Monday 4 February 2013

Star Trek:Part Two, DS9 For The Next Generation

Star Trek:Part Two, DS9 For The Next Generation
 In part One we covered the facts about Star Trek's humble beginnings, the continued struggle (for it's content) cancellations, animated shows, reruns, globally expanded fan base, revitalisation projects which fell through, the first movie, the second chance done right (Khan!!!) plus the nine movies that followed the creation of four spin off series. Now, the idea of writing this post came from a discussion on Star Trek and DS9 in Peter's Sci Fi community.
Thing is I never intend the posts I do to be so fact or history oriented, but when I find out things about say the Industrial Revolution that I thought I knew but didn't, I end up writing more for those unfamiliar with the topic as well. I ended up doing the same for Star Trek. So with this post I'll try to stay away from facts and dates and more towards what the series meant for me (and perhaps other like minded people)
 Star Trek the Next Generation was introduced in the same year the fourth Star Trek film titled "The Voyage Home" was released. Now first off, I 'm one of those people who as a child of the 70s was staunchly against revamps. By my mid teens I had a firmer grasp of Capitalism and the idea of cash grabs and viewed shows like TNG (and even Battlestar Galactica in 2004) as an attempt to generate more revenue, period. The truth is that I just wanted to hold tight to the memories of shows I loved during the simpler times of my childhood.
When a fellow student (and more open-minded) Star Trek fan tried to hype me up for it, I didn't want to hear it. All I saw was the Network trying get me to buy into something new. I hated the look of the Enterprise D, saw a bald Captain, and a Klingon Star Fleet officer??? Puh-leese! To me, there was nothing this cheep TV show could do to top the feature film's visual and audio special effects, a cast we all know and love (especially after the resurrection of Spock) I didn't want to know. (I did give it a quick 10 minutes, found Q to be one dimensional, Picard old, stuffy and too formally British (ironic seeing as I was born in England) the story soft and the acting a bit too Sci Fi-ish... is that a word? lol.
I did try watching again and again... and again and again and again (though in the first season they were still working out elements like the lighting, woody dialogue, and character development)it is possible I happened to just tune in on the crappy episodes, but I think it was the second episode in the second season titled "where silence has lease" that captured my attention.
It reeled me in, netted me, dropped me on deck and clubbed me into releasing my stubborn dedication to shows of the 70s plus the fact that I happened to catch a few of the shows I had fond memories of (like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) only to find out they didn't appeal to me the same way as an adult.
In fact, Star Trek the Original Series is pretty much the only "old timey" show I can watch, which was ironic seeing as my dedication to the originals kept me from watching the 2004 Battlestar Galactica (to me the best Sci Fi TV show ever) till the start of the regular weekly shows (seriously... has anyone ever tried to watch the original Battlestar Galactica? I tried... really I tried. I couldn't do it) Bye bye all fond childhood memories except Star Trek TOS. But back to... "where silence has lease"... 
NagilumI did cover this in a previous post titled "AI Science, Artificial Intelligence: cybernetic revolt, could intelligent machines ever take over the world?" In this episode, a powerful alien entity named Nagilum displayed curiosity as to why humans have a "limited existence" which ends in death. Nagilum states that he wishes to understand more about death and needs to conduct experiments that shouldn't take more than a third of the crew or maybe half.
 After a few of his experiments leads Captain Picard to set the ship to self destruct in order to instead end things on his terms, the ship is freed from it's trap and allowed to go on it's merry way (minus a crewman or two) In parting, Nagilum offers an evaluation of humanity, saying to Picard "mankind finds no tranquility in anything, struggles against the inevitable, and thrives on conflict."
 After that, they had me at "Engage!" (although I was glad when Piccard stopped pointing when saying that command, it was obviously showy, and every time he did it in the first season my inner voice screamed "what the hell are you pointing at!?!? The viewscreen? seriously, Wesley isn't seeing him point, nor Data) and that's why I rarely engage in new Sci Fi shows till they work out all the "bugs" of the first two seasons, by then it's pure nostalgia (and hole filling) that enable me to watch the reruns and get caught up.
The brilliance of the Star Trek vision continued even after the death of it's creator, breaking boundaries first with a non American Captain in Picard, Captain Sisko the first Black Captain (and lead in a Sci Fi series) and the first Female Captain in Janeway (also the first and only Female lead in the franchise) continuing to break barriers and inspire minds young and old for a wider and more diverse audience. As each series progressed, so did the characters. But in this post I will revisit the primary reason for writing about Star Trek. (inspired by the Sci Fi Communities discussion on Deep Space Nine, and the powerful characters and the complex story arcs that helped them change and grow.

 Now, I do try to avoid getting to deeply into race and politics when writing my posts, but in this case it is necessary to mention a few things. As a man of colour, it wasn't always easy growing up without heroes I (we) could emulate or relate to, and in most (non Black) TV shows the formula of one Black person per cast is alive and well even today, where as with DS9 by season five there were three in Captain Sisko, his son Jake, and Commander Worf. I can't in all my years watching any non Black genre show ever recall such a paradox, where actors of colour are portraying solid and complex characters. It's why I love Sci Fi, like House Music it's all inclusive. In the show they were the characters heart and soul, they just happened to be of colour. 
With Captain Sisko, he was a Star Fleet officer and recently widowered father feeling conflicted about his future in star fleet due to the death of his wife during the incident at Wolf 359 when Star Fleet engaged the Borg. Add to that feelings of hostility towards Captain Picard who was liberated from his assimilation as the Borg liason "Locutus".

The first scene in the series opener showing the battle at Wolf 359 showed a very different Star Trek than all that came before, I remember how many times my friends and I watched and watched the Star Fleet ships manoeuvre quickly and strike hard, we are also introduced to Commander Sisko as an intelligent and capable commander, caring father and loving husband (I recall how moving it was to see a grieving Star Fleet Officer having to be dragged away from his wife's body) and the look on his face watching the destruction of his ship set the tone for a very different (and more authentic) Star Trek.
Throughout the series, we found Sisko was a strong man, passionate, cultured, sensitive man with a sense of humour (who we heard belly laugh on more than one occasion) but was still firm in his convictions while open to the idea of being a little more flexible with regulations in a non star ship environment. He was the best (I think only so far) example of a star fleet officer in a leading rols who was a father doing his best to raise a tween son on his own. Later in the series he finds out he was chosen as the emissary because one of the Profits of Bajor (Bajoran god/wormhole alien) commandeered his mother long enough to seek out his father and give birth to him.
Up until that point he struggled with his values as a Star Fleet officer at first resisting the Bajoran's insistence of his role as Emissary to embracing his destiny, understanding that there are still many abstract principles Star Fleet wasn't ready to accept (recall that as recently as the Voyager series "the Doctor" thought of the Vulcan mind meld as a barbaric and dangerous procedure despite it's repeated use through the original series and films)
Jake and Nog
Jake and Nog
 Jake started off as a good boy that only disobeyed his father when befriending a young Ferengi boy named Nog. Enraged at his son's disobedience, he located Jake with the intention of discipline until discovering he was teaching Nog, who was struggling in school how to read (which was the catalyst for Nog eventually being the first Ferengi to enter Star Fleet and be commissioned as an officer by the final season) Demonstrating that the values instilled by father, were deeply ingrained, humbling him and filling him with pride.

Later, as Jake grew older he went against the grain  again when informing his father he did not wish to follow in his steps joining star fleet, opting instead to become a writer. In fact, all the times Jake disobeyed his father was not out of some sense of rebellion, but out of conviction that his father raised him to be strong enough to know what he wants, and accept he can follow his own path. Growing up quick during the Klingon War when forced to confront his own cowardice in the face of death and mayhem.Jake armed
He even opted to remain behind against his father's will when Star Fleet was forced to evacuate the space station during the Dominion's invasion and subsequent occupation of DS9, remaining as a journalist trying to document the war from an inside perspective, playing a pivotal role in the resistance messaging his father helping to coordinate the attack which retook the station.

When Kira is taken over by a Prophet awaiting the reckoning with the Kosst Amojan(a Pah wraith) Sisko's faith as a father and as the Emissary would be tested like no time before when he discovers the Kosst Amojan has taken over Jakes body. The reckoning is delayed by the actions of Kai Win (which I will cover in a Ds9 villains post)    Afterward while recovering in the sick bay, he consoles his weeping father reassuring he made the right choice not gradually flooding the Promenade with chroniton particles, which are fatal to the Prophets and Pah wariths, he understood Sisko belief that it's the Prophets' price for destroying the fleet of Dominion ships that would have certainly overrun the Alpha Quadrant and his unwavering faith they would not allow him to come to any harm. It is I think, the defining moment when Sisko realized his son is a man.

Worf!Worf. Worf!!! What can I say about the quintessential outsider who was to Klingon for the humans and to Human for his fellow Klingons. From TNG to DS9, we saw Worf was the epitome of Klingon culture. Without living examples of what it is to be Klingon, he ended up being far more rigid in his values as an honourable Klingon warrior, oft times being more Klingon than any Klingon, winning the heart of Jadzia Dax, walking the fine line during the increasing tensions between the Klingons and the Federation, being forced to choose to side with Star Fleet during the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, in the Klingon war with the Federation, then in the Alpha Quadrant's war with the Dominion.
 He won the respect of Commander Martok in a Dominion prison after winning several hand to hand battles against Jem'Hadar soldiers of increasing skill and experience, was welcomed into the House of Martok after being stripped of his status and branded a traitor (again for being a more honorable Klingon warrior) During a mission serving under a self doubting Martok, Worf challenged Martok's leadership but allowed himself to be stabbed in order for Martok to regain the respect of the crew and lead the cursed Klingon ship to victory.
Worf had to contend not only with the death of his wife Jadzia Dax at the hand of Dukat and the Pah wraith (the second of his love interests to die in his personal story) but then accept the fact that her memories lived on within Esri Dax. He later challenged Gowron, the self serving Leader of the Klingon High Council when realising his willingness to sacrifice Klingon lives during wartime in order to weaken Martok's popularity amongst the warriors, then declined leadership after his victory, handing it instead to Martok quoting Kayless saying "great men do not seek power but have power thrust upon them..."
power is thrust After the War, Worf finally returned to the Klingon home world to serve as Federation ambassador (wouldn't mind seeing Michael Dorn play Worf's Grandfather Colonel Worf in a future STar Trek)

The Women of Star Trek - DS9 and a New Standard
women of Star Trek
After 30+ years, DS9 was also groundbreaking for women in the Star Trek franchise with characters with deeply developed back stories and played significant roles in the most defining events in the series.
KiraKira Nerys was a former guerrilla fighter during the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor being appointed the station's Bajoran liaison officer and Sisko's second-in-command (a part which built on the foundation of gender equality demonstrated in the first Star Trek pilot titled "The Cage" where the second in command known as Number One was played by Majel Barrett) possibly paving the way for the first Female lead Captain Janeway.

Kira was initially suspicious of the Federation's intentions toward her planet, but grew to trust and befriend the rest of the crew, growing closest with then Commander Sisko after accepting his role as the Emissary of the profits. During her journey, she sided with the Federation time and again against seditionists, stood toe to toe with the ambitious self serving Kai Win, Odo stood diligently while she loved and lost Vedec Berile, then loved and lost again, then stumbled the rocky road to Odo to discover real and true love. Her faith would be tested when taken over by a Prophet to have a show down with the Pah Wraith that had taken over Sisko's son Jake for the reckoning.

She would be the only humanoid to see Odo in his true form as pure light only to be forced to give up that love in the end when Odo returned to be with his people. After Sisko sacrificed himself to defeat the Pah Wraith empowered Dukat, Col. Kira was appointed commander of the station. Exellent framing.

Being considered a space babe is an honour the actresses in the franchise very much appreciate. From the mini skirt wearing, paradigm shifting days of the Original Series, the women in Star Trek enjoy a kind of immortality amongst the fans, but no longer just for their looks or costume, but for the content of their character. They have to be every bit as smart, tough and capable as their male counterparts (and often times more so) and no other series in the franchise (pre Voyager Seven, pre Enterprise Tapol) boasted this better than Dax.
Jadzia Dax was a Trill who possessed several lifetimes of memories, passed down from her symbiote, she was a strong, capable, attractive woman not atypical of Star Trek Women, was friends with three of the Klingons from the Original Series, a warrior skilled in the Klingon Martial Arts a scientist and helmsman of the Defiant. She is an old friend of Siskos (his former mentor and friend was previous host Kerson Dax) who now finds himself her mentor. 

For years she used her feminine wiles to flirt with both Dr. Bashir and Quark, 

but found love with the moody, often sullen, ultra Klingon Worf (offering joviality to his staunch Klingon/Star Fleet temperament) not to overlook she was a TV woman warrior before it became popular. She was the prime example of a woman ahead of the  21st century.

KasidyKasidy Danielle Yates, was a civilian freighter captain introduced to Benjamin Sisko by his son Jake, who felt it is time for his father to start dating again years after the death of his first wife Jennifer. Despite Sisko's initial snobby resistance, Kasidy and Sisko become lovers until her arrest and eventual imprisonment for aiding the Maquis. Following her release from prison, the two resume their relationship and marry. Kasidy's stepped into her role as wife and step mother with ease, often being Devil's advocate for the uncommon (sometimes life threatening) situations that arose with Sisko being the Emissary of the Prophets, but always supported her
Sisko and Kasidyspouse and son in law. By the end of the series, she became pregnant with their child (an occurrence not in the design for the Emissary) During a battle with the Pah-wraith-possessed Dukat in the Bajoran Fire Caves, Sisko sacrificed his life to defeat the evil Kosst Amojan, joining the Prophets in the Celestial Temple, leaving Jake, Yates and their unborn child behind. Sisko later appeared to Kasidy in a vision, and promised her that he would be back, "maybe (in) a year, maybe yesterday."
Unique Characters Rounding out the Series
early Odo
In keeping with the tradition of creating memorable and complex characters, DS9 blew all others out the window. We have the first Black Captain and Emissary of the Prophets, a more Klingon than Klingon Star Fleet Officer raised on Earth by humans, an aspiring writer and son of a Star Fleet Captain having to contend with growing up on a space station without a mother figure, and an educated Ferengi being the first to join Star Fleet, but writers didn't stop there. The evolution of Odo's appearance is a clear demonstration of how Sci Fi shows get better during the second season when all the bugs are worked out (Odo always had trouble with humanoid faces, noses in particular)
Odo done right
Odo was a shape shifter and the only one of his kind who's journey included pining for then Major Kira, season after season of teasing and innuendo (regarding the possible existence of his people) then discovering his people were the Founders of the Dominion, after which he begun to experiment with his shape shifting abilities. During the Dominion war with the Federation, Odo remained as Chief of Station Security, where he grew close to one of the Founders who taught him what being a Founder was by sharing "the link" (melding of form and consciousness) coming to see "solids" as much smaller and insignificant (in one episode the foundation for the end of the Dominion conflict was set when the Founder declared to Weyoun, a Vorta Second in Command of Dominion Forces in the Alpha Quadrant "we would trade the entire Alpha Quadrant to have Odo returned to us")  until having to make the choice to turn his back on his people when the Founder's intentions to kill Kira became clear.

Odo bids farewellOdo suffered for a season after being transformed into a human as punishment for being the only one of his kind to harm another, but through the human experience learned how to grow even further beyond his emotional potential (without which his nurturing care for an ill baby shape shifter he would have never had his shape shifting matrix restored) He went from unwittingly being used as the transmitter of a virus designed by section 31 to destroy the founders to the carrier of the cure and liberator of the Alpha Quarant when linking with the Founder who decided to stand trial for her role in the genocide of the Cardassian people in exchange for his return to cure his people.
Quark and Odo
Quark started off as being the consummate Ferengi, greedy,  money grubbing, willing to sell out his own mother and brother when it suited his purposes as well as a constant thorn in the side of both Sisko and Odo. His time amongst the "humons" changed him to the point he on several occasions answered the call to action facing down the Jem'Hadar on more than one occasion, was stripped of his right to earn profit by liquidator Brunt, and eventually (albeit begrudgingly) fostered the choices of both his brother and his nephew even actually becoming a close friend and trusted confidant of Odo.
Rom and Leeta

I cant' forget Quark's brother Rom, the fact he appeared to be an incomp who like his father didn't have the lobes to be a good Ferengi, but as a result of utilizing the skills he did have as an engineer, he earned the respect of Chief O'Brian, got a hot wife in a Dabo Girl Leeta, an educated and thus open minded son with a promising career in Star Fleet, played a pivotal role in disarming the Dominion occupied station during the Federations effort to retake the station and liberate Bajor, and by the end was appointed the Grand Negus to help bring the Ferengi civilization into the 24th century (profit is not everything, females being allowed in public or to wear clothes and earn profit) he was the best example of the nerdy underdog getting the best life of all Ferengi.  

Dr. Bashir
Dr. Julian Bashir started off as the wide eyed, fresh out of star fleet and ready for adventure in the frontier chief medical officer who after being discovered as genetically enhanced accepted his gifts proving to be an invaluable asset during the Klingon and Dominion wars. He went from being the one annoying character a fan could live with being killed off to playing the pivotal role in both finding the cure for Odo after his fantasy of being a covert spy (aided by his freiendship with the Former Obsidean Order turned tailor outcast Garrak) came true with Section 31's interest in him and. His superior intellect and dedication to his friend brought about the downfall of the secret organization dedicated to preserving the Federation way of life at any cost and after years of pining finally won the heart of Dax following Judzea's death and the introduction of Esri Dax.

Chief O'BrianO'Brian (the only major Star Trek character described as both ethnically Irish and born in Ireland), a veteran of the FederationCardssian war, O'Brian went from serving aboard the Enterprise in TNG as transport operator to Chief of operations and "Scotty-like"miracle working engineer. A Husband and father of two, the Chief had his share of character developing arcs in facing down the Pah Wraith that comendeered his wife in order to force him to use the station's anti graviton initiators to kill the Prophets in the Celestial Temple, was arrested  by the Cardassians and placed on "show" trial, charged with supplying weapons to the Maquis, to being best friends with Dr. Bashir, a character  nearly as much of a thorn in the side as 
Quark was to Od.
Veteran of the Federation - Cardassian war, He encountered the Jem'Hadar on a number of occasions as well as the Orion Syndicate (a dangerous criminal organization centuries in existence) and in one episode momentarily shifted forward in time by a few hours resulting from the presence of a cloaked Romulan War bird that would end up destroying the station. He died when he deliberately contaminated himself to determine what caused the events he had witnessed then sent his future counterpart back in his place. This enlisted man after the Dominion war was appointed an important position at Star Fleet Command. 
Honourable MentionGarakAnd there was the recurring and increasingly important role of Garak, the fork tongued, ever deceptive, telling the truth in lies former high ranking officer of the Obsidian Order and undeclared son of the former head of the order, Garak had much to overcome. Exile, constantly butting heads with Dukat (head of Cardassia) claustrophobia, and turning his back on his culture to put his skills to use as an advisor, soldier, and guerrilla fighter when trapped on Dominion occupied Cardassia with Kira and Dumar (former puppet leader of Cardassia and rebel leader of the Cardassian resistance.
The transformation of Dumar from loyal Cardassian soldier praising the Cardassian occupation of Bajor to learning the tools of guerrilla warfare from a former enemy in Kira and working with Garak, a former covert operative learns the cost of being in an occupied culture is just one of a myriad of examples of this shows superior Sci Fi writing coupled with dynamic, feature film level special effects for their space battles as the Federation fights for the freedom of the Alpha Quadrant.

DS9 took fans on journeys from alternate realities, going back in time three centuries into Earth's dark past to a time just before the Bell riots, a violent civil disturbance in opposition to Sanctuaries which are controlled ghettos for the dispossessed, assisting a rogue group of Jem'Hadar attempting to overcome their genetic addiction to Ketracel White (a drug used to ensure their loyalty to the Dominion) members being accidentally thrust back in time to Roswell, New MexicoEarth in 1947, the Bajoran people asked by a famous Bajoran poet who disappeared over 200 years ago to return to their D'jarras a caste-like system which causes havoc, Sisko attempts to rescue Jake after he is lured into a war-torn mirror universe by his mother's living counterpart, the crew go back to the time of Captain Kirk to find a bomb disguised as a tribble (brilliant episode incorporating the original trouble with tribbles) Sisko having prophetic visions, An accident marooning the crew on a planet which causes the crew to meet their own descendants, crewmembers in Runabout, which is shrunken to four inches long, Bashir is accused of unknowingly spying for the Dominionrogue Defiant class starship, the Valiant, under the command of Starfleet Red Squadron cadets, and just too many more to mention. Although I would like to end with my favourite episode... 

Far Beyond The Stars

Sisko while talking to his father about leaving Starfleet is distracted by a vision of a man who is dressed in 20th Century clothes. Before he could make his decision, the visions rapidly increase in number. Dr. Bashir's tests of Sisko show the same synaptic issues he had when he had visions a year ago (in the episode "Rapture")
The visions show him as Benny Russell, an African-American science fiction writer on Earth in 1950s New York City. Benny Russell writes for the science fiction magazine Incredible Tales, in a New York City populated by human versions of different characters from DS9. The premis of the story is that Sisko experiences life as an African American writer, inspired to create a story about a star base that is home to a myriad of aliens but faces racial discrimination when the editor and publisher learn the station is run by a "Negro" Captain. 

The cancellation of the entire month's publication coupled with the murder of a young hustler (Jake) causes him to have a breakdown while screaming that although the world can deny him, they cannot destroy his ideas and the future he envisions is real. After collapsing to the floor sobbing in anguish he is taken away by an ambulance. As he falls unconscious, he looks through the window and sees not a cityscape, but stars streaking by as if traveling at warp speed. The preacher (Joseph Sisko- his father) sits by him and tells him that he is both the dreamer and the dream. Sisko wakes up back on the station, to the relief of his father and his son and is deeply moved by his vision, and wonders if somewhere Benny Russell is dreaming of them. 

Even while previewing the above video I found my brow knitting, my lips quivering and my heart overflowing with emotion at the powerful acting most non Sci Fi viewers wouldn't come to expect in a science fiction TV show, but my fellow Sci Fi fans and I know many of the actors are classically trained and able to deliver Shakespearean performances week after week. Star Trek DS9 was definitely my favourite and in my opinion the best in the franchise (so far ;)

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