In Praise of Star Trek: DS9

Over the course of the last year I’ve watched every minute of Star Trek in chronological order from The Cage through the end of DS9. DS9, without question, is the heart and soul of this entire franchise. The basic premise–the station, the wormhole, the post-colonial (and highly religious) Bajor, and of course the war with the Dominion–allowed the producers to take some basic Star Trek topoi and breathe new life into them and make them more complex (emotionally and conceptually) through some long- and short-term plot types rather familiar to Hollywood storytellers. In countless episodes and in the “grand” narrative, Star Trek elements come into contact with alien invasion plots, revenge plots (my fav episode is perhaps “Revenge a Dish Best Served Cold” when Sisko viciously hunts down the Maquis), combat plots, the gangster genre, the war genre, slapstick, prison-break narratives, dramas of resistance and plots guided by multiple romances that, (for me) in striking ways, take up a great deal of “screen” time for Star Trek. There’s even a Die Hard episode.

In terms of visual style, I tend to be underwhelmed by TV. But DS9 had its moments, especially in the use of expressive lighting (with hot pools of illumination in a constrasty frame) and aperture (or internal) framing (frames within the TV frame), sometime emphasized through snail-like dissolves. Here are a few instances (Fig. 1, 2, 3).

Fig. 1. DS9, Season 5, Episode 3.
Fig. 1. DS9, Season 5, Episode 3.
Fig. 2. DS9, Season 6, Episode 8.
Fig. 2. DS9, Season 6, Episode 8.

Fig. 3. [searching for episode info.]
Fig. 3. DS9, Season 4, Episode 12.
The show had its problems–problems related to long-form drama. Season 7 is the worst of the seasons–lots of padding and filler and “entertainment,” in my view. They might have given us half a season here. Also, over 7 seasons they feed us with so many twists in a single character’s development that one comes to expect anything (I really did expect that they’d bring back Dax somehow). To be fair, this up-then-down-and-back-around approach to characterization benefited some, like Gul Dukat, whose very existence in the show demonstrated that the writers knew that for this whole thing to hang together they’d need a compelling antagonist (and he was).

But whatever its flaws, the series finale was cracking for 1hr and 30min. Who wouldn’t tear up at Odo’s “non-goodbye” to Quark, and who wouldn’t cheer at the scheming Kai Winn disintegrated in an instant, relieved of the burden of her mediocrity, and who wouldn’t clinch one’s fist and hiss “yessss” through one’s teeth at the sight of Kira pointing a phaser at “the Founder’s” head and saying, “you lost.”

Up next, Voyager. After a “baroque” phase, I expect some restraint, here.

Advertisements