Movie Reviews

I Agree With One Major Criticism Of Sisko In Star Trek: DS9s Early Days

Summary

  • Fans criticized Sisko for lacking presence in the first two seasons of DS9 and this feedback shaped the show’s direction for season 3.
  • Sisko’s role became more prominent in DS9 season 3, addressing fan concerns about his impact.
  • The introduction of Dominion revitalized Sisko’s character, giving him a vital role in the Federation from season 3 on.



I love Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but even I can agree with one major fan criticism of his role in DS9‘s first two seasons. While DS9 is now rightly regarded as a critical highpoint in the Star Trek franchise, it took a while to bed in with viewers who preferred the action and adventure of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As the lead member of the Star Trek: DS9 cast, Brooks’ Sisko followed in the footsteps of TNG‘s Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). However, while fans liked Sisko a lot, they felt he lacked Picard’s commanding presence and dramatic impact.


This negative feedback about Commander Sisko and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine more generally was shared with the production team at the end of season 2. The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion revealed that fans effectively wanted DS9 to be more like TNG. To justify its existence, DS9 had to establish itself as separate from other Star Trek TV shows, so this criticism does miss the point of the show a little. However, as I recently looked back on Sisko’s impact on DS9 season 1 and 2, I found myself agreeing with the criticism that he sometimes lacked presence.

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Fans Criticized Sisko For Not Making An Impact In Star Trek: DS9’s First 2 Seasons


It’s unfair to say that Sisko makes no impact in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s first two seasons, but all too often he fades into the background. After immediately making an impression in “Emissary”, outlining his many differences from Captain Picard, Sisko starts to get lost among DS9‘s ensemble cast. It’s for this reason that few, if any, season 1 and 2 episodes make anyone’s list of best Sisko episodes of DS9. There are some strong moments, such as Sisko’s insurrection against the Bajoran isolationists in DS9‘s Circle trilogy, or his barnstorming “it’s easy to be a saint in paradise” speech from “The Maquis”.

According to a 2002 special feature on the season 7 DVD boxed set, Avery Brooks had apparently considered leaving
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
in the show’s early years. A conversation with his son about never giving up changed his mind.


However, early period Sisko rarely got to be front and center in the way that Picard or Kirk were in their Star Trek shows. That’s partly due to the fact that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine isn’t set aboard a starship, and is instead set aboard a military space station and commercial hub. A lot of Sisko’s jobs in DS9 seasons 1 and 2 were smaller-scale, like dealing with accusations of sexual impropriety against Quark (Armin Shimerman) or intervening in a rivalry between two businesses on the Promenade. After such small-fry concerns, DS9 season 3 finally gave Sisko a proper challenge to sink his teeth into.

How Star Trek: DS9 Season 3 Fixed Sisko For The Better

Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with the DS9 space station in the background.
Custom image by Simone Ashmoore


Answering fan complaints about Sisko lacking impact, showrunner Ira Steven-Behr and his fellow writers immediately gave him more prominence in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 3. Where in previous seasons, Sisko wouldn’t have much to do in an episode that wasn’t focused on him, the writers ensure that DS9‘s commanding officer is present throughout. For example, DS9 season 3, episode 3, “The House of Quark” is a Ferengi comedy about Quark (Armin Shimerman) marrying a Klingon, but also features a great scene where Sisko gives Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) advice and support on marital issues.

From securing the USS Defiant to leading a diplomatic mission to the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko is given a role of vital importance to the Federation


More broadly, the introduction of the Dominion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s season 2 finale revitalizes Sisko as a character. From securing the USS Defiant to leading a diplomatic mission to the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko is given a role of vital importance to the Federation from season 3 onwards. From a real-world perspective, Avery Brooks is relaxing into the role, and by the end of season 3, is finally allowed to grow a beard and shave his head for season 4. This final touch completes Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 3’s concerted effort to show Benjamin Sisko as the integral and impactful lead character he should have been from the start.

All episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are available to stream on Paramount+.

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