Since March I’ve been slowly rewatching Star Trek series, starting with The Next Generation and carrying over into Deep Space Nine. They’re interesting shows to watch within a few months and I’ve really enjoyed relearning this shows from my childhood and adolescence. Deep Space Nine in particular has given me a lot to think about. It’s a show about navigating the borders where Federation ideology don’t have clear answers, but doing the most good you can despite this.
Sisko is best Star Trek captain. Unlike the more full formed, idealistic Picard, Sisko is still learning about himself and about what he believes. Adrift in grief, Sisko finds a purpose trying to bring the Bajoran people into the United Federation of Planets. Each Sisko focused episode is about Sisko encountering a challenge and using it as an opportunity for personal growth.
In finding the wormhole, Sisko stumbles into a Bajoran prophecy and becomes an important religious figure for all of Bajor; The Emissary for the Prophets. Though his science driven Starfleet background bristles at the title, he accepts it as a means to achieve his goal of enlisting Bajor in the United Federation of Planets. Several episodes hinge on his dual role as both a Starfleet officer and the Emissary; both uninvolved in Bajor’s governance and deeply intertwined with Bajor’s spirituality. Sisko shrugs off the Emissary’s duties when possible, treating it more as a ceremonial role.
In season four’s episode “Accession,” Sisko gives up the Emissary title when an ancient Bajoran poet is released from the wormhole, better fitting the literal interpretation of the Bajoran prophecy. But the new Emissary begins to use his position to enact regressive Bajoran beliefs, like a strict caste system. Sisko initially withdraws citing the Federation’s desire to stay out of Bajoran governance, though he laments that Bajor will not be admitted to the Federation if the caste system is implemented. As Bajoran society begins to unravel under the weight of 200 year old religious dogma, Sisko realizes that he does indeed have a place in Bajor’s spiritual life and fights to get back his role. When the aliens known as the Prophets declare that Sisko is the Emissary, Sisko returns to the station and gives a speech asking for a return to progressive, cultural growth, while also warmly embracing his spiritual duties.
If this were a modern TV show, this arc would have been a whole season of character growth instead of one episode of a syndicated TV show. The unfortunate reality of Star Trek’s format is that the episodes that are really rich and interesting are still just 45 minutes. Any future episodes can only make vague references to the events of any previous episode. But even so, I think episodes like Accession are what makes Deep Space Nine worth watching.