In one of the forums that I post these reviews one of the earliest questions was, ‘Are you going to do DS9 after you finish TNG?’ Now, originally I had no plans to, in fact I wanted to move on to another tv series all together but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had to. In many ways, DS9 surpassed TNG in scope, development and even in storytelling. This series got a chance to expand into something greater than what we have seen so far so I would be foolish not to re-examine this series again. So, you asked for it….
Originally airing on January 3rd, 1993, this is Star Trek Deep Space Nine Season One Episode One: The Emissary.
Station Log Stardate 46379.1 The Emissary
Commander Benjamin Sisko must face the demons of his past as he takes command of an abandoned Cardassian Space Station following the Cardassian withdrawal from the planet Bajor. After the discovery of an active wormhole to a distant galaxy, Sisko finds that this position may be much more important than he had originally believed.
Before we dive into the episode itself, lets knock out some of the core components so that you know who everyone is and where this all takes place.
Unlike any of the previous Television series and films, this series is based on the space station, Deep Space Nine (aka Terok Nor). The station is orbiting the planet Bajor which only recently was released from its subjugation at the hands of the Cardassian government. You may remember the Cardassians from Star Trek The Next Generation, if not, here is where they first appeared. With the Cardassians ‘gone’ the Federation has agreed to help the warp capable Bajoran people who have petitioned to become part of the United Federation of Planets.
Think of the station as more of a port city like New York or Philadelphia where people, cultures, products and technology all go through this hub to visit other parts of the galaxy. It is not only a functional port hub but a cultural hub where people from all over can visit and share their experiences. Naturally everyone visiting isn’t always there for the right reasons and sometimes it is necessary to leave the station to visit other places, especially through that wormhole, but this idea of a stationary setting gives the series a chance to explore more than just the Federation and one of it’s ships.
No series would be worth its salt without a good ensemble cast and boy does it ever. We are first introduced to Benjamin Sisko and his son Jake aboard the USS Saratoga during the battle against the Borg at Wolf 359. During this battle Sisko not only loses his ship but also his wife in the attack led by Jean Luc Picard in the form of Locutus. Three years later he finds himself still a Commander but now taking over the space station Deep Space Nine with his teenage son, Jake, in tow. It is clear he doesn’t really want to be there but, after the death of his wife, he hasn’t really wanted to be anywhere.
The rest of the crew are comprised of a rag-tag group of folks including our favorite transporter chief Miles O’Brien freshly promoted to Chief of Operations aboard the station. Some of the key crew include; Jadzia Dax, the Trill science officer with multiple lifetimes behind her, Major Kira Nerys, a Bajoran officer who is not happy with her placement under the command of a Federation Commander, Odo, a shape-shifting security chief with a mysterious past and Julian Bashir, the young and adventurous Doctor who wants to be on the front lines. In addition to the main crew we are also introduced to the Ferengi Barkeep, Quark, who reluctantly agrees to remain after a run-in with Commander Sisko.
This crew is just starting but they already have the makings of a fine group of officers.
The opening theme.
Every series needs a theme that pull you in. This series in no exception. For your pleasure, here it is: Please note, that the first episode credits lacked a certain wormhole as this was a major plot point for the episode. Later Episodes would include the wormhole.
Finally, the episode breakdown itself:
After showing the events that took his wife (Battle of Wolf 359), we find Ben Sisko and his son Jake on their way to Deep Space 9. Sisko arrives to find the station in shambles due to the Cardassians who just left the station. While there he meets up with several members of his new crew and, eventually is invited to visit the spiritual leader of Bajor, Kai Opaka. Kai Opaka recognizes that Sisko doesn’t want to be there, which she finds ironic as she also recognizes him as the savior of the Bajoran people known as The Emissary. While there he is exposed to the Orb of Prophecy and Change, a religious artifact where, upon his exposure to it, he experiences a moment in his past where he first met his late wife. After his Orb Experience, Kai Opaka asks him to locate the celestial temple that was foretold by the Nine Orbs like the one he was just exposed to.
Soon Sisko is reunited with his old friend Dax, a Trill who has taken a new body in the form of Jadzia Dax, a 28 year old female science officer. Sisko has been friends with Dax for many years and looks forward to reconnecting with his old friend. Upon her arrival they begin to study the Orb of Prophecy and Change in an attempt to find any information about the Celestial Temple. While studying the Orb, Jadzia has an Orb Experience of her own flashing back to the moment when the Trill symbiont was transferred from Curzon (Sisko’s old friend) to Jadzia.
Sisko is soon visited by Gul Dukat, the man who previously ran Deep Space Nine under it’s Cardassian name Terok Nor. The meeting is hostile at best and, when Sisko refuses to share his Orb with with them, Dukat all but threatens the Commander. Meanwhile Jadzia believes that she has found the location of the fabled Celestial Temple but, with the Cardassians on the station, they can not act without attracting unwanted attention. So, they send Odo to the Cardassian ship disguised as a bag (he’s a shapeshifter you know) to disable the Cardassians ship. As he works his magic, Sisko and Dax take a run-about shuttlecraft to the site of the Celestial Temple. Upon their arrival they discover a giant wormhole that, to their surprise, instantly envelopes the ship. Within seconds they find themselves transported to the Gamma Quadrant, 70,000 light years from the planet Bajor! Upon their attempt to return through the wormhole, they are contacted by the inhabitants of the Celestial Temple who, after returning Dax to the station, begins to communicate with Sisko through his memories. Sisko soon discovers that the people in the Wormhole exist in a fluid time where there is no awareness of past, present or future. On top of that they are responsible for the orbs that have been sent to Bajor over the centuries. After coming to terms with his past and the death of his wife Jennifer, Sisko finally convinces the wormhole aliens that Sisko and his people are no threat and, they reach an agreement to allow for safe travel back and forth to the Gamma Quadrant through the wormhole.
Knowing that the Wormhole is key to the control of the quadrant, Major Kira orders Chief O’Brien to literally move the Space Station to the mouth of the wormhole. With the impossible task at hand, they begin preparing for the dangerous mission ahead. Against all odds they are able to move the space station to the mouth of the wormhole just in time to watch the Cardassian ship enter it and see the wormhole appear to explode. Soon the Cardassian fleet arrives and threatens the station thinking that Kira and the crew are responsible for the destruction of Gul Dukat’s ship. Just as the Cardassian fleet begin their attacks, the wormhole reopens with Gul Dukat’s ship being towed out by Sisko’s Runabout, the Rio Grande.
The Cardassians withdrawal just as the Enterprise returns to the Station. After a brief meeting with Captain Picard, Sisko realizes that, while he may not like his assignment, this is where he currently belongs. It is a clear chance for he and his son to start their lives over.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is an excellent opening to an all new Star Trek series. The story is mostly there just to introduce the characters and setup the series so it doesn’t have any deep moral story or social commentary that Star Trek is known for, but it does a great job pulling together the primary motivation for all of the people on the show.
This series would certainly be a series of firsts and would introduce aspects that would enhance Trek forever. First off, It would be the first Star Trek series to not feature the crew of the USS Enterprise as the primary focus. This in itself was a revolutionary concept as, until this point, Star Trek had always taken place aboard a ship that…well..went places. So when it was announced that a series would take place on a single station, immediately people were sure that this would ‘ruin Star Trek’. I mean how could it be a show about ‘Trekking’ to the Stars without going anywhere? Boy were those folks mistaken. If anything, this series made the Star Trek universe feel even bigger. What do I mean by that? Well, for the first time we don’t only see an ‘Alien of the week’ but we are exposed to a Plethora (what’s a Plethora Jefe?) of new aliens and beings from the far reaches of the galaxy on a regular basis. Just watching a single scene on the Promenade of the station will show you the depth and variety of the species in the Star Trek Universe. It gives us more than just a one dimensional view of various species like Vulcans, Klingons, Cardassians, Ferengi and Romulans, it shows them as living breathing cultures and that is amazing.
Next, we see the first person of color in the lead role of a Star Trek series. This in itself was a major step for not only Star Trek but for television in general. As a kid I didn’t care that Sisko (played by Avery Brooks) was an African American Man, to me he was the Commander of a Space Station and that was all that mattered. As I got older I realized that this was possibly the first time a person of color had lead a science fiction series and that was too cool. Brooks, a long time actor prior to DS9, said it best in an interview with the Nashville Scene:
“Certainly the fact you have a black man in a command position is very important. That is something that goes far beyond just having black people working on a show, which itself is also very important. It goes to children being able to see themselves on screen and visualize that in the future they will be doing something of importance to the world at large. It addresses the situation of having all kinds of people interacting and cooperating for the mutual survival of the planet. The writing was exceptional, and the funny thing is I initially said no to Star Trek. My wife convinced me to go to the audition. She was the one who said, ‘You can’t say no to this.’”
In addition to breaking racial barriers this series would also be the first Trek series to confront Religion and religious views. The Bajorans are portrayed as a very spiritual people and immediately Sisko finds himself part of the Bajoran prophecies . While he is reluctant to accept this fate at first, the series explores themes of belief and understanding while also dealing with the cultural misunderstandings that come with the clash of cultures. For the first time in Trek, Science and Religion found a common voice and it was all the better for it.
One interesting first is the use of a character from a previous series in a regular supporting role. Never before had Star Trek taken a supporting character and developed them further, giving them a life on a new series until Chief Miles O’Brien stepped aboard Deep Space Nine. One of the most beloved supporting characters on STNG, Miles would have a chance to become more than just the transporter chief and would in fact become a key component to the series. Later, one of his fellow Enterprise crewman would join but we are getting ahead of ourselves…you’ll have to wait for that.
Additional firsts include new uniforms, the use of the newly created Runabout Shuttle craft and even the first regular Ferengi character on any Star Trek series. The show would, as Trek does, handle deep sociopolitical points and even have fun as well.
I vividly remember seeing the first ad for this series and being intrigued by it. My father immediately went to the ‘oh I don’t want another Trek Spinoff’ but of course we watched the pilot the night it aired. As soon as the series had action figures via Playmates Toys, I had to have them all. This was a great series from the start and some could argue it would eventually even outrank The Next Generation. We will see about that.
These were the promo that got me so excited to see the series:
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We get a really cool parting of the ways moment with Picard and O’Brien. Picard even beams away his former transporter chief to DS9.
There are hints of things to come in the future with Odo making a reference that he was ‘found’ near where the wormhole was discovered. This would eventually lead to the revelation that his people are not what he believe them to be but that is for a future review.
Quark, played by Armin Shimerman has the distinct honor to not only being the first regular Ferengi character on a series but also being one of the first Ferengi to appear in Star Trek having played one on the TNG episode ‘The Last Outpost’.
This episode would also mark the return of Marc Alaimo to Star Trek this time in the reoccurring role of Cardassian Gul Dukat.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Past Prologue!
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 11/14/2020 (Originally published 2/25/2019)
Please note that this review series only assumes broadcast series and movies as Canon and will not include any apocrypha from comics, books or fan made shows.
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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