Interlude: Character Focused Episodes

I realized recently that modern Star Treks seems to use an episodic format that is unique.  DS9’s typical format is to devote an entire episode to a single character or a pair of characters (with the rare 3-plot episode thrown in).  TNG and Voyager are similar; Enterprise is a bit different (in so many unfortunate ways…).  I’m thinking of other shows that I enjoy, and they don’t follow this format: Castle, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Doctor Who, etc.  These all tend to focus only on the main characters, usually 1-2.  Game of Thrones is the only other show with a unique format in the manner I’m discussing.  It has some similarity in that there are distinct storylines devoted to distinct characters, but the format is obviously different; each episode has 5-6 storylines at once, instead of sequential storylines as in most episodic television.  Modern Star Trek stands out as regularly devoting entire episodes to “side” characters.  How often was a show entirely about Javi or Anya?  Rarely.

This has a profound impact.  DS9 boasted quite a number of well fleshed out characters in the main cast.  Each character, throughout the series, ends up with many episodes that define them.  Take O’Brien.  He ends up with shows that really define his friendships (Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13)), his family (Time’s Orphan (Ep. 6.24)), and his integrity (Honor Among Thieves (Ep. 6.15)).  And that barely scratches the surface of Miles Edward O’Brien: Whispers (Ep. 2.14), Visionary (Ep. 3.17), Hard Time (Ep. 4.19)…and so on.  These lists exist for all the characters in DS9, even Jake Sisko.

Characters are the heart and soul of good television, and the Star Treks included multiple characters with interesting lives to follow.  This allows the showrunners to develop and explore different types of stories.  Stories that work for O’Brien, usually tormenting the poor soul to show humans stripped of their humanity, would never work for Quark, which usually are about human virtues and vices.  Human society is complex, varied, and beautiful, and making a show as social commentary requires a number of different protagonists to shepard the audience through those experiences.  With the wealth of recurring characters in DS9 alongside the main cast, I certainly think that series is chief amongst Star Treks at maintaining a host of characters able to tell a large variety of stories.

Random Thought:  1) While watching this through fore first time in high school, I noticed this format.  When I looked up DS9 on Wikipedia when I started this blog, I saw they also recognize this format; they call it “featured characters.”  Nice to know some of my random thoughts are shared by others out there!

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~ by Joshua Black on September 13, 2016.

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