5 Thoughts: DS9 Reruns

2010.05.04
By

1. SATURDAY NIGHT, STARBASE 33 MINYAN (Ann‘s and my official Couch Potato Lodge) commenced to go where two geeks had lately gone before: the entire seven-season, 149-episode run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We first encountered this most operatic of the Trek offerings less than a year ago, about a day after discovering them through a popular online DVD service[1]; despite being raised on the original and animated series and enthralled by the Next Generation, I/we missed most of DS9 after its premiere back in 1993. Seeing it once through only made us want to see it again — the word “operatic” accurately describes DS9′s scope and themes, and this time ’round we also wanted to pay attention to the detail.

2. Chief among these is the amazing amount of character development: something which the first two series lacked, but without which DS9 wouldn’t be DS9. It’s set on a space station on the edge of civilization, so that unlike TOS/TNG the main characters have to deal with each week’s problems instead of fleeing them at warp speed. (Just like life, at least for those with the courage to live it.) Complex characters call for able actors, and DS9′s ensemble are all Shakespeare veterans of one or another stripe. We don’t have many rules here at Starbase 33[2], but chief among them[3] is that suspension of disbelief doesn’t just happen — even for a well-grounded universe like Star Trek‘s.

3. Apparently, the show’s religious elements — primarily the development and applications of Bajoran theology — honked off a number of otherwise fans. For myself and Ann, the religious elements are some of the most appealing in that they deal with the day-to-day life of “the faithful” without recourse to stereotype (TNG did this when they made Worf a sort of Klingon ba’al teshuvah: he’d been raised by humans and had to learn for himself what it meant to be Klingon). Such characterizations are few and far between (although I’m writing some m’self); religious folks are usually fanatics, and while DS9 has plenty of those (especially among the Bajorans and the Jem’Hadar) the writers are careful not to make that the main aspect[4].

4. One thing that did bother me is the heavy use of homage/derivative stories, especially in the later seasons. We seem to have reached a culutral point where recycled injokery stands in place of creativity. I imagine part of that is due to the intense pressure under which weekly television productions operate, but as a viewer, it just makes me wonder what better line / funnier gag / more interesting effect might have been. In SFnal productions, and DS9 in particular, such homage is hard to spot without the encyclopedic knowledge most fen carry like a business card. Much of DS9′s humor derives from same, in fact — but you don’t need that to enjoy the series.

5. Two must-have, double-bag websites will greatly enhance your viewing experience: Memory Alpha (http://memory-alpha.org) is the online Talmud of all things Star Trek (try this random page if you don’t believe me); Jammer’s Reviews (http://www.jammersreviews.com/st-ds9/s1/) cover TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT and all 11 feature films (if you count Star Trek V). They’re great to read after a strenuous evening’s sedentation.

NOTES:
[1] Name withheld to encourage custom at your local DVD shop.
[2] Three axioms: a) Good science fiction is about ideas. b) Great science fiction is about characters. c) The best science fiction is about the human condition.
[3] Our Prime Directive: If it’s well-written, -directed and -acted, we don’t care what it’s about.
[4] For more on the links between religion and science fiction, see http://metaphorager.net/posse-commentatus/.

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6 Responses to 5 Thoughts: DS9 Reruns

  1. Margaret Gompertz on 2010.05.07 at 1602

    @Ann – Yes – that is what I most love about DS9 – they go into the spiritual and cultural aspects of the other types of humanoid civilizations and I really dig that. Babylon 5 did that too, another sci-fi series I loved. I think my geek is showing…

  2. Patricia Ann Clark on 2010.05.06 at 1847

    MG – And don’t you love the acknowledged (Bajoran) spirituality in DS9, whereas it was nonexistent in TNG?

  3. Margaret Gompertz on 2010.05.05 at 2052

    I love the characters and the more in depth exploration of their cultures. Dax was one of my favorites (and the Dax/Worf relationship was fun to watch), Quark and exploration of the Fereghi culture, Odo, the Bajoran and Cardassian conflict and the captian and his son (especially his son’s friendship with Quark’s nephew) was just very interesting to me. It seemed more complicated interpersonally and interculturally – I think my favorite episode is when Quark gets involved with a Kilingon and comes limping into sickbay followed by Dax after she and Worf had gotten down and got frisky, Klingon style.

  4. Neal Ross Attinson on 2010.05.05 at 1437

    @PAC: Yes, sadly. I’ll try to pick up the slack. ;-)
    @MG: What’s your favorite aspect? IOW, why DS9 and not TNG, say?

  5. Margaret Gompertz on 2010.05.04 at 2227

    I love DS9 – definitely my favorite Star Trek offshoot. Thanks for the link

  6. Patricia Ann Clark on 2010.05.04 at 1646

    I love it! Write more blogs about science fiction ‘n’ movies ‘n’ stuff, okay? Question about your FN1 — WHAT local DVD shop? Didn’t the last independent “video” rental store in Sonoma close recently? :-( Anyway — write on!

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