The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
'Deep Space Nine' rips
off 'Babylon 5' in finale

June 10, 1999
By Franklin Harris

Rick Berman's failure is now complete.

After discarding most of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's ideas, Berman, the executive producer of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," proved unable to generate any ideas of his own. And after the "Deep Space Nine" series finale, "What You Leave Behind," had aired, the truth was obvious: "Deep Space Nine" was little more than an inferior clone of "Babylon 5."

As far as finales go, "What You Leave Behind" isn't too bad. It has a few truly emotional scenes and one or two mild surprises. It makes for a better curtain call than does "Star Trek: The Next Generation's" final bow, "All Good Things ..." "What You Leave Behind" at least changed DS9's status quo.

Unfortunately, the story relies heavily on several well-worn clichés in order to wrap up everything within its two-hour allotment.

When the Cardassian people, whose homeworld is the base of operations for the evil Dominion forces, rise up in rebellion, the Dominion decides to exterminate them. Never mind that the Dominion should have more important things to do than worry about civilian terrorists at a time when the good guys (a fleet of Federation, Klingon and Romulan warships) are at the doorstep. And never mind that the Cardassian space fleet -- which is allied with the Dominion -- might not take kindly to the deaths of millions of Cardassian citizens at the hands of its "allies."

It goes without saying that the Dominion's leadership is shocked -- shocked! -- when the Cardassian fleet switches sides at the last moment and saves the Federation and its allies from defeat.

If the cliched ending to the Dominion War plotline isn't bad enough, the perfunctory conclusion to the Emissary plotline, which has being hanging around since DS9's premier seven years ago, is even worse.

DS9's commanding officer Capt. Benjamin Sisko and his archenemy Dukat go out in boring fashion. Their final confrontation, which should have been a struggle of wills, is an afterthought.

What is more, it's an afterthought stolen from the "Babylon 5" playbook.

"Babylon 5" is the story of Capt. John Sheridan of the space station Babylon 5, a man chosen by fate to save his homeworld (Earth) from dictatorship and lead the greatest space fleet ever seen in a battle to save the galaxy. Sheridan works with an ages-old race called the Vorlons to defeat an even older race called the Shadows. In the course of his adventures, Sheridan falls down a bottomless pit, dies, comes back, dies again and goes to spend his afterlife with the Vorlons, the Shadows and all the other Old Ones far beyond the Galactic Rim. Of course, Sheridan's followers believe he will one day return.

Now, same song, second verse.

"Deep Space Nine" is the story of Capt. Benjamin Sisko of the space station Deep Space Nine, a man chosen by the Prophets to save the planet Bajor and lead the greatest space fleet (Federation, Klingon and Romulan ships) ever seen in a battle to save the Alpha Quadrant. Sisko is the emissary of the Prophets, a race that exists outside of time itself, and his destiny is to insure that the Prophet's archenemies, the Pah-wraiths, never escape their prison to threaten the universe. In his last adventure, Sisko falls down a bottomless fire cave, dies, comes back in a vision and goes to spend his afterlife with the Prophets in the Celestial Temple. Of course, in the vision, Sisko promises to one day return.

J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of "Babylon 5," pitched his show to Paramount (owner of the Trek franchise) well before "Deep Space Nine" was conceived, and some B5 fans have always regarded the similarities between DS9 and B5 with suspicion. Now, however, the similarities are too significant to be brushed aside. DS9's executive producers have some explaining to do.

Of course, the two shows still have their differences. On B5, the Vorlons and Shadows represent the opposing forces of order and chaos, and they manipulate the younger races in the pursuit of their petty, ideological conflict until Sheridan exposes them as the bickering meddlers they are. The end result is that the younger races are left to find their own way while their "parents" set off for parts unknown.

On DS9, however, the Prophets and Pah-wraiths represent plain old good and evil. Sisko sides with the Prophets, vanquishes the Pah-wraiths and ends up as the Prophets' servant.

It's funny that for all of DS9's mimicking of B5, B5's message of freedom and independence should be far closer to Roddenberry's original vision for "Star Trek" than DS9's religious gobbledygook.

Now if someone would just tell Straczynski that the plot of his new series, "Crusade" is just like that of the Japanese cartoon series "Star Blazers ..."

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