It’s Colm Meaney’s Birthday
Colm J. Meaney (Irish: Colm Ó Maonaigh) (born 30 May1953; age 58) is the Irish actor best recognized by Star Trek fans for his portrayal of Chief Miles O’Brien on bothStar Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from 1987 through 1999. He also played Albert Macklin in the acclaimed episode “Far Beyond the Stars“.
Courtesy of Memory Alpha.org
Here, we’ll concentrate on Mile’s of DS9
O’Brien was a character favorite to DS9 Writers, where they had a recurring motto “O’Brien Must Suffer”
Ira Behr once confessed that while he was persuaded to work on DS9 by Michael Piller, he responded to him that he would only do it if he had a chance to work on O’Brien’s character and have him with a real, true friendship with Julian Bashir.
“The relationship between Bashir and O’Brien is the best relationship… the best friendship in the history of the franchise.”
Ira Steven Behr, Season Six dvd set, Crew Dossier: Julian Bashir”
So, let’s explore those two themes today shall we?
First, The Whole “O’Brien Must Suffer” Thing
It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and that means celebrating the best Irishman in space: Chief Miles Edward O’Brien from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine! Played by noted Irish actor Colm Meaney, O’Brien always came off as one of the most relatable and down-to-earth (put intended) characters in all of Star Trek. But, this likability and good-heartedness is often rewarded with bad luck and sorrow for poor O’Brien and his family. He certainly has the Irish gift of gab, but not the luck of the Irish. How does he suffer so? Let me count the ways.
John Lennon’s little-known protest song “The Luck of the Irish” points to the irony of this famous phrase by outlining just how incredibly unlucky the people of Ireland have been throughout the years. And when it comes to the 24th century, all the unluckiness of the Emerald Isle seems to be heaped all on the shoulders of Miles. And we’re not just imagining this. According to both the special features on the DS9 DVDs and the book The Deep Space Nine Companion writers of the show actively sought to make sure at least one episode a year would feature an “O’Brien must suffer” plotline.
According to Ira Steven Behr, “If O’Brien went through something torturous and horrible, the audience was going to feel that, in a way they wouldn’t feel it with any of the other characters.”
While this is certainly true, it’s also possible that the tremendous acting chops of Colm Meaney allowed us to really believe that what he was going through was real, as opposed to the stiffer characters in the series. (Or, for that matter, all Star Trek series.) But another important reason why O’Brien’s various plights seem particularly relatable is because there are actual stakes for his character. Unlike a lot of other Trek regulars, O’Brien has a family, and fairly normal”one at that. When things on the Enterprise or Deep Space Nine go pear-shaped, it feels really scary for O’Brien. Sure Sisko has a family too, but his son Jake is a little older and savvier. Miles’s daughter Molly is just a little kid!
In DS9’s “Time’s Orphan” the notion of the O’Brien family getting seriously screwed up by a science fictional premise is particularly heartbreaking. Due to a freak time vortex showing up and ruining a perfectly good picnic, a feral 18 year-old Molly suddenly replaces little kid Molly. Despite their efforts at reintegrating Molly back into civilized society they make no headway and Miles and his wife Keiko eventually send the feral version of Molly back into the vortex in hopes of swapping her for Molly’s younger self. Basically, Miles exiles a version of his daughter. Heavy.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s also been tortured, held captive, betrayed and possessed a whole slew of times. In the TNG episode “Power Play” O’Brien is one of three crewmembers whose body is occupied by malevolent aliens hell-bent on taking over the Enterprise. With bad-O’Brien pointing a phaser at his wife Keiko for pretty much the entire episode, it’s a minor miracle they stayed together. In fact, Keiko must be some kind of saint for putting up with O’Brien. Now, I’m not saying O’Brien isn’t a stand-up guy and good father and good husband. He totally is.
And though she does suggest moving back to Earth a few times, Keiko is a pretty good sport about pretty much everything that happens to her family. Though when she was turned into a little kid in “Rascals” you could really feel O’Brien’s pain in just how weird that relationship was going to be.
However, the whole spouse-possessed by really mean aliens thing gets switched in the DS9 episode “The Assignment. “Here, the Pah-wraiths take over poor Keiko’s body and tell him he has to do what they want or Keiko gets it. This is made even worse by the fact that not only does O’Brien have to try and destroy the wormhole against his will, but also that he rarely even gets to see Keiko. Life-threatening, space station-destroying stakes AND their quality time taken away!
Basically, every member of the O’Brien family has to be put through some kind of time-futzing shenanigans. In “Hard Time” Miles himself experiences 20 years in an alien jail cell, even though almost no time has passed at all. With all the perspective shifts in this guy’s life it’s amazing he keeps it together at all. Which is why he has a drinking buddy: Dr. Bashir. And even though we all love Kirk and Spock, Miles and Julian just might be the best Trek bromance of them all. Actor Alexander Siddig backs me up here by saying “…O’Brien and Bashir are the only real friendship that’s ever happened on Star Trek. Those two are really friends…”
Even in a bizzaro universe, Miles O’Brien can’t escape from being the nice guy who sort of gets screwed over all the time. In the various mirror universe episodes on DS9, “Smiley” might seem more hardcore than our Miles, but he’s still an everyman and stand-up person, despite kidnapping the regular-universe version of Sisko. Notably, the alternate version of drinking buddy Bashir is a total jerk in the bizarro universe.
What’s also demonstrated here is how unjudgemental the character of O’Brien is. It’s not that he’s amoral about bizzaro Sikso having a mistress, it’s just that he sort of looks past it. The same goes for O’Brien’s relationship with his former Captain, Benjamin Maxwell in the TNG episode “The Wounded.” Despite the terrible things that Maxwell has done, you really get the sense that O’Brien will be able to separate his fond memories of Maxwell from the crazy person the rogue captain eventually became. It’s not just that O’Brien is crazy loyal, it’s that he gets people. Space station Deep Space Nine didn’t really need a counselor for six years because most of the characters probably just went and got plastered with Miles. (We see Worf do this at least once.)
But despite the massacre on Setlik III, his family being screwed with by time vortices and jerky aliens, getting captured and tortured over and over again and not even having a name in “Encounter at Fairpoint,” Miles O’Brien endured. Did he have the luck of the Irish after all? Whatever the answer is, it’s clear we certainly needed him. And on this St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be lifting a glass in a toast to the one and only Chief O’Brien!
By Guest Contributor On March 15, 2012, Kendra James:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is like The West Wing. But in space. With a Black president. Kind of.
That’s normally how I find myself trying to describe the show to the uninitiated, as I firmly believe that it’s the Trek series you have to use when trying to get people into Trek canon, especially people of color. Deep Space Nine (DS9) causes a strange division in the world of Trekkies. I’ve always found (non-scientifically; I just spend a lot of time at cons) that people either love it or loathe it. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to show it to my kids.
DS9 has your aliens and spaceships, and characters do occasionally say things like “set phasers to stun,” but the Trek cheese-factor is more often than not outweighed by the political storyarcs covered over six out of the show’s seven seasons, its criticisms of 20th century history, race relations in America, and lead actor, Avery Brooks, who stars as Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko–the first and only African-American captain to lead a televised Star Trek franchise.
In both the original Star Trek series (TOS) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), the existence of the United Federation Of Planets provided a perfect excuse to ignore (human) race and racism completely. The Trek franchise has always featured black actors and actresses, well developed Black characters, and TOS even featured the first televised interracial kiss in the episode “Plato’s Kiss.” Both shows dismissed racism on Earth as being as outdated as using money, instead highlighting racial politics between alien species rather than humans.
This model may have continued through DS9 had they hired any other actor to portray Captain Sisko. However, Brooks–a Shakespearean-trained actor, graduate of Oberlin College, and the first African-American to earn an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers University, where he has also worked as a professor–brought much of himself to the role, and that included an emphasis in the importance of the African-American experience. Even nearly three hundred years in the future. Whether Trek fans were ready for it or not, DS9 brought the topic of race closer to home.
While I suspect that direct tone is one of the reasons DS9 isn’t as popular as its’ predecessors–along with the heavy emphasis on backroom politics instead of “seeking out bold new worlds”–if you didn’t like TNG chances are you’re going to love a show that goes out of its way in the first episode to distinguish Sisko from the already-established Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In the premiere we learn Picard (while under control of the alien species The Borg) had killed Sisko’s wife.
In a meeting between the two, Sisko speaks to Picard in a tone he’s likely never heard from a non-superior officer before, and Sisko’s dislike of the man–and the stationis made apparent. With that, Sisko distinguishes himself immediately in the DS9 pilot as one of the few people with the mettle to speak openly to Picard and to not simply fall under the spell of influence the captain was often written to command. While the scene was likely included to make the segue from TGN to DS9 as smooth as possible, Picard does not exist to emerge as the hero of the scene or to bring Sisko back in line, so to speak. Because Sisko is given his outrage, his choice to accept permanent assignment there later is that much more genuine.
The meeting also introduces what would be one of the series’ most important subplots: Sisko is a family man in a way that neither Picard or Kirk ever were. He’s a widower with an 11-year old son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), a situation that was one of the reasons for resisting his assignment to the station.
In William Shatner’s documentary The Captains, Brooks said it was important to him to portray a black father on television that plays an positive role in his son’s life.
“I read the pilot, and said well, this is very interesting to me,” Brooks said. “A man dealing with loss, having to raise a child–indeed a male child–by himself, and be brown as we spin this tale in the 20th century about the 24th century.”
The depiction of the black father continued to be an important dynamic to Brooks through the show’s finale, like when he initially thought they were going to have Sisko abandon his son and unborn child. Upset by this decision he’s quoted as saying, “ The Producers told me, ‘Look we thought you’d be thrilled…The difference, of course, is you have Sisko with another child on the way. You still have Sisko with a young man [Jake Sisko] trying to find his way…That wasn’t fair.” [Shortened for Spoilers].
This view on “Parenting While Black” is unique in sci-fi fantasy television. More often than not in these shows, black parents die off or abandon their children early on in their lives, leaving them unhappy, lonely and hungry for revenge. Brooks’ efforts helped Lofton’s character largely avoid the fate of others like Robin Wood and Kendra Young (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Charles Gunn (Angel), Bonnie Bennett (The Vampire Diaries), and Walt Lloyd (Lost).
Even with an intergalactic war raging around them later in the series, Sisko is always there for Jake. They’re often shown having dinner together and Sisko is always eager to read over and help edit Jake’s stories and articles. He supports Jake’s decision to become a writer instead of going to the Starfleet Academy, even though that’s perhaps what he would have preferred. Episodes like “The Visitor” (guest starring Tony Todd as an older Jake Sisko) and “In the Cards” (where Jake tries to acquire a 1950s baseball card to cheer Sisko up during a stressful week) highlight the strength of the bond and loving relationship between father and son.
With a highly educated and vocal African American actor in the lead it’s no wonder you get get seven seasons of a series that takes his cultural experience to heart; Sisko is specifically written to acknowledge the implications that the color of his skin bring.
Not only are there references to Sisko’s New Orleans heritage, soul food, his love of baseball (particularly players Willie Mayes and Jackie Robinson) and bits of African art we see decorating his quarters, but we see him enter a relationship with an African-American woman, Kasidy Yates, enabling them–and the viewers–to discuss the cultural history of racism, of which Sisko is still acutely aware. In one episode his crew becomes infatuated with visiting “Vic’s,” a holosuite program set in a 1960s Las Vegas casino and lounge, and Kasidy asks him why he doesn’t want to join his team’s Rat Pack cosplay.
Sisko: You want to know … you really want to know what my problem is? I’ll tell you: Las Vegas 1962, that’s my problem. In 1962, black people weren’t very welcome there. Oh sure, they could be performers or janitors, but customers? Never.
Kasidy: Maybe that’s the way it was in the real Vegas, but that is not the way it is at Vic’s. I have never felt uncomfortable there, and neither has Jake.
Sisko: But don’t you see? That’s the lie. In 1962, the civil rights movement was still in its infancy. It wasn’t an easy time for our people, and I’m not going to pretend that it was.
Kasidy: Baby–I know that Vic’s isn’t a totally accurate representation of the way things were, but… it isn’t meant to be. It shows us the way things could’ve been – the way they should’ve been.
Sisko: We cannot ignore the truth about the past.
Kasidy: Going to Vic’s isn’t going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is reminds us that we are no longer bound by any limitations–except the ones we impose on ourselves.
It’s a small scene in a 45-minute episode, but the fact that it’s acknowledged is important and more than you get from most genre shows. Sisko is initially displeased with his crew’s little Mad Men fantasy, and he’s allowed to express it, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for the viewer.
During season five, Brooks also tackled nostalgic racism from behind the camera, as director of the episode “Far Beyond The Stars,” which spends an entire 45 minutes dealing with race relations in mid 20th-century America. “Stars” reimagines Sisko as a science fiction writer named Benny Russell working for a racist and sexist New York magazine in the 1950s where racism is present, but more deceptive and innocent, casually rolling off the tongues of people Benny considers friends and colleagues. The magazine refuses to publish his stories about the character Benjamin Sisko, a black starship captain.
When Benny’s editor finally does agree to publish his stories he insists that the stories must be revealed to be the dreams (not the reality) of a poor Black man in their present time–because everyone knows the idea of a black sci-fi hero is that unrealistic. With that, the episode also reminds the viewer that despite the inclusive attitude the Trek franchise has embraced, science-fiction is still very much a white man’s world. For every Octavia Butler there are five Joss Whedons. More pointedly, for every one Captain Sisko, there’s a Captain Picard, Captain Kirk, Han Solo, John Carter, and … well, you get the picture. With Sisko in the lead, DS9 is self-aware and capable of criticising the flaws of its own genre, and that’s something to appreciate.
I’m struck by how much more I understand this show at the age of 24, compared to when I rewatched it at 17, and before that when I originally watched from 1993 to 1999. I was only 11 when the finale aired (and grounded for a good deal of the season, but that’s another issue entirely) and while I vaguely understood the significance of Sisko, I admit to taking his presence–the presence of a starring Black man–on my screen as normal. I like to think that Brooks would have appreciated that, knowing that part of his reasoning for accepting the role of Sisko was his belief that “brown children must be able to participate in contemporary mythology.”
In some ways the 1990s were better landscape for a kid of color to get into science fiction and fantasy. Not only did I have Sisko, there was Carl Lumbly as M.A.N.T.I.S; Wesley Snipes was Blade; Spawn aired on HBO and was made into a film; Cleopatra 2525 starring Gina Torres debuted in 2000; my favorite book series, Animorphs, starred Black and Latino teens; and Will Smith was king of the summer sci-fi box office.
When one looks at the scope of white genre heroes this isn’t a large number in comparison but, because Sisko was always there, I didn’t feel as if I was lacking for anything. It never occurred to me that the physical and cultural representation I was seeing was unique not only within the Trek franchise, but on television in general. Because, let’s be real: It’s already been 12 years since DS9 ended, and sometimes it’s nice to watch Avery Brooks as Sisko and remember that, yes, we can do that, too.
Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind, we will always have here.
2.) Characters and actors:
Q: Who are the characters and what are their positions?
Benjamin Lafayette Sisko: Commander and later Captain of DS9 and the Defiant
Kira Nerys: Executive Officer, liaison to the Bajoran provisional government
Jadzia Dax: Science Officer, pilot of the Defiant
Miles Edward O’Brien: Chief of Operations
Julian Subatoi Bashir: Chief Medical Officer
Worf: Strategic Operations Officer and First Officer of the Defiant
Jake Sisko: Benjamin Sisko’s son, aspiring writer and journalist
Odo: Chief of Security
Quark: owner of “Quark’s Bar, Grill, Gaming House and Holosuite Arcade”, president of the Promenade Merchant Association
Morn: Quark’s most loyal customer, owner of a shipping business
Rom: Quark’s brother
Nog: Rom’s son
Zek: Grand Nagus (leader) of the Ferengi
Ishka: mother of Quark and Rom, nicknamed Moogie
Brunt: liquidator for the Ferengi Commerce Authority (FCA)
Leeta: dabo girl
Garak: tailor with a questionable background, exiled from Cardassia
Gul Dukat: former commander of the space station, Prefect over Bajor during the Occupation
Damar: Dukat’s adjutant
Martok: Klingon General
Weyoun: Vorta field commander
Gowron: Klingon Chancellor
Winn Adami: a religious leader on Bajor
Bareil Antos: Bajoran monk
Shakaar Edon: leader of the Shakaar resistance cell during the Bajoran Occupation
Vice Admiral William J. Ross: Starfleet field commander along the Cardassian border
Lt.Cmd. Michael Eddington: Starfleet security officer
Joseph Sisko: Benjamin Sisko’s father
Keiko O’Brien: Chief O’Brien’s wife, schoolteacher, botanist
Kasidy Yates: freighter captain
Vic Fontaine: A holographic program of a Las Vegas lounge singer
Lela, Tobin, Emony, Audrid, Torias, Joran, Curzon, Jadzia Q: Which actors had multiple roles?
The two most prominent recurring actors on DS9 are Jeffrey Combs and J.G. Hertzler.
Combs is best known as Brunt and Weyoun. He also played Tiron in “Meridian” and Mulkahey in “Far Beyond the Stars”. On the other Star Trek shows he can be seen as Penk in VOY’s “Tsunkatse”, Krem in ENT’s “Acquisition” and Shran – a recurring character on ENT.
J.G. Hertzler’s most prominent role is Martok. Additionally he played the Vulcan Captain of the Saratoga in “Emissary”, Laas in “Chimera” and Roy in “Far Beyond the Stars”. Outside of DS9 he can be seen as a Hirogen in VOY’s “Tsunkatse” and as Kolos in ENT’s “Judgment”.
To see Casey Biggs (Damar) and Robert O’Reilly (Gowron) out of makeup watch “Shadows and Symbols” and “Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang”. Biggs plays Dr. Wycoff in the former, and O’Reilly is the one who drinks the poisoned martini in the latter episode.
Q: Which characters were played by multiple actors?
Ziyal was played by Cyia Batten in “Indiscretion” and “Return to Grace”, by “Tracy Middendorf in “For the Cause”, and Melanie Smith in all other episodes. Batten was replaced because the writers wanted an older actress and Middendorf couldn’t handle the makeup.Senator Cretak was played by Megan Cole in “Image in the Sand” and “Shadows and Symbols”, and by Adrienne Barbeau in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”. This time the change was necessary because Cole wasn’t available for the third episode.Ishka was played by Andrea Martin in “Family Business”, and by Cecily Adams in “Ferengi Love Songs”, “The Magnificent Ferengi”, “Profit and Lace”, and “The Dogs of War”.
3.) TV, DVDs and books:
Q: Which TNG episodes relate to Deep Space Nine?
Several TNG episodes set up backstory for DS9:
- Benjamin Sisko:
Best of Both Worlds, Parts I & II
The Wounded (also O’Brien)
Chain of Command, Part II
The Host (largely contradicted by DS9)
Sins of the Father
Redemption, Parts I & II
Birthright, Part I (Bashir)
However watching these episodes isn’t required to understand DS9. All necessary information is repeated.
Yes. “Emissary”, “The Way of the Warrior” and “What You Leave Behind” were shot as one episode each. For the reruns in syndication they were split into two parts. This made it necessary to cut material to make room for a second credit sequence. The cuts are as follows:Emissary
A last visit by O’Brien to the Enterprise and his farewell to Picard
Cardassians scanning the station and detecting unexpected weapons
The Way of the Warrior
O’Brien and Bashir play around with beans in Quark’s
A holodeck scene with Dax and Kira in swimsuits
What You Leave Behind
The rebels are laughing and joking because they can’t enter Dominion HQ
The farewell between Bashir and Garak
Additionally several scenes around the middle are rearranged to end the two-part version on a cliffhanger
Q: What are the differences between the Region 1 and Region 2 DVD sets?
The R2 sets include several bonus features, which are only available as extra DVDs from BestBuy affiliated shops in R1.
Additionally two episodes are cut in R2. Season 4’s “To the Death” has 6 seconds cut from the neck breaking scene (the actual twisting can’t be seen). In Season 6’s “Sons and Daughters” 25 seconds were cut from the blood sharing scene at the end.
The R2 DVDs also come with a “Virtual Space Station” CD-ROM set; one CD per season. It’s a reference guide to events, characters, episodes and other items.
Other changes like different case designs or booklets are only cosmetic.
DVDs from different regions are incompatible for technical reasons. You need a region-free DVD player that can be switched between PAL and NTSC to watch them
Q: What features can be found on the Best Buy discs?
The Deep Space Nine Scrapbook – A look at the creation and launch of Deep Space Nine. Features archival cast and crew interviews and behind-the scenes-footage.
Quark’s Story – A look at the character Quark and the origin of the Ferengi.
The U.S.S. Defiant – An in-depth look at the “tough little ship” that debuted in Season 3
Bob Blackman’s Designs of the Future – Veteran Costume Designer Bob Blackman discusses the wide range of costumes he created for the series – from Bajorans, Cardassians, and Ferengi to a constant stream of aliens visiting the station. Includes behind-the-scenes footage of rarely seen sketches.
Sketchbook: Jim Martin – Illustrator Jim Martin reveals the meaning and evolution of many of his artistic designs used for DS9. Includes rarely seen drawings of Ferengi props, starships, and alien worlds.
DS9 Chronicles: Short introductions to selected episodes from seasons 1-4, narrated by Deep Space Nine actors
DS9 Sketchbook: John Eaves – A look at original and unused designs created for Season 5 of DS9.
Ferengi Culture – Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr explains how the Ferengi evolved from their debut on The Next Generation through the end of Deep Space Nine.
Inside “One Little Ship” – Visual Effects wizard Gary Hutzel provides an in-depth look at filming and designing the shrunken shuttlepod featured in “One Little Ship”
Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: The Beginning – Armin Shimerman and Ira Steven Behr discuss the cultural impact of the “Rules” on society.
Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: The Sequel – Armin Shimerman and Max Grodenchik explore the Ferengi rules accompanied by clips played back to back in numerical order.
Special Crew Profile: Ezri – A special profile of Nicole deBoer, a new cast member added in the final season.
Morn Speaks! – Mark Allen Shepherd talks about his unique role on the series and reveals dialogue that was written but never made the final cut.
Sketchbook: John Eaves – Illustrator John Eaves covers several designs created for the final season of DS9, including the Breen Ship.
Q: Are there special Asian editions of the DS9 DVD Boxed Sets?
No, those DVDs you see on EBay are pirated versions of the official sets. There are no Paramount liscenced Asian versions of the DVDs.
Q: How is the quality of the Asian DVD sets?
Pretty low quality. They’re grainy, and have a bad tendency to break up, much resembling the errors you get when a disk is dirty. Also, many episodes cut off prematurely.
Q: Do the movies make references to Deep Space Nine?
The Defiant is featured extensively in the Borg battle
Worf is thus brought to the Enterprise
Riker mocks Worf if he can still fire phasers, referring to his absence from the ship
Picard wonders about discipline on DS9 when Worf oversleeps
Picard mentions that the diplomatic corps is busy with Dominion negotiations
The Son’a are known as producers of Ketracel White (also mentioned in “Penumbra”)
Ru’afo mentions the Dominion among powers that challenged the Federation
Remans were used by the Romulans as cannon fodder during the Dominion War
Shinzon commanded a ship during the war
Q: What is the Deep Space Nine Companion?
A book with episodes synopses, interviews with writers and actors, and behind the scenes information. The Companion is a very good source for background information on Deep Space Nine, as well as the writing and production of a weekly television series in general.
It is out of print but still available from Amazon.com either used or new.
The book is not to be confused with the CD-ROM of the same name. The CD contains episode scripts, pictures, and trailers.