Born in the shadow of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and obscured by the flashy launch of UPN and its flagship series "Star Trek: Voyager," the syndicated "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" has always been the Jan Brady of "Trek" shows - caught in the middle and largely ignored.
Even though the space station looks like a Christmas ornament, Hallmark has yet to create a DS9 ornament for its "Star Trek" line (a spokeswoman says it would be too big proportionally to hang on a tree alongside the "Trek" spaceships Hallmark has created). Yet again, "DS9" gets dissed.
It's a shame. If any "Trek" deserves media attention and a larger audience, this is the show. This week it will be over (check local listings for airdate and time of two-hour series finale).
Even if you don't know a quantum singularity from a warp core breach, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" was the most accessible "Trek" because it dealt more with characters than sci-fi gobbledygook terminology.
Here are nine reasons "Deep Space Nine" is the best "Trek" yet:
1) It's leaps and bounds superior to "Voyager"- That's not tough to achieve, but "DS9" has always been "the other show," because it's set on a space station and airs in first-run syndication. That didn't stop the "DS9" producers from keeping the show in orbit.
Certainly there have been some clunker episodes, but that's the opposite of "Voyager," which routinely produces stink-bomb episodes amid the rare stand-out.
2) Its greatest weakness became its greatest strength - In the beginning, I couldn't stand Avery Brooks' performance as Cmdr. Sisko. He seemed wooden and totally lacking in personality. The writers must have realized this, too, as the show became much more of an ensemble than any other "Trek."
Along the way, Brooks shaved his head and grew a goatee and his performance instantly became more commanding. Sisko's personality developed, his interaction with his son became more real, and Brooks got the opportunity to stretch by playing Benny, the 1950s sci-fi writer who may simply be imagining everything that happens on "DS9."
3) Continuity - It always drove me nuts in the original series and to a lesser degree in "The Next Generation" when the characters seemed to have no recollection of what had happened previously.
"DS9" had a much stronger sense of its own history, and the show had a recurring cast of characters unequaled by any of the other "Trek" shows. Part of this was the nature of the series - people come to a space station, while a starship goes to meet new species. But it also speaks to the truly ensemble nature of the show that different regulars sometimes got a chance to take a lead with a recurring romantic interest, enemy, family member, etc.
4) Fascinating religious stories - Television executives are notoriously terrified of dealing with religion in a dramatic context. "DS9" avoided such concerns by creating its own religion, the faith of the Bajoran people, and writing stories dealing with not only the politics of religion, but also beliefs.
From the get-go, Sisko was dubbed "The Emissary," the messenger through whom the Bajoran prophets speak. This has made his life more complicated than most. He has a destiny to fulfill, whether he likes it or not.
5) Character growth and development - Sisko grew beyond the bitterness over his wife's death, Odo revealed his feelings for Kira, Bashir dealt with the fact he was genetically engineered, Kira let go of her anger, and Rom married one of his bar co-workers.
6) A likable child character - Jake was not a dweeb like "Next Generation's" Wesley. Rather than taking the expected path and following in his father's footsteps to Starfleet Academy, Jake opted to be a writer.
Although he was often absent from episodes, that was OK. The writers didn't shoehorn him needlessly into stories, using the character only when it made sense.
7) Good transitions - When "Voyager" added Seven of Nine it basically became "The Borg Babe Show." When Worf joined "DS9" he was treated just like any other member in the ensemble.
After actress Terry Farrell quit last season, the producers could have passed on the opportunity to revive her character with another actress. But they took the plunge, transplanting the Dax symbiont from Farrell's Jadzia to newcomer Nicole deBoer's Ezri. In the process we got a "Trek" female with frailties rather than another run-of-the-mill "DS9" tough girl.
8) Sense of humor - Although generally regarded as a dark show, "DS9" had fun in its own way, most notably with bar patron Morn. He never spoke, but he became such an integral character an entire episode was devoted to this swill-drinking alien. It should be noted Morn is an anagram of Norm (as in Norm, the bar patron, on "Cheers," another series produced by Paramount).
And let's not forget the winning episode "Trials and Tribbleations," which showed the "DS9" characters interacting with the original "Star Trek" crew in the classic "Trouble with Tribbles" episode.
9) Willing to take risks - No other "Star Trek" has attempted complex arcs, stories that continue in soap opera-like fashion over multiple episodes.
Whether it was the three-episode story of a Bajoran politician (played by Frank Langella) or the Federation-Dominion war story that began two years ago and wraps up in the finale, "Deep Space Nine" has offered regular viewers a level of realism and believability never before achieved in "Star Trek."