?Under-appreciated during its original run, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has subsequently gone on to find a second life since it went off the air in 1999. There are many reasons for this, ranging from how the show’s availability on DVD and streaming formats accommodates new viewers who may have been alienated by its serialized storytelling the first time out to simple word-of-mouth. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what brought you to the series, just the fact that you had the opportunity to check it out… regardless of what your final verdict on it was.
Admittedly, as a Star Trek fan who considers Deep Space Nine to be the franchise’s finest moment, I’m a bit biased (your mileage may vary in terms of how the adventures of Captain Sisko and his crew resonate with you). Last year, Topless Robot presented a look at the 10 Best Episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Fans will be quick to point out that the great episodes far outweigh the bad by a considerable amount. But in the name of fairness today we will be pointing out DS9‘s most notable misfires. Which episodes stink worse than Worf after a marathon Par’Mach session? Let’s find out.
8) Let He Who Is Without Sin…
What Is It About?: Worf, Dax, Bashir, Quark and Dabo girl Leeta all go to Risa for some R&R. Once there, they meet resort worker Vanessa Williams (whose “Saving the Best for Last” song is the most annoying earworm ever) and some killjoy revolutionaries who are upset that people only use their planet to fuck. Awkwardness ensues. Why Is It So Awful?: In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion book, Robert Hewitt Wolfe — the man who co-scripted many of the series’ greatest moments — refers to this as “the worst episode I ever wrote.” That sounds about right. For a planet whose sole purpose is getting visitors off, Risa has roughly the same amount of erotic appeal as an episode of The Waltons. That’s unfortunate. Making matters worse is the disservice this outing does to Worf by portraying him as petty, jealous and almost puritanical (his actions are explained away by a contrivance that takes the form of a tragic story from his past — one that strangely was never mentioned before or after this episode). Instead of being a fun romp that comments on the repercussions of having a planet that exists purely for pleasure, “Let He Who Is Without Sin…” seems muddled and unsure of exactly what it is trying to get at. As a result, the audience was left with the television equivalent of being forced to feign excitement while a hated co-worker shares their vacation snapshots. In other words, Risa is a lame place to visit and you sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there.
What Is It About?: Bareil escapes from the evil mirror universe and arrives on Deep Space Nine, causing problems for Kira and generally boring everyone else. Why Is It So Awful?:Deep Space Nine bought the mirror universe back to Star Trek, making it edgier and sexier than ever before (with a healthy dose of soap opera theatrics thrown in for good measure). “Resurrection” breaks the winning streak set by the other mirror romps by focusing on Bareil, a character who isn’t nearly interesting enough to support an episode on his own. Not even the third act appearance of the Intendant — known in fan circles as “Kinky Kira” can save this from being a dull bottle show that desperately wants to have the excitement of a “Crossover” or “Shattered Mirror.” Instead it has about as much in common with those installments as Star Trek II does with the Enterprise finale.
6) Time’s Orphan
What Is It About?: After Molly O’Brien falls into some sort of bullshit rift in the space-time continuum, she emerges as an adolescent seemingly devoid of humanity. Naturally, Miles and Keiko are a bit upset about this. As they try to make things right, viewers get to enjoy the antics of Molly O’Brien: Feral Teen. By enjoy, I mean suffer through. A lot. Why Is It So Awful?: Throughout DS9‘s run, the writing staff relished in emotionally and/or physically beating the hell out of Miles O’Brien. It was awesome, and resulted in great drama that really allowed Colm Meaney to shine. This episode is a rare example of the so-called “torture O’Brien” formula backfiring, because the peril never really felt real. At no point does it seem that the status quo won’t be returned by the time the final credits roll. So by the time the real Molly returns — thanks to a denouement that is uncomfortably close to the one that was also used in the series’ “Children of Time” — it just seems pointless. But hey, at least we get a glimpse at how good at parenting Worf and Jadzia will be. Oh wait. Fuck.
5) Prodigal Daughter
What Is It About?: When O’Brien goes missing while investigating 24th century mobsters, Ezri embarks on a mission to track him down…discovering a not-so-shocking truth about her family along the way. Why Is It So Awful?: The Ezri character was problematic all around because viewers had to accept the new Dax and warm up to Nicole de Boer while the writers struggled with figuring out exactly how to place her within the already well-established framework of the series. To de Boer’s credit, she is immediately likable in the role, even if it takes a while for the writers — and Ezri herself — to figure out exactly who she is. Originally airing early in the run of the show’s final season, this episode was created with the intention of fleshing out the new Dax a bit. Instead, it did her a disservice by thrusting her into a largely uninteresting story involving the Orion Syndicate. One of the series’ few missteps, the Syndicate was a criminal faction introduced during the previous season’s “Honor Among Thieves.” The concept of what basically amounts to intergalactic goodfellas is an interesting one, but in this case timing was everything. After all, gangsters can’t really hold a candle to the intrigue of what the Founders et al. were up to. So with the Dominion War raging and the end of the show in sight, it seemed frivolous to devote an hour to Ezri’s family problems and the murder mystery they were wrapped up in. It was an unwelcome distraction that took attention away from the ongoing story arc without bringing anything new to the plate. There are ways to do these types of stand alone stories well late in the series — just see “Take Me Out the Holosuite” — but ultimately “Prodigal Daughter” was an empty journey not worth returning to.
4) The Muse
What Is It About?: The chick with the creepy eyes from They Live arrives on the station and “inspires” Jake to work on his novel. Meanwhile, Lwaxana Troi drops by again… and this time she’s pregnant! Why Is It So Awful?: In full Evil-Lyn mode, Meg Foster turns up as a sort of space vampire who feeds on Jake’s creativity and nearly kills him before Sisko gets all Hawk on her creepy-eyed ass. Elsewhere on the station that is suddenly beset by strange tonal shifts, preggers Lwaxana — whose name is my spellcheck’s sworn enemy — has gone and married a jerkface who wants to raise their kid in a male-dominated world. To get herself out of this problematic situation, she and Odo hatch a scheme to get married to take advantage of a legal loophole that would let her keep the baby. Before you can say “papa don’t preach,” the plan succeeds. Jake isn’t around to see any of this however, as he was too busy having his creative juices sucked out of his brain by an intergalactic refugee from a Yeats poem. Both storylines are played so earnestly that it’s hard to take either one seriously due to their inherent silliness. Yet of the two, the Odo/Lwaxana one comes off better since they are believable as kindred spirits. Say what you will about the pair’s previous outing, “Fascination,” but at least that dud didn’t feature any pseudo-erotic scenes of brain masturbation.
3) Move Along Home
What Is It About?: The first alien race to visit Deep Space Nine from the Gamma Quadrant loves games. After Quark cheats them, they force Sisko, Kira, Dax and Bashir into playing one of their own. It doesn’t sound that bad, but trust me, it is. Why Is It So Awful?: The Wadi are the type of pointless one-and-done races that you’d expect to see on Star Trek: Voyager — nothing more than a combination of shitty costumes, shittier makeup and one not very interesting defining trait (in this case, a love for games of chance). After they put our heroes through the ringer with their annoyingly nonsensical game of Chula, they conveniently reveal that no one was in any real danger and go on their merry way. By receiving no real punishment for their actions other than getting a stern talking to, the Wadi makes the Federation seem like wishy-washy pushovers. And that’s not even getting into the stupidity of the Chula game itself:
Allamarine, please make it stop.
2) The Storyteller
What Is It About?: When the Bajoran responsible for protecting his village against a malevolent cloud that can be defeated by nice thoughts dies, O’Brien must take his place. Seriously. Why Is It So Awful?:Star Trek: Deep Space Nine devoted much of its first season examining the rich culture and spiritual beliefs of the Bajoran people and exploring why their planet would be a worthy addition to the Federation… except for that one time they were depicted as mindless rubes who were always on the precipice of savagery. “The Storyteller” was the 14th episode of the show to air, and it spits in the face of everything we learned about Bajoran culture up to that point. Gone are the noble people who would give their last breath to fight against the Cardassians who seek to oppress them. Instead, viewers are suddenly introduced to Bajorans who are fearful, weak and lacking any semblance of independence. Sending mixed messages about your new series’ primary alien race isn’t the best way to develop an audience. Even the episode’s ultimate hero has a hissy fit and attempts to stab O’Brien when he doesn’t get his way. Just to sum this installment up again: there is a Bajoran village where a man realized how murderous his people were so he decided the best way to unite them was to create a death cloud that could only be destroyed by everyone thinking good things about each other. I suppose if you are a student looking to half-ass your thesis, you could come up with some baloney about how “The Storyteller” is an indictment of organized religion that uses mainstream popular culture to distribute its lesson of subversion, but really, I think that would be giving the episode far too much credit.
What Is It About?: Hey remember Q and Vash from Star Trek: The Next Generation? You like that show, right? Well now they are on Deep Space Nine, so you should watch that too. Whee! Why Is It So Awful?: Q and Vash have no place being on DS9, and their involvement here has nothing to do with storytelling and everything to do with ratings. The first season — hell, the first couple of years — of the series found the show frequently shaking things up in order to find its groove and gain new viewers. It may have been slightly jarring for fans, but ultimately these changes resulted in the strongest Trek to date. Like the three episodes that featured Lwaxana Troi and the Star Trek: The Next Generation “Birthright” two-parter, “Q-Less” was created with hopes of upping ratings by showcasing familiar characters. It makes sense from a business standpoint, what with corporate synergy and all, but creatively it gives off an air of desperation. It also doesn’t help build an appreciation of Sisko and company when Q spends much of his screen time unfavorably comparing them to the Enterprise crew. The threadbare plot, which has Q trying to win back Vash while she prepares to auction off some Gamma Quadrant artifacts, limps to a conclusion that is too similar to the ending of “Encounter at Farpoint” for comfort (or maybe Q just is really into space jellyfish). I’m not sure what the producers hoped to accomplish with this episode, but given the fact we never saw Q on the series again it’s clear that they considered this little experiment a failure. He was better off trying to have babies with Captain Janeway anyway. There was no time for that nonsense on DS9.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.