Before Season 1: Preconceived Notions

As alluded to in the initial post, I believe that Roddenberry’s vision is crucial to the stories DS9 will tell.  So I want to write a post on the galaxy Roddenberry (and his successors) have developed to place DS9 within.  Roddenberry never worked directly on DS9, which seems to me to be clear since DS9 diverges significantly from the model TOS and TNG set up.  Roddenberry’s future was one where humanity succeeded after a lot of pain and struggle.  We had a dark time during the end of the 20th and early 21st centuries with two major wars (the Eugenics War and the 3rd World War).  Past Tense (Ep 457/458) puts the crew in the heart of the social collapse of cities in 2024.  But we made it.  We succeeded in those struggles, and we became better for it.  Disease and poverty eliminated on Earth.  An intergalactic federation of planets formed from the tenacity of the humans (and vulcans) where the banner of the Federation is the UN banner, but with stars instead of Earth as the backdrop.  Boldly going and exploring.  Humanity rocks.

I love this setting.  Even today, a decade after Star Trek’s peak in popularity, the optimism of this future resonates with me.  I’m constantly surrounded by selfishness, corruption, greed, pain, prejudice.  Consider the popular opinion of politicians, CEOs, and road-raging drivers.  Take a walk through the poorest part of any major city.  How many people would fail to answer the question, “Why be alive?”  In modern society, the quality of humanity is too easily defined by our selfish desires.  Roddenberry’s future was not simply that humanity won at life.  We don’t just have the best toys or the brightest phasers or the most money.  It is the quality of humanity that has reached its pinnacle.  We have compassion for each other; we seek justice in the galaxy; we explore because that is our essential nature, not for money or power.  All the things we scoff at claiming they’d never happen (“Eradicate poverty?  Bah, people are too greedy for that.”) have happened in the world of Gene Roddenberry.  I smile even writing about such a hope.

TNG took this success as a given.  The storytelling of TNG was very moral-in-a-box style.  Humanity has succeeded, and now look at humanity succeed!  In TNG, the great success was never questioned.  It found conflict, mostly with other races (ie the Borg), but it never dared approach the validity of Roddenberry’s utopia.  DS9 engages this head-on.  DS9 is stationed on the frontier, far from the paradise of Earth.  These Federation characters of DS9 are born out of this paradise, but must operate in a place where the quality of other races are still being refined.  A place of mistrust where the scars of oppression are still fresh.  This is how I interpret the classic line “DS9 is the darkest of the Star Treks.”  Roddenberry’s vision is itself questioned.  Can it stay valid when the niceties of Starfleet are stripped from the characters (Sisko, Bashir, O’Brien, Dax, Worf, and Jake)?  Can those not from this paradise find their own quality (Kira, Quark, and Odo)?  This is central to the journey of DS9.  The pinnacle of humanity reached through humanity’s struggle is not a given.  It must be continually fought for.  I found the parallel to real life striking.  We live in a world filled with the worst of humanity; a world where the best of us must be fought for.  Both an internal fight we wage with ourselves, and an external fight with the world itself or even the internal fights of other people.

In this light, DS9 rises.

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~ by Joshua Black on July 3, 2012.

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