Trek Week: Deep Space Nine

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Dec 3, 2014

Filed under: Nerd Culture 319 comments

Ah, Deep Space Nine. Reportedly it’s everything I’ve ever wanted from Trek. I’ve really enjoyed the few episodes I’ve seen. I love the cast. I love the idea of a large, ongoing arc. But I never got into it.

I think part of the problem was timeslot. I don’t remember when the show was on, but I seem to recall it was really inconvenient for me. I couldn’t catch the show, mostly because I was working nights. By the time I had a job where I could watch evening TV, the show was a long way into its run and I had no idea what was going on. (I have this memory that the show kept moving timeslots, making it difficult to watch. But I might be confusing it with another show.) And then I began a family and couldn’t watch television for the next few years. And then we stopped using TV and started relying on DVDs for all our entertainment, since that made a lot more sense with our eclectic schedule.

I’m going to punch Cardassia out of orbit. With my fists. Hold my calls.

Now the show’s run is long over. I could watch it if I wanted, but I have no idea where I’d come up with enough time for 132 hours of television172 episodes, at ~45 mins each.. I’m sure the show is good – it’s often cited as the best of the Treks by various fans. I don’t have anything against it, but it just never worked out for us. Maybe one of these years I’ll go nuts and binge-watch the whole thing, but until then I’ll just have to take your word that it’s really good.

All right. I want to know who’s been photoshopped into this scene. Was it you, guy I’ve never seen on my ship before?

While writing this series I looked up DS9 on Netflix and ended up watching Trials and Tribble-ations. In that episode, the crew of the Enterprise gets (sigh) pulled back in time and find themselves in the original series. It’s a humorous one-off episode and not really representative of the show as a whole, but I really loved all the attention to detail that went into it. The uniforms. The sets. The sounds. They even went so far as to use the 60’s style lighting, even though it was really unflattering. (Poor Colm Meaney looked ghastly during the turbolift scene.) The whole time I was watching I kept thinking, “This must have cost a fortune.” I didn’t know how right I was. According to Memory Alpha, it represented the most expensive one-hour episode of Trek produced to date. (That entire page is filled with interesting stories about the making of Trials and Tribble-ations.)

Sorry for the lack of meaningful Deep Space 9 commentary, but I don’t have anything to say about the show and I didn’t want to leave it out of the list. So now would be a good time for a discussion of best / worst episodes of DS9.



[1] 172 episodes, at ~45 mins each.

From The Archives:

319 thoughts on “Trek Week: Deep Space Nine

  1. DrMcCoy says:

    The best episodes are, clearly and widely recognized, In the Pale Moonlight and Far Beyond the Stars.

    The worst episode? Profit and Lace.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      Far beyond the stars was terrible. It felt like a corny fan-fiction written by Avery Brooks as a love-in for Sisko.

      In the pale moonlight was ok, but the ham-fisted talking-to-camera was a narrative crutch that didn’t work well. Props for trying something different, but in all of the talking to camera, he never actually said anything meaningful – it was all just a prompt to show what actually happened, to connect back to his vague description. Real people making such a recording would actually say person x said y and person z did w, but because of the conceit of the episode we didn’t get that, which kinda breaks what they were going for.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        He might have been uncomfortable spelling it all out, even in a private log.

        1. mhoff12358 says:

          I’ve never seen the episodes being talked about, so I’m not sure whether the fact that one of the sides in this discussion is going by the name DrMcCoy makes me want to trust him more or less…

      2. Mike S. says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates Far Beyond the Stars. Not least because it purports to comment on a twentieth century situation without having done the slightest bit of research on it. Science Fiction Magazines Did Not Work That Way!

        (You might as well have done a story about the Mongomery bus boycott showing the buses as being owned by their drivers like cabs. The entire dynamic would be wrong, and viewers would know less about how institutional racism worked after viewing than they had before.)

        But “Profit and Lace” is not only worst DS9, but worst Trek. And I say that even though DS9 is probably my favorite Trek series overall. (Depending on how I’m feeling about TOS that week.)

        1. Michael says:

          “Prophet and Lace”… or “Threshold”? I don’t know, I’ve got an irrational hatred for the latter… I’m not sure where that came from, though.

          EDIT: As much as I loved DS9… every time Sisko got preachy, I just couldn’t stand it. Which is part of my problem with Moonlight. It felt like Sisko was just wallowing in angst, rather than actually dealing with his decisions.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Threshold is deeply stupid. Profit and Lace is deeply stupid, and offensive, and it’s stupid again because it doesn’t even trade in the right stereotypes (Leaving aside the bad 60s sitcom characterization of femininity, why is a Ferengi worrying about makeup and dresses and high heels? Traditional Ferengi women don’t wear anything!)

            1. Michael says:

              Honestly, as a kid I never noticed it, but as an adult, I find the Ferengi episodes (not just the ones in DS9) kinda offensive in general. That might be why Profit and Lace doesn’t stand out from the crowd of deeply stupid episodes. At least for me, because the horrible racial stereotype basically never ends.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “It felt like Sisko was just wallowing in angst, rather than actually dealing with his decisions.”

            Um,the whole point of his end speech is that he comes to terms with it,and accepts what he did.How is that wallowing in angst?

            1. Michael says:

              The part where the entire episode is him sitting in his quarters recording a long log entry about how he’s on the road to hell, before finally deleting it?

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Yes,and that part had a conclusion,that is his acceptance of the events.Its not wallowing in sadness if you resolve the issue.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        “but in all of the talking to camera, he never actually said anything meaningful”

        Except,you know,that he accepts what he did.Thats pretty meaningful for a character.

        1. Michael says:

          I’m not really sure he does, though. The ending felt like more of a, “what have I done? I can’t take it back or we’ll be even more screwed than before,” at least to me.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its a subtle thing,but the change in tone between “I will learn to live with it”,and his two different pronunciations of “I can live with it” pushes it into acceptance instead of simple acknowledgement of his actions.

            1. Michael says:

              Which brings us back to; if he’s okay with this, why is he telling the frame story?

              Either this is an egregious violation of his personal code, in which case, just talking it over once with the fourth wall isn’t going to help. Or… what? Self flagellation for fun and profit?

              I’m still stuck on the part where, the entire story hinges on Sisko valuing one Romulan Senator’s life more than the Romulans who are going to die as a result of the forgery. And his failure to remember who Garak is.

              I mean, at the most unflattering level; the story is Sisko whining about how he really didn’t mean to kill that one Romulan, it was all those others he didn’t know that he wanted to die, instead of his friends.

              It feels like the episode was written for different characters, (and, no I don’t mean the earlier Watergate style drafts with Jake.) For a version of Sisko that honestly didn’t know the kind of person Garak was. But, of course, not what we get.

              EDIT: …I think I replied to the wrong post from you, sorry.

            2. Michael says:

              Okay, the post that was supposed to follow this…

              The point of the episode is to show that Sisko is willing to make hard choices and live with them. To his credit, I think Avery Brooks does the best he can with that, and I’m not about to throw him under the bus for it, because there’s probably a story to be had there.

              My issue is it hinges on Sisko not knowing who Garak is, remember, we’re six years into the series by this point. Not understanding that he’s signing people up to die, which again, suggests some kind of horrific naivete, valuing the lives of his command staff’s casual acquaintances over all the Romulans that will die as a result of his plan, and finally, valuing the life of one Romulan over the others, based only on the fact that he met him.

              Then going home and flagellating himself.

              Sorry, I get that I’m repeating myself here a little, but, you know.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                “Which brings us back to; if he's okay with this, why is he telling the frame story?”

                Because he wasnt ok to begin with.Its only after he processed the events calmly that he reached the conclusion.He was troubled,but by the end he came to terms.Ive seen people do that all the time,they just need to put their thoughts into voice in order to slot them in the right places and come to a conclusion.They only lack someone to listen to them,and thats what sisko was doing here,processing the events by talking about them.

                And of course he knew who garak was.Thats why he came to him in the first place(garak says so himself).Self delusion about “it will be different this time”,even though you are 100% sure its not is not a new thing.

                1. Michael says:

                  Just a quick stylistic thing: it is usually best to avoid using the same word twice in a sentence. I know you’re using an idiom and then negating it, but the result could be clearer.

                  I know I keep harping on this, but Moonlight really does get into trouble with the frame. I know it works for you, that’s fine, well, sort of. But, it doesn’t really manage to do what it’s setting out to.

                  It’s trying to show you how Sisko is “a man of principle,” and able to make the hard choices Picard couldn’t. (I can’t remember if that phrase is actually in the episode, or just from the CCG.) But, in order to do that, it then proceeds to dock his ability to grasp what’s going on around him.

                  From the moment he knows they’ll need to create a forgery, he has to realize this is going to require some deaths. Hell, from what I remember, Garak actually warns him something to that effect.

                  He has to know they can never just turn the forger loose after they’re done with him. The Romulans and Dominion would both be looking for him, and there would be no safe place. He can’t bury him in a Federation prison, and he doesn’t have the resources to really disappear someone. Also, he’s handing the forger the mother of all blackmail caches, and he’s got to know that.

                  Garak doesn’t tell him up front that he’s going to assassinate Vreenak. Probably should have, but at the same time, it’s not like I can really blame Garak. Sisko isn’t the most subtle of individuals.

                  And, of course, the entire episode is set in the background of mounting Federation casualties, so people Sisko knows are already dying, and the entire plan is to shift some of those casualties over onto a previously neutral, third party. Which is a somewhat reprehensible goal.

                  He justifies this to himself by saying that without the Romulans they’ll lose the war. But, instead of that being a moral absolution for his actions, it really kind of serves to suggest that his ethics only apply until he gets scared.

                  There’s the message the episode is trying to convey, which, I get. And the one it actually does, which is far less flattering.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    “But, in order to do that, it then proceeds to dock his ability to grasp what's going on around him.”

                    But it doesnt really.Its one thing to know what will happen,its another to accept it.He didnt accept it even after it happened,up until the point when he finished recapping the events to himself.

                    Maybe the episode works for me because Ive seen people do that.Heck,I myself did such a thing once,knowing what is going to happen,but still deluding myself that it wont.

                    1. General Karthos says:

                      I think that, to some extent, Sisko was denying what was going on right in front of him, because to fail to deny it would be too uncomfortable. On some level, he knew that Vreenak’s death (and being found with the fake holorecording) was the only thing that would bring the Romulans into the war, but to admit it (especially when he thinks of himself as a moral man) was too uncomfortable for him to do.

                      Of course, the events happened, and he was able to stay on his moral high horse by being horrified by Garak’s actions, while at the same time being grateful that the Romulans had joined the war. He needed the Romulans to join the war, and IIRC, he says he’d do it again, even knowing the cost.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      For Shamus as someone who only has cursory familiarity with the series and is a parent, I’d recommend ‘The Visitor’. Be prepared to cry.

      Also, if you want to jump on when things are getting really good, “The Way of the Warrior” which introduces Worf to DS9 is designed to be a jumping on point for TNG fans. Unfortunately, for people already watching, this results in a lot of obvious “As you know” type dialog to help get TNG fans up to speed, but it also has tons of action and drama (I’m surprised they were able to pull it off on a TV budget.)

      From the earlier seasons, there’s ‘Duet’ (the one with Kira and the war criminal) which, on a show thats viewed as being the least Trek-like, really embodies the best of Trek while making good use of what was unique to DS9. If Roddenberry had still been around, I’d bet that would have been his favorite episode. Its a “Bottle Episode” if you know your TV Tropes and easily the best Bottle Episode in Trek history.

      I also agree with the above recommendations. TNG used to be my favorite but eventually DS9 edged it out. I still love both but TNG was at times a bit ‘convenient’.

      We already discussed this with the economy but another area that bugged me was the “human evolution” element. The idea that we somehow evolved past all our issues. Except we did it in only 400 years and with genetic engineering and cybernetic augmentations being banned. I’ll grant you, we might have a more enlightened society in 400 years but we’re not going to outgrow human failings in that time. We aren’t, for example, going to evolve past mourning the dead as Gene contends. We’re not going to reach a point that fast where we just never get jealous or aggressive, etc.

      DS9 does a good job of at least poking at and acknowledging where the problems would be with such a Utopia. Everything from the aforementioned economy to Bashir to Michael Eddington.

      1. Henson says:

        ‘Duet’ is by far my favorite DS9 episode, which is weird considering just how lackluster Season 1 was. And it doesn’t even require any knowledge of the DS9 cast. If someone were to only watch one episode from this series, this would be it.

        1. Zekiel says:

          Absolutely. It makes me tear up every time I watch it. It is really, really good television.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          In my original post, I said that Way of the Warrior is a good jumping on point. And it is if you’re a TNG fan. But when I do a binge of DS9, I usually start with Duet. The prior episodes just aren’t worth much. They were still trying to figure out the characters. Rom’s personality in the early episodes was completely different. Much more typical snarling Ferengi and much less lovable goofball.

    3. Jeff R. says:

      The Visitor is quite possibly better than both of those; absolutely should be above Far Beyond the Stars

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        I agree wholeheartedly. “In the Pale Moonlight is fabulous”, but requires a lot of context from earlier episodes to really grok. And “Far Beyond the Stars” is also wonderful, but deliberately takes the audience to some really uncomfortable places (fun fact: the only time anyone uses the n-word in Trek is in this episode, & is so jarring that the guy who said might as well have come out of the screen to punch me in the face).

        But “The Visitor” is transcendent television, especially for a parent. I get choked up just thinking about it. It doesn’t require more than the most basic understanding of the show’s premise to enjoy, & is both interesting sci-fi & deeply personal character study of the most fundamental relationship of the series, the bond between Captain Sisko & his son Jake. It could not be a better episode or a better argument for the series’ greatness.

        Also, on an unrelated note, “Duet” is awesome, especially when you consider that it was a first season episode. No Trek has produced a watchable episode in its first year (except, of course, TOS), but DS9 did it with “Duet”, & made it look easy.

    4. krellen says:

      Sorry, In The Pale Moonlight and Far Beyond The Stars only lead to this.

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        That’s out of context memery at its silliest, & while both moments are indeed a bit strange, I would argue that they make total sense within their respective episodes.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Glad Im not the only one that thought of that first.Though my favorite compilation is this one.

    5. James Schend says:

      The Visitor? Duet? DS9 has a ton of great episodes. I’d put The Visitor at or near the top of the list, actually.

      The worst one was Move Along Home, one of the earliest in its run and one of those “sheesh, if this is the best the writers can do, this show is going to be cancelled in no time.”

      I know some people like it, but I cannot stand the baseball episode.

    6. Frontlinecaster says:

      A hundred percent agree with that. All of the Quark episodes are awful, but Profit and Lace I’ve actually never even managed to sit all the way through. And ‘In the Pale Moonlight’ is my go to answer to picking the third option in a Kirk/Picard argument.

      When you need an alien woman seduced or a monster punched in the face, you go to Kirk. When you need an ambassador, you go to Picard. But when you need something done or your entire Federation saved, you put Sisko in charge.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Disagree with your opening statement. All the *Ferengi* episodes (i.e. the ones with Zek, Brunt, Ishka etc) were awful, but Quark on his own could carry an episode. There’s one episode where he becomes an arms dealer and is gradually confronted with the fact that his actions are going to cause the deaths of lots of people… it is really quite moving.

        I’m fortunate enough to have never watched Profit and Lace – by the time it arrived I’d made the decision to skip all the Ferengi episodes!

        On an extremely tangential note, I’ll never understand how Jeffery Combs was responsible for my favourite character (Weyoun) and… Brunt. Yick.

  2. sensi277 says:

    DS9 was actually the first Star Trek series I watched. I found a bunch of old VHS tapes that belonged to a relative and popped one in the VCR. I was hooked from the first episode. Four years later, I found out that the whole of DS9 (as well as TNG) was on Netflix. Went through the whole series. I watched 2-4 episodes per day.

    Right now I’m making my way through TNG (not nearly as good, IMO). I actually started at the third season because I read somewhere that that’s where the show got good. Currently on Season 5 now. But yeah, DS9 is really worth watching, it starts out boring and slow (like most Star Trek series) but gets better and the plot eventually ends up in all-out war. A war with who? Not the Romulans or the Klingons or anything like that. I couldn’t tell you, either. You wouldn’t understand unless you watched the series.

    I guess what I’m saying is, WHOEVER’S READING THIS, GO WATCH DS9. NOW. You won’t regret it.

    1. And watch Babylon-5 as well, if not instead. Seasons 1-4, at the very least, with Season 5 as optional (though it being more stand-alone-ish is more like ‘Trek).

      1. Hitch says:

        B5 season 1 is a bit of a slog. But overall it’s about on par with most Trek series. There’s a few stinkers and a lot of filler in the season 1, but I think it’s worth it to watch. They set the ground work for so much stuff that will turn up in seasons 2 through 4 (which are awesome) that it’s worth it just so you can remember those little scenes and realize how cool it was that they brought all of this up before. Season 5 is somewhat optional. It’s worth watching just for closure on some of the characters and there are a couple good plot lines. And again, it’s still better than the worst Trek has to offer.

        1. The reason Season 5 was so iffy was that JMS didn’t know if he’d get a final 5th season, so season 4 is the original 4 & 5 crammed together.

          There’s still some good stuff in Season 5, and I’m sure it would’ve been regarded even more highly if TNT hadn’t screwed with/canceled “Crusade.”

        2. Michael says:

          Yeah, skipping season 1 is usually a good idea. At least on the first pass.

          It presents some interesting stuff, and puts a lot of pieces into play for later.

          Also, knowing now that Michael O’Hare’s behavior, and wooden acting was a result of Schizophrenia makes me actually regard Sinclair, and O’Hare, in a much more positive light. So if you can go in, expecting the first season to be a little slow and wonky, it’s worth it to set the stage. Once Boxleitner comes in, the gears really start clicking and the show goes to some really insane places.

          1. Do NOT skip “Babylon Squared.”

            Actually… it’s hard to skip the first season and get what was going on later. It had a few stand-alones, but even those often had details about what was to come.

          2. Grudgeal says:

            I actually preferred Sinclair to Sheridan. I feel so alone in the universe.

            That said, I will agree that storywise, though, season 1 was quite a lot of universe building (which is a nice way of saying “fluff and filler”). Putting aside lots of minor plot points that fueled other minor plot points later, there are perhaps only four or five episodes of the first season (“Midnight on the Firing Line”, “Signs and Portents”, “A Voice in the Wilderness”, “Babylon Squared” and “Chrysalis”) that are of any importance to the overall narrative. I still have an inordinate fondness for most of them despite their unimportance.

            Except “TKO”. Because urrrrgggghhhh….

            1. Daimbert says:

              You’re not alone. I liked Sinclair a lot better than Sheridan, and even didn’t mind the acting. To link it to DS9, I thought his style would have worked better for Bareil in DS9 than Anglim’s did.

  3. krellen says:

    Well, I was waiting to hear what Shamus had to say before I started anything, and it turns out I could have had a whole screed written up beforehand because Shamus has little to add. But I didn’t, so I’ll probably be at this a bit while I form my thoughts.

    DS9 isn’t bad. It’s decent enough television, and I do understand why people like it. However, it is bad Trek. It has no business being a Star Trek title – although there is enough within it that stays true to Trek to at least allow me to acknowledge it as part of the franchise, albeit the worst part (this is how it differs from Enterprise.)

    A few years ago, I watched the entire run of Star Trek*, from TOS to Voyager, because I had a lot of time on my hands (being unemployed but with ample savings so money wasn’t an issue). I already knew I didn’t like DS9 much, but having done this re-watch, I verified for certain what I knew: DS9 is the worst of Trek.

    It’s the worst not because of the quality of the writing or the execution of the actors, but because it in no way embodies the spirit of Star Trek. It is – and always was, from inception – a darker Star Trek, and has none of Roddenberry’s spirit in it. It rejects all the core ideals that make Star Trek into Star Trek, instead of just another Sci-Fi series, and, in fact, DS9 is what dragged Star Trek down into “just another Sci-Fi series”, and made the Abrams reboot possible.

    So let me just lay into “In The Pale Moonlight” right now, because this is why Sisko isn’t allowed in the “Best Captain” contest: this is not Starfleet. This is not the way Starfleet would act. Any man that would do what Sisko does – and be okay with what Garak did enough to delete the entry – would never make it in Starfleet. He has no place in Starfleet, because Starfleet does not, and never will, believe that the ends justify the means. The means justify the ends – it’s just the Starfleet, and Star Trek, way. “Sacrifice all you believe in to save all you believe in” is not a lesson Star Trek should ever preach. That is the antithesis of Star Trek, which is hopeful and optimistic about the future, especially about the future of human nature.

    So yes, maybe some of the other series are “boring”. Maybe their portrayals of characters seems “unrealistic”. Maybe DS9’s more “human” characters are more “relatable”. But they have no place in Star Trek, because one of the central premises and messages of Star Trek is supposed to be that we can be better people, and about a future where we are better people, and how being better people doesn’t mean the universe spends your entire life taking a dump on you – being a better person makes others better people as well, and works out for everyone in the end.

    DS9 isn’t all bad – somewhat ironically, I was always happy when a Ferengi-centric episode came up, because Quark and Rom served as the series’s comic relief – but overall, DS9 is the worst of Trek, because it is the series that is least like Trek.

    (*Side note: this is now why I dismiss Enterprise as Trek. I got through the entire run of DS9. I made it a half season of Enterprise before I couldn’t stand it any more – and I’d watched it right after the third season of TOS, which is full of some really weird stuff.)

    1. sensi277 says:

      I think you’re right that it’s the least Trek-like of all the series, but I never really liked that every episode in the other series’ were separate. I liked the continuity between the episodes, and that most episodes toward the end were tied together like string, with no distractions or other, more temporary plotlines that would only last an episode.

      Also, Dax was a nice concept brought over from TNG. I especially liked how they killed off Jadzia and replaced her with Ezri. I think they realized that they had got this plot device, but never used it. And then they did. But Jadzia was still the more interesting character.

      1. Lanthanide says:

        Jadzia’s actress quit after season 6 so they had to kill her off. They were lucky that she happened to play that character, since it gave them an in-universe solution to introducing a new principal character if the final season, and a lot of tension with Worf.

        Jadzia’s death was a terrible example of script writing and special effects, though.

        1. Mike S. says:

          They didn’t have to kill her off– it’s not as if Dax was welded to the station. Trek crew are if anything way too immobile for highly qualified naval officers, who if not for dramatic necessity should be getting promoted and reassigned regularly. They could have given her a ship command and had Worf report occasionally about the letters he was getting from her, or had the Trill homeworld have a sudden need for Curzon’s diplomatic experience. And Ezri was… not a good choice to drop in for the tail end of a series– better to just have a new character or better yet, promote one of the semi-regulars to regular.

          1. Tom says:

            Never mind promotion; one thing that bugs me is that nobody *ever* seems to get demoted, even temporarily, no matter how much they royally screw up. Commander Tucker in Enterprise is the most glaring example, repeatedly causing chaos and then apparently learning nothing from it, or forgetting his lesson just in time to bugger everything up in the next episode – I remember several episodes where I was thinking to myself, oh, he’s just *got* to get busted down to lieutenant or relieved of duty this time, but, nope, never happens (maybe the actors’ contracts don’t allow for it). Doesn’t even get so much as a temporary suspension of privileges or confined to quarters, at least in any episode I ever saw (I gave up on that series altogether after it started to seem to me to be turning into nothing but the flimsiest of propagandist metaphors for the “war on terror”).

            1. Mephane says:

              I always assumed it was due to the personal friendship between Archer and Tucker, that the former never really enacted any serious consequences on the latter. OTOH, Tucker was often just a victim of the circumstances, like when he got accidentally pregnant because the alien woman forgot to tell him what this bowl of crystals actually does in combination with their biology.

            2. Greg says:

              I haven’t watched Voyager since it first aired, but I’m pretty sure Paris got demoted over something he did.

              1. Michael says:

                Demoted a couple times, repromoted a couple more…

                I think Ro was demoted from LtCmdr before you see her in the series, but I can’t remember for certain. And, of course, O’Brien got “promoted” from Lt to a non-com… so… uh… yay?

                Oh, and Kirk got busted back from RA.

                Though, ranks are weird with Star Trek. Janeway gets back from being missing for seven years and they instantly promoted her to Vice Admiral? What?

                1. Lanthanide says:

                  And Harry Kim is the longest serving Ensign ever. Even in a couple of the ‘future’ episodes he’s an Ensign (although only the ones set a short time in the future, not the decade+ ones).

      2. Malimar says:

        I preferred Ezri over Jadzia solely because I had such a crush on Nicole de Boer. This was before I realized that short hair makes almost any girl or woman adorable to me.

        1. Amarsir says:

          You and me both. I’m trying to be objective about both the character and the portrayal, but all I could ever do is wonder whether the spots go all the way down.

          1. Hitch says:

            In that case you need to watch “Let he Who Is Without Sin….” No, on the other hand don’t. It’s a “Worst of Trek” candidate. But it takes place (mostly) on Risa and you see Jadzia in a one piece swimsuit and you can clearly see spots on her thighs down to her knees. Artwork based on the episode show them down to her ankles.

            1. Lanthanide says:

              Pretty sure there’s a line somewhere where they say “and yes, the spots do go all the way down”. It might have been one of the mirror universe ones.

              1. Wolf says:

                From this synopsis of Meridian

                “A man named Deral admires Dax’s spots. “If you don’t mind my asking, how far down do they go?” “All the way,” she flirts back.”

      3. krellen says:

        I think you can have a story arc without having to go dark. You don’t need to be episodic to remain true to Trek.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I understand your position and I didn’t like its cynicism at first.

      But I didn’t see DS9 on the whole as rejecting the core ideals, I saw it as testing them. And a lot of times it held up, sometimes it didn’t. What good is an optimistic vision of the future if it can survive no scrutiny?

      As for Pale Moonlight, you have a case there but look at it this way. The story could only have the impact it did within the framework of Roddenberry’s idealistic Federation. Our modern society would have no problem doing what he did with everything that was at stake, but he did because he’s starfleet.

      And I saw plenty of episodes that affirm the idealism. Like when military law was declared on Earth. Arguably it would have been safer that way and the crazy Admiral of the week had a point. But Sisko resolved that Earth was going to live or die by what it was, echoing Picard’s statement in Encounter At Farpoint.

      Speaking of crazy admirals, thats where I take issue with your contention that Sisko wouldn’t survive in starfleet. TNG had already provided enough evidence that this layer of starfleet existed (remember the Pegasus, Jellico, Nechayev who wanted the Borg killed, the human scientist who killed the Crystalline Entity, Admiral Satie, Bruce Maddox? There was always this struggle)

      1. Shamus says:

        Now that you bring this up: It really does seem like all the Trek captains are courageous idealistic geniuses and all the admirals are cowardly, scheming, warmongering, or dumb. Where do they get these guys?

        1. krellen says:

          Heroic Admirals get demoted back to Captain (see Star Trek III).

          1. Mike S. says:

            And while Kirk was an Admiral, he took on the Admiral nature: in the first movie he’s continually wrongly second-guessing Decker (almost destroying the ship during the wormhole sequence) and then wresting the man’s fairly earned command away from him. (Fair’s fair– Decker’s dad did the same thing to Kirk.) Later he’s involved in sabotaging the newest ship in the fleet, before stealing a heavy cruiser and blowing it up. He doesn’t get reliable again till he’s demoted.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          If we’re looking for an explanation other than “cuz drama” I think you could chalk it up to Admirals sitting behind desks having an easier time depersonalizing* issues than Captains on the front line do.

          *If thats a word

        3. Kalil says:

          I’m a sailor with one of the uniformed services.
          I’ve seen good captains get promoted to admiral and become inexcusable assholes.
          I don’t understand /why/ it happens, but it’s actually a very real phenomenon.

          1. Kalil says:

            Actually, (replying to my own comment), I think that it happens because as a C/O, they are focused on the mission and on the people and on the real, immediate consequences of their actions. When they are promoted to that administrative level, they become focused on the institution and its survival and political position, and they lose sight of their subordinates and their missions.

          2. Grudgeal says:

            Would you say it’s related to the Peter Principle?

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Considering Janeway made Admiral as soon as she got back, yeah.

              (and not just the bottom rank, I believe she holds the second highest admiral rank Starfleet offers)

              1. Steve C says:

                I remember seeing “Admiral Janeway” in First Contact on opening night with lots of people cosplaying etc. The theater erupted in booing.

                Fan hate aside, Janeway would be an awful admiral. She was completely out of touch with tech, politics for years. She can operate one ship without supplies. The only time she met another Star Fleet captain she tried to kill him. So they have fleets of ships under her command?

                You’re right though Star Fleet’s admirals are all terrible. So on that basis, it’s like Janeway getting a Raspberry award.

        4. cassander says:

          I believe the standard theory is that starfleet policy is to delegate all the actual power to captains, then to promote anyone incompetent, venal, or dickish to admiral as rapidly as possible. That way all the incompetent, venal, or dickish people who join starfleet and don’t get turfed out end up spending their time fighting with each other over admiralty policy that doesn’t matter because the competent actually commanding ships know they can just ignore it in a pinch. This theory also has the nice side effect of explaining why janeway made admiral before Picard did….

        5. Michael says:

          I don’t remember Hayes, Hanson or Ross going crazy. To be fair, the Borg ate two of ’em… also the future Admiral Janeway, come to think of it, so maybe courageous Admirals just taste great to them?

          1. Cradok says:

            Startlingly, Hayes doesn’t die in First Contact despite it being said that his ship was destroyed. He shows up in two episodes of Voyager.

        6. Primogenitor says:

          There is a real-world theory of “promotion until incompetence” – basically, people who are good at a job get promoted, until they end up in a job they are not good at where they stay because they never get promoted out of it and cant be demoted e.g. good software engineers promoted to crappy managers.

          I assume this still hasn’t been solved by the 24th Century.

    3. theNater says:

      I think you are right that Sisko is not a good Trek hero. However, I disagree with your assessment that he isn’t Starfleet.

      How many times has the Enterprise discovered a situation gone horribly, horribly wrong because a Starfleet captain decided that the ends justify the means? How many times have Kirk and Picard had to stop a fellow officer from committing some terrible crime “for the greater good”? Starfleet is lousy with such people, and Sisko fits right in. The difference is that because we follow him so closely, it’s easier to empathize with him than with most captains who cross the line.

      He’s not a hero. He’s an antihero, and I don’t think that should pull him out of the running for “Best Captain”, because “Best” is an ill-defined term. He is out of the running for “Most Heroic Captain” and for “Finest Example of a Captain of the Starfleet”, but he can still be considered for “Favorite Captain” and “Captain Most Successful at Achieving His Goals”.

      1. krellen says:

        It’s “Best Star Trek Captain”. You cannot be the Best of something you are diametrically opposed to, and Sisko is opposed to the ideals of Star Trek.

        1. Zeta Kai says:

          But you are condemning him for his worst moment, & ignoring everything else that he did with his life. He was a valiant Starfleet officer, a brilliant tactician would rose through the ranks to become captain. He proved himself in battle over & over again throughout the series. He fought hard for the ideals of the Federation, like you say that all good Trek captain should, in episodes like Past Tense, Paradise Lost, For the Cause, & probably a dozen others. He was willing to sacrifice his life on more than one occasion for what he thought was right.

          But yes, in ITPM, he faltered. He failed to live up to his ideals. He had feet of clay, & he did things that he was not proud of. But his story didn’t begin there, & it didn’t end there. He went on to fight for the Federation’s survival. And more importantly, he fought for its continued ideology & idealism. He learned to live with what he did, despite how it may have pained him, & he went on to do good because it was right to do so, even when it wasn’t easy.

          Was he wrong to do what he did in ITPM? Perhaps yes. Was it understandable to compromise his beliefs for the sake of an alliance that could give the Federation a fighting chance of surviving the war? Probably so. Would a real-life human do the same thing in his shoes, in that moment? One might hope so.

          But my point is this: Sisko is more than his actions in just one episode. So is Kirk. And Picard. And Janeway. And even Archer. They are the factotum of their existence in all of their episodes. They are characters, & as such they are the sum of our time with them. And to reduce Sisko to his self-flagellating low point in ITPM is to misunderstand the character. It is no better than to reduce him to that clip you linked above, where he is screaming “It is real!” Without context, it is impossible to understand what brought him to that place, & that single isolated facet is just a tiny shard of a broken mirror.

          1. krellen says:

            Your defence of Sisko includes a lot of fighting. A Starfleet officer shouldn’t be a fighter. It isn’t supposed to be about “fighting for your beliefs”, because (relative) pacifism is part of those beliefs.

            Yeah, Star Trek has had battles before, but it shouldn’t be about war, and Sisko really embraced the war when it came.

            1. Corsair says:

              Starfleet and the Federation do everything they can to avoid war with the Dominion, and at no point was the Federation “Pacifism at any cost.” They armed their ships with phasers and torpedoes for a reason, because sometimes you have to wage war, to protect yourself and others. The Dominion needed to be fought, just like the Borg needed to be fought. They weren’t going to stop by being asked nicely, because they were both motivated by beliefs that couldn’t be rationally appealed to – the Founders hatred and fear of Solids, and the Borg’s utter inhumanity and their drive to assimilate all.

              1. Mike S. says:

                Well… they don’t quite do everything. One thing I found really interesting on rewatching was when they discovered the wormhole, they basically assumed that everything on the other side was unclaimed territory.

                They started becoming aware of the Dominion, and reacted with curiosity but not intense interest. And as they entered its sphere of influence, they pretty much ignored any possible jurisdiction it might have for as long as they could. Quark opened up trade with Dominion-aligned worlds without asking whether there were any applicable regulations. Starfleet sent exploration ships through at will. Bajor even established a trans-wormhole colony without much investigating whether the planet belonged to anyone.

                The Dominion eventually became aware of their presence, and basically told the Feds that everything on the far side of the wormhole was Dominion territory and that they should go away. And then destroyed New Bajor and a Galaxy-class starship with minimal effort, to establish the consquences.

                The Federation reacted by… sending a starship deep into Dominion territory to attempt to reach the Dominion capital. And then continuing to send ships through the wormhole.

                And then the Romulans and Cardassians send a fleet in to melt the Founders homeworld down to the mantle!

                (At which point it transpires that the Founders have in fact been infiltrating the Alpha Quadrant. But considering that the Alpha Quadrant’s response to a border incident appears to have been an attempt to nuke their capital, it’s hard to blame them.)

                There was never any thought of simply recognizing the claim of a militarily superior neighbor. Which is understandable on its own terms. The Federation’s commitment to exploration borders on religious, and the Dominion’s actual jurisdiction over everything reachable from the wormhole is just asserted, not established. Early planets contacted only know the Dominion as a rumor, or a distant, rarely-visiting overlord.

                (The US, which has a similar commitment to freedom of the seas, routinely responds to what it considers unreasonable territorial claims to the oceans by sending Navy ships to sail through, to establish that we don’t recognize it.)

                But the Dominion is a new contact. Whatever Alpha Quadrant rules have evolved about how many light years standard territorial limits go are unknown to them, and they haven’t agreed to them. Once they’ve established that they’re willing to go to war to defend their territorial claims and that they can take out a top-of-the-line Starfleet vessel without apparent effort, the better part of valor might be to just pull back.

                No one ever so much as considers this. Evidently it’s worth an existential war to defend Starfleet’s right to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go etc.

            2. Blackbird71 says:

              If “a Starfleet officer shouldn’t be a fighter,” then I guess Kirk is out of the running for your definition of best captain as well?

              1. krellen says:

                I’m pretty sure the evidence will show that Kirk was a lover, not a fighter.

                1. Zeta Kai says:

                  Kirk loved his ship more than Anyone Else. As for Anyone Else, they received only punches.

                2. Rick C says:

                  “Kirk was a lover, not a fighter.”

                  Kirk’s large pile of ripped shirts proves that’s not the case.

                  1. krellen says:

                    Pretty sure a lot of those were ripped in the height of passion.

            3. Zeta Kai says:

              Okay, now you’re talking nonsense. There’s nothing in Trek about Starfleet pacifism. I’ll agree that the Federation is a peaceful organization, & that conflict is a “last resort” in their ideals, but come on. Starfleet is the MILITARY wing of the Federation, the one with the phasers & the photon torpedos (IE murder-beams & nukular warheads). Any crap about pacifism is just silliness; the Feds talk softly & carry a big ass stick.

              Plus, Kirk punched just about everything you put in front of him, & even Picard was no stranger to the phaser rifle (“Starship Mine”, “Attached”, “Chain of Command part 1”, all of the movies, etc.). NOBODY in Trek is non-violent.

              1. krellen says:

                That’s why I included the parenthetical qualifier.

                1. Zeta Kai says:

                  But you said “A Starfleet officer shouldn't be a fighter.” And that’s just not true. Starfleet is a military force, & combat is just part of the job. Sure, they’ve got other tools, & they’d probably prefer a safer, more peaceful resolution, but a rapid nadion burst or a matter/antimatter reaction is always an option close at hand.

                  Really, you have a very strange view of what Trek is all about. It is many things at once, & I’m glad for it, but your narrow interpretation is just perverse. Most of the episodes simply don’t support your assertions.

                  1. Michael says:

                    Originally, Starfleet was supposed to be more inline with the Coast Guard. A military organization, but not an aggressively militant one… that sentence made any sense whatsoever.

                    So, the idea of them being explorers first, and combatants as a distant last recourse was pretty firmly established in the original Series.

                    Hell, after the second pilot we didn’t see another Phaser rifle until 25 years later.

                    There’s been a progressive shift over the course of the later series, to push Starfleet into a more militant outlook. From explorers to soldiers. There’s probably a lot of reasons for that, but Deep Space Nine was a forerunner in that trend.

        2. theNater says:

          Star Trek isn’t about saying “look, humans will be better in the future”, it’s about starting to make humans better now. So if listening to Sisko makes you angry or afraid; if his acceptance of his actions makes you fling your head to the heavens and cry “NO! This is not how humanity should be!”, then I would argue that it is very good Star Trek.

          The show isn’t preaching Sisko’s view. Listen to the music when he voices his acceptance. That’s not triumph, it’s terror. It’s straight-up telling you that this thing which is happening is very, very bad.

          If Sisko falling into a trap so vile and subtle that he doesn’t even see that it’s a trap makes the audience watch more carefully to see that they don’t fall into the same trap, then that’s a good thing. If the desire to avoid making Sisko’s mistakes is as strong as the desire to emulate Kirk or Picard’s successes, then he absolutely deserves a place among them as an instructive example.

    4. RCN says:

      Hey, at least they kept the inclusion theme going.

      TOS had a power whitey as the captain, but had a black woman as (GASP) an officer in the bridge.

      TNG had a (gasp) Frenchie as captain (doesn’t look like much, but from what I know of Americans, it’d be unthinkable to them having a french protagonist). And a blind guy as the engineer.

      DS9 had a black guy as a captain and a jew (Ferengi) as a major character.

      Voyager had a woman as the captain and a black Vulcan (and some kind of snot-based life-form as cook!)

      And then Enterprise had mentally-challenged people as both captain AND chief engineer! See? Inclusion!

      1. Hal says:

        Geordi’s blindness was always really weird to me. It’s a future where most diseases can be fixed with an injection from a magic medicine gun, where grievous wounds can be fixed running a palm pilot over it, but you can’t fix congenital blindness?

        1. krellen says:

          Star Trek’s medicine still had problems with neural pathways, so being unable to cure blindness doesn’t seem that far out of character.

        2. MikhailBorg says:

          Roddenberry wanted to add diversity with a “differently-abled” yet fully competent crew member on the Enterprise-D; so Geordi’s blindness just *can’t* be fixed, by Decree of the Great Bird of the Galaxy.

          As someone who gets around with a hip replacement because of a car accident in my 20s, I have to say I’m down with that.

          1. The challenge in the magical-tech world of Star Trek is to make any disability believable. DS-9 had an episode that starred actors with missing limbs whose characters refused to have new ones grown out of respect for the war in which they lost them.

      2. Jeff R. says:

        If you’re calling the Ferengi Jews, then you’ve also got Kira as a triple threat, since, depending on the context, the Bajorans got to stand as analogs for Jews, Palestinians, and French people.

        And Bashir is of Arabic extraction as well, without ever having any fuss made about it even.

        1. RCN says:

          I only count the Ferengi in DS9 because it was only in DS9 that the Ferengi stopped being outright cartoons and had their society better developed and explained.

          They were still space-jews, though, as portrayed by someone very, very racist. But definitely a step up from using Dildo-based weapon technology (GODS, where did they get those props for the Ferengi introductory episode on TNG?)

          1. Jeff R. says:

            Well, they were meant to be Americans circa 1890-1930. But yeah, they came out as space cartoon Jews.

            1. Mike S. says:

              Yeah. Given the demographics of Hollywood writing it’s almost impossible that it was intentional. But short, big-nosed, neurotic people who care about nothing but money, who in their first appearance actually capered, played by actors named Armin Shimmerman, Aron Eisenberg, Wallace Shawn… sure, that definitely reads as “Yankee Traders”. (It’s like they were unconsciously channeling Der Sturmer or something.)

            2. cassander says:

              considering their origins in the late 80s, and their features, short, awful to women, obsessed with profit, a new rival to the federation, eaters of awful food, terrible teeth, the ferengi are a rather crude stereotype of late 80s japan. most of those stereotypes are no longer associated with japan so its harder to see, but put yourself in that time and it’s bang on.

              1. Mike S. says:

                I was there then, and never got that. Japanese stereotypes of the era would have involved them having reserve (though possibly going completely nuts when drunk or on some alien equivalent), concern for “face” and hierarchy, and they wouldn’t have been purely money-focused– more likely they’d be good at copying Federation gadgets with improvements that made O’Brien wonder if he was being superseded. (And maybe they’d have somehow managed to buy a formerly Federation moon, or Bajor would have been buying all their ships from them because while they’re smaller, they’re also more efficient.)

                I find it hard to imagine many viewers looking at Quark or the Nagus and thinking “Japan”.

      3. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Don’t forget DS9 nudged the sexuality barrier pretty hard with the Jadzia plot where she wants to get back together with a woman she was married to in a past life. Granted when they were married she was a man, but still. Interesting that the episode painted the romance as taboo but not because it was two women.

        1. Zeta Kai says:

          Also notable is the fact that no one in the entire episode remarks that it is at all unusual for two females to be romantically involved. The only real conflict stems from the Trill taboo on fraternizing with significant others from past hosts. Nobody cares that they are potentially engaging in homosexual activity, & the relationship between the two women is actually much more believable than many other Trek hook-ups, both of the long-term & the lover-of-the-week variety. For the 90’s, it was groundbreaking, which a great summation of the series as a whole.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          And yet no Trek series would ever feature a queer regular crewmember, most attempts to deal with “gay issues” or feature queer characters came across as ham-fisted, tone-deaf, and regressive (TNG’s “The Outcast”; just about every DS9 Mirror Universe episode).

          I don’t want to get political, but in the 1960s, Roddenberry having a black woman as an officer on the Enterprise bridge was a radical act. So was having representatives of recent and current enemies (Sulu and Chekov) of the US as accepted members of the crew. So was having a white man kiss a black woman on network TV. In the 1990s, Rick Berman hemmed and hawed over fans questioning why they never saw an openly gay crewmember in the supposedly tolerant 24th century Federation, while L.A. Law and Roseanne beat DS9 to the first same-sex kiss on television, and Ellen and Will and Grace had gay characters as main cast members.

          I loved TNG-era Trek, but it was not remotely as ballsy or progressive as TOS was in the 1960s.

          1. silver Harloe says:

            point of order: Sulu was Japanese, which is not Chinese or North Korean or North Vietnamese. Japan hadn’t been our enemy for at least 20 years by the time Sulu was on there.

            1. guy says:

              Recent enough. It takes a while to get over world wars.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            To Gene Roddenberry’s credit too, he tried to have a woman as first officer, the original “Number One” (where Picard gets his nickname for Riker). Played by Majel Barrett. The higher ups pushed back on having such a high ranking woman on the ship. So we got Uhura and Majel Barrett took the role of Nurse Chapel and the only other female regular was Yeoman Rand, a glorified secretary for Kirk to flirt with.

            But he tried. And now, years after this post, with NuTrek featuring Christopher Pike as a regular character, they’ve brought back Number One and essentially assembled the crew seen in the original pilot with Spock and Pike

          3. Wide And Nerdy says:

            Regarding Ellen. Ellen herself gets some credit for her boldness at the time but not the show’s creators. When Ellen’s show premiered, she was supposed to be playing a straight woman as she had the other times she played a fictional character up to that point. She came out after the show “Ellen” had already been on the air for a bit and then made the decision to have her character come out too. So they kind of snuck a gay main character onto the air with her.

    5. MikhailBorg says:

      While DS9 was uncomfortably dark at many times, I’d point out that while the Federation fought (and fought hard) when they were forced to, in large part they survived the war intact precisely because they hung on to their ideals as best as they could.

      Martial law? Nope.

      Making friends with folks who’ve always hated us? Yep.

      Holding a grudge against the old enemy tricked into fighting us once again? Nope.

      Genocide? Nope.

      DS9 asked its main characters, “Are you willing to put your ass on the line for your utopia, or are all your words empty?” and they all stood up to the challenge. That’s pretty true to the Star Trek philosophy.

      1. krellen says:

        Those ideals are more American ideals than Starfleet ideals. I mean, they’re hardly a great optimistic view of the future since modern day people pretty much would object just as much to the same things, for the most part.

        1. MikhailBorg says:

          They are also humanist ideals, which do I agree overlap nicely with what America pursues at its best. Roddenberry and his successors were Americans writing primarily for an American audience, after all.

        2. Zeta Kai says:

          And, as we have seen many times before, America has not done the best job of living up to its ideals, while the Federation largely has.

          Internment camps, the Trail of Tears, the Second Gulf War, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. America is a diverse, dichotomous place, full of contradictions & unfortunate realities; it is both Eagleland & MuricaFuckYeah. America is a real-life place, with real-life failings, while the Federation is humanity as we hope it one day can be, largely beyond such compromises & weakness of character.

      2. While those are ideals, what I always wanted out of those relationships was what happened between “we hate you” and “we’re at least grudging allies now.” Due to the episodic nature of the program, it was often just a matter of an hour between those two poles. It really grated when all it took was saving someone important from Forehead-Race X to make all of Forehead-Race X recant their previous hostility.

        Once again, to bring up Babylon-5, the relationship between the Centauri and the Narn was much more satisfying, both on a species-level and between individuals (Londo and G’kar).

    6. krellen says:

      Incidentally, I should have said “rewatched the entire run”, because I did actually watch the shows while they were on the air (well, I missed a bit of DS9 because I was away in college for a year of it, but otherwise it was still a thing we did in my family, watching Trek.)

    7. Alex says:

      “…one of the central premises and messages of Star Trek is supposed to be that we can be better people, and about a future where we are better people, and how being better people doesn't mean the universe spends your entire life taking a dump on you ““ being a better person makes others better people as well, and works out for everyone in the end.”

      Supposed to be, but isn’t. Deep Space Nine didn’t invent the cult of non-intervention that sits around patting itself on the back for leaving innocent people to die in natural disasters or from curable diseases. What separates DS9 from TNG isn’t that Sisko was complicit in the events of In A Pale Moonlight, it’s that he admitted to himself that he did something wrong instead of hiding behind official policy.

      1. krellen says:

        Where in TOS or TNG did the Prime Directive cause the captain to leave a people to die? (I know it happened in Enterprise, but Enterprise isn’t Trek.)

        1. Alex says:

          Homeward, for starters. Picard refused to do anything to save the lives of the inhabitants of Boraal II, and had the audacity to say they should “honour those lives we cannot save” while doing it.

          1. krellen says:

            “For starters” implies other examples. Got them?

            And Picard wasn’t wrong. Vorin couldn’t live with the conflict between the cultures and took his own life; had the Enterprise simply saved the Boraalans, it’s likely most would have gone the same way as Vorin. “How can we grow when everything that made us who we are is gone?”

            It’s not like Rozhenko saved the species either. They saved a few dozen Boraalans – not enough to save the species. They’re just going to die out on a different world instead of their homeworld. The Enterprise might have been able to beam aboard the thousands required to save the species, but would they have been able to handle it? Vorin couldn’t, and he was supposed to be the spiritual leader of his people.

            It’s a thorny situation, and the whole point of the episode was to examine it. “Save the people” is not clearly the right choice.

            1. Mike S. says:

              There’s an argument that “we can’t save them, so we have to let them die” is a practical choice. You will never convince me that it’s an idealistic one. It treats the Prime Directive as a cold ideology that’s more important than the lives of individual people.

              (Who might suffer, so it’s better not to give them a chance to find out.)

              I’m with the 23rd century Federation that saved pre-warp cultures from disasters, rather than watching them die like bugs on a microscope slide.

            2. Josh says:

              So it was better to let them all die because they might not be able to handle the fact that aliens exist?

              I mean I dig the idea behind the Prime Directive, I do, but the absolutist way in which was handled post-TOS was indefensible. The closest TNG ever came to attempting to justify the logic of “an entire sapient species is going to be wiped out by natural disasters, but it would be wrong to help them because they didn’t invent warp drives” was in Pen Pals, and the argument there could be pretty much summed up with Riker’s line:

              “If there is some grand cosmic plan, is it not the height of hubris to interfere with it?”

              I just about threw a chair at the TV.

              1. krellen says:

                Okay, but how do you decide which ones to save? Rozhenko’s group was saved only because of personal connection to Rozhenko – how is that fair to all the other Boraalans that weren’t saved? Why is it better and noble to save the aliens you personally know instead of the similar group of aliens a few miles over who you’ve never met? We saw the trouble the Enterprise had saving just the single group, so clearly saving more was out of the question – so why is it better to save the group you know, and not the other?

                1. guy says:

                  The ideal option would be to save both groups. If they have to pick one group, picking the one they personally know might not be better, but it also isn’t worse unless the other group is larger or otherwise a more appropriate choice.

                  Fairness doesn’t enter into it. It’s not fair that the population of other planets aren’t killed by the disaster, either. The universe does not care about such things.

                2. Alex says:

                  “Why is it better and noble to save the aliens you personally know instead of the similar group of aliens a few miles over who you've never met? We saw the trouble the Enterprise had saving just the single group, so clearly saving more was out of the question ““ so why is it better to save the group you know, and not the other?”

                  That is not the scenario you are offering. You are saying that since you can’t save both Alice and Bob, it is better to leave both to die.

              2. Alex says:

                Yeah, Pen Pals and the argument which cites “God’s will” in all but name is what makes me call it a cult.

                If you wanted the Prime Directive done right, it would be something like this:

                1. Do not take sides in a conflict until you actually know what’s going on. Just because somebody looks human or has a radio and their neighbour doesn’t doesn’t mean they’re the good guy.

                2. When dealing with pre-warp civilisations, ease them into it. They just found out aliens exist, so try not to cause any riots.

                3. Do not exploit non-Federation civilisations.
                3a. Assistance or gifts may be given to any civilisation not at war with the Federation.
                3b. Trade may be conducted with any civilisation that can meet your ship as an equal.
                3c. If your ship cannot return to Federation space without local assistance it is permitted to trade with less powerful civilisations, but your actions will be judged upon your return.

                1. Daimbert says:

                  Even considering the fact that no one, not even Riker, seemed to think that that was a good argument? Riker doesn’t even defend it.

                  I wrote a long series on this once, but my translation is: Don’t interfere in other societies unless you’re prepared to clean up your mess. That might include cases where they’ll die out, but if you aren’t willing to ensure that they don’t die out anyway you shouldn’t interfere now on the grounds that you’re saving them.

                  1. guy says:

                    I don’t see any problem with intervening in other societies unless your intervention makes things worse for them. Now, it’s quite possible for intervening to go very badly indeed, but rather hard for it to be worse than total extinction.

                    1. Daimbert says:

                      I used the “Time and Again” example from Voyager on this, because Chuck mentioned it and they use that exact argument (Tom Paris does it). The situation is that there’s this pre-warp society that is using a very dangerous form of energy that will destroy the planet. Paris and Janeway end up back the day before the explosion, and Paris wants to warn them. Janeway uses the “We don’t know the consequences” line, and Paris says that anything would be better than destruction. So I tossed out a number of options:

                      1) Warn them about the upcoming explosion. Even if they believe you, that only stops it for that one time. They’ll still be using that technology which can still blow up at any time.

                      2) Technobabble a way to eliminate the technology. Now they’re a pre-industrial society where many will die and the rest might not thank you for that. Good job breaking it, hero.

                      3) Give them safer technology. They still won’t be able to move right away, and might blow themselves up with the new technology too if you don’t stay to train them. And that assumes that you don’t start a civil war over it, if you reveal that you’re aliens and all.

                      Voyager didn’t have the resources to fix all the problems for them and didn’t have the time to stay and do that as well. There were many options where they interfered and ended up with the same result, only with suffering in-between. In that case, it seems reasonable to say that you aren’t obligated to fix a problem unless you can commit to fixing the problem, including the social ramifications. And you don’t get to decide for another society whether they’d rather die or live with your interference, and pre-warp societies don’t know enough to be able to make that sort of choice.

                    2. guy says:

                      And you don't get to decide for another society whether they'd rather die or live with your interference, and pre-warp societies don't know enough to be able to make that sort of choice.

                      You are making that decision, you’re just being too gutless to claim responsibility for it. By not intervening in a situation you know will kill them, you’re deciding it’s better for them to die than to live with your interference. Inaction is a decision.

                      I would also argue that none of those options are worse. In 1), you don’t fix the underlying problem but they do survive longer, in 2) it is historical fact that humans preferred life in preindustrial society to death in most cases, and in 3) the safer technology won’t destroy the planet and the civil war won’t kill all of them.

                      Plus, 1 and 3 both contain possible outcomes where everything is in fact fine.

                    3. Daimbert says:

                      By not intervening in a situation you know will kill them, you're deciding it's better for them to die than to live with your interference. Inaction is a decision.

                      Yep, which is the point of the rule: Decide not to intervene unless you are prepared to deal with all the consequences of your interference. I agree that in general deciding not to decide is a decision, but would argue that only Archer’s in Enterprise was that. In all other cases, they did decide to follow that rule, and the reasons I gave are at least, in my opinion, reasonable ones to follow it.

                      I would also argue that none of those options are worse.

                      It depends on how you classify “worse”. At any rate, I don’t really need worse. I need “at least as bad”. If you’re intervening to solve a problem, but don’t solve the problem, why should you pat yourself on the back for having done a good job at not fixing anything? Clearly, the argument is that they should intervene to fix the problem, and since they aren’t willing to commit to actually fix it there’s no moral superiority in salving their conscience with a token gesture.

                      As for your comments on 2), you both ignore the massive deaths that would occur — because a pre-industrial society wouldn’t be able to support that population — AND are using the values of humans to judge standards for another species. That was where the “You don’t get to decide for them” argument comes in.

                    4. guy says:

                      If they’re exactly as bad, it doesn’t really matter whether you intervene or not, does it? So if your intervention can’t make things worse but can make them better, you should intervene.

                      Obviously, doing something that will definitely make things better is preferable, but you shouldn’t pick the worst option simply because you aren’t choosing the best.

                      There’s also a major blind spot in most defenses of the Prime Directive, including this one. Why is it okay to interact with post-warp civilizations? After all, interacting with them could potentially cause a civil war. Yes, they know more and they have more power, but that doesn’t make adverse consequences impossible.

                    5. Daimbert says:

                      You kinda miss the point. The argument for interfering is that there’s a problem that will lead to their deaths, and you can fix it. But they weren’t prepared to actually fix that problem, just to prevent one instance, and in ways that might add a lot more suffering before wiping them out anyway. You can’t claim moral superiority for solving a problem that you don’t solve. The problem was not “The planet will blow up today”. The problem was “They are using a very dangerous technology that will blow them up eventually”. With a warp capable society, you solve that problem by welcoming them into the galactic community and sending tons of experts to fix their problem. With one that isn’t, or without those experts, all that stopping one event will do is make you feel better about yourself … but it shouldn’t. And any interference, again, might have the same results but destroy their society before that happens.

                      Again, unless you are prepared to actually fix the problem without simply creating new ones for them and leaving them to fend for themselves, you shouldn’t interfere, even to the point of destruction. Only if you can solve the problem with minimal consequences can you do it … and even Picard did that on occasion (See “The Drumhead” where he’s called out on that.)

                      There's also a major blind spot in most defenses of the Prime Directive, including this one. Why is it okay to interact with post-warp civilizations? After all, interacting with them could potentially cause a civil war. Yes, they know more and they have more power, but that doesn't make adverse consequences impossible.

                      I did a longer argument on this, but the short form is that once you are considering warp power, you are considering what might happen if you encounter other alien species, and so are better prepared to judge what the consequences of external intervention might be (See the episode “First Contact”). Also, you can be entered into the galactic community on relatively equal terms, and so it is easy to aid in addressing any unintended consequences of the interference. In short, post-warp societies are in a position to judge external alien intervention because they’ve been prepared for it, and don’t have to worry about considering them gods simply because they have better technology. Pre-warp don’t, and I don’t think it’s necessarily the moral choice to completely dominate a culture in order to save it.

                    6. syal says:

                      It’s okay to talk to other post-warp societies because a) they’re in a position to find you on their own, and b) they’ve developed their culture to the point where you won’t be revealing dangerous technology to people who won’t use it peacefully.

                      That’s the real point of the Prime Directive; keeping intergalactic technology out of the hands of aggressive societies. Keeping the guns away from the children.

                    7. guy says:

                      The problem was not “The planet will blow up today”. The problem was “They are using a very dangerous technology that will blow them up eventually”.

                      Preventing the explosion would allow them to live longer. Also, the technology only might blow them up eventually. It also might not blow them up before they invent something better, especially if Voyager told them it could explode. Particularly given that the actual explosion apparently involved a time-traveling transporter beam. Those aren’t common.

                      Again, unless you are prepared to actually fix the problem without simply creating new ones for them and leaving them to fend for themselves, you shouldn't interfere, even to the point of destruction.

                      You don’t have to solve all their problems to make things better. Obviously you shouldn’t intervene if you expect to make things worse, but I disagree with your assumption that interaction with an alien culture is likely more damaging than total extinction.

                      I did a longer argument on this, but the short form is that once you are considering warp power, you are considering what might happen if you encounter other alien species, and so are better prepared to judge what the consequences of external intervention might be

                      We’re from a pre-warp civilization. Besides, even calling to ask could have adverse consequences. Maybe they’ll have a civil war over whether they want external intervention or not.

                      That's the real point of the Prime Directive; keeping intergalactic technology out of the hands of aggressive societies. Keeping the guns away from the children.

                      In Star Trek, it’s pretty clear that warp technology does not mean the society isn’t aggressive. The Borg are more advanced than the Federation itself. Plus, you can help out a pre-warp civilization without giving them dangerous technology. And if you don’t give them warp technology, the damage will be confined to their home star system.

                    8. Mike S. says:

                      Of course the galaxy is already full of aggressive societies without a Prime Directive. (The Federation seems to be the sole exception.) So the PD is just leaving pre-warp civilizations defenseless against them.

                      Something that was speculated about before they were revealed as villains was the Dominion being revealed as a non-malicious multispecies civilization that had no Prime Directive, and thought it was callous nonsense. (On the order of “we should ban Doctors without Borders and end international food aid, because it only saves lives of people who obviously can’t sustain themselves on their own. Let them die and reduce the surplus population.”)

                      The Federation would get the best of the argument ultimately– they’re the heroes– but it could have raised some interesting questions about the line between noninterference and malign neglect.

                    9. Purple Library Guy says:

                      Mike S.: I don’t think the PD actually says Starfleet must leave non-spacefaring peoples defenseless against aggressive spacefaring races. After all, the Prime Directive doesn’t apply to the aggressive spacefaring races–Starfleet would perfectly well be allowed to interfere with their attempts to interfere.

                    10. Mike S. says:

                      Sure, but Starfleet is leaving to explore another strange new world next week. By refusing to make contact and help them learn, they’re leaving them defenseless when the next ship to make orbit is the Klingons, or the Romulans, or the Cardassians, or the Dominion. At least if they got to join interstellar civilization, they’d have a fighting chance to develop, and people might notice when they dropped off the grid.

                      When we practice noninterference (i.e., refuse to trade goods and tech with people and discourage others from doing so), it’s called “imposing sanctions”. It’s considered to be a pretty harsh deprivation that the target vociferously protests.

                    11. syal says:

                      The response to a violent adult with a gun is not to give guns to the nearby children. Doing so doesn’t solve the problem, it complicates it.

                      People regard sanctions as harsh because

                      A)the people being sanctioned already know about all the wonderful technologies they’re being denied, and

                      B)The people doing the sanctioning usually aren’t presumed to be any more enlightened than the people being sanctioned, i.e. they’re only special because of their resources.

                    12. Mike S. says:

                      They’re not dealing with children. They’re dealing with intelligent aliens who haven’t yet invented the technology they have. Characterizing literate, often industrial civilizations that are frequently at most only a century or three behind them them as “children” makes the Prime Directive seem even more high-handed and patronizing than it is inherently.

                      One thing I appreciated about Stargate SG1 was that they put us on the other side of the issue, with respect to the Asgard and the Tollen. So we could see how it felt to be hung out to dry in the face of the Goa’uld with nothing but what we could steal or otherwise liberate– for our own “protection” of course.

                    13. syal says:

                      You don’t want to call them children, fine. Use a different metaphor, the point stands. Short-term expediency has long-term consequences, and you can’t reasonably say interference is objectively better than non-interference.

                      I’d go further into it but it leads us firmly into real-world politics.

                    14. silver Harloe says:

                      “Voyager didn't have the resources to fix all the problems for them and didn't have the time to stay and do that as well.”

                      The other day I accidentally cut myself while chopping vegetables, and it was real bad and needed stitches. I took it to Dr Federation and he said, “I’m not going to deal with your bleeding, because you might cut yourself again some day.”

                    15. Mike S. says:

                      “It’s better for you in the long run if you independently invent medicine yourself. Assuming you don’t die of sepsis… but I’ve already revealed too much!”

                    16. Daimbert says:


                      Preventing the explosion would allow them to live longer. Also, the technology only might blow them up eventually. It also might not blow them up before they invent something better, especially if Voyager told them it could explode. Particularly given that the actual explosion apparently involved a time-traveling transporter beam. Those aren't common.

                      When they discover it, Torres pretty much says that it will indeed blow up at some point. She called it, I believe, a ticking time bomb. You’d be relying on rather short odds and, it seems, trying to salve your own conscience to say that maybe they’ll figure out how to avoid that before it does. To be honest, it sounds like an argument someone DEFENDING non-intervention in helping them develop safe power might use: well, you know, that really, really bad thing might not happen, and they might survive, you know.

                      BTW, note that Janeway’s defense of the PD there came BEFORE she knew that they caused it, and once that was discovered she did indeed stop it. That is a clearly acceptable case of fixing the mess you made.

                      You don't have to solve all their problems to make things better. Obviously you shouldn't intervene if you expect to make things worse, but I disagree with your assumption that interaction with an alien culture is likely more damaging than total extinction.

                      I think you’re still missing my interpretation of the PD, though, so let me try to make that clearer. My interpretation of the “You don’t know the consequences” is NOT “The consequences might be worse, so don’t do it”. My interpretation is, instead, “If you’re going to justify intervention because you are trying to save their lives or make their lives better, make DAMN sure you commit to doing that.” The problem in things like “Time and Again” and “Pen Pals” and even “Homeward” is that other than Worf’s brother and Data no one really wanted to commit to that kind of effort. “Pen Pals” demonstrates just how things can progress: well, first you warn them to save their lives, and then you need to beam her up because she wanted to talk to Data, and then you have to wipe her memory … it’s no wonder that Picard makes the “over our head” gesture to Riker later. If you don’t fix the actual problem and instead only create new ones, then it’s rather callous of you to, at that point, say “Oh, well, that sucks. Well, hope it works out for you!”, especially when the original justification was that it just wouldn’t be right to not help them with their problem. If you are committed TO helping them, then you have to help them all the way … and if you aren’t willing to do that, then you shouldn’t start.

                      In a sense, this can tie back to “In the Pale Moonlight”. Sisko did seem to think — I think it’s explicit but can’t remember — that he could stop at any time, but once he started justifying it on the basis of the lives he’d save he found that it justified more and more and worse and worse things … but he was committed. The PD suggests that you don’t commit unless you are indeed that committed … by forcing you to violate Starfleet’s most sacred rule to do it, and accepting the consequences for you as well. As Picard does for all of his violations in “The Drumhead”.

                      silver Harloe:

                      The other day I accidentally cut myself while chopping vegetables, and it was real bad and needed stitches. I took it to Dr Federation and he said, “I'm not going to deal with your bleeding, because you might cut yourself again some day.”

                      Putting aside that asking for help does seem to be an explicit exception to the PD — see “Pen Pals” — it is more like you cut yourself because you are using too dull a knife, and Dr Federation runs in, declares that they will solve your problem for you, bandages the wound, runs off with the exclamation that they need to help others … and the next day you cut yourself again because they didn’t actually help you sharpen your knife. I don’t consider the counter — ie the argument from rejecting the PD — this extreme but it’s really, really hard to start from your example and not go that way, so sorry about that. But, again, my big point is that you ought not get involved on the grounds that it would be immoral to not solve their problem for them when you can if you aren’t prepared to actually solve that problem … and the road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

                      Mike S.:

                      “It's better for you in the long run if you independently invent medicine yourself. Assuming you don't die of sepsis… but I've already revealed too much!”

                      By that logic, the Federation should give any technology to any species where it could save lives, whether they’re ready for it or not and regardless of what impact that has on their society. That’s a much stronger claim that the “The species is about to go instinct and we can stop it” arguments that others have been making and I don’t think it defensible. But I hate sarcasm-based arguments because they tend to obscure what the argument actually is, being deliberately more extreme positions for effect.

                      In summary, in terms of at least my view of the PD, I think the “Don’t intervene unless you’re prepared to deal with all the consequences” works for any consequence short of complete annihilation without much controversy. There might be some over when you should or should not be prepared to deal with the consequences, but other than that I think most people will at least consider it a reasonable question, if they won’t always agree with the answer. I concede that when the species will be annihilated its a much tougher question, but can also see many cases where, as I said, all you end up doing is delaying their extinction while causing lots of extra suffering along the way, which should violate the moral code of those who insist on helping (they should be using roughly Utilitarian views, which total suffering). At which point, I think that even they can reasonably question whether taking action there is obviously right, and that’s really all I want to say about the PD here: that someone who insists on following the rule instead of using their own conscience isn’t obviously immoral because it’s not as easy a question as it seems. I think that Picard is a Lawful (D&D) character and will default to following the rules, as is Worf, and so that’s why they defend inaction in “Pen Pals”, while Geordi and Pulaski are more about following their own consciences and so oppose it. But both have a case, I think. (I’d probably side with Picard, for the reasons I’ve given).

                      I’m not claiming anything about Janeway’s thought processes [grin].

                    17. Daimbert says:

                      Just to clarify my stance, my real-life alignment is Lawful, but I’m not bureaucratic; I follow the rules unless it makes no sense to apply them, at which point I don’t follow them. I see Worf and Picard as definitely fitting into the “follow the rules even if they seem odd to you” camp most of the time. So, anyway, my reaction would be: Okay, can we save them without interfering with them? If we can, let’s do it. If not, well, gee, that’s a lot tougher, and I might not want to do it.

                      And I’d definitely intervene once the call for help came through.

                    18. Mike S. says:

                      @Daimbert You’re right that sarcasm can be a really annoying way to argue, and I withdraw it.

                      But I do think that the Prime Directive is too inflexible, and leads to unethical results that we don’t accept in our own world. We try to walk carefully with respect to, e.g., uncontacted tribes in New Guinea or the Amazon to avoid accidentally destroying them, but (as far as I know) we don’t have a blanket policy that says that no one should give them antibiotics or vaccines or trade steel knives for their handicrafts.

                      And the PD is extended not just to people who might accidentally start to worship the sky-gods with their lightning casters, but as far as spacefaring, scientific species that don’t happen to have warp. That strikes me as the equivalent of refusing to sell smartphones or tractors to any country who hasn’t figured out how to build nukes. Exchange and trade make people better off than demanding rugged self-sufficiency from everyone. Or rather, specifically discriminating against the tech-poor.

                      (And “build it yourself or you don’t deserve it” seems especially at odds with the Federation’s ideals of a multispecies social democracy in which everyone is improved by exposure to the ideas, technology, food, and folkways of one another.)

                      And the Federation is defined as better than us: they don’t have to worry about being tempted to exploit less technically advanced people, because they don’t do that anymore.

                      So I think they should operate in the broad range of behaviors between letting people die of diseases that ten minutes with a tricorder could provide a formula for a cure they could produce locally, and offering free photon torpedoes for all, buy ’em before your neighbors do! Letting themselves be guided by their ethics and experience.

                      The PD works as a plot generator, and so makes sense on those terms, but I don’t think that it works as a guide to right action.

                  2. Abnaxis says:

                    Wow…people really don’t like the Prime Directive, don’t they? It’s funny, I have watched a lot of sci-fi because it was popular in my family, and I’ve virtually never interacted with other fans. All these comments are a really interesting read.

                    OT, one of the arguments for the PD that is brought up in the show but that I don;t see here is the old “Hitler justification.” You know, “what’s to say the next Hitler isn’t in the group we decide to save?”

                    I always hat that argument because it’s too simplistic and it Godwin-ized the discussion. To me, it’s better looked at in terms of ecology. The universe as it exists is not one where every planet exists in a (metaphorical) vacuum. There is a balance of power, and a balance of society, that is carefully maintained by the Federation. Any threat to that balance is approached with the utmost caution to avoid any unintended consequences.

                    This is why first contact with a species is always portrayed as such a crucial event. When a people discovers warp drive, they essentially elevate themselves to an invasive species. They are now a part of the intergalactic ecology, and the incumbent organisms need to adjust to make their introduction into the metaphorical food chain as painless and non-destructive as possible.

                    Following this analogy, elevating a pre-warp society because their star is going to explode, is like moving an endangered species from a tropical island to mainland Asia because the island volcano is about to erupt. It might turn out fine, or it might be an unmitigated disaster for the indigenous species or for the newcomers. It is certainly not something that can be done without exhaustive study, and even then there will undoubtedly be unintended consequences. Most importantly, it’s a question that only world leaders–NOT individual boat captains–should be concerned with.

                    “Don’t interfere unless you can deal with the consequences” sounds all well and good, but it falls short in that humanity has not developed the clairvoyance needed to properly evaluate what those consequences might be. And they will be many, subtle, and expensive, even for a “post-scarcity” society. I’m not saying the PD is an unassailable philosophy, but it’s a lot more reasonable and a lot less heartless than I’m seeing it construed here…

                    ((On a side note, I could have sworn that canonically, the Prime Directive originated from an early well-meaning rescue/humanitarian project turning into a massive war costing countless Federation lives, but I can’t find a reference to back me up. I suspect that I’m just getting confused because it’s such a common sci-fi trope, but maybe someone else can let me know if I’m crazy?))

                    1. Daimbert says:

                      “Don't interfere unless you can deal with the consequences” sounds all well and good, but it falls short in that humanity has not developed the clairvoyance needed to properly evaluate what those consequences might be.

                      You missed out, at least in my statement of the principle, the “are WILLING to deal with the consequences”. That doesn’t require clairvoyance, just a commitment to working with the society to address any problems that might arise, and not bailing on them the instant it gets too complicated. If you aren’t willing to commit to doing all you can do, then you shouldn’t get involved.

                    2. krellen says:

                      I always understood the Klingons to have been the object lesson that caused the Prime Directive, but it’s highly probably that was non-show EU fluff that was never made canon.

                    3. Wolf says:

                      I think Abnaxis’ point that individual captains should not have the power to make these discussions is a strong one. Especially since the entirety of Starfleet will be held responsible for any consequences of actions performed by their personnel using their equipment.
                      The Krogan uplift provides a good example of how that responsibility can tarnish your legacy. And in Starfleets case their attempts to further collaboration and peaceful coexistence would be severely harmed once they are seen as enablers and supporters of warmongers or terrorists.
                      Also, if you want to be callous, Starfleet can always make exceptions in cases where the violation of the Prime Directive turned out OK, while using the PD as a shield in all other cases.

                    4. Abnaxis says:

                      @Daimbert: I don’t think I missed out. The point I was trying to make, is that the consequences of helping can potentially be worse than any reasonable person is willing to commit to, so “don’t interfere unless you are willing to deal with the consequences”* essentially reduces down to the prime directive.

                      Let’s say you rescue a pre-warp industrial society from an exploding star. Let’s even say you’re super careful, and you move them with only a bare minimum chance for them to detect the change.

                      Except, there is evidence of your interference–enough evidence to prove to them that interstellar travel is possible, and put them on a fast track to researching warp drive. Instead of taking a few centuries to discover it, they manage in a few decades.

                      Now, let’s say this life-form isn’t actually you normal humanoid, but rather a parasite that mind-controls humanoids to do their bidding (these things happen in the Trekiverse).

                      Upon leaving their planet, they proceed to subjugate every sentient humanoid they can get their pincers on. What are you willing to do now? Are you willing to let other races be enslaved? Are you willing to risk having humanity and the Federation enslaved? Are you willing to commit mass genocide, eradicating their entire race if the parasites won’t back down? Are you willing to live with the fact that the whole ordeal is partially your fault, for messing with stuff?

                      This is an extreme example to make my point, but there are countless other ways of making a mess that are more plausible. The intergalactic Federation is an ecology of different species and cultures that requires a delicate balance. If you examine the entire space of “shit that could eventually screw up the balance of the galaxy and force the end of the semi-peaceful coexistence your society has worked hard for” as you ask yourself “are you willing to commit to dealing with it?” that will always include numerous instances where the answer is “Hell no.” And if your answer is always “no,” you’ve basically just rewritten the Prime Directive in different words.

                      *To me, “is willing to” is a higher bar to reach than “is able to,” hence why I phrased it as “don’t interfere unless you can deal with the consequences”

                      @Krellen: See, I was also under the impression that the Klingons were the object lesson as well, but I have no idea where I got that notion from. Also, I think I remember seeing the TOS episode where the Klingons first show up, and Kirk wasn’t like “You!” he was like “who are these people?”

                      Of course, they didn’t have wrinkly foreheads by that point, so maybe a different first contact scenario got added in with the massive retcon justifications for lack of ridges.

              3. Daimbert says:

                As I said elsewhere, I don’t see that as Riker making that as a serious argument. I see that as him bringing it up as an issue that needed to be discussed, as Devil’s Advocate … the job of a First Officer from as far back as The Motion Picture.

                The real argument is Picard’s attempt to show that simply following your conscience instead of the rules will lead to situations where someone’s conscience will insist that they do something that even Pulaski and LaForge thought wasn’t necessarily justified. But then how can they be certain that their consciences are guiding them properly here? Better to follow the rules and change them if needed than just abandon them when your gut disagrees, which is also one of the main differences between Kirk and Picard.

                Also note that when they bring up the “What if they ask for help?” argument, Picard seems to think it has merit, meaning that it’s probably in the rules. His “Sophistry” argument is aimed at them insisting that it already happened, but when she does ask for help from Data he is forced to accept it.

              4. el_b says:

                it was probably the only episode that really dealt with how much of a religious dogma it had become And how hypocritical it was. It was brought up at least once in Voyager, and janeway swore by it like the psychopath she is!

              5. Blackbird71 says:

                In response to Riker, I’d argue that it is the height of hubris to assume that your actions were not somehow factored into such a “grand cosmic plan”. What if the intention of the plan was for such a dying species to be saved by a ship of intergalactic explorers who would just happen to come along at the right time with the technology necessary to do so? To then withhold help would be to fly in the face of any such plan.

                1. Daimbert says:

                  My counter to the argument was this: either the Cosmic Planner already knows what you will do and has planned for it, or it hasn’t. If it has, then just do what you would anyway, because that’s what it wants you to do. If it hasn’t, since you can’t know what the plan is just do what you would anyway, since you can’t know if that furthers or hinders the Cosmic Plan … and if you think that nature reveals the plan, then you can’t interfere in nature at all, which no one will accept.

              6. Wide And Nerdy says:

                To me a better argument is ecological impact. There have been numerous cases in our own history where bringing a species or even a different group of humans to a place where they weren’t native has disastrous consequences. New diseases, species reproducing out of control without a natural predator.

                Mass Effect has a great example with the Krogans. They were a species pretty well contained by their environment. The hostility of life on their world plus their own natural aggressive tendencies kept things in balance. But the salarians opened up one too many Mass Effect relays and suddenly the Rachni were overrunning the galaxy, so they uplifted the Krogans who took care of the problem but suddenly it was them that were overrunning the galaxy. Their reproductive systems were tuned to a world where you needed to furiously crank out babies just to keep the species going. In space, nothing was killing off the vast swaths of children they were producing.

            3. Zeta Kai says:

              Picard WAS wrong, & it was a shitty episode because the writers thought that he was somehow right. The Prime Directive is on full display in that episode as a shield against doing the right thing, for the sake of taking the easy way out.

              “Those savages down there didn’t make their own warp drive, so fuck ’em, let them die. If they were meant to live, they’d’ve built rockets or telescopes before their atmosphere sloughed off.”

              That is crazy bullshit, & that is exactly what that episode is saying, in no uncertain terms. The Prime Directive is explicitly interpreted by Picard to mean that it is morally righteous & justified to let a pre-warp civilization choke & die rather than contaminate it by beaming them up & dropping them off somewhere else.

              Yes, that would be contamination, but the alternative was death. Imminent, provable death, for that culture, that species, that planet. Everything that they ever were, or ever could be, gone. Forever. The whole point of having the Prime Directive is to allow the natural development of a species’ culture, without interference. And that’s a cool, good rule. But to take that to such an extreme is unconscionable, & completely throws away the spirit of the law in favor of the letter. What is being preserved by upholding the Prime Directive in such a circumstance? Would the Boraalans be better off dying of asphyxia, never knowing that a ship is in the sky just above them, silently condemning them to extinction through inaction? Was their culture preserved through non-interference?

              They could do it, if they wanted to. The Enterprise has more than enough room to carry thousands of people. The transporters have the capacity to transport that many rather quickly (if Worf’s brother could do it in secret, with nobody noticing that he did it, then it could be done overtly on a larger scale). The ship could easily save a breeding population of Boraalans, but they are supposedly bound by the Prime Directive, which makes Picard, in my mind, an accessory to xenocide.

              At least the writers of DS9 recognized that Sisko was doing something wrong, & had the balls to allow Sisko to feel bad about it. And that’s why Sisko > Picard, IMO.

              Edit: And the answer to “Who do you save?” is NOT “No one.” The answer is obvious: “Anyone, & as many as you can.” A Federation that can’t answer that question properly is not a Federation for me.

              1. krellen says:

                This is actually an ideal worth being examined: why is a longer life assumed to be empirically better?

                No, seriously. This is actually a big issue in our society. Why should we automatically accept that dying later, far away from home, is better than dying sooner, in a place known and familiar to you, surrounded by your friends and loved ones?

                Why is life always the right choice? Why should death be avoided at all costs?

                1. Mike S. says:

                  Leaving aside abstract ethical questions, the Federation clearly thinks lives are worth saving and extending. As witness the extreme reluctance to grant Worf death when he was openly asking for it, and the heroic efforts made by Starfleet medical personnel in the face of plagues and disasters time and again. They clearly aren’t in favor of letting nature take its course when the PD isn’t at issue.

                  1. Michael says:

                    The PD does still make sense though, as a flat rule. It’s designed to prevent well meaning meddling.

                    Homeward does a pretty good job of casting it in the worst possible light. An astronomical event is wiping out a planet, and there isn’t a real reason not to intervene. But, it’s also a perfect storm for where the Directive doesn’t work.

                    The Directive is there to prevent things like A Private Little War, not to deal with situations like Homeward. The latter is a (presumably) rare occurrence, that might not have even been considered when it was drafted, while the former is a real, and constant, risk.

                    Because of how disruptive, and potentially destructive, manipulating a pre-space flight race is, the rule is just presented as a blanket statement, rather than giving captains a lot of leeway with specific, singular exceptions.

                    Which puts Picard’s moral superiority in Homeward in a really unpleasant, if slightly more human, context. He’s presented with a situation where he’s watching an entire civilization getting wiped out of existence. He doesn’t have the resources to save them, and even if he tried, he’d be breaking a law he holds dear.

                    EDIT: Actually, come to think of it, Insurrection, for all it’s failings, does a pretty good job of illustrating another way the Prime Directive is pretty important in it’s blanket nature.

                    If there were an opt out for relocating people stealthily, using holodecks, the way you see in Homeward, you can bet you’d have captains abusing it, for both ulterior and altruistic reasons.

                2. MichaelGC says:

                  Well, there a couple of ways in which ‘choice’ is an important word, there.

                  Firstly to have “life = always good” as an ironclad standard can be useful, as it sets the bar very high for any situation where the choice is being made by someone else.

                  Secondly, being able to make choices is in general a good thing, and death removes the possibility of making any further ones. Continuing to live does not. So there’s a big asymmetry: death rules out life, but life does not rule out death. (Quite the contrary.)

                  Neither of these is an unassailable argument for the automatic assumption – and they’re not intended to be. (I happen to think that in our own cases, the choice should also be our own.) But I think the automatic assumption is a useful one, to help guard against over-hasty decisions (by self or others), or even foul play.

                  With this particular episode, it’ll probably be obvious what I think: the doomed inhabitants don’t have a choice, so I’d choose to give them one if I could. (And then if some or even all immediately chose the Vorin option, I would not consider my effort wasted. Far from it!)

                  1. syal says:

                    You said most of what I was going to say, but I’ll say it anyway.

                    The answer is, because death is irreversible, people can want it for a lot of temporary reasons (shock, pain, drugs, etc.), and often change their minds about it later if they still have the chance. Leaving people more options is generally better for them, and you’re never making the choice that someone can’t die (unless it’s a vampire story or something).

                    Also, they person dying isn’t the only participant. When asking whether it’s better to die near family than live away from them, ask yourself whether the family thinks that too.

                3. Otters34 says:

                  Because death is the end of everything. It’s the end of everything we call “good”, of motion and thought, and staving it off is a core part of our nature. If somebody’s in danger we want them to survive, if people are fighting we want there to be as few deaths as possible. Even the signs of age are anathema, since they remind everyone of what’s going to happen to everyone they know and interact with.

                  The reason the Prime Directive is taken so harshly isn’t just because it looks like a high-handed and imperious way to deal with potentially salvageable situations, but because people will instinctively cast themselves as the suffering party. “Would I want people who could save me to choose not to?” is the question, not “Is it ethical to intervene HERE?”

                  It’s like this: say you’re an alien and you come to Earth, and you happen to come by just as environmental collapse is under way. Would it be ethically right to remove humans(some or all) from the planet and take them somewhere else? I really don’t know. There’s no cosmic right to exist, we aren’t any special class of being, we have little that’s worth preserving, we already made a mess of one planet and might easily do so again.

                  What happened with those people in the episode with Worf’s brother had them work out fine, what about people with more dependence on a certain arrangement of their habitat? Should they have one made for them, be placed on a world that has it that could be used by others?

                  I dunno, and the Star Trek writers certainly didn’t seem to either. That’s the worst part of all this, the Prime Directive seems almost more a way to sidestep difficult, interesting questions than much else. In the light and context of colonialism I applaud it, but it does have real problems.

        2. RCN says:

          Better yet, there wasn’t even a Prime Directive when they chose to leave them to die. But you know, it can be hard to make the right call when you have a couple extra chromosomes.

    8. Mike S. says:

      “He has no place in Starfleet, because Starfleet does not, and never will, believe that the ends justify the means.”

      Counterexample: James T. Kirk. Who armed pre-warp primitives with flintlocks they would never have invented on their own as a strategic move against the Klingons in a war that hadn’t even gone hot yet. And who was prepared to use the (presumed) equally pre-warp Organia as a military base against the same opponent when the war was within hours of starting in earnest.

      Spock, who prevented an innocent and visionary woman from being saved from dying, to ensure the safety of the Federation. And who flat out lied and abused trust and affection in order to succeed in what’s explicitly stated to be a minor and temporary technical espionage victory.

      Conversely, DS9 didn’t dismiss Federation ideals. The whole point of Bashir’s repeated encounters with Section 31 was that the DS9 crew didn’t accept Section 31’s deeply cynical premise. When the Dominion threat led some officers to try to turn Earth into a police state, it was Sisko who said “Hell, no,” and made it stick. And it was Sisko’s crew who helped save Cardassia after it had been a thorn in their and Bajor’s side, an enemy, and an outright Dominion ally.

      Idealism that recognizes human imperfection and the occasional need for compromise isn’t noir cynicism. If anything, the idealism feels more satisfying for having been challenged than the nigh plaster saints of the TNG era.

      1. krellen says:

        DS9 never should have introduced Section 31 in the first place, because there shouldn’t have been a Section 31 for Bashir to reject. There shouldn’t have been a call for martial law for Sisko to stand against. There shouldn’t have been a total war to be had (where were the Organians this time?) DS9 dismissed all the Federation ideals just so there could be a conflict for the “good guys” to stand up against that never should have happened in the first place.

        One of the points of Trek was supposed to be that we could overcome “human inperfection” – not in that we could rise above our baser nature, but that we could transcend our baser nature and have a nature less base. DS9 did everything it could to refute this.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I don’t think relying on the Organians to solve the Dominion War would be a good answer here, and if one of the comics counts they were probably still fighting those aliens that pitted good against evil.

          As for the martial law, that was a great examination of what can happen to a society built on trust when you aren’t sure that you can trust anyone. No matter how evolved you may be, when that sort of foundation is torn away it’s easy to see how you might find yourself without anything to stand on.

          Section 31 is odd. Seen as a reaction to the Borg and to the Maquis, it works, but as something that’s always been around I’d concede its oddness.

        2. Blackbird71 says:

          And how exactly do you think human imperfection is overcome? Do we somehow magically transcend ourselves to a higher state of being? Or do we struggle with our imperfections until we become strong enough to defeat them?

          In a way, the Starfleet and Federation shown in Deep Space Nine is a version that could have easily existed in the pre TNG years, as it was developing and mankind was improving. After having had so many years of “perfection” and relative peace, it is reasonable to assume that the population had become somewhat soft, and when confronted with a real threat to their existence, some of those old imperfections rose again to the surface. This is when the people of the Federation rediscovered their weaknesses, and had to once again struggle with their imperfections in order to rise above them. DS9 shows more of the fallible nature of man, but at the same time still carries the hope of overcoming that nature. What about that does not match the ideals of Star Trek?

          1. krellen says:

            “The fallible nature of man”. How is it not the epitome of pessimism to assume this will never change?

            1. MichaelGC says:

              It could be argued that recognising true infallibility is impossible whilst at the same time continually striving to achieve or attempt it is, well, the epitome of optimism! :D

              1. syal says:

                The idea that infallibility is impossible is Sisyphean. Optimism is believing both that it’s possible, and that it’s alright if you don’t reach it yet as long as you’re still trying.

                1. MichaelGC says:

                  Aye, fair enough: I like that formulation, and any dispute from me would have to rest solely on definitions of ‘true infallibility,’ which is a side issue, if even that.

                  Although! – if we ignore the giant tap-dancing fluorescent-pink woolly mammoth in the room* – it could also be argued that Sisyphus is Mythtory’s Greatest Optimist!:

                  Nearly at the top! Nearly at the … Oh bugger. There it goes again.

                  Alright. Well, maybe this time…

                  * The element of compulsion. Pretty difficult to ignore, of course… I’m doing my best but the pink mammoth is now twerking whilst loudly playing the bagpipes.

            2. Michael says:

              How genuinely sad is it, that Babylon 5’s embracing of human nature, warts and all, often ends up more inspiring and hopeful than Deep Space Nine’s?

              1. Grudgeal says:

                Oh, I don’t know, let’s ask the Narn. Oh, wait, we don’t get to do that because apparently “there’s no helping some people” and they all died out eventually and yes I’m still bitter about that.

                Ethnocentric mumblegrumble…

      2. Daimbert says:

        That’s something I realized after reading krellen’s comment: what in “In the Pale Moonlight” did Sisko do that Kirk wouldn’t have done, in the same situation? About the only thing I can think of that would be different between how Kirk and Sisko handled it is that Kirk would have been in charge the whole way, instead of being manipulated by Garak into it with progressing degrees of “darkness” until the end … and if Kirk had felt that Garak manipulated him into it, he wouldn’t have stopped hitting Garak just because Garak pointed out that it had the outcome Kirk wanted. And that comparison struck me as saying something about the series, and the captains, as Sisko was clearly a captain after Kirk’s heart — and even violates the Temporal Prime Directive to say what an honour it is to meet him — and more so than any other:

        TOS was when the galaxy was definitely a developing frontier, and that sort of frontier needs cowboy-type captains, people who will get the job done and fix things no matter what, and help people even if it meant being a little shady, because the people you’re going up against aren’t going to stop at not being shady and you won’t necessarily have a lot of resources behind you to make them stop.

        TNG was when the frontier was mostly settled. They could settle in to exploration and scientific research, and could put military matters aside for a bit, knowing that even if they had a problem they had lots of resources to fix it if necessary. You needed a captain who could be the diplomat and negotiate their way out, because everyone was going to want to instead of starting up fights they couldn’t win, or risk being caught doing shady things (like in the episode where they stop the Romulans from interfering in the Klingon Civil War by … revealing that they were interfering).

        DS9 was on another and new frontier, from the beginning. So you need a frontier-style captain. And Sisko was more that type of captain, but he became a captain in the more settled Starfleet environment. So while he was willing to get his hands dirty, he didn’t really know HOW to do that and maintain the Starfleet principles. So he did things that you couldn’t imagine in the name of doing good, but even then was never certain if he was right or if he had gone too far. “In the Pale Moonlight” is a prime example of Sisko getting manipulated by his concern for others and the Starfleet ideals around that into doing things that seem to violate Starfleet ideals more than he at least should like. And the whole episode — and the whole point of the narrative — is that this is him asking himself “Did I do right, here?” At the end, I think even he doesn’t know. But he says that if what he did was wrong … he can live with it. And it isn’t even clear if he really thinks that, or if he’s trying to convince himself of that. Kirk would regret, but know. Sisko doesn’t know.

        Even the main ships highlight this. TOS Enterprise is definitely more a ship of war than of science, even though it does that, too. TNG Enterprise is more for exploration and science, with war the afterthought. Defiant is a set of guns strapped to an engine, all war, no science, an overreaction to the Borg and the Cardassians and the Dominion, representing the Federation waking up to the fact that not all frontiers have been tamed yet.

        So while I see Sisko as flawed, I do see him as a Starfleet captain … and it is his Starfleet nature — or, at least, his nature as a TNG Starfleet captain rather than his nature as a TOS Starfleet captain — that makes him flawed. His TOS-style is what’s needed, but he’s been so long with the ideals of Picard that he doesn’t always know how to be a Kirk.

        1. Michael says:

          I think what really bugs me about Moonlight is Sisko’s willful blindness, and, quite frankly, selfish “ethics.” The point of the episode was to show that Sisko was willing to do “hard” things that Picard wouldn’t.

          Except, it doesn’t come across that way. By that point in the series, Sisko knows the kind of person Garak is. He has a fairly extensive understanding of the way the Cardassians work. He knows Garak is an unrepentant spy with a history of wetwork, that’s the entire reason he approached Garak instead of someone like, say, Luther Sloan.

          His entire plan is to get the Romulans to join the war, which means there will be even more deaths. Again, he has to know this. He’s basically signing the Romulan Empire up to be buried in bodies. He’s trying to shift the balance of corpses off of just the Federation and Klingon Empire.

          He turns Garak loose, and Garak then assassinates a Romulan to keep the whole situation from dissolving around them, and Sisko retreats to wring his hands and say, “no, no, no, I didn’t want this. I wanted other Romulans to die, but not one I’d actually met.”

          His plan to get Romulans killed resulted in a Romulan getting killed… and he didn’t expect it? Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

          Yeah, the episode bugs me.

          1. Daimbert says:

            That’s not quite fair. The Romulans were staying neutral in it, but since the Dominion didn’t trust solids it was clear that the Dominion were just promising the Romulans things to keep them neutral, giving them time to crush the Federation and the Klingons, at which point they’d move in on the Romulans. While they didn’t have proof that that was the Dominion plan, that pretty much WAS the plan of the Dominion. So it’s easy to see this as getting the Romulans to see what was really in their own self-interest, and to fight for their own freedom. Assassinating someone uninvolved wasn’t part of the plan.

            As for how that happened, Sisko clearly thought that he was in control, and that if Garak went over the line he could just stop. Garak knew that that’s what Sisko thought, and knew that none of the more reasonable plans would work. So he masterfully drew Sisko deeper and deeper, one step at a time, and did the worst things himself without asking. Once committed, Sisko found it harder to back out than he’d planned, leading to the crisis of conscience that frames the episode.

            1. Michael says:

              Isn’t it though? Granted it’s been over a decade since I watched the episode. But, as I recall…

              The whole thing gets kicked off because someone one of the command staff, knew and cared about died in an attack from the Dominion. The Federation is facing insurmountable casualties, so Sisko goes to Garak to find a way to trick the Romulans into joining the war.

              Sisko believes the Dominion’s planning to betray the Romulans, once the Federation and Klingons are dealt with. Though, unless I’m very much mistaken, he (and the audience) don’t actually know that.

              If Sisko is right, then it means the Romulans, who’ve been shown to be very shrewd in the past, are making an obvious, and catastrophic error… So, and I’m speculating here: it’s possible that the Dominion plans to betray them, or it’s almost more likely that they’re privy to information that Sisko (and the audience isn’t)… But, the power of plot compels the Romulans to suddenly be idiots so Sisko can be right, fine. It’s not the first, and certainly not the last time, Star Trek’s pulled that one on us.

              So, Sisko gets Garak to go sniffing around, and seeing what he can dig up. Garak gets nothing, so one of them (I think Garak) hatches the plan to make a counterfeit recording, and the other agrees.

              At this point, Sisko has basically decided that Romulan lives are less valuable than Federation or Klingon lives. So, in creating false evidence, he’s already committing to a course where he’s going to get Romulans killed. He believes it’s inevitable, but, again, there’s no evidence supporting Sisko, it’s just his belief.

              Garak has a pretty good idea that the counterfeit won’t be good enough to stand up to scrutiny. So at that point he’s pretty sure he’s going to have to blow up the Romulan Senator… Vreenak, I think so the counterfeit looks legitimate.

              He doesn’t tell Sisko this, and that’s the only piece of information he holds back, as I recall. The actual decision to fake the evidence is one Sisko makes willingly.

              So the Romulan senator gets snuffed, and Sisko goes to his quarters where he mopes around for a couple hours, recording a tortured confession, before deleting the whole thing, and sulking off.

              That mesh with your recollection as well?

              1. guy says:

                While there’s no specific evidence the Dominion is planning to betray the Romulans, all historical evidence indicates they will not accept the long-term survival of any solid civilization not under their control. So they probably were planning to betray the Romulans eventually.

                There are lots of potential reasons why the Romulans might have signed a non-aggression pact. One is that they got infiltrated by changelings like everyone else. Another is that they’ve got some cunning plan to turn the tables with a well-timed betrayal of their own, but the Dominion is not populated by idiots either and has more raw firepower, so the chances of that working aren’t good.

                1. Michael says:

                  To your credit, the Tal Shiar was infiltrated by a Founder that replaced Colonel Lovok (I think). Though that was much earlier in the series.

                  The hard part about non-aggression pacts like this is, historically, they’re an act of appeasement. But, with Deep Space Nine, we don’t know who was appeasing whom. Given that the Romulans entering the war is basically the turning point, it makes it a lot harder to just say, “well, clearly they were planning to stab each other in the back, because that’s how they are.”

                  To be fair, I’m also not saying that creating falsified evidence to force them into the war is a bad tactic on it’s face. Unethical and immoral? Sure, but also possibly necessary.

                  My issue is that, from a character perspective, Sisko’s rationalizing of it is badly botched, and it casts the character in a very poor light.

                  1. guy says:

                    I’m pretty sure the Dominion was using the non-aggression pact to keep the Romulans out of the war, with the intention of going after them once they’d secured the resources of the Federation and Klingons. Assuming the Romulans didn’t have more undiscovered infiltrators in their intelligence agency, most likely they were planning to wait for the Dominion to overcommit and strike at the ideal moment. However, it’s unlikely the Dominion would not expect them to, so it would be down to whether the Dominion could fake overextending themselves to lure the Romulan fleet into a trap before they really did overextend themselves. Given how deep the Gamma Quadrant reserves were, not promising.

                    1. Michael says:

                      Well… there are no Gamma Quadrant reserves coming, by this point in the series. This was well after the wormhole was effectively closed to the Dominion.

                      We can speculate about Romulan and Dominion motives, but, ultimately, we don’t know. This is also, I think, after the changeling virus has been released, so the Dominion is in a much more precarious position than it looks, on air. And, I’m again left with the question of who was appeasing whom?

                      I mean, it’s interesting, but it doesn’t get away from the point where the Romulans were deliberately staying out of the war, either because they scared the hell out of The Dominion, or because the Dominion scared the crap out of them, either way Sisko deliberately sabotaged that.

                    2. Daimbert says:

                      They didn’t know about the virus at that point in the series. Section 31 is introduced, I think, in “Inquisition”, and that was the episode right before “In the Pale Moonlight”. They don’t find out about the virus until the next season, when it becomes obvious that Odo has it.

                      Even without the reserves, with the support of Cardassia they were still able to churn out soldiers and ships as fast if not faster than the Federation and Klingons were.

                      As for the Romulans, even Vreenak was willing to move against the Dominion but needed proof. This might simply be that in order to get involved in a war with an enemy that was leaving them alone they needed the PR impact of the proof or else face massive political problems.

              2. Daimbert says:

                The whole thing gets kicked off because someone one of the command staff, knew and cared about died in an attack from the Dominion.

                No, actually, it’s made pretty clear that it’s the long term effect of the casualty lists, which ALWAYS include at least someone the command staff knows personally. Sisko definitely is impacted over the long-term by the war; “In the Cards” showed that the effects hit long before that massive casualty list. So it’s a long term thing that, in that episode, finally causes him to snap, and see that the only way to win the war is if the Alpha Quadrant is united against the Dominion.

                At this point, Sisko has basically decided that Romulan lives are less valuable than Federation or Klingon lives. So, in creating false evidence, he's already committing to a course where he's going to get Romulans killed. He believes it's inevitable, but, again, there's no evidence supporting Sisko, it's just his belief.

                It’s more than simple belief, since it’s pretty much consistent with the known Dominion behaviour, especially given the views of the Founders, which the Federation knows more about than the Romulans do. The Romulans would, in fact, never be free under the Dominion, and their refusal to join the fight might just be their normal isolationism getting in the way. At any rate, Sisko has a reasonable belief that Romulan isolationism will hurt the Romulans in the long run, and destroy the Federation and the Klingons. It’s not a matter of deciding that Romulan lives aren’t as important as Federation and Klingon lives, but that at best Romulan principles aren’t worth Federation, Klingon, and eventually Romulan lives.

                Also note that “In the Pale Moonlight” is ALSO after “Statistical Improbabilities”; Sisko knows just how many lives losing the war is going to cost. Bringing the Romulans in is likely to reduce the total number of casualties, even including the Romulans.

                Garak has a pretty good idea that the counterfeit won't be good enough to stand up to scrutiny. So at that point he's pretty sure he's going to have to blow up the Romulan Senator… Vreenak, I think so the counterfeit looks legitimate.

                He doesn't tell Sisko this, and that's the only piece of information he holds back, as I recall. The actual decision to fake the evidence is one Sisko makes willingly.

                Garak can manipulate with lies and with the truth. I think that Garak knew from the start that he wasn’t going to be able to get the dirt, and planned out the fake and the assassination from the start. He knew that Sisko wouldn’t go along with it if he presented it that baldly, so he started with seeing if his contacts could get him anything … which, of course, they couldn’t. So he suggested that they simply produce a copy of what they already knew, and Sisko agreed (I think he talked to Starfleet about that, though I can’t be sure). And then there were all sorts of little illegalities that he needed Sisko to sign up for, that led more and more to the final plan … and even then, Garak didn’t let him in on the whole plan, and did the assassination and elimination of the forger himself.

                Garak was definitely in control of the situation, even though Sisko thought he was.

                So the Romulan senator gets snuffed, and Sisko goes to his quarters where he mopes around for a couple hours, recording a tortured confession, before deleting the whole thing, and sulking off.

                While I might have liked to see more consequences of the episode, I think the ending leaves it a bit vague whether or not Sisko really could live with it or not; his tone of voice is consistent with someone who is convinced … or is trying to convince himself.

        2. Mike S. says:

          It’s arguable that the TNG era is more of a frontier one than TOS, even if they don’t respond to it that way. In TOS, the closest thing the Federation has to an existential threat is the Klingons, who they’re on par with. They encounter space gods every so often, but always far away from Earth and unconcerned with it.

          (The first time Earth is visibly at risk is from V’Ger, and then there are the crazy aliens looking for whales. But those are both one-offs that go away and cease being a threat quickly.)

          In the TNG era they face multiple opponents that on their face threaten humanity or the Federation with extinction, and Federation core planets are repeatedly attacked and in at least one case occupied. Earth is attacked by the Borg at least twice. Starfleet is also repeatedly infiltrated, first by the weird bugs in TNG, then by Changelings in DS9. It fought a war with Cardassia recently enough that O’Brien is traumatized by it, and faces terrorism along that border right down to the end of the series.

          The idea that TNG was a more civilized and safe era reflects perceptions of Kirk and Picard, more than the actual level of threat to Federation citizens that we see.

          1. Daimbert says:

            I agree that the Borg demonstrated that things weren’t as safe as they seemed, but DS9 starts from after that point, and reflects that. But in TOS, outside of the Federation what you had were aliens and enemies with no real set borders or set treaties. The Klingons were in an almost constant state of war with the Federation. The Romulans were somewhat constrained by treaty but didn’t bother talking to the Federation at all. Even the Federation was more a loose grouping of societies than any kind of unified force. And there was a lot more of the Alpha Quadrant to explore back then. At the start in TNG, the Klingons were allies, the Romulans were better understood — although still reclusive — and even the war with the Cardassians was more of a minor skirmish type thing than a full on war (given the lack of impact it had on the rest of the Federation). Once the Borg and Dominion arrive, the Federation has to realize exactly what you said: yes, we still do have frontiers and need to address that. And Bajor was indeed considered on the frontier, making the Cardassians a frontier-type power — which might explain the screw-up that created the Maquis.

            1. Mike S. says:

              The Klingons weren’t ever at war with the Federation during TOS, except for a period of a few days or so during “Errand of Mercy”. The beginning of that episode was all about tension over what that war would mean, and it clearly was a dreaded change from the status quo. At the end, the Organians had made it impossible for them to fight, and by The Trouble With Tribbles there was a peace treaty in place.

              Up until the Dominion War, Trek was actually pretty consistent that interstellar war operated on a terrible scale. The atmosphere of the beginning of “Errand of Mercy” was the sort of dread Cold War Americans knew well at times of international tension– this wasn’t going to be a faraway conflict that only killed foreigners and soldiers.

              The TOS Enterprise also had General Order 24, which was the order for the starship to destroy all life on a planet. (Which tells us that a) a single starship had that capability– which is realistic enough– and b) their military tactics were such that that was a standard order, on file. Hail Utopia.)

              Even in early DS9, it was established that a space fleet could liquify a planet’s crust down to the mantle in a matter of hours. Space war was scary which is why the TOS era Federation didn’t fight anything larger than a deniable border provocation. (Basically the equivalent of the sub duels we had during the Cold War.)

              Then the Borg and Dominion Wars came, and war became a matter of lots of spaceships exploding, or individual soldiers engaging in small group attacks, or occupations, not dead planets or even cities. Which changed the sort of story they could tell a lot.

              The TOS Federation was anxiously keeping the peace because the alternative was apocalyptic. The TNG/DS9 Federation didn’t treat it the same way.

              (Which probably has something to do with the ending Cold War, and something to do with being post-Star Wars.)

              1. Daimbert says:

                The Klingons weren't ever at war with the Federation during TOS, except for a period of a few days or so during “Errand of Mercy”.

                Call it a “Cold War”, then, but they were definitely deliberately working against the Federation’s interests, and doing so directly, as a massive power. Which is far cry from what they were in TNG, and no other major power was doing that at the start of TNG.

                The TOS Federation was anxiously keeping the peace because the alternative was apocalyptic. The TNG/DS9 Federation didn't treat it the same way.

                I don’t disagree, but am not sure of the relevance. TNG-era was more developed among the major powers both in terms of civilization and politics. To deal with those issues and with the minor powers — Ferenghi, Cardassians — you needed more of a diplomat than a cowboy than you needed in TOS. Only AT the frontier was a frontier captain needed, and they got that in Sisko … who was forged in the diplomat era. DS9 definitely reflected the more frontier ideal seen in TOS than the one in TNG, which was rather my point.

      3. John says:

        Wait! I just remembered that Kirk is demonstrably worse than Sisko.

        In “City on the Edge of Forever” he travels through time to kill a prominent pacifist campaigner and all-around do-gooder just so her influence with President Roosevelt won’t prevent the US from entering World War II in time to save the world from the Nazis. And he was in love with her, too!

        So there’s a precedent for this kind of thing. You’re totally allowed to commit one murder, as long as it saves the Federation.

        1. krellen says:

          As I recall correctly, that’s only an issue because she was saved when she had been meant to die in the first place.

          1. John says:

            The ends: save the Federation. The means: stand by and do nothing when you know that a not only innocent but positively saintly woman is going to get hit by a car. Justified? If TOS were half as optimistic or idealistic as people say it is, Kirk would have found a way to save the girl and the day simultaneously. (He had a reliable means of time travel at his disposal, too. The girl or the Federation is as fake a choice as fake choices get. Shamus would never let this kind of thing pass in an episode of Spoiler Warning.) The point is that TOS prioritized drama over its alleged ideals.

            Kirk’s actions in “City in the Edge of Forever” are not glorified or even validated. Kirk is deeply disturbed by what he’s done. (“He knows, Doctor. He knows.”) Sisko’s actions in “In the Pale Moonlight” aren’t either. TOS and DS9 are just not as different as people claim.

            1. krellen says:

              Sisko’s “I can live with that. Delete entry” speaks of far more peace with his actions (not just the words, but the delivery). I think you’re granting him self-doubt he never actually displays.

              1. Mike S. says:

                I think someone who has to tell himself the story, consider turning himself in, and then forcefully tell himself that he “can live with that” (despite his stated guilty conscience) isn’t exactly free of doubt about the rights of the matter. If he was really completely okay with it, his affect would have been very different.

              2. Michael says:

                My irritation stems from the log entry itself, that is to say the frame story, though the narration doesn’t help. If the episode was presented in a standard format, and his anger at Garak didn’t feel like suddenly, Sisko had forgotten who this guy was. I’d probably be in line with the masses who love it.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  Sisko thought he was using Garak to accomplish fraud by working with a criminal, and his conscience was okay with that given the stakes. He didn’t expect to be responsible for a pair of premediated murders. I think being shocked and upset by that is pretty justified, even if he chooses to live with and take responsibility for the result.

                  1. Michael says:

                    That would probably feel a lot more compelling if it weren’t for the fact that the fraud he’s perpetrating has the end goal of getting millions of Romulans killed.

                    He’s not even really saving lives, he’s just conspiring to shuffle some of the casualties over onto the Romulans.

                    1. Mike S. says:

                      I think Sisko sincerely and with reason believes that the Dominion intends to conquer the entire Alpha Quadrant, even if he doesn’t have sufficiently compelling evidence to convince the Romulans. And the Dominion’s MO is genetic manipulation to the point of effectively extinguishing the preexisting species, and occasionally punishing rebels with really horrific and incurable plagues.

                      So while he’s manipulating the Romulans into joining the war at a point where he hopes it can still be won, he doesn’t think he’s getting them into a conflict they wouldn’t ultimately have to face regardless. Probably at a time when they’re standing alone and have no chance to win.

              3. John says:

                We have very different interpretations of Avery Brooks’ acting choices. And also, I suspect, of many of the words and sentences spoken during the episode.

                People who are at peace with themselves do not compose diary entries about how very, very okay they are. They aren’t worried about that sort of thing because they are in fact okay. It does not occur to them to angst about the state of their okayness. They just get on with their lives. Sisko is not at peace with himself. He is not okay.

          2. Michael says:

            Yeah, Kirk accidentally saved her and derped up the timeline. All of this because McCoy was tripping space drugs and accidentally let a hobo vaporize himself… somehow it doesn’t sound like one of the best TOS episodes, when I phrase it like that…

    9. John says:

      Dude, Starfleet is full of people who do horrible things and has always been full of people who do horrible things. Just of the top of my head, using TOS examples, there’s the respected Federation scientist who turned an alien planet into Nazi-world and made himself Fuhrer. There’s also the Starfleet captain from “The Omega Glory” (which Shamus rightfully notes is a terrible, terrible episode) who landed on the planet of the cold war allegory, massacred or abetted in the massacre of his own crew, and then helped one half of the natives attempt genocide on the other half. Sisko never did anything half so bad.

      Kirk and Picard like to make speeches about how humans have evolved and changed and improved, but talk is cheap. Q–who is omnipotent and nigh-unto-omniscient–doesn’t believe it, and neither do I. It’s true that the main characters of the various series are usually just and noble and good but you can’t claim that they represent the Federation or Starfleet as a whole when there are so very many examples to the contrary.

      DS9 is very much Star Trek. It’s just less hypocritical about it.

      1. krellen says:

        There is nothing hypocritical about believing people can become better. It’s a violation of the core ethos to insist that they cannot, that they will always have the same base nature they currently do, and that will never change (but maybe our society’s ideals can be a little better).

        The humans of Star Trek are supposed to be better than us, and before DS9, the aberrant few were not supposed to be representative of the whole of humanity, but a few bad seeds that needed to be stopped. In DS9, humanity went back to its same old base nature, with many preachings that “we will never change”. The implication of the series – voiced by Quark explicitly – is that the Federation was not better; it just looked like it was better because it had more stuff.

        And that’s why DS9 fails to uphold the ideals of Trek, because it told old Trek “you’re not better, and you never will be.”

        1. “On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise.”

          1. krellen says:

            That quote epitomises exactly what I’m talking about.

            1. Does it? I think the original series at least acknowledged that humans, even Starfleet humans, weren’t better. From “A Taste of Armageddon”:

              ANAN: There can be no peace. Don’t you see? We’ve admitted it to ourselves. We’re a killer species. It’s instinctive. It’s the same with you. Your General Order Twenty Four.
              KIRK: All right. It’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we won’t kill today. Contact Vendikar. I think you’ll find that they’re just as terrified, appalled, horrified as you are, that they’ll do anything to avoid the alternative I’ve given you. Peace or utter destruction. It’s up to you.

              Kirk acknowledges that humans are killers, not were killers, implying that humanity isn’t “better” for all its advances, but tries to be. Just because we fail often doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up the concept and become Klingons or something. Humans are still flawed and make bad choices because they think they’re the best options in front of them. If the characters in Starfleet adhered to the regs with all the literalism of a robot, then there’d be no difference between them and the show would be pointless as a drama about humans confronting challenges to themselves and their ideals.

        2. John says:

          DS9 never actually says that. I don’t know where you get this stuff. DS9 absolutely does not say that “getting better” is impossible. It says that getting better can be HARD–which is (a) true and (b) a more compassionate view of human failings than you seem to believe that either TOS or TNG possess.

          People change–for the better, no less!–all the time in DS9. It’s the entire freaking point of episodes like “Duet.” Kira at the beginning of the series is an angry, only-recently-former terrorist. Kira at the end of the series isn’t in Starfleet but might as well be, ideologicallly speaking.

          1. krellen says:

            No. A person changes all the time in DS9, but the underlying themes throughout the series is that people never will.

            1. John says:

              And what are people if not aggregated persons?

              Seriously, what are you looking for? Do you really need a show to tell you that things will definitely be better in the future? Is a show that merely says that things can be better in the future if we all try really hard such a crime?


              Okay, in all honesty, I haven’t argued about Star Trek on the internet this much since 1996, back when I claimed that you could not watch Voyager–on grounds of it not being very good–and still call yourself a Star Trek fan. I don’t care if you don’t like DS9. That’s your business and there’s no disputing tastes. And clearly I’m not going to change your mind about the show’s treatment of the Federation and human nature. But I still maintain that the themes of DS9 are perfectly consistent with the themes of TOS and TNG.

              So there. Head goes on desk now.

              1. krellen says:

                Do you really need a show to tell you that things will definitely be better in the future?

                Yes. I’m sick of shows telling me that the future’s going to have all the same fucking problems our present has.

                Is a show that merely says that things can be better in the future if we all try really hard such a crime?

                Very few shows say this – and DS9 isn’t one of them. DS9 repeatedly shows that things are just as bad in the future as they were in the past – there is still terror, there is still war, there is still anger and fear and hate, and that nothing we do will ever change these indelible truths. That the only way to fight these truths is to trust in the few people of strong character that will guide us through the tribulations of life.

                Without our heroes, we are lost. We will never be our own heroes.

                TOS and TNG frequently said humanity were our own heroes, even if they never explicitly told us how – but at least the hope was there.

                1. John says:

                  For a guy who values optimism, you are thoroughly, relentlessly negative. You have taken what must be the most pessimistic of all possible readings of the show. And you are holding DS9 to drastically different standards than either TOS or TNG, both of which features hot and cold running–if perhaps not quite so persistent–wars.

                  1. krellen says:

                    I have rewatched DS9 recently enough to know that my impression of it is not mismemory. I really don’t like DS9. Do you deny that it is unquestionably darker in tone than the earlier series?

                    1. John says:

                      Well, sure more bad stuff happens in DS9 than TOS or TNG. I’m not disputing that. That’s serialized drama for you. When you let a problem play out over more than one episode it naturally comes across as more serious than a problem that is studiously ignored and mostly forgotten after just one. But the Federation deals with existential threats in both TOS and TNG. There are Klingons. There are Borg. They just get less attention than the Dominion. And, hey, at least in DS9 humans are their own heroes. They save themselves from the Dominion rather than relying on Organian intervention or Borg general disinterest. They reach out to former enemies, they build alliances. In the end, they act with compassion toward their defeated foe. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, dude.

                      “In the Pale Moonlight” does not poison everything. Section 31 does not poison everything. Except possibly your personal enjoyment of the show, but there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s still Star Trek.

                2. Recognizing our heroes are human is a lot of what makes them heroic. All of the captains you laud caused and felt fear, hatred, anger, and so forth.

                  You seem to want myths, not characters. You’re asking for a world of Mary and Marty Stus, incapable of flaw. Founding Fathers who didn’t own slaves, captains of industry that didn’t do awful things to their workers, Paragons that don’t punch out reporters, etc.

                  1. syal says:

                    You do want those qualities in all your heroes? Why?

                    1. John says:

                      Because maybe if a fictional person who sometimes fails or makes mistakes can still do good, then maybe I, a person who shares some of those traits, can still do good too? Or was that a trick question?

                      I don’t mind that there are marble models, but it would suck if all art were like that.

                    2. If I’m supposed to relate to heroes as real people, then I know they have flaws. We all do.

                      The difference is when the whole ball of flaws, virtues, desires, and thoughts that we call a person is put to some form of test. If they had no flaws, even if they themselves or their culture doesn’t consider them flaws, they wouldn’t be human (or in the case of fictional characters, they wouldn’t seem plausible or human-like).

                      For example, I think people would agree Captain Kirk is a hero. He’s also given to acts of temper, defies the orders of his superiors when he thinks it’s warranted, he’s a thief (stole a starship), a cheat (the Kobayashi Maru), and often lets his sex drive override his better judgement. Is he still a hero for all that? If he were perfect, would he be at all interesting as a character?

                    3. krellen says:

                      I still like watching Superman (the original Superman, not any of the “realed-up” remakes), but I know that’s kind of out of style these days.

                    4. Mike S. says:

                      I love Superman, and don’t want him compromised. (And the less said about “Man of Steel”, the better.) But I’ve never thought of the Federation (exemplified by hard choices since Edith Keeler had to die and Kirk placed an order for “serpents for the garden of Eden”– heck, since Kirk killed his oldest friend in the second pilot) as stainless and idealized to that extent.

                    5. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Original superman is not out of style these days,he just changed his name to captain america.

                    6. syal says:

                      Because maybe if a fictional person who sometimes fails or makes mistakes can still do good, then maybe I, a person who shares some of those traits, can still do good too?

                      So doing good is more believable than overcoming flaws? Why does a flawed do-gooder inspire you to do good, but a flawless do-gooder doesn’t inspire you toward self-improvement?

                      If they had no flaws, even if they themselves or their culture doesn't consider them flaws, they wouldn't be human

                      If humans must be flawed, how many flaws must they have?

                    7. Enough to seem like actual people.

                      I’m not saying that every hero has to secretly be an axe murderer. If I wanted black and white Good vs. Evil, I’d be reading Goofus and Gallant comics all day long.

    10. A gould says:

      And I’m the opposite – DS9 feels the *most* Trek to me, because it’s showing what the world outside those the Starfleet Bubble actually looks like. TNG had looked in the direction of Bajor in the past (with Ro), but never really embraced the concept that there were corners of the universe, and corners of the Federation, that weren’t all sunshine and lollypops. And it did it by putting those bright eyed and bushy tailed Starfleet bodies cheek and jowl with Bajorans who were happy they had a bed and a meal. (1st season Bashir and Kira, for instance). It’s no shock that O’Brien is the one who acclimates fastest.

      Not to mention that DS9 is the show that spends significant time showing us non-Starfleet for once. You get Klingon episodes and Bajoran episodes and Cardassian episodes and Ferengi episodes (and while they play Ferengi for cheap laughs often, it’s telling that the Ferengi are often used to show *us* as we are now.)

      So, in summary Shamus – go watch DS9. Watch B5 *first* if you haven’t seen it, but DS9 is worthwhile Trek.

    11. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And Ive been waiting long to hear what you have to say,because I knew you would get it wrong.Deep space wasnt darker than other trek,it was harsher.There is a difference.

      Ds9 was set on the outskirts of federation,constantly being involved with those that dont think federation is ideal,and worse with outright enemies of the federation.And unlike other captains,he didnt have the means to simply relocate elsewhere.Thats a harsh environment.But,seeing how federation is the one that triumphs above all of them,it means its not a dark environment.

      What makes ds9 different from tng,however,is that it doesnt use the psychotic humans that have no emotions as its ideal,but rather uses humans who are evolved enough to overcome their emotions,to act against their primal urges.

      The meeting between sisko and picard highlights this.Sisko is furious,naturally,but still does what he should be doing,because he is able to overcome his grief.He isnt simply “without grief”,because that would be psychotic,he overcomes it.Picard,on the other hand,is deeply regretful,but he too overcomes that.And neither one mentions what is obviously seen in their faces,because both know it,and both know the futility in discussing it.They both do what a star fleet officer should do:their duty.

      And when they mention bajor,and how its leaders want revenge on cardassia,sisko says that theyre not ready to join the federation.Not because they feel obvious pain,but because they lack the will to overcome it.

      With that,the pale moonlight also covers this issue.The crux of the show is not that sisko went over a moral horizon,but that he recognizes how bad his emotions have screwed him,and yet he is strong enough to accept it,to live with it.Its not about a man being dragged down by the horrors of war(which is a dark story),but about a man willing to accept his mistakes and continue living to atone for them(which is a harsh,but still positive story).

      The only times it outright betrays federation ideals is in the few episodes involving money.Not because money is a thing for others,but because it never presents us with why the federation being without money would be a good thing.

      1. krellen says:

        DS9 being the “ideal of the Federation cast in the harsh light of day” is exactly the same goddamn thing every other series on the face of the Earth has been doing relentlessly for the past twenty years. It defies everything that makes Trek special in the field in favour of mass appeal. And that’s what Trek is now – just another mass-appeal franchise that used to be something different, something made for people like me who aren’t like most people and want something different, but that’s not a thing we’re allowed to have any more. Everything has to be mass appeal or nothing.

        It’s pretty much the theme of my entire fucking life.

        (And yeah, I’ve already lost. I admit it. All I’m doing is raging against the dying of the light, impotent and futile.)

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I dont think it does defy trek actually.Having an ideal presented in an ideal world is nice.But having an ideal presented in a harsh world makes the ideal stand out much more.

          And I find it much more idealistic to have actual humans that can strive for great ideals than having some idealized version of humans retain the status quo.That climb makes it seem far more optimistic.

          1. krellen says:

            I think you view DS9’s ending as far more “happy” than I do.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I do.But I see why you dont.You focus more on the events that transpire than on their resolution.I do the opposite,thats why I see them as more of a good thing.

  4. Hal says:

    I really enjoyed the series when I was younger, but certain elements of it bored me to tears. I think I was probably too young to actually appreciate those things for what they were.

    That said, the series became weird for me when the Dominion War began. There was some really cool stuff happening, but the politics with the Federation and Earth were . . . well, it highlighted some of the oddities about Trek society that have been mentioned in the other threads.

    Also, I really didn’t care for episodes that focused on the Ferengi (any of them) too much. Small doses with those guys.

    1. sensi277 says:

      While I agree about the Ferengi episodes being mostly boring, one of my favourite episodes would have to be “The Magnificent Ferengi”. It was probably the only Ferengi episode that was actually funny, and quite at that.

      1. Mike S. says:

        For me, Quark episodes were generally great, Nog was great, Rom grew on me, but anything involving multiple Ferengi was increasingly terrible. (Especially the Nagus. Wallace Shawn is talented, but that character only got worse as time went on.)

        One of the best Quark scenes ever, with Garak:

  5. Tulgey Logger says:

    DS9 was the Trek I got most into when I was a kid. For me, it was just more Trek, albeit with a focus that I found hard to grok at first. But when I did, it was because of characters like Sisko, Odo, Bashir, Kira, Quark, and Garak. Sisko did things I can’t imagine any other Trek captain doing, but the show made its case and it worked in a very different environment than any other Trek show. Overall, I remember it as being better than voyager and much better than Enterprise, roughly on a level with TNG. One of my favorite quotes from the series also serves as a sort of thesis statement for departing from the Roddenberryesque optimism of TNG:

    “Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people ““ as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts… deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers… put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time… and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces, look at their eyes…”

    Quark in The Siege of AR-558 doesn’t so much disagree with Rodenberry as qualify his vision: it is possible to change human society, but only or primarily because it is possible to change material conditions. To me, that’s a central concern, and one that gets overlooked when we talk about this or that social system being more or less in line with “human nature,” as though it is not human nature to respond to the environment around the organism.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Exactly, with their rejection of tranhumanism, their social evolution is going to have limits. There’s no way they just magically evolved into perfect humans in a mere 400 years. The material thing makes sense and I think mirrors how we have “evolved” in real life. We in first world societies are as high-minded as we are because we’re not having to worry about survival as much.

      1. krellen says:

        They didn’t magically evolve, I note. They did have a devastating nuclear war.

        1. Zeta Kai says:

          But that nuclear war was in the 2050s, & it have been shown that this vaunted evolution beyond the flaws of today was a gradual process over centuries. Kirk, McCoy, & Scotty weren’t very different from people today. It was Picard’s time when this supposed transcendence took place, & it was shown to be largely a development stemming from their post-scarcity “economy”. The replicator did much more for human cultural progress than the warp drive or transporter treknologies.

          And DS9 posits that human nature is still basically the same in the 24th century; it is merely the culture that has evolved, not the individual. Which is a normal, sane thing to suppose, rather than take at face value that humans will somehow magically grow beyond our base natures because Reasons.

          1. krellen says:

            Reality has no place in idealism.

            1. Thomas says:

              Idealism has to stem from reality or else it’s utterly meaningless. A hypercube is an idealistic object, but the idealistic virtues we have are taken from the hardship and growth we understand.

              Real idealism is believing the idealism can be reality.

              If you have to defend idealism in a show with “it has nothing to do with reality” then the show has failed at being idealistic because it’s ultimately suggesting that those virtues are utterly out of our grasp.

              1. syal says:

                If the show has to explain the process of how the ideal came about, then you the viewer have failed at idealism because you won’t accept a world outside of your current level of information.

                1. Counterpoint: Take a show where everyone in the future doesn’t have to eat or drink. This is never explained, it just is. They may refer to a time when people had to eat, but they never mention how it came to be that humans gained the ability to never need to take in food or water. Magic? Technology? The world is a hologram? It’s never explained, only mentioned in passing. And that’s not the point of the show, it just has a cast facing problems in a world where nobody has to eat or drink, and the planet’s resources in that area are freed up for other uses.

                  Having something like an idealized society without some world-building explaining how it came to be is about as interesting as Darth Maul: “This character is EVIL for REASONS. ACCEPT IT!” Things as magical as a utopia don’t just happen, and it’s lazy to not at least mention things like Eugenics Wars and so on as leading up to said society. People may not buy that explanation, but it’s at least something that can let a lot of people hand-wave it away.

                  1. Tulgey Logger says:

                    Wasn’t Darth Vader just EVIL for REASONS for a while? That is, it took a long time for his motivations to actually be elaborated, no?

                    1. We saw Darth Vader overtake a ship, order his troops to slaughter most of the crew, choke a guy to death, and threaten Princess Leia in the first few minutes of Star Wars.

                      We see Darth Maul… show up and try to fight Qui-Gon. No preamble. No reason to worry he’s a menace or have a reason to dislike him beyond “he’s on that team and you’re rooting for this team.”

                      He never succeeded at doing anything evil on screen. For all we know, he ran a flower shop before the Emperor told him to go after two Jedi. Yes, he’s a Sith, but as a character, he could have just been a blow-up doll with “SITH” written on it in Sharpie for all the reason we’re given to hate, fear, or feel anything for him. His stuntwork had more thought go into it than who he was or giving him something to do.

                    2. RCN says:

                      The explanation of Shamus about Shaggy in Scooby-Doo reminded me of Venture Bros. Venture Bros is not about triumph and good vs evil in a fantastic super-hero and adventure setting. It’s about failure, utter and complete failure of the people who have to live in this kind of universe and about how they go on about their business, taking vacations, trying to keep up with taxes, living day to day and how absolutely impossible these simple tasks are in their world.

                      And it is hilarious. Especially how they poke at the Fantastic 4, Johnny Quest and Scooby-Doo at the same time. But Fantastic 4, Johnny Quest and Scooby-Doo are on a completely different tone. What’s absolutely hilarious on Venture Bros would be downright disheartening and malicious on these other shows.

                      EDIT: Grumble… That was supposed to be a reply to Syal down there. Any particular reason for this cap on the number of replies in the discussion tree?

                  2. syal says:

                    That’s not a counterpoint, that’s a restatement of the original point. If you can’t accept the show specifically telling you that something works unless they spell out how, it’s on you.

                    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      This isn’t about requiring the show to explain everything. They can keep some things vague. But they really did themselves no favors by saying “no genetic engineering, no augments, humans are just better because.”

                      And while idealism doesn’t have to be explained it should be able to survive tests. This is the same problem I have with people who say “Superman should never have been put in the situation that required him to kill Zod.” Superman’s commitment to not killing means nothing if its never put to the test.

                    2. Shamus says:

                      I’ve been staying out of this one because I don’t know anything about DS9, but from where I sit this sounds like an argument over tone & theme. To make an extreme example: Should the Scooby-Doo team ever find themselves in a position where they need to kill the “monsters” chasing them? You can argue all day about how sensible, moral, or realistic it might be. But it doesn’t matter how your orchestrate the scenario or how “justified” the killing is on the part of the Kids: The entire premise is wrong and inappropriate for the show.

                      I imagine this is the sort of thing Krellen is fighting against. It’s easy to shove a character into a situation where we “test” them. A guy dressed as a Vampire goes after Shaggy. Shaggy thinks he’s really in danger of being damned forever with the curse of blood-drinking undeath, so he shoves a stake through his heart. Now that we’ve crossed that line, we can’t co back to our goofy lighthearted monster-of-the-week adventures. We are forever in a world where Shaggy had to shank a dude and live with the ramifications of that. The old show is gone now. This is something new.

                      Krellen is saying he’s not interested in a show where Shaggy has to cope with taking a human life, and you’re arguing that it’s “realisitic” for Shaggy to have to do that sooner or later, given their line of work.

                      Making things more realistic is not always the goal of our entertainment. The Scooby-Doo setup is preposterous on many levels, but if you made it more realistic you’d have a different show for a different audience.

                      Apologies if I’ve mis-represented anyone here. This is just what I’m taking away from this exchange. Carry on.

                    3. krellen says:

                      I was thinking on this thread this morning and reflecting that my feelings on DS9 vis-a-vis Trek seemed fairly similar to your feelings on Shadows of Mordor vis-a-vis Tolkien, so I think you probably have a good handle on at least my side of the issue, Shamus.

                    4. Wide and Nerdy says:

                      I’d have less of a problem with the idealism if it didn’t come with heavy handed preaching. Like that tng episode where there are three normal thawed out 20th century survivors and Riker considers them irredeemable and Picard lectures them about how they need to grow up (so many episodes like that). Or the Deep Space Nine episode past tense where they refer to a nebulous magical job bill that needs to be reinstated.

                      If you’re going to gush about the future, fine. If you’re going to trash us for not being like that future then I want a series that asks questions and puts that idealism to the test. Because the only explanation I see stems from their tech. If we had that kind of tech, I think we’d already have a society that good or be well on our way.

                      Scooby doo doesn’t have that problem.

                    5. Wide and Nerdy says:

                      Also there’s a difference between contrived tests and logical ones. If a society is pacifist I think it’s reasonable to ask what they do when they’re attacked, surrender or defend? But if someone is vegetArian I’m not going to ask “what if someone threatened to kill a puppy and your mom?”

                    6. syal says:

                      And while idealism doesn't have to be explained it should be able to survive tests.

                      Okay, I’ve finally figured out why this bothers me.

                      Fiction never tests ideas. Fiction states ideas. If a fiction writer creates a scenario where an idea is tested, it will succeed or fail because the author wants it to. You can form an opinion of the author’s idea based on the difficulties he does and doesn’t subject his idea to, but that’s no excuse for someone with a different opinion to jump in, write another scenario and say, “but here it all falls apart, see?”

                      Superman can be put in a situation where the easiest thing to do is kill Zod, but that’s no reason to kill Zod (metaphorically; Superman killed the hell out of Zod in the first movie, after he was no longer a threat). If there’s no alternative to killing Zod it’s because the writer didn’t want there to be. If idealism fails, it’s because the writer wants it to.

                    7. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      Fiction regularly tests ideas. Its called a Socratic exercise and Star Trek is famous for it. The value of the conclusion(s) drawn is contingent on the conditions set by the scenario.

                      But even if I conceded your point, Star Trek has no ground to stand on when it lectures the 20th/21st century audience on the basis of a hypothetical utopia that is not very well explained and impossible to achieve by our current means.

                      Reminds me of an episode where Holodoc defends weapons of mass destruction saying that in the past having them has averted war. He cites the Cold War, a valid historical citation. Seven of Nine counters with World War 3 and wins the argument with the Holodoc conceding. So ok, Seven wins the argument but only in the context of her fictional universe where World War 3 happened. Its cheap.

                      Likewise when Picard lectures the businessman about accumulation of material goods, when everybody on Earth has access to magical machines that can basically make anything you want. Really easy to be high minded about greed when you have a replicators, holodecks, and transporters.

                    8. syal says:

                      I’ll agree it’s stupid to lecture the real world based on the ideals of a fictional one that runs on different rules.

                      Fiction can discuss ideas, but it’s incapable of testing them. You can’t see how something reacts to a situation when you’re in complete control of the reaction. Either you choose a reaction, in which case you’re making a statement, or you leave it open-ended in which case the test has no result.

  6. Grudgeal says:

    I was put in the position of having to pick which space-station sci-fi to follow. For reasons I don’t remember entirely, I picked B5 over DS9 and I never really got “onto” Star Trek again from that point on.

    Perhaps I chose poorly. Then again, considering what I’ve seen of Voyager and Enterprise, perhaps not.

    1. Purple Library Guy says:

      Babylon 5 was an amazing piece of television, which IMO made television history in a number of important ways. I’m not sure an overarching plot on that scale has been successfully done in live action TV before or since (Animated TV more recently pulled it off with Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is also an amazing piece of work overall).

      I’m actually surprised the conversation here hasn’t made more of the relationship between DS9 and B5. I feel like B5 was in many ways more important in shaping DS9 than the rest of Trek was. There were a lot of similarities that were probably just artifacts of the similar premises. But those similar premises probably meant that DS9 writers were looking over their shoulder a good deal at B5. I suspect a strong argument could be made that it was in good part pressure to keep up with B5 that led to the strong longer-term plot arcs of DS9, for instance. And was it co-incidence that DS9 was the only Star Trek ever to include a major place for spiritual questions, while B5 also had a sizable spiritual dimension?

      One odd thing is that B5’s ethical approach was probably more Trek-like than DS9’s–or at least, Sheridan’s was more Trek-like than Sisko’s.

      1. Daimbert says:

        One odd thing is that B5″²s ethical approach was probably more Trek-like than DS9″²s”“or at least, Sheridan's was more Trek-like than Sisko's.

        SHERIDAN?!? You mean, the guy who deliberately signed out nukes before going to the home planet of his main enemies, clearly planning to blow them up if things went as he expected? The guy who convinced the League to accept White Star patrols by an elaborate scheme that relied on telling them that nothing was happening in a sinister way when nothing was happening? The guy most famous for winning a battle by leaving nukes around and sending out a distress call, figuring that the enemy would arrive to finish them off and so get blowed up, and justified it by saying that it was the only victory they had in the whole war and he wasn’t going to apologize for that (and not on “If they had just left us to be rescued, they’d’ve been fine”)? THAT Sheridan?

        I could see arguing that for Sinclair, since he and Picard were pretty similar, except that Sinclair was even better at legal fu than Picard and Picard’s speeches were probably better. But Sinclair solved a lot of problems by dodging fire and speechifying, or negotiating, or pointing out technicalities that let him do what he wanted. Sheridan, on the other hand, was much more of a blunt instrument, and in attitude a LOT like Sisko … and more like Sisko than like any other Starfleet Captain.

        1. Michael says:

          And yet… Sheridan never retreated to his quarters proceeded to angst about how he’d betrayed his principles for the greater good.

          The irony is, that when Sheridan does trick the League into accepting Ranger protection, it’s bloodless, and so is the intended outcome… as opposed to Sisko trying to trick the Romulans into a war.

          When you do have Sheridan actually getting people killed, like the Shadow Tech modified telepaths on Mars, he makes it very clear that he’s trying to minimize casualties as much as possible, rather than just trying to make sure people he doesn’t know or care about are the ones dying.

          Nuking the Zha’ha’dum might be as reprehensible as Sisko nerve gassing colonies… I know, biogenic weapons, close enough… except Sheridan was doing that as a suicide play, in an effort to disrupt The Shadow War and avoiding a future where Centauri Prime was in ruins, as opposed to Sisko’s petulant tantrum, where he decided, “well if Edington gassed a colony, clearly I should play the bad guy and do the same.”

          1. Daimbert says:

            I think you’re proving my point: whichever of them is technically better, Sheridan is more like Sisko than he is like any other Starfleet captain. Including Kirk.

            1. Michael says:

              Very close. What I was saying is that Sheridan is slightly closer to being in line with a Starfleet captain than Sisko is.

              Which, given that Babylon 5 is a massive World War II metaphor and Earthforce are patterned off the Luftwaffe, right down to their uniforms, is saying a lot.

              EDIT: As a protagonist, Sisko wouldn’t be too out of bounds for B5’s setting. That’s fine, and B5 makes a major point of not being Star Trek. But, in Star Trek, Sisko is way out of line.

              1. Grudgeal says:

                Then again, it could be said that a lot of B5 characters in similar positions of authority were slightly closer to being in line with a Starfleet captain than Sheridan (and by extension Sisko).

                If the third and fourth seasons of B5 (exemplified in “Deconstruction of Falling Stars”, which was about as subtle as a baseball bat to the head) made anything clear for me it’s that B5 took a definite “Great Man” view of history, and by extension ethics.

                I would argue that’s far removed from TOS and TNG and its view on its captains as representatives intended to honour and exemplify of the ideals and best aspects of the societies they represented. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Kosh was closer to a starfleet captain than Sheridan was, which incidentally is not meant as a positive affirmation of Kosh or his/her/its actions.

              2. Daimbert says:

                I’d have to call them very close, which still justifies my saying that if you want to claim anything meaningful about a B5 commander being more Trek-like than Sisko, use Sinclair [grin].

          2. Alex says:

            “Nuking the Zha'ha'dum might be as reprehensible as Sisko nerve gassing colonies…”

            It’s not. Not by a long shot. Playing possum to lure people into an ambush is only evil and a war crime because the targets are good Samaritans. The Zha’ha’dum were not good Samaritans, and the humans knew it.

            If you play possum and kill some good Samaritans in an ambush, people will be less inclined to help the wounded. That’s a bad thing. If you play possum and kill the guys who came to desecrate your corpse, people will be less likely to desecrate corpses. That’s a good thing.

            1. Daimbert says:

              There are two incidents being mixed up here:

              One is the case where Sheridan fought the Minbari, and destroyed one of their ships by sending out a distress signal and setting off nuclear mines when the Minbari arrived. They were indeed going to destroy them, and my point on that one is that Sheridan doesn’t justify his action on that basis, but on the fact that they won a battle doing it.

              The second is when Sheridan went with his wife to Zha'ha'dum to meet with the Shadows, deliberately packed nukes into the White Star, and them and the White Star to smash into the planet and wipe them all out.

              As for Sisko, he did that with them having plenty of time to evacuate without loss of life and when there was another gassed colony for them to move to … which allowed those dispossessed Cardassians to move to this one. And it stopped Eddington from continuing his strategy of gassing Cardassian colonies knowing how it would escalate.

              1. Purple Library Guy says:

                On the Minbari thing, I don’t see that it matters there what weapons you use, at least in space. Nukes, proton torpedoes, lasers, whatever. It was a warship in a combat and he blew it away; Starfleet captains are allowed to do that too. The question is whether it’s OK to kill your enemies by luring them with an apparently helpless foe. Again, I’m not convinced this should be problematic. The idea that anyone even worried about any of this suggests a pretty Starfleet-y approach.

        2. Purple Library Guy says:

          His main enemies? You mean, the main source of existential evil in the galaxy? The species officially designated as all bad, without any likelihood of innocents even existing among them? He was willing to nuke them rather than use whatever other SF superweapons against them? How awful, I said insincerely. Look, I don’t think what you’re willing to do to Sauron really counts with respect to evaluating your general moral compass. You can talk about what using such beings means to the series in the first place, but Sheridan’s in that world so that’s what he’s presented with.

          But Sheridan really tried to keep the peace for as long as he could, for the benefit of all the races. And when war broke out, for all the more normal races even on the other side he did care about what happened to them. He wouldn’t have nuked the Centauri, say. And he tried hard to resist Earth’s own pressures towards going police state; he was not a “my side, right or wrong” kind of guy. For the rest–yeah, he did some sneaky things. I don’t think there’s anything in Starfleet ethics says you can’t be sneaky. Kirk and Picard did sneaky things all the time. It’s called “tactics”.

  7. Malimar says:

    A few years ago, I embarked upon a quest to (re)watch all of Trek, every series in its entirety (except TAS). I’d watch an episode of TOS, an episode of ENT, one TNG, one VOY, and so on. These mission parameters didn’t last long.

    The problem I ran into is that watching any TNG, VOY, and ENT just made me want to watch more DS9. This is true even though I wound up skipping most of the first season of TNG, and most of VOY up to Scorpion (when it gets good because Seven of Nine is fantastic), and I wound up skipping all but a few episodes of TOS because it holds up so very poorly.

    So I went through all of DS9 very quickly, and I’m still sitting on many unwatched seasons of the others. Watching any episodes of them just makes me want to watch through DS9 for a third time.

    So basically, DS9 is perfect in almost every way. Here are some more specific things I have to say about it:

    I usually sided with the Cardassians. I didn’t have the background of having watched all the TNG Cardassian episodes, so I didn’t come with the “Cardassians = Nazis” preprogramming they assumed. So they spent many episodes rehabilitating the Cardassians, establishing that not all Cardassians are that bad. And then every Bajoran who showed up was either an obstructive bureaucrat, an unrepentant terrorist, a religious zealot, or more than one of the above. Given these features, if there’s a conflict with a Bajoran on one side and a Cardassian on the other, I’ll side with the Cardassian every time. (This isn’t bad so much as it is I think unintended by the writers.)

    Speaking of villains: Kai Winn is up there on my list alongside Joffrey Baratheon, Vee from OITNB, and Cora from OUAT as really hateful, awful villains. This isn’t actually a criticism, it means the writers and Louise Fletcher were doing their jobs really well, making me hate her so hard and care so much that she be defeated. I still hate her.

    There are two Bajorans I don’t hate: Kai Opaka and Vedek Bareil. I got so mad when Bareil gave up his shot at Kai and gave it to horrible awful Winn. So mad. Yes, I hate Kira. (I suspect they’d never be able to get an unrepentant terrorist as first officer off the ground in the post-9/11 world.)

    I wasn’t, am not, and have never been, very big on the “Sisko as Bajoran Jesus” arc. The first episode where Sisko tries to explain linear time to non-time-linear aliens, could have been interesting, except he botched the explanation so thoroughly. (That said, I don’t think I could have done all that much better in his situation.) I no longer think it was the weakest aspect of the series, but I don’t know what I would nominate as the actual weakest aspect.

    People criticize DS9 for not involving a trek through the stars, but one of the best things about the show was the continuity and recurring characters that the stationary setting allowed. Especially Garak. I get annoyed about what could have been when I think of how Garak was played as bi in his first episode, before the producers shut that down. It could have made the Garak/Bashir romance even more interesting than it was — and it was pretty interesting.

    1. EricF says:

      Just imagine that Garak knows in episode 1 all about Bashir’s history.

    2. Tulgey Logger says:

      I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would side with the occupiers over the occupied, but I suppose my memories of DS9 are quite vague at this point. It’s an interesting perspective. Certainly DS9 was good about humanizing (heh) the Cardassians into diverse and sympathetic characters as opposed to just Grey Space Nazi Lizard People. That’s the trend in Trek over time, though: introduce a caricatured alien species hostile to humans, then overtime expand them into something humans can understand and empathize with.

      1. EricF says:

        [politics redacted]

        A more artistic rendering:

    3. krellen says:

      I get a little bit of your Cardassian thing. The only Stargate series I have seen is Atlantis, and this allows me to like Rodney McKay, which is apparently very difficult for people that have watched SG1.

      1. Michael says:

        Rodney’s kind of an obnoxious gag character in SG1. They moved him away from that on Atlantis, and actually let him evolve into a real character, but first impressions are hard to shake.

        1. Ranneko says:

          The frustrating thing about this is that when he appears on SG-1 again as a guest character he loses all of that growth and is back to the same old jackass.

          Not sure if this is old writers not really caring about the changed character or if it is just them not wanting to change him too much for audiences just following SG-1.

          1. Wolf says:

            Isn’t McKay consistently this jackassy to people he does not know and/or respect? My reading of the character was that he does not himself evolve away from that as much as he learns to respect the specific people his Atlantis Situation forces him to get very close to.

            1. RCN says:

              Wait? There’s people who dislike McKay? Maybe my opinion of him was colored because I first started with Atlantis and then watched SG-1, but even when I did the recap, on his introduction episode I thought “Yep, that’s pretty much how McKay would be at first”.

              I love how McKay is constantly bringing up precisely the kind of complains the audience would have with the contrivances and plot-holes of the space wedgie of the week (only so the show has the chance to actually explain them in return, a brilliant concept).

              I don’t know. Maybe I’m just naturally more forgiving of scientists and engineers who feel they are surrounded by idiots, even when they aren’t.

  8. Ebenzer_Arvigenius says:

    I realize that it is supposed to be one of the best Trek series but I must have had a really unlucky choice in episodes.

    I watched it on and off for the first two seasons and pretty much all I got was exciting stuff like “will the annoying kid cope with his homework pressure?” or “how will the Captain resolve his single parenthood issues?” with a serious dose of “most annoying comic relief ever” thrown in.

    Apparently right after I stopped watching it morphed into a cross between Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica which I probably would have loved. Go figure.

    1. Regiment says:

      That’s the same problem I had – the early episodes don’t seem to go anywhere, and the show feels rudderless. By the time it figured out what it was about, I had lost interest and (worst of all) didn’t care about the characters. I’ve seen a few of the later episodes, and they’re generally pretty good. I should try watching it again, maybe starting from the Klingon stuff or the introduction of the Jem’Hadar.

    2. Sleepyfoo says:

      This is basically my experience with DS9 as well. I watched some eps when it was airing, and absolutely hated Sisko. There were some mildly interesting characters, but I couldn’t get past Sisko, who seemed to feel that leading people involved shouting at them and his response to stress was to scream in public and then go mope and angst about it in private. And not big things, like “oh shit my space station almost exploded today”, it felt like little things like his burger wasn’t cooked just right set him off.

      The goo guy in charge of security was just blah, the reincarnation chick was hot but only mildly interesting, and were it not for this thread i would have completely forgotten everyone else. I vaguely remember nose ridge woman being mildly interesting as well. Sisko’s son annoyed me even more than Sisko, but was such a non-character that I don’t remember anything other than being pissed at him for whining about homework.

      Peace : )

  9. Neil D says:

    I was interested to watch DS9 when it came out, and very quickly left disappointed. Primarily, it was because all the characters just seemed to be perpetually angry about something. It’s the easiest and least interesting (to me, anyway) emotion to write. After a few episodes I decided there was nobody here I really wanted to spend 45 minutes with.

    Any time I happened to catch a few minutes here and there I saw nothing to change my opinion. And then what do they do? They bring Mr. Happy himself, Worf, on board to scowl the place up a bit more. Fantastic.

  10. silver Harloe says:

    and here I thought Sisko wasn’t qualified for best Trek captain because he was only a commander. silly me.

    1. Mike S. says:

      As mentioned in the previous thread, he was promoted to Captain at the end of season 3. So he was one for most of the series.

  11. John says:

    Right. DS9 is not the Anti-Trek. Okay? No, it isn't set on a space-ship. No, the main characters don't always get along. And, yes, in a few instances (actually, pretty much just “In the Pale Moonlight”) Starfleet officers do morally questionable or even reprehensible things. But it is absolutely wrong to say either that the show is some kind of betrayal of the fundamental principles of Star Trek or that it is not suitably optimistic. To put it dramatically, TOS and TNG are about living in utopia but DS9 is about building that utopia. It acknowledges that utopia is hard work–the hardest work–but always presents the struggle as noble and the goal as achievable and worthwhile. So how is that not Star Trek?

    1. krellen says:

      DS9 backtracked a hell of a lot of the utopia to tell its story. It wasn’t just Bajor, or Cardassia, or the Dominion that brought problems. There were a lot of internal problems inherent in the Federation introduced in DS9, making a lie the “utopia” of TNG.

      1. John says:

        Have you ever considered that the only reason the Federation is even remotely credible as a utopia prior to DS9 is that we never actually see very much of it? “Oh yes, we live in utopia now. Let’s go visit a bunch of aliens who still have actual problems instead.” Funnily enough, almost all visits to Earth somehow end up involving time travel, usually back to the year during which the episode or movie in question was filmed. TOS-Kirk visits the 60s. Space-whale Kirk visits the 80s. Picard really shakes things up by going to a fictional time that hasn’t actually happened yet in “First Contact”.

        1. krellen says:

          Yeah, utopia is boring. It would make for pretty crappy TV.

          1. John says:

            Eh, that’s true, but that’s not really what I’m getting at.

            My position is that the Federation’s status as a utopia has always been stated rather than demonstrated and that the Federation’s status as a utopia has always been incidental rather than essential to the plot. Clearly Kirk and Picard believe that the Federation is nigh-unto-utopia and Federation humans considerably-closer-unto-perfection than real, contemporary humans. But is that actually true within the shows themselves? I’m not so sure. There’s a lot of compelling evidence to the contrary, generally taking the form of a human guest star. And frankly, the state of the Federation and human nature doesn’t actually matter in most episodes anyway. The episodes in which it explicitly does matter–Gary 7, defrosted 80s dudes, I’m looking at you–are often the least compelling.

            I remain uncomfortably suspicious that the Federation-as-utopia and humans-as-perfected tropes are more properly Trekkie tropes rather than Star Trek tropes.

            1. krellen says:

              I suspect the reality of life in the Federation is a bunch of layabout do-nothings doing nothing all day, while a small motivated elite who can’t do nothing keep society running. Most of these people are probably in Starfleet.

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                I could believe it. Its a miracle there are any humans around that don’t permanently reside in holodecks. Their AI tech is good enough to support complete replacement of at least 99% of the workforce.

            2. syal says:

              If the protagonists say it’s utopia, you need a lot more than supposition to say otherwise. You either need incontrovertible evidence that they are wrong, or you need evidence that the protagonists aren’t qualified to determine it either way.

              I posit the reason they didn’t show the utopia is because the writers knew they weren’t actually up to portraying it, while still liking the concept. DS9 gets no points for taking the hard-to-portray concept of utopia and degrading it into the easily-portrayed modern day culture.

              1. John says:

                Oh, I don’t think that the Kirk and Picard are lying when they say the Federation is a utopia and that humans are good-hearted souls who have risen above the horrible examples of the past. I believe that’s what they were taught. I believe that they believe it. I believe that they very badly want it to be true. And I believe that they do a pretty good job of living up to those beliefs. And so do the characters in DS9. That’s what I find inspiring about Star Trek.

                But even in TOS and TNG there are an awful lot of Harry Mudds, Vashes, obnoxious bureaucrats or admirals, and Starfleet officers who have gone stark raving mad in the far reaches of space. There might be fewer deranged murderers in the Federation than there are on Earth right now, but there aren’t none. And there are still a whole lot of jerks bringing everybody else down. Kirk is good. Picard is better. But Sisko is pretty good, too. I just don’t think that you can honestly claim that the crews of the Enterprise and Enterprise-D represent all of humanity when there are so many other types who are also depicted on screen. Instead, they represent the best of humanity. The Enterprise is aspirational rather than typical. The Enterprise has always been aspirational rather than typical.

                I don’t blame you or Krellen or anyone else for being disappointed in the depiction of Starfleet officers, Starfleet, the Federation, or humanity in general in DS9. Not getting what you want is by nature disappointing. I just think that whatever the differences between DS9 and its predecessors may be they are overstated and frequently mischaracterized.

      2. Blackbird71 says:

        Wars do tend to damage utopias; that’s what happened in DS9.

  12. Justin says:

    I’m not sure how this conversation thread went on so long with nobody mentioning “The Wire.”

    1. krellen says:

      You mentioned it, now talk about it!

      1. Justin says:

        Ok, ok. I get it! LOL

        I binge watched the series about 8 months ago and that is the episode that still stands out in my mind most vividly. It was a full character study on Garak, but rather than spelling out “this is what makes him tick” it made the viewer work for your pay off. You, like Bashir, had to read between the lines to get the real story that Garak was telling in his own twisted way. It was a smartly writen and well executed character study that hi-lighted the strength of the actors.

        The final exchange pretty much summed up the whole affair:

        “Of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren’t?”
        “My dear Doctor, they’re all true.”
        “Even the lies?”
        “Especially the lies.”

        1. MichaelGC says:

          All in the game, yo. All in the game.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Most of the Garak focused stuff was awesome. At first I didn’t like his coyness (what good is mystery if nothing is ever revealed) but they did a good job of signaling things to the audience in the long run.

          I really liked it when they finally put Garak and Odo opposite each other.

          “I am not Dr Bashir, and we are not sparring amiably over lunch.”
          “My dear Odo I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

          Great stuff.

    2. Zeta Kai says:

      That was another great episode. Since nobody else did a pointless top 10 yet, mine is as follows:

      10. What You Leave Behind
      9. Homefront / Paradise Lost
      8. Little Green Men
      7. The Die is Cast
      6. Trials and Tribble-ations
      5. The Wire
      4. Far Beyond the Stars
      3. In the Pale Moonlight
      2. The Visitor
      1. Duet

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        What,no love for doctor bashir I presume?Come on,it has Picardo in it,so it is golden by default(which is another way to say why voyger is not as bad as enterprise).

      2. Zekiel says:

        I really liked some of the game-changer episodes they did like In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light and A Time To Stand. In fact the whole mini-arc where the Dominion took control of the station at the beginning of series 6 was fantastic.

        I’m also a big fan of Nor The Battle To the Strong. It’s odd that Jake is one of my less favourite characters on DS9 yet this and The Visitor are both focused around him. (Admittedly The Visitor is mainly Jake played by a different actor from what I recall)

  13. Parkhorse says:

    Wow. I just realized O’Brien wasn’t played by John C Riley. Had to look up who Colm Meaney was, and… yeah. All these years…

    1. John says:

      O Chief O’Brien, you are my very favorite Star Trek character.

      The important difference between the Chief and everybody else is that the Chief is a recognizable human being and everybody else is a Brave Space-Man of the Future. The Chief believes what he was taught in school about the Federation and about how humans changed their natures for the better. The Chief almost always lives up to those beliefs, even in nasty places like the Mirror Universe. (“I AM a decent man!”) In the rare instances in which he fears he has not lived up to those beliefs (see “Hard Time”) he takes it really, REALLY badly. The Chief believes that his job in Starfleet is important–he originally intended for it to be temporary, in a “join Starfleet, see the galaxy” kind of way–but changed his mind when he saw the good Starfleet could do. He could have been a musician like his father wanted, you know. The Chief has a wife and kids and loves them, even when things are rough. He actually remembers them when doing Important Space Things. Everybody else is single and if they have kids those kids are teenagers and will totally understand when mom or dad heroically sacrifices her or himself for the sake of space-strangers that they’ve only just met.

      Kirk once said “I was born in Iowa, I just work in space,” but you would never, ever know it. The Chief LIVES it. (Except for Iowa. He’s from Ireland. But you know what I mean.)

      1. Mike S. says:

        The writers also decided to do terrible things to O’Brien once or twice a season because he suffered so well. Everyone else may live in utopia, but he sure doesn’t.

        1. John says:

          “Hard Time”, man. “Hard Time.”

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            That one made me cry. DS9 is the only series with more than one cry worthy episode (Duet, The Visitor and Hard Time)

        2. Zeta Kai says:

          In fact, the only time that they blew up the station was an O’Brien Must Suffer episode!

          1. Zeta Kai says:

            For the record, the episode in question was “Visionary” (season 3), which is a good candidate for a top 10 episode. So, even if you hate DS9, we’ve got the episode for you!

  14. Tulgey Logger says:

    The comments really make me want to watch DS9 again, all the way through. This is the first Trek thread to make me want to do that.

    It makes me sad that I’ll have to actually finish watching the Sopranos first, though. I don’t want that to end.

  15. qosiejfr oiq qp says:

    The thing that makes ds9 stand out to me is the sorry tale of the Cardiassians. Here you have an old regime that’s falling into irrelevancy and doing everything they can to cling to their existing prestige/power. They face adversity and internal turmoil, but they reaffirm their greatness by allying to a great power. And then they lose EVERYTHING, to the point that they have to look towards their former slaves for assistance.

    As far as I’m aware it’s the biggest, most dynamic political storyline star trek has ever given to a species/organisation.

    What’s more is that it’s a species portrayed uniformly by incredibly talented actors. Not to dismiss the other species on the series, but the actors who played Dukat, Garak and Damar were great in their performances, standing out even in a cast that had some fine actors to begin with. Add to that the writing for Dukat* and Garak in particular and you get a perfect mix.

    *it’s a shame that the writers completely dropped the ball on his character post-season 6. Actually season 7 in general was pretty meh with a few exceptions.

    1. John says:

      Damar. Damar is so good. I very much doubt that the writers had his Season 7 arc planned out in advance, back when he was introduced. (Which was when, Season 4? Season 5?) In fact, I doubt that they planned for him to recur much at all. Star Trek and TV in general almost never work that way. Thank goodness for happy accidents.

      “What kind of people murder innocent women and children?” “Yes, Damar, what kind of people do that?” There’s your perfectability of mankind. (Don’t tell me it doesn’t count because he’s Cardassian. Star Trek aliens are always allegorical humans.*) There’s the universe becoming a better place. There’s your hope and your idealism. Drink it up!

      *Except in TOS when they were often also actual humans.

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        Actually, if you read Memory Alpha, you’ll find that the showrunners had big plans for Damar from his very first appearance (“Return to Grace”, season 4). In his first episode, he was just Dukat’s flunky, but they gave him a name & a few lines, nothing too noticeable. But they shot him as if he was a major character. It’s subtle, but very interesting to see the camera keeps turning to him to get his reaction to the current situation, he’s often in group shots with the principal actors, etc. It makes for fun-rewatching.

      2. Zekiel says:

        I find Damar fascinating too. I found him incredibly boring at the start – just another thug. But he really, really grew on me as his character started coming out in light of changing events.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Deep space 9 is the only trek Ive watched back to back.Tng,while Ive liked the bunch of episodes Ive watched,I never watched them in any order(well maybe back when it was on tv and I was a kid).Voyager,I watched only the episodes SFDebris stamped off as good.Enterprise,nope.Tos,I only watched a few when I was a kid.

    What made me love ds9 over all of those is the structure.Yes,there are a bunch of one of episodes,but overall it has far more structure than any of the other trek.

    Also,the best way to describe sisko is:

    “Bitch,the list of reasons Im awesome is so long,the only surface big enough to write it on is my dick!”

    1. Hitch says:

      Although he pays a bit of lip service to downplaying it, he later really gets into the idea of being Emissary of the Prophets. DS9 had less Q than any other Trek (set after Encounter at Farpoint) because they had their own semi-divine being and didn’t need Q.

    2. 4th Dimension says:

      Or as SfDebris puts it “Let me put it in perspective for you: Picard faced the Borg, and after it was done ruining his life, he stood in his office and drank Earl Grey. Sisko faced the Borg and after it was done ruining his life, he fumed in an escape-pod; then went off to design a ship whose only purpose is to kill Borg. It’s a set of guns strapped to an engine. Then he called it Defiant, a name that practically shakes its fist at the Borg. That was his second choice, Starfleet felt that the USS Ben Sisko’s Muthafuckin Pimp Hand was too long.”

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        One of my fav SFDebris quotes

  17. Talby says:

    I could just never get into DS9, even after watching 5-ish seasons. There’s a few decent episodes, (I like the one where O’Brien realizes everyone is treating him differently and something terrible has happened to the station) but it never approaches the heights of TNG.

    It’s partly because the social commentary aspect (the station is a ghetto where a bunch of people from different races/cultures have to get along) is not what I want from science fiction, at least not how it’s done on this show. Taking place on a space station was a mistake as well, I think, because it moved the show too far away from what Trek was originally about – exploring strange new worlds in uncharted space, and getting into interesting Socratic excercise-like adventures each week that ask a moral question.

    I also don’t like how in Star Trek in general, the Borg were basically forgotten and never resolved as a plot arc and instead we introduce a new, very boring threat, the Dominion.

    So yeah, not a fan.

  18. Zeta Kai says:

    The greatest strength of DS9, IMO, is the ensemble of supporting characters. The roster of compelling guest stars is amazing. Martok, Garak, & Dukat may be the three that (deservedly) get the most credit, but there are so many other wonderful, fascinating characters. Weyoun(s), Nog, Winn, & Damar are stellar, but there are just so many more. Ziyal, Rom, Leeta, the Female Changeling, & the Jack Pack were entertaining, Lwaxana was better on here than she was on TNG, & even Vick was pretty good, if perhaps overused in S7. They got really, really lucky with their casting choices, & the writing for the show was (almost) always above average. The principal actors were mostly great, but the supporting cast was what made DS9 truly special.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Yes, absolutely. This was what I loved about DS9, that rich seam of supporting characters. And one of the things I really appreciated was that characters – particularly supporting characters – actually developed. In TNG it feels like pretty much everyone apart from Data is the same in Series 7 as they were in Series 2. Whereas in DS9 there is a very clear sense of development for characters like Nog and Damar – and indeed Sisko and Odo.

      I always find it amusing how much I despised Rom at the beginning of the DS9 (snivelling, irriating, dumb) and yet how he ended up being a thoroughly likable and even heroic character by the end of the series.

      DS9 also contains my very favourite Trek character ever, Weyoun, who I just found incredibly watchable in ever single scene he was in. This is high praise given that DS9 included fantastic characters like Kira, Garak, Odo, O’Brien, Dukat etc etc

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        Which Weyoun? We saw 5 of them!

  19. bubba0077 says:

    Shamus, from what I think I know of you based on your writing over many years now, I think you would really like the deep richness of DS9. Don’t think of it as trying to watch a 132 hour behemoth; just start plugging away an episode or two at a time. It’s available on-demand from both Netflix and Amazon Prime, so no added cost if you already subscribe to one of those services.

  20. gtb says:

    I didn’t like DS9 when it was on, but after watching Babylon 5 and reading about how DS9 was basically B5 with a coating of Trek, I went back and watched it on netflix and enjoyed it, for the most part. Garak was an amazing character who saw too little screentime, imo, but all the episodes he was in were pretty great. Sisko was such a departure from previous and later captains that it was a refreshing change. “You hit me! Picard never hit me! This will be easier than I thought.” was a pretty great line. I was not a big fan of his kid, although there were thankfully few “Adventures of Jake Sisko!!!” episodes. Way less than I expected.

    Overall I found it to be pretty bland, and in later seasons, I felt like the pacing went to crazy town, with a dozen new alien races introduced each episode, and various back-to-back wars. It was like they thought they were going to be canceled every season so they crammed in as much as possible.

    Still, significantly better than voyager.

    1. Anachronist says:

      I understand that the primary reason DS9 evolved into a story-arc series was because of the popularity of Babylon 5 at the time, which was conceived as a novel-for-TV with a beginning, middle, and end. DS9 definitely got better once they settled on an arc.

  21. karln says:

    The Visitor was beautiful. Right behind that I’d put It’s Only a Paper Moon, which apparently nobody has mentioned yet? I’m genuinely surprised.

  22. Zekiel says:

    The discussion further up the page about In The Pale Moonlight and whether DS9 is “real” Star Trek is very interesting. I still love it regardless.

    It reminded me of what is probably my favourite quote from Star Trek – which I can’t remember properly and can’t find online. But its from an episode where Sisko is faced with evidence that the Federation will definitely lose the Dominion War. And he says something along the lines of “We’re not going to give up – we’re going to keep fighting so that when our children are in a position to rebel against their conquerers, they know what they’re fighting for.” One of my favourite stirring-speeches-in-the-face-of-certain-defeat.

    Wish I could remember what episode its actually from!

    1. Mike S. says:

      “Statistical Probabilities” – Bashir and a group of genetically enhanced but mentally damaged people introduced in an earlier episode project the future course of the war.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Yes! Thank you. Here it is:

        “Surrender is not an option! I don’t care if the odds are against us. If we’re going to lose, then we’re going to go down fighting, so that when our descendants someday rise up against the Dominion they’ll know what they’re made of.”

        Love it.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Though it’s whistling in the dark. If you’re conquered by the Dominion, your descendants will be genetically manipulated to make rebellion impossible (like the Jem’Hadar) or unimaginable (like the Vorta). And in either case the Dominion will ensure that they haven’t the foggiest idea what those originals were like, let alone what acts of brave resistance they might have performed.

          On the other hand, that mitigates against surrender too: in a very real sense, losing a war against the Dominion isn’t something your species survives, whether they die in explosions or are subjected to enslavement and having the next generation modified and brainwashed. If the projection is right, then the Federation has to just choose its poison.

          (Spoiler: the projection isn’t right. So surrender would have been a really bad choice.)

  23. Groboclown says:

    I came to this discussion way too late, and there’s too much to read.

    When this was airing, the common things we said about the series was that it was essentially a truck stop along a highway in Arkansas. We ended up calling it “As Bajor Turns.” This was all during the first season, which turned me off from it. Apparently, the show picked up steam once they left the station in the Defiant.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.