episodes, a Garak episode. On this trip through the show, I’m hoping to analyze exactly why Dax episodes don’t quite work as well as others. Your mileage may vary, of course. It’s possible Dax is your favorite character, and, in that case, don’t let me curb your enjoyment. On the surface, I get the appeal. Dax is a classic, strong woman archetype. She’s tough, she’s smart, and uniquely for that niche, she’s wise. Unlike many later heroines, Dax is refreshingly sex-positive, and the show never wags its finger or clucks its tongue at her for it. And, because I would be remiss if I didn’t point it out, she’s played by the ridiculously gorgeous Terry Farrell.
“You hit me! Picard never hit me.”
“I’m not Picard.”
-- Q and Commander Sisko
Just in case you have no idea who the Star Trek universe’s Q is, I’ll explain. First, though, how’d you end up here? Are you lost? Wait here and I’ll go and get a police officer to take you home, and, for the last time, stop mixing your medication with scotch. Anyway, Q is a godlike alien being who walks the line between mischievous and malevolent and takes special delight in bothering Captain Picard. As played by John de Lancie, Q is one of the more popular and recognizable elements of the twenty-year period of Trek that comprises TNG, DS9, and Voyager. Me, I’ve never cared for Q. Nothing against de Lancie or the writing, I just prefer my godlike aliens to be more strange and less preteen-who-really-could-use-his-Ritalin. It might be because I look at Q as the physical representation of the Trek brass (a.k.a. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga). Wherever their attention is, like the Eye of Sauron, Q will soon appear, bringing his special brand of malicious whimsy.
“Die with honor, O’Brien.” -- Tosk
From the very beginning, the Gamma Quadrant was DS9‘s most tantalizing promise. An entire sector of unexplored space, in which anything could be waiting. In the early going, it was pretty clear that the show wasn’t quite sure how to fulfill that promise. By the second season, the team of writers led by Ira Steven Behr would surpass it, but, for the time being, it was to be used for the kinds of episodes more suited to TNG. Just instead of going to the new life and new civilizations, they would have to come through the wormhole to the cast.
“Who said anything about volunteering? We can haggle over price later.” --Quark
The mysterious plague episode is the baked potato of the Star Trek franchise. It’s the staple, presumably what the writers do when they don’t have anything better on the agenda. “So, what’s the plan this week?” “I dunno, Ira, how about a mysterious plague?” “GOLD! You’re spinning gold right now!” It might seem shocking that DS9 dipped into that well so quickly, but they showed more restraint than TNG whose “Naked Now” was the very second episode ever. Fortunately, this doesn’t feature Denise Crosby with bizarre ‘80s hair either.
“Laws change, depending on who’s making them -- Cardassians one day, Federation the next. But, justice is justice.” -- Constable Odo
The quote above is pretty stunning. It’s not the kind of thing you would see in any other installment in the Star Trek franchise, unless it came out of the mouth of a villain or maybe a guest star whose opinion of Starfleet would change before the credits rolled. Here, it’s coming from a series regular -- the station’s security officer, Odo -- and he’s basically saying that the laws of our heroic utopia and a brutally oppressive regime, who regarded war crimes as an icebreaker, are the same. It’s a pretty important window into Odo, who, for the first two episodes, was something of an enigma. He’s center stage in “A Man Alone,” and we really start seeing the character that would become not only a fan favorite, but arguably the most important person across two quadrants.
“It was so much easier when I knew who the enemy was.” -- Major Kira Nerys
DS9’s great strength has always been its sprawling cast. While the other entries in the franchise largely confined their drama to the command staff of a starship with the occasional reoccurring player, DS9 built a rogue’s gallery of guest stars, many of whom were among the show’s strongest characters. Of these, a single man stands atop all others and remains my favorite amongst any of the Trek shows. That man? Garak. Plain, simple Garak.
“Good luck, Mr. Sisko.”-- Captain Jean-Luc Picard
I’ve loved Star Trek for as long as I can remember. I was a fan of the films (well, the second, third, and fourth anyway) and eagerly embraced TNG when it hit the air. Despite an abiding fandom, I never turned into one of those scary, obsessive fans the franchise is infamous for. Well, not until I saw Deep Space Nine.