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Welcome to the Gamma Quadrant

Our mission continues with a new Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine, which debuted in 1993. It represents several major changes for the franchise as the first series created after Gene Roddenberry's death. DS9 is also the first (and only) Star Trek television show centered around a stationary location -- a space station -- instead of a ship exploring space. This change allowed the writers and producers to focus more deeply on the lives of the crew serving aboard the station. The new format can be thought of as a "Space Opera," as it is quite similar to a soap opera with long story arcs, reoccurring character and extensive character development.

 

Deep Space Nine has been a lightning rod of debate for Star Trek fans. Although it is embraced by the majority of the fandom, DS9 is sometimes criticized as a departure from Roddenberry's original vision and considered to be a "darker," more introspective version Trek. Others see the series as an expansion of Roddenberry's idea, applying his same approach to tell a more personal, philosphoical story dealing with complicated issues like religion, race, war and death. Either way, it cannot be denied that Deep Space Nine includes far more character development, including many reoccurring characters, and a significant amount of "grey area" issues to drive the series forward.

 

Those "grey areas" are what stand out most about Deep Space Nine. In this series, we learn that while the future is prosperous and hopeful on Earth, many of the same issues that once plagued humanity are still alive and well in the galaxy. For example, DS9 is the only series to depict the Federation at war, with a prolonged wartime arc in its last four seasons (more on this in our next Mission). The introduction of the wormhole, bringing new ideas and conflicts to the station's front door, along with the complex issues of Bajoran independence, introduce a number of scenarios that remain relevant today, more than twenty years later.

The following episodes will be screened in #TrekClass LIVE on Monday, Nov. 16, at approx. 6:30pm and 8:20pm EST. Online students are invited to join us as we "live tweet" using the course hashtag, or to review the tweets afterward by searching #Trekclass on Twitter.

Emissary

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)

Emissary is the pilot episode of Deep Space Nine. It introduces Commander Sisko and his new crew, as well as their unusual mission aboard the former Cardassian station orbiting Bajor. 

As you watch, consider the differences and similarities between Deep Space Nine and the Star Trek series that came before it. How do the characters and environments of this new series compare to the Federation and Starfleet we've come to know? How have Berman and Piller structured the series to facilitate their focus on character? In what ways does DS9 remain distinctly Star Trek?

Duet

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993)

The penultimate episode of Season 1, Duet is considered one of the series finiset. The script was inspired by the 1967 play, The Man In the Glass Booth, about a Jewish man accused of being a Nazi criminal. It is a powerful story with outstanding performances by Nana Visitor (Major Kira) and guest star Harris Yulin.

What role does the backdrop of the Cardassian occupation play in Deep Space NIne? How does this element relate to Star Trek's previous series and menthods of storytelling? How does the occupation relate to events of our own world?

 
 

Away Mission 6.1

Character & Conflict

Deep Space Nine was created to give the series writers ample opportunity for character development. While working on The Next Generation, Berman and Piller went to great lengths to preserve Roddenberry's rule against conflict between regular characters but, despite their success on that series, the producers found it difficult to adhere to the creator's directive. With their new spinoff, everything from the mixed crew -- Starfleet and Bajoran, among others -- to the station itself would provide podder for conflict and character growth.

 

Because Deep Space Nine is more of a "space opera" than its predecessors, it can be difficult to single out specific episodes for consideration. Instead, for this Away Mission you should view any (or all) episodes in Seasons 1-3 at your leisure while considering the main characters and their roles in shaping the series.

 

 

Write a brief character synopsis for each of the DS9 crew and regular characters. Explain what each contributes to the overall premise of the series, as well as any influences or references you notice from them. How do the characters differe from the crew of the Enterprise-D? The original Enterprise? What effect do these differences this have on the series? Are there any characters that seem un-Star Trek to you? Any that are distincly Star Trek?

Away Mission 6.2

The Maquis

The Maquis (Part 1)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1994)

The Maquis (Part 2)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1994)

In The Maquis, we discover that the peace and prosperity of Earth does not necessarily extend to all humans in the galaxy. After a treaty was signed between the Federation and the Cardassian Union, a demilitarized zone was formed as a buffer between the two powers. In the process, the Federation turned over some planets and settlements to the Cardassians. The Earth colonists who had been living on these lands were forced to choose between abandoning their homes or remaining as unwelcome squatters in Cardassian territory. For these people, some who have lived there for many years, life is not so idyllic as on Earth.

 

This episode continues the trend toward a "darker" interpretation of Roddenberry's original philosophy. This shift is often attributed to writer/show runner (and eventually Executive Producer), Ira Steven Behr, who had long been fascinated with the idea of testing the depths of Roddenberry's vision. While working on The Next Generation, Behr had imgined exploring what life was really like on Earth in the 24th Century, and whether Roddenberry's ideals held up when applied to circumstances beyond the paradise he had described Earth to be. Sisko's speech to Kira in the second half of this two-part episode seems to communicate Behr's premise with the line, "it's easy to be a saint in paradise".

 

The concept of the Maquis resonated in the 1990s with many stories of displaced peoples in modern history. Today, the idea remains just as powerful, if not more so. How would you relate the philispohical debate between the Federation, Maquis and Cardassians to current events?

Away Mission 6.3

Past Tense

Past Tense (Part 1)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1995)

Past Tense (Part 2)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1995)

One of the most powerful aspects of the Star Trek universe is that it's also our universe. Unlike science fiction that takes place in fictional galaxies far away... or in future scenarios that are unfamiliar or detached from our own, the history of the Federation is written to be our future. In that history, Roddenberry tells us that the "paradise" he imagined was not easy to achieve. The third World War and the Post-atomic Horror in the late 21st Century were catastrophic times for humankind, but which ultimately led to a unified Earth and its critical role in the formation of the United Federation of Planets.

 

Past Tense is a look at Earth before all that. In this espisode, we get a glimpse at how bad things had gotten before humanity reached for the stars. Sisko, Bashir and Dax are caught in a transporter accident and sent back to San Francisco in the year 2024 where they find a scenario not unlike our own world, with major cities struggling to deal with unemployment, poverty and violence. It is a time when tensions are high and resources are growing scarce. 

 

It is important to note that while Star Trek is well known for its ability to predict future technologies, its imagination regarding the Internet falls a bit short. Part Tense was written in 1995, the time of dial-up Internet services like America Online (AOL), and most American homes and offices still considered the Internet to be a luxury (maybe even a fad). The era of ubiquitous connectivity, online commerce and social media we live in today was still a decade away. That's why we have some classic "tech talk" in this episode, like the witty comeback, 'check your email, buddy!"

 

While Star Trek may not have accurately imagined the evolution of the Internet, Past Tense did predict the future in another way, and with uncanny accuracy. The story centers around a "sanctuary district" where the fictional San Francisco of 2024 contains its homeless and unemployed "for their protection". During the filming of this episode, Ira Steven Behr and team became aware of a news story out of Los Angeles that was eerily similar to their script. The mayor had proposed to relocate that city's homeless to fenced-in areas in an effort to make L.A. more "business friendly".

As you watch this episode, consider the technique of placing enlightened, human characters from the future (Sisko and Bashir) into a historical scenario not too far off from our own. How does this method help to frame certain aspects of our world in a different light?

Past Tense might not have gotten "the Net" of the 2020s quite right, but the episode does present an interesting idea about access to the Internet... What role does the ability to reach an online audience play in resolving the Bell Riots and the struggle unfolding in the Sanctuary Districts? How have we observed this effect of connectivity in recent history?

A Continuing Mission...

Mission 06 will continue next time with a closer look at the second half of DS9 as the series becomes Star Trek's "middle child."

The Book on 3D Printing

Interested in 21st Century Replicators?

3D Printing is one of the most important technologies of the early 21st Century. That's why Prof. Rotolo teamed up with Isaac Budmen, a leading expert in the field, to write The Book on 3D Printing. This easy-to-understand guide explains how 3D Printing works and the many ways this technology could reshape our modern world. It should be no surprise that the first chapter begins with a few famous worlds: "Tea, Earl Gey...hot."

 

For those interested in exploring 3D Printing in more detail, The Book on 3D Printing is a great option, and a fun read. Students in #TrekClass can order an exclusive signed copy  in our store!

After completing the mission, don't forget to share your thoughts and research with the class in our online community.

 

You may choose to complete some or all of this unit, but we want to hear your insights on the questions above, or anything else you've noticed in the episodes assigned.

 

If you've viewed other episodes not included in the Mission, please feel free to discuss those as well.

 

Tip: Try sharing your question responses individually, rather than responding to the entire unit in one post. We've found this makes for easier discussion.