Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast

It’s Been 25 Years Since ‘Star Trek: Deep Space 9’ Ended, So How Have I Not Seen the Final Episode Yet?

I learned recently via The Mary Sue team Slack channel that this month marks the 25th anniversary of my most beloved Trek, Star Trek: Deep Space 9. This came as a little bit of a shock to the system, not least because, somehow, I still haven’t watched the series finaleyet.

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I didn’t enjoy Deep Space Nine when I began watching the series. It was grim and dark, and everyone was angry all the time. The series didn’t even take place on a spaceship! Eight-year-old me did not understand what the show was trying to achieve. But it was Star Trek, even if it didn’t feel like it, so I kept watching every week after dinner anyway. Pretty soon, I was hooked.

Star Trek was why I bonded with my first proper friend at my new school. As an undiagnosed autistic kid, I was not having a good time. I fundamentally did not understand most of my peers, but Deep Space Nine was a shared cultural touchstone. It was something my friend and I had in common and we started playing out the episodes we’d watched at break time together. Star Trek quickly gave way to Star Wars for our little gang, which soon became the primary hyperfocus of my tween and early teen years. But Deep Space 9 remained special, something I looked forward to every week, even during my “I refuse to read anything but Expanded Universe novels” phase.

As someone who is autistic and queer, Deep Space 9 was the first place I ever saw myself before I even had the words to describe it. I loved Jadzia Dax passionately from the moment I first saw her. I wanted to be her. Later, I realized I wanted to kiss her. When she kissed her past life lover (a taboo in Trill society), it was the first time I’d ever seen a queer kiss. Not just on TV, but anywhere. It made me feel something in my chest that I didn’t understand, and wouldn’t for a few more years until the terrifying realization set in.

The Dax-symbiont relationship with gender, and the way Jadzia specifically embodies it, was something else that spoke to me in ways I wouldn’t be able to describe until I went to college. But it was something warm and comfortable that felt like slipping into my own skin and having it fit right. I was devastated when the showrunners killed her character and almost stopped watching altogether.

My relationship with Dr. Julian Bashir is a more tender spot. There’s the obvious chaotic bisexual aspect which, canon or not, is how Alexander Siddig chose to play him. But that’s not what made him matter to me. Bashir never knew the right thing to say, always did the most embarrassing thing possible, and didn’t understand why his actions were incorrect. He embodies that deep insecurity that comes from being “so smart but so stupid at the same time”, and the way it fills you with a need to remind people that, despite how you sound to them, you are clever and you do know things. That, over and over as you get older, you deserve the same autonomy and respect as everyone else. Bashir’s underlying thread was always his desire to be liked, wanted, and understood, as people kept finding him annoying and off-putting again and again. I wanted to be his friend, and I wanted him to have friends. And in watching DS9, I saw him making real connections despite his “weirdness” and social struggles.

The reveal that Bashir’s parents had used genetic engineering to remove his developmental disabilities resonated with me in ways that maybe it shouldn’t have. After all, I wasn’t diagnosed with anything until I was 30 years old, so I didn’t “know” I wasn’t just like my peers. But disabled kids do know they’re different even without an official label telling them why. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that there was something about my brain that didn’t quite work “right”. Or that my body couldn’t do the things it was supposed to, things that came easily to other children yet were impossible for me. All of which teachers wrote off as laziness and defiance. I could tell I was different in some nameless way, and that both adults and children hated that difference. I felt that if they could, they would reach inside me to erase it. Julian made me feel more real in ways I couldn’t define. Even if we didn’t share all the same neurodivergent traits, I saw some of myself in the parts of him that his parents had wiped away.

I probably couldn’t have articulated any of these feelings as a tween or teen. Teen Me would have talked about the politics and the moral questions the show raises. Tween Me would probably have talked your ear off about how much I liked Dax. I even dressed up as her for a school charity thing once, and no, it wasn’t meant to be fancy dress but I found a way to justify it. It’s the kind of thing you only really think about when you have enough space to look at it from a distance. And now I’ve seen many more queer and neurodivergent fans who feel the same way. For all its problems (on and offscreen), Star Trek, and especially DS9, felt like home when the world outside was a deeply hostile place.

So why, then, haven’t I finished watching it? At first, it was an accident. We were on holiday when the final episode aired and the VCR didn’t record it. I was very upset at the time, but there was nowhere I could rent the episode and the series wasn’t available for purchase yet. So I just had to move on. Then later, in college, I found friends who loved the show just as much as I did. I bought the DS9 box set. We set about showing our more sceptical friends (we know the first season isn’t great, but we promise it gets better as it goes on), but never made it to the end. Still, I was the one who owned the DVDs. Why didn’t I ever bite the bullet and watch the final episode by myself?

I always intended to. It was even something I was theoretically excited about when I bought the set. But it’s been almost fifteen years since then and I still haven’t. I just don’t want to, and if I stop and think about it, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because the idea of finally watching it sounds miserable and final. Maybe it’s because I know how it ends and don’t want to watch it play out. Or maybe I never want it to end at all. If I never see it, it hasn’t happened. Deep Space 9 isn’t over as long as there’s one episode left to watch, even if it’s been 25 years and counting.

(featured image: Paramount Television)

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Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.