Yeah I know, this show ended like 20 years ago.

But it's on Netflix and I had only ever seen something a bit less than half the episodes, so I thought I'd go back and rewatch it. Now, I didn't really LIKE DS9 back when it was on the air, though I didn't hate it. It lacked a bit of the charm that TNG had, but at least they didn't go off the rails like Voyager did at first. (Digression: I hear Voyager got better but I couldn't get past the premise. I *loathe* the Lost in Space premise in general, I didn't really like most of the characters and the characters I did like got almost completely rewritten in the first couple of episodes.)

So let me sum up my review:

It wasn't as bad as I remember it, nor was it as good as the people who loved it tell me.

So the things I remember being bad that weren't:

  • Sisko. To be fair, I knew it took the show quite some time to warm up to who Avery Brooks was as an actor and adapt Sisko to him. That took about 3 years, which really was too long, but it's okay. There are a few things that Avery does really really well and if you're not doing that, then it's not working. The weird part is, they actually set that stuff up in his character early, but they didn't really roll with it at first. The good news is that when they DID start rolling with it, it didn't feel out of character, it just felt like they finally let him out to play. And when they did, he was mostly fantastic, though there were a few places I wasn't so fond of him.
  • Jadzia. I remembered her as a model who couldn't act worth a damn, and in a rewatch, that was a totally wrong impression. I think the writer's room had real trouble, at first, trying to pin down the way the Trill personality really is two people merged, but it's still two people. They did a lot better with that later, though familiarity with her may have helped.
  • Kira. I remembered her being a bad actress. The reality is that she seemed to have a somewhat limited range, that extended a bit as she got more experience with the role. One of the things that struck me as interesting, though, is that she never truly struck up any of the friendships with the Starfleet crew. Sure, she was friendly with them and she *considered* them friends, but after the finale, I got the sense that the only one she really missed was Sisko, and that wasn't because he was a friend, it was because he was a religious figure and she was a true believer; but it did allow her to become closer to him.
  • The Prophets. Actually, this turned out to be one of the better parts about the rewatch, though they underutilized it to the point that I think it took them a long time to really understand what they wanted to do with it. Which is probably part of why I remember it being bad; they literally did nothing with that storyline until season 4. If they'd known where they were going early, I'd think they'd have spent a little more time laying groundwork. When Sisko started having visions outside of the wormhole/with an orb, that felt like it came out of nowhere, even though it fit in; it would've been better if they'd happened earlier, and been even harder to decipher at first until Sisko started learning some of the code they used. But one of the things I really enjoyed was the way they used the religion, and for the most part the writers treated the Bajoran religion with respect; in fact, a lot more respect than most of the aliens did.

Some things I misremembered:

  • I had remembered the show being much more of a serial; but while it had a bunch of mini-arcs, and they did carry events forward, only the last half-season was truly serial. It was still generally episodic, and they'd set something up, drop it for half a dozen unrelated episodes, and then maybe if you're lucky pick it up. And they were pretty bad about setting up plot threads and rewarding you later. I was actually a bit disappointed by this.
  • I hadn't remembered Quark being such an integral character to the show. I knew he was there, but I think by happenstance I had actually missed more or less all of the actual Ferengi episodes that didn't involve Nagus Zek. Even moreso, I barely remembered Nog at all, but he was almost important enough that he could've been in the main credits in the later seasons. His overall storyline was pretty enjoyable. I appreciated that he joined Starfleet but never really lost his essential Ferengi nature, but he never went in the Worf direction where he obsessed on trying to *be Ferengi*. Instead, it was simply a part of his life and he'd adjust his viewpoints here and there but how he was raised and the things he believed were always there. Of course, the Ferengi are a ridiculous race, and I give them props for working so hard to make the Ferengi an interesting backdrop for storytelling.
  • The Dominion. I thought I'd remembered more substance to the story there, but I was ultimately pretty disappointed. There was some good storytelling as we learned who they were, but about the time we got to the war there wasn't any real character growth or development on that side. They would use elements like the shapeshifters being able to cause havoc and then once they'd stopped it, they completely stopped trying, even though it was quite clear they couldn't really *be* stopped. They were also inconsistent; they had no way of telling if a person was a shapeshifter with scanners, yet when the Founders made Odo into a human, Dr. Bashir noticed in a single scan. Um. Oops?
  • Ezri Dax. I remembered really liking Ezri in the few episodes I saw of her, but going back I didn't. And that's weird, because I was prepared to like it, knowing that it was going to be jarring. The problem wasn't her portrayal, it was that she was front and center WAY too often. I totally get that they needed to really pull out the stops to make her Dax but not Jadzia, and the relationship story with her and Worf and Julian was interesting but...I think she needed a lot less focus in the last season. There was a point that it felt like she was supposed to be the main character.
  • I remembered the revamp of the opening sequence being an improvement, but it wasn't. It didn't really fix what was wrong with it, and instead added a bunch of WHOOSHes and a bass line to the music that didn't really add anything. They overdid the fixes.

Some things I remembered that turned out to be right.

  • O'Brien was just as generally boring as I remember. They had to work a little hard when his character was primary and it rarely worked for me. His relationship with Keiko wasn't very exciting; whenever they used marital strife to create drama, they both came off as petty. When they didn't, their relationship just didn't bring anything to the story. There was one particular episode where their daughter Molly fell through a time portal and they recovered her aged 10 years, a parent I couldn't believe nearly anything that happened in that episode. Ugh.
  • Dr. Bashir was terrible but turned pretty good. Not much more to say there. He was miserable to watch in the first season, but his character became interesting and they stopped writing some of his more annoying habits. I enjoyed him.
  • Every Garak episode is a good one. Which actually was slightly off; there was at least one where they had to elide some consequences in order to make the plot work, and his Mirror Mirror universe version was a little too shouty and I had trouble taking him seriously.
  • The Defiant not making a lot of sense. While it makes sense to have a ship attached to the station, having the officers of the station ALSO crew the ship means that you're undermanned. I understand why they'd do this for drama purposes, but sometimes it bugged me. It also meant they were really inconsistent in the command order for the Defiant. Sisko, Kira, Worf and Dax all were in command of the Defiant at one time or another.

Overall, they did some good stuff with religion. They couldn't really decide what they wanted to do with Gul Dukat and that made him a little tiresome. I thought it was excellent when they got him out of the way and Gul Dumar stepped into his role in the final season or so; Damar had a great arc, and I actually wish that his death had been a little more pointed. The things he learned in that last year gave him a good foundation for helping build a new Cardassia when it was all over, and that was lost.

They had a problem, especially early on, of setting up a story and then telling the audience that there'd be consequences for an action, having that action taken, and then ignoring the consequences. Maybe we're to assume they were dealt with off camera, or maybe the writer's forgot. Two in particular come to mind:

In an early-ish episode, Cardassian dissidents came aboard. At that point, Bajor had just made peace with Cardassia, and they were ordered to turn the dissidents over to the Cardassians. During the course of the episode, Odo is convinced to free the dissidents from their cell. At no point is there ever any consequence to Odo for disobeying this order.

When Sisko convinces the Prophets to destroy the Dominion fleet coming through the wormhole, the prophets say there will be a penance. But there never is. Everything that happens to him after that they specifically say had been destined.

Oh, and a third one: When Jadzia and Worf get married, they spend literally half the episode emphasizing that Jadzia has to convince Martok's wife that she's worthy. Finally, she loses her cool, says some awful things, and gets told that the wedding will never happen. Worf and Jadzia fight...then they make up, and OUT OF NOWHERE Martok's wife has let her into the family. Now, the thing is, the way Jadzia stood up for herself *should* have been respectable for a Klingon, and I'd buy that, but never, at any time, was that made explicit. My hope is that was there but got cut from the episode for time, or something, but it was weird. It was triply weird because her acceptance into the House of Martok by her was used as in several scenes later on, and every time I felt cheated because I never quite understood what Jadzia did to be accepted.

They did a bad job of setting things up, and a bad job of making things they set up interesting. For example, the Breen came into the war on the Dominion side pretty late in the show. But we never really learned anything about the Breen. They weren't set up much before that, other than occasionally being present and a few offhanded remarks about how they are mysterious and not trustworthy. We never learn anything about them once they do enter the war; nothing about their motivations or their goals. They ultimately are just muscle, used and thrown away to pad out the war plotline a little bit.

They did some things like set up some potential Jem'Hadar rebels, but destroyed them and moved on. They set up the Vorta to be able to play petty politics behind the scenes, but didn't have that turn into some interesting situations. They set up Kai Winn to be torn between ambition and lust for power vs a real belief in the Prophets; they tried to use that a little, but ultimately dropped it; she ended up being remarkably ineffective in the final episode, and I had trouble believing that this woman had plotted and schemed her way to power. She should've been smarter, been planning ahead. I wanted to see her turn out to be 3 steps ahead of what was going on and either go full-on-evil and become the True Villain or have a moment of truth at the end and redeem herself; either one could've been spectacular and the guessing game would've been awesome. Instead she did neither, and fell uselessly to her death, discarded. For a character who'd been there since season 1, it was disappointing, especially since actress had a good talent for delivering dialogue that was at the same time kind and matronly while still being completely arrogant and menacing.

One thing that always bugged me was that Odo could perfectly be a lamp or a bedpost or a mouse or a bird but his human features were off in ways that don't make sense. They made him like partially finished clay, but the way he described his issues with human features it should've had more to do with spacing issues. I also really felt like they should've taken the opportunity to improve his features, just slightly, every season where he's expressly spent time working on his shapeshifting abilities.

I didn't understand the love for Vic Fontaine toward the end. I mean yes, he was kind of interesting, but we actually spent 3-4 minutes of screentime once every 4 or 5 episodes listening to him sing a song. I understand throwing some music in here and there, but it seemed like a lot, like there had to be something behind the scenes going on. I enjoyed the character, mind you, I just found it kind of odd how much he got focused on.

Also, Jake got almost entirely left out in the last 2 seasons. For quite awhile they always found a good plotline for him as he was finding his way, but by the end he was more or less window dressing. Lots of characters who didn't have title credits had more screen time and story impact than he did. I guess they ran out of ideas for him, once he was an adult, but it felt weird.

All in all, it was worth watching, but I wanted it to be better. Still, in that era serials weren't easily done (Babylon 5 really broke a lot of molds and it wasn't entirely successful doing so, but things did change shortly after) so I am trying not to expect the better storytelling we have today.

But it makes me appreciate the kind of storytelling Netflix can do where they plot out an entire season all at once, and then go film it. That kind of cohesiveness is really good for the kinds of stories I like to watch.
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