After 10 seasons of Trek being mostly episode based, Deep Space 9 introduced a whole new concept. Located on a space station, there was more room for season-spanning plots, in-depth character development and, of course, political megaplots.
While Klingons – manifested in Lt. Worf – still play an important role, DS9 gives us fresh species and thus fresh political problems.
Bajor has been freed from Cardassian rule and Deep Space 9 – once a Cardassian outpost – is now a Station under the rule of the Federation. Obviously the relationship between Bajor and Cardassia plays an important role during this series.
Bajor isn’t part of the Federation, part of Captain Sisko’s duties is to observe the Bajoran potential to become a member. Under the rule of a provisional government, religion plays a huge part in Bajoran politics. In fact, it is the religious leaders of Bajor that actually hold political power.
While Cardassia accepted the status quo, the relationship between Bajor and the Federation is tense at best.
A stable wormhole – controlled by Deep Space 9 – is opening ways to the gamma quadrant, a region of space too far away to be explored until the finding of the wormhole. After a period of exploration, a new threat is waiting right behind the wormhole. The Dominion, an alien empire ruled by strange creatures that remain mysterious and hidden for a long time, is a new political power threatening the alpha-quadrant.
The Vorta speak for the Dominion, and rule the Dominion’s warriors, the Jem’Hadar. When diplomatic solutions fail, Cardassia joins forces with the Dominion. And of course the battle for the Federation’s independency from the Dominion takes place at Deep Space 9.
All in all, DS9 is a very political series. Bajor itself shows a variety of political conflicts – both external as well as internal. With the Cardassians, Romulans are “replaced” as the main antagonistic force, and the Dominion as the new “super villain”, takes the place of the Borg’s role in TNG. After the “untouchable” enemies the Borg portrayed, the new antagonists have feelings and passions just like humans. While they are easier to understand and identify with than the Borg were, they still are intimidating and powerful.
I love DS9 for the long, season-spanning plots and the quality of the political megaplot. With each re-watch I find new dimensions to discover. Undeniably DS9 is different from other Trek – I still can only recommend watching the series.