The original Star Trek series only comprised three seasons. After that, a handful of movies stoked interest in the franchise for decades until a television show that was so aptly named and aware of its niche and fan base was put on the air, 1988’s Star Trek: The Next Generation. This series broke open fandom that had been nurtured all those years as fans of the original show had grown from children into adults. With an updated premise and an adjusted television landscape, TNG played on the imaginations of a population that really wasn’t that much closer to the adventures promised in the series before.
This success led to the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1993, but this version of the show was to take yet another incremental leap forward in the fictional world’s development, this time much sooner than the last reincarnation. Where TNG presented the optimism of human’s infinite potential and resilience, this new series would show that the future is still capable of much hardship and suffering.
The story of a society trying to figured itself out featured themes like the consequences of war, the perils of guilt, isolation, spiteful anger, and just trying to do one’s duty amidst the raucous clatter of politics. The plot is as ambitious as the setting. The entire series takes place on the fringes of space, where sci-fi goes out on its most experimental ground. For many fans, the experiment worked.
For all the others, here are 20 Things Wrong With DS9 That We All Choose To Ignore.
20 It Lacks optimism
After the Star Trek rebirth of TNG, the resulting calls for a spinoff series were weighed down by the desire to carry on the noble tradition of Star Trek, yet also offer fans something new that would expand the universe.
A prosperous future, filled with opportunity and upside burst from The Next Generation as Captain Picard’s Enterprise pushed the boundaries of space and humankind each week. Its follow up, Deep Space Nine, showed audiences a far bleaker part of space, in a setting more accustomed to thievery, infighting, and insurrection than TNG’s spotless bridge.
This angered many fans, but others still would argue that the new tone allowed for more ethically challenging themes.
19 There's no ship
Bucking the Trek trend in another bold fashion, DS9 is still the only property, including films, to feature a space station instead of the travels of a star ship.
Deep Space Nine stands just outside the orbit of a planet called Bajor. An emergent wormhole acts like an interstellar freeway and DS9’s proximity means it acts as the truck stop on the edge of the universe.
The Federation is installed to keep peace after a messy military occupation is overthrown, and the crew onboard the station are thrown into the role of traffic cops for an up and coming intersection in space. It's another example of Deep Space Nine being out of step with the rest of the franchise.
18 The Crew's infighting
Under the oversight of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek was reputed to be a very rigid universe, with rules and structure to create the appropriate story focus. After his passing, DS9 aired and it was apparent immediately that this series would be making many changes to that rulebook, though reportedly with his blessing.
One of the most glaring changes were the relationships between the main characters.
For TOS, and TNG, storylines that consisted of character clash, interpersonal gossip, or drama were overlooked.
It was implied that Starfleet officers were trained too well to adjust to each other’s personalities to get into fights. DS9 didn’t shy away from the melodrama, turning the attitudes and emotional states of some characters into series-long arcs.
17 Money is suddenly relevant currency
Another new addition to the canon was a further exploration of universal economics. From within the confines of the good ships Enterprise on previous shows, the frontier was being pushed so far that barter was the most reliable means of commerce. In fact, it’s made explicitly clear that on Earth, where most of the crew is from, wealth and power have been redistributed such that money isn’t necessary, and everyone pursues their lives with everything they need.
This is not the case for DS9. The Delta Quadrant has been marginalized by larger civilizations and Bajor in particular hasn’t been a star competitor on the universal market. Latinum is the currency of the quadrant, and the different economic circumstances are felt at multiple levels of character and story.
16 Kids are allowed in Quark's bar
The station is roughly the size of a small village, so there are similar feelings of community and identity to those the families on the Enterprise form. One of the rallying points of this community in the series, an evolution of TNG’s Ten Forward, is “Quark’s”, an establishment where the locals go to blow off steam, that also attracts almost everyone passing through.
Food, drink, and entertainment are the bread and butter of this business, and the proprietor, Quark, is the caliber of Ferengi to offer experiences to cater to even the most outlandish, fiendish tastes.
Gambling, disorder, fights, and holosuite activity, all go on within those walls.
But the kids, Jake Sisko, the captain’s son, and Nog, Quark’s nephew, are always welcome on the premises.
15 The Federation’s Agreement With Bajor
A successful revolution led to Bajor’s overthrow of their colonizers, the Cardassians, but the vacant space station is unmanageable by the fledgling Bajoran government. Enter the Federation. As sound as this alliance may seem in those two sentences, it leaves a lot open to negotiation between the lines.
Major Kira Nerys is the Bajoran liaison to the station, and despite a great character arc, and generally protecting the physical safety of her planet, there’s not a lot of co-administration going on.
The Bajorans substituting one parent regime for another with the invitation of the Star Trek crew is an issue that’s raised early in the series, but eventually, fears seem to melt away and all the “good guys”’ intentions align a little bit too well.
14 It Took Sisko Three Seasons To Make Captain
In another side step from TNG, this series traces the leader of the crew, Benjamin Sisko, on a vaster professional and personal journey than audiences have seen. When he gets the job, there is no wormhole and he’s on the career slow track on an alien heap, orbiting a planet in the middle of nowhere.
He’s a family man.
The abrupt passing of his wife and responsibility he has for his son have kept him from being a Starfleet poster child.
Even still, it took far too long for his greatness to be recognized by the Federation. Even though he’s not technically piloting a ship, that station is huge, he has so much responsibility that he should have earned the recognition for his work earlier.
13 PTSD As A Plot Device Resolved Too Quickly
Kudos to the series for taking a dark tone and using it to explore real themes of mental health instead of just gimmicks, but a few times PTSD was mentioned, the symptoms were often resolved within the episode.
The episode “Into A Paper Moon” is the most memorable for many fans, featuring the young Ferengi, Nog, on the road to recovery from an injury sustained in a recent station battle. The Holosuite and the singer James Darren try to help Nog through his anxiety.
The episode “Hard Time” features Chief O’Brien is captured by enemy aliens and receives a mental implant of 20 years prison time.
Both of these jaunts with the edges of the DS9 ensemble are good-hearted and effective, but the following episodes frequently forget these mental histories.
12 The Ferengi’s All Commerce Civilization
The Ferengi race was explored extensively thanks to Quark and Nog’s character growth; the “Rules of Acquisition” are a running joke in the series that doubles as a piece of rock solid Star Trek trivia.
The list of Rules acts as a cultural basis for the entire civilization, viewers are led to believe, offering the conceit that the species sees the universe through an economic lens.
While the show does go into Ferengi government structure in several episodes, a lot of the customs the Ferengi display are ultimately played to be pretty short-sighted.
The Ferengi have long been derided and marginalized within the show, for simplistic, greed based thinking. Episodes that turn on their blind ignorance or distraction by shiny objects undercut their development.
11 Sisko’s Alien Heritage
In the ultimate reveal for Captain Sisko’s character, season seven kicks off with the final piece of the prophecy puzzle initiated from the pilot, when he was pulled into the wormhole and dubbed “Emissary”.
Despite the enormity of the task he has in front of him, Sisko was literally born to take up this leadership position.
His biological mother isn’t really the woman who raised him.
The alien prophets apparently came to Earth and set Sisko on his path to come in and rescue them in that moment. Prophecy has always been in the background of the Captain’s character, but this revelation turns its symbolism on its head.
10 Garak’s Ever Convenient Espionage and Networking Skills
Garak, played by Andrew J. Robinson, is the first Cardassian face audiences see and the one they bond with most directly.
After the end of the occupation, Garak remains as the proprietor of a clothier and tailor shop, still onboard DS9. His position is apparently a good enough cover to allow him to act as a back channel for any necessary communications between Starfleet onboard the station and the greater Cardassian empire.
In addition to providing some much needed company for Dr. Bashir, Garak is known to tell lies and has a such a mysterious and flexible backstory that he often comes in handy right in the most sticky portion of a story. He’s a spy with endless relationships and a Mary Poppins handbag of base level skills.
9 Prime Directive Oversights
Deep Space Nine continues to explore the Prime Directive, both to observe and break it. The space station is in a precarious position in the first place, since the Federation is there at the invitation of the Bajoran government; they’re still very much outsiders in the quadrant, affecting things by their mere presence.
It’s tough to be a neutral party and drive seven seasons of primetime television.
In the episode “Captive Pursuit” from season one, a cultural hunting practice that crosses the galaxy is observed and misunderstood by the Starfleet crew.
Later in the series, a war is on and the space station is thrown into positions with far higher stakes than that one. Many parties in the Gamma Quadrant would likely draw a direct line from the arrival of the Federation and “the Emissary”, to the war’s beginning.
8 Worf Was Brought On To Spike Ratings
The overlap of TNG and DS9 was intentional to capitalize on the Trek boom of the mid '90s, but having two shows on the air could be a little much at times, there was production pressure not to overlap audiences. Such separation was the motivation for many of the show’s divergent themes.
When TNG concluded however, after their seven seasons, it was time to consolidate audiences. In a very calculated move, in DS9’s season four premiere, Worf, played by Michael Dorn, was transferred as a security chief to serve on the space station now closer to the front lines.
He joins O’Brien as the other former Enterprise crew member, and things do get more battle-oriented, but really he arrives to carry some of the magic from the more successful series to this new one.
7 Bashir Became A Genetically Modified Spy
Dr. Julian Bashir, played by Alexander Siddig, falls into a long tradition of Trek doctors.
When Bashir first came into the family, it took a while to figure out how he’ll fit into the crew. Eventually it’s revealed that part of the reason the character seems a little off is that he was genetically enhanced at a young age to become a medical prodigy.
Bashir’s improbably skills are demonstrated when he raises the eyebrow of covert Starfleet agency, Section 31.
This position makes him great as a doctor on a war-zone space station, but it does make him a little hard for audiences to track and relate to.
6 The Wild Odyssey Of Series Long Villain, Dukat
In addition to allying audiences with the Cardassians through Garak, the antagonist Gul Dukat goes on an extended arc that includes a lot of empathy.
He was the administrator of the station during the occupation, and thus responsible for all or most of the atrocities committed against the Bajoran people.
The series tries to draw out his character, switching his allegiances.
Dukat is framed, initially, as a prominent military officer, leading a slow, scattered withdrawal of the last vestiges of Cardassia. Later on, the regime that he’s allied with is overthrown on his homeworld, and fans follow along as he navigates tricky political waters. He gradually aligns with and betrays pretty much everyone until he's trapped by the Pah-Wraiths, after seven seasons of treachery.
5 Section 31’s Role In The Dominion War
Deep Space Nine was the second series to continue filling in the backstory of Section 31, the off-the-books intelligence arm of Starfleet.
Near the end of season six, the shadow organization makes its appearance, targeting Dr. Bashir for a bit more spy training. Bashir is initially disinterested, right up until Captain Sisko orders him to accept the invitation so they can learn more about the agency.
In the next season, it’s eventually paid off when Section 31 is revealed to be behind a plot to entangle the Romulans in the war against the Dominion. Later, it’s revealed they’ve released a genocidal virus that affects all shape-shifters. This time, a promising new stakeholder was written into being a device with little rhyme or reason.
4 The Ezri Dax Character Reboot
Jadzia Dax, played by Terry Ferrell, was the Science Officer on DS9 but even after she developed a relationship with Worf the story couldn’t find enough for her to do.
Ferrell asked to be let go from the show at the end of season six.
Fortunately, her character is based on two symbiotic life forms that exchange can exchange . After a fatal battle injury, Jadzia departed, and the Dax symbiote landed in the Trill female, Ezri, played by Nicole de Boer, who took the character in a completely new direction for the last season.
The symbiote premise had been through the wringer, playing with the ideas of gender, past lives, and multiple personalities.
3 Major Kira’s Real Life Pregnancy Write Around
Near the end of season four, Nana Visitor’s pregnancy was added to her character, Kira Nerys. Instead of writing the first officer into a diminished role on the show, it's eventually revealed she’s the surrogate for the child of Chief O’Brien and his wife Keiko.
This becomes a recurring plot point as people continue asking questions about her condition. It becomes a deeper part of the story when Kira moves in with the O’Briens for a little extra support.
Major Kira’s pregnancy actually ends up lasting a couple months longer than Nana Visitor’s, due to other ongoing stories.
2 Morn, The Character Fans Hate To Love
Even loyal viewers of DS9 may not have the instant recall to remember this recurring character. Morn was a constant patron of Quark’s and while he’s often seen drinking, and is referred to as having a galloping social presence, he famously never utters a line the entire series.
Morn’s existence on the show was mostly to make the space station feel a little bit more lived, and to provide another source of anecdotes about friends everyone knows.
The joke goes on for way too long.
At least the performance of the actor behind the mask Mark Allen Shepherd was rewarded with an entire episode where he faked his own passing in the middle of season 6.
1 Babylon 5 Overlap
The Star Trek resurgence in the mid '90s coincided with a television boom across all genres. Audiences were watching more TV on more channels than they ever had, and technology was putting new realities into peoples’ living rooms.
Deep Space Nine debuted its first season in 1993, and ran for a total of seven. Babylon 5 premiered in 1994 and followed with five seasons.
There were some eyebrow-raising similarities between the two series.
Both shows center on space stations that host the Earth protagonists, far from home, in a good natured, but uneasy, alliance. Both shows also take an ambitious approach to story, focusing on character development and sci-fi action, as well as themes that are socially relevant today.
What else is wrong with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? Let us know in the comments!