The Enemy - Part 2By Fred Shedian
Posted at August 11, 2000 - 5:40 PM GMT
Continuing with Part 2 of my series discussing how Star Trek has treated it's villains over the years, I take a look at how Deep Space Nine reacted, retracted and then created it's version of an enemy within the Alpha & Gamma Quadrants. During the seven years the show was on the air, many now familiar aliens took on a completely new appearance.
When DS9 first appeared on the small screen, several of the aliens presented were common to long time viewers of Star Trek. To start, an introduction to the Cardassians had been made during The Next Generation. Although by this point in the show, we had yet to see the appearance of Edward Jelico and the excellent two part episode involving Picard's capture, we had a basic idea about the species. They were arrogant beings, thinking they knew everything...sounding a lot like parent complaints about quite a few teenagers in our society today. Another race Deep Space Nine displayed was the Bajoran. Initial remarks made with The Next Generation had actually called them "Bajora" and had displayed the race as one under another's forced rule. Over time, TNG helped to show that the race was not as weak as initially believed...something that I believe actually interfered with DS9's ability to properly mold the species. Finally, we had another introduction to the Ferengi. Previous encounters had been only with the Alliance's version of a military, ruthless beings...who's goal and purpose (up to DS9) was not really clear.
By the end of the first two seasons of Deep Space Nine, the show had changed many aspects within these races and introduced several more. The most dramatic was the forced importance of the Bajoran people. Up to this point, they were not an important race...as their "empire" dealt with only one solar system. Yet, here, they were to play a key part in the show's makeup and story. Therefor, parts of their history and social structure were brought to the surface. At certain points, this information was brought forward making the Bajoran appear to be an enemy of the Federation. Social and political turmoil, at one point, resulted in an almost five/six part series about the capture of the space station. Yet, no followup was ever conduct on this "evil" side of the Bajoran, instead they returned to being everyone's friend the following week. Although minor, this part of the species was exploited yet never fully explained. To this day, I question what prompted the changes in the Bajoran mind between the first two seasons and the last five.
At the same time of the Bajoran mutiny, information about the Cardassians started to come available. These first steps were made through the character of Gul Dukat, opening the door and allowing the mystery of this race to fall. By the time the show exited the second season, the Ferengi had also made a dramatic change. Although often used for comical relieve, we had found that this species wasn't a ruthless empire bent on domination....they were a ruthless empire bent on economic exploitation.
Although Deep Space Nine had reintroduced many familiar races, by the fourth season the show had displayed some of what the Gamma Quadrant had in the way of "strange new worlds." The first races to pass through the wormhole were the Hunters, a race coming in search for the Tosk as part of a hunting game. Their introduced made me wonder if, at some point, writers did not consider them as the mortal enemy across the Celestial Gate. There was a lot of dialogue in this introductory episode, explaining the basic background of the species. By the time the adventure was over, it was as if the Hunters were the Gamma Quadrant's version of the Klingons...and were going to be played as such.
Although the Hunters were the first, it was clear they were not the last. The introduction of the Dominion was made shortly thereafter. Initially, it Jem Hadar were the only visible sign of this race. By the end of the third season, it was clear that the Dominion was not to be ignored. Yet, information regarding their social structure and makeup was not introduced until the beginning of season four. Here, we quickly learned of the Founders...and the Jem Hadar's reliance on the white. However, by the end of the Deep Space Nine, this initial perception had radically changed...for almost everyone introduced.
When the show left the air, many changes had taken place. To begin, the Bajorans were no longer an "innocent" people. It was found they had a pre-Cardassian past that may not have been the best. The Cardassian Union had been exploited by writers, destroying almost all of the mystery this race offered in just the last two seasons. The use of Gul Dukat was initially an excellent tool. Yet, when he finally returned to lead the Cardassian Union, the situation changed. Instead of attempting to maintain some of the mystery, it was tossed aside in favor of an armed conflict. Although it was interesting to learn some information about the race, it spoiled a lot of the character development the show could have offerred. The Hunters, a race many had believed would make many more appearances, never returned through the worm hole. This was a decision by writers I regret, as I believe showing a conflict between the Hunters and the Dominion would have been an interesting story line...vs a Dominion/Alpha Quadrant conflict.
With their initial introduction, it almost seemed as if the Dominion were this show's "unstoppable evil," this space station's version of the Borg. Other races, such as the Hunters, the Wadi or the Rakhari would be the show's Romulan or Klingon. Yet, by the end, the need for another battle had caused such an idea to go out the window. Instead, the Dominion were spoiled faster than Voyager's exploitation of the Borg. It was learned the Jem Hadar were a race was not as "stupid" as the Vorta believed and they held a ruthless code of conduct/honor. We learned that there were problems within the Dominion, as even a faction of the Jem Hadar had broken off...trying to get their freedom. This was an aspect of the show which was never again investigated, something I think many would agree was a mistake. The modern day opinion of the Jem Hadar puts them at what the Klingons were during TOS, instead of being the "evil you didn't want to face" seen in earlier seasons.
Perhaps if a DS9 TV movie is ever produced, an alliance of other races from the Gamma Quadrant will visit...possibly launching a restoration of some of the mystery we once saw in the Gamma Quadrant, the Dominion and in the Cardassian. Many question why this did not occur in The Final Chapter, bringing an unlikely yet entertaining end to the war. Although seeing more about many of the villains presented was unique, the constant need for conflict hindered an ability to create a ruthless/mysterious enemy. In addition, it apparently narrowed the minds of writers to the point that they ignored possible directions...some of which may have been better than those selected.
In Part 3, I will discuss Voyager's attempt to establish a successful villain and the results this has taken on the show/our perception of the Delta Quadrant as a whole. Later, I will look at several villains which have maintained their dangerous edge over the years...some by not having direct exposure, and others by well written episodes.
As always, remarks are always welcome. Feel free to submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your feelings about this series of columns and any suggestions for future editions. If you have a villain you would like to hear me discuss in a later edition of this series, please let me know. I do appreciate those that wrote in after Part 1 of this series.
Until next time....
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.