This week I am continuing to look at times the later Star Trek television series called back to the original Star Trek (TOS).
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) has been called the middle child of modern Star Trek. It premiered in January 1993 while Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) was at the height of its popularity and was overshadowed by the end of TNG the following Summer, the first TNG movie in November 1994, and the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) in January 1995, which got a huge amount of advertising push as the flagship series for the new United Paramount Network.
While every show wants more viewers, the relative lack of attention paid to DS9 allowed it to go in directions and tackle topics that VOY couldn’t get near. The DS9 writers were able to really delve into their corner of the Star Trek universe and their characters. But while DS9 was mostly off doing its own thing, in some ways the show tied back into TOS more deeply than any of the others.
DS9’s science officer, Jadzia Dax, is a Trill, and the Dax symbiont that lives inside her has had a number of hosts before Jadzia. In the Second Season episode “Blood Oath,” we learn that Dax’s previous host, Curzon, was close friends with three Klingons. But these aren’t just any Klingons. Kor, Koloth, and Kang all locked horns with Captain James T. Kirk in episodes of TOS. Kor, played by John Colicos, faced Kirk in “Errand of Mercy;” Koloth, played by William Campbell, ended up with an engine room full of Tribbles in “The Trouble with Tribbles;” and Kang, played by Michael Ansara, and Kirk were at odds but managed to work together against a common foe in “The Day of the Dove.” All three original actors returned for “Blood Oath;” although, they were given the modern Klingon ridged forehead rather than their TOS looks. Kor would also return for two more episodes, “The Sword of Kahless” in Season Four and “Once More Unto the Breach” in Season Seven.
More significantly, DS9 took the mirror universe seen in the TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror” and used it for a continuing storyline. In the original episode, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and others are accidentally transported into a parallel universe where they encounter sadistic doppelgangers of their crewmates serving aboard the ISS Enterprise, a ship of a violent and oppressive galactic empire. At the end of the episode, it appears that Kirk is able to convince the mirror universe Spock to choose between tyranny and freedom and try to do things another way. Spock says that he will consider it.
In the Second Season DS9 episode “Crossover,” we learn that mirror Spock did more than that. He was able to take control of the Empire and turn it toward peace. Unfortunately, that left it unable to withstand an attack by a combined Klingon-Cardassian alliance that took over the quadrant. DS9 would visit the mirror universe four more times during the series’ run, ending the storyline in Season Seven’s “The Emperor’s New Cloak.”
In honor of Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, DS9 decided to so something special. Since they couldn’t bring all of the TOS cast to them, they went to the TOS cast. In the resulting episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations,” Captain Benjamin Sisko and the other members of the Deep Space Nine command crew are transported back in time to Space Station K-7 during the events of the TOS episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Thanks to the same technology used to put Tom Hanks into old footage in Forrest Gump, the DS9 characters are able to share scenes with the TOS characters while searching for a time-travelling assassin bent on killing Captain Kirk. The episode is fun from beginning to end and does a wonderful job of celebrating TOS in all of its colorful 1960s glory.
Next up: We conclude our look at TOS callbacks with Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.