The TV Weekly #191: Star Trek 50th Anniversary, Part 4

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Check out Part 1, 2, and 3 if you haven’t already.

With The Next Generation a major success in syndication, it was time to continue to expand the brand…or whore out, whichever way you want to look at it, and so in 1993, we got Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (sometimes abbreviated to DS9) is a science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe in the Milky Way galaxy, in the years 2369–2375. In contrast to the setting of the other Star Trek TV shows, it takes place on a space station instead of a starship, so as not to have two series with starships at the same time (the starship USS Defiant was introduced in season 3, but the station remained the primary setting for the show).

The show is noted for its well-developed characters, original and complex plots, and religious themes, and for starring the only black captain in any of the televised incarnations of Star Trek. The series often showcased darker themes, less physical exploration of space, and (in later seasons) an emphasis on many aspects of war.

DS9 premiered in 1993 and ran for seven seasons until 1999. Rooted in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe, it was the first Trek spin-off created without direct involvement from Roddenberry, although he did give his blessing to the concept shortly before his death in 1991. The series was created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller, at the request of Brandon Tartikoff, and was produced by Paramount Television. Berman as overall head of Star Trek production served as executive producer for the series entire run. Piller initially served as second Executive producer and showrunner for Deep Space Nine. Piller left the series in 1995 to manage Star Trek Voyager. Writer Ira Steven Behr was promoted by Berman to replace Piller as showrunner and held that role for the remainder of the series run. Key writers, in addition to Berman, Piller, and Behr, included Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Ronald D. Moore, Peter Allan Fields, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle, Hans Beimler, and René Echevarria.

DS9 began while Star Trek: The Next Generation was still on the air and there were a few crossover episodes between the two shows. The station’s first appearance in TNG was during the sixth season episode “Birthright”. In addition, two Next Generation characters, Miles O’Brien and (from Season 4 onwards) Worf, became regular members of DS9. The station also appeared in the Star Trek: Voyager pilot episode, “Caretaker”.

Deep Space Nine was noted for being the first Star Trek series without Roddenberry’s involvement having passed away in 1991, although he gave his blessing, and it was also the first Star Trek series to have a black captain at the helm as Avery Brooks was cast as Benjamin Sisko.

But not only that, this show did a lot here that the previous Star Trek movies and TV shows couldn’t do before. In a way, the series really did live up to that tagline of boldly going where no man has gone before.

According to co-creator Rick Berman, he and Michael Piller had considered setting the new series on a colony planet, but they felt a space station would both appeal more to viewers and save money that would be required for on-location shooting for a “land-based” show. However, they were certain they did not want the show to be set aboard a starship because Star Trek: The Next Generation was still in production at the time and, in Berman’s words, it “just seemed ridiculous to have two shows—two casts of characters—that were off going where no man has gone before.”

While its predecessors tended to restore the status quo ante at the end of each episode, allowing out-of-order viewing, DS9 contains story arcs that span shows—or seasons—and one installment often builds upon those that aired earlier, with several having cliffhanger endings. Michael Piller believed this to be one of the series’ best qualities, allowing repercussions of past episodes to influence future events and remain with the show, forcing characters to “learn that actions have consequences”. This trend was especially noticeable toward the series’ finale, by which time the show was scripted—intentionally—very much as a serial.

Unlike in Star Trek: The Next Generation, interpersonal conflicts were featured prominently in DS9. This was at the suggestion of Star Trek: The Next Generations writers (many of whom also wrote for DS9) because they felt that Roddenberry’s prohibition of conflict among the crew restricted their ability to write compelling dramatic stories. In Piller’s words, “people who come from different places—honorable, noble people—will naturally have conflicts”.

And the show was so clever in creating these extensive storylines and cliffhanger endings that manage to keep building up the tension and the excitement with every episode that’s part of each storyline.

The cast also works really well here, Brooks is really solid as Sisko, even when they brought Worf from Next Generation into the series midway through, they manage to still find a good way to bring him into the series without having him feel forced in.

Deep Space Nine manages to keep up the spirit of the original Star Trek series but at the same time, doesn’t quite reach the peak levels of Star Trek or Next Generation, it’s still a great fun action series that deserves a place up there in the Star Trek TV series franchise.

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