In many ways, Deep Space Nine is Star Trek’s red-headed stepchild. The series was sedentary on a space station; the stories were often serialized and the content was much darker. Issues of religious fundamentalism and terrorism were novel at the time, but in present context, they feel like a terrible warning, and the Breen attack on Earth is far more shattering now in a post-9/11 world. Many felt its darkness was antithetical to Gene Roddenberry’s vision (it was) and that it had no place in Trek (it does).
Captain Ben Sisko was forced into morally untenable situations. He’s launched chemical weapons on a planet to force an enemy to evacuate; he’s committed espionage; he’s been a war general. Like no other captain before or after, Ben Sisko has known the harsh realities of foreign policy and of having not only the lives of his crew riding on his decisions, but the entire Alpha Quadrant. Hundreds of billions of lives. And he won. How badass is that?
DS9 never received the mainstream attention it deserved, so we’re going to give the series and Cap Sisko some of the love it deserves. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Ben Sisko.
15 He’s Part God…
Okay, so we'll freely admit that season 7 of DS9 had some creative problems. One of the issues was finding out that Ben Sisko’s mother was a woman who was possessed by the Prophets to seduce his father and give birth to him. It’s meant to be mythic, but instead, it just takes away from the naturalistic feel of the character. Thankfully, this plotline is quickly dropped and never mentioned again.
That being said, it’s worth noting because in some way, it does make a bit of sense. No regular human could be that much of a badass without help. He’s backhanded Gul Dukat, Elim Garak, Jem’Hadar soldiers and told Captain Picard where to stick his Ressikan flute. The man is concentrated awesome.
14 …And He Punched Another God in the Face
If you’ve ever watched the series, you know where we’re going with this. Q, the omnipotent god-like entity from TNG, showed up on DS9. He played Mr. Mxyzptlk-like tricks and jokingly challenged Ben Sisko to a fight, suddenly turning Quark’s bar into a boxing arena. Then, to the surprise of nobody but Q, Sisko decked him. Let’s meditate on that. A god-like being with unlimited power and poor impulse control was punched in the face by Benjamin Lafayette Sisko.
The episode itself—the aptly titled “Q-Less,” is a tedious mess that exists to bring the TNG fans over to the station. Despite the script, John De Lancie and Avery Brooks do deliver in their scenes together.
Q: “You hit me! Picard never hit me!”
Sisko: “I’m not Picard.”
And suddenly, every man on Earth realized just how weak they really were.
Admittedly, this is a well-known scene in the fandom, but we added it here because it is simply awesome.
13 Sisko After the Series Finale
Pocket Books continued the Star Trek titles as books after the series went off the air. Taking place post-Nemesis, we learn that Sisko returned from the Prophets to be there for the birth of his daughter. The DS9 relaunch books were mostly great until David R. George took over and character assassinated Sisko by having him disown his entire family to protect them from a vague prophecy and starts treating his crew like crap. Not only is the reasoning thin, but it's also antithetical to Sisko’s character. He’s a family man who is open with the people around him. The passive-aggressive martyr act is beneath him.
Also, Kira as a Vedek is terrible.
Now, if you want a good Star Trek book, check out Peter David’s New Frontier series and Andrew J. Robinson’s A Stitch in Time (Garak’s history written by Garak himself!).
12 Admiral Sisko
At the beginning of season 6, the Dominion War was out of control and the Federation/Klingon Alliance was losing every major confrontation. Despite being a captain, Ben Sisko was given control of the entire Alliance. He was the most experienced in fighting the Dominion and a brilliant strategist—so much so that his profile is required reading for all Dominion commanders. So, it makes sense that in taking on such an important role in the war, Sisko would be promoted to Admiral. And that was the plan. Showrunner Ira Steven Behr wanted to do something audacious and new, but in the end, he kiboshed the idea because he felt that making him an admiral, even temporarily, would make him a less accessible character to the audience.
Naturally, making him part-god next season wouldn’t make him inaccessible. So, for those of you keeping score, a promotion is a step too far, but apotheosis is perfectly reasonable.
11 The Hair Issue
Prior to being cast as Ben Sisko in 1993, Avery Brooks played Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff, A Man Called Hawk from 1985-1989. In both series, Brooks sported his preferred look: bald with a goatee. Paramount felt that fans would identify him as Hawk, so they had him grow his hair and shave his face for Trek (this was also done because they were worried about having two consecutively bald captains).
Fans, of course, still recognized Brooks as Hawk, because, wouldn't you know, it was the same actor. Regardless, Avery Brooks wanted his look back and negotiated making changes over time, first growing the goatee back and then shaving his head. And—surprise, surprise—fans did not leave the series in droves. This isn’t Voyager, after all.
10 Started Wars to Save Lives
Every day, Sisko had to watch from the station as more Dominion warships poured out of the wormhole and toward their Cardassian allies. War was inevitable, but impotent Starfleet was too terrified to be the ones to throw the first punch. Sisko realized that if the ships kept coming in, the Dominion would topple them. So, he sabotaged the wormhole so they couldn’t get reinforcements. The Dominion weren’t pleased, and Starfleet had no choice but to man up and save the day.
Later, Starfleet needed to get the Romulans on their side, so Sisko falsified evidence to make them enter the war on their side. These actions were morally reprehensible but necessary, and it led to the Alliance winning the war. In return, Sisko had to live with his decisions. It served to underline his distaste for war—especially because he was so good at it.
9 He Slept with Kira and Dax (Sorta)
The thing about Star Trek captains is that they usually need a good dose of penicillin after “exploring some strange new worlds.” However, by season 3, Sisko still hadn’t seduced any aliens. The reasoning was that he was still mourning the death of his wife, but Avery Brooks was frustrated for the character, so Ira Behr made it up to him.
They made an episode where Sisko was kidnapped and sent to the mirror universe. In his attempt to escape, he slept with the alternate universe incarnations of Dax and Kira. Having a captain take two lovers in one episode had never been done before (or since) and never with other characters from the main cast (or since). This satisfied Avery Brooks’ demands and jump-started Sisko back into the dating world.
8 Avery Brooks Also Wanted Sisko to Sing
Movie stars and rock stars have their weird little quirks they want in their contracts or little suggestions to add to their characters. For instance, Patrick Stewart wanted Captain Picard to quote Shakespeare and that was added; it worked out well. Great addition to the character. He also wanted “more sex and shooting” and we ended up with “Captain’s Holiday.” You can’t win them all. Avery Brooks wanted Sisko to get laid, as we've mentioned, but he also wanted Sisko to sing.
Brooks’ grandfather, father, and uncle were singers, and his mother had a Master’s in Music from Northwestern. In season 7, he finally got his wish, and Sisko sang “The Best is Yet to Come” alongside James Darren. And it was a great rendition. Thank god for that, because the episode—“Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang”—was…well, it was season 7.
7 The USS Saratoga
The Saratoga has a strange legacy in Star Trek. The name has been used for a variety of ships, and almost all of them have been otherwise disabled (The Voyage Home) or destroyed (“The Emissary”). Yet, they keep coming back as different ship types and with different registries. It’s kinda like the Kenny McCormick of Star Trek. You know death is coming, but you also know it’ll just come back again.
Sisko was the XO on one of these voyages of the damned when they encountered the Borg at Wolf 359. Faster than you can say “foreshadowing,” the damn thing gets destroyed by a combination of a Borg cutting beam and a warp core explosion. Why both? Because Star Trek hates this ship. But the real mistake? The Borg destroyed that ship, which had Sisko’s wife on it. What did he do in reply? Found out next!
6 Expert on the Borg—Never Faced Them
Sisko was First Officer on the Saratoga when the fleet fought the Borg at Wolf 359. All of the ships were easily dispatched by the Borg, and Sisko’s wife was killed. This led him to seek revenge, of course. So what does the baddest man in the Alpha Quadrant do? He creates Starfleet’s first warship that is better armed than most starbases, throws an illegal cloaking device on it, and calls it Defiant. Naturally.
The 1997 film Star Trek: First Contact dealt with the Borg returning, and the Defiant made a brief cameo…so Worf can join the fight. Nobody else from DS9. Not even Sisko. This is a creative misstep, but not a plothole. If you look at the stardates, it matches up to the DS9 episode “Blaze of Glory,” where he was stuck in the Badlands and unaware of the situation.
Regardless, the fact that Sisko and the Defiant were created with the Borg in mind and never did anything with them is a giant head scratcher.
5 Other Actors Originally Supposed to Play Sisko
Casting a Star Trek captain can be arduous. For every series, there are a hundred different well-known actors that almost got the role. Hell, some of them did, but it didn’t work out, so they were replaced and production had to begin again.
Alexander Siddig was originally cast as Sisko, but the studio didn’t care for him (and wanted him killed off after he was cast as Doctor Bashir). Other actors who were approached and even tested were Eriq La Salle, Tony Todd—a long-time Trek actor who played Worf’s brother Kurn and half a dozen other roles in the franchise—and James Earl Jones.
That’s right. Darth Vader almost saved the Alpha Quadrant from the Dominion. There were also rumors that Sidney Poitier was desired to play Sisko as part of an overall decades-spanning effort to get him into the franchise, but it’s a rumor that’s never been confirmed.
4 The Original Ending
Deep Space Nine was a dark show. Filled with moral ambiguity, shifty characters, and a war that cost 500 billion lives and the entire season 7 budget, it’s no surprise that the final episode put more emphasis on the bitter than the sweet. We all know how it ended: Sisko sacrifices himself to stop Dukat. At the last minute, the Prophets save him and he rests in the paradimensional celestial temple and tells his wife Cassidy that he’ll eventually return. Meanwhile, his son Jake stands on the promenade of the station and watches the wormhole, waiting for his father to come home. It’s very uplifting. Well, the original ending makes this one look like Blazing Saddles. Originally, Sisko was going to die. That’s it. No denouement, no goodbyes. He just dies. Somehow, it was considered too bleak.
Another ending was commissioned where he tells Cassidy that he is going to stay in the temple. Avery Brooks vetoed that ending because he felt it sent the wrong message about a black father abandoning his family. A third ending, the one we got, was chosen, and that at least let us know that like all great saviors, Ben Sisko is dead now, but he’ll be back soon.
3 Avery Brooks Now
To fans, he’ll always be The Emissary, but there is life after Star Trek. Following DS9, Avery Brooks went back into academia. He’s a long-time professor of Music and Theatre, with an MFA in Acting and Directing. He teaches at Oberlin and Case Western Reserve University. Over the years, he’s hosted and narrated documentaries on race, history, religion, and nature. Like many classically trained actors, Brooks returned to the stage after Deep Space Nine ended, playing starring roles in Death of a Salesman, Paul Robeson, Tamburlaine, and Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?
Given his family’s inclinations for music, it’s no surprise that he’s also released an album. In 2009, he debuted Here, a great collection of jazz and blues covers and some spoken word songs (worked for Shatner). Yes, we're beating a dead horse with that, but in Captain Kirk's defense, “Common People” is great.
2 Ben Sisko is the Most Human of the Star Trek Captains
Star Trek was always about the exploration of humanity. Often, however, their captains were an island; they’re the leaders, after all. They have to be cut from stone in some ways. Each had their flaws—Kirk was a womanizer, (movie) Picard loved shooting things, Janeway was an autocrat, and Archer was an idiot. Ben Sisko had an ego. He had a temper. For god’s sake, he told off Picard and Admiral Nechayev. He was pushed to emotional depths and placed under stressors during the Dominion War that would break a normal person, and it nearly broke him. We felt losses the way he did. When he reacted on gut instinct, it’s what we would’ve done. He was the most accessible of the franchise captains because he was written to be a person first—a father, first—and a captain second.
Take Janeway for instance. She was written as a captain first. So no matter what, she had to be right. If she decided to break the rules, it was for the right reason. If she decided to obey the rules, even to the detriment of her crew, she was right. This made Voyager and Janeway herself deeply inconsistent. When Sisko made mistakes, he had to acknowledge and live with them. Just like the rest of us.
1 There’s a Season 8 Script
It’s difficult reporting this without giggling like a little school girl. A crowd-funded (again, DS9 was the black sheep of the family) documentary is being produced called What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek Deep Space Nine. It features all the old cast and crew talking about the series, but the real selling point is this: some of the old writing staff—Ira Steven Behr, Ronald D. Moore, Rene Echevarria and Hans Beimler—got together and wrote a script for the first episode of the fabled season 8.
The documentary will show the process and the finished result. Rumors of it being put into production as a one-off were proven to be just wishful thinking, but even just reading an officially unofficial script (that Avery Brooks himself approved) has to be worth the price of admission.
Did we miss out on any Ben Sisko facts? Who is your favorite Star Trek captain? Let us know in the comments!