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Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind, we will always have here.

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Old July 31 2011, 05:55 PM   #1
HaventGotALife
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On Deep Space Nine...

I started this in another thread and it wasn't on-topic so I thought I'd give this forum a chance to chew on it, add to it, challenge it, and generally have some fun with the questions and themes of Deep Space Nine.

Deep Space Nine does not establish the Star Trek universe. The Trek universe is of a colorless, nationless, egalitarian Starfleet that attempts to learn what it can about the life-forms that it encounters and provides aid and support to all aliens. This is found in Star Trek (along with a competent and valued crew in the Original Series) and in Star Trek: The Next Generation (which emphasized Starfleet more as pacifists, re: respect for life). It is important to know the Trek universe for Deep Space Nine to stand out.

DS9 puts the Star Trek universe in danger. We take on a peace mission with the Bajoran people, who have responded from years of war and occupation in a very peaceful way, and in doing so, have gained attention for potentially becoming a member of the Federation. In many ways we prop up the government with Starfleet's military strength. The Cardassians do not dare try to re-conquer Bajor and we are able to act as mediators for potential internal conflict. Part of their peaceful approach is their religion and the strength, leadership, and morals it brought to their people during a time when they lived on fighting for their freedom alone. They gain political relevance by finding the Wormhole--a gateway to an unexplored region of space located in Bajoran territory. Still, the young government and the potential power that the religious leaders could gain are a source of conflict and therefore drama in the first few seasons.

Despite the Bajorans laying down their weapons, there's also hatred for the former oppressors. Major Kira Nerys is a big part of this. She hates not just Gul Dukat, who oversaw the Occupation of Bajor, and the military leaders of the Government. She thinks all Cardassians are responsible and the race is generally evil. It even calls for her to side with the Maquis, a separatist sect of the Federation, unhappy with the Cardassian-Federation Peace Treaty that reminds Kira of her own past as a résistance fighter. She survived on her hatred, but now there's really no place for it on the station. This softens in the later seasons, but at the beginning of the series, she is a bigot. It is necessary for membership for Bajor and Cardassia to heal the wounds of the Occupation.

Enter the Dominion. I alluded to this earlier, but the Founders and the Bajorans have much in common. They both have been mistreated in the universe and have responded in very different ways. The Founders, shape-shifters, now are xenophobes that genetically engineer "solids" to do their dirty work. They have no respect for them. They do not value their lives. They are to do the Founders bidding and that's it. Yet, their vows of allegiance have led to a culture of seeing the Founders as gods. The series has given us a dark Bajor, an understandable enemy (like Ben Sisko towards Picard, Kira Nerys towards Cardassians) that had appeared in alternate timelines (TNG's Parallels, the DS9 alternate universe).

Meanwhile, the Federation has been put in the same situation the Bajorans faced with the Cardassians. If they lose this war, they will be resistance fighters against the enslavement of the Dominion. They face several moral dilemmas because of this conflict. First, they are told not to come through the "gateway." Will they continue to explore? Second, they are told the Founders are "everywhere." How will they defend themselves when the Dominion threat becomes real in the Alpha Quadrant? Third, because Alpha Quadrant powers are aligning with the Dominion, should we start a war now before they have us surrounded? And finally, what is the larger moral imperative: to end the war fast and restore our way of life (respecting life, exploring, etc.) or keeping our morals, prolonging the war, and risk that we may end up losing? In the end, elements of the Federation make a moral decision to attempt genocide of the Founders. It ends the war. They make a similar choice the Bajorans made by committing to just ending the war because they were not strong enough to face them and defeat them. The most successful missions, like hitting the Ketrecel White facility in the Alpha Quadrant, were essentially covert ops or terrorist activities. We became the Bajorans during this threat. So what will we do in the aftermath of committing genocide? We never got an answer to that question. It is relevant because the Federation has violated their morals. Will they return to center or not? That's the question I wanted answer.

All of this is interesting to me because the series is so different from the rest of Trek. It has a purpose and does it well. It asks interesting and relevant questions. I didn't look at it like this when it first aired. It took living through the threat of international terrorism from al Qaeda for the material to deepen for me.

So what do you all think were the relevant questions posed by Deep Space Nine?
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Old July 31 2011, 07:50 PM   #2
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

HaventGotALife wrote: View Post
So what do you all think were the relevant questions posed by Deep Space Nine?
"Just how far down do those spots go?"
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Old August 1 2011, 12:57 AM   #3
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

I've never found Starfleet to really be colourless, nationless or egalitaria. It's made of people that have their own issues and preferences and sadly sometimes prejudices. And colour, culture and diversity- even within the Federation, are what make it interesting.

I think DS9 did just that- it was everything that makes Trek Trek. We met new peoples, explored new places, confronted problems, made friends and tried to follow the rules during conflict- we saw the pain and guilt that resulted from not following those rules.

Though for something to be good and entertaining for me, it doesn't need social issues or to raise questions. That prejudice, gender inequality, class inequality etc. is wrong just goes without saying and people who are prejudiced are bigoted... I just find sad.
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Old August 1 2011, 02:07 AM   #4
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

Marie1 wrote: View Post
I've never found Starfleet to really be colourless, nationless or egalitaria. It's made of people that have their own issues and preferences and sadly sometimes prejudices. And colour, culture and diversity- even within the Federation, are what make it interesting.
I think having Uhura speak English as well as Sulu on the bridge of the Enterprise, wasn't diversity that was more than skin-deep. They didn't share each other's culture. Uhura sang songs that America, and the Enterprise, could relate to. They are all comrades, but Picard's accent doesn't make him a culture onto himself. The only diversity is found in different aliens, cultures that do not exist in the real world.


Marie1 wrote: View Post
I think DS9 did just that- it was everything that makes Trek Trek. We met new peoples, explored new places, confronted problems, made friends and tried to follow the rules during conflict- we saw the pain and guilt that resulted from not following those rules.
Don't get me wrong--it is still Star Trek. But the issues tackled on a regular basis, and the aliens they showed that were not a part of the Federation, tackled issues that had been resolved by the Federation. It was a missionary show at the beginning. Our way of life is being brought to the other cultures and that affects who we touch. Just look at Quark, Rom, and Kira. They change to look more like us.

Marie1 wrote: View Post
Though for something to be good and entertaining for me, it doesn't need social issues or to raise questions. That prejudice, gender inequality, class inequality etc. is wrong just goes without saying and people who are prejudiced are bigoted... I just find sad.
I need a rich theme and the purpose of this thread is to explore the thread that connects seasons 1-7. But to each his own.
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Old August 1 2011, 06:57 AM   #5
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

I would agree that the Federation went too far in some of their actions in DS9, but I don't see it as breaking with what Star Trek is. I see it as a more realistic take on how a Federation-like entity would function in the real world. They would need to break the rules every once in a while in order to preserve the peace. The question of whether the ends justify the means comes up many times in this series. Bashir asks this to Sloane in one of the Section 31 episodes, and yet we see Bashir just a season or two later breaking with his own moral beliefs to help save Odo. Did the ends justify the means then? I don't think we will ever have the answer. The show is still Trek, just a more realistic Trek. Maybe that does make it not Star Trek to some because I'm sure some see Trek as an inherently idealistic idea and TV show. I don't agree with that view but I'm sure some do believe it.
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Old August 4 2011, 06:14 PM   #6
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

Supernuke wrote: View Post
I would agree that the Federation went too far in some of their actions in DS9, but I don't see it as breaking with what Star Trek is. I see it as a more realistic take on how a Federation-like entity would function in the real world. They would need to break the rules every once in a while in order to preserve the peace. The question of whether the ends justify the means comes up many times in this series. Bashir asks this to Sloane in one of the Section 31 episodes, and yet we see Bashir just a season or two later breaking with his own moral beliefs to help save Odo. Did the ends justify the means then? I don't think we will ever have the answer. The show is still Trek, just a more realistic Trek. Maybe that does make it not Star Trek to some because I'm sure some see Trek as an inherently idealistic idea and TV show. I don't agree with that view but I'm sure some do believe it.
It is a violation of what Star Trek is. We have a well-established universe and this is something you would expect from the Tal'Shiar or the Obsidien Order. Whether it's realistic isn't the question. We did violate our morals and we never answer the question about how the Star Trek universe would come back together.
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Old August 5 2011, 12:48 AM   #7
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

HaventGotALife wrote: View Post
Supernuke wrote: View Post
I would agree that the Federation went too far in some of their actions in DS9, but I don't see it as breaking with what Star Trek is. I see it as a more realistic take on how a Federation-like entity would function in the real world. They would need to break the rules every once in a while in order to preserve the peace. The question of whether the ends justify the means comes up many times in this series. Bashir asks this to Sloane in one of the Section 31 episodes, and yet we see Bashir just a season or two later breaking with his own moral beliefs to help save Odo. Did the ends justify the means then? I don't think we will ever have the answer. The show is still Trek, just a more realistic Trek. Maybe that does make it not Star Trek to some because I'm sure some see Trek as an inherently idealistic idea and TV show. I don't agree with that view but I'm sure some do believe it.
It is a violation of what Star Trek is. We have a well-established universe and this is something you would expect from the Tal'Shiar or the Obsidien Order. Whether it's realistic isn't the question. We did violate our morals and we never answer the question about how the Star Trek universe would come back together.
I don't agree that it violates what Star Trek is. I think multiple things make Star Trek what it is. Exploration is one of them and despite being based out of a ship, they still explore quite a bit of the Gamma Quadrant. I think that whether it is realistic or not does matter. TNG and TOS showed the universe as something idealistic, something to strive for. DS9 portrayed the universe as if humans from out time were placed in the Star Trek universe. It's a different perspective, but it most certainly is still Star Trek, IMHO.
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Old August 7 2011, 02:23 AM   #8
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

If you ask Ira Stephen Behr he'd say one of the most important themes of the show is embodied by the line he wrote in The Maquis two-parter: It's easy to be a saint in paradise.

Deep Space Nine was a challenge to the Star Trek universe because it dared to ask how such a paradise as the Federation is maintained. It took a peek into the sausage factory to look at the gory details of what makes such a marketable product.

A lot of writers talked about the trouble they've had writing for Star Trek because of its idea of a post-scarcity utopia, the perfectibility of humans, as Nicholas Meyer understood the problem to be. He also had trouble finding evidence of that perfectibility, so he similarly attempted to reconcile the philosophy of Star Trek with a more realistic approach.

The other mission Deep Space Nine had was that it wanted to be a show where every action had a consequence. This eventually led to a more serialized format, which I think was a heavy influence, along with shows like Hill Street Blues, on the television of the past decade.

I don't think it puts the Star Trek philosophy in any danger. Or let me rephrase: I don't think it puts that philosophy in any danger it doesn't need. If a show claims that in the future humans will have united and made peace with not only each other, but dozens of alien worlds, it's making a large ambitious claim. That claim needs to be challenged, and the challenge needs to be answered, to give it the credibility and believability it deserves.
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Old August 8 2011, 05:00 AM   #9
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

^ I agree. This kind of shows the inner workings that make the Federation realistically work. A lot of people don't want to see that stuff and ignore it. I think it is an important part of making a show believable. That is not to say I don't enjoy other Trek too. I like both sides of the coin.
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Old August 19 2011, 12:05 AM   #10
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

Eric Cheung wrote: View Post
If you ask Ira Stephen Behr he'd say one of the most important themes of the show is embodied by the line he wrote in The Maquis two-parter: It's easy to be a saint in paradise.

Deep Space Nine was a challenge to the Star Trek universe because it dared to ask how such a paradise as the Federation is maintained. It took a peek into the sausage factory to look at the gory details of what makes such a marketable product.
This is the first thing I thoughht about too. TOS was a bit more gritty and imperfect but TNG was like some fairytell in how it showed it's characters. DS9 asks how we can be good under difficult circumstances.
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Old August 19 2011, 03:24 PM   #11
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

The thing about Starfleet being nationless is interesting, but ultimately I'd have to say that the Federation *is* the nation; at least, that's how it seems to be considered by the other major powers. Yes, we have separate planets and their ruling bodies, like Vulcan and Betazed, and TNG nicely explored what the Prime Directive meant even when dealing with planets that are already Federation members. But these planets tend to be regarded as Federation first, separate entities second (and I suppose that's a consequence of having each show as part of the overall body in Starfleet). So whenever an enemy decides to battle a planet, one side or the other will tend to bring up the power of Starfleet and thus, the Federation. Additionally, though again perhaps a consequence of being Starfleet shows, there seems to be an overriding Federation culture that's layered on top of whatever cultures one's homeworld would have; DS9 and early VOY episodes would question this culture -- why must everything be about the Federation? -- but asking that only points to the idea that there *is* that culture; and culture is very important to the identity of a nation.

With that said, if the Federation is a nation the way the Klingon and Romulan Empires are, then Starfleet isn't nation-less. Heck, they invoke the Federation and its ideals several times per episode; on the contrary, Starfleet is sometimes the best proof that the Federation is a national body.
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Old August 19 2011, 05:31 PM   #12
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Re: On Deep Space Nine...

I suppose it's the difference between whether the Federation is more like the UN or the US. The political structure seems like it leans UN, while the ideology seems like it leans more US, especially when you get to some of the more criticized aspects of early TNG-era stuff that sounds very pro-human, pro-Federation. It comes off like American Exceptionalism. Which is a reason DS9 tried to subvert that. But even they tended to have fairly bigoted or at least insensitive views regarding other alien species: Rom isn't a "typical Ferengi" and the Klingon restaurant always being referred to only as "The Klingon Restaurant."
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