You can tell Deep Space Nine wasn't built by Starfleet at a glance. Those docking ports, reaching above and below into space like claws, are suggestive of a more sinister architectural and engineering aesthetic than that of the Federation. The interior is all sharp, threatening angles, portholes like eyes, levels upon levels, gridwork that casts shadows - and maybe that's partially how DS9 the show got its reputation as the "dark side" of Star Trek. The show's production design team worked overtime towards presenting not merely a space station but a culture, the end product of Federation, Bajoran, Cardassian and other societies blended together in one location.
The design of the Defiant is also noteworthy: compact yet aggressive looking, built for speed, power and maneuverability. Think of that sequence in "Sacrifice of Angels" where the ship, flanked by Klingon escorts, weaves in and out of Jem'Hadar fire and breaks away. The Defiant was made for moments like that. Props to the visual effects team for making the ship come alive.
I could talk about the enormous cast of DS9 for weeks. Kira is my hero as much as Sisko. I admire her not just as a fighter and a survivor, but for having the courage to find the positive qualities in a people who were her enemies for most of her life. I identify with Odo so much: a loner who can't help seeing the worst in people, yet underneath that gruff exterior lies the heart of a romantic, stirred by the love of a good woman. Has there ever been a supporting character in all of Trek like Garak, who redefines the word Machiavellian? And Gul Dukat, a villain so charismatic and sly the producers had to make him all-the-way evil just to remind the audience he was the bad guy! The list goes on.
Every dramatic fiction show these days seems so eager to embrace serialized storytelling. DS9 was one of the first to do it. I still remember how unusual it was to see the Dominion War arc unfold this way, yet it was also so addicting. DS9 balanced it out with regular "done-in-one" episodes, though, with recurring storylines. I dearly wish other shows operated this way. By all means, give us the extended arcs, but single episodes, I think, stick out in the mind more. From a writing angle, they force you to be more succinct and direct with what you want to say. They shouldn't be abandoned entirely, but I fear they may be - but that's another post.
Deep Space Nine is tops in my book. They gave us a wider view of the Trek universe, despite being centralized in one location; they provided the usual thought-provoking stories that made Trek famous; and they thrilled us with a long-form story arc that was as much a commentary on the consequences of war as it was about war itself. And it was funny! Because life is funny sometimes.
Alternate Enterprise NCC-1701