I have a confession to make: I love Deep Space Nine.
I don’t know what I was doing when I first saw Man Trap or Encounter at Farpoint or Wrath of Khan, but I can tell you exactly what I was doing when I saw Emissary. I was 12 years old sitting in my room huddled with my sisters and my Dad around a 13″ B&W tv, the only one we had that had an antenna.
Why did we need an antenna? Because the only station that was broadcasting Deep Space Nine on that January night was in Dallas, and it was a hell of a chore to line up those rabbit ears. Luckily the local CBS affiliate picked it up the next week so I got to see the Wormhole open up in all it’s glory.
From that point on, for seven years, every Saturday night at 10:35 I was hooked.
More than TOS, more than Next Generations, DS9 is Star Trek in my eyes. If has everything that I love about Science Fiction: Aliens, Social Allegory, Space Battles, Random Technobable (admittedly less so than in TNG)… and eventually I will go into great detail about Deep Space Nine, but today I’ll just go into the Nine best story arcs, in my opinion, of the whole seven season run:
These are presented in no particular order…
1. The Ferengi
This is probably better described as Quark’s Arc. It has been often reported that the Ferengi were meant to be a serious antagonist to the Federation in TNG, a race whose driving philosophy was diametrically opposed to Starfleet’s utopian ideals. An off hand remark in Encounter at Farpoint and a true introduction in The Last Outpost did set up conflict, but the characterization by Armin Shimerman is laughably sinister.
It’s a Bald Off, bring it Pee-card!
Probably the lamest enemy ever introduced in the history of television. – Wil Wheaton
And he’s right, the Ferengi of TNG were, for lack or a better word, lame.
But, that’s okay, they gave us the Borg as penance… until Voyager ruined them.
That could have been all there was for the Ferengi if it hadn’t been for a hole in the plot of DS9. The problem of setting you series on a space station that is… well stationary, is that you can’t go out and get your villains, they either have to come to you or be there already. This is where Ferengi greed really came into it’s own.
Armin Shimerman, one of the Ferengi from The Last Outpost was cast as the quintessential Ferengi as they would appear in all future incarnations: greedy, self serving and cowardly, but also strangely noble, and honest (in their own way) and above all prescient. Through-out DS9 the Ferengi are shown to be put down by everyone, detested and scorned, but also absolutely essential to galaxy.
The Ferengi start out as one dimensional rogues, cheats and scoundrels but as viewers move through the series we are introduced to a vibrant thriving culture thousands of years old with ideals as strongly held as any other race. The Rules of Acquisition are more binding to the Ferengi than logic to a Vulcan. Success in Business more important than Death in Battle for a Klingon. And the Grand Nagus more revered than the Bajoran Kai.
Other races may have gotten more screen time, and greater focus in the primary plots, but the Ferengi were always there, in the background. At times comic relief or minor antagonists, but ever-present.
I’d recommend (re)watching the entirety of Deep Space Nine, paying careful attention to the way the Ferengi interact with each other and other races. There are too many good moments hidden in otherwise unrelated episodes to make a specific list, but some good ones are: The Nagus, Rules of Acquisition, Necessary Evil, Rivals, Profit and Loss, The House of Quark, Prophet Motive, Family Business, Bar Association, Ferengi Love Songs, The Magnificent Ferengi and Profit and Lace. Wow that is a long list and it still leaves two of the best scenes from Quark out… so here they are:
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2.The Bajoran Civil War
At the beginning of the second season, DS9 did something that Star Trek hadn’t tried before, a three episode, fully contained story arc. It was a story that could only have been told by DS9 at the time. TNG’s style of story telling made long story arcs difficult to set up and the syndication deal meant that it was highly unlikely that beyond the first run broadcast the three episode would play together, leaving the viewers that caught the show on the second or third run could be lost or confused.
TNG was the Flagship series at the time, and that meant it had a higher burden to remain profitable in syndication. DS9 was never, even after TNG ended, the Flagship, as Voyager quickly filled that spot as a network show.
Without that burden DS9 could experiment, and do so wonderfully. The Story is set up in a variant of the three act structure, with each episode representing one act. The First episode, Homecoming, sets up the main players, those we know from the Main Cast and those that would play a leading role in the arc. Strong performances from Frank Langella, Louise Fletcher and Stephen Macht drive the story forward. Fletcher reprising her role from In the Hands of the Prophets as Winn would go on to be a recurring antagonist in later seasons. Homecoming would also introduce The Circle, xenophobic extremists, pursuing a campaign to purge non-Bajorans from Bajor. A sentiment that echoes the previous episode, Past Prologue.
The xenophobia is also presented in scenes where Jake is stood up by a Bajoran girl whose father will not allow her to date a non-Bajoran and when Quark is branded with the icon of The Circle.
In the second episode, The Circle, the rising conflict has Kira shipped off to Bajor, later to be kidnapped by The Circle, and Quark discovering that the extremist are buying up enough weapons to over through the Provisional Government. Weapons it is discovered are being supplied from an alien source.
While on Bajor, Kira has her first direct contact with the Prophets and begins her relationship with Vedek Bareil. The episode ends with Kira’s rescue from The Circle and assault ships headed to the Station.
I won’t spoil the last episode, though the title should tell you a great deal of what happens, The Siege.
I cannot recommend this story arc enough, in fact I would recommend skipping the first season until after watching this arc. Some events from the first season will be spoiled, but this is stronger than all but one episode from the first season, Duets.
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3. The Changelings
This recommendation is actually very similar to the Ferengi, in that since Odo is a Changeling there is one in every episode, but the two races are handled in completely different ways.
At their best the Changelings are mysterious and insidious agents sowing chaos through out the Alpha Quadrant (Homefront, Paradise Lost, Apocalypse Rising). At their worst, their despotic conquerors (Call to Arms, A Time to Stand). Originally, I had titled this section The Dominion and then The Dominion War, before narrowing down to focus on just the Changelings. You can’t talk about the Vorta without spending days on Weyoun or the Jem’Hadar without their chemical dependencies.
The best episodes to focus on the Changelings are The Search Parts 1 & 2, Homefront, Paradise Lost, Apocalypse Rising and the entirety of season 7. This is probably going to the be the shortest section as there is far to much to say about the Changelings and the Dominion. From the third season forward everything was centered the Changelings.
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4. The Pah Wraiths
The Bajorans are very, very religious, this is well established in Emissary and In the Hands of the Prophets. The Prophets, the Wormhole Aliens, are the gods of the Bajoran people. The Prophets are non-linear lifeforms that actually built and live in the wormhole. They also sent Orbs to the people of Bajor to guide the Bajorans in their worship if the Prophets.
Now here’s where everything takes a turn for the Judeo-Christian, the Prophets have enemies. Evil spirits called Pah Wraiths. The Pah Wraiths are just as powerful as the Prophets, though less numerous, and are just as willing to roll full steam over anyone that gets in their way.
Though the Pah Wraiths only appear in a handful of episodes, where they do it is made very clear that the Prophets have set in motion the majority of events in Sisko’s life to force him to battle the Pah Wraiths.
Pah Wraiths bringing the smack down.
Even possessing his mother so that he will be conceived. The Pah Wraiths are so hardcore the Prophets conceived a child so that he would grow up to find an Orb to release a trapped Prophet to defeat the Pah Wraiths in just one battle.
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General Martok, as he was known throughout the majority of his appearances in DS9, was a lead General of the Klingon Defense Forces. He was introduced in the the fourth season episode Way of the Warrior. From the beginning he is presented as a bad-ass, even ready to slice his own hand open to prove he’s not a Changeling. He lead the invasion of Cardassia and pressed Chancellor Gowron to attack DS9.
And that was just the Changeling version of Martok, the real Martok was a much bigger BMF.
While the Changeling Martok was in the Beta Quadrant waging war, the real Martok was single-handedly beating the ketracel-white out of a company of Jem’Hadar, and doing it with one eye. He kept fighting until getting the Mick treatment when Worf arrived to take his place.
Even after escaping the detention asteroid and adopting Worf, he still felt the need to prove himself awesome, taking command of the worst ship in the Klingon Fleet, the Rotarran as his flagship. The Rotarran by simply being around Martok became unstoppable, even against the Breen Super Weapon.
It’s the ship with Bad Ass Mother***ker painted on the hull.
This is where Martok drinks on a Saturday night.
Commanding this ship throughout the rest of the Dominion War, all the way to Cardassia Prime.
After the defeat of the Dominion he was the only Commander Klingon enough to drink to the Victory.
Start with Martok’s first appearance in The Way of the Warrior, then skip to Apocalypse Rising, In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light. These episodes form a good base for the Martok story line, after this he becomes a more recurring character and spreads his development out across 30+ episodes.
Soldiers of the Empire focuses on Martok taking command of the Rotarran. You Are Cordially Invited shows Martok’s relationship with his wife. Once More Unto the Breach has a bit of back story about Martok. Tacking Into the Wind Martok becomes Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.
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The thing that I thought they did so well with Nog was that they didn’t make him perfect. He joined Starfleet with the determination and the tenacity to succeed, but he didn’t always make the right decision, but he always kept trying again. And I always felt that Nog was one of the most human characters on that show. – Aron Eisenberg
This is as good a time to address the elephant in the airlock, I do not think that all of DS9 is good. I do like the vast majority of the episodes, and more DS9 than the other series, but I have to admit the first season was not great. It was barely watchable. The lone exception being Duets, as mentioned before probably stands out so clearly because the rest of the season is lacking.
What does this have to do with Nog?
As with most things DS9, I do not often recommend watching the 1st season to get an idea of who Nog is or would become. As with almost every Star Trek Series the first 20 odd episodes are a tough slog and all that happens to Nog is he gets arrested, meets Jake and goes to school.
Really the story of Nog starts at the end of season two, in the episode The Jem’Hadar. This episode is used to introduce the Vorta and the eponymous Jem’Hadar of the Dominion. Nog is used, with Jake, as a sort of comic subplot, but the episode also starts the chain of events that present Nog, and to a lesser degree his father Rom, as a different kind of Ferengi.
In the episode Heart of Stone, Nog asks to join Starfleet, a first for the Ferengi. The reasons he gives at the end of the episode are a major departure for Nog’s character.
Until this point he is presented as trying to be a “Good” Ferengi. He attempts to make money in Progress, tries to woo a girl in the Ferengi fashion in Life Support and even in Heart of Stone he attempts to “buy” his apprenticeship from Sisko before proving that he has good reason to want to join Starfleet.
At this point Nog becomes the Starfleet Cadet they were not able to go with Wesley in TNG. He studies, and is shown having difficulty.
But he keeps trying and eventually succeeds on his first try, something Wesley and even Picard could not do.
Start with The Jem’Hadar and then skip to Heart of Stone and Facets. After that jump to Homefront and Paradise Lost this two episode art presents Nog at the Academy (as a side note to comicbook fans, Nog was also the lead in the Star Trek: Starfleet Academy book series, not a great book but it is a fun read).
At this point, like Martok, Nog became a more recurring character as the writers were able to inject him into the plot more frequently than Jake Sisko, and though the to remained friends Nog became closer with the Officers in the cast and was seen doing more with O’Brien. A few highlights are: Empok Nor, where Nog assists O’Brien on a salvage missing to a sister station to DS9; Rocks and Shoals a loose follow up to Empok Nor; The Magnificent Ferengi, a must for the Ferengi Marathon as well that includes and awesome Cameo by Iggy Pop (I am not joking); Valiant, a tie in to Paradise Lost where Nog takes a major role on a doom starship; The Siege of AR-558 and It’s Only a Paper Moon, essentially a two-parter focusing on Nog; and finally Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang the last stand alone episode of the series before the nine-part finale.
Nog was a great character on DS9, at least once he came out of Jake’s shadow. And that really happened when it became clear that Cirroc Lofton was not really going to grow up to be Tony Todd.
And here’s your moment of zen…
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This one was very much a given for the DS9, much of the series hinged on Avery Brooks being awesome as Com./Capt. Ben Sisko. He was the first character we see, not counting Locutus, and the first to really show an emotion on screen. And “Girlfriend in the Fridge” allusions aside his introduction is very strong.
Part of the at strength was his evolving reaction to being the Emissary. The Emissary arc is separate from, but intertwined with, his arc as a character. He starts out casually dismissing it as an affectation of the Bajoran Religion, he is the Emissary, but not really.
Over time he begins to really connect with the Bajorans and the Prophets, partly because he has too, it’s his job, and partly because they are ever present and, fo rthe most part, good people trying to do good.
I can only point out a couple of episodes that really focused on Sisko’s role as the Emissary: Emissary, the pilot introduces the concept of the Emissary, the Prophets and the Bajoran religion; Accession, Sisko is replaced as Emissary but a Bajoran poet from the past; Rapture, Sisko discovers B’Hala and begins having prophetic visions of a danger to Bajor; The Reckoning, Sisko has to decide between following the Prophets and losing his Son and/or Kira; and the whole Last Season.
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8. Section 31
Section 31 in DS9 is focused in the specific, tangentially connected episodes: Inquisition, Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges and Extreme Measures. For me the main thrust of these episode is inconsequential to the presence of Section 31. From the beginning of Star Trek (or at least it’s first appearance in mid-season one of TOS) the Federation has been held aloft, as a paragon of virtue in an otherwise dangerous galaxy.
But there have always been hints at something darker in the back ground, Admirals Cartwright, Pressman and Leyton’s actions in response to outside pressures. The Bugs from season one of TNG and the conspiracy to steal the Romulan Cloaking device. All these events could be seen as random, or as a careful pattern of selectively addressing the specific threats by an uber-intelligence agency hiding in the background. DS9 tried to answer that by retconning the disjointed stories of dozens of writers into Section 31.
As with most things, I feel I have to explain my position on a couple of things. One, I am not a conspiracy nut. I know Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, Man landed on the Moon and the US Government is not clandestinely reading my email. Two, the government could not work that way, the very idea that 2 million Civil Servants would all agree to the Grand Conspiracy and actually maintain their secrets, especially in the information age, is ludicrous. It just couldn’t happen.
But, if it could happen, I’d want it run like Section 31. Contrary to what these episodes may try to imply, it is very clear that Section 31 is performing exactly as it was intended. The Federation is a vibrant, growing organization where the vast majority of people live free peaceful lives. Military service, if you can call Starfleet a military (they’re are more like the Merchant Marine or NOAA really), is completely voluntary and any pursuit is open to anyone. And, it seems, Section 31 quietly makes that happen, or at least greatly assists that in happening.
I have included a couple of clips of one character, Luther Sloane’s, explanation of Section 31:
Trust him or not, you can tell that this man believes what he is doing is right, and that may be enough to scare most people, but he is still working for the ideals of the Federation, and that is worth something in the long run.
At the end of Inquisition, after learning the nature of Section 31, Sisko, Odo and Bashir discuss this new “threat.”
The truth is, we have relied on men, and now women, to do just that for our survival. The Law in the United States is very clear, killing another human being and even animals in some cases is illegal.
However, we maintain five uniformed organizations whose best course for completing the primary mission of defending our freedoms is killing our enemies. Capture is an option, but not the preferred option in most cases. That is a direct contradiction of our laws. Those organizations swear an oath to defend the Laws and Constitution against all threats Foreign and Domestic, an oath they do not take lightly.
What’s my point? Simply that Great Ideals and $4.93 will get you a Vente White Chocolate Mocha with whole milk and not much else.
Oh, one more thing. The second episode is titled: Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges this is Latin for “In the face of arms, the law falls silent,” it is a quote from Cicero. It was wasted as a title of this episode and would have better suited one of the other episodes from the end of the series.
I do recommend watching all three episodes in one sitting and then thinking about the questions each raise in regard to their subject matter.
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9. The Mirror Universe
I lied earlier… this will be the shortest section since it will simply be a list of the episode to watch. There is not a great character arc as we had with Martok or Nog. It doesn’t progress the overall story of the series, the last of the episodes air in the last season, but was certainly more of a gift to the loyal fans, than a driver of plot. The entire arc could have ended the previous season without much fuss.
So, in order, and it won’t make sense other wise, the DS9 Mirror Saga:
Bashir and Kira are thrown in the Mirror Universe by a glitch in the wormhole. The Klingon Cardassian Alliance has overthrown the tyrannical Terran Empire and has enslaved the Terrans and Vulcan… and quite a few other races as well.
This is an interesting episode because it introduced the update Mirror Universe along with The Intendant and Avery Brooks allowed to be a lot less reserved than he had been up to now. Nana Visitor and Alexander Siddig had probably started their relationship by this point and this is the first time the share a significant amount of screen time together.
Through the Looking Glass
A year later the Terran Resistance kidnaps Sisko to pose as him mirror self in order to keep the rebellion together. This time we get to see the mirror Bashir and Dax, as well as a very militant mirror Rom and still very Vulcan mirror Tuvok from Voyager.
Another year has past and Sisko is once again lured into the Mirror Universe, this time to help complete the construction of a ISS Defiant. Most of the player from the previous year are returned as well as the introduction of the mirror Worf, the Regent of the Sector.
Michael Dorn had just recently joined the cast of DS9 from TNG and was a good fit for the much more Klingon Regent Worf.
This is by far one of the weakest episodes of DS9 outside the first season, but it does need to be watched to pick up on some references from the following episode. The episode also sees the return of Philip Anglim as the mirror Bareil Antos.
The one saving grace is that it is well directed by LeVar Burton, at least there’s that…
The Emperor’s New Cloak
This is a return to form for the Mirror Universe. The Grand Nagus has crossed over to the Mirror Universe to attempt to expand into new markets. He has been kidnapped but Regent Worf and is being ransomed for the Romulan Cloak from the Defiant. Only Quark and Rom can save him.
This is a very light hearted episode and was very much needed in the overbearing season seven. We are introduced to the mirror Ezri, Nicole de Boer had recently replaced Terry Farrell as Dax, and to mirror Brunt and mirror Vic Fontaine.
As Vic Fontaine in the regular universe is a holographic character, he was included probably as a meta-joke.
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Well there they are, the nine best story arcs from Deep Space Nine, that is not to say these are the only story arcs. There is also the Marquis, the Dominion war, the Klingon/Federation War, the Shakaar story arc and about a hundred more.