I’ve decided to rewatch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine all the way from the start (with a few skips here and there). To me, DS9 is not only the best of the Star Trek series, but also one of the best television shows produced in any genre. When I first watched it more or less as it aired, I was already a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan predisposed to like the new series, but even so, it blew my mind. It took the adventurous optimism of Star Trek into some gritty directions that explored themes not quite touched by the other series. It’s some of those themes that I’m interested in this time around.
One of the things I most enjoyed about DS9 was that it dealt with religion on a regular basis. Although human religion continued to be invisible, Bajoran religion was inescapable, and touched everything and everyone on the show, starting with the first episode, where a human becomes the Emissary (Messiah?) of the Bajoran gods, to the last episode, where everything revolves around it. The writers did a phenomenal job season after season showing Bajoran religion as a living faith, as a source of hope and happiness as well as scorn and divisiveness, without glorifying it or deriding it in any way. This is especially true of characters like Kira, people with great amounts of faith who were never ridiculed for it, who were complex, virtuous yet fallible.
Airing entirely in a pre-September 11 world, DS9 tackled themes of freedom, occupation, and terrorism that are even more relevant today than in the 90s. While the show does offer the Cardassian point of view for viewers to have a fuller picture, there’s no denying that in no way are they in a sympathetic manner: they are the villains. The Bajorans are the underdog, and we’re meant to root for them, to sympathize with them, to empathize with the carnage they suffered under Cardassian occupation. When we hear stories of acts committed by Bajoran freedom-fighters, we’re supposed to cheer, to pump our fists in the air. When Cardassians call Bajorans terrorists, we’re meant to be offended by it, to see it as propaganda from an evil regime. In the 90s this was an uncomfortable acknowledgment of the realities of war. After 9/11, this aspect of DS9 becomes problematic and thought-provoking. Add the Bajoran’s religion to the mix, and you have a veritable powder keg of themes that are very relevant still today.
During this rewatch of the series, I want to pay close attention to both these themes, seek to understand the series through these lenses, see how the series treated the topics back in the 90s, and how they hold up today.