Nov 11, 2010

[TV] Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season 1

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season 1The Star Trek series certainly changed the science fiction television landscape when it first hit the television airwaves. Science fiction only had a particular look and feel prior to this series - your typical rocket shit props and your green-skinned aliens. Instead we got ourselves a major dramatic series that tackled a wide variety of serious issues and concepts all against the backdrop of a universe were aliens look a lot like us.

I think that's one of the things that made Star Trek work so well for me. It was a show that had no qualms about presenting the fact that the most alien occurrences and events are all things that we as humans remain more than capable of ourselves. It was really a venue for philosophical debate, exploring human values and beliefs and turning things on their heads every now and then.

The various incarnations of the series over the years have tried to change up the mix in terms of how to present the on-going adventures of these space-faring people. The first two shows had us exploring the galaxy in massive starships and battling strange alien foes. But this time around they decided to go away from such adventures and instead focused on more of the political environment from a fixed point in space.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the third major Star Trek TV series ever released (or the fourth if you count the animated series in 1973) and was created by Rick Berman and Michael Pillar. The series was set of a space station instead of a starship, in contrast to the shows before it. Plus the show debuted while Star Trek: The Next Generation was still on the air, so the producers felt having two starship-based shows probably wasn't going to be a good idea.

Deep Space Nine (space station)Image via WikipediaThe show starts at the end of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. After a long struggle, the Bajorans managed to liberate themselves from their Cardassian oppressors. The Bajoran Provisional Goverment invites the United Federation of Planets to help administer the Cardassian space station known as Terok Nor in orbit around Bajor in a joint operation between their governments. The Federation agrees and the station is renamed Deep Space Nine in line with this arrangement.

The Federation dispatches Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) as station commander. He's a survivor of the Borg attack on Wolf 359 although he lost his wife in the same attack. He arrives on the station together with his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton). His second-in-command is a Bajoran woman by the name of Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor), who was once a Bajoran freedom fighter who remains somewhat skeptical of the Federation's involvement in Bajor. Other Starfleet officers include Dr. Julian Bashier (Alexander Siddig) as chief medical officer and Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) once of the Enterprise and now as Chief of Operations. And there's Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) as the station's science officer and Sisko's friend since Dax was in her previous host, Curzon. The station is also home to Odo (Rene Auberjonois) as chief of security and Quark (Armin Shimerman), a Ferengi bar owner and petty criminal.

Things change when a stable wormhole to the Gamma quadrant is accidentally discovered by Sisko and Jadzia. There they encounter the residents of the wormhole which is inhabited and maintained by a group of beings that live outside of normal spacetime. They are known as the Prophets by the people of Bajor and the wormhole itself is believed to be the Celestial Temple. The discovery of the wormhole becomes a prime opportunity to bring new trade and opportunity to the region and in many ways becomes a path to revitalizing the resource-stripped Bajorans.

Thus the series explores many different aspects of society. Naturally there's the political angle involving the shaky Bajoran Provisional Government, their former rulers in the form of their Cardassian neighbors and the strong religious factions on the planet. That means there is also a natural religious angle to things as the prophecies of the Bajoran people have somehow foretold of all this including the arrival of Benjamin Sisko as their Emissary, a key figure in many of their religious scriptures. Then there's the basic scientific angle to things as there's now a whole new sector of the galaxy accessible thus leading to new races, new spatial anomalies and of course new dangers.

This first season spent a lot of time exploring more of the nuances of the Bajoran people and the complications they present as a whole. It's probably the closest we've looked at another species within the Star Trek universe apart from the humans and perhaps the Borg, dare I say. The two shows before this one focused more on a lot of diversity and many changes with every episode. Thus whether we like it or not, we were stuck with the Bajorans as our primary backdrop of sorts.

Ratings for this first season were mixed - a lot of folks were initially hesitant about the show and significantly in doubt about the potential for adventure on the show. The station remains in a sorry state after the Cardassian exodus for most of the season and most of the classic space combat action that we get to experience involves those big brother to shuttles known as runabouts.

But the show really worked for me. I liked the significant potential for storytelling presented by the unique mix of characters and the environment. This first season naturally had to give us time to learn more about the characters and at the same time generate ratings by giving it more and more linkages to the show prior to it in the form of cameos involving characters like Q (John de Lancie) and even Ambassador Lwaxana Troi (Majer Barrett).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was definitely a new spin on Star Trek's unique brand of space opera and a nice expansion of the universe. The first season gets 3.5 angry Bajoran insurgents out of a possible 5.

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