overview: The second Star Trek spin-off debuted twenty years ago this year. Unlike its predecessors Deep Space Nine was set in a static point, a space station in orbit of the planet Bajor, a world that had just emerged from the Occupation, decades of torment under Cardassian oppression. Starfleet sends Commander Benjamin Sisko to observe as Bajorans prepare to apply for membership in the United Federation of Planets. Sisko is surprised to find a wormhole perched not far from the station, which leads to the Gamma Quadrant, but also serves as a direct link to what the Bajorans call the Celestial Prophets. This complicates Sisko's life in a number of ways. For one, the Bajorans have already determined that he is their Emissary, a religious figure who will help guide them to a better future. The Prophets themselves, who may also be interpreted as noncorporeal aliens who exist out of time, seem to agree with the Bajorans that he's important. And soon enough, he'll learn that on the other side of the wormhole is the Dominion, the anti-Federation. The Cardassians aren't too pleased to see him, either. The station used to belong to them. Its former commander is Gul Dukat, who seems to take a personal interest in the station's continued affairs.
The Bajorans, at first represented by the benevolent Kai Opaka, soon find themselves under Kai Winn, who eventually comes into power over affairs of both church and state. Odo, the shape-shifting constable who is technically aligned with the Bajorans but also worked under the Cardassians, learns that his origins lie with the Founders, who happen to control the Dominion, which has grown tired of incursions into its territory, and begins to sow seeds of distrust and chaos into the Federation's. Starfleet once again finds itself in conflict with the Klingons, who want to eliminate the Cardassians once and for all. Sisko learns that it was of course at the instigation of a Founder infiltrator. The Cardassians end up joining the Dominion, and war breaks out, with the station at the forefront, thanks to its position opposite the wormhole. For a time, Sisko is forced to abandon the station, but later reclaims it. The war finally ends thanks to the Romulans (whom Sisko has persuaded to assist Starfleet in a morally compromising way) and Cardassians, whose defection follows Dukat's psychotic break after the death of his daughter and successor Damar leading the resistance. Sisko wins the war and confronts Dukat one last time, one representing the Prophets and the other their wicked rivals the Pah'Wraiths, triumphing but leaving his corporeal life behind to reside in the Celestial Temple.
personalities: Well, for one, there's Sisko (Avery Brooks), whose backstory is as fascinating as what happens to him through the course of the series. He served aboard a ship that was destroyed at the Battle of Wolf 359, the Borg invasion disaster originally featured in the Next Generation event "The Best of Both Worlds," in which Captain Picard is assimilated into the Borg Collective and as Locutus leaves a lasting impression on Sisko as the face of the enemy that cost him his wife. He holds a grudge against Picard up until the moment he finally decides to accept the Bajor assignment. Don't worry too much about his romantic life, though, because Sisko ends up marrying the wily Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson) He brings with him his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), who grows up and surprisingly ends up far taller than expected, decides to remain a civilian and spend his life with words, both as a novelist and journalist. Jake becomes fast friends with Nog (Aron Eisenberg), a Ferengi youth living aboard the station who gets them both into plenty of trouble before becoming the first of his kind to join Starfleet, though during the Dominion War he loses a leg and wonders if it was all worth it.
Sisko's first officer is the Bajoran Major Kira (Nana Visitor), who was an active member of the Resistance and initially a militant believer in Bajor's right to determine the course of its own destiny. She eventually comes to appreciate the benefit of Starfleet assistance, though her own future is defined by her relationship with Odo (Rene Auberjonois), the station's chief of security who initially doesn't know his own origins. Discovered by Bajorans and raised in a lab, he ends up working under Cardassians during the Occupation, but it's his love of order that motivates him. He remains in the same position under Starfleet's purview, and discovers the awful truth that he's a Founder, and for Founders order has become something quite different. Under the influence of the Female Changeling (Salome Jens), he briefly considers betraying his friends, but Kira helps guide him back.
Among Kira's fellow Bajorans, she enjoys Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) a lot more than Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher), but there's very little she can do (though she tries a lot) once Bareil ends up dead and Winn firmly in control of Bajor.
Odo's nemesis is Ferengi barkeep Quark (Armin Shimerman), who is a constant thorn in his side, exploiting the station's unique location to reap as much profit as possible, legally and otherwise. His brother Rom (Max Grodenchik) starts out looking exactly like the idiot he appears to be, but becomes a capable engineer, the Ferengi Nagus, and husband of erstwhile Dabo girl Leeta (Chase Masterson). Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn) steps down to marry Quark's mother Ishka (Andrea Martin, Cecily Adams).
Sisko's Starfleet crew includes Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney), who previously served under Picard aboard the Enterprise, who enjoys the challenge of cleaning up after the Cardassians who gutted the station before they left; Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig), who has just graduated from Starfleet Medical and is completely wild-eyed about the prospects of the final frontier; and Jadzia Dax (Terry Ferrell), the latest host for the symbiont who was once Sisko's good friend Curzon, and would in time become Ezri (Nicole de Boer), but not before marrying Worf (Michael Dorn). O'Brien brings along with him wife Keiko (Rosiland Chao) and daughter Molly (Hana Hatae).
Among Cardassians there's Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), who loves to hear himself talk and is at times someone you love to hate and then hate to love. He eventually goes mad after the death of his daughter Tora Ziyal (Cyia Batten, Tracy Middendorf, Melanie Smith). Garak (Andy Robinson) is anything but "plain and simple," but that's how he'll describe himself. He becomes Bashir's best friend after O'Brien (though Bashir probably counts Ezri as his greatest conquest, because he'd been after Dax for years). Damar (Casey Biggs) at first appears to be a petty functionary, but eventually grows a backbone.
Among Klingons there's Gowron (Robert O'Reilly), who still doggedly pursues Worf in search of his loyalties, which is something Martok (J.G. Hertzler) earns quickly enough, once we meet the real one and not his changeling doppelganger.
Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) would be pretty upset if we didn't mention him! He's the Vorta who best represents the Dominion, and there are far too many clones to overlook! And as far as holographic lounge singers go, you can hardly beat Vic Fontaine (James Darren)!
Just in case you thought this was a complete breakdown of all the notable characters from the series, both regular cast members and recurring guests...Ha! I'll mention one more, a personal favorite, Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall), who has a brief run as Sisko's rival, betraying Starfleet to join the Maquis and leading him on a series of encounters in the midpoint of the series.
- "Emissary" (1x1/1x2) The first episode, in which we meet a lot of these characters and much of what's going on and what we'll be following for the next seven seasons.
- "Duet" (1x19) Long considered a highlight of both the series and franchise, this is the moment where Kira discover that not all Cardassians are completely irredeemable when she encounters one who would rather die in the place of a notorious war criminal than forget his role in events that scarred him for life.
- "The Homecoming"/"The Circle"/"The Siege" (2x1/2x2/2x3) The first extended arc in the series is the Bajoran epic that otherwise never happened because fans found them not exciting enough. A hero of the Resistance is discovered alive in a Cardassian prison camp, but his return sparks a Bajoran conspiracy to claim the station for its own until Sisko can win it back, a smaller-scale version of what he endures during the Dominion War.
- "Necessary Evil" (2x8) The answer to "Duet" is revisiting how Kira met Odo, and what they were doing at the station at the time of the Occupation.
- "Blood Oath" (2x19) Three actors who memorably portrayed Klingons in the original series return and send Jadzia into her first great adventure.
- "The Wire" (2x22) Still the greatest Garak episode, in which we discover the cost his exile from his mysterious past holds on him.
- "Crossover" (2x23) The first of many trips back to the "Mirror, Mirror" universe, in which morality is flipped on its side in shocking ways, including Sisko as a pirate working at the beck and call of a shockingly sexual Kira!
- "The Jem'Hadar" (2x26) The first encounter with the Dominion features an epic clash with its foot soldiers Sisko barely escapes alive.
- "The Search" (3x1/3x2) Sisko unveils Starfleet's first warship, the Defiant, originally developed to combat the Borg and from this time forward the station's means to travel abroad (and fight!), while Odo discovers the truth about his people the Founders.
- "Past Tense" (3x11/3x12) A personal favorite, this two-part episode features Sisko, Bashir, and Jadzia thrust into Earth's past in the early 21st century, where they become participants in the drama surrounding Sanctuary Districts that attempt to mask the sufferings of the poor.
- "The Adversary" (3x26) Sisko is promoted to captain and Odo is forced to kill one of his own, which ends up having grave consequences later on.
- "The Way of the Warrior" (4x1/4x2) Worf joins the cast and the Federation goes to war with the Klingons!
- "The Visitor" (4x3) Long considered the show's finest hour, the bond between Sisko and his son Jake is explored as we follow Jake's decades-long efforts to reunite with his father after Sisko's apparent death.
- "Little Green Men" (4x8) The comic highlight of the series sees Quark, Rom and Nog thrust into Earth's past for a decidedly less serious time-travel adventure.
- "Broken Link" (4x26) The consequences I mentioned as looming over Odo finally come to pass when his fellow Founders decide to strip him of his shape-shifting ability, forcing him to live life as a "solid" (for a while).
- "Trials and Tribble-ations" (5x6) Famously splices the cast into "The Trouble with Tribbles."
- "The Begotten" (5x12) Odo gets his shape-shifting abilities back after a strange series of events that helps him make peace with his past.
- "For the Uniform" (5x13) Sisko squares off with Eddington, who likens himself to Jean Valjean and Sisko to Javert from Les Miserables.
- "Dr. Bashir, I Presume?" (5x16) We learn that Bashir was genetically modified as a child in an episode also notable for featuring Voyager's Robert Picardo.
- "Call to Arms" (5x26) The Dominion War officially begins.
- "A Time to Stand"/"Rocks and Shoals"/"Sons and Daughters"/"Behind the Lines"/"Favor the Bold"/"Sacrifice of Angels" (6x1/6x2/6x3/6x4/6x5) The sustained war arc narrative that famously kicked off the sixth season sees the dramatic series of events that leads to Sisko's recapture of the station.
- "You Are Cordially Invited" (6x7) The follow-up episode sees the wedding of Worf and Jadzia.
- "Waltz" (6x11) Sisko and Dukat square off.
- "Far Beyond the Stars" (6x13) Sisko finds himself transported to 1950s America thanks to the Prophets so that the life of science fiction writer Benny Russell can provide him inspiration to continue fighting.
- "Inquisition" (6x18) Bashir finds himself drafted into the enigmatic Section 31.
- "In the Pale Moonlight" (6x19) Sisko compromises himself in order to get the Romulans to join the war effort.
- "His Way" (6x20) Vic Fontaine debuts as Odo and Kira finally address the long-simmering attraction that has existed between them.
- "Tears of the Prophets" (6x26) The war most definitely still goes on, but the biggest news is Dukat joining up with the Pah'Wraiths and his subsequent murder of Jadzia.
- "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" (7x4) Baseball was a favorite of Sisko's, but everyone plays the game in this episode.
- "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" (7x6) The best Weyoun episode, in which an unusually sympathetic clone reminds Odo that the Vorta revere the Founders as gods.
- "It's Only a Paper Moon" (7x10) Nog deals with the effects of "The Siege of AR-558" with the help of Vic Fontaine.
- "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" (7x16) The definitive Section 31 episode, in which we revisit the Romulans one last time.
- "Penumbra"/"'Til Death Do Us Part"/"Strange Bedfellows"/"The Changing Face of Evil"/"When It Rains..."/"Tacking into the Wind"/"Extreme Measures"/"The Dogs of War" (7x17/7x18/7x19/7x20/7x21/7x22/7x23/7x24) The eight episode arc that led to the finale, presenting the series of events that help make a resolution to everything possible.
- "What You Leave Behind" (7x25/7x26) The final episode, in which the Dominion War finally ends and almost everyone leaves the station.