So You Want To Watch Star Trek: DS9? – Season 1
Gabby Nicasio 11/03/2011 5
It’s come to my attention that there are several people in the world, a not-insignificant number of people, a handful of lonely, sad, socially isolated people, who have never seen Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
I’m here to help.
The plan is this: this post will serve as a primer on the series. I’ll then follow up with one post per each of the seven seasons, and these will detail which episodes are essential viewing. Any not listed can, in theory, be skipped. If you’re a jerk who doesn’t care enough.
You may ask what will constitute “essential viewing”. The answer is: my completely biased opinion. This post should also serve as a primer for what my particular biases are. Believe me, it’ll become very, very clear.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a show in which everyone makes horrible decisions, and then tons of people die. It is my favorite show. The series takes place in and around the space station Deep Space Nine. (Hey! That’s the name of the show! ) The station is Cardassian-built, Bajoran-owned, and Federation-run, and if that sounds like a mess, then you’re already following along quite nicely.
This fixed location for the series allows the show to delve immediately and deeply into the local politics of the region. There are three main players in local politics. Guess who they are. Go, on, I’ll wait. Okay here:
The Cardassian Union
Also and more accurately known as the Cardassian Empire. Cardassians are Space Russians. They have crocodilian scales, slicked-back hair, and are given swagger lessons in grade school. At the time when the first season begins, they’ve long been living under a fiercely-enforced military leadership. Their civilian government employs a brutal and crafty intelligence service, the Obsidian Order, who make it their business to know what you ate for dinner three Tuesdays ago. They keep a file on your bowel movements. They have read your fanfiction, and they’re not impressed.
Cardassians are passionate about durable fabrics, pointy architecture, saunas, and oppression. They are the best. They are the absolute best.
At the start of the series, the Cardassians have just pulled out of their 60-year-long occupation of Bajor.
A pool filled entirely with Bajoran tears.
Is a lovely planet filled with sad people who look a lot like Ensign Ro.
During the Cardassian occupation, Bajor was strip-mined, its people forced into slave labor, and upwards of 10 million of its citizens were killed. Which explains the sadness. The Bajoran Resistance used guerrilla warfare tactics to oppose the occupation, and eventually the pressure was too much. The Cardassian civilian government called for a military withdrawal.
Bajorans love earrings, religion, armed rebellion, and shoulder pads.
At the start of the series, Bajor has a wobbly provisional government and a militia that is largely made up of former Resistance members. Because of their tenuous political and agricultural situation, they’ve accepted some help from the Federation.
The United Federation of Planets
If you don’t know who these people are, then I’m not sure what you’re doing here. For the purposes of watching DS9, just think of them as NATO. Think of them as Space NATO.
The Federation is very fond of paperwork, jumpsuits, ignoring its own Prime Directive, and maintaining an enduring, naive sense of smug superiority. But mainly jumpsuits. They just cannot get enough of jumpsuits.
Here is one of Jake Sisko’s least garish jumpsuits.
In this space I was going to talk about all the main characters, of whom there are many. But then I remembered I was supposed to let my bias run free, so instead this will just be about Garak.
Is a tailor. Although word on the Promenade is that he used to be a spy. Or is still a spy. Word in Garak’s shop of tailored fineries is that he used to be a gardener. Then again, maybe he’s a political exile. Or a political refugee. Or an exiled spy. Or an exiled gardener? Maybe he’s with the Fashion Police. Maybe he’s a Romulan Princess. These are all distinct possibilities.
Garak is the only remaining resident Cardassian aboard DS9. He is the best. Cardassians are the best and Garak is the best Cardassian, so he is extra best. This is very important. You should write this down. There is not an un-fabulous scale on Garak’s grayscale body.
Let’s look at him again, shall we?
Oh yeah and there’s a wormhole.
This will cause no trouble whatsoever.
It connects one side of the galaxy to the other. No big deal. You shouldn’t be worried about that old thing at all.
So! To sum up! If you like:
- Guerrilla tactics
- and interspecies romance