Benjamin Sisko is a captain, father, widower, war criminal, and emissary. He is forced to make hard choices out on the edge of space, with no one having gone before him to blaze the trail. He makes mistakes but he always has the safety of the people under his protection at the forefront of his mind.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, much like its captain, is something of an anomaly. For one thing, rather than a Starship, DS9 is a Space Station at the edge of Federation controlled space; literally the Final Frontier, if you will.
Instead of following the traditional episodic format, DS9 features recurring storylines and characters who are given the chance to clash and conflict in a way avoided by the preceding series. With themes of hostile occupation, terrorism, warfare, and genocide, this Trek takes the time to explore the darker side of Starfleet and insert a little troublesome realism into Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic creation.
Although some see DS9 as contrary to Roddenberry’s pure vision, it arguably delivers an even more powerful message of hope and peace following the tough choices and painful character journeys it follows.
It is far from an easy road for Captain Ben Sisko and he is forced to make some of the hardest decisions of any Star Trek Captain. As he says himself: “a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant.”
With that in mind, here are the 15 Worst Things Captain Sisko Has Done.
15 Blackmailed Quark
Space Station Deep Space 9 is in a sorry state when Ben Sisko arrives with his young son, Jake.
Sisko’s Bajoran liaison office, Major Kira Nerys, is brusque and hostile towards him, thievery is rampant on the Promenade and most of the Station’s equipment is offline, damaged or missing. Sisko knows he has his work cut out in this assignment.
One of the first decisions he makes involves the Ferengi proprietor of the local bar, Quark. With his nephew Nog currently incarcerated for thievery, all Quark wants to do is get Nog released and flee the station. Instead, Sisko uses the nephew as a bargaining chip. He offers to free Nog if Quark will agree to stay on the station and reopen his bar. Essentially, Sisko blackmails the bar owner to remain despite the shift in power, knowing an active Promenade is essential to the life of the station.
A questionable decision, but one the Captain makes so he can begin to rebuild the Station. Whether you think it was the right thing to do probably depends on what you think of Quark.
14 Arrested His Girlfriend
In the fourth season of DS9, Sisko begins a relationship with Kasidy Yates. At first, he is reluctant to pursue his interest. He still considers his own work to have been responsible for his wife Jennifer’s death. Luckily, his son Jake encourages them, feeling it is time his father got a girlfriend.
Kasidy and Sisko share an interest in baseball and it is obvious the couple are on the same intellectual level, striking up a close relationship quickly. However, all is not perfect with the prospective match.
Kasidy comes under suspicion for smuggling for the rebel group, the Maquis. Sisko gives her a final chance, cryptically asking her to come with him on a spontaneous vacation rather than go on a suspected smuggling mission. She is tempted but refuses.
Kasidy returns from her mission alone. She faces a prison sentence for her actions but had not wanted to throw away her relationship with Sisko, even if it meant turning herself in.
It is hard to tell if arresting Kasidy or almost letting her off the hook was the sin in this sequence of events.
13 Slept With Dax And Kira
In a series that is often criticized for being too grim and murky, Deep Space Nine has some light-hearted incidences in their Mirror Universe episodes.
The Mirror Universe is a chance to indulge in more ridiculous storylines than the serious prime timeline. After the crew’s first outing in the Mirror Universe, Mirror Sisko is inspired to lead a rebellion against his Kira - a fabulous psychotic despot, ruthless and sex-obsessed, in contrast to the warm, feisty, freedom fighter we know and love in the prime timeline. Unfortunately, he is killed and Mirror O’Brien proceeds to kidnap our Sisko to pose as the dead rebel leader.
While pretending to be Mirror Sisko, it is made clear that he needs to perform his duty properly – including hooking up with Mirror Jadzia Dax and hopping back into bed with Intendant Kira to keep up the ruse.
No doubt his actions were for the greater good but imagine what our Kira and Dax would have said if they found out.
12 Threaten to poison an entire Maquis Colony just to capture Michael Eddington
Michael Eddington, former Starfleet Officer, betrays the Federation and his Captain to side with the rebel organisation, the Maquis. His Maquis sympathies were not noticed by Sisko, despite working closely together, so Sisko takes his betrayal deeply personally. He declares that he will see Eddington court-martialled and sentenced to life in prison for his actions.
The pair engage in a dangerous game. Eddington remains consistently one step ahead of Sisko and Sisko becomes obsessed with capturing his former officer.
Eddington is a romantic, a fan of the novel Les Misérables who sees himself as Valjean, the hero, and Sisko as Javert, relentlessly pursuing him despite his just cause.
To defeat him, Sisko realizes he needs to truly become the villain. He prepares to poison the atmosphere of a Maquis Colony. Eddington thinks he is bluffing, as does his crew, but he is not. Sisko says he will do the same to every Maquis Colony unless Eddington surrenders. Eddington offers himself up in exchange and the vendetta is over. Sisko wins, but he becomes very much the villain in doing so.
The audience is left wondering if the Maquis might have had a point about the Federation after all.
11 Ordered The Slaughter Of Jem’Hadar Soldiers
"Rocks and Shoals" sees Sisko and the crew crash land on a mysterious plant in Dominion Space aboard a captured Jem’Hadar ship.
The Jem'Hadar group are running out of Ketracel-White, an addictive substance that they have been genetically engineered to need by their leaders.
The Jem’Hadar’s ‘Vorta’ Keevan is injured and makes a deal with the Starfleet crew for their assistance. It is he who explains that, when the White runs out, the Jem’Hadar will lose control and become homicidal. Keevan betrays the Jem’Hadar, offering to give information to Sisko on how to slaughter the soldiers, as long as they protect him.
The crew are against using this information to kill the Jem’Hadar, but Garak points out that it is war and the enemy would not hesitate to kill them if given the chance.
Ultimately, it is Sisko’s decision and he chooses to use the information to save his own crew. Sisko prepares a trap for the Jem’Hadar soldiers, catching them in a lethal crossfire.
The whole episode is made worse by the reveal that the Jem’Hadar knew about the betrayal but were compelled by loyalty to walk into the trap and be killed.
10 Marooned His Crew
In "Children of Time", the crew of the Defiant are caught in a quantum-bubble around a planet that is revealed to be inhabited by the descendants of the marooned crew.
When first trying to escape the planet’s field, the original ship was sent 200 years back in time and crashed. The crew were resigned to their fate and established a society. Sadly, Major Kira died in the crash.
The crew meet their descendants and face the impossible decision of repairing their ship to escape or allowing the Defiant to be marooned so the society can evolve.
If they maroon themselves, Kira will die and the crew will never see their family again. Yet if they don’t, the 8,000 descendants on the planet will cease to exist.
Sisko says he cannot ask Kira and the crew to make that decision but, when she says she cannot be responsible for stopping them having the chance to live, Sisko lets her make the decision, effectively condemning her.
9 Left His Son Behind
When the Dominion War kicks off, Sisko and the crew evacuate Deep Space 9. They leave behind Odo and Kira, as Sisko has encouraged the Bajorans to sign a non-aggression pact with the Dominion to keep the civilians safe.
Sisko is shocked to discover in the confusion that his son Jake has also chosen to stay behind. Jake is a writer and desires to be in the midst of the action to report on the progress of the war.
Jake is an adult (just) and the decision is his own. Sisko has always tried to encourage his son in his chosen path, despite his disappointment that he chose not to follow Sisko into Starfleet. Yet it is a little worrying that Sisko did not notice his son chose to remain behind until it was too late.
Sisko’s father lays into him for leaving Jake behind but it is obvious the two men are as worried as each other about Jake’s position. Sisko is nothing if not a caring father and it is dangerous letting his son remain behind in the enemy occupied space station.
8 Punched Q In The Face
The omnipotent prankster Q reappears to cause trouble in Deep Space Nine after being such a fan favourite in The Next Generation.
Q soon finds out that Captain Sisko is a far cry from the restrained, cerebral conflicts he had with Picard. When attempting to provoke Sisko in his usual clownish way, Q is shocked to have Sisko punch him square in the face.
After being punched in the face, Q exclaims “Picard never hit me!” to which Sisko replies “I am not Picard.”
Though often cited as one of the most awesome things Sisko ever did, and a reason Q never came back to annoy the crew, this could also have been a really bad idea. Q has been proven to have powers Starfleet can only dream about.
Even if largely shown to be a harmless trickster, Q is still basically a god. Punching a god in the face could have all sorts of consequences.
7 Caused The Dominion War
War was inevitable from the moment Sisko and crew met with the Dominion.
In "Call to Arms", the Dominion begin building up their hostile forces and sending ships through the wormhole. Sisko’s decision to mine the wormhole inspired Dominion to declare that they will remove Deep Space 9 from Sisko’s command and begin open hostility in an undeniably epic series finale battle.
Of course, the Founders’ species-wide xenophobia would lead to war eventually. Sisko’s actions only cause the fighting to happen at that particular moment.
Still, it was Ben Sisko who was the first of the Federation to officially meet with the Dominion. Sisko and Quark were captured by the Jem’Hadar and the USS Odyssey destroyed in the rescue attempt. It was decidely not the most successful of Starfleet’s First Contacts.
6 Chose Faith Over His Life
Ben Sisko is hailed by the Bajorans as the "Emissary of the Prophets", a figure in their religion who can speak to the Prophets and can save Bajor by finding the Celestial Temple.
Although resistant to this at first, Ben Sisko slowly begins to bend to the Bajoran way of thinking. In "Rapture", he sees a painting of the Bajoran lost city of B’hala and is inspired to search for it. After a holosuite accident leaves him unconscious, he begins to have visions and ultimately finds the site of the lost city.
The Bajorans see this as a miracle and are more convinced than ever that Sisko is their fabled Emissary. Sisko begins to neglect his Starfleet command as he becomes obsessed with finding the secrets of the lost city.
He experiences debilitating headaches and Dr Bashir seeks to operate immediately. Sisko refuses, unwilling to lose the visions he has been experiencing, but when he falls unconscious, his son, as next of kin, asks for the operation to be performed.
Sisko is distressed to have lost the visions but is reminded that his life with his son is more precious.
5 Disapproved Of His Son’s Friendship
Benjamin Sisko has a close relationship with his son Jake. After the loss of his mother, Sisko has been sure to share as much as he can with his son and it is refreshing to see a Trek Captain also be a present and invested parent.
When the pair first move onto Deep Space 9, Jake is not thrilled with the upheaval and the sparseness of the new living space.
His opinion improves when he befriends Nog, the son of Rom, a badly-behaved Ferengi. Jake is a good influence on Nog, who enrolls in school and learns to read and write. However, Sisko worries about Nog’s influence on Jake, as Nog is constantly in trouble and it isn’t long before he is kicked out of school.
Nog later joins Starfleet and proves himself a diminutive but valuable member of the crew. Sisko’s initial animosity towards the boy is uncalled for and could have harmed his son's only friendship.
4 He Died
"The Visitor" is a controversial episode. Often considered one of the most heart-wrenching DS9 episodes, it shows us a timeline where Ben Sisko is dead.
The episode follows an elderly Jake Sisko telling a visitor at his secluded home about the tragic loss of his father. In fact, Sisko is not dead but trapped in subspace after an accident. Rather than stay dead, he keeps showing up for a short amount of time, keeping Jake from getting over his death.
His demise proves to be one of the worst things Sisko has ever done. As he is such an important figure in Bajoran society, his death leads to a war and Deep Space 9 is passed to the Klingons, splitting up the crew.
Jake ultimately realizes a way to break the loop and resets the timeline avoiding his father’s fate. The catastrophic events never happen but it's no less traumatic for the audience.
3 Sent Nog On A Dangerous Mission
In "The Siege of AR-558", the Defiant arrives to an outpost to deliver supplies to the troops holding a communications array. The Jem’Hadar have been assaulting the base, killing over two-thirds of the Starfleet troops. A portion of Sisko’s crew finds itself trapped there with an incoming Jem’Hadar force.
Sisko takes command, ordering the men to hold the base whatever the cost. A lot of people wind up dead but unlike the standard "Red Shirt" trope, there is a feeling that these soldiers are individuals and their loss is more than just a number.
When Sisko sends Nog on a mission that gets him seriously injured, Quark is furious. Quark feels Sisko sent him "casually' to a mission, knowing he could die. To make things even more depressing, Nog is more upset that he failed Sisko by being injured
It is clear that Sisko does care deeply about the men under his command and that this whole episode is full of tough wartime decisions. Yet it is also undeniable that Nog is injured under Sisko’s command and that the final fatal decision to stay and sacrifice troops holding the base is Sisko's.
2 Committed A War Crime
Does the end always justify the means? This is something explored throughout this most hard-hitting of the Trek series and in no other episode more vividly than "In The Pale Moonlight".
The Dominion War is well underway and if they lose the war, the Dominion will wipe out the human race. Sisko enlists the help of Garak, a former Cardassian spy, to obtain intelligence to persuade the Romulans to enter the war. Sisko is convinced that the Romulans are crucial to the war effort and he falls into deeper and darker moral conflicts as he tries to enlist them.
Knowing the Romulans will only enter the war with evidence of a planned Dominion attack, Sisko is persuaded to fake evidence and turns a blind eye to cold-blooded political assassination by Garak.
Sisko achieves his goal. The Romulans enter the war on the Federation’s side, but to do so Sisko has given up his deep-rooted Federation morals in such a way that some viewers have trouble forgiving him.
1 Yelled At Everyone
Captain Sisko is a passionate man. He has a temper.
It is obvious Sisko is set up as the antithesis of the captain that has gone before him, the indomitable Jean-Luc Picard. Compared to Picard’s calm and academic approach to leadership, Sisko wears his heart on his sleeve. He has a loud laugh, is a family man, and has a close relationship with his crew, inviting them over for home-cooked meals.
When Sisko first meets Picard, he is antagonistic towards him. The reasoning is clear; Picard had been assimilated into the Borg during the battle where Sisko’s wife tragically died and Sisko is still coming to terms with her death. It is a fascinating opening for a character to be so hostile towards an established hero that the audience already knows and loves.
Sisko’s temper is not necessarily a bad thing. It certainly gets stuff done. However, if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of one of his impassioned tirades, you'd likely regret it.
What other awful things has Captain Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine done? Let us know in the comments!