Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Deep Love

It's been awhile since I posted about Star Trek in these parts, so I figured now was as good a time as any to again renew my geek bonafides. You might remember that last February I talked about how syndicated sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation hasn't held up quite as well as I would have liked in the quarter-century since it debuted. Although its place in history is already assured, both as an appendage of the Trek franchise and as a hugely successful series in its own right (financially, if not always creatively), I've long held to the belief that Next Gen's most significant role may well be that it created conditions fertile enough to launch the spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Starring the terrific Avery Brooks and backed up by a stellar ensemble, Deep Space Nine was the top-rated syndicated series for the entirety of its seven season span (itself no small feat), but it's also remained -- somewhat paradoxically -- the forgotten sibling of the Star Trek family. Indeed, this may well be the reason it holds up as well as it does. While Next Generation and Voyager immediately after (the nadir of the brand, in my view), were both tasked with upholding "The Franchise" -- nothing too risky, nothing too risqué -- Deep Space was left alone to tend to its corner of the universe (both literally and thematically). This freedom allowed the show's creatives (Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore among them) to explore avenues of storytelling much more of a piece with the groundbreaking original series then any other show that followed in its wake.

Deep Space Nine was, of necessity given its setting on a sedentary station on the edge of explored space, the first Star Trek to meditate on themes of war, loss, love, and spirituality in a manner that allowed us to see those seeds planted, then blossom into compelling new stories. This is something the other shows simply do given their "love 'em and leave 'em" premises, with the central ship warping onto the next brave new world at each episode's end. While I think the fourth/final season of much-loathed (but not by me) prequel series Enterprise is the most consistently excellent year of any Star Trek outside of the first or second seasons of the original, it's Deep Space Nine that's the most consistently excellent series of the post-Next Gen era, and it's been gratifying to see this view gain more currency in the thirteen years since it left first-run syndication.

In attempting to assess the very best hours of this, the very best modern Trek series, the good folks at Topless Robot have once again reached into my head and pulled out a very solid ranking of "The 10 Greatest Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Episodes." From thought-provoking (war drama "In the Pale Moonlight") to heart-wrenching (period piece "Far Beyond the Stars") to just plain old fun (time-tripping tribute "Trials and Tribble-ations"), their list is pretty spot-on (though if I had my druthers, I'd have liked the powerful first season ender "Duet" to find a place on there somewhere). And the included selection of clips -- their number one pick in particular makes me misty every single time I see it -- only cements why Deep Space Nine is a true gem hidden inside one of the most successful properties of all time.


Ian Sokoliwski said...

Far and away my favourite of the ST shows.

HotConflict said...

They allowed DS( to tell the traditional story in long form fashion. Instead of the episode type format of most syndicated style TV.

This threw many Trekkies off of DS9.

Plus the subtle or not too subtle religious implications that are involved in dealing with other races. BSG did a better job with this.

Still it is the same in reality.
People can believe that there is a Galactic Federation of Light, in the next heaven.

Galactic Civilization.

They just cant believe that the Earth Alliance are the Muslims.
Welcome to the Federation of Planets!


Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you about "Duet," Zaki. One of the finest hours of Star Trek ever produced in any series.

-Al Cook

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Yes, definitely the best incarnation of Trek. Politics / Religion / Multi-episode Story DEvelopment / Section 31. And going deeper into a few races and cultures was definitely better than superficially introducing a new planet every week.

Although Babylon 5 was even better.

Zaki said...

Still never seen B5! Need to take the plunge one of these days.

One of the best quotes to emerge from DS9 was "It's easy to be a saint in paradise," which I loved. Adds a lot of shadows to the bright-and-shiny TNG vision of Roddenberry.

I love that ENTERPRISE retroactively inserted Section 31 in TREK's backstory before there was even a Federation.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

You haven't seen B5?!?!? You should give back your geek license. B5 was definitely richer and more realistic. DS9 (as good as it is) was basically a knock-off. In B5, Earth is unified and of course there is high-tech but you still have wealth, and greed, and poor people. You still have political intrigue and assassinations. Realistic space battles. Mixed in with the various alien religions (some of which are really well developed in the course of the show) you also have Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists. And if you like Shadows it definitely had Shadows galore.

I think my favorite single line from DS9 is Quark's rant on Ferengi social legislation where he does an impression of Picard's rant on the Borg from First Contact. "Here and no further!"