Star Trek: Deep Space 9 was always, to me, “that Star Trek about the space truck stop.” Like a cosmic Stuckey’s.
But, I’m watching it now, and it has merit. While watching the first two-part episode, “Emissary,” I was initially distracted by Avery Brooks’s head. Brooks plays the role of Commander Benjamin Sisko, the new leader of Deep Space 9, but he used to be Hawk on Spenser for Hire, where he had a gleaming shaved head. He has hair, albeit tightly cropped hair, on DS9, and I found it distracting.
I can only assume that there was room for only one bald captain in the Star Trek universe, and that honor went to Picard. Even Shatner wore a rug.
The first half of “Emissary” is all about introducing the new setting and characters. Sisko was a Starfleet officer on board one of the ships at Wolf 359, when the Borg-assimilated Picard, as Locutus, was decimating the fleet. Sisko’s wife died during the Borg attack, but Sisko managed to escape with his son Jake. Fast-forward three years, and Sisko has been assigned the duties of taking over a space station in orbit around the planet Bajor, after it has been abandoned by the (Boo! Hiss!) Cardassians. As we discover, Sisko doesn’t really want this assignment, but he’s following orders.
The next tether to TNG, after Picard as Locutus, is Chief Miles O’Brien, who is transferring from Enterprise to DS9 as Chief Operations Officer. He greets Sisko and son and conducts the tour through the wreckage-strewn station, which seems to be, at least in part, an indoor shopping mall with many vacant storefronts. You know, like every indoor shopping mall in America. The Cardassians apparently raised a lot of hell before abandoning the station, leaving it in ruins with few defenses.
Besides being a familiar face and the human baton being passed in this Star Trek relay race, O’Brien also serves as Chief Exposition Officer. He is the main character filling us in on all the backstory about the Bajorans and Cardassians. There is political turmoil. The details aren’t really important at this point. O’Brien takes Sisko to meet Major Kira, the Bajoran attache who will serve as Sisko’s first officer. As it turns out, Sisko was the one who requested a Bajoran national as first officer. Kira, like Sisko, isn’t happy to be there either, and thinks that the current Bajoran provisional government will fall apart and Starfleet won’t be around very long. Kira seems to be a bit of a hothead.
In short order, we meet Constable Odo, who is a Changeling, which means he regularly does what was then state-of-the-art morphing like the Robert Patrick T-1000. Then we meet the Ferengi Quark and his nephew Nog (who seems to exist as proof that Sisko wasn’t lying when he told his son that there would be other children on the station). Nog is caught looting one of the stores on the Promenade, and Sisko leverages this to blackmail Quark into not abandoning the station and stay on as a community leader. Even though Quark is obviously shady if not downright criminal. It turns out that DS9 really needs an operating casino and bar. That would make Quark’s place the anchor of the mall, I guess.
Since the Enterprise is idling at one of the station’s gas pumps, Sisko eventually has to meet up with Picard. The tension between the two is pretty thick. It seems that Sisko hasn’t forgotten that Picard, as Locutus, killed his wife, and he holds a bit of a grudge. Go figure. Picard tells Sisko that he will work on finding a replacement for him at DS9.
Now religion enters the mix. Sisko meets up with the Bajoran religious leader, Kai Opaka, who strokes his ear inappropriately and calls him the “emissary.” She shows Sisko this thing called the Tear of the Prophet, which everyone refers to as an orb even though it has an hourglass shape. Sisko has a mystical experience where he’s transported to the day he met his late wife on the beach. When he returns, Opaka tells him that nine such “orbs” appeared over the years and that the Cardassians have eight of them. She gives the Tear of the Prophet to Sisko, telling him that it’s his duty to find the Celestial Temple before the Cardassians do.
The Bajoran religion seems pretty complicated to me. But, I get it. Sisko is The Chosen One. It seems DS9 is adding some pseudoreligion into the pseudoscience goulash.
The next day, Sisko greets two more of his officers. Dr. Bashir, who will remain one-dimensional for the moment, and Dax, a young woman who is also somehow an “old friend” of Sisko’s. It seems that Dax is something called a Trill, which means she has a symbiotic slug implanted in her young body that used to be in the older body of Sisko’s old friend. It is the slug that Sisko knows, not the girl. He continues to call her “old man,” which is kind of funny. Dax is the new science officer. Sisko gives her the prophet artifact to study. She also experiences a temporal experience back to the day the slug was removed from the old man and put into the young woman.
Long story made a little shorter, Dax uses the orb to identify locations of neutrino disturbances that indicate the presence of a stable wormhole. She and Sisko take a shuttlecraft and go into the wormhole, where they discover the Celestial Temple. Meanwhile, the Cardassians, and the evil Gul Dukat, appear and are also heading into the wormhole. Major Kira and Chief O’Brien manage to move the entire space station to a location next to the wormhole. I think so that Kira can claim the wormhole for all of Bajor. I may have dozed during this part. Sisko is momentarily trapped inside the wormhole while he undergoes intensive psychoanalysis by the beings who live in the Celestial Temple and seem to not understand the nature of time. Sisko passes their test, whatever it was, then uses his shuttlecraft to tow the stranded Cardassians from the wormhole.
This part confused me a little, I’ll admit. Sisko is now a changed man. He no longer seems to harbor ill will towards Picard. I mean, what’s one dead wife between colleagues? And, he wants to remain at DS9, which is now located at one end of a galactic superhighway connecting the Alpha Quadrant to another Quadrant (Delta? Gamma? I may be getting confused with Voyager) that’s 70,000 lightyears away. This will now be a very popular cosmic truck stop.
This first episode managed to draw me into this new Star Trek setting, and I find the characters interesting. I realize I have a few seasons to get through before Worf shows up, but I remain intrigued.
Politics. Space mysticism. Maybe more Star Wars than Trek, but I’ll keep watching.