Jimmy Impossible and I have been doing a lot of rewatch chats and discussions for the past…well, let’s say a lot of years and leave it at that. As such, I suspected we’d never quite be able to match our respective schedules to two episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation a week. To make up for this, I figured there was only one thing to do: have a back-in mind.
And you know what? I have been looking for an excuse to watch Deep Space Nine for a while now.
Why was it I never got into Deep Space Nine? It’s the only Trek series I can honestly say I never watched regularly. I sat through most of the first couple seasons (at least) of both Voyager and Enterprise. True, I haven’t seen much of Discovery yet, but I have my reasons. But Deep Space Nine? That’s, like, the one many fans consider the crown jewel of the entire extended Trek franchise. True, it isn’t the original series that set the universe the shows are set in going, and it doesn’t have the polished-yet-traditional veneer of Next Generation. It likewise doesn’t seem to fit in with the later series that may seem to run largely off fan goodwill at times.
No, Deep Space Nine is the one that didn’t feature any exploration in a traveling ship, and it’s the most morally dubious of the series. Yes, the good guys are still the good guys, but they do more to get their hands dirty here.
As pilots go, “Emissary” sets things up rather well. Though a few of the special effects haven’t aged well, there’s actually an underlying theme here to the past and how it effects where we are and who we ultimately become. Since it opens with what may be one of the most defining moments in Next Generation‘s entire run–Picard’s transformation into Locutus of Borg–and then shows how that moment greatly affected the Deep Space Nine station’s Commander Ben Sisko.
You know, Patrick Stewart gets a lot of credit for being a top notch actor, but Avery Brooks is no slouch either. Seeing the pair share a pair of scenes was a nice treat. It also helps that the show, acting as a spin-off to Next Generation, takes a secondary character from that series–Colm Meaney’s Chief O’Brien– is going to be one of the main cast for this one.
Now, a good pilot needs to do two things: introduce all or most of the main characters and set up the main conflict. The former this episode does well, giving us non-nonsense patriot Kira, shapeshifting security chief Odo, shifty weasel Quark, wannabe romantic Bashir, and older-than-she-looks Dax. True, about all we know about Jake Sisko at this point is he’s a rather average kid, and reoccurring Cardassian antagonist Gul Dukat is mostly here to set himself up as a potential villain.
Much of what’s going on comes from Sisko’s past, and that’s where we find the episode’s highlight. The discovery of the stable wormhole near the planet Bajor, recently abandoned by the ruthless Cardassians, and home to the otherworldly Prophets, other-dimensional aliens who don’t understand the concept of linear time because, well, they don’t.
And in what is certainly the best moments of the pilot, Sisko has to explain to aliens how time works as they cycle through familiar times and faces for him, and he has the most success explaining it using his courtship of his late wife Jennifer, while he is still in a since stuck during the moment she died during the Borg attack. And when that doesn’t work, he uses baseball.
And as much as this is Sisko’s show, the rest of the main cast isn’t exactly sitting back and letting things slide. True, Odo isn’t the most sociable of characters but he isn’t supposed to be, and Jake is mostly just the kid who doesn’t want to be there. But the rest? Kira’s steely determination contrasts nicely with Bashir’s romantic view of being a “frontier doctor”–and how insulting is that to a native of the planet they’re orbiting?–and hey, Armin Shimerman was among the actors to play a Ferengi the very first time they appeared anywhere, so it may be nice to see a more well-rounded version of the guys who hold “plea bargaining” as a cultural achievement.
So, the show got off to a fairly good start with at least one well-envisioned sci-fi concept (timeless aliens) executed as well as the technology of the time would let them. The new station commander has a demanding job ahead of him, and it won’t be getting any easier. This show got off to a promising start.
Why again did I not stick with it? I guess I’ll never know.
Unless it turns out I don’t care for it, then I’ll know for certain.