Review: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Emissary”

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a huge Star Trek fan. But my Star Trek was “Star Trek: The Next Generation” along with the movies and the reruns of the original series. I started watching “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” when it began in 1993, but keeping up with a television show wasn’t as easy back then. If you couldn’t watch an episode as it aired and forgot to tape it (yes, actual videotape), you might miss a key piece of the story. In the end, I stopped watching several seasons in and never got to see the whole thing.

Now, with the entire series on Netflix, I am going back to watch it in its entirety, and you’re welcome to join me for the ride. I am not going to focus so much on the overall plot as on my feelings about the episodes and some of their specific points. With the series having started over 20 years ago, these reviews will be spoilerific. Some will probably be lengthy while others may be on the short side. This one will be lengthy and a bit scattered.

I’ll start, of course, with the first episode – “Emissary,” which aired January 3, 1993 and which I probably hadn’t seen since that year. I probably have a VHS of its first airing on WPIX somewhere at my parents’ house.

My sense of the episode is very much a pilot. The show absolutely feels like it still has to get its bearings, but there is a lot of good stuff in there, and so much I’d forgotten. Watching it Wednesday night, I had more fun than I remember having the first time around. Before I move on, on the subject of getting their bearings, the TNG cast had perfected the whole pretending to be tossed around thing. The crew of the U.S.S. Saratoga still needed a little time to work on that. Too bad so many of them died at Wolf 359.

That brings me to my next point. Commander Benjamin Sisko and his son Jake are survivors of the Borg attack (which claimed the life of his wife). In the Next Gen episode “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II,” they never make any mention of survivors when they reach the cemetery of dead ships. Until DS9 started, I always thought everyone died (or was assimilated).

While we’re on the subject of battle, there were a lot of explosions during the battle with the three Cardassian ships. I remembered a lot of stuff blowing up, but not that much.

One of the things I was concerned about going back into this was the Bajoran religion and mysticism. I was worried it would be too preachy, but, at least in this episode, it’s fine. Speaking of Bajorans, I’d forgotten how beautiful the matte painting of Bajor was. The various Star Trek series had a lot of great matte paintings.

One of the interesting things about this episode is the way it uses Capt. Jean-Luc Picard to sort of hand things off. The first exchange between Picard and Sisko is extremely icy. Then we get to see Picard say goodbye to Chief O’Brien (in Transporter Room 3, of course). A nice touch was the bit of the Star Trek fanfare as the Enterprise undocks and then the somewhat abrupt transition to the DS9 theme (though it being a broadcast television show, there wasn’t really time for a deeper or more drawn out transition). I liked the way the Enterprise just slid sideways before flying off.

Back to Captain Sisko, he is hilariously charismatic. When he first meets Major Kira and she says he’ll probably want the office, he says, “Well, I thought I’d say hello first, and then take the office. But we can do it in any order you like.” Then there’s the moment he tells Quark that Quark isn’t going anywhere.

On the subject of major new characters, I really liked Major Kira, a lot more than I did back then. If I’m really honest, I’m developing a bit of a thing for her.

Another new character is Dr. Julian Bashir, played by Alexander Siddig. It’s worth noting that in the premiere he was credited as Siddig El Fadil. He quite amusingly puts his foot in his mouth for most of the episode. You’re thinking, “I hope he actually knows how to practice medicine.” Then the Cardassians attack and we see he knows his stuff, at least when it comes to being a doctor. By the way, look for Siddig in the upcoming season of “Game of Thrones.”

Up next, there is Lt. Jadzia Dax, a Trill (cool callback if you remember the TNG episode “The Host”). She’s cute and sassy, as well as apparently smart. Setting up her now cross-gender history with Sisko leaves the show open to fun possibilities.

Finally, we have Odo, the shape-shifting security chief. Setting up his origin as mysterious was well-done. What could happen next?

Now for a bunch of observations.

I wish Ron Jones had scored the opening sequence at Wolf 359. He brilliantly scored half of the TNG Borg episodes. For those who don’t know, Ron Jones was fired from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” after four seasons writing some of the most interesting music in television history. DS9’s premiere was scored by Dennis McCarthy, who also scored TNG’s premiere and the majority of its episodes. (I am a huge film score buff.)

Sisko’s vision (for lack of a better term) inside the wormhole was a lot longer than I remembered. It was also a lot more out there than I remembered.

Marc Alaimo, who plays Gul Dukat, also played the first Cardassian ever seen on Star Trek: Gul Macet in “The Wounded.” He also played one of TNG’s first Romulans: Commander Tebok in “The Neutral Zone,” along with Frederick La Rouque in “Time’s Arrow” and an Antican in “Lonely Among Us.” He’s hardly the only person with multiple Trek roles and I think there are more. But I don’t want to spoil things for myself. While I’m still sort of on the subject of Cardassians, “Emissary” marks the first time we get to see inside of a Cardassian ship beyond a bridge seen via viewscreen.

Speaking of ships, this is the first time we see Starfleet runabouts, which are larger than shuttlecraft and have big ole’ warp nacelles. Nifty.

I could point out many more things and start nitpicking, but I think this piece may be long enough. So, I won’t say much more. When DS9 started, I didn’t really go in with an open mind. Gene Roddenberry was dead and it wasn’t set on a starship called Enterprise. Well, when I started watching on Wednesday, I had the attitude I should have had 20 years ago: “Yay! More Star Trek!” Will I like it better than Next Gen? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But I’m really looking forward to continuing the series. Perhaps you’ll join me on my journey to the final frontier?

– Evan Bindelglass

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