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5 Episodes to Get You Into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

This past Thursday saw the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, also known by those with taste as “The best of the Star Trek series from the 1980s and ’90s.” There are, however, those who have avoided the show due to the (admittedly foreboding) reputation that it has developed as overly dark and continuity-laden, especially when compared to the other Treks of the time, and remain unaware of the show’s greatness. For them, then, here are five episodes to introduce Deep Space Nine to the wary.

Far Beyond The Stars
From the show’s sixth season, one of the best examples of what is often claimed to be a “classic Trek trope”: The show using science fiction to comment on contemporary society. Or, in this case, contemporary and period society, as Sisko wakes up the life of a pulp writer in the 1950s and has to deal with the racist attitudes of the time. Oddly beautiful, this essentially standalone episode is Deep Space Nine – and Star Trek as a whole – at its best.

Trials and Tribble-ations
“Classic Trek” in another sense altogether, the series’ celebration of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek saw the cast return to not only the time period of the original series, but an actual episode of the series itself, thanks to time travel and some particularly fun directing, costuming and special effects choices. One of Deep Space Nine‘s hidden talents is its sense of humor, and this episode is a great example of how funny the show could be.

In The Pale Moonlight
At times, Deep Space Nine pushed the envelope in all manner of ways for Star Trek, especially the idea that Starfleet officers were necessarily paragons of virtue. “In The Pale Moonlight” is a particularly political episode of the series – and definitely of Trek as an overall franchise – and illustrates the ways in which war can force good men to do bad things. Unlike other episodes in this list, this is one that’s very closely tied into the overall arc of the series, but one that’s also so good that it stands up to being watched alone (Although you’ll likely end up wanting to watch more to see what happens afterwards).

The Visitor
An alternate timeline allows the series to explore the loss of a parent, and the nature of grief, in this episode where Jake Sisko – a teenager in the series proper, but an adult in this storyline – tries to discover what happened to his father after his mysterious disappearance years ago. Simultaneously a hard SF story and one centered around that old chestnut, the Power of Love, “The Visitor” is considered by many Deep Space Nine‘s finest hour.

It’s Only A Paper Moon
Something that Deep Space Nine did so well, and that other Treks didn’t really have the ability to do, was explore the impact and after-effects of major events. “It’s Only A Paper Moon” is a great example of that, as Nog retreats into fantasy to avoid dealing with his post-traumatic stress following the loss of his leg in an earlier episode. Although that summary makes this episode sound like a downer, the actual episode is surprisingly uplifting, in part due to the fantasy Nog retreats into, and also the performances from all involved. Plus, any episode that allows for an appearance of Vic Fontaine, the virtual lounge singer that lives in a holodeck, is worth checking out, and this episode is literally full of him.


  • Paul Moses

    I believe Trials and Tribble-ations won an Emmy.  For VFX?

  • Hube

    “Far Beyond the Stars” is Avery Brooks at his finest. Easily my fave episode of the series.

  • Paul Penna

    I’m pretty sure that “Far Beyond the Stars” is Avery Brooks favourite episodes as well.

  • Waldomiro Vitorino

    How not to love DS9? Trek at its finest.

  • Fury

    i would’ve picked Duet, not IOAPM, but good list.

  • DavetheAvatar

    I agree; it’s Only a Paper Moon is a strong episode but Duet is one of the very best. Plus it would be good for someone starting out, being a stand alone episode from the first season.

  • James T

    DS9 is my favorite of the Star Trek series. 

  • Gpack3

    I would have left off Far Beyond the Stars, The Visitor, and Trials & Tribble-ations. Not because they’re not great episodes, but because the first two are predominantly set in alternate timelines, and don’t show what the show is like most of the time, and Trials & Tribble-ations is too tied up with the original series, when DS9 is perfectly capable of standing on its own.

    My list would be Duet, Necessary Evil, Hard Time, In the Pale Moonlight, and Chimera. All intense character-centered dramatic episodes that work as standalones. 

    The other route to go is to highlight the serialization of the show and show them Call to Arms, Time to Stand, Behind the Lines, Favor the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels.

  • Adam

    DS9 is easily my favourite Star Trek show and I have tried to get many people to give it a chance.  Good choice of episodes.  I’ll have to use them in the future as a way for people to see how great this show was.

  • Christinereed

    I didn’t see all of DS9, but my favorite episode has always been Duet. I also liked the Visitor, and Trials and Tribble-ations and Little Green Men.

  • Bmw5930

    Without a doubt, the best ST series ever. The Dominion story that spanned over multiple seasons, the introduction of the Jem Hadar as bad a$$e$ the equal(or better?) of Klingons, bringing Cardassia and Bajor into the forefront and the Defiant might be the coolest ship ever! With that being said, the series finale blew with Sisko just going to hang with the Prophets? Lame.

  • Sagatwarrior

    Another good one is Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.

  • demoncat_4

    would have to agree with far beyond the stars on any ds9 episode list. though would also include the episode where dukat shows he is not so nasty when he has to mourn his daughter zeil after she gets killed.

  • Deacon Hagan

    same here it set the standard for bottle shows

  • Yasmine Phoenix

    I forgot how awesome Deep Space Nine was, thank you. The Tribbles episode was funny since Klingons didn’t look the same in Star Trek as they did now. Worf”s deadpan look about not wanting to talk about it was funny. 

  • Keith

    Non-paragons as Starfleet Officers. If there’s any one sense I get from the show it was an attempt to show that not everyone in Starfleet is as virtuous as the ‘best and brightest’ of the Enterprise crew. DS9 was a station populated with more familiar and unsettling flavours of Starfleet – the lost souls who didn’t find what they were looking for in Starfleet and became jaded – the everymen who had all the talent and tried to do good but weren’t miracle workers, just hard workers – and the arrogant, it actually tackles the inherent arrogance of The Federation. Plus it had Ron Moore and extended continuity long before Battlestar ever got revived, and the allegory is insanely relevant to the point where I watch the whole show once yearly.

    “The Way of the Warrior”, I’d say. I mean how better to convert a TNG fan?

  • Michael

    I love DS9. My favourite Trek series after the original.

  • momaw

    Easily the best Trek Series.  I pulled out my DVD and watched from start to finish again last year and no all the years since no series has come close to it’s brilliance.

    In the Pale Moonlight is one of my favourites along with Duet.  And how can you go past the six episode arc that started season 6.

  • Starleafgirl

    I love Deep Space Nine! I agree with all of your picks except “It’s Only A Paper Moon” — I’d swap in “Rejoined” instead. Great example of Star Trek doing what it did best, deal with issues in society that, at the time, you really couldn’t deal with on television otherwise.

  • darthtigris

    What a predictable list.

    Well done!

  • Afeez Shokeye

    I actually treated myself to some Netflix this past holiday, and discovered DS9. That show is deep, and amazing. I love the cast, the setting, which is a Space Station rather than a traveling ship. The action is brought to them.
    I’m going to keep watching. So far, so good!

  • Alec Dixon

    my favorite sci-fi series forever. For me this is ultimate show. Of all the franchise this show has the most growth in characters and storylines. How long did it take for Riker or Sulu to become Captains?

  • beane2099

    I guess my Trek tastes run a little less complex than most.  One of my favorite episodes was The Search, simply for the fact that Avery Brooks finally returned to his Hawk look from Spencer for Hire.  It was right about then Sisko took his turn for the bad assery that  I knew he had in him. But my top episode was the two part episode, Way of the Warrior.  It didn’t have the emotional beats of those other episodes you mention (which I agree were all great).  But Sisko versus the whole Klingon armada?  C’mon!  That was a pretty bad ass moment.  And for me, it cemented Sisko  as my favorite captain.

  • Masked Heroes

    This a great list of episodes for a great show. #DS9 In the Pale Moonlight is my all time favourite #StarTrek episode

  • Diarra Harris

    DS9 is very underated

  • Blubeetle3

    Finally, some love for DS9! At the time, it seemed liked the “lost franchise”. Caught inbetween the end of TNG and the start of Voyager.

    And this is a damned shame, as I believe it captured the spirit of the original Star Trek better than any of the other series.

  • Jon C

    Great to see all the DS9 love here.

    Agree with what everyone’s said. But I’m going to add “In the Hands of the Prophets” (from Season 1) to the list. This show really highlighted the tension between Starfleet and the Bajoran people, as well as the whole religious/political angle DS9 did well (something no other Trek series has ever done). It also showed how far Sisko and Kira had come, from their first meeting.

    I saw mention of Ron Moore. The DS9 tapestry was well in place, before he arrived in Season 3. I’d say Michael Pillar and Ira Steven Behr were the true caretakers of this series.

  • ultraaman

    For those just discovering DS9 – welcome!  You are in for an amazing treat.

    Duet!  Yes, I forgot the title but when I looked it up the episode came flooding back.  The main story is easy to understand outside the general narrative of the overall DS9 arc.There was that episode where the Defiant crew crashes on a planet not far from a Jem’Hdar ship led by the female Vorta. Can’t remember the title but I recall that one still after all these years because the tension was so palatable and the climax was so shocking (at least at that point in the overall narrative as the true nature of the Jem and Vorta were not fully understood then).   It was a perfect Us v Them story that uses science fiction to tell a tale of the human condition.

  • darthtigris

    OR you can retitle this article to 15 episodes and know that you left someone over 10 hours of some of the best TV they’ve never saw.  :)

  • Drexelrivers

    you hit it right on the head…before that episode yes I liked Sisko but it seemed once he embraced the badass inside he became my fav captain and showed that he would get his hands dirty if he had too. 

  • Bmw5930

     One thing I forgot to add in my praise of DS9 is that supporting cast was the best of any ST series and was as formidable as the starring cast itself.

  • Laidbackpoet

    Best Star Trek series. For me The Visitor its finest moment, a truly powerful emotionally story, an example of why I love Star Trek.

  • Joshua

    there are so many good episodes…but I don’t consider paper moon to be one of them.

  • Joshua

     oh definately. And of course all the Garek centric episodes.

  • Joshua

    my favorite was the pale moonlight one…because this was the least star trek like star trek episode ever. Oh the moral relativism.

    The moral compromises Sisko makes in this episode are so far beyond what Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Archer would be comfortable doing that I think the Federation would have fell to ruin if the decision was left to one of them. Sisko’s decision is an utter betrayal of everything the Federation stands for…but if he didn’t make the call that he did the Alpha Quadrant would have fell to the Dominion.

    Usually Star Trek seems to be too moralistic to go for the lesser evil to accomplish a greater good angle and usually admonishes the people who are morally grey. This time the morally grey character won…that’s why this is my favorite trek episode.

  • Joshua

     I think Far Beyond The Stars should be included. While it may be an atypical episode due to it being set in the past and the actors aren’t playing their usual characters I think it contains a deeper truth to it that resonates with science fiction fans and anyone who has ever felt disenfranchised.

    This episode is genius and should be watched on those grounds alone.

  • jdb1972

    Er… all but one of these are alternate universe/time travel eps. Kind of hard to have episodes that “get you into DS9″ when they’re the ones that ditch the premise entirely. “Inner Light” was an incredible TNG episode, but it wouldn’t be what I’d use to introduce people to the series.

    Start with “Necessary Evil.”  “The Way of the Warrior.” “The Duet.” “Sacrifice of Angels.” “A Man Alone.”

    And finish, of course, with “What You Leave Behind.” Easily the best concluding episode of any Star Trek series.

  • honestann

    DS9 “Duet” was the best… perhaps with “The Visitor” a close second.

  • bohemond

    Actually, “also known by those with taste as “The best of the Star Trek series.” There, FIFY