“A Trek for Our Time”: The Continuing Relevance and Resonance of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Curator's Note

Watching Battlestar Galactica, a post 9/11 text, I have been continually reminded of its predecessor, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999). This fan video, which juxtaposes BG’s credit music and structure with scenes from DS-9, points to some of their formal and narrative commonalities. DS-9 was the darkest Trek, its moody lighting and battle imagery anticipating the grim world of post-apocalyptic BG. Both programs are character driven and serial, consistently dealing with the complex intersections of war, terrorism, political ambitions, religious and class differences, sexual desires, and personal struggles — territory reflective of the interests of DS-9’s Supervising Producer (seasons 3-7) and Galactica’s re-creator, Ronald D. Moore. There are no uncompromised leaders in either program and no outright villains. Both programs also feature non-Anglos and women in leading roles and foreground non-normative gender and sexual roles. During its run, DS-9 was critically neglected and won no Peabody awards, but its portrait of a space station “on the edge of the final frontier” seems even more relevant today. Like BG, it offers a de-centered world in which our Federation leaders cannot be trusted, hope rests in unlikely alliances and against considerable odds, and there are no easy resolutions.

Comments

Derek Kompare's picture

Great comparison, Allison,

Great comparison, Allison, and a cool video as well. DS9 is still my favorite Trek series, for exactly the reasons you cited.

In BG, there is a real sense of Ron Moore effectively responding to the Trek franchise. He and David Eick (as well as a very like-minded cast and crew) have done what the narrative format of DS9 (and other Treks) actually allowed (hypothetically, at least), but the conventions of 90s TV SF (and, specifically, Star Trek) forbade: moral and aesthetic ambiguity. They’ve effectively raised the bar for all future SF TV, as did the original Trek forty years ago.

Still, as you observe, there’s an awful lot already there in DS9 itself that still resonates. Here, I think mostly of the series’ complex treatment of multiculturalism, and its refusal to paint any race or religion (or even individual) in only one shade. Even Gul Dukat had several moments of redemption! All this and that certain quasi-operatic sensibility that the best of Star Trek (and very few other shows) pulled off.

And, damn it, the ending of “What You Leave Behind” (the final episode) still makes me cry. :)

Jason Mittell's picture

Nice parallels (& video).

Nice parallels (& video). I’d extend the analogy in terms of each show’s relationship to its established brand. Both pushed against their previous incarnations’ sensibility and traditions, potentially alienating established fanbases and even major creative figures from the original texts. DS9 was never able to transcend its brand, as the show seemed to always lie in the shadow of other less ambitious Trek programs. BSG has managed to overcome the negative stigmas of the original to appeal to a broad fanbase beyond sci-fi diehards (although I regularly still have to caveat the show to skeptical viewers). It will be interesting to see if DS9 manages to get a retrospective boost as part of Ron Moore’s creative ancestry in the wake of BSG’s success.

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