'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' — The 20 Greatest Episodes

6:00 AM 9/22/2016

by Aaron Couch and Graeme McMillan

We boldly go — and revisit the top episodes from 'DS9.'

Netflix/Screengrab

Though Deep Space Nine was the fourth Star Trek series to hit the airwaves, it number one in the hearts of many Trekkies. 

The series was grittier and more serialized than any Trek that came before. Over seven seasons and 176 episodes, fans were delighted by the work of stars Avery Brooks (Sisko), Rene Auberjonois (Odo), Terry Farrell (Dax) Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) Colm Meaney (O'Brien) Armin Shimerman (Quark), Alexander Siddig (Bashir), Nana Visitor (Kira) Michael Dorn (Worf) and Nicole de Boerwhich.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek this month, The Hollywood Reporter counted down the top 100 episodes of Star Trek across all six TV series. Every day through Friday, we're breaking that list down even further — ranking the episodes by individual series.

Here, you'll find the cast and crew of DS9 sharing what makes these episodes among the best of what they did from 1993-99. For more, check out the top episodes from the original series and Next Generation.

  1. 20
    20

    "Improbable Cause"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 3, Episode 20 (1995)

    A windy mystery featuring poisons, explosions and interspecies intrigue, Odo attemps to uncovery who is behind a plot to kill Garak, only to learn the Cardassian merchant knows more than he is saying. Many in the DS9 cast of characters are outsiders, and Garek is no different, with the episode exploring his exile and desire to return to the Cardassian fold, no matter the consequences. 

  2. 19
    20

    "Necessary Evil"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 2, Episode 8 (1993)

    For anyone still wondering what a departure Deep Space Nine was from Next Generation, those questions were thrown out the window by the conclusion of this murder mystery, which revealed one of the station's beloved characters isn't the spotless type you'd expect from the Enterprise-D crew. 

  3. 18
    20

    "Little Green Men"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 4, Episode 8

    Quark, Rom, and Nog are headed to take the younger Ferengi to Starfleet Academy, when an accident sends them back to 1940s Earth, where they end up being responsible for the famous UFO sighting at Roswell. Though Quark has dreams of staying in the 20th century and using the superior technology of their shuttle to set up a business empire like none other, he doesn't get his way in the end.  

  4. 17
    20

    "Trials and Tribble-ations"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 5, Episode 6 (1996)

    Doubtlessly, there are those who sought a more serious way to mark Star Trek's 30th anniversary, but "Trials" was a celebration in the most literal sense: a hilarious episode that inserted DS9's crew in the background of a fan-favorite installment of the original series, gently and affectionately poking fun at the design and attitude of the show as-was while reminding everyone who they loved it so. 

  5. 16
    20

    Take Me Out To The Holosuite

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 7, Episode 4 (1998)

    In the midst of the show's hopelessness, this series is a necessary breath of fresh air as the DS9 crew finds itself having to defend its honor against a group of arrogant Vulcans by … playing baseball, of all things. As if to underscore the contrary nature of the series as a whole, things don't go as well as they might have for the crew of the Enterprise, but there seems something fitting about that, somehow. Pay particular attention for Max Grodenchik's performance as the clumsy Rom; the actor was such a good baseball player that he had to play left-handed to come across as suitably inept.

  6. 15
    20

    "The Siege of AR-558"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 7, Episode 8 (1998)

    How bad do things get during the Dominion War? Everything you need to know can be found in this brutal episode, which kills off multiple Starfleet crew — including Lost in Space's Bill Mumy — and maims one of the show's regular characters in the process. While earlier Star Trek series had reveled in the standalone nature of each episode, the Dominion War storyline in DS9 reveled in the slow burn, meaning that the dramatic events in this episode — and the fallout that followed — had even more impact than fans might have expected at the time.  

  7. 14
    20

    "It's Only a Paper Moon"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 7, Episode 10 (1998)

    A quasi-sequel to "The Siege of AR-558," this episode didn't just deal with the post-traumatic stress suffered by one of the survivors of the interplanetary siege in the earlier episode, it advances the existence of one of the show's stranger recurring characters: the self-aware hologram and quasi Vegas lounge singer Vic Fontaine (James Darren) in the process. If ever there was an episode that displays the depth and breath of DS9's varied ambitions, it's this one; touching, challenging and amusing all at the same time.

  8. 13
    20

    "Once More Unto the Breach"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 7, Episode 7 (1998)

    Klingon Kor (John Colicos) is growing old and senile, and asks Worf for one last chance to die in battle. Worf uses his sway to get him on a ship, and though he initially he is humiliated, he eventually gets his warrior's death.

    "I liked the honor and loyalty and black and whiteness of Worf," says Michael Dorn, who rates the episode in his top two for DS9. "Even though he may chose different things, you're going to do the honorable thing. Even if the honorable thing doesn't appear honorable at first." 

  9. 12
    20

    "Inquisition"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 6, Episode 18 (1998)

    By the time this episode aired, episodes where one of the crew is suspected of being a traitor were nothing new — The Next Generation had even turned Geordi into a brainwashed would-be assassin at one point — but mixing that idea with the wartime paranoia that had utterly infused DS9 by this point proved a perfectly potent combination, especially when the final twist in the tale is something that no-one saw coming. (We won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the episode yet, but 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness has some roots in this episode, surprisingly enough.)

  10. 11
    20

    "Past Tense, Parts I & II"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 3, Episodes 11 and 12 (1995)

    As everyone who's ever read, watched or lived (Hey, it's not impossible) a time travel story knows by heart, changing the past is a very bad idea and definitely shouldn't be done — so what happens when some of the DS9 crew end up trapped on Earth, three centuries before they were born, and watch one of the most important historical figures they know of die right in front of them? Factor in commentary on then-contemporary issues about how society treats the homeless and what "Past Tense" offers is classic Trek, even when it's gleefully contradicting and ignoring genre tropes. Think of it as the anti-"City on the Edge of Forever."

  11. 10
    20

    "Soldiers of the Empire"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 5, Episode 21 (1997)

    The LeVar Burton-directed episode sees Martok (J. G. Hertzler) enlist Worf (Michael Dorn) to find a missing Klinong vessel. When Martok is too afraid to act in the face of the enemy, Worf reluctantly challenges him for command of his ship, eventually letting him win the fight after realizing the general had overcome his fear.

    Dorn, who spent more time than anyone playing a Klingon, says acting in an episode that takes place almost entirely on a Klingon ship gave him new insights into his character that even he didn't previously have. 

    "That was when it first started to hit me how Shakespearean the Klingons were," Dorn says of the episode. "It really spoke to me about who the Klingons really were."

  12. 9
    20

    "What You Leave Behind"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26 (1999)

    The finale of Deep Space Nine might have struggled to meet the challenge of living up to seven years' worth of teases of the mythical nature of the existential Prophets (Gods? Aliens? Both?) and their connection to the show's lead characters and closing out the multiple running storylines, but it doesn't matter: everything is done with such intensity and passion that any and all mistakes are forgiven, especially in light of some pitch-perfect conclusions for many of the show's long serving characters. (Garak, we're looking at you.) Simultaneously downbeat and optimistic in its refusal to bring the story to an end, there's something effortlessly fitting about the way that Trek's most challenging incarnation draws to a close. 

  13. 8
    20

    "A Time to Stand"/"Rocks and Shoals"/"Sons and Daughters"/"Behind the Lines"/"Favor the Bold"/"Sacrifice of Angels"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 6, Episodes 1-6 (1997)

    The fifth season finale of Deep Space Nine hadn't just broken the utopian pacifism of the franchise as a whole, it had broken the very concept of the series by kicking Starfleet off Deep Space Nine and placing the station into the hands of the Dominion. What followed broke new ground for Trek as a whole, as the franchise moved into a serialized format for the first time ever outside of the two-parters fans loved, with a six-episode arc showing how the good guys got to go home. Although they achieve their goal — you can only break the concept of your show for so long, after all — success comes with a cost, and events in this arc set up the remainder of the series and changes DS9 as a show going forward. An ambitious victory for showrunner Ira Steven Behr and his team.

  14. 7
    20

    "Duet"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 1, Episode 19 (1993)

    "A wonderful actor, Harris Yulin, and I, were given the episode 'Duet during the first season of Deep Space Nine," recalls Nana Visitor, who played Kira Nerys for seve seasons. "What I knew going in was that it was a 'bottle' show, meant to help make up some of the money that was spent on the special effects-laden pilot. Two characters, few effects. It felt like it was going to be disastrous the whole time we were shooting."

    The episode, which deals with dark material such as cowardice, prejudice and even genocide, went on to be be a hallmark of the first season. But Visitor didn't know at the time it would turn out so well.

    "Everything felt like a struggle," she admits. "I even struggled with my own sense of ethics with my character. I struggled with Harris. I struggled with being on mostly one claustrophobic set sixteen hours a day, watching Harris struggle with one of the heaviest makeup the show did. When I saw the show, I was amazed. The writing was beautiful, true to life's shades of grey when you delve beneath the surface, which the writer's certainly did. Harris was heartbreaking, and going through the filming of that show left me with a phrase that is still in my brain and continues to humble me, 'I don't know.' "

  15. 6
    20

    "Call to Arms"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 5, Episode 26 (1997)

    After three years of prelude, the series closed out its fifth season by doing the one thing that Star Trek wasn't supposed to, as a franchise: declaring war, and taking Trek away from its pacifist outlook and into the great unknown for the first time in decades. Co-written by showrunner Ira Steven Behr and the dependable Robert Hewitt Wolfe, this episode underscores DS9 as the series that betrayed the very ideals that make Star Trek what it is — and strengthens the franchise as a whole as a result. 

  16. 5
    20

    "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 4, Episodes 11 and 12 (1996)

    With impressive understatement, the two-parter at the center of the show's fourth season — and the entire series as a whole — quietly drives home the scale of the danger facing humanity as Sisko finds himself facing both the Dominion and Federation as a result of the paranoia being sown by the shape-changing Founders. When the enemy can look like anyone they want, who can be trusted? (One answer: Sisko's father, played by Trek veteran Brock Peters; clearly, he's making up for his untrustworthy Star Trek VI character, who was working against Kirk and co. back in the day.)

  17. 4
    20

    "Emissary"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine': Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2 (1993)

    The pilot for Deep Space Nine is considered the strongest in Trek history — with it making the bold move of beginning in the middle of the action at the battle of Wolf 359, where Sisko lost his wife at the hands of Locutus of Borg. Director David Carson had worked on TNG, and notes DS9 was "completely and daringly different" from earlier Trek.

    "Creators, Michael Piller and Rick Berman pushed the Star Trek universe into areas it had never been before and at the same time stayed true to the overall concept so that the immense fan base would be satisfied with what we did," says Carson. "The most significant change — which changed everything — was to set the series in a static space station guarding a wormhole, not constantly on the move, going where no one had been before. As a consequence, the stories became darker and less episodic, charged with more emotion and more closely analogous to the social problems of our age."

  18. 3
    20

    "The Visitor"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 4, Episode 2 (1995)

    Guest star Tony Todd gave one of the greatest Trek performances of all time as an aging Jake Sisko, who dedicates his life to trying to save his father after an accident sends him rippling through time.

    "It was like lighting in a bottle," recalls Todd. "I first appeared as the lost Klingon brother of Worf in Next Generation. By the time the 'The Visitor,' came along, my Aunt Clara, who raised me, had recently passed. Totally inconsolable, out of the blue, this fabulous script came along, and accepting her voice to get up and move forward, I dived into the task at hand."

    Todd played Jake throughout the decades, having extraordinary chemistry with Avery Brooks as a son consumed with grief, and who eventually grows older than his own parent. Todd still considers it the role of a lifetime. 

    "Without trepidation, I accepted David Livingston’s direction like none other before or since, and turned in a performance like none other before. Totally connected, the tremendous cast of DS9 accepted my channeling and allowed me to embrace the virtues of Star Trek," he says.

  19. 2
    20

    "Far Beyond the Stars"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 6, Episode 13 (1998)

    Avery Brooks directed the stirring episode, which sees Sisko have a vision of himself living as a sci-fi writer in the 1950s, where he deals with racism on a daily basis. 

    "It is the very best of Star Trek, if not some of the very best of science fiction in general," says Armin Shimerman, who played Quark for seven seasons. "Even though that was a problem in the 1950s and Star Trek takes place in 24th century, one can imagine, although one hopes, it isn't going to be that way, that racism is still a problem."

    The episode culminates with one of Brooks' finest monologues, with his character Benny Russell breaking down after facing discrimination his whole life. Shimerman recalls standing to the side while Brooks delivered his monologue, calling it "a great tribute to Avery that he was able to give a sterling performance while he was shouldering the responsibilities of being a director."

  20. 1
    20

    "In the Pale Moonlight"

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Season 6, Episode 19 (1998)

    If DS9 was the Star Trek series that asked questions the other series shied away from — and it was, on a regular basis — this is the archetypal episode that shows how fearlessly the show pushes the envelope. In the midst of war with the Dominion, Sisko betrays the ideals of Starfleet for the greater good and then dares the audience to fault him for his decision. Avery Brooks' brittle, angry performance anchors an episode that underscores the cost the war is having on his character, and the series as a whole. Who knew Star Trek could feel this dark, or conflicted? 

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