Here’s where I must make my “Fake Geek Girl” confession to all of you, dear readers. Though let’s be honest, it’s not like I ever pretended I was a real one.
All throughout, my coverage of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has rested on the unspoken assumption that I was a fan of said TV series, or at least a casual viewer, at the time of its airing. I was not. I hint at it a couple of times during the preceding chapters, but the more accurate truth of the matter is that I was actually a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine and the tie-in comic book series from Malibu. I did not watch the television show called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during its original run (at least not regularly), although to be fair to me I *couldn’t*: Due to the way syndicated television worked in the late 80s and early 90s, local affiliates of large national networks could buy programming packages to show whenever they had empty space in their broadcast schedules when they weren’t airing network TV or local news. So this meant that a show made for syndication, like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, had no fixed airdate or station and could come on literally whenever and wherever. This was fine when there was only one show, but as soon as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along things got dicey, and in some regional areas (like, say mine), rival networks would actually air the two shows in competition with each other during the same time slot. No matter what the new Star Trek series looked like, it was always going to be a hard sell to ask me to give up my weekly time with a cast of characters who had become like another family to me.
That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, of course. I would have loved to watch it more often than I did, I just didn’t want to give up Star Trek: The Next Generation for it. So for the first season, I was limited to tantalizingly brief out-of-context snippets of random episodes, the odd trailer and assorted PR Stills in magazines. Even that was still enough to fire my imagination, however, and I pined for the day I’d finally get the chance to give the new show my undivided attention. By the second season, things had changed a bit: I still wasn’t able to watch the show regularly, but what I did have access to this season that I didn’t in the first was the Starlog-published Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine. Granted it launched in 1993 alongside “Emissary”, but, as with most things like this, you have to remember I live in the back and beyond of everything: Pop culture stuff takes a while to trickle down to me. I only started reading with the second season issues and, even then, like all the things I was interested in, my corner market only got the magazine in sporadically at the very best. And it was this magazine, more than almost anything else, that shaped my perspective on and understanding of what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine was more than just a quarterly fan rag. Like Starlog’s previously published Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine, it was more like a serialized reference book and each issue was positively crammed with a frankly ridiculous amount of comprehensive feature articles and exclusive behind-the-scenes information. You had lengthy (and surprisingly candid) interviews with just about everyone on the cast and crew you could care to mention, and this was a regular thing-Not just a series of one-off soundbytes to drum up interest in the show. You got to see the creative process of the show pan out in real time through the eyes and words of the people who were actually on set day after day. You had articles on the special effects teams that went into detail about not just the technical aspects of getting the shot, but also the artistic visions that led the VFX guys to composite things the way they did. But the biggest draw for me were the “Station Logs”, in-depth synopses of each and every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine written as they aired, dutifully collected and printed for your edification every time a new quarter rolled around.
Now when I say “synopses”, I don’t mean “a couple of sentences that briefly summarise the A plot and maybe the B plot with a changeable level of clarity” as was typically the norm in reference books of the day. I happen to even own a couple of episode guides that do precisely that: An unauthorized one for Star Trek: The Next Generation that also included some invaluable off-the-record interviews with the cast and crew that also doubled as my introduction to Dirty Pair (and thus, in some ways, was the germ of Vaka Rangi itself), and an official Starlog-published one for all of Star Trek up to the late-90s. But the synopses in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine were wholly different: These were lavish three to five page affairs that were actually more like mini novelizations, following the episode beat-for-beat and at least touching on every single scene. Reading Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine‘s take on an episode didn’t just give you a vague sense of what the story was like, it made you feel like you experienced a special and unique version of it, not just capturing the feeling and energy of a story, but bringing it to life and immersing you in its world. This was more than just methadone or a functional substitute for the “real thing”: In many ways, it was actually better than what was being shown on television.
The way it accomplished this was twofold. Firstly, the Station Logs were beautifully laid out: Each one was accompanied by a collection of breathtakingly stunning photographs taken during the actual week of filming for their respective episode. These weren’t screenshots from a TV broadcast by any stretch of the imagination, more like crystal clear 35mm film photographs taken at angles the motion picture cameras almost, but never quite managed to get. Suffice to say, this gave the story far, far more of a sense of immersion, scale and presence than you could ever hope to gain on a 1980s/1990s broadcast TV budget and timetable. So much so it led to the bizarre phenomenon of me being at once intimately familiar with these episodes and yet weirdly dissonant and removed from them at the same time when the Season 2 DVD box set came out: I knew these stories beat-for-beat, but actually watching the episodes themselves felt like watching a different (inferior) version of the story, partly because, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was never properly composited (and unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation, this still has not been corrected as of this writing), but mostly because the camera work on the actual produced episode was far less evocative and striking than the photography in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine.
The other thing that really sold these Station Logs to the point I’m inclined to call them the definitive versions of these episodes is the writing of the synopses themselves. These synopses are utterly dripping in vivid imagery and beautifully crafted sentences that bring the world of Deep Space 9 to life like nothing else, instantly transporting you to the Edge of the Final Frontier. This language resonated with me so strongly some of it has stayed with me for over twenty years and more than likely shaped my writing career in more ways than I can count. A glance at the credits of my favourite issue, issue number seven (which also doubles as the “All Station Log Issue!” that covers the majority of the second season), lists a “John Sayers” as the “contributing writer”, and the author of all that issue’s synopses. So to Mr. Sayers if you’re reading this, I cannot possibly thank you enough for your work. You influenced me more than you can ever know. Here are just a few of my favourite examples of John Sayers’ prose, all from issue seven.
From the opening of “Rules of Aquisition”:
“It’s after hours in the Promenade. Quark’s Bar is the site of a heated game of Tongo, a cross between poker, mah-jongg and craps. The play is fast and furious. No one but a Ferengi could possibly master or even fathom the play-with the exception of Jadzia Dax, who has had the advantage of several lifetimes to appreciate the nuance of Ferengi leisure activities.”“Dax is winning, much to the annoyance of the Ferengi at the table. Quark flirts with the lovely Dax, but his brother Rom and the others pine for a more typical Ferengi female…”
“That night, as the bar closes, Quark asks Lieutenant Dax if she wants to sit in on another hand of Tongo. ‘Haven’t you lost enough for one day?’ the Trill asks, knowingly. It seems Pel stopped by to say goodbye to Dax before she left. ‘I’m going to miss her-so are you.’ ‘You really think I’d let anyone come between us?’ Quark tells her with mock lasciviousness. ‘Nice try, Quark,’ Dax counters. ‘But I know you better than that.’ And as she leaves, Quark’s grin slowly fades as her words strike home and the loneliness and regret set in.”
“Shadows of the past haunt Commander Sisko. It has been four years since his wife, Jennifer, died at Wolf 359. And he almost forgot.”“Commander Benjamin Sisko sits up late in his quarters, unable to sleep. It has been four years to the day since the Borg massacre at Wolf 359, where he lost his wife, Jennifer. ‘I’m not sure what bothers me more,’ he notes for his log. ‘The date itself, or the fact it almost passed unnoticed’.”“Back at DS9, Nidell makes a full recovery, and finds Commander Sisko on the Promenade’s upper level. She will return to New Halana for good. ‘I wish that I could remember Fenna,’ the widow tells Sisko with some sympathy. ‘What she did, how she felt-but I can’t. I’m sorry.’ ‘That’s all right,’ Sisko says. ‘I can remember her enough for the both of us.’ Nidell asks one last question: ‘What was she like?’ Benjamin Sisko smiles faintly and looks into her eyes. ‘Fenna? she was just like you.’”