Twenty-five years ago, on a cold January evening, I sat down in front of a tiny TV in the apartment I shared with two roommates (Three’s Company-style) and watched the 2-hour premier of what would turn out to be my all-time favorite TV show: Star Trek Deep Space Nine. I had no idea at the time that DS9 would provide the catalyst for my first three published stories. In that moment, when The Next Generation was releasing excellent episodes almost every week, I was totally absorbed in the Star Trek universe.
I remember when TNG came out and I absolutely HATED the idea. If it wasn’t Kirk, Spock and Bones, then it wasn’t Star Trek. But I slowly came around to Picard and the Enterprise-D, and by the time Sisko and Jake walked off that holodeck at the end of the teaser, I was sold.
DS9 is different than most of the other Star Trek series, but there are countless blogs and articles about that, so I won’t bore you with a rehash. Instead, I’m going to list my Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine:
Far Beyond The Stars. Sisko has a vision from the Prophets and wakes up as a black science fiction writer in the 1950’s. This episode (along with Shadows and Symbols) was the inspiration for my short story “Isolation Ward 4” and perhaps the finest hour of television ever filmed.
Past Tense, Parts 1 & II. Sisko, Bashir, and Dax are sent back in time to the early 21st century where they find themselves in a Sanctuary District on the eve of one of the worst riots in American history. Maybe not the most popular episodes of DS9, but this 2-parter was the first truly great story that I remember them telling and the one that cemented my love for the show.
The Visitor. Jake Sisko spends a lifetime trying to rescue his father from a subspace accident. This was a beautiful story about a son’s love for his father, and it’s as powerful now as it was the day it first aired.
“I’m no writer; but if I were, it seems to me I’d want to poke my head up every once in a while and take a look around; see what’s going on. It’s life, Jake! You can miss it if you don’t open your eyes.”
Duet. Kira encounters a Cardassian war criminal (so she believes), but learns to see the enemy in a different light after getting to know the man. Easily the best episode of Season 1, and one that says a lot about the human condition considering it’s about a Bajoran and a Cardassian.
Explorers. Ben and Jake build a Bajoran solar sailing ship and fly it to Cardassia. A coming-of-age story that has remained a favorite each time I rewatch the series.
The Siege of AR-558. The crew of the Defiant defend a worthless outpost during the Dominion War, and Nog is severely injured.
“Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people – as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts… deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers… put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time… and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces, look at their eyes…”
The Way of the Warrior. Worf joins the crew and all Hell breaks loose in this 2-hour episode. Whenever I meet someone that says they tried DS9 and got bored, I tell them to start with this episode, watch until the end, and then start over. This one episode pretty much sums up everything about the show.
Take Me Out To The Holosuite. A silly episode about baseball, but man this episode is fun. The Vulcans come to the station and challenge Sisko and his crew to a game, and it all pretty much goes downhill from there.
The Sound of Her Voice. A somber episode indeed. The crew of the Defiant attempt to rescue a woman in an escape pod, and in the process she becomes a counselor and friend to every one of them.
“The war changed us – pulled us apart… I want my friends in my life, because someday we’re going to wake up and we’re going to find that someone is missing from this circle. On that day, we’re going to mourn, and we shouldn’t have to mourn alone.”
Little Green Men. Another time travel episode. Quark, Rom and Nog travel to earth and crash land in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. It’s hilarious, just watch it.
I wish I could say that I had faith in the future of Star Trek. I haven’t watched Discovery yet (I’m going to give it a fair chance when it comes on DVD), but I don’t think they’ll ever get back to the kind of storytelling they did from 1993 through 1999. Those were special characters, and I can’t say it any better than Captain Sisko did in What You Leave Behind:
“To the best crew any captain ever had. This may be the last time we’re all together. But no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us… a very important part, will always remain here, on Deep Space 9.”