One of the long-term goals I was able to undertake when Netflix entered my life was a re-watch of all things Star Trek. I grew up watching Next Generation and The Original Series and saw most of Voyager (and mostly in order, even) thanks to SpikeTV’s propensity for playing marathons in the afternoon in the early ‘00s. I’d seen less than half of Deep Space Nine, though, and not in any kind of logical sequence, so I started there. I’m glad I did, too—DS9 is a gold mine from a world building perspective, and it plays with politics and religion more overtly and more boldly than any of the previous installments dared.
And that’s a long winding tangent to explore in the future.
So I’m late in the re-watch of DS9 now, is the point—a little less than halfway through the sixth season out of seven. Season five ended with a multi-episode saga where Sisko and crew lost DS9 to the Cardassians (backed by the Dominion), a thread that was resolved early in season six with their triumphant return and their battle to reclaim it.
Since then, things have been….quieter. There have been some fights, sure, and some close calls; the Dominion is always lurking in the background. Overall, though, it’s back to that episodic, day in the life format so familiar to fans of TOS. Our heroes are always safe, and the stories wrap up cleanly in an hour. The last three episodes have seen a runabout piloted by Dax shrining to the size of a terrier just in time for a Jem’Hadar attack (“One Little Ship” S6 Ep14), a vision of Sisko’s in which he’s a science fiction writer in 1950s New York and Deep Space Nine is his story (“Far Beyond the Stars” S6 Ep13), and a Quark-focused episode in which long-time bar patron Morn leaves him a stolen fortune (“Who Mourns for Morn?” S6 Ep12).
And I’m loving every minute of it. I love the flimsy pseudo-scientific “oh, it’s an anomaly” excuse for their Isaac Asimov shenanigans, love watching the fire and ice marriage of Worf and Dax, adore the absurdity of Dr. Bashir playing Quark at Tongo. These kinds of episodes might not be so intense, but after following the characters for six seasons, it feels like hanging out with friends.
The reason I started thinking about this was because another of my favorite shows, The Walking Dead, is also (oddly enough) at about the halfway point of its sixth season.
(This is the part of the post I should mention that there are spoilers ahead if you’re not caught up on TWD and you care about such things.)
The mid-season finale ended with Rick and friends walking hand-in-hand through the zombie herd that had just broken through Alexandria’s walls. Deanna was dead, Maggie was trapped on a woefully unstable platform, and with Judith strapped to Carl and Sam proving he has no right still being alive this far into the apocalypse, things weren’t looking so good for our brave heroes, either. The mid-season premier turned the mood around, ending with an epic walker slaughter montage that’s as close to a feel good moment as the show’s delivered since Beth and Darryl burned the moonshiner’s shack back in season four.
And they’ve kept them coming. The next episode was the apocalypse version of a buddy comedy, Rick and Darryl on the road finding ninja Jesus. Then last Sunday it was the group’s first interaction with Hilltop, portends of more danger on the horizon but mostly just Rick being badass and Abraham using inappropriate pancake metaphors.
DS9 is not exactly a new show, and I know enough about how it progresses to know not everyone escapes the series unscathed. Given Walking Dead’s generally high mortality rate, I can’t imagine season six will end with the whole group still alive, either. I understand that this is just a temporary reprieve—but man, is it nice to just enjoy a fun episode once in a while, without having to keep track of all the plots and character threads, and without being tensed up the whole time wondering who’s about to die. It’s a temporary reprieve, but I hope it lasts just a little bit longer.