Review of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)

Parts only

This page describes the individual parts of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The work as a whole is reviewed elsewhere.

Emissary (1993Moving picture, 90 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Benjamin Sisko loses his wife in a battle at Wolf 359; a battle featured in “The Best of Both Worlds: Part 2” (1990). Three years later, having taken time off to care for his child, he assumes command of Deep Space Nine. He does so with reluctance until he and an old friend—a Trill symbiont like the ambassador in “The Host” (1991) but retconned to be more cooperative—discover the first predictable wormhole not far from the station’s normal position in orbit around Bajor.

A fantastic start, unlike Encounter at Farpoint (1987). Highlights include Miles O’Brien taking a skin-of-his-teeth approach to the primitive machinery and Sisko’s very long detour into the wormhole. In the former, technobabble and boldness win the day as usual and I would have preferred failure, but the grubbiness of the setting and the less formal camaraderie among O’Brien’s peers in Ops produce a better impression than a cheaper “reverse the polarity” trick would have. In the latter highlight, Sisko explores the mentality of nonlinear energy beings who are dubiously understood, by Bajoran clerics, to be numinous.

Before this, only “Darmok” (1991) devoted comparable screentime to exploring any truly alien species as such, in any Star Trek series. The usual humanoid, prosthetic-and-makeup kind of aliens are still prominent, but the scenes of Sisko “talking” to people inside his own memories to interrogate his transcendent captors are very good. Like “The Inner Light” (1992) those scenes offer a meditation on life that is personally transformative, but this time, the transformation sticks, drastically reshaping Sisko’s career. At the same time, the experience provides worldbuilding and characterization and the function Q had in Farpoint, which is to pose yet again the question of human nature and value. Doing it without Q is obviously the smarter move.

No relation to “The Emissary” (1989). Wormholes were a recurring but rare motif in TNG.

References here: “Captive Pursuit” (1993), “Birthright: Part 1” (1993).

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“Past Prologue” (1993Moving picture, 45 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

The launching of the great Bashir/Garak ship which, but for the conservatism of executive producer Rick Berman, could have been the first openly gay pairing in the franchise. It’s a lot of fun, more so than the visit from Lursa and B’Etor who appear in three episodes of TNG, or the focus of the A plot. I like the fact that Tanha Los’s strategy to aid Bajor is to “drain the pool” in the Heather McGhee sense, damaging everyone involved to make Bajor uninteresting to outside interests; it’s nasty, heely stuff, but it’s smarter than pure evil. The problem is how his outright lying affects Kira’s relationship to Sisko.

In this genre of trust-based personal drama, rapid reverses for the sake of tension are bought at the cost of withholding information from the audience while making the characters, in this case Kira and Los, implausibly dumb or unsympathetic. This, I suppose, is why Roddenberry forbade this trick. I’m OK with it in this instance, given how Tanha is characterized.

References here: “Firstborn” (1994).

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“A Man Alone” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Odo is accused of murdering a man he once apprehended, who was since been released from prison by the provisional government. Keiko O’Brien, dissatisfied with her husband’s posting, starts a school.

The murder is resolved in improbable sci-fi style, with one of those already-adult clones from “Up the Long Ladder” (1989), but here, the writers gently retreat from the scaremongering of TNG, getting in under the wire of Dolly the sheep. A surviving clone embarks on its life without horror, like Spock in “The Infinite Vulcan” (1973), and it is stated that only some methods degrade the DNA. Keiko’s B plot, though it is simple and sadly modelled on the Western, reintroduces the motif of those few every(wo)man scenes of domestic life she had with her husband Miles in “Night Terrors” (1991). Her future students play a prank on strangers that has them masking through a series of colour changes as whimsical as “Albatross” (1974).

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“Babel” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

An overworked O’Brien repairs a replicator in his sleep and gets viral aphasia.

Smarter than all the contagion stories of all the previous Star Trek shows. It’s just a shame that the results of the virus, which physically remaps the brain, are so easily reversed.

References here: “Birthright: Part 1” (1993).

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“Captive Pursuit” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Tosk.

As a concept for an alien culture, it’s less successful than “Darmok” (1991), but it’s in the same vein and less outlandish. The costumes are great whimsical fun. The biggest problem with it is that this is supposed to be first contact with a species actually living on the far side of the wormhole, yet it’s much more human than the Emissary (1993) species, and the script provides no explanation for why the numerous explorers travelling via the station have not found anything first.

Good incidental Quark. I’m not sure how to interpret “Oh Brien”’s romantic little mutiny; it’s a cheap trick, but then again, the previous episode and this one have clearly established his dissatisfaction with the job.

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“Q-Less” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Q.

There’s some decent incidental character writing in this one, but there’s also poor acting and Q, one of the most boring things that ever came out of TNG. O’Brien alludes to “Qpid” (1991), so that’s still canon, and the consequences aren’t good: Vash and Quark selling unknown stuff for money in a post-scarcity economy, and Q playing the role of an abusive romantic partner with magic, to no consequence. Watching this, my girlfriend aptly likened Q to Karlsson-on-the-Roof, the Astrid Lindgren character.

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“Dax” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Trill.

The DS9 equivalent of “The Measure of a Man” (1989). It’s smarter, but not very smart; like most real court cases it’s based on crude philosophies rather than Bashir’s brief glimpse of the biology.

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“The Passenger” (1993Moving picture, 45 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

There is an Alexandra Dumas quality to the writing that I quite like, and as paranoid ghost stories go, it’s nicely SF’d up in the manner of “Space Seed” (1967) and other past Trek supervillain fantasies. Like those stories, it’s pretty kitschy. Seems awfully tolerant of Sisko to just ignore Quark hiring those murderous mercenaries. Maybe it’s just the badly lit grey 1990s sets that are getting to me.

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“Move Along Home” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

First contact with the Wadi, a human species of gamblers.

Pageantry, arbitrary limits to knowledge, and arbitrarily powerful “aliens” are all recognizable from past Trek series. This one adds a dungeon crawl.

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“The Nagus” (1993Moving picture, 45 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

Quark gets a leg up.

The first emic description of Ferengi culture at length. That’s appropriate, and it’s well executed, and the basic premises are consistent with TNG, but that means they’re poor. This outing reasserts that mainstream Ferengi ethics are subject to the same kind of “moral inversion” as is shown in “A Piece of the Action” (1968).

At the end, Quark not only rewards his brother for having tried to assassinate Quark, but also continues to work closely with him. The net result is to enable and encourage another murder attempt in the future. This behaviour is unlike typical trolls in fantasy literature and unlike real-world people in the psychological “dark triad” of narcissism, Machiavellian personality traits, and psychopathy. It is a compromise solution, using a few realistic features from the dark triad to disguise the allegorical fantasy.

A meeting in this episode satirizes predatory corporate board meetings, but Ferengi ethics are unlike even those of real-world leaders of organized crime, including Richard Sackler, Martin Shkreli, and Griselda Blanco. It remains a paradox that the Ferengi are even interested in jewels and gold in an age where such things should be abundant. The writers sometimes toss in novel rarities to mitigate the problem, but the Ferengi are ultimately unfit for the setting.

There is a lazy effort in this episode to continue to enable the interpretation of Ferengi behaviour as culture, i.e. nurture as distinct from nature. Jake teaches Nog how to read, which doesn’t make sense; it is ludicrous for O’Brien to expect Nog to produce an essay for school without knowing how to read. The subject of the essay, ethics, is not discussed. The design of the Ferengi shows that the writers themselves did not have a working understanding of ethics as part of a society, no more than they understood the concept of “reversing the polarity” outside of ethics.

On a side note, Morn—though as yet unnamed—takes up more space in this episode than any previous one. Nice to see the odd-looking background extras being integrated.

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“Vortex” (1993Moving picture, 46 minutes)

Seen in 2021.

The possibility of shapeshifters (“changelings”) in the Gamma Quadrant.

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