Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is turning 25, and it’s never looked better. The stars and creators of the most political, serialized, and nuanced of the Star Trek shows of the previous century talked to Variety about why the show was so ahead of its time when it launched in 1993, and why it makes for the perfect contemporary binge-watch.
“What I think is happening now is that since it is on Netflix and streaming, people are watching it and seeing the whole story,” René Auberjonois (Odo) told Variety. “People love to stream the original episodes and all the other versions, but ours is the one that is almost like a Russian novel.”
My sense of there is a growing base of an audience that really is getting it. Where people weren’t quite sure about it while it was happening episode by episode, now that they get to evaluate it as a whole piece, it’s being recognized in a way it wasn’t before.
In other words, the average modern TV viewer is better equipped, both technologically and in terms of media literacy, to appreciate Deep Space Nine.
Of course, like many of TV’s first truly serialized shows, Deep Space Nine took awhile to get more subversive in its story structure.
“We tried all these different types of things and none of them really seemed to work,” said showrunner Ira Steven Behr. “The standalone episodes just kind of bored the hell out of us for the most part. We were struggling.”
The further the show progressed into its seven seasons, the more serialized it became.
“Then the episode that seemed to work at the end of season one had the double whammy of ‘Duet’ and ‘In the Hands of the Prophets,'” continued Behr. “So, by the end of season one, I felt that I had a handle on what the strength of this show was, which was building on this complicated backstory [creators] Michael [Piller] and Rick [Berman] had given the show.”
Deep Space Nine wasn’t just a pioneer of its time when it came to serialization in television, but also female characterization.
“When I read the script, I thought, ‘That’s a man’s role. That’s not for me,'” Nana Visitor, who played war veteran and station second-in-command Major Kira. “I hated every part that I had to play where I was chastising a husband or getting upset about the carpet. And I did a lot of those. Any time I could get my teeth into something, that was my flow state. That’s why I was an actor. Major Kira was like Disneyland for an actor.”
Some people in the Star Trek world were like, ‘That’s not what a woman in Star Trek should be. That’s the wrong thing to be teaching. But what I saw her as was a woman of appetite and gray area — lots of gray area. Very fallible, but growing and trying. And that’s all over television now.
Deep Space Nine‘s tradition of characterizing women in diverse ways continues. The current incarnation of Star Trek television, Discovery, is led by a female character who also breaks out of the mold of what a female character on television “should” be. Twenty-five years later, Deep Space Nine‘s Star Trek legacy continues.