Romance is not something Star Trek's traditionally been very heavy-handed with. Given Gene Roddenberry's edict in the early days of The Next Generation that storylines avoid as much interpersonal drama, that's not totally surprising. Star Trek's always worked to keep its central focus on science fiction, sometimes at the expense of some really good dramatic opportunities.
Deep Space Nine's stationary setting made the avoidance of romance that TNG had embraced a little more difficult. Deep Space Nine involved more long-term assignments and the capacity for a wide range of visitors, so it ultimately resulted in a more relationship-based show rather than one based on space exploration. Luckily, Deep Space Nine was able to embrace that and would eventually feature the first wedding between series regulars as well as the first captain's marriage featured on a television show.
Romantic relationships fed the drama on Deep Space Nine more than most Star Trek series, at least until the advent of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, so this list was pretty easy to populate. We've picked a handful of relationships that we thought really enriched Star Trek's third series and we've also picked a few that definitely haven't held up in the years since the show was on the air. Of course, there are still more that were duds even back when they first aired.
Let's take a look at Star Trek's most romantic series-- for better or worse.
Here are 15 Couples That Hurt Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (And 10 That Saved It).
25 SAVED: SISKO AND JENNIFER
While Jennifer Sisko passed away years before the events of DS9 occurred, her presence loomed over the course Ben and Jake Sisko’s development.
Ben and Jennifer’s tragic love story was an integral part of making Ben a unique addition to the Star Trek franchise.
He was a commander lacking the optimism of most main characters. It was incredibly rewarding watching Jake and Ben deal with their grief as a family and then finally finding a way to move on without her.
Having her reappear in memories and flashbacks only added to the pathos of her passing and made the tragedy that much more real.
24 HURT: VASH AND Q
Before Q attempted to convince Captain Janeway to have a child with him, he “romanced” another human woman. After the events of “Q-Pid”, Picard’s old flame Vash partnered up with Q to explore the galaxy and pilfer really cool artifacts from all over. Eventually Vash grew tired of this arrangement and tried to end things between the two of them during Q’s one and only appearance on DS9.
Q’s possessive nature was really uncomfortable and made him less of a misanthrope and more of an abusive boyfriend.
All this is ignoring the larger implausibility that an omnipotent being would be interested in a human woman in the first place.
23 SAVED: SISKO AND YATES
Sisko not being a lothario like Kirk or a shut-in like Picard worked to distinguish the character even more from his predecessors. His relationship with Kasidy Yates wasn’t one of flaming passion, but one of stability and mutual respect that we got to see build over time.
They even got through her being a smuggler and going through a jail sentence, only to get married and to have Sisko achieve a high plane of existence.
Their relationship also represented how families move on after the passing of a loved one and grow to welcome in more members of the family when ready.
22 SAVED: ODO AND LWAXANA
If ever there was an offbeat ship, it was Lwaxana and Odo. While Troi’s addition to DS9 was a welcome one, her relationship with Odo elevated it to more than just a stunt-cameo.
Deanna Troi’s mother brought her flamboyant presence to DS9 in a handful of episodes, all of which saw her attempting to seduce the station’s security chief.
She eventually accepted that Odo was hopelessly in love with Kira Nerys, but the two did manage to form a strong friendship based on real affection. Their relationship was definitely a mismatched one, but very touching in its own way.
21 HURT: JULIAN AND SARINA
The character of Julian Bashir hasn’t aged spectacularly well. His constantly lovesick nature made him seem desperate, and his refusal to stop pursuing Jadzia after she repeatedly told him she wasn’t interested isn’t a good look either.
Julian's biggest and most constant issue is dating his own patients.
He did it on several different occasions, memorably with the genetically modified Sarina. Her gene therapy had resulted in an almost catatonic state, and it was Julian who eventually treated her resulting in the end of that state. Eventually (of course) he fell in love with her, showing zero respect for the fact that she had had virtually experience with interpersonal relationships.
20 SAVED: ROM AND LEETA
While the two never graduated much beyond supporting characters good for comic relief, their romance was pretty sweet.
Rom’s crush on Leeta was earnest and sweet, mostly because he was too scared to ever let her know how he felt. When he finally did, he ran through the station screaming at the top of his lungs that he loved her.
While DS9 could certainly be accused of being a more cynical Star Trek show, Rom and Leeta exemplified the romantic, lighter side that served to balance out some of the darkness.
19 HURT: JULIAN AND EZRI
Julian and Ezri made more sense than a lot of his relationships. She wasn’t his patient at least, so a step in the right direction. But their romance felt unnecessary and tacked on to an already packed final season of the show.
It felt like the show trying to finally give Julian the shot with Jadzia that he’d yearned for interminably.
The two might have made sense on paper, but Worf and Ezri’s story was far more compelling, and, frankly, we were way more invested in Julian and Miles than we were anyone else’s romance on the show.
18 SAVED: KIRA AND ODO
DS9 did relationships between series regulars better than most Star Trek shows. That meant we actually got to see relationships play out for more than just the span of an alien-of-the-week storyline.
Kira and Odo’s romance was one of the more satisfying romantic arcs of the series. Odo had carried a torch for the constable for years before finally (accidentally) admitting his feelings to her.
After that happened, the two didn’t immediately start dating. Instead, the show allowed them to get to know each other with new information on the table, so when they did embark on a relationship, it felt far more realistic, but still very romantic.
17 HURT: CURZON AND JADZIA
Curzon Dax hosted the Dax symbiont before Jadzia and actually rejected her initial application to the Trill Symbiosis Commission the first time she attempted to gain admittance.
In “Facets” he later confessed that he barred her way because he’d actually fallen in love with her.
He admitted that his guilt almost forced him to quit the commission and was the eventual reason he did not object once more when she reapplied.
While this story might have seemed tragically romantic when the episode aired, Curzon shamelessly victimized Jadzia due to his own admittedly inappropriate feelings for her. We kind of wish the writers hadn’t gone this direction with his character.
16 SAVED: O’BRIEN AND KEIKO
Another benefit of DS9 showcasing more long-term relationships on the show was that we actually got to see what a Starfleet marriage looks like. TNG’s idealized Enterprise allowed for families onboard, but rarely did they address the difficulties present when one person’s job determines so many things in their relationship with someone else. Keiko had a hard time working on a station that didn’t allow for her to live her passions. When she got a position more suited to her needs on Bajor, we got to see how living apart affected the O’Brien marriage and family. It was an interesting dose of romantic reality.
15 SAVED: WORF AND Jadzia DAX
Worf was a fascinating character on TNG, but when he arrived on DS9, he felt like far less of an outcast. That position allowed audiences to explore more personal aspects of his character than we'd seen in TNG.
His relationship with Jadzia was a huge highlight of that character development. It was adorably fitting that the Klingon so committed to his heritage would find love with a Trill who was arguably more of an expert in said heritage than he was.
Plus, the two didn’t dance around their feelings for much long. Once they figured out how they both felt, neither looked back, despite their occasional rocky moments.
14 HURT: KIRA AND MIRROR BAREIL
Kira’s relationship with Vedek Bareil was a tragic bright spot on DS9. Kira mourned his passing greatly, and when his mirror version showed up in “Resurrection”, she couldn’t help herself from starting a romance with him.
He turned out to be an incurable thief and returned to the Mirror Universe and to his erstwhile flame, Kira’s counterpart, the Intendant. This story seemed like a one-off attempt to once more play out a character realizing that a Mirror Universe counterpart of a passed loved one was not an acceptable replacement.
The show already tried that storyline and executed it better with the Siskos.
Bareil’s return felt cheap and sullied our memories of his original appearances.
13 SAVED: DAX AND LENARA KHAN
Meeting with the spouses of former hosts was considered unacceptable by Trill culture. Unfortunately, due to the nature of intergalactic travel and the passage of time, that wasn’t always possible to prevent.
Lenara Khan was a scientist and host of the Khan symbiont. One of her previous hosts had been joined to one of Dax’s former hosts and the two women found themselves inescapably drawn to each other.
The unresolved issues between their former hosts resulted in the two sharing a romantic connection. Said connection resulted in Star Trek's first same-gender kiss and one of the most lauded episodes in the series’ history.
12 HURT: JULIAN AND LEETA
Julian and Leeta were an inoffensive couple that never became interesting enough to be truly entertaining. While it was nice to see Julian finally get a focus for his annoying romantic energy, these two never really made much sense.
It seemed like a cliché reward to Julian’s non-specific desire for some kind of female companionship.
Once the two consciously uncoupled and Leeta moved on to Rom, it became even clearer what a drag her romance with Bashir had been. Leeta and Rom actually made an interesting couple, however goofy they were, and proved even more how poorly matched she and Bashir were.
11 SAVED: JULIAN AND MELORA
Melora Pazlar came from a planet with a significantly lighter gravitational pull than Earth’s. Therefore, in order to function on the human-calibrated DS9, she needed a wheelchair. It was a roundabout way to address disability in the Federation, but it was ultimately effective.
Julian’s romance with her wasn’t nearly as bad as it could've been because he was less her physician than he was with some of his other romances. The two managed to showcase a relationship that grew beyond physical parameters first and then developed into romance.
Plus, we’ll never forget the Klingon restaurant they visited with the singing chef.
10 SAVED: MIRROR KIRA AND EZRI
Why is the Mirror Universe where 90% of the LGBT representation happens in Star Trek? Regardless, the one Mirror Universe episode that featured Ezri Dax also featured her in a relationship with the Intendant.
Regardless of the Intendant’s complete moral depravity, she and Ezri made a really compelling couple for the one episode that featured them.
Of course, Mirror Kira’s utter lack of scruples made it difficult to maintain any relationship, and Ezri, like so many lovers before her, betrayed the Itendant and split into Mirror Leeta’s waiting arms.
9 HURT: KIRA AND SHAKAAR
When Kira got together with her former commander, it was certainly a romantic story. 5heir history better informed the Cardassian and Bajoran conflict and gave it an even more personal side.
After things settled between the two, Kira and Shakaar just weren’t that interesting.
They literally visited a temple and broke up immediately after they were told they weren’t destined to be together. We could just chalk that up to their religious backgrounds, but it felt like even Kira and Shakaar were bored of their romance by the end of it.
8 SAVED: DUKAT AND KAI WINN
This unholy pairing so, so very wrong, but that’s what made it so, so very right. These two proved that at least some Bajorans and Cardassians could share values, regardless of how self-serving those values were.
Kai Winn did see the light at the very last minute when it came to whether or not she would sacrifice her people’s fates to the whims of a mad dog like Dukat, but it was too little too late.
Winn Adami perished at the hands of her erstwhile lover minutes before he would follow her at the hands of Sisko. It was a hilariously macabre ending for a couple that existed for exactly as long as it should have.
7 SAVED: SISKO AND MIRROR JENNIFER
One of the aspects of DS9 that worked so well was its treatment of hte grief surrounding Jennifer Sisko’s passing. While the audience and any outside onlooker could say that Mirror Jennifer wasn’t a replacement for the other Jennifer, it was also impossible to ignore that that wouldn’t have mattered to either remaining Sisko.
Mirror Jennifer’s addition to the show was tragic and effective.
Seeing Ben reconnect with a version of his deceased wife was heartbreaking knowing he was so close to what he’d lost, but still so far away. Seeing Jake so desperate to be around something that looked like his mom that he’d find a way to travel dimensions to see her was even moreso.
6 SAVED: QUARK AND PEL
We loved this couple because it was our first big look at relationships between the Ferengi genders. They were considered comic relief for much of their run on TNG and not much more for the first few seasons of DS9.
A second season episode, called “Rules of Acquisition”, introduced the first female Ferengi ever seen in Star Trek. Her name was Pel, and she disguised herself as a man in order towear clothing and have free will.
While Quark can’t see his way to supporting her life choices, he still benefits somewhat from her presence and we got a nice insight into how terrible it would be to be a lady on Feringinar.
5 HURT: JADZIA AND ARANDIS
It's not that Vanessa Williams’ performance wasn't good – she remains one of the best aliens-of-the-week. It was more that her episode was so silly.
Jadzia and Worf head to Risa for a vacation despite Worf saying several thousand times he didn’t have any interest in going there. Once they arrive, Worf hates it, and if that weren’t enough, Jadzia meets an old lover who only adds to Worf’s frustration. The LGBTQ representation notwithstanding, this was a couple that could’ve been way more interesting if they’d been allowed to grow beyond a silly subplot in an even sillier episode.
But they weren’t, and every character acted dumber than they were that week.
4 SAVED: QUARK AND GRILKA
One of the things that made Quark such an interesting character was that as hapless as he was sometimes, he was genuinely interested and informed about the wide array of cultures and species that wandered around the station. That’s why Quark and Grilka made so much wonderful sense. Quark lent his business acumen to Grilka after he married her and discovered House D’Ghor was trying to financially ruin her using subterfuge.
This one episode allowed Quark to show his honorable side for once.
He rightfully earned Grilka’s love, or at least, interest after saving the day so capably.
3 SAVED: WORF AND EZRI
While Worf and Ezri broke tradition and a bunch of social mores by indulging in a short-lived romantic dalliance, it actually worked really well on screen.
Worf’s utter dejection after his wife’s passing was palpable, and it was impossible not to expect him to have some kind of reaction to Ezri’s sudden arrival and the Dax symbiont’s return. Plus, Ezri’s new memories of Dax’s life with Worf were no doubt messing with her head.
It’s sweet when they come together after crashing a runabout, and it’s appropriately short-lived after they realize it can’t ever work.
2 HURT: KIRA AND OBRIEN
To be fair, the entire surrogate storyline between Kira and the O’Briens was pretty strange. It was created in order to deal with Nana Visitor’s real life pregnancy and as sci-fi explanations go, made for an amusing one.
In execution, it just made for some ridiculous sitcom subplots.
One of the most odious storylines surrounding this plot device saw Kira and O’Brien flirting with latent romantic feelings simply because they happened to be in a situation that normally involved romantic couples. No one ever rooted for Kira and O’Brien, so it just came off strange and uncomfortable.
1 SAVED: NATIMA AND QUARK
Natima Lang was a Cardassian political ethics professor and later dissident who fell in love with Quark. He shared her feelings, but not her scruples, and eventually his total lack of character got between them.
Natima did still look on him fondly after his betrayal, so for a minute it looked like the two might work things out. Instead, he wound up helping her escape DS9 when her work as a dissident was discovered and the Bajorans were ready to hand her over to the official Cardassian government. Though Quark was fun when he was incorrigible, Natima elevated his character in a necessary way.
Who's your favorite couple on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? Let us know in the comments!