I’m not saying that Star Trek : Deep Space 9 is the best Trek of all time, but I’m willing to put it at #2. I think everyone is in agreement that The Next Generation represents the pinnacle of Trek, and Enterprise represents the dregs. I don’t care to debate TOS, as I do not find it interesting in the least.
That leaves two series to vi for the spot of Second Best Trek of All Time. In this corner, wearing the blue shorts is Start Trek : Deep Space 9. In the opposite corner sporting red shorts is Star Trek : Voyager.
I would posit that DS9 is the closest to that Star Trek has come to being ‘real’ and being source of significant Socio-Political commentary. DS9 was the first Trek series to really explore multi-episode, multi-season storylines, and develop characters as flawed, realistic people. Voyager on the other hand, is just a poor-man’s TNG, where everything is black and white, the bad guys are always ugly, and all endings are of the good guys leaving unequivocally triumphant.
Benjamin Sisko is a far deeper character than Kathryn Janeway. The Bajorans hail Sisko as the Emissary of the Prophets, an exalted religious status that he rejects in the beginning and only grudgingly tolerates even at the serie’s close. He is forced to make tough choices where there is no moral high ground, and is not necessarily sure if the decision was the best one. Janeway’s only interesting character trait is that she goes crazy over the course of the series, she doesn’t accept that she must make difficult decisions, she loses her mind instead. And then we have what is now termed Janeway Syndrome:
Nobody likes a know-it-all. Not only is it annoying, but even today, it’s impossible for someone to be an expert in any more than a couple of fields. This cliche is named in honour of Captain Janeway, a scientific genius so immense that she seemed to know more about every field of 24th century science than the most brilliant of her senior staff. Where did she find time to study all of these things in between her officer training classes? Well, she didn’t, because it’s COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!
Let us move on to the characters. DS9 created many new original characters, wheras Voyager’s crew was primarily a retread of past archetypes. In the sense of being an outsider trying to understand the human condition, 7 of 9 is simply Data with breasts, as is The Doctor ( the Data part, not the breasts part ). The logical side of Data has been turned into a one dimensional character by Tuvok. Tom Paris is the most watered down bad-boy that Trek has ever seen. Chakotay is a faux-Native American whose one piece of heritage is an electronic device used to cause hallutionations ( far more spritiual and tv-friendly than payoti ). Kes is merely another Troi, and Neelix is the Jar-Jar Binx of Trekdom.
Deep Space 9 has a cast of characters that, while not always the peak of originality, are at least somewhat complex. Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax are by far the most bad-ass female Trek has ever seen. One was a freedom fighter, watching commrads die left and right. The other was perfectly at home drinking Blood-Wine with Klingons and going on quests of revenge. I will admit that Odo was yet another character used as a sounding board for exploring the human condition, but at least he was a bit different and tightly woven into many story-arcs. Miles O’Brien, while imported from TNG, was turned into a fully dimensional character, both likeable and flawed at once, and involved in perhaps the only realistic portrayal of racisism throughout the Trek universe. Speaking of imports, Worf, need I say more? And though I admit that Quark and Rom perhaps started off with a overly strong flavor of comic relief, by the end of the series they were also multi-dimensional characters with traits both flawed and honerable. Garek is a fantastically written character who is mysterious and engaging to the very end. For example:
Garak: Why is it no-one ever believes me, even when I’m telling the truth?
Julian: Have you ever heard the story of the boy who cried wolf?
Julian:”It’s a children’s story. A young shepard gets loney while tending his flock. He cries ‘Wolf!’ and the townspeople come rushing to his aid. When they discover there is no wolf, he claims he scared the wolf off, and they congratulate him for his bravery.
Garak: What a clever boy!
Julian: There’s more. The boy did the same thing the next day, and the day after, and the day after. And on the next day, when a wolf really did come, the townspeople didn’t come. They’d gotten tired of his lying. The wolf ate all the sheep and the little boy.
Garak: Isn’t that a bit gruesome for a children’s story?
Julian:”The moral is that if you lie all the time, people won’t believe you even if you’re telling the truth.
Garak: Are you sure that’s the moral?
Julian: Of course. What else could it be?
Garak: Never tell the same lie twice.
Another issues I have with Voyager is the insane use of technology. This group of misfits have seemed to advance technology at a faster rate than the rest of the galaxy combined. Practically every episode has the crew inventing some new technology to overcome whatever obstacle is before them. Deep Space 9 takes place on an abandoned Cardassian ore-processing station converted for use by the Federation. Everything is old and broken, and nothing ever works quite right for very long. In contrast, Voyager, an advanced ship with untested technology, lost in space, attacked at every turn without the benefit of a ship-yard for repairs is seems to be in good-as-new condition at the beginning of every episode. Even worse is that somehow, over the course of the series Voyager is magically able to fire many more torpedoes than it started out with. Paralleling that is the fact that the ship is able to lose runabout after runabout without every exhausting its supply.
In the end, while Voyager has very little to say, Deep Space 9 tells us that not all is a perfect utopia in the Federation, that there isn’t always a right choice and a wrong choice, that not every problem can be solved in 45 minutes. I will leave you with this:
Quark: I want you to try something. It’s an Earth drink. Root beer.
Garak: I couldn’t…
Quark: Go on.
Garak: It’s vile!
Quark: It’s so happy and bubbly and cloy.
Garak: Just like the Federation.
Quark: You know what’s worse? If you drink enough of it, you start to like it.
Garak: It’s insidious.
Quark: Just like the Federation.