Why DS9 Was Better Than Voyager

This video touts itself as “A comparison of Trials And Tribble-ations and Flashback, but ultimately a comparison between the approaches of Deep Space Nine and Voyager.” While the reviewer goes out of his way to make clear he thinks Voyager was a perfectly good show, the comparison makes it clear why there’s almost universal agreement among Trek fans that Voyager is by far the worst series in the canon.

As a bonus, the video more or less captures why “Trials and Tribble-ations” was my favorite DS9 episode, although it oddly gives short shrift to its deft humor.

via Alex Knapp

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    When I read the title I thought DS9 was some new satellite I missed the launch of in all the excitement over Gaia. I wonder what that says about me?

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Voyager was the worst series in the canon? It was worst than every series before it, I grant you, but worse than Enterprise?

  3. Two points:

    1. Neil’s right, Enterprise was the worst series in the canon.Voyager wasn’t TNG, TOS, or DS9,but it had its moments and, thanks to actors like Robert Picardo some quite memorable episodes.

    2. Arguably, DS9 was, in terms of consistency, better even than TNG. Let’s face it, the first season of TNG was weak (although given that it was the first Star Trek on television in some 20 years I don’t think anyone really minded) and the second season was spotty at best. The height of TNG came during Seasons 3 to 5. After that, it really began to go downhill. And, aside from exceptions like “Lower Decks,” “Parallels,” “The Pegasus,” Pre-Emptive Strike,” and “All Good Things,” large parts of Season 7 were really quite bad.

    With DS9, though, things were a bit different. The first season was slow and had some real clunker episodes, but the second season was much stronger and introduced an idea that TNG never adopted, the multi-episode story arc. The second season also gave us the beginning of the Dominion arc in its final episode, a story arc that lasted until the end of the series. Indeed, the show was probably at its best during the Dominion War arc (see e.g., “In The Pale Moonlight”).

    Finally, it’s worth noting that DS9 was arguably the most un-Roddenberry of all the Trek series. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  4. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I’m binge watching ST Enterprise now.

    Personally, I think it will stand the test of time, but to each their own.

    BTW… if anyone wants a kick, here is STAR TREK CONTINUES…


    …with actors trying their best to portray the original ST series.

    Quite a hoot, for those of us who sat glued to the Star Trek reruns in our youth.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Why DS9 was better than Voyager or Enterprise can be said in one word, six letters: A..C..T..I..N..G. Avery Brooks. And Rene Auberjonois could read the Reykjavik phone book and make it interesting. They kept the best actors from TNG (other than Patrick Stewart) and added those two.

  6. Mu says:

    Libertarian? Ok. Atheist? None of my business. Yankee fan? Misguided.
    But DS9 better than Voyager? Blasphemy!

  7. Mikey says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    With DS9, though, things were a bit different. The first season was slow and had some real clunker episodes, but the second season was much stronger and introduced an idea that TNG never adopted, the multi-episode story arc.

    This, coupled with great writing and @Dave Schuler’s “one word, six letters,” make it my favorite of the post-TOS Star Trek series. But I think most Star Trek fans would agree.

    If you want to start an argument in my house, start talking about the theater films…

  8. Galileo says:

    Personally, I loved “Enterprise”. It showed that humans were still cutting their teeth when it came to space. They screwed up – many times. The Prime Directive hadn’t been established. They were fighting the Vulcans to be let off the leash.

    And, of course, there was always Jolene Blalock…so there.

  9. Stonetools says:

    Agree with Doug and say that DS9 is my favorite. It’s also the most topical, with its Section 31 which is similar to our discussion of what we want in our intelligence branches. Gene Rodenberry would never have had a Section 31 in his series. Frankly, I would like to see a Section 31 series.

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Pretty topical, as I just started rewatching DS9 last night on Netflix, once I realized that they had the full run. I’m pleasantly surprised so far as to how well it holds up.

    I never really got into Voyager. Janeway was too reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn for me to take seriously as a Captain, and post-DS9 it was too episodic to really hold my interest. The Doctor and the Vulcan were the only two characters I found really interesting.

  11. BIll says:

    Tim Lynch, who was well known for his ST reviews, found Voyager so appalling that he stopped reviewing the show after its second season.

    I myself stopped watching Trek after DS9. The last movie I watched was Nemesis and I hold it in lower regard than Lynch does Voyager.

    BTW I love DS9. When I shut down my laptop, the wav file of Weyoun saying ‘Time to start packing’ plays.

  12. Ben Wolf says:

    In addition to a strong cast DS9 also had darker, more complex plots and genuine character development.

    Garrick was my favorite; Andrew Robinson does subtext with the best of them.

  13. Vast Variety says:

    Enterprise would have been a good series if you could throw away the pilot, Broken Bow, along with the 2nd and 3rd seasons. They should have started the series later in the Trek time line and focused on the Earth – Romulan war. You don’t start off a series by trampling all over pre-existing cannon events, like first contact with the Klingons, right out of the gate, only to jump into the ridiculousness of the temporal cold war plot line.

    DS9 was often far too dark as a Trek series for my tastes and the whole “Emissary” plot throughout the series really turned me off due to the over religiousness of it, but it is better overall than Voyager.

    In the end though my favorite will always be TOS. I grew up watching it’s rerun’s in the 70’s along side other great shows like Mash. Nothing in any of the series has ever come close to replicating the sense of family between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever”, “Miri”, “Bread and Circuses”, “Space Seed”, and “Plato’s Stepchildren” to this day I can watch them again and again and never get tired of the stories they told.

  14. Matt says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Yeah actually I just re-watched the whole series a couple months ago. My issue with DS9 was how they turned Gul Dukat into an anime villain and straight up contradicted earlier scenes with the prophets. Not a big fan of the ending of the series. Another thing that annoyed me was that one episode the defiant takes out a flight of Jem’hadar fighters with ease and then four episodes later is nearly destroyed by one fighter. The actors that played Sisko and Odo did a fantastic job though. Bringing back Worf and O’brian was a good idea too.

    I personally preferred Babylon 5 by many many lightyears. While the special effects were no where as good the writing was superior overall. Honestly though much like DS9 the first season of B5 was spotty.

    @BIll: Were you the one I made the audio file for? Someone on this site had mentioned they desired that piece of audio so I ripped it for him.

  15. Jeremy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    DS9 is the best Star Trek series bar none, and that includes TOS (although we really do have to judge that by different standards since it aired, what, 30 years prior?)

    Voyager, on the other hand, was pretty much a wreck. There were a few great episodes, a handful of good ones, and then a lot that were just really, really bad. I actually think that Enterprise–at least after Season 1 and “A Night In Sickbay,” which was beyond boring–was overall better than Voyager. I think if they did a fifth season it would have gone really well.

  16. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Matt: I thoroughly enjoyed Babylon 5, as well. Have you watched Farscape? The full run is on Amazon Prime.

  17. Matt says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I keep meaning to give farscape a try but every-time I do something happens which prevents me from watching it.

    Also when did they figure out how to fire weapons in warp? I remember that not being possible and then suddenly in DS9 it’s possible.

  18. Kari Q says:

    I’m pleased to find so many DS9 fans here. It’s my favorite Strek series, including TOS. The cast was, collectively, easily the most accomplished group of actors in any Trek series. It really hit its stride when it moved away from the “alien of the week” type of episode in the second season, which is my complaint about Next Gen. A few too many “we welcome you to the Federation” type moments, then you never saw or heard of them again. Getting rid of Tasha Yar was also a bad move. That left a real void of strong female characters in Next Gen.

    Enterprise had its moments, though not enough of them. Voyager was just awful.

  19. Scott says:

    I just finished DS9. I agree it is the best of the Star Treks. What I marvel at was that they produced 26 episodes a year. Two episodes that struck me around Veterans Day were the Siege of AR-558 and two episodes later, It’s only a Paper Moon. Made me tear up.

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    I thought that Voyager was OK. However, it did produce Treshold, which might the worst hour of Star Trek ever.

  21. Gustopher says:

    I love DS9, one of my favorite shows. Also, the pilot managed to compress Solaris down to an easily digestible 20 minute subplot — and that was well worth the long slog that was Season 1.

    Enterprise never really found its footing, and was lurching from one thing to another too often. I really enjoyed the third season, and was disappointed by the unambitious fourth season.

    Voyager, however, pretty quickly figured out what it wanted to be, and was fairly consistent through the whole show. Unfortunately, it was consistently terrible. But, still better than the new movies.

  22. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Matt: I’m not sure. I’m not enough of a hard core Trekker, I guess. Heh.

    I think that part of why I enjoy DS9, Babylon 5, and Farscape compared to a lot of sci-fi television is that each have multiple well-rounded, well written female characters who get semi-regular point-of-view story arcs / character development.

    Well, BSG, also has that, as far that goes. But BSG is probably my favorite TV series of all time, so that’s an entire other conversation. I could talk about BSG for hours without a break. Heh.

  23. MBunge says:

    I get why some folks love DS9. When it was good, it was very, very good and it did try and do a few different things with the brand. But I preferred the consistent quality of Voyager, low as it was, to the wild gyrations of DS9.

    Bashir a genetically engineer superman?

    The destiny of The Emissary of the Prophets was to fly down and knock Gul Dukat off a cliff?

    The fact that after 7 seasons the two main alien species of DS9, Cardassians and Bajorans, had less defined personality types than Klingons, Vulcans, Ferengi or just about any other alien race had after one scene on Classic Trek or DS9?

    That lounge singer guy from the Holosuites?

    There was A LOT of awful stuff on DS9 that gets passed over when folks try to elevate it to top of the Trek heap.


  24. Robert in SF says:

    The problem I had with Voyager was not taking advantage of the “trapped far away from Starfleet, with a crew mixed of Starfleet personnel and rebels, with a ship that would not be able to be repaired, and with neuropacks that would eventually allow her to develop sentience so as to refuse orders or have her own ideas for attacks and defense”….but maybe that’s just me?