Star Trek: 12 Last-Minute Changes That Saved Deep Space Nine (And 8 That Hurt It)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was ready to do something new to the Star Trek universe. The creators – Rick Berman and Michael Piller - wanted to move the stories off a starship and onto a space station in a part of the universe wrought with turmoil. And it worked.
That’s not to say the series didn’t have it ups and downs. The early seasons had many lackluster episodes as it struggled to find its footing and personality in the Star Trek universe. What helped keep Deep Space Nine going was casting the right actors for their very likable characters. Plus, having the main character, Benjamin Sisko, be a part of the Bajoran religious world made for a compelling addition to the series. It’s not uncommon for a TV show to encounter situations where last-minute changes are needed. It’s happened since the beginning of television, and it will continue to happen. Some changes are positive, enhancing the story or bolstering the talent of the cast or crew; but some are negative, causing confusion to the storyline or lessening the intensity of the series completely.
Deep Space Nine stayed strong through many of its last-minute changes, but several did hurt the show. Luckily, many of the abrupt changes helped and even saved the series. This list examines last-minute changes that many felt hurt an episode or season, and others that saved the show in their own way.
Here’s Star Trek: 12 Last-Minute Changes That Hurt Deep Space 9 (And 8 That Saved It).
20 Saved: Casting Avery Brooks as Sisko
A main character of any popular TV show that runs a long time is tied to the actor even after the show ends. It's often hard to imagine someone else playing them. In Commander Benjamin Sisko, Avery Brooks found a role that was perfect for him in the producers’ and fans’ eyes. His tough, but intelligent decision-making and surprising soft spots for baseball and his love for his son made him a relatable character. But who else could have potentially played Sisko?
How about Richard Dean Anderson from MacGyver-- though producers thought he was too much of an action hero? Or James Earl Jones or Tony Todd (who had played Worf’s brother)? One of the other alternate actors in position to take the role of Sisko was Eriq La Salle from ER.
19 Hurt: Not Enough Q
Q became an immensely popular character when he first appeared in The Next Generation. The combination of the all-powerful but snarky being resonated with fans. It gave more humor to the Star Trek world. Many of his shenanigans were undeniably entertaining. When the pitch for “Q-Less” began, it started with a storyline featuring Vash, who was Picard’s odd love interest in TNG.
Q wasn’t even considered for “Q-Less.”
Michael Piller said in The Deep Space Log Book: A first Season Companion that they had been looking to get Q into DS9 and using Vash would help do that. When the first draft script began from the pitch, Q was worked into the story.
18 Saved: Changing Odo's Personality
Odo is one of the more unique characters to come from Star Trek up until DS9 aired. He’s a shape-shifting alien called a Changeling that didn’t know his origins. He slept in a liquid state, but could turn into just about anything he wanted, which was used to his advantage as the Chief Security Officer.
When first conceived, Odo was described “as kind of a young John Wayne sheriff-in-town” according to Rene Auberjonois on the DS9 Season 3 DVD. Six months before the series would air, writers got the first few episodes together with Odo as that Eastwood type. When the creators and writers saw Auberjonois perform the role, Ira Behr told the writers that “this is better than we even imagined.” Odo turned into the character seen in show rather than imagined.
17 Hurt: No Guinan and Spock Appear
It’s not uncommon for franchises to use characters from previous series in a new show. Deep Space Nine used various characters from The Next Generation, like Vash, Lwaxana Troi, and Gowron. At one time during Deep Space Nine, two well-known characters were considered as an addition to the series, for at least one episode: Spock and Guinan. It’s always interesting to see how other Star Trek character fit into new shows or movies. Guinan was planned to be a part of the DS9 episode “Rivals” as the mother of Martus Mazu, but Whoopi Goldberg wasn't available to appear.
The writers took out all mentions of Guinan, keeping only Martus’ designation as an El-Aurian.
It’s unclear why Spock never made his appearance, but in the episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations”, archive footage from TOS was used.
16 Saved: Getting Worf and Jadzia Together
Separately, Worf and Jadzia Dax were lovable and endearing characters. Worf, of course, was pulled in from The Next Generation while Jadzia was a new character from the Trill alien race. Would they work as a romantic couple?
When Worf started his run on Deep Space Nine, the relationship between him and Jadzia wasn’t planned. The actors Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell pushed for the two characters to get together. According to the Crew Dossier of Jadzia Dax on the DS9 Season 2 DVD Special Features, the writers and producers realized that Worf and Jadzia were an obvious couple. The onscreen relationship helped Farrell as an actor. She became more comfortable working with the crew and Dorn after having been one of the last actresses cast.
15 Hurt: Casting Camilla Saviola as Kai Opaka
The character Kai Opaka was a spiritual leader for Bajor during the Cardassian rule and when Bajor began its new independence. She was respected, but highly critical of Benjamin Sisko and Deep Space Nine. Camilla Saviola got the role because Rick Berman was impressed with her “quiet toughness” of performing the character in her audition. Saviola was one of many women up for the role.
Sometimes Saviola played the character too quiet and reserved for the part she played in Bajor.
Two other actresses may have brought an edge to the Kai the role needed, especially since Bajor was in political turmoil: Kathy Bates was considered, but she had expressed no interest in TV at that time, as well as Shelley Duvall.
14 Saved: Casting Terry Farrell as Dax
One of the best casting decisions was getting Terry Farrell to play Jadzia Dax.
Farrell was the last main cast member to come on to Deep Space Nine - the pilot was already filming.
She came into an already close-knit cast and crew and had to work to get comfortable. The series was better for her sticking it out in the beginning. Fans could have had Famke Janssen as Jadzia. Janssen turned down the role because she wanted to focus on movies and not do TV at that moment according to Terry Erdmann and Paula Block in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion.
Until she left DS9, Farrell gave fans and viewers an intricate and deep character in Jadzia Dax. And sometimes a funny one too.
13 Hurt: Bringing Worf On
When Worf was brought on, fans cried the only reason was to boost ratings. In a chat with Ira Behr, he confirmed that “Obviously, one of the reasons Worf was brought…was to increase ratings. After all, they call it show ‘business.’” Behr and others thought he could bring something to Deep Space Nine.
Now clearly, Worf and Jadzia couldn’t work without, well, Worf, but that doesn’t mean casting him was a good idea. Michael Dorn initially didn’t want to reprise his role because of the long time it took to do the make-up and the potential for long production delays. Eventually, he did it because the salary being offered was hard to resist. At first, it could be argued his heart wasn’t fully in it.
12 Saved: Removing Jadzia's Forehead "Appliance"
The Trill species was introduced in The Next Generation in the episode “The Host.” But after that, the alien race featured prominently in Deep Space Nine with the character Jadzia Dax. When first seen, the Trill had a “forehead appliance and a little nosepiece” as described by the original designer Michael Westmore in Cinefantasique.
At first the appliance was used to remain consistent. According to Farrell in an interview on the DS9 Season 2 DVD, in audience tests and opinions of Paramount executives, people were upset that her “beautiful face” was covered up. Farrell said that she didn’t know the makeup department would take months to figure out she didn’t need a forehead. The apparatus was removed after a few weeks of filming.
11 Hurt: Recasting Ishka
The Ferengis on board Deep Space Nine - Quark and Rom - have a mother who bucks the traditional female trend imposed by Ferenginar males. They are always supposed to subservient and without clothes. Quark and Rom’s mother pursued business, wore clothes, and did as she well pleased.
Andrea Martin as Ishka was a delight to watch-- so much so that producers wanted the character to return.
Everyone wanted Martin back, including Rene Auberjonois. When it was time to cast the next episode with Ishka, “Ferengi Love Songs”, Martin was asked. She planned to reprise the role, but “had to drop out at the last minute” according to Ira Behr in an AOL Chat from 1997. Cecily Adams - who wasn’t familiar with the character - got the part, but just wasn’t as strong as Martin.
10 Saved: Changing Julian's Name and Personality
Did you like or hate the character Dr. Julian Bashir? However you felt about the doctor might’ve changed if producers and writers hadn't changed his original name and personality.
At first, Julian’s name was Julian Amoros.
Right before the pilot episode “Emissary” started filming, it was changed to Julian Bashir. The latter name is easier on the tongue. More drastically changed was Bashir’s psychology. While other characters on the show had extensive backstories and character traits, Bashir/Amoros was listed as “a Human male in his mid-twenties; may have an accent depending on casting.” The first draft of “Emissary” described him as “trying to appear confident.” Later description for the same episode simply listed him as “cocky with a little too much confidence.” T he talented Alexander Siddig played the doctor perfectly.
9 Hurt: Terry Farrell Leaving
Rumors flew when Terry Farrell left Deep Space Nine to pursue a role on the series Becker. Did she want more money? Did she have differences with the crew or hate the cast in anyway? In an interview in The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, Farrell stated it was one reason only: she had had enough of one of the creators/producers, Rick Berman. She claimed Berman was a “misogynist” who regularly “criticized her appearance” and “bullied” her into another season.
She did say that she wished she hadn’t been so hasty to leave the show at a Star Trek convention in 2007.
Farrell has also stated that she’d love to come back to Star Trek as a Jadzia clone or hologram or one from another universe.
8 Saved: Adding Kira
When Deep Space Nine was in the earliest of planning stages, creators wanted to use a recurring character from The Next Generation. Ro Laren was an Ensign and Bajoran and probably would have been a good transition character for the show. Michelle Forbes, who played Ensign Ro, declined the offer, instead wanting to focus on a movie career. The creators still wanted a Bajoran character, so they created a new one: Kira Nerys.
Nana Visitor was called to audition, but she almost didn’t accept the part since she had just had a baby. Visitor eventually took the new character and had fun with her. Kira is memorable and easy to root for. As Visitor said, “Major Kira was like Disneyland for an actor.”
7 Saved: Deleting A Specific Scene in "Whispers"
Continuity is extremely important, no matter what phase a TV series is in an expansive franchise. With Star Trek, there’s so much lore and information across movies and TV, that unless it’s in a different timeline, a storyline needs to adhere to the past.
In the Deep Space Nine episode “Whispers,” one error almost made it past the writers and producers and fact-checkers.
The runabout O’Brien was in was being chased by the Rio Grande. Except the Rio Grande was the name of the ship O’Brien was in. The chasing runabout was supposed to be the Mekong. The shooting script went out, the episode was filmed, but it was too late to change anything about the runabout. At the last minute, the entire scene was deleted.
6 Hurt: Rejecting the epic finale twist
For those who’ve seen the finale to Deep Space Nine, Sisko went the way of the Prophets, O’Brien and Keiko go to teach at Starfleet Academy, Bashir and Ezri end up together, Worf becomes an ambassador to the Klingon Empire, Nog gets a promotion to a Lieutenant, Odo leaves to go save the Founders, and Kira takes over the station as the commander.
Everything is tidied up too nicely.
Ira Behr had a radically different way to end the series, which sounds weird at first, but makes total sense in the context of the show. His idea was to have the entire a construct in Benny Russell’s (a sci-fi writer in “Far Beyond the Stars”) head. It’d be a similar ending The Bob Newhart Show had. Sadly, Rick Berman immediately said no. We’ll never know what happened to Benny.
5 Saved: Avery Brooks Not Quitting
Benjamin Sisko’s hard exterior and take-no-guff attitude found a way into Star Trek fans' hearts. He was almost an amalgamation of Kirk’s emotional decision-making and Picard’s analytical thought process. Avery Brooks was superb as Sisko.
In 2002, in an interview on the DS9 Season 7 DVD special features, Brooks revealed that he was going to leave the show. The stress and struggle to deal with the television production schedules was proving exhausting. It didn’t help that Brooks continued to star in Spenser TV movies. During a talk with his son, he stressed the importance of “giving and keeping his word.” And that led to Brooks continuing Deep Space Nine through all seven seasons.
4 Saved: The Dominion Story as Ongoing Arc
Ronald D. Moore and Ira Behr are iconic Star Trek writers and producers with a proven track record of amazing episodes. Moore has won awards for his Star Trek work and without Behr, the franchise may not have had Ferengis. Without either of them, Deep Space Nine almost didn’t have the phenomenal over-arching Dominion storyline.
Initially, the Dominion story was only planned to be three or four episodes.
Moore and Behr pushed to have it a continuing storyline throughout multiple seasons. Rick Berman, the executive producer, didn’t want that. Soon, Berman left Deep Space Nine to work on Voyager. That’s when Moore and Behr were giving more control over the writers and story, and they were able to integrate the Dominion story into the series.
3 Hurt: Cancelling season 8
Deep Space Nine ran for seven seasons. When a show has aired for that long, it’s hard to watch it go when it’s been canceled. You want more story, more characters, more lore. A ny ideas that were ready for a season 8 were lost to the world, never to be filmed. That is, until recently, when DS9 writers got together to write a new episode.
While much of the story was kept under wraps to feature in a new DS9 documentary called What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one hypothetical was that Ezra Dax became a captain. More details about what season 8, episode 1 would have included and how it would keep Deep Space Nine compelling will be revealed in the documentary, which is expected to release later in 2018.
2 Saved: No Legal Action from Babylon 5
Probably one of the most important change that saved Deep Space Nine involved another show, Babylon 5. During the first season of DS9, many comparisons were brought up between the Star Trek show and the one created by J. Michael Straczynski.
Straczynski had pitched a similar idea to Paramount in the 1980’s but the studio declined it.
Then came Deep Space Nine, with ideas that could be construed as taken from the pitch. Straczynski said that if no similarities besides the general ones appear after a few weeks the first episodes air, then “we can continue on our way.” Luckily, things were different enough for Straczynski not to pursue any legal action against Paramount. Plus, he firmly believed that the two creators, Rick Berman and Michael Piller, had never seen his original pitch.
1 Saved: Titling the show Deep Space Nine
The series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek show set on a Starbase instead of a ship. Although the USS Defiant was often used starting in season 3, the station continued as the primary location. The concept of the series - much like Gene Roddenberry described the original Star Trek as Wagon Train in space - was The Rifleman in space.
A father and son arrive at a rundown “town” on the outskirts of a “new frontier.” According to Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Unauthorized Story, Rick Berman and Michael Piller had issues coming up with a title for the new show.
They thought about “The Final Frontier”, but during development, the base was temporarily called Deep Space Nine, so that’s what they stuck with.
What changes do you think saved Deep Space Nine? Or hurt it? Let us know in the comments!