When does ST:DS9 start getting good?
November 14, 2016 11:31 AM   Subscribe

At which point during the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did the show start becoming good and heavily serialized?

I was a complete The Next Generation Addict -- watched every single episode and will still watch reruns now. However I only followed the first couple of seasons of Deep Space Nine, then it fizzled for me. I don't recall it being a particularly compelling show. But now I keep reading that it was the best Star Trek series out of all of them.

So if I were to rewatch the series, at which point should I start? I don't need to get reacquainted with the basics...there's a wormhole, Dax is a symbiont, Odo is a shapeshifter, etc.

posted by wutangclan to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Start with the last episode of Season 2: The Jem'Hadar. It introduces the Dominion, which is the driving force behind the series-long conflict. From there, you can pretty much watch straight through; it's still a little shaky in Season 3, but gets steadily better until around Season Five/Six-ish, and even the last seasons aren't, like, bad, they just throw in some unnecessary twists that seem a little jammed-in-there.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:43 AM on November 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

If Sisko has hair, you need not care.
Sisko with goatee? That's the DS9 for me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:50 AM on November 14, 2016 [84 favorites]

I think the beginning was the best part... I would call it the worst series out of all of them (except for TOS, which just didn't age well). I'm slogging through season 6 now out of some sort of moral obligation to rewatch it (after watching it when it originally aired, as a child) and it's just, well, not very good, and never has been. Definitely worse than a few seasons ago, but there was never a time that I would say it was consistently good (sure it has its episodes, but overall). I know some people like the stuff I don't, but if you had trouble after the first couple seasons I don't think you'll necessarily like it more later.
posted by brainmouse at 11:53 AM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I was rewatching it from the beginning, I actually appreciated the character development of all the characters that showed up in the first season, and there were at least a couple episodes of foreshadowing in the second. There were at least a couple bad episodes not worth watching. I'd at least give the Kira focused "Progress" (S1e15) a shot, as well as the season finale, just because it introduces Kai Winn.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:54 AM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Personally, I think if you didn't like the first couple seasons, there's no real reason to try and watch any more. To me it seems like a divisive show that really appealed to some people but didn't work for others. IMO, the things I didn't like about the first two seasons still existed in spades in the 3rd and 4th seasons. I stopped watching shortly into Season 5. I admit that I can't speak to if Seasons 5, 6, and 7 are the best Star Trek ever made.
posted by muddgirl at 12:07 PM on November 14, 2016

Timely question for me as I just finished my first watch of the final episode of the first season and the first few of the second season. They were all serialized and in my opinion much better than the prior episodes of the series.
posted by exogenous at 12:28 PM on November 14, 2016

I can't disagree more with brainmouse (sorry brainmouse!) I think it's absolutely wonderful, and I think it definitely gets better as it goes along. (I can see someone personally not liking it, but "it's just not very good" is definitely a minority opinion, by which I mean I don't think I've ever heard anyone else say that before.) Possibly brainmouse's objection is that the earlier seasons are more similar to the other Trek series, while the later ones become more serialized?

It is definitely not as uneven, at any point, as the first two seasons of TNG are. However if you want to skip ahead, I'd mostly second Greg Nog (start with the last episode of Season 2) but add that you should probably watch the two-part pilot first. It sets up a lot of important context for the rest of the series (unlike, again, the TNG pilot, which was a more or less 'regular' episode of the show).
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'd just start with the pilot, which does help set up the premise and tone of the series fairly well. Plus, if you skip the first season, you skip Sisko punching Q, Duet (or Space Munich), and a whole lot of horrible jumpsuits for Jake.

DS9 doesn't have the same sort of startup/tone problem that TNG has. I think, more than anything, you're better off skipping individual episodes (if the emphasis is heavily on Quark, you can probably give it a miss).

Also, it was serialized by the standards of the day, not ours. So while there are two and three part episodes (and one continuous five-episode streak serialization at the beginning of season six), there are a lot more fillers than you probably would expect from a modern TV program.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Personally, I think the earlier parts are the best, (after about halfway through the first season ). The later episodes that get really into the religious stuff sort of got a little too weird for me. I could also do without the holographic lounge singer, but maybe that's just me.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:54 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 82.5 hours.

I always use this handy truncated list of the best episodes whenever I do a ST:DS9 rewatch.
It hits all the high points, and keeps continuity and back story coherent.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:02 PM on November 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

I used this guide for skippable episodes on my recent run-through, and skipping the meh/avoid episodes was good. If you follow the story arcs through the seasons, the last half of the last season gets very, very good.
posted by enfa at 1:10 PM on November 14, 2016

When Worf shows up, and Sisko has a goatee. That's when it starts getting great. Once season 5's under way, the plot becomes less episodic, and the continuous storyline begins. In season 5, you can still figure out what's going on if you've missed a couple of episodes, but by season 6, that's less true.
posted by culfinglin at 1:33 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I presume you've seen Babylon 5, because if not that's an arguably superior substitute (for all its ropey production values and theatrical staging/acting).
posted by Sebmojo at 1:34 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I recently rassled with this when revisiting the series after a years-long absence.

"Duet" from the first season is the only one worth a look from that season. But it's skippable from a continuity standpoint.

After that I agree with Greg Nog that you should watch "The Jem'Hadar" to get your feet under you with who the Dominion are. If you watch everything from there, you will still watch a lot of bad episodes until midway/late through that third season, but it finishes pretty strongly.

You'd be fine watching the J'H and then going straight to bald/goatee Sisko as robocop is bleeding suggests.

Oh! It also might be worth it to watch Garak in the first season's "Past Prologue", because it is Garak's first appearance on the series, and Garak is the best Star Trek character ever invented and everyone who follows this answer by disagreeing with that assessment is a dumb person who can be safely ignored. That episode isn't solid gold or anything, but there's a good chance you're going to really like Garak and want to see his first appearance.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:42 PM on November 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

Much like others (robocop is bleeding in particular) have said, things get better when you have a bald Sisko. I actually like it when you've got Sisko with the goatee, hair or not. While I think Emissary (the pilot) is an important episode, it's really Season 3 and on where the show became really good, in my opinion.

The thing to know about DS9 is that DS9 is not TNG. I mean, that much is obvious, but TNG used to tie things up nicely after an episode or two. Very rarely did things that happened in an episode two seasons ago come back to bite them in the butt. (There are a couple of examples of that in TNG, mind, but they are the exception, not the rule.) DS9 is much less about the formulaic "oh no, there's a problem!" (42m later) "whew!" kind of episode. There are episodes and arcs that hugely affect things across seasons. While you still have things wrapped up at the end of an episode, usually there are often deeper, longer storylines that are drawn out across several.

The list that Major Matt Mason Dixon links to looks pretty solid to me and will get you into S3 with a good refresher on the minutiae, IMHO.

TNG is my favourite of all the series, but DS9 is excellent. It's not the same, light, jovial, feel-good kind of show like TNG was. It feels more real. It's definitely darker, but that doesn't mean that there aren't moments of joy and brightness. But this is definitely a grittier, darker show than TNG. If you wanted something more like TNG (but not as good), you'll want to look at Voyager, IMHO. Not to say Voyager was awful, but it was a lot lighter than DS9 was and was more in the same vein as TNG, although it was a bit darker than TNG.

All IMHO, of course! :)
posted by juliebug at 4:19 PM on November 14, 2016

So basically, I gotta wait for Hawk to show up.
posted by wutangclan at 5:12 PM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I never really took to DS9 when it was on, but rewatching it on Netflix -- where I could binge-watch it -- made it click for me. The non-episodic nature meant that if I missed a couple weeks, I got lost (even with the recaps before most episodes). But on streaming I could keep the plot momentum going. I started at the beginning and went straight through, and it worked really well for me.
posted by snowmentality at 6:57 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am re-watching DS9 and just made a dent in season 6 so this is a timely question. My approach thus far is to skim seasons 1 and 2, watching only essential episodes. For season 3, I skip episodes which are obviously mediocre or bad, unless it's a thread you really dig. Then jump in for season 4 and on, but if you find yourself running out of enthusiasm, just skip any non-essential episodes centered on characters you don't fancy. It's probably heresy, but I find Klingon and Trill arcs so tedious, even the romances and honor of Worf. (Sorry Worf, you are very charming in smaller doses.) Cardassians and Bajorans and even Ferengi, on the other hand, I could watch all day. Especially Garak.

And as Sebmojo says, Babylon 5 is well-crafted if you enjoy long arcs. But the same applies...skip all but crucial episodes of the first season. There is no shame in self-preservation.
posted by esoterrica at 7:59 PM on November 14, 2016

I think this is a much more complicated question than people are making out.

The reality is that it never gets "heavily serialized" in the way that, say, Breaking Bad is heavily serialized.

Also, some of the best episodes are early in the series and stand alone.

Season 4 is when serialization of any kind starts, but it's more of an X-Files "myth arc peppered with stand-alone, and it's hard to predict which are going to be the better episodes" type of pattern.

"People", especially non-Trekkies, tend to prefer the last couple of seasons, but as a Trekkie and DS9 superfan, I actually don't think they're particularly good as compared to the best episodes of earlier seasons. They also have nothing on almost any other "golden age of television" type series that would have premiered after, say, The Sopranos hit HBO. It's more of a "Buffy" or "X-Files" level of good. So if you're looking for "Star Trek, but super good like Mad Men", you're barking up the wrong tree entirely and should just wait for the new Trek series to come out next year.
posted by Sara C. at 10:37 PM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've never thought much of guides that tell you to skip an episode or an entire season of a show. Sometimes your favorite episode will turn out to be the one that all the other fans hate, or vice-versa. And there may also be references you'll miss if you skip things, or thematic stuff that won't resonate for you because you don't know (for example) why Sisko's baseball means anything.

I think DS9 had a solid but unspectacular first couple of seasons, it's probably about as good as Enterprise ever got. But the seeds of the excellent show it became are there at the beginning, and if you're skipping stuff you won't get how far those characters have come. (Also, stuff that doesn't SEEM serialized often does come back later. It's not all grand Dominion War stuff, there are all sorts of little dramas in everybody's lives.) Just have some patience and watch the whole thing, and it'll be worth your time. (Although you may want to get a head start on next year's taxes or something while you watch Move Along Home.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:22 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gonna go against the grain here and say that the entire series is worth watching and most of it is excellent.

Fucking SKIP "Move Along Home" though, that episode is irredeemably terrible.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:06 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

First off: I am a Trekkie. (Not a Trekker; never been to a convention.) I love TNG but DS9 is my favorite and, I think, the best thing Trek ever did. It does have a very different feel from the rest of Trek—it's been called the red-headed stepchild of the franchise. That may be so; I don't care. I've watched the whole series three or four times now.

So anyway, here are my suggestions for the episodes that are definitely safe (or necessary) to skip the first time through:
S1: "A Man Alone", "Babel", "Q-Less", "Move Along Home", "The Storyteller", "If Wishes Were Horses", "The Forsaken" unless you like Lwaxana Troi, "Dramatis Personae"
S2: "Melora", "Second Sight", "Rivals", "Shadowplay", "Playing God"
S3: "Meridian", "Distant Voices", and unless you're into Trill stuff, "Facets"
S4: "The Muse"
S5: "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", "A Simple Investigation"
S6: "Honor Among Thieves, "Profit and Lace", "The Sound of Her Voice"
S7: "Prodigal Daughter," "Field of Fire"

IMO, every episode not mentioned here is (A) important one way or another in the overall "DS9 experience," even if only for development of key characters, and (B) not unwatchably, dispiritingly bad.

FYI, we are nearing the end of the MeFi Fanfare DS9 rewatch (beware of spoilers).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:14 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

As you can see, opinions differ. Most of these have merit to some degree, although I can't really agree with brainmouse. WRT CheesesOfBrazil's (with whom I'm currently alternating episode summaries on the FanFare rewatch) list, I'd take out "The Forsaken" (I like Lwaxana Troi's appearances on DS9 much better than those on TNG, FWIW), "Facets" (big episode for Dax), and I would at least watch the part of "Q-less" where Sisko shows Q just how, and how much, different he is from Picard.

Alternatively, you could skip straight to "The Jem'Hadar", then go back to previous episodes when they're referred to by later episodes (e.g. "Through the Looking Glass", which is the first in a series of episodes that are sequels to the TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror"). But there are still a bunch of really good episodes that you'd miss that way, such as "Duet" or "The Wire." The latter is a big episode for Garak, and as middleclasstool says above, you'll probably want to see all of Garak's appearances once you see any of them. In fact, one of the great things about DS9 is that not only do the principal characters all have good character arcs, quite a few of the recurring (secondary) characters do, as well. That sneaky little Ferengi kid caught breaking into one of the shops in the first episode? Keep your eye on him, he'll eventually get to a place in the series where one of the best episodes of the last season, if not the best, centers around him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

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