Of all the spinoff TV incarnations of Star Trek
, Deep Space Nine
had the hardest job persuading an audience to watch. By all accounts, Gene Roddenberry had concerns about the idea before his death in 1991. It took two more years to develop, and when it finally aired in 1993 reasons for that concern were evident right away. The show was dark (literally), characters argued a lot, no one went anywhere, and the neighboring natives were hardly ever friendly. Yet for all that the show went against the grain of the Great Bird's original vision of the future, it undeniably caught the mood of the time, incorporating a complex political backdrop that mirrored our own.
In the casting, there was a clear intent to differentiate the show from its predecessors. Genre stalwarts Tony Todd and James Earl Jones were considered for Commander Sisko before Avery Brooks. The one letdown at the time was that Michelle Forbes did not carry Ensign Ro across from The Next Generation, but when the explosive Nana Visitor defiantly slapped her hand on a console in the pilot episode, viewers knew they were in for a different crew dynamic. In fact, the two-part pilot show ("The Emissary") is largely responsible for DS9's early success. Mysterious, spiritual, claustrophobic, funny, and feisty, it remains the most attention-grabbing series opener (apart from the original series') the franchise has had. The first year may have relied on a few too many familiar faces--like Picard, Q, and Lwaxana Troi--but these were more than outweighed by refreshingly detailed explorations of cultures old and new (Trill, Bajoran, Cardassian, Ferengi). As it turned out, Deep Space Nine was the boldest venture into Roddenberry's galaxy that had been (or ever would be) seen. --Paul Tonks
20 episodes on 6 discs: Emissary Part I, Emissary Part II, Past Prologue, A Man Alone, Babel, Captive Pursuit, Q-Less, Dax, The Passenger, Move Along Home, The Nagus, Vortex, Battle Lines, The Storyteller, Progress, If Wishes Were Horses, The Forsaken, Dramatis Personae, Duet, In the Hands of the Prophets.