Everyone I know has seen at least some measure of Star Trek. With around 725 episodes (depending how you count) broadcast from its 6 television series and the 12 motion pictures it’s pretty much impossible to not have seen any at this point.
Of those perhaps the most underrated is Deep Space Nine.
Deep Space Nine is, by a fair margin, my favourite Star Trek series for two primary reasons.
First, it’s highly serialized. It sounds funny to say this in 2013, we’re in a golden age of television and even the worst of the shows on TV these days have serialized elements. Actions have consequences which span the rest of their series, character development is ongoing. However in the 1990s this wasn’t the case. Most television, genre television in particular, was syndicated and it was expected that every episode would re-establish the status quo.
Deep Space Nine bucked this trend. They weren’t the only one, but they were certainly one of the earliest and biggest to do so.
Second, Deep Space Nine exists mostly in grey areas. Other Star Trek series stick to delivering their messages in black and white, sometimes literally. There’s lessons to be learned and definite right and wrong actions. Deep Space Nine also bucks this trend. It’s not uncommon for the show to bring up a situation which is questionable and then just leave it questionable, usually with characters discussion and walking away conflicted or on opposing sides of an issue. In fact, one of the best episodes of the series literally ends with a character effectively stating “I know this is wrong, but it achieves a right, and I think I can live with that. I will live with that.”
This allows for a more realistic group of characters overall as while each comes from a different background few of them conform to the same world view. Each has their own reactions to situations, and those reactions make more sense as we get to know them better.
Clearly this makes for a more engaging series however with the first and second seasons being primarily world building and character development and the series having more than it’s fair share of one off filler episodes, the cost of entry seems very high. In fact I have friends who have said just that.
So I decided to do something about it.
Over the last several weeks I have watched every single episode of Deep Space Nine again. Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting write ups of each season detailing the must see episodes, the should see episodes, and the ones you can take or leave. My friend Chris has been kind enough to be my sounding board with each season, questioning my choices to make sure I stay on point.
Let me be perfectly clear on one point: I do think that you should watch all the episodes. The lists I am compiling will group the episodes based on whether you need to see them to understand what’s going on, not necessarily whether they are the best episodes.
Must See episodes will feature feature either primary plot relevance or major character development. Basically, if I think you’ll be confused later by not seeing it, it’s a must see. The must see episodes will be the ones that you cannot miss, the bare bones for getting through the series and understanding the primary story and themes the show explores.
Should See episode will feature either relevance to a side plot, a side characters development, or just be a good episode that doesn’t have any plot or character relevance. The should see episodes, while not required viewing, will give you a better understanding of what’s going on, give you more side plots to follow, and generally give you a better experience with the show.
The rest of the episodes will be marked Take it or Leave It. They won’t have any relevance to the plot. Basically, these are going to be the one offs and filler episodes and the ones that while maybe not bad aren’t necessarily good either.
There is only one episode I am going to tell you avoid, but don’t worry it’s a later season episode so we don’t have to worry about it right now.
Just to reiterate though: you should just watch it all.
So over the next seven weeks I’ll post one season per week, and I’m going to follow that up with a discussion of the best individual episodes from each season. I’ll be getting started in the next few days and I hope you join me!