Twist of Faith


Deep Into That Darkness Peering by David R. George III

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before….


Nearly a decade and a half later, I still vividly recall watching that first episode of the then-newest Star Trek television series. Its development had been announced months earlier, to both fanfare and skepticism. Unlike its forebears, this show would include among its cast of characters numerous non-Starfleet personnel, and they would interact not on the Starship Enterprise or on any vessel at all, but on a space station. The producers also noted that this latest incarnation of Trek would unveil a darker side of Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic creation. It would be called Deep Space Nine.

The name of the show, I remember, did not fill me with anticipation. Just a few years earlier, a B movie had been released with a similar name—Deep Star Six, I think—and the resemblance between the titles seemed unfortunate. Of greater significance, I heard fans wondering whether a series that did not include the Enterprise could even properly be considered Star Trek. How would that work from week to week, some asked, curious about the prospect of adventures having to visit the space station again and again, rather than the new crew boldly going, seeking out new life and new civilizations?

With the very first episode of Deep Space Nine, the answer became immediately clear that it would work the way that Star Trek had always worked, the way that much good fiction works: as a combination of expert storytelling, compelling characters, and meaningful themes. Cocreator Michael Piller’s teleplay for “Emissary” provided all of that and more. The two-hour pilot supplied viewers with an astonishingly textured milieu in which future tales would unfold. Protagonists and antagonists came bearing histories and flaws, the setting offered alien architecture and technology, and two subjects often anathema to series television—politics and religion—entwined their way through that initial episode. From its inception, DS9 explored the realities and effects of occupation and liberation, of détente and entente, of faith and orthodoxy, of deliverance and charity. The Cardassians maintained a stratocratic government, the Bajorans kept both a provisional secular authority and a religious hierarchy, and the Federation stood between the two peoples, on the side of one and as a buffer against the other.

And yeah, the show was dark. Physically, the space station contained hard, shadowy surfaces and gloomy passages. Dramatically, the tales often ventured out of the brilliant, well-lighted areas of life and into complicated gray areas. Characters and situations changed over time, not always for the better, and themes and stories sometimes reached not merely from one episode to the next, but from one season to the next. Deep Space Nine presented a gloriously complex tapestry of diverse, fascinating threads, quite a few of them weaving in unexpected directions. In some ways, the show demanded a lot of its audience, but for those who stayed with it, their viewership paid handsome rewards.

It seemed evident to me, right from the start, that the series could play out for years and never exhaust the surfeit of detailed material that had been built into its foundation. Indeed, through seven seasons, under the leadership of its head writers—first Michael Piller, and later Ira Steven Behr—DSN developed the potential initially invested in it, then fulfilled and exceeded it. One episode after another, the show explored human issues in intriguing and accessible ways. This might not have been your parents’ Star Trek, but it was most assuredly Star Trek.

The series came to a close after