This week’s Open Mike Mondays features Scott Roche. Scott is one of the best writers and editors I know, as well as one of the most patient. I’m writing a story for him, for an anthology of Cowboy Bushido short stories and it’s both going very well, and very badly. It’s going well because I get to write a story that features a gobby academic, his relentlessly calm bodyguard, martial arts, Fudoshin and cowboys. It’s going badly because the bloody thing keeps expanding. Regardless Way of the Gun, the anthology it was going to be in and is now going to be near instead is out shortly and trust me you’ll know when it’s out.
In the meantime, here’s Scott with his piece on Deep Space Nine and why it may be the definitive version of Star Trek.
I’ve been a fan of the Star Trek universe since I was a little tike growing up in the wilds of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas during the early seventies. My first exposure to it was the animated series. At some point during that same decade I encountered the original series in syndication and ravenously consumed all of the feature films involving the original crew. Throughout most of the next three decades I watched, rewatched, and thought a great deal about TOS.
Things changed a bit in the late eighties to early nineties. Star Trek: The Next Generation excited me at first. I particularly loved Data and his search for what it meant to be human, but the other characters largely left me cold. I remember watching DS9 on occasion and loving it, but I chalked that up to Avery Brooks. In college I revisited TNG, thanks to a cute redhead I wanted to date. She kept a log book of every episode she watched with pertinent details. It still didn’t ignite the passion that I had for the property in my youth. I tried watching Voyager and enjoyed some of the characters, but there was still something missing. It had some of the sense of adventure that I wanted and the characters were decent enough. My attention returned to Kirk, Spock, and the original crew.
The early part of our new century brought something that looked promising. Enterprise promised a grittier look at the future before that of the all too polished, more recent glimpses into Rodenberry’s world. I love Scott Bakula and Jolene Blalock as T’Pol was a fascinating (if you will imagine the eyebrow raise) look into what it meant to be a pure bred Vulcan living with a human crew. Then it descended into a hot mess of sexiness and time travel. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things, but it didn’t scream Star Trek to me.
With the advent of Hulu and Netflix, I decided to once again throw myself into the past. I indulged in episodes of the original series, some having been updated with glossy CGI. I knew that many of the story lines have aged badly, but I didn’t care. I needed my Star Trek fix. Then it occurred to me that I could revisit DS9, the next rung down the ladder. I hadn’t watched the entirety of the series in its original run and I certainly hadn’t watched them in order. It was time to see if it was as good as I remembered. I wasn’t disappointed.
So, why is DS9 the most Star Trek-y Star Trek? There are a few reasons for me.
The opening dialog of the original series is written thusly;
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
The crew of DS9 embody that in a way that none of the other crews do as well, or in some cases at all. The Next Generation Enterprise feels less like a group of explorers and more like UN Peacekeepers. While the Voyager crew is certainly exploring, it’s accidental. They mostly just want to get home. Enterprise comes reasonably close, but in my mind it’s ruined by the time travel nonsense. I suppose it is possible that that’s cleared up by later seasons, but I could be bothered to get that far. DS9 not only gets a whole new quadrant of the galaxy to explore, it also has hosts of aliens that come by and that notion of how to deal with a First Contact without causing an incident is integral. They are boldly going even when they’re standing still. That boldness is embodied in Sisko, Kira, and even Quark in ways that it isn’t with characters from the other series.
The second thing that leaps out to me is the sense of being on the frontier. Star Trek’s creator pitched it as “It would be like a Wagon Train in Space.” You don’t get much more “western” that DS9. Quark’s bar and dabo table are the epitome of the WIld West saloon. “Sheriff” Odo reminds me of a number of straight shooting law men. The best part of this for me though, is that the station itself feels farther away from the Federation than any starship. Perhaps that’s not true in terms of distance, but only a small percentage of the characters are actually Federation officers. Thanks to that, more than once, the audience gets to see an outsider’s perspective different from that of the ordinarily positive portrayal we see in other series. Storylines involving the Maquis and helping new settlers (or getting in their way in “Sanctuary”) make DS9 into Fort Apache.
The writing, character development, complicated bad guys, and solid writing all work make Deep Space Nine into good science fiction. Those are things that TOS had, to varying (mostly lesser) degrees, but I still hesitate to say that DS9 is better than its grand-daddy. Without one we wouldn’t have had the other and only time will tell if the episodes will stand up any better in terms of the acting, special effects, and writing than the original. I think it will, but we’ll. Accepting TOS as the standard of measurement for Trek-iness though, I can’t help but place DS9 within a Klingon’s whisker of it.
Thanks Scott. If you want to check out Scott’s work (And you do, he’s great), his details are below.
Blog – http://www.scottroche.com/thoughts/
Amazon Page – http://www.amazon.com/Scott-Roche/e/B004KS1U6Q
Twitter Feed – https://twitter.com/spiritualtramp
So this little experiment is going rather well. There is now a single slot left in the first run of Open Mike Mondays. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like it.