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13 Reasons Why Deep Space Nine Is The Best Star Trek Show

“Star Trek” has always been a vessel for commentary on the issues of its time, from the civil rights movement to the ’80s’ “Save the Whales” campaign. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” carried this tradition into the ’90s, and even predicted some turn-of-the-century anxieties. Looking back, it seems even more prescient than ever.

With the exception of Nicholas Meyer’s two original series films and a handful of episodes of “The Next Generation,” the concept of Starfleet as a militarized organization has largely been ignored. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” flipped the script on that notion, plunging the Federation into the Dominion War. Moral compromises became the order of the day, and agita about imperialism and the fear of the other took precedence in what had previously been an anodyne franchise. 

When Starfleet declares martial law on Earth in the two-part “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost,” 21st-century viewers will recall the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, and the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of 9/11. Another key episode, “The Darkness and the Light” (written by “Hannibal” mastermind Bryan Fuller), deftly interrogates the consequences of terrorism.

Star Trek is one of the more unique sci-fi franchises when it comes to representation, and “Deep Space Nine” is no exception. It carried on the franchise’s legacy of including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters, boldly going where no entry in the saga had gone before in terms of diversity.

Additionally, “Deep Space Nine” was a landmark for televised queer representation. The Trill species allowed Trek to explore queer issues. The species often served as a fairly clear metaphor for the trans experience, while in the season 4 epsiode “Rejoined,” Jadzia Dax (who used to occupy a male body) and their old flame (who lives in a female host) share a kiss; remarkably, it was the fifth-ever lesbian kiss in the history of American TV.

The Dominion War presented “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” with the opportunity to explore both the triumphs and tragedies of warfare. Unlike the relatively bloodless “The Next Generation,” the high stakes of “Deep Space Nine” meant that virtually anyone was at risk of serious injury or death.

This was best exemplified in the tragic arc of Nog (Aron Isenberg), son of the Ferengi Rom. Nog proudly became the first member of his race to enlist in Starfleet, and served aboard Deep Space Nine’s warship, the Defiant, after graduating from the Academy. During the Siege of AR-558, Nog was gravely wounded in a battle with the Jem’Hadar, losing one of his legs. 

“Deep Space Nine” proceeded to sensitively explore the fallout of this event. Nog’s subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder was thoughtfully and powerfully spotlighted in the season 7 episode “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” which saw Nog retreating into a fantasy world on the holodeck to avoid confronting the harsh realities of his condition.

This was best expressed in the relationship and eventual wedding of Lt. Worf and science officer Jadzia Dax, but “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” also treated viewers to Captain Sisko’s endearing romance with Kassidy Yates and Ezri Dax’s marriage to Julian Bashir. Miles O’Brien and his wife Keiko were also blessed by the “Deep Space Nine” writers with an expanded look at their coupling. Major Kira Neyrs served as a surrogate for the O’Brien’s firstborn child, Kirayoshi (a clever workaround for actress Nana Visitor’s real-life pregnancy). “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” also had its own Sam and Diane dynamic between Kira and Odo, which lent great emotional resonance to the series finale.

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