Does anyone know why he always wears sunglasses? Does he have problems with his eyes, or is it just a fashion choice? I’ve always wondered about that. Indoors or out, day or night, he always seems to be wearing sunglasses.
Does anyone know why he always wears sunglasses? Does he have problems with his eyes, or is it just a fashion choice? I’ve always wondered about that. Indoors or out, day or night, he always seems to be wearing sunglasses.
While the story arc itself had its problems and the series as a whole did have its flaws (overuse of the Ferengi as comic relief, a very weak seventh season with a rushed finish, poor to non-existent exit strategy for the Dominion War story arc, etc), I think the Dominion War worked overall and helped define Deep Space Nine as a series, for better or worse.
By contrast, the Xindi storyline in Enterprise was a good idea that was not as well executed as the Dominion War… but that describes many of the ideas Berman & Braga have come up with over the years. To begin with, the concept itself was really a clone of the Dominion War done to drive up Enterprise’s lackluster Nielson ratings. Created as a prequel by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga (both of whom had lost their touch by then, in my not-so-humble opinion), Enterprise wasn’t doing very well as a series. This was largely due to poor stories that either lacked internal continuity (on an episode-by-episode basis) or pissed all over established continuity for either the series or the franchise (by either introducing certain concepts from TNG way too soon in the timeline or by introducing potentially major threats to Earth in one episode, then completely ignoring them and the story-telling opportunities they could have raised in later episodes by never mentioning them again and zooming off to some other would-be threat). Remembering the brief viewer increase caused by the Dominion War in DS9, Berman & Braga decided to bring their own war into Enterprise with the Xindi.
While that might have been a good idea, the concept suffered problems from the start. To begin with, the entire Xindi arc wasn’t its own story; rather, it was just one season-long subset of a larger conflict that was shown, but never explained in the series: namely, the Temporal Cold War. No real details were ever given as to what the nature of the Temporal Cold War really was (a cold war across time itself, we assume?) or who first started it. We know some of the factions, but not all, nor do we truly understand their motives, beyond the old “Saturday morning cartoon villain” m.o. of “destroy the Federation!” that gets so cliché. Like many concepts from Berman & Braga, it was a great concept poorly executed and given little true depth. We saw precious little of this concept in Enterprise (aside from the occasional Suliban episode or the odd appearance by either “Future Guy” or Daniels, none of whom give nearly enough exposition), and what we did see was rather lackluster. Originally, this concept was expressed through a rather poorly-conceived race called the Suliban (which, guessing by their name, I assume were supposed to be some sort of heavily veiled parody of the Taliban?), though that didn’t quite pan out the way Berman & Braga hoped. With more viewers slipping away, they rushed the Xindi storyline into production.
Again, it began with a great concept: some faction in the Temporal Cold War called the Sphere Builders (really, you couldn’t give them a better name than that?) attempted an invasion of the Federation in the 26th Century, but the Federation repelled them. Instead of retaliating in that era, the Sphere Builders attempted to prevent the founding of the Federation. (As time travel expert M.J. Young would attest to on his website about temporal anomalies, such a notion has its own problems, but Star Trek has always played rather fast and loose with the concept of time travel, anyway.) To do this, they provided the Xindi with trumped-up evidence that the Federation would one day cause the destruction of their homeworld. (So, they’re fighting a war over something that hasn’t happened yet based on evidence “from the future” that could easily be manufactured? We can manufacture war photos using Photoshop right now. What kind of photo/video/hologram-doctoring technology would they have in the 22nd Century? Surely the Xindi thought of that!) This managed to get the Xindi moving in high gear, and they initiated a conflict against humanity – the Federation’s major founding member – by attacking Earth in “The Expanse“, Enterprise’s Season 3 opener. Enterprise gets recalled from its mission of exploration (which, I’m sorry to say, really hadn’t been going very well, as the crew of Enterprise either nearly got their ship destroyed each episode or spent as much time as they could pissing off the Vulcans, who – for whatever reason – were written to be colossal uptight assholes during the series) and assigned to head for a massive area of space called the Delphic Expanse in search of the Xindi’s homeworld. Once there, they would either parlay with the Xindi’s leaders and try for peace, or kick their asses and come back home victorious.
This war lasted all of one season (when has an actual war ever lasted only one year? Hell, Voyager took seven damn years to cross the Delta Quadrant – a feat they only barely accomplished by cheating several times via numerous space/time “shortcuts” – and the NX-01 Enterprise, which is technologically inferior to even the [/i]shuttlecraft[/i] of Kirk’s day, was able to cross this vast expanse of space in one year and return home in less time than that??). Some of the Xindi sided with our heroes; the others said, “Fuck it!” and launched a superweapon at Earth, which our heroes then had to stop in the Season 3 finale “Zero Hour“. Since the producers weren’t quite certain if Enterprise would return for Season 4 or not, they tried to bring all the major plot threads they had woven into the series (what few plot threads they actually bothered with, like the switch from a potential Archer/T’Pol pairing to a much more intriguing T’Pol/Tucker match)… Then they completely threw a giant WTF into it by ending the episode on a shot of an alien in a Nazi uniform. (I kid you not! Click the damn link and see for yourselves already!)
To be honest, Enterprise as a series bored me to tears (except for the occasionally interesting or even good episode, like “Regeneration“), and the Xindi storyline – while offering a few intriguing tidbits here and there (like “E²“) – was something I was rather blasé about altogether. To start with, I had grown weary of the emotional highs and lows of the Dominion War, so another war in an entirely different Trek series – especially when that war wasn’t the Earth-Romulan War we had been promised so many times – just didn’t hold as much appeal to me. I had just come to terms with the ending of Voyager (good or bad), and I wasn’t quite ready to commit to Enterprise the same way I had for TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Moreover, I had just started watching a different Roddenberry-based series – Andromeda – and had grown quite fond of it. The episodes I had seen of the Xindi war were very reminiscent of both the good and bad aspects of the Dominion War with a few interesting (and many not so interesting) twists. The writing, unfortunately, was still done by Berman & Braga (way past their prime, if you ask me) and the characters were still as… well, dull as they had been since series launch.
In Season 4, they left it to new Enterprise scribe Manny Coto – Brannon’s & Braga’s replacement, as they were refraining from writing duties (yay!) – to finish out the faux cliffhanger they created with the silly Season 3 finale “space Nazi” end scene. This he did in the two-part “Storm Front“, which explained how aliens had gone back in time and aided Nazi Germany, changing the timeline and enslaving America, and how our heroes had wound up back in the 1940s and blah blah blah… Normally, I enjoy alternate histories, but these two episodes stretched the concept beyond credibility.
After this horrid start, Manny Coto gave us a kick-ass final season of Enterprise, as (unlike Berman & Braga) he actually had a little something called talent. By then, however, the damage to the series had been done by Berman & Braga, and not even the Xindi conflict or the talented Manny Coto’s intriguing fan-wank scripts loaded with awesome original series references could save it. Enterprise was cancelled. The Earth-Romulan War plot they kept promising us and building up to? Never happened. As interesting as portions of the Xindi conflict were, maybe they could have focused on the Earth-Romulan War instead? *sigh*
To sum: Dominion War good, Xindi War so-so.
Anyway, that’s my two cents on the issue. Apologies for both the length of the post and the time which I posted it. (I hadn’t gotten to see my sister on her birthday, so I was taking her around town last night to make up for it.) What’s your take on the whole mess?
Over the summer, Netflix added all of the Star Trek series to it’s instant service–well, all but one: Deep Space Nine. This made me sad, because DS9 was my favorite, but I figured it would be a good opportunity to catch up on Voyager and Enterprise, which I watched some of (two seasons and one season, respectively) but never really got into. I tried, and quickly remembered why I’d stopped watching those shows (Neelix and implausibility, respectively). I was already in a Star Trek mood, though, so I went back and started watching The Next Generation. I really enjoyed this series while it was on TV–it’s final season ended my senior year of high school, and my friends and I were all Star Trek nerds–and in rewatching some of the old episodes I was delighted to see that they held up over time. It wasn’t just nostalgia that made me like them in high school, and in fact many of the episodes I remember as kind of boring turned out to be pretty great once I watched them with a more discerning eye.
Last night, having just watched “Pen Pals” from season two (specifically because it was recently covered in Tor.com’s TNG rewatch), I decided on a whim to do a search for DS9, just in case Netflix had added it to the Instant Streaming options. TNG is great and all, but the episodic nature of it was really starting to get to me. I wanted the depth of an ongoing story, and the darkness and tension of DS9′s murky political minefield. What could it hurt? I pulled up the search window and…it was there! My sweet, precious Deep Space Nine! I went straight toward the end of season two, when the long-form story just starts to get going (a two-parter about the formation of the Maquis, a resistance/terrorist organization) and started watching.
I love this show so much. We start that episode by watching someone plant a bomb, and then instead of watching it explode, we jump to the control room and listen to Dax and Kira have a snarky, half-friendly-half antagonistic conversation about dating. Not only does this serve as a perfect example of the Hitchcock Principle (“Suspense is when you know there’s a bomb but it doesn’t go off”), its wonderful character development, and nicely humorous. Then the bomb goes off and a ship explodes, and the entire sequence is a perfect, representative slice of DS9: darkness, conspiracy, humor, character, and mundane life. These characters didn’t have time to catalog anomalies and dork around with the Prime Directive, because people were setting bombs on their ships. It was all they could do to keep their heads above water while the darker forces of the universe did everything it could to destroy them. And in the midst of it all they do their best to live a normal life.
The first two seasons of Deep Space Nine were still trying, albeit half-heartedly, to mimic a normal Star Trek show; you still got a lot of political stuff (I can’t even count the number of people I’ve talked to who hate the show based solely on its early preoccupation with Bajoran politics), but there was a lot of “Anomaly of the Week” type stuff. I’m not saying that the other Trek shows were frivolous–they’re well-known and well-loved precisely because they deal with weighty issues like ethics and responsibility. The difference with DS9 came in its tone, which was dark and tense and far more bleak than the others. Every Trek show has tricky questions, but DS9 has questions with no good answers–and, more importantly, consequences that come back to haunt the characters for years.
The TNG episode “Pen Pals” is a great example. Data accidentally contacts a young girl on a dying planet, resulting in a fascinating quandary over the Prime Directive: do they save her? Do they save her planet? If saving her will irrevocably destroy her culture, is it still worth it? If the only other option is death, does the Prime Directive even matter? They wrestle with this back and forth for an hour, and it’s great science fiction, and then in the end they choose to save her planet and–here’s the kicker–wipe the girl’s memory. They broke the Prime Directive by directly interfering with a developing culture, and then there were zero consequences, and then they flew away and never thought about it again. All of their deep, philosophical theorizing was interesting, but ultimately meaningless.
Deep Space Nine doesn’t have that kind of crap. If they mess with something and cause a problem, they’ll have to deal with it, probably several times. They’re a space station, so they can’t just fly away to a part of space they haven’t ruined yet. The Maquis I mentioned earlier were a resistance group forged by the events of a TNG episode: the Federation came to a political agreement with the Cardassians, resulting in a demilitarized zone that displaced a lot of people. Colonists in Federation territory suddenly found themselves, and the homes they’d given so much to build, under enemy control. TNG never really dealt with this, but DS9 used it all the time. The colonists felt betrayed, and when the Cardassians exercised what the colonists considered to be unfair control, they formed a resistance movement and/or terrorist organization. They blew stuff up and killed people, and the DS9 characters couldn’t just wipe anyone’s memorizes or reroute power to the deflector array, they had to hang around and deal with it and try to make peace in an impossible situation.
In season three, Deep Space Nine embraced its long-form nature and went whole hog, starting a massive war that consumed not only the Federation and the Cardassians, but the Klingons, Romulans, and a new alien nation called the Dominion. The one where the Romulans join the war is one of the best episodes ever: the Federation is losing the war and needs more help, so they order DS9′s captain to enlist the Romulan’s help as allies through “any means necessary”. If he doesn’t get their help, the Federation will be destroyed–but the only way to get their help is to break his own set of ethics in a profound and terrifying way. There are no easy answers on DS9, and the implications of his decisions in that episode haunt him forever.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this–I can’t convince you, objectively, that a piece of art is “good.” It’s on Netflix now, so watch it for yourself. Perhaps it would be simpler to say that DS9 has my favorite characters of any Star Trek show and leave it at that. Perhaps it’s enough to point out that DS9 was run, in part, but Ronald Fracking Moore, who also ran the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Whatever convinces you to try it, try it. It’s my favorite Star Trek show ever.
(And that makes it the best.)
Episode Guide/Review by Christopher Jones
Season 6, Episode 13
Stardate Unknown (2374) and September 1953
Episode 136 of 173 Released in Deep Space Nine
Episode 135 of 173 Released in Deep Space Nine
Production Number: 40510-538
Original airdate: February 11, 1998
Directed by Avery Brooks
Story by Marc Scott Zicree
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Frustrated by continued losses in the Dominion War, Captain Sisko has doubts about his place in Starfleet. Perhaps brought on by the stress, he blacks out and finds himself in 1953 New York working as an SF writer named Benny Russell. Though his writing is published, he must conceal the fact that he is black. When inspired by a sketch to write a story about a space station, he begins to clearly see the world of Deep Space Nine and pens a story about the station run by a black captain. He populates the story with characters based on his fellow writers at the magazine, who resemble in human form the characters we know and love from DS9. When the magazine refuses to publish the story as long as the captain is black, Russell enters into a struggle of integrity and frustration as he fights for his rights as a person, rights that should be the same for all regardless of skin color. He makes concessions but still finds himself being denied in the end, resulting in a breakdown. He ultimately wakes up in the infirmary, told by Bashir that he was unconcious for only a few minutes.
Star Trek has always been a voice for commentary on the state of our society. In its original form Gene Roddenberry filled the bridge of his starship with a collection of diverse people—an African American woman, a Russian, an Asian, an alien—all working together at a time when the world was not ready for such a concept. Neverthless, he marched forward. Though the show failed early on, it became a symbol for those who would see a more enlightened future for mankind, and ultimately embedded itself in our culture.
Of the Star Trek shows that have come since, perhaps none have taken as bold a step as Deep Space Nine, which put a black captain at the head of a space station. Not just any space station, mind you, but one that, in the Star Trek universe, is considered one of the most important locales in the galaxy. This came at a time when, though “blacks” had been accepted in such leadership roles in the real world, lead roles on television—or some would say any substantial roles—still were few and far between. Fortunately, Rick Berman and Michael Pillar hold no such prejudices and saw fit to bring us the wonderful Avery Brooks in the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko.
This served to put DS9 in perfect position to speak out about the struggle of blacks over the years to gain the respect and opportunities that all people deserve. In 1998, during Black History Month, DS9 aired what is one of the most creative stories in the franchise’s history. “Far Beyond the Stars” brought us the tale of a black SF writer struggling to make it in 1950s America. Fortunate enough to have his work published, Benny Russell (Avery Brooks) was forced to conceal the fact that he was black in order for his stories to be accepted by the public. His white colleagues had no problems with his skin color, but the general public of the day would have never been so understanding, as dialogue from the episode shows…
Having just been told that the publisher wants to run a photo of the writers in the next issue, the female member, Kay (Nana Visitor), is told that she can sleep late that day. Benny chimes in, too:
“I suppose I’m sleeping late that day, too.”
“It’s not personal, Benny, but as far as our readers are concerned Benny Russell is as white as they are. Let’s just keep it that way,” replies Douglas Pabst (Rene Auberjonois), the magazine’s editor.
“Oh, yes,” cuts in Herbert (Armin Shimerman) sarcastically, “If the world isn’t ready for a woman writer, imagine what would happen if it learned about a negro with a typewriter. Run for the hills! It’s the end of civilization!”
As the story unfolds, Benny begins seeing so clearly a story that he must tell. The story is one of a black man who is captain of a space station—a black man who has not only risen from the disrespect with which those of Benny’s day were treated but has in fact reached the highest point of respect. This world in his mind becomes so real to him that he writes fervently through the night.
When the story is finished, Benny is on a high and takes the piece in to share with his fellow writers and to offer it to Pabst for publication. Everyone praises the work—even Pabst—but Benny is quickly brought back to Earth:
“Douglas, you’re not going to stand there and tell us you don’t like this story,” says Herbert.
“Oh, I like it alright. It’s good. It’s very good. But you know I can’t print it.”
“Why not?” asks Benny.
“Oh, come on Benny! You’re hero’s a negro captain—the head of a space station for Christ’s sake.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“People won’t accept it. It’s not believable.”
“And men from Mars are?” cuts in Herbert.
Once again, it all comes down to skin color (and to imagine that in this case green is easier to swallow than black). How many times in our history has a great idea been discarded because the person who thought it up was not of the right pigmentation? And how many bad ideas were put in its place because the person who thought them up was? In fact, that’s in effect the option given to Benny in “Far Beyond the Stars.” He is told by Pabst that if he wants the story published—and they all admit it is a fantastic story—that he must make the captain white. Otherwise, he is told, he can “put the story in a drawer for the next 50 years, or however long it takes the human race to become color blind.” White captain: good. Black captain: bad.
Season 2 – Episode 14- Whispers
A Cloned O’Brien & Keiko O’Brien
KEIKO: Hard day?
O’BRIEN: You could say that.
KEIKO: You want to lie down before dinner?
O’BRIEN: No, Jake’s coming over in a little while. I promised to help him with his science project.
KEIKO: Er, Commander Sisko just called. Jake can’t make it tonight. He isn’t feeling well.
O’BRIEN: Really? He seemed okay a few hours ago.
KEIKO: Well, you know how it is with kids. He probably just ate too much junk on the Promenade after school.
O’BRIEN: Where’s Molly?
KEIKO: She’s over at the Fredricksons spending the night.
O’BRIEN: So there’s just the two of us, then.
KEIKO: We’d better eat while the food’s still warm.
O’BRIEN: The replicator can keep it warm, and I can keep you warm.
(He kisses her, but she doesn’t respond)
O’BRIEN: What’s the problem?
KEIKO: No problem. I’m just not in the mood. I had a hard day too.