Happy new year all. I’ve decided that it’s time to finally rewatch DS9 after the better part of a decade. I thought it would be fun to create a thread and share my thoughts, impressions and memories of each episode. I hope this doesn’t seem a narcissistic move on my part. My opinions are nothing special, obviously. But I like sharing my thoughts after watching episodes, and often got my knuckles rapped for oversharing in the general ‘last episode you watched’ thread, so here we are First up, DS9 is my joint favourite Trek, alongside TOS. I have vivid recollections of watching it all back in the 90’s when I was growing up. I live in the UK and, unless you had satellite TV, which we didn’t, the only way to watch new Trek was to buy the VHS releases which were just a few months behind the US airings. Otherwise it was a wait of at least 2-3 years before the episodes would make it to BBC2. Obviously, when I heard they were making a brand new Trek spin-off there was no way I’d wait years to see it. This young nerd wanted to see it the moment the video was released—which, if I recall, was around July 1993. I was 14 years old. There was no internet back then, at least not for most people. So, aside from reading articles in the sci-fi magazines of the time (i recall there was a good one called ‘TV Zone’, which covered all kinds of genre tv), I didn’t really know what to expect. Maybe it’s a blessing I didn’t have the internet back then, because knowing what a BLASTING DS9 got, it would no doubt have soured my experience—as it does now, with Discovery in particular. In fact, back then, I didn’t know anyone else who liked DS9. TNG had been very popular, but into my teens, none of my friends liked Star Trek and I didn’t actually know ANYONE who watched DS9, much less liked it. It was a strangely lonely feeling, especially as the series found it footing and I knew it was something quite special. I had no one to discuss the stories or characters with, at least not until 1997, when my dad got dialup internet and I found my way onto the old Trek newsgroups. Ah, the nostalgia... Emissary Anyway, right from the first time I watched the pilot, “Emissary”, I was blown away. Even today, it holds up extremely well and I think definitely ranks as the strongest and most assured of all the post-TOS pilots...by quite a wide margin. It no doubt helped that the creators had been making TNG six years and knew their craft well, because they really hit the ground rounding. “Emissary” remains a confident, mature, sophisticated piece of work, introducing the characters fairly well and weaving a beautiful story that deals with very Trekkian themes of discovery, finding common ground, and, in Sisko’s case, healing from the wounds of the past and coming to appreciate his life in the present. I know a lot of people were turned off by the darker themes and the grittier characterisation. One of the TV listing magazines dubbed DS9 “Star Trek: The Vexed Generation” when it premiered over here. But really, the characters feel more real to me and more engaging than the perfect “evolved humans” of TNG (not to put down TNG; I enjoyed it immensely and still have great fondness for the earlier seasons). I think the darkness was overplayed by some, who simply found the contrast shocking. DS9 is not set in a pristine hotel in space; it very much feels like it’s set in the real, lived-in world, and let’s face it, life is not all roses. It can be tough, and painful, and ugly, and people do not always get on. Yet, the humanity is very much there, and these characters would go on to become the most authentically family-like of all the Trek crews. But, oh how I can recall the many years of the “it’s NOT Star Trek” treatment this show would get, until long after it ended. The teaser is a knock out, and I’m very glad they actually showed Sisko’s loss rather than just telling us about it. The reflection of the exploding Saratoga as it superimposes upon Ben’s broken face is such a painful, powerful image. Avery Brooks generally does very well in his debut, although the first half of the episode is a little uneven. Apparently the producers were concerned Brooks was coming across unlikable, so they ordered reshoots and ordered him to soften his performance. In my view this was a mistake, because you can tell which scenes were reshot, and the character goes from sullen and intense to strangely bemused, upbeat and quirky. Two scenes they definitely reshot were Sisko’s first meeting with Kira, and the scene in the security office where Sisko ‘persuades’ Quark to stay on the station. Interestingly, the one scene that could have done with a reshoot is the first Sisko/Picard scene. If looks could kill, Picard would have been TOAST. While Sisko’s grief is clear, his hatred of Picard and his rudeness leavers us feeling sorry for Jean-Luc, and given how beloved TNG was, it probably wasn’t a good idea to have had our new lead being quite so abrasive and upsetting poor Picard, who had, after all, suffered horribly at the hands of the Borg himself. There are other strange moments where Brooks’ performance seems just a little off-key. His wordless, gurning expression when Dukat asks if he has any objections to his men coming aboard the station is unintentionally funny, as is his Michael Jackson-esque “OW!!” upon seeing Jennifer in his orb vision. In fact, that whole sequence on the beach falls very flat, and I think it may have been the total lack of chemistry between Brooks and Felicia M Bell, who doesn’t give the best of performances in her brief role. Where things really come alive is the episode’s second half. The very concept had the potential to be a convoluted and confusing mess, but the wormhole scenes are powerful, masterfully directed and edited, and feature strong writing and an excellent performance by Brooks. Even though each sequence was likely shot days or even weeks apart, Brooks is remarkably consistent and both impassioned and moving. His climatic realisation that, in spite of trying to teach the aliens the concept of linear time, he himself had been living in the past, is genius and really impacted me even at the tender age of 14. The other characters are well introduced, although in some cases, the writing and performances have yet to strike the right note. It’s strangely comforting to have O’Brien present, giving us a sense of continuity and reassurance that this is definitely Trek. Kira makes an impact, but it’s not her best episode at all. While I think Nana Visitor is one of the best actors from any Trek series, this is arguably her worst performance. She generally overplays things here, strutting about with an unfortunate, petulant pout, which I’m glad was immediately excised after this. By the very next episode Visitor had reined things in and found her groove. Rene Auberjonois gets very little to do, but he’s immediately a compelling presence, playing a unique and intriguing character—hard as nails but clearly with a vulnerability and hidden depths. The relationship between Odo and Quark shines from the very beginning, and Armin Shimmerman establishes himself as one of the show’s gems from the word go, stealing every scene he’s in. Quark was a totally different character to any of the previous Trek casts and the change was deeply refreshing and fun. That’s largely a testament to Shimmerman’s winning performance, which has a certain nuance. You’re not quite sure what to make of Quark at this point. I can only imagine the outcry that came when it was announced a Ferengi was part of the main cast. Although, to be fair, they were dreadful on TNG—just one note jokes. The Ferengi on DS9 would become a guilty delight for me, even although the later Ferengi episodes would get pretty awful. On that note, it was great to see cameos by Nog and Rom, both of whom had astonishing character arcs ahead of them. Who would have thought? It was a good idea leaving the introduction of Bashir and Dax til a little later in the episode, giving us space the breathe. They’re both extremely cute, although both characters are pale shadows of what they would later become. Neither the writers nor Terry Farrell were quite sure how to approach Jadzia, and it kind of shows. As for Bashir, his foot in mouth scene with Kira and puppy dog advances on Dax are fun, although his exuberance and naïveté were apparently NOT popular with viewers. Both characters are works in progress. Cirroc Lofton doesn’t get a whole lot to do, but he acquits himself admirably and is arguably one of the first child actors on Trek that isn’t horribly annoying. Seriously, Trek and kids did not mix until this point, so it was also a gamble having a child actor in the cast. But the strength of the relationship between Ben and Jake is already in evidence and would be one of the show’s greatest triumphs. The fact that Sisko is a family man is also wonderful, immediately setting him apart from Picard and Kirk. The sets and effects are pretty brilliant for the time. I love the scale of the station sets, namely Ops and the Promenade, although visually the show is let down by the poor quality of the DVD transfers. It’s really heartbreaking knowing this show will likely never get the remastering treatment TOS and TNG got. Both those shows look beautiful, yet DS9, one of the most visually arresting of all the shows until Discovery, sadly looks muddy, grainy and grubby. It’s just begging out for, if not HD remastering, at least an upscale and clean up. But, life is life, huh. Overall, this is an excellent episode and a skilful pilot, well written, with some wonderful, cinematic directing by David Carson. No doubt the quality of his work here earned him the job directing Generations, and deservedly so. I know the rest of the season was of variable quality, but it’s still hard for me to understand why DS9 was so badly received upon its release. The moment I saw “Emissary”, I knew something exciting had begun, and I already had a sneaking suspicion it might end up my favourite Trek series—which, it pretty much did. I’m excited to rewatch more. I’m not sure whether I’ll do so daily, or just a few times a week, but I look forward to sharing some thoughts and recollections. For now, I’m rating “Emissary” a solid 9/10. In spite of some unevenness in the characterisation and performances, this is one of the strongest pilot episodes I’ve seen of anything.