This week we celebrate the 19th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s premiere. Yeah, so I know people don't usually throw parties for a 19th anniversary, but any excuse to throw confetti in the air about DS9 is good with us. Plus, the Mayans say we won't be here this time next year, and who is to say they Mayans weren't actually guided by Wormhole Aliens existing out of space and time, right?
While TOS may pull at my heartstrings and TNG expanded my mind, I must confess that DS9 got my heart rate up more than any other show on an episode-per-episode basis. Being set, for the most part, in one location and letting the action come to it allowed DS9's writers to really go deep on the vast number of characters. You could argue that it was this vast well of secondary characters that really put DS9 over the top.
With this in mind, let's go to Quark's, pour a few glasses of kanar and argue about which of these non-regulars were the best. Our criteria are that they appeared more than once and that I like – or like to hate -- them.
Also – I KNOW that I'm leaving a hundred people out. That's why DS9 rules!!!
I have a hunch Vedek Bareil doesn't have many fans, but I love him because he just seems like such a good guy. Imagine if we had a candidate like this today! He even worked himself to death to help his nemesis Kai Winn – another awesome character, by the way -- negotiate the Bajoran-Cardassian treaty… without slipping in one bridge to nowhere.
But Bareil couldn't live forever. We had to let the Kira/Odo relationship blossom. Because we all needed to ponder just exactly what happened when Odo and Kira would... oh... never mind.
I love Cajun food now. I can only imagine how good Cajun food is... IN THE FUTURE! Joseph Sisko didn't just cook the best gumbo in Louisiana, he played piano and impregnated a Bajoran Prophet. Whattaguy!
After the Dominion War began, Joseph Sisko was vocal about diminishing personal rights in exchange for security. Only a shapeshifter would talk like that: Check his blood!!!
I used to pretend that I hated holodeck episodes. I blame Data and his stupid Sherlock Holmes hat. Then Vic Fontaine appeared and he summed up everything that was magical about DS9. Give a character more depth than you expect and – pow – you love the guy. The 1960s Vegas lounge singer grew to become a sounding board for relationship issues and a shoulder to cry on when life got you down. (Probably because the usual bartender, Quark, who wasn't all that warm and fuzzy to begin with, was getting more involved with the complications of the Dominion War.)
It got to the point that even Captain Sisko would want to “help” this collection of programming subroutines and photon projections. Added benefit: he could actually sing pretty well, too.
What's more badass than having an eye patch? Just letting your skin grow over where your eye used to be.
This Klingon warrior, born not of noble blood, rose through the ranks to eventually become Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. Martok's double-team Jem'Hadar takedowns with Worf in the Dominion prison colony are quite likely the most badass moments in the history of all Star Trek. (Oh! Look at that! Sounds like we've just come up with a future top 10 list!)
Glory to the House of Martok! Glory to the Empire!
When I initially contemplated this list, the first character I thought of was Morn. Then I immediately decided I would not include him, because I felt he wasn't really a character – I mean, this big speechless barstool-growth is really just a recurring gag, not a personality, right? Then it hit me, if it weren't for Morn (an anagram for Cheers' “Norm,” don'tcha know?) then the character of Quark would be much different than the one we grew to love. Morn's the ultimate straight man, a big wall of rubber against which Armin Shimerman can throw anything and make it stick.
Plus there was that time when he spat up latinum he kept hidden in his second stomach.
I feel like I know the heartaches of Kira Nerys like I know few other fictional characters. The struggles of the Bajoran people are written on the lines of her face – and not just the ones above her nose. She is a woman of great contradiction and depth but, at heart, an ethical one. And that's why “Intendant” Kira Nerys of Terok Nor is so much fun.
Her pure, backstabbing greed mixed with an all-inclusive lust made this character something of a fan favorite among those who like to draw pictures of Star Trek characters doing things you won't see on broadcast television. That wouldn’t be me, by the way. Just sayin’.
I love Leeta, and only partially for the reason you think I love her. I love her because, yes, she seems at first to appear to be pure eye candy. Indeed, as a Dabo Girl, her very work depends on being voluptuous beauty that'll coo in the ear of a mark losing his life's savings of latinum without realizing it.
But Star Trek and its philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is so accepting and pure of spirit that even someone who may appear to a be a purely there-to-add-some-buoyancy-to-the-ratings character can have a heroic spirit. Leeta was key to gathering intelligence during the Dominion War and, with her marriage to the future Grand Nagus, would perpetuate reform for women's rights on Ferenginar.
Also: some of those gymnastics moves when she embodied the spirit of Emony Dax weren't too shabby. Not at all.
Keiko O'Brien filled a much-needed void on Star Trek – what does a “normal life” look like?
We may all dream of being a Sisko or a Kira (or dread being a Redshirt) but stands to reason that, if we aren't a military commander today, we wouldn't be one centuries from now. (Someone's gotta clean out the Holosuites). Keiko, while hardly an interstellar slacker as a former Enterprise Botanist, isn't making history – she's living through it. Her primary concerns are her children and the safety of her long-suffering husband. (As a worrier, she couldn't possibly have made a worse choice for a mate.)
Think about the young mothers and schoolteachers you know – the ones who somehow manage to keep the classroom and family together despite great obstacles -- and know that there is a place for them on a space station near a trans-galactic wormhole. Relieved yet? I thought so.
Wisenheimers may ask “which Weyoun?” but since they are all clones I feel safe in listing just one.
The most perplexing of all of Jeffrey Combs' Star Trek characters (and that's saying something), Weyoun proves that true evil isn't always the madman with a weapon. Evil is often calculating, cruel and even a little charismatic.
Part of what made Weyoun so fascinating was his ability to lord dispassionate possession of Ketracel-White over the Jem'Hadar one minute and show absolute pious fealty to the Founders the next. You never quite know where you stand with this Vorta emissary, and when he cracked the whip over the backs of Cardassians we hated for six seasons, it was hard not to cheer along.
I don't think there's much surprise that Elim Garak is at the top of this list. Ask a DS9 fan who his favorite character is, supporting or not, and it is likely they'll respond with Garak.
The Cardassian tailor was a good indicator from the very first episode that DS9 was going to be something different. An ethical pretzel, one was never quite sure which Garak you were talking to. Was he once a spy for Cardassian's Obsidian Order? (Yes.) Was he currently still spying for them? (Probably not.) Did he have the best interests of the Federation at heart? (Usually.) Did he believe the ends justified the means? (Yes.) Could he torture someone? (You bet-cha.) Was he himself a weak, sniveling knot of phobias loaded with daddy issues? (Yup.) Was he ever telling the truth? (Yes, especially when he lied.) Was he a friend or foe (Yes. Both, actually.).
Garak is probably your number one pick, too, but there's also a good chance that you are seething with rage that I didn't include some other names. So, set you phasers to kill and fire away in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at UGO.com for more than four years. He has produced two independent films (look 'em up!) and is a member of the New York Film Critics Online. In 2005, he was named the Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast by IFC. Jordan fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy.