Star Trek Best Trek

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Deep Space Nine follows on from The Next Generation, running alongside it for two seasons. Set on the edge of Federation space on a space station populated by Starfleet officers, Federation civilians, and a variety of non-Federation peoples, Deep Space Nine is able to explore the same era as The Next Generation but in a different context which allows for greater serialization (the crew can’t simply fly to a new planet every week), greater ideological diversity, and high-stakes tests of the Federation’s principles.

Episodic or serial?

Episodic at first and increasingly serial over time. As the show progresses, it digs deeper into its setting and characters while developing longer arcs and events with more consequences. There are a lot of multi-part episodes, including Trek’s first three-parter. Season six starts with what is essentially a six-part episode. The seventh and final season brings existing plot threads to their conclusion, culminating in what is essentially a ten-part episode starting with “Penumbra”.

Idealistic or cynical?

Fundamentally idealistic, though there are absolutely dark spots. Deep Space Nine is willing to test Trek’s ideals by challenging them against dangerous situations and alternative viewpoints. But as deconstructions go, it’s very gentle. Deep Space Nine clearly still believes that its principles are worth fighting for; it just doesn’t shy away from showing that the fighting itself is necessary and sometimes ugly.

Worth watching?

Absolutely. Along with The Next Generation, this is a strong candidate for the best Trek series and the best embodiment of the franchise’s values. The longer arcs, deeper character development, and challenging of ideals make it in some ways a more mature take on Trek without sacrificing what makes it special. While the writing is not always consistent (for my money, season five’s writing is bizarrely terrible on average) there’s good stuff throughout and it gets better as the show becomes more serialized.

Note: This guide assumes you want to enjoy most of the show and just skip the worst of it. If you’re looking to save more time and just see the absolute best that Deep Space Nine has to offer, there are other more aggressive guides out there.

Anything else that should be watched first?

No hard requirements, but it wouldn’t hurt to have seen some of The Original Series and The Next Generation.

Deep Space Nine does to some extent frame itself as a deliberate contrast to The Next Generation which you can better appreciate if you’ve seen that show. Plus a few episodes directly reference events or characters from that series and a couple main cast members were introduced there.

A few characters from The Original Series also show up and one episode is a direct sequel to “The Trouble With Tribbles”.

What should be watched after this?

This series has no films or direct follow-up but does connect to Voyager, so check that out next.