30 Years Later Deep Area 9’s First Episode Is Superb Trek
When trying again at Deep Area 9’s challenging legacy, it’s usually the later seasons of the present—the place the sequence and Star Trek at giant was flung into the darkish coronary heart of the Dominion War—that individuals flip to as the purpose that the sequence actually confirmed itself as something different. However 30 years in the past as we speak, the present was already proving that from proper out the gate.
“Emissary,” the two-part opening of Deep Area 9’s first season, aired on January 3, 1993, and from its very first scene it was a present with a lot to show. That Star Trek might do it once more after The Subsequent Era revitalized the franchise, that Star Trek might push boundaries when it comes to itself as a saga and for sci-fi tv at giant. However maybe above all it was wanting to show one thing else: that Star Trek could possibly be extra complicated, more difficult, extra prepared to poke on the holes inside its idealized future than it had ever thought of to take action earlier than.
Opening the sequence not with the titular Cardassian house station, however on the Federation starship Saratoga through the occasions of the long-lasting TNG two-parter “The Better of Each Worlds”—by which an assimilated Captain Picard leads the Borg offensive at Wolf 359, one of many deadliest conflicts in Starfleet historical past previous to what Deep Area 9 would go on to indicate through the Dominion Battle—offers us a daring introduction to each the present’s relationship to Starfleet and to its lead character, Benjamin Sisko. We’re instantly thrust right into a horrendous loss for the heroic faces of the franchise. The Saratoga is nearly instantly compromised by the Borg, regardless of the readiness or the calm collectedness of its Starfleet crew. Sisko, barely standing after the ship’s bridge is blasted aside, hobbles by means of darkened, burning hallways—hallways notedly filled with bleeding, terrified civilians, too traumatized to do something however wail, a stark distinction to the hazards the Enterprise confronted in TNG of getting civilians aboard ships. After which, within the fires of his quarters as different Starfleet vessels endure a equally explosive destiny exterior the viewport, Sisko is compelled to confront the horror of his spouse Jennifer’s lifeless physique, buried within the rubble of their former house—and go away it behind as he watches the Saratoga explode from his evacuation shuttle.
This opening scene defines every little thing else about “Emissary,” whether or not it’s associated to Sisko or not. All through the hour and a half story, we’re offered with an unromanticized view of Starfleet in a manner the unique Trek or TNG might solely not often think about, not to mention depict. Sisko and his arriving Federation crew are handled with disdain by the Bajorans and different species that referred to as DS9 house through the Cardassian occupation, know-it-all gadabouts who’re right here for his or her pursuits, not the pursuits of the individuals they’ve come to assist. Particularly, the arrival of Dr. Bashir as a self-important, idealized go-getter of a Starfleet officer is skewered all through the episode time and again, from his makes an attempt to flirt with Dax or the way in which Main Kira attire him down for treating her individuals’s post-occupation disarray as a chance for private glory.
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Sisko himself is presented as unlike any kind of leading Trek commander we were used to—from the underhanded way he strongarms Quark into keeping his bar on the station’s promenade open, to his petty willingness to disprove Kira’s begrudging view of him as someone who won’t get his hands dirty. If anything, Sisko excels here with his hands as grubby as possible, this potent mix of a man who is capable of doing so much but is still too haunted by the trauma of his prior assignment to be willing to care.
Sisko’s unwillingness to do his duty quietly comes bubbling over when he is put face-to-face with both the idealized hero of the Star Trek franchise at this moment and who he sees as the architect of his grief—Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard—to perform the handover to his new duty. Sisko, still so lost from the death of his wife three years after Wolf 359, cannot help but needle Picard for his part in the battle, and similarly Picard’s amicable, polite persona, the man audiences had seen throughout TNG, falls away immediately. The disdain the two have for each other, our new “hero” and our old one, with neither really quite in the right, each too drawn inward and focused on the past, is an encapsulation of everything Deep Space Nine would go on to champion thematically. These are people from an organization that we’ve been given a fantasized view of perfection to in the past, having that image punctured by their human vulnerabilities, and then having to deal with it.
Really, that’s what “Emissary” is largely about, beyond the relatively perfunctory story that emerges in its lower half, as the discovery of the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant threatens to stoke tensions between the Bajorans and the Cardassians again. As Sisko is forced to navigate first contact with the omnipotent wormhole aliens, and undergoes a pseudoreligious experience that will tie him to the Bajoran spiritual belief system for the rest of the show, this imperfect man is put to the task so often asked of Star Trek’s heroes, to be the perfect representative of an entire society of beings, and he struggles. His attempts to explain the mortal experience to these godlike beings is driven by his inability to let go of his past, and his grief over Jennifer’s death, until he is forced to reconcile with it through this experience.
And it’s crucial that emerging from the wormhole and contact with these beings does not radically alter Sisko’s personality. He’s not “solved” by the end of the episode, even as he picks himself up to move on from his past and into this new chapter of his life and career. He’s still the same man who strong-armed Quark into staying on the station, he’s still the same officer that holds that grudge against Picard. He just has to pick himself up and deal with it, and will continue to deal with throughout Deep Space Nine’s run. Thirty years on, with the series now as rightfully re-evaluated and revered as one of Star Trek’s most dramatically fascinating entries, “Emissary” remains as strong an opening shot across the bough as any Trek show has delivered, right away nailing the things that would make it an all-time great.
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