When Matt Larkin and I were first brainstorming ideas for Black Ocean: Astral Prime, one of our first sticking points was what to call the series. I don’t recall the various interim titles tossed around during that debate, but I do remember my first suggestion: Deep Space Mine.
It’s impossible to ignore the sources of inspiration for the series. Space-station-centric sci-fi had its heyday in the mid-90’s with Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. In fact, it seemed that choosing any name without a number in it would have been an act of subversion.
But I want to talk about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
My wife and I recently started rewatching it (re-watch for me, mostly new to her). As has been widely accepted, the first season was a little dissonant and meandering. It spent more time on character introductions, many of which would shift drastically later on, and world-building the Bajoran and Cardassian societies, only briefly touched on in The Next Generation.
But Deep Space Nine evolved into areas that the original series and next generation never did. It dealt with life outside the idyllic post-scarcity Federation, with commerce and trade involving actual money. It introduced the Maquis, a breakaway faction of Federation colonists whose homes were given to Cardassia as part of a treaty. It explored religion without explaining away the Bajorans’ beliefs as superstition. And it kept so many of its antagonists around to evolve and shift in their importance to the overarching narrative.
Where Kirk was a maverick and Picard a paragon, Benjamin Sisko started off as a troubled officer on the verge of retiring from Starfleet. He was given a backwater posting because that was all he was up for. He’d been “just getting by” for years as a single dad who’d lost his wife in a Borg attack. Kirk never changed. Picard honed down a few rough edges—but there were few on him to begin with. (At least in his TNG days. Star Trek: Picard is a discussion for another day.)
But Sisko struggled through finding his place in the galaxy after his life derailed. He incorporated misfit crews with different viewpoints because he wasn’t so hardened in his ways of thinking, or in charge of staffing a flagship. He reluctantly accepted a religious role heaped on him by Bajoran society and eventually grew into it.
DS9 was very much a product of its time, just as Star Trek circa 1965 had been a product of its time. The Next Generation, was, in many ways, a throwback, drawing on those 1965 ideals with a few new societal issues in the mix. But DS9 had a gritty core, even if it was still 90s network television. It held firmly to the moral gray, to the relativism, to the notions that no one is a villain in their own story and that no people are monolithic.
I don’t think I’d want to write a Star Trek: TNG story, much as I love the stories told by others in that setting. But DS9 offers a lot more nuance to sink into, operating at the edge of the Federation, both cosmically and societally.
While I’ll always be a Picard fan, and I have a soft spot for Spock, I think DS9, as a whole, has the most interesting setting for a series. We gave in and subscribed to CBS All Access to watch the new Star Trek: Picard series, but rewatching DS9 has been a great way to keep enjoying a service that we might otherwise have cancelled.