One of the subjects of discussion at Destination Star Trek was a brief look at Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War – alternately praised and criticised, it is one of Star Trek’s more dividing story-lines. The discussion didn’t really pan out in the way I’d expected, so here, I offer up a (reasonably) detailed look at the war.
It’s certainly true that Gene Roddenberry would have almost certainly vetoed the Dominion War had he been alive – Gene was very much ‘anti-war’ and most of the time conflicts were resolved before they even began in his stories. Getting a serious, all-out war into Star Trek with Gene at the helm would have been impossible – to Gene, Star Trek was about conveying a message of hope – and war is certainly not hopeful.
To me, the Dominion War was a great story arc but it had missed opportunities too. Portraying a furious war for survival was good, and we got hints at how far the Federation would go to defend itself (even being prepared to abandon or at the very least relax key principles), but I wonder if the writers went far enough in this. There was the chance to show just how desperate people can be just to stay alive – and the question of whether your ideals will save you or actually hasten your demise (just as an afterthought to that sentence, Voyager had the chance to do something similar and didn’t take it). Whilst the arc touched upon these themes, it didn’t, in this writer’s humble opinion, go far enough.
We don’t see how the war impacted Federation civilians. We don’t see the impact of blockades or attacks on Federation worlds, and subsequently we don’t get to see a response to that. Imagine the philosophical and moral dilemmas we could have explored if the Dominion bombed a Federation world and Federation citizens started baying for blood – we never really got that deep into that sort of story.
We did get some allusions to darker tactics and plans – Section 31 (the Federation’s murky spy agency) attempted to commit genocide against the Founders and the Federation leadership was prepared to tolerate this (since it would obviously help the Federation survive). This was one of the better stories, as it did show how an essentially peaceful society will behave when it’s back is against the wall. ‘In the Pale Moonlight’ explored Captain Sisko’s personal demons, as he took the dramatic step of sacrificing his personal principles to deceive the Romulan Empire, for the benefit of the greater good (well, for the greater good of the Federation – certainly not the Romulans!).
I just find myself wondering if these themes could have been explored in more detail.