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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Visitor (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

To my father, who is coming home.

Daddy's home...

Daddy’s home…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 3 (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a turning point for many reasons. The most obvious was that Star Trek: The Next Generation had gone off the air, meaning the first half of the third season was broadcast during a window where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek show on the air. The show was no longer the goofy kid brother to a much beloved mainstream television show. It was out in the syndication market place by itself.

More than that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was no longer the child of the franchise. With Star Trek: Voyager on the way, launched as the flagship of UPN, Deep Space Nine was left to its own devices for the first time since it was created. Voyager was the high-profile standard-bearer for the franchise, serving as the cornerstone of a new network. In contrast, Deep Space Nine chugged along in syndication, with the powers that be working overtime to bring Voyager to screen.

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In some respects, this was a tough time for Deep Space Nine. It was no longer the newest and freshest Star Trek. It was no longer the bright promising future of the Star Trek franchise. The novelty of having a second Star Trek show on the air had worn off. (Indeed, the decision to treat Voyager as the eighth season of The Next Generation was largely a response to how Deep Space Nine was not filling the niche.)

At the same time, the fact that Michael Piller and Rick Berman were focused on other projects meant that Deep Space Nine really came into its own during the third season. Ira Steven Behr had helped run the writers’ room towards the end of the third season of The Next Generation, and was the logical choice to take the reigns on Deep Space Nine. His influence on the show had been obvious since the beginning, becoming more pronounced after The Maquis.

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However, the third season saw Behr becoming the driving creative force on Deep Space Nine, a changing of the creative guard. Ronald D. Moore and Rene Echevarria joined the show from the staff of The Next Generation. Given all this drama behind the scenes, the third season was as chaotic as you might expect. There were all manner of production problems that haunted the third season, with a sense that Deep Space Nine was being produced by the seat of the producers’ pants.

Episodes tended to get shifted around in production order. Various scripts ended up produced under time constraints so tight that there was no opportunity to properly polish them before putting them in front of the camera. There were rumours that Colm Meaney might have been considering leaving;. Episodes had to be extended into two-parters at the last minute. The show had great ideas, but difficulty realising them. The season as a whole was rather oddly paced, plotted haphazardly. And yet, despite all this, the chaos felt necessary.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Lives of Dax: The Music Between the Notes (Curzon) by Steven Barnes

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine struggled with the character of Dax on-and-off for the first three years. Terry Farrell found herself at the centre of interesting character-driven stories with Playing God and Facets, but the show tended to treat the Dax symbiont as a macguffin that just happened to be inside Jadzia. Episodes like Dax, Invasive Procedures and Equilibrium tended to marginalise Jadzia so that the symbiont itself could be pushed to the centre of a story driven by other members of the ensemble.

However, Dax is a character with absolutely phenomenal potential. There is something absolutely fascinating idea of a creature that has lived for centuries, and seen generations of history unfold within its lifetime.The symbiont has witnessed countless changes and pivotal moments. Dax has seen civilisations fall and alliances form; Dax has seen old enemies become true friends, and watched civilisations reach out into the cosmos.

The realities of a seven-season television show mean that Deep Space Nine never really got to explore the fact that Dax was living history. Perhaps Blood Oath and Trials and Tribble-ations come closest, using Dax as a rather logical bridge spanning almost a century of continuity. One of the joys of the Star Trek universe is how expansive and how limitless it is. Infinite diversity and all that. While even Dax cannot have seen everything, Deep Space Nine never felt like it captured the sense of Dax as living history.

At its best, Pocket Books’ The Lives of Dax anthology captures this sense of change and movement. The books spans the width and breadth of the Star Trek franchise, as lived through the life of one single organism. It is beautiful.

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