Let me first say that I am in no way trivializing what happened on September 11th. 3,000 people died and two of the longest wars in our history has been waged. Islamic Extreme Terrorism is the Communism of our day. We are in jeopardy because of an attack on the mainland. My family has personally been affected by losing someone to this war, a soldier. And he signed up for duty after September 11th. The rest of this post assumes that the events were unavoidable and, therefore, set in stone.
Part of me wishes that Deep Space Nine had premiered after 9/11. I think the show would've been more timely and it would've had higher ratings. I think this because my opinions of the show now are based largely on the fact that I lived, as 17-year-old, through that event. I heard about his friends and acquaintances going off to war. Feeling the terror of a potential existential threat from a foreign invader, and dealing with the fear and anxiety of never wanting to have another attack.
As Communism changed Ronald Reagan in the 1960s, I changed my beliefs, became more liberal, after September 11th. I realized the judicious use of power, the effect of terrorism on a society (and yes, it can be effective), and the tension between a free and open society versus safety and the rule of law. Those who experienced this time as adults, as I did, were changed completely by it. I remember my reaction to the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. I am ashamed of that view because of what happened after September 11th. I claimed it was people in foreign lands, they had signed up to be in danger. That's what I thought. And even as Bin Laden had struck at the US, was on the FBI's most wanted list, it didn't strike me as something that could cause me to be touched by it personally. There was NO political will to get Bin Laden in 1993-2000. And I was a part of that. It doesn't wake me in cold sweats anymore, but I still get angry with myself.
Deep Space Nine touches on all of those topics. From trying to make peace with our enemy early on, to what that peace would look like, what we do to ourselves in the name of defense, when war is acceptable, how we wage that war, and what we are willing to do to win it. It is incredible to watch and it is dazzling that it was able to so fully flesh out the issues without having an event in our lives that made them relevant.
Part of me is glad they weren't on the air. Aaron Sorkin has spoken about how timid NBC became over stories he wished to air. His last episode on West Wing, a show that never touched more than passingly on terrorism until after September 11th, was a cliffhanger--the President's daughter has been taken and President Bartlet resigns via the 25th Amendment, putting the most powerful Republican in charge (no Vice President because of a sex scandal) because he doesn't want to make a decision as a grieving father with the powers of the Presidency.
In season 5, the second episode, Zoe Bartlet is found and she was abducted by Islamic extremists. The episodes were written by John Wells. Sorkin's story was that Zoe had been taken by Extremist Christians. He fought for the story, from what I know, and he left because it was censored.
The same thing could've happened to Deep Space Nine with regards to the Bajorans, and the thinly-veiled social problem would've been more blunt. They were creating this, not ripping from the headlines. That is why I am glad it came before September 11th.
All in all, it remains my second favorite series and the one I have thought about, even gone as far as trying to write an 8th season, because it is so relevant in my life.