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Rewatching DS9

Binnond Shern

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I am nearly at the end of a rewatch of DS9, the first complete one I did since my original viewing about a decade ago (though I have watched some individual episodes since) I am fortunate enough to have some notes from that time about my thoughts as well as things that came up from memory and I thought I’d write them briefly (I tell a lie) on this thread.

Certain things are better than I remembered, DS9 is a pretty strong series even in the slower first two seasons (certainly better than Next-Gen’s first two seasons) The cast is far stronger than I remembered it, their chemistry is excellent, to the point I’d say I’d pick them over Babylon 5’s (who have brilliant characters such as Molari, Garibaldi, Bester, Ivanova, and Jakar, but not a universally brilliant cast, IMO… in fact, some of them are even terrible.)

Jadziah is a better character than I remembered. I didn’t like her in my original viewing because I found her to be a little vain and carefree in what were serious surroundings. She still was that in the first few seasons, but I thought she got a lot better in season 3 or 4 as she got a more jaded a little darker in her outlook. I also found her personality much more charming and rewatching season 6 was a sombre experience knowing what would happen.

Ezri was still as charming… even sweet as I remembered (teenaged me had a minor crush on her) though I do wish she had been given more time to play the role. I think the series did the best it could in an unexpected situation (which is DS9’s consistent strong suit) The season gives her more attention than any other character even though it’s supposed to wind-down the series, but it still wasn’t enough. In a way, I wish they’d done it sooner or not at all.

In the same way, I kind of wish Kurzon would have played Dax in the first season. I also think it did Jadziah no favours. We barely know who she is outside of Kurzon’s shadow. Ezri at least gets a family episode; Jadziah didn’t even get that. How much more interesting it would have been to have had Kurzon in season 1, even if Jadziah had stayed until 6 with Ezri only in 7. It would have told a complete narrative of its own, death, life, and rebirth.

I also take back my thoughts on Dukat. I thought the 6 & 7th seasons did him a disservice, but this time, I think he’s a very consistent villain. I guess I got too carried away thinking he might become more of an anti-hero (a role always reserved for Garrek) But when you really think about it, he was always there to be the antagonist, even when he wasn’t.

The brilliant thing DS9 did was just frame the antagonist role in a more complex way than we generally see; sometimes, he's the antagonist by virtue of challenging the protagonist’s concept of evil with gray. Sometimes, he’s petty and vengeful, but he’s always his own man. Even the Pa Wraiths couldn’t put a stop to his womanizing.

I think Kira might be the only female Bajoran he didn’t woo (not for lack of trying mind you. I almost got to shipping them) Though I disliked how Odo became the sappy romantic in my original viewing, I can’t say those characters don’t have chemistry and the story of how they end up together is a very sweet one, even if it ends on a bittersweet note.

Other worthy mentions include Jake, Nog, as well as all the characters I liked from before who are still as good as I remembered (basically the entire cast) Its just Jake and Nog in particular who stand-out both because those aren’t generally easy roles to play over such a long course of time, and because they were consistently well written and down to earth.

My main point of critique against the show is the Dominion War arc. When I really thought about it, I  came to the conclusion that it didn’t make any sense. We keep being told how the Dominion is winning the war and the chances are against the Federation and its allies, and yet, we keep seeing them beat the crap out of them. We keep getting told how the Alliance is taking out vital strategic resources only for it to have no affect on the course of the war.

Shipyards destroyed (several times)? They have others. Not enough white or Jemhadar? They found some and started breeding them in the Alpha Quadrant. Season 5 ends with the Dominion taking over DS9, while the Allied fleet successfully takes out the Cardassian shipyards. Next time we see them, the allied fleet is battered and on the retreat. We never see those defeats, only their aftermath and the success around the corner, which then evaporates offscreen.

That whole stage of the show should have been an entire season of defeats and retreats to give the conflict and the Dominion the appropriate scope and tension, instead, they take DS9 back a few episodes later, even though the writers later decide they still need that war to go on all the way to the end of the show. That’s why I think DS9 could have used one an extra season, or at least focus season 6 on the early stage of the war and 7 on the turning point.

At some point, all the stuff with the prophets conflicted too strongly with the war leaving the series unable to tell either as effectively as they could have done in my opinion. Up until then, DS9 did a good job of focusing on one thing at a time; the Cardasians, the Marquis (with the Dominion gradually superseding them as the villains) When we finally get to the Dominion, it gets muddled the Pa Wraiths. Still good, but not as good as I remembered it.

All in all, I’d still say it had the strongest overall plots (if not necessarily all the individual episodes) and cast of any Star Trek show. It managed to do the critique of that universe in a nuanced and controlled way. Even Section 31 was done as a very isolated thing which based on the information of the episode, we can’t even say really was Federation sanctioned or even that big of a deal. I blame later Star Trek from going too far with it.

To put it in another way, yes, Paradise may have come under a few threats; a coup attempt, Dominion invasion, effective civil war between the Marquis and the Federation, and other challenges to Rodenberry’s idyllic future. That said, the soldiers always transported away at the end leaving Paradise to remain as such, even somewhat improved for having withstood the trial of a less kind reality. It never sought to undermine that vision, just to challenge it.

I can't say newer shows have always held true to that principle, while others seemed more comfortable going back rather than fowards. It remains the height of the franchise, in my opinion, and one it didn't reach again since. It will be interesting to see if my less generous views on Voyager and Enterprise will change as I rewatch them

Your thoughts?

Edited by Binnond Shern
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