When trying again at Deep Space Nine’s difficult legacy, it’s typically the later seasons of the present—the place the sequence and Star Trek at massive was flung into the darkish coronary heart of the Dominion War—that folks flip to as the purpose that the sequence actually confirmed itself as one thing totally different. But 30 years in the past immediately, the present was already proving that from proper out the gate.
“Emissary,” the two-part opening of Deep Space Nine’s first season, aired on January 3, 1993, and from its very first scene it was a present with a lot to show. That Star Trek might do it once more after The Next Generation revitalized the franchise, that Star Trek might push boundaries by way of itself as a saga and for sci-fi tv at massive. But maybe above all it was desperate to show one thing else: that Star Trek may very well be extra advanced, more difficult, extra keen to poke on the holes inside its idealized future than it had ever thought of to take action earlier than.
Opening the sequence not with the titular Cardassian house station, however on the Federation starship Saratoga throughout the occasions of the long-lasting TNG two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds”—through which an assimilated Captain Picard leads the Borg offensive at Wolf 359, one of many deadliest conflicts in Starfleet historical past previous to what Deep Space Nine would go on to indicate throughout the Dominion War—provides us a daring introduction to each the present’s relationship to Starfleet and to its lead character, Benjamin Sisko. We are instantly thrust right into a horrendous loss for the heroic faces of the franchise. The Saratoga is sort of instantly compromised by the Borg, regardless of the readiness or the calm collectedness of its Starfleet crew. Sisko, barely standing after the ship’s bridge is blasted aside, hobbles by way of darkened, burning hallways—hallways notedly stuffed with bleeding, terrified civilians, too traumatized to do something however wail, a stark distinction to the risks the Enterprise confronted in TNG of getting civilians aboard ships. And then, within the fires of his quarters as different Starfleet vessels undergo a equally explosive destiny outdoors the viewport, Sisko is pressured to confront the horror of his spouse Jennifer’s useless physique, buried within the rubble of their former house—and depart it behind as he watches the Saratoga explode from his evacuation shuttle.
This opening scene defines every part else about “Emissary,” whether or not it’s associated to Sisko or not. Throughout the hour and a half story, we’re introduced with an unromanticized view of Starfleet in a method the unique Trek or TNG might solely not often think about, not to mention depict. Sisko and his arriving Federation crew are handled with disdain by the Bajorans and different species that referred to as DS9 house throughout the Cardassian occupation, know-it-all gadabouts who’re right here for his or her pursuits, not the pursuits of the individuals they’ve come to help. In specific, the arrival of Dr. Bashir as a self-important, idealized go-getter of a Starfleet officer is skewered all through the episode again and again, from his makes an attempt to flirt with Dax or the way in which Major Kira attire him down for treating her individuals’s post-occupation disarray as a possibility for private glory.
Sisko himself is introduced as not like any form of main Trek commander we had been used to—from the underhanded method he strongarms Quark into preserving his bar on the station’s promenade open, to his petty willingness to disprove Kira’s begrudging view of him as somebody who received’t get his arms soiled. If something, Sisko excels right here together with his arms as grubby as attainable, this potent mixture of a person who’s able to doing a lot however continues to be too haunted by the trauma of his prior task to be keen to care.
Sisko’s unwillingness to do his responsibility quietly comes effervescent over when he’s put face-to-face with each the idealized hero of the Star Trek franchise at this second and who he sees because the architect of his grief—Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard—to carry out the handover to his new responsibility. Sisko, nonetheless so misplaced from the demise of his spouse three years after Wolf 359, can’t assist however needle Picard for his half within the battle, and equally Picard’s amicable, well mannered persona, the person audiences had seen all through TNG, falls away instantly. The disdain the 2 have for one another, our new “hero” and our outdated one, with neither actually fairly in the proper, every too drawn inward and targeted on the previous, is an encapsulation of every part Deep Space Nine would go on to champion thematically. These are individuals from a corporation that we’ve been given a fantasized view of perfection to up to now, having that picture punctured by their human vulnerabilities, after which having to cope with it.
Really, that’s what “Emissary” is essentially about, past the comparatively perfunctory story that emerges in its decrease half, as the invention of the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant threatens to stoke tensions between the Bajorans and the Cardassians once more. As Sisko is pressured to navigate first contact with the all-powerful wormhole aliens, and undergoes a pseudoreligious expertise that can tie him to the Bajoran religious perception system for the remainder of the present, this imperfect man is put to the duty so typically requested of Star Trek’s heroes, to be the right consultant of a whole society of beings, and he struggles. His makes an attempt to clarify the mortal expertise to those godlike beings is pushed by his lack of ability to let go of his previous, and his grief over Jennifer’s demise, till he’s pressured to reconcile with it by way of this expertise.
And it’s essential that rising from the wormhole and phone with these beings doesn’t radically alter Sisko’s character. He’s not “solved” by the top of the episode, at the same time as he picks himself as much as transfer on from his previous and into this new chapter of his life and profession. He’s nonetheless the identical man who strong-armed Quark into staying on the station, he’s nonetheless the identical officer that holds that grudge in opposition to Picard. He simply has to select himself up and cope with it, and can proceed to cope with all through Deep Space Nine’s run. Thirty years on, with the sequence now as rightfully re-evaluated and revered as one in every of Star Trek’s most dramatically fascinating entries, “Emissary” stays as robust a gap shot throughout the bough as any Trek present has delivered, straight away nailing the issues that may make it an all-time nice.
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