Star Trek brings many images to mind: gleaming spaceships, fantastic alien races and humans on the new frontier of civilization. Or if you’re a fan of Deep Space Nine: war, dark interior shots, morally ambiguous characters, and political intrigue. Deep Space Nine is considered to be the black sheep of the Star Trek franchise because of its dark undertones and setting. It’s a Star Trek series without any real exploration; the show is centered on a space station that just happens to be located near a wormhole to an unexplored part of the galaxy. As such, the show has its detractors considering it opposite of Rodenberry’s vision of a utopic future society. However Rodenberry himself signed off on DS9 before his death. However I think the show does not deserve its negativity from some of the fanbase and is in fact one of the stronger series.
I will grant that the show is not the idealistic future that the Original Series and The Next Generation showed us. Rather, it seems like part of the trend of the Nineties to make things darker and edgier. However, unlike comic books, DS9 didn’t go off the deep end in this regard. Rather DS9 is part deconstruction, part maturation of Star Trek. For example, Star Fleet has always been portrayed as a military organization. The ships are run like naval vessels and all the crew seem like they have some training. Well, DS9 shows what happens when Star Fleet goes to war. It shows why the ships all have phasers and photon torpedoes. It also shows that war doesn’t change even in the distant future. People still die and lose those important to them. It’s grim and there are times when the good guys lose. Just like in real life. It also shows that sometimes even in the future, people have to do dirty things to win a war.
DS9 takes Star Trek and takes out of the realm of the fantastical. Amazing futuristic technology still abounds, but gone are the days when technobabble could solve everything. DS9 shows that in the future one still has to deal with annoying bureaucracies and governments. As such political intrigue abounds in the show with Sisko, this series’ captain, being forced to maneuver around various groups.
Is DS9 a true representation of Gene Rodenberry’s future? Not really, no. It’s almost like a dark mirror to The Next Generation considering that they both take place in the same time frame. The Next Generation showed that that even though the future wasn’t perfect, it was still pretty cool. It also showed that humans were inherently good people and that was the central theme for the first and last episodes. DS9 shows that this future comes at a price. There’s still crime, corruption, and a seedy underbelly to the future and that sometimes the future can be as bleak as the present. Sometimes the characters are even forced to go down this level for what they perceive to be the greater good. However, the show does ultimately show that the people of the future are decent. They rise above the darkness of war and corruption to serve as beacons for others. While the show is a darker aspect of the Star Trek mythos, it still shows that future can be a bright place filled with wonder.
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