Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was supposed to be about a space station, not a starship.
Through the first three Star Trek series, each show had its own unique concept. The original series was about exploration. The Next Generation was about the politics of these complicated aliens. Deep Space Nine was supposed to be a slice-of-life concept. A show that embodied what it was like to be someone who lived and worked within the Federation.
It put families at the front and center of the Star Trek concept, with the Siskos and O’Briens being the two biggest examples of this, but we also saw this with Gul Dukat and Kira Nerys. They explored the concept of family beyond the traditional.
Even Worf and Jadzia Dax explained the concept a bit, as did Dr. Julian Bashir. Though Bashir’s family experience was more about how they altered his DNA as a child. You know, the usual growing pains.
The space station gimmick was perfect for exploring the diverse and complex aspects of familial relationships but as the show grew, the need for stories that deviated from the space station needed to happen, thus the Dominion War and the arrival of the USS Defiant.
The Defiant worked for Deep Space Nine but what if…
Star Trek’s introduction of the Defiant and the reason behind, the Dominion War, was a bit of a gamble. It catapulted the show, gave it some of its best episodes ever, and really felt grand in a way The Next Generation never achieved as a show.
The Defiant was a good addition, yet I’m curious what the show could’ve been without the jarring transition from a slice-of-life concept to a war story in space. Could the series have cobbled together seven seasons worth of materials only focusing on the space station, Bajor, and maybe a place like Cardassia?
It’s hard to say, so much of how the show is viewed today was due to the tone shift in season four. It added excitement to the show, but it always felt like a cheap and obvious idea. One that didn’t need to happen.
Maybe the show would’ve become a political thriller instead, and maybe that would’ve been enough to keep the show going, but it’s really hard to say one way or another.