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Star Trek Deep Space Nine: What You Leave Behind

It's hard to say goodbye.

Six of our writers wanted to participate in our farewell review to Deep Space Nine, and I loved every piece they wrote. So without further ado...

Victoria Grossack: I was blown away by Deep Space Nine when I watched it the first time, and in the more than two decades that has passed, it has remained my favorite. The stories are still relevant; the pace is still good; the characters still inspiring. Several episodes were groundbreaking when they aired: the kiss between Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn; Nog’s dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder when he loses his leg; even showing a normal all-Black family: Jake, Kasidy, Benjamin and even Joseph Sisko.

The recovery of a society after a terrible, prolonged occupation, the fact that the danger still lurks, and the difficult choices various characters had to make, were rich sources for storytelling. The secrets some of them have – Bashir's genetic enhancement, Sisko's uneasy alliance with Garak to get the Romulans into the war, Odo's past during the Cardassian occupation, some of Kira's acts as well – make most of the characters neither completely good nor completely bad.

I like, too, the fact that when Deep Space Nine ended, it ended, at least more completely than other Star Trek franchises. I read a few of the novels, but it's not like doing sequels. There was the documentary What We Left Behind. One reason we never got sequels was because Avery Brooks decided to withdraw from acting.

Also, the stories and characters that grew on me throughout the years. I started, like Kira, dismissive of the Ferengi, and I never did like the fact that they demanded that their women always be naked (thanks to one of the worst episodes of The Next Generation, where Deanna and her mother Lwaxana are kidnapped). And several of the Ferengi episodes did not work and feel worse after all this time. But they had a mostly reasonable point of view, and Sisko and Kira learned to tolerate them – O’Brien and Worf always had trouble – and some, such as Dax and Jake really cared for them. Deep Space Nine has helped me through good times and bad. Before it became available via streaming, I actually bought all the DVDs. I could change the language and the show improved my German and later improved my French (it’s a great way to learn languages). When I had a bad ski accident and was confined to the hospital and later to the bed, the episodes helped me through many months of pain.

There were some steps that I thought the show should have taken. Mostly I think Jake should be working for Quark, preparing to take over the bar, serving food in the tradition of his grandfather. Of course, some of Quark’s dealings are kind of shady, so the writers might have been squeamish about taking a young Black man in that direction. On the other hand, having the Ferengi and Captain Sisko end up kind of trading sons has a sort of symmetry.

How do I feel about the end? I loved it. I loved the party at Vic’s. I loved how O’Brien and Keiko are returning to Earth (a botanist cannot be too happy on a space station). Captain Sisko could not remain as a human; he needed to go to the Prophets (the warning from Sarah should have involved this). Odo, despite his love for Kira, left to heal his people. Kai Winn is dead. Gul Dukat is dead or trapped. Ezri and Julian are together. Worf finally goes off to live on Klingon, and as he’s the adopted brother of Martok, the new chancellor, as well as the ambassador for the Federation, he should get the respect he deserves. All is as it should be.

Nevertheless, when it ends and the camera pulls away, showing Jake and Kira looking out a window at the wormhole – where the Emissary must be – every time, tears roll down my cheeks, as what I consider TV’s finest series comes to a close.

Adam D. Jones: Deep Space Nine might have ruined Star Trek for me. Heck, it might have ruined television. From the gorgeous theme song to the incredible characters, it's something no other show can match.

And in one of the few "walking uphill both ways" stories I'll ever tell, I had to really earn my television back in the day. This show came on Saturday night at 2 a.m. (Which is technically Sunday morning, I know.) You're not misreading that. Two o'clock in the morning. We only got two channels in Paris, Texas, back then, so instead of spreading shows across several channels they just crammed them all into the two stations and spread them out over time. Which meant if you wanted to watch Star Trek you really had to earn it. (Yes, I told a similar story about Forever Knight. That one at least came on before midnight. No, I can't explain why the country-fried moral guardians let us watch vampire shows before bed but not the space show.) I didn't make it through most episodes, sadly, but every week I looked forward to trying.

The last season wrapped up the war alongside Sisko's mystical journey, both in a satisfying way. But I think I'm most impressed with the war, because it's a difficult subject to portray, and I don't think it's even been done this well. War isn't glorious. It isn't fun. But... sometimes it is glorious. Right? Watching Sisko make the hard decisions, not backing down, taking the fight to the bad guys. You have to love him for being brave and doing what no one else can. And it's heartbreaking to see him hating every second of it. The Klingons aren't wrong to crack open a barrel of wine, they've earned a celebration, but Sisko sees every second of the war as a regret, as something that stole his happiness and countless lives. Deep Space Nine gives us a war hero without ignoring the horrors of war, and you'll find very few stories that can accomplish this.

Of course, Deep Space Nine was a long-running television show with an overarching plot. It's hard to remember, but in the ancient 1990s this was uncommon. Monster of the week shows were all the rage, with no continuation of story. After all, what if viewers missed an episode and didn't understand the plot? But the producers of Deep Space Nine decided to buck the trend and give us an epic tale stretched across seven seasons, which unlocked a story that could never have been told otherwise. Deep Space Nine took advantage of the TV format in a new way, and we're still mesmerized, just like Jake staring at the wormhole.

That last image, by the way, is perfect. The crew watching the wormhole is a reminder that we're exploring our world, but we're not in control. We're just standing by, trapped by the beauty and wondering if the universe's next revelation will be lady or a tiger.


I watched Deep Space Nine last of all the Star Trek series (except the current ones, of course) so I already had a pretty good idea what to expect coming into the finale. It was partly satisfying, partly not. I would have liked to see Gul Dukat as himself at the end, I think. And I am not the biggest fan of the Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence trope, which I think it overdone.

But I actually quite like Bashir and Ezri together, and I'm glad the finale provided a good sense of closure. Shame all the behind the scenes politcking prevented any appearance from Jadzia, though.

CoramDeo: This is the third time I’ve seen the DS9 finale, and maybe the most I’ve appreciated it for what it is. I saw it first when I was much younger, on my initial watch through the series with my Dad. I had no idea what was going to happen going in, and I was completely unready for the bittersweet way it all ended.

The second time I saw the finale was on another watch-through at the end of high school. It didn’t affect me nearly as much. But I was also going through a period of my life when a lot of media really wasn’t affecting me strongly. I was consuming so much and feeling so little.

This, then, is the third time. Even without having done a full rewatch of the series, it hit me like a ton of bricks. And I’m in a much better place to evaluate media now than I was either of those other times.

I can admit, now, to being underwhelmed by the final confrontation between Sisko and Dukat. Although it plays out in a way that works for the characters, it’s a little bit unimaginative, and ultimately they don’t do a ton of interesting battle. I wish, though, that they had come up with a better, more visually interesting way for the final battle of the series to play out. It comes as a bit underwhelming after the incredible space battle sequences that populated the earlier parts of the episode.

That might be the singular false note in the entire thing, though. That and the lack of Jadzia/Terry Farrell are the only things keeping me from declaring this pretty much a perfect episode of television.

And, of course, I wept a ton this time. From "The Way You Look Tonight" on to the very last moments, I was crying my eyes out. Odo's final moments in particular hit differently this time around, knowing how well it worked as a goodbye to René Auberjonois as well. There’s a bittersweet quality to the whole episode that makes it feel just right even as it hurts so much.

It’s a stark contrast from the TNG finale, where everything feels right but the only thing bittersweet is that there won’t be any more of the show. All the characters in TNG stay on the ship and keep on gallivanting around the galaxy. You can imagine them continuing their missions forever if you want. Not here. Here things end, with a finality and a poetic justice. There is a hint of the story continuing, of course, but it ends. It really ends.

There’s a running segment in the documentary What We Left Behind, where the writers break the story to pitch the first episode of a mythical season eight. As wonderful and tantalizing that story was, though, I wouldn’t ever want it produced. We’ve seen now what happens when somebody else gets their hands on TNG to continue it past its perfect ending, and I wasn’t enthused. I do not want that happening to DS9. Not ever. The way it ends is exactly right. I’d never want that to be jeopardized, even by the possibility of more of my favorite show.

Mikey Heinrich: I hadn't noticed the first couple of times I watched this one how completely separate the two "story arc resolutions" really are. The final battle with the Founders / Breen / Jem'Hadar / Cardassian fleet and conclusion to the war and Kai Winn/Gul Dukat go evil spelunking plotlines really have no connection whatsoever. But they pace it well enough that you don't really notice the disconnect. In fact, once you're aware of it you start to realize that the entire final battle lasts the same amount of time as "walking to the caves" because they keep cutting back occasionally to that journey so that we don't forget about that plotline.

Which is fair. Maybe the caves are just really far away.

My only real criticism of the structure of this episode is that they leaned a little too heavily into the ominous foreshadowing in the beginning in which all significant couples vow to one another that they're totally going to survive the battle and then retire onto their newly purchase boat, the "Live 4 Ever." It creates some nice atmosphere, but they lay it on a little thick.

And I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to care about Ezri and Julian. I think it's just a factor of them not having enough time to properly establish them as a couple before the series ended. I did like how completely chill Worf was about the whole thing though. "And Jadzia said I did not have a sense of humor" is a solid joke.

But ultimately this episode will always be remembered by me as "The one where everybody loses the person they love most." Ben loses Jake and Kasidy. Jake and Kasidy lose Ben. Quark loses Odo. Odo loses Kira. Kira loses Odo. Miles loses Julian. Julian loses Miles. It's telling that Julian and Ezri aren't separated. It's almost like the episode is acknowledging that they don't have enough of a connection yet for their separation to have enough emotional weight, and so they just don't bother doing it.

A fantastic and heartbreaking conclusion to the best Star Trek show they've yet done. The montage of flashback memories of Julian and O'Brien alone... I can't. I just can't. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be sobbing on the couch while clutching a coonskin cap.

(Let's close with the writer who began these DS9 reviews for us back in 2014.)

Joseph Santini: This episode terrified me when it opened. Every precious relationship we've seen develop on the show over seven seasons is dangled before us and we know not every relationship will survive. Even Sisko and the Prophets make contact, jarringly. I figured everyone was going to die.

And that meant so much more than I was expecting. After seven seasons even the things we hate aren't the things we hate anymore. We've met amazing Cardassians, and the death of Cardassia isn’t anything for us to celebrate. Even death would be easier than some of the endings in this episode... but hasn’t that been Deep Space Nine all over? In the melange of Star Trek series now peppering the networks and the streamworks, hasn't Deep Space Nine always been the one most down to earth? People have lives and choices. Ships pass after they meet. The ending of Deep Space Nine isn't about the ending of characters or the ending of a war. It's about what happens when people come together and take a stand – sometimes not even knowing for what, but standing anyway, and then continue living.

What's the meaning of Sisko's journey? He goes from being a broken survivor of war mourning his wife and estranged from his son, to the Emissary of the Prophets, to being the very center of a family now poised to scatter to the edges of the galaxy. And then he leaves that family once again, to do what he needs to do, and becomes one with the Prophets in the Celestial Temple. Sisko's story has always been a story of a duty, and a commitment to the survival of his people, something that seems even stronger than his commitment to Starfleet.

I was crying through the flashbacks at the end.

I think I'll miss Odo most of all. This was and is my favorite Trek series, and it's a story that ended, if not exactly happily, then well.


  1. So much positive to say and love about DS9. But I’ll comment on the theme music. I loved it then and I love it now. If I hear it I always have to stop and listen and appreciate. The theme to Angel was similar in beauty but a distant second.

    1. That theme song (especially the first, slower version) is peak television.

  2. I love the music too, Mage. But my feelings for the music are so meshed with my feelings for the show that it's hard to tell them apart.

  3. Yes, music has that evocative quality That reaches into us at a very personal level.

    I saw that you included Gul Dukat in your paragraph about loving the end. Gul Dukat’s end was rather disappointing, I felt. I’d come to root for him to become a “good guy” in his own way.

    1. Not everyone deserves a redemption arc, no matter how charming they are given the right circumstances. I loved the Dukat character, and I also agree with the writers that there is no redemption arc that would be appropriate for what the character is and has done.

  4. DS9 will forever be my favourite Star Trek. We had to wait for the video shop to get a tape with another 2 episodes on semi regularly so I could watch it with my dad (we used to watch them together). I was the highlight of my childhood times with him. He has sadly died this year so needlessly to say episodes such The Visitor are rather hard to watch.

    All in all this show is a masterpiece of story telling and character development. Especially after the first season. Up there with the top 1990s story telling such as Buffy/X-Files.

    It's my favourite sci-fi of all time in fact with the except of The Expanse which I slightly prefer due to the "hard science" aspect of it.

  5. I only finished DS9 for the first time back in June, and it made onto my list of "Best TV Shows Ever". It's the 3rd TV show in that category. I have extremely high standards as you can see XD. I don't think I have EVER in my life cried that much at a series finale. It's such a genuinely good show, and the characters are incredible. Also, I agree with Mage: the music is INCREDIBLE, and I speak as someone who obsessively listens to soundtracks when I'm studying. The single version of the theme is especially good


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