Certainly Star Trek Deep Space Nine, as a genre show from the 90’s is better than most things squeezed into the Videodrome. It’s no TNG for me though. Here’s a few big misses from the show from my perspective. (I may update this as I’m currently rewatching it.)
Sisko’s use of the Defiant ends up being contradictory. 1-the ship’s “only flaw” is that it’s overpowered and over-weaponized for it’s size. No science labs, no families. 2-We’re taking it to find the Dominion leaders to convince we’re not a threat. …ummm maybe your diplomatic ploy would be more effective if you weren’t driving up to them in a giant gun? You want to show the Dominion what the Federation is? Well a big part of that is science labs and families.
The Founders send out a bunch of their young and then ignore the results. The fact that Odo is so attached to the Bajorans and the Federation means nothing to their conquest. Even after linking with him, they don’t seem to notice that his experience with these groups is generally positive. I guess as the bad guy’s that can’t put two key ideas next to each other. Their whole motivation for creating the Dominion is explained as a reaction to everyone fearing and hating them. So Odo’s devotion to the ideals of the Federation and Bajor should really make them wonder if they are right about all solids.
Waltz is a memorable episode. Dukat and Sisko stuck in a cave together while Dukat loses it trying to get some sliver of positive recognition from Sisko. The ending Ben says this thing about things often being shades of grey but then you spend some time with a man like Dukat and you get to see some real evil. OK, but really he’s a broken and insane person at this point. His evil is just a side-effect. Ben, you heard him addressing people who weren’t there, by name. Don’t act like he’s in control of his faculties.
This is a nice springboard into a discussion of madness vs evil, but that’s not what the episode presented. It presented madness and then told us it was evil. The worst part is, we don’t really know where Dukat could have taken his thoughts if it wasn’t for Sisko’s pushing the conversation. It was only after Ben’s suggestion that he should have killed more Bajorans that Dukat gets carried away with the idea. Recall, at the start of the episode we see he’s still venerable from the death of his daughter, still sensitive, unable to easily speak of her death, he’s still recovering, so putting such ideas into his head was wholly irresponsible, unbecoming of a Starfleet Officer.
Remember in the pilot when the Wormhole aliens keep bringing Sisko back to the moment his wife died. The big realization is that “But you exist here”, meaning that he keeps himself at that moment in time but continuing to think about it and feel all the things he felt in that moment. “I exist here”, he has to admit.
Fast forward to season 7, everybody is enjoying Vic’s, but not The Sisko, and why? Because it’s not historically accurate. He argues that it’s a fantasy he can’t enjoy because in real 1962 Las Vegas clubs black people weren’t allowed. His reaction surprised me for two reasons. 1) It’s the exact opposite of Uhura’s reaction to Lincoln’s usage of the word “negress”. She is completely confused by the idea that someone could be racist- that’s how removed from their racist past humans are depicted in the Original Series.
2) Given what the prophets said, when we see ‘the Sisko’ focusing again on only a painful memory whenever the Vic program was brought up, as he was indeed miffed by all the attention Vic’s got, we can assert that he existed only in the painfully racist past. But this time it’s a past that wasn’t his – he had no personal experience with 1960’s Las Vegas. So why was his reaction so strong? (Are you going to tell me that he was always a prophet and at the end of the series he joins the prophets and exists outside of time and so he was connected to the past because, like those writer’s flashbacks, it was his experience? So why focus on this one short period of time and place – really 60’s US again? Why not experience Africa before European colonialization? Or jump ahead centuries ahead to during the original series and see how integrated humanity is? Or even further into the future! Why is he playing victim when literally the whole of the Federation is over this sort of discrimination?
Keeping the “past alive” in this way is actively holding him back. He needed help to appreciate what the holodeck program was, “how it should have been”. Anyway, this makes me wonder how much other media is encouraging people to constantly look back and focus on the pain of the past. They may even do it with a overt message of looking to a better future, like Star Trek. Given how far Star Trek went to depict racism as a thing completely in the past I was surprised how this particular aspect was written.
Not to mention there was a real slave in the story: Vic. In the earlier episode with Nog living in the Vegas program Vic finally discovers what it means to just live his life. Sure it’s a program, but it’s real to him. We see his realization that he actually can’t just run indefinitely, and the idea hurts. Vic is introduced as a hologram who knows what he is and is good with people. They always just refer to Vic as “special”, but it seems more accurate to call him sentient and self-aware. Meaning he’s an enslaved AI. If THAT had been Sisko’s gripe about all the Vic nonsense that would have been cool, that would have felt like Star Trek.