When Deep Space Nine was new, I was still working on Next Generation. I recall feeling this strong sense of sibling rivalry (entirely my issue, never created or encouraged by anyone else) that got in between me and my ability to watch the show, and give it the chance it deserved. Also, by 1993, I was 21 and feeling like it was time for me to get a break away from Trek and its emotional baggage. Over the years, I’ve wondered what, exactly, I missed, but I never made it a priority to find out.
With the passing my my friend, Aron, last week, I thought that I could remember and honor him by finally watching the series he gave so many years of his life and career to.
I know that DS9 is uneven, especially in its early seasons, just like we were, and I didn’t want to invest time into whatever their version of Angel One or Justice was (or, the gods help us all, Shades of Grey). Luckily for me, my friend, Max Temkin, has written a guide to watching the best of TNG in like 40 hours, and a similar guide to watching DS9 in like 80 hours (because, Max says, there are just too many good episodes of DS9 out there to get it down to 40).
So I dug up his guide, and read it. I took note of the context he thinks we should have before we start watching the show, including its time of production, its relationship to TNG, and some details about the characters that are useful to know before we really meet them.
Max tells us, “Deep Space Nine … is chock full of full, flawed characters with world views more diverse than their forehead prostheses.” That sounds amazing to me, and like something I can’t wait to watch.
After we have that information and perspective, he picks out the episodes he feels are the best from each season, not just in terms of enjoyment (there are plenty of entertaining episodes of TOS that don’t exactly advance the character arcs, such as they were in 1966, like Arena, for instance) but as they relate to the things he feels makes DS9 the best of all the Star Treks: the Cardassians and their relationship to Bajor and the Federation, the Dominion, the character arcs that made Kira and Sisko so memorable and beloved by fans for thirty years.
Max tells us, “Deep Space Nine … is chock full of full, flawed characters with world views more diverse than their forehead prostheses.”
I know it makes for better drama and a more interesting story if I say I was skeptical going into it, but I wasn’t. I was purely excited. I trust Max, and I trust the legions of DS9 fans who love it for what I’ve come to know this week are extremely good reasons.
Max’s guide tells us to watch the following episodes from S01: The first four, including the two-part pilot, which has the distinction of being the only truly good Trek pilot in the history of the series. Episodes 11, 13, 19, and 20.
I binged the first four on Netflix. This is significant because I *hate* binging shows. I prefer to let shows sit for at least a day between episodes, so I can digest and reflect upon what I watched. I believe that when we binge shows, we trade enjoying a meal for not being hungry any more … and yet. I loved the characters so much, I loved the look of the show, the tone of the show, and the stories they told in those four hours so much, I couldn’t stop watching.
Last night, I watched Episode 11, The Nagus. It’s the introduction of a character which could have just been broad and silly comic relief, but which I understand becomes a beloved part of the show. I’ve never been a big Ferengi fan; if you’ve read Memories of the Future you know why: they were so comical and broad in TNG, all I got out of them was buffoonish misogyny. There’s still some of that in the writing (it’s still the first season, and the writers haven’t let Quark and Rom and Nog grow into who they will become), but the actors pull the most interesting and complex nuances out of the scripts, to make their characters so compelling, I wanted to dive head first into the rest of the series, just to get to know them.
I told Anne that I was watching Deep Space Nine for the first time, which surprised her. I love Star Trek so much, she thought I would have watched it already. I told her how I had all this emotional baggage that got in between me and watching the show, but the therapeutic, emotional work I’ve done the past year has let me heal a lot of stuff, and stop carrying around that emotional baggage. So watching Deep Space Nine is extra special to me, because it lets me watch Star Trek, and it lets me LOVE Star Trek, in a way that I hadn’t been able to for essentially my entire adult life.
I love TNG, and I love my cast. They are my real family, and I will cherish the memories I have from working with them. And that means I can’t just watch TNG the way a fan does, without any complicated memories related to, you know, MAKING the show.
But I can watch Deep Space Nine and just see characters. Yeah, I know some of the actors a little bit, but for some reason, I can compartmentalize this time around. And that’s a wonderful revelation and a wonderful gift, for me.
Aron’s performance is sensational, by the way. But if you watched DS9, you already know that.