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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Family Matters

We’ve been re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine recently.

The first seasons we mostly listened to while we played on our computers, but we’ve reached the point where things are getting very interesting. And complicated

We’ve already watched several of my favorite episodes, and they’ve reminded me precisely why I love this show so very much.

Let’s start with what is, hands down, my favorite episode, The Visitor. (Chances are I’ll start crying as I write this, since I always cry when watching it.)

In the story we discover that after Sisko disappears in an accident, Jake has spent his life trying to figure out how to bring his father back. The entire story is based upon the love a son feels for his father, but what makes it so good is that you believe it. The episodes building up to this episode have all shown how close the two are, how much they mean to each other, but most importantly, how vital this relationship is to both of them.

Whenever we see the two of them together, Sisko is hugging Jake or kissing him on the head or generally treating Jake as a beloved child. We also see them bickering over typical misunderstandings. We see Jake rolling his eyes when his father tells him something Jake believes he’s outgrown. We see Jake choosing to spend time with his friend(s) over his father. And we see Jake getting into trouble and Sisko making sure he deals with the consequences of his actions.

All of which is why this episode works so well: because these are two people who very clear care about each other. I’ve read multiple reports that Avery Brooks became a father figure to Cirroc Lofton, and love that comes through clearly whenever you see the two together on the screen.

But more importantly, they are written as a father and son. One of the things that irritated me most about ST:TNG is that I never believed the parent-child relationship between Dr Crusher and Wesley. I don’t blame that on the acting of the two, but upon the writing of the scenes. It’s like they made an idealized parent-child relationship that had no bearing on any reality ever.

However, in DS9 not only do you have a strong relationship between Jake and his father, but we also see O’Brien doting on Molly (I love the scene where she throws up on him (Fascination)) and Keiko and Miles having the typical arguments you see in strong marriages—and how they work past those problems.

The show has multiple families that behave like families: they bicker and nag and whine yet very obviously care for each other.

We get the same feeling when we see other family members of other characters: when Sisko visits earth, his relationship with his father (Brock Peters) is very similar to his relationship with Jake. He nags his father about his health. His father gripes about the nagging, yet we still see the affection.

Even more complex is an episode we haven’t re-watched yet, which is Bashir’s interactions with his parents. That’s another favorite episode, because that relationship is so very complicated, yet it still feels completely real—that actual parents would behave as Bashir’s parents did, sacrificing to give their son the best they could. And what is even more interesting is that complexity is glimpsed long before we meet those characters are learn about Bashir’s past. We see it in a throw-away line in season 4’s Homefront: O’Brien asks Odo to check on his parents, and when Odo asks Bashir if he would like him to check up on anyone, Bashir looks extremely uncomfortable and declines politely.

Even the relationship between Nog, Quark, and Rom matures as the show progresses and Rom steps out from his brother’s shadow, and although the initial episode with their mother is not one I particularly like, we still see complicated relationships between the three. And I adore the scene where Rom realizes Quark has sabotaged Nog’s Academy entrance exam. As well as the scene where Nog breaks down while explaining to Sisko why he wants to go to the Academy.

These are all characters who have depth and pasts and wants and needs and even if you don’t always see them on the surface, you still know they’re there. As flat as someone of these characters were in the first season, they all develop and grow and become far more than they first seem.

All of which means I ended up caring very much what happened to these characters, feeling their hurts and also feeling their joys.

It’s also one of the reasons why so many years later this show is still as relevant and touching as it was when it first came out.

One Response to “Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Family Matters”

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