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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is well remembered for bringing serialized storytelling into the franchise in a big way, when fans had been much more used to week-to-week adventures from The Original Series and The Next Generation. Now, we know that another Trek show actually helped those behind DS9 do just that. Apparently, the big wigs at Paramount were none too happy with the over-arching plots that were popping up on DS9, but once Star Trek: Voyager came along, that all changed. Here's what Ira Steven Behr, DS9 showrunner and executive producer, had to say about the (sometimes) tense situation:
Everyone was against any form of serialization and continuing storylines. It was basically, "You're killing the show. The audience can't follow from week to week. We want TNG type episodes, self-sustained episodes where the story is summed up and completed in one episode and then they go off to another adventure."
We kept saying they're not going off anywhere. That's the cool thing and the different thing about this show. They're a space station. Every decision they make will haunt them one way or the other because they're going to stay there, so it was not pretty in lots of ways. But we just had a very tight writing staff even though it would change over the years a little bit, and we just kept doing the show we wanted to do and thank god Voyager came on and they left us alone.
Wow. Who could have guessed that Voyager was actually the saving grace for DS9? From what Ira Steven Behr told SyFy Wire, while the writers were busy seeding serialized stories into DS9, they were constantly getting push back about it, even though they saw it as the best way to run the show. But, once Star Trek: Voyager came along, instead of making those at Paramount accept the new direction they were trying with DS9, it simply allowed them to throw their hands up and focus their attention on the series that was doing Trek the way they thought Trek should be done.
And, it's lucky for fans that Voyager, which began during Deep Space Nine's third season, came along when it did. Otherwise, we might not have gotten the full story behind the Dominion and the ensuing war that drove so many plots for much of the run of DS9.
Of course, it seems odd now that anyone would have had a problem with the idea of serialized stories on Star Trek, seeing as how powerful DS9 turned out to be, but it makes sense from a business standpoint. The thing that had worked, and worked very well, up until that point were episodic seasons of Trek. Every now and then there'd be a two-part story that was resolved by the end of the following episode, but those stories were few and far between. The idea of having arcs that lasted for entire seasons, or even throughout the run of a show, was simply not considered a good move. And, the fear, in the days before streaming and DVRs of course, was that the audience would miss a couple of episodes (and also forget to tape them using a VCR), get lost and simply stop watching when they couldn't figure out what was going on.
Obviously, Star Trek fans are quite capable of catching up, but what those at Paramount probably never counted on was the serialized stories of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine becoming appointment viewing that fans simply would not miss unless under the most dire circumstances. And, it sounds like we, at least partially, have Star Trek: Voyager to thank for that.
You can revisit both shows on Netflix, and for more on what you can watch in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our midseason premiere guide.