The Character Arcs in Star Trek Deep Space Nine

With all this new Star Trek coming out (Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks), I thought it high time to revive a blog series I’d forgotten about. Earlier this year, I analyzed the cast of Star Trek Voyager and assigned each member of the main crew their arc. Today, I’m going to take a look at the very large cast of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and give myself more work by analyzing not only their arcs, but which change best suits them, or if they’re round or flat characters.

Deep Space Nine had an absolutely huge recurring cast of secondary characters, so I’m sticking to a list of just twelve. I’m not even including anyone from the series’ Mirror Universe or the Dominion, as there just isn’t enough source material to work with. The twelve I’ll analyze in today’s post are the core characters the series’ used the most. If there is a cross next to an actor’s name, it means they have passed on into Paradise.

A Quick Review of Character Changes and Arcs

*In this section I refer to Meg LaTorre’s iWriterly blog post on the Types of Character Arcs in fiction, as well as several resources on KM Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors website.
If I use a different resource I’ll include a separate hyperlink.

01


Positive Change

Normally used for the heroes in the story. The characters with this change type often struggle more when faced with difficult choices or internal conflict. They want to become a better person.

02


Negative Change

While this type of change is often used for “villains,” other characters can have negative plot lines which will not land them on the truly evil side of things.

03


Flat Characters

No matter the choices these characters make, they basically stay where they started at the very beginning. Sometimes they’ll change. Usually not.

04


Round Characters

To directly quote Judy Blume’s Masterclass on the matter: “Round characters are fully realized characters that come into conflict with each other […] spurring character development.”

05


The Change Arc

Whether this character’s change is immediate or over the course of time (or both), protagonists usually have these arcs. To quote LaTorre, “This change is radical.”

06


The Growth Arc

Characters within the growth arc has more internal change than outward change. Change still happens, but not as radical as the aforementioned arc. They’ll grow as a person regardless of external circumstances.

07


The Shift Arc

According to LaTorre via Reedsy, ““The protagonist changes his perspective, learns different skills, or gains a different role. The end result is not ‘better’ or more than the starting point, just different.”

08


The Fall Arc

Fall arcs can apply to both protagonists and antagonists. This change often results in a decrepit state of mind, death, true villainy, etc. Or even a fall from grace.

Check out this post over on KM Weiland’s blog concerning large casts of characters.
There she explains how a balance of the above changes and arcs can greatly benefit a story.

Now that all that’s out of the way, here are


Linked character names will take you to Memory Alpha,
a website dedicated to fandoms and detailed pages about characters, shows, etc.
Linked actor names will take you to their IMDB pages,
should you wish to learn more about either!

Captain Benjamin Sisko
The Change Arc

Captain Benjamin Sisko was portrayed by Avery Brooks

From the very first episode, Benjamin Sisko and his son, Jake, are thrust into an intense period of change. It propels the entire series forward, and many aspects connect the Sisko family to the people of Bajor. You could say that Sisko’s path very much mimics that of the Bajorans.

The Bajoran home world has just come out of a fifty year occupation by the Cardassians. Sisko must not only bridge a broken peoples’ relationship with the rest of the galaxy, but somehow promise them there is hope for a brighter future.

Change follows Sisko all the way to the final episode. But I refuse to include any spoilers here. This series has one of the most emotional conclusions I’ve ever seen. Avery Brooks poured his entire heart and soul into Sisko, and it’s evident in his arc.

Jake: “…He insisted that she cut up his food for him.
He was treating her like she was some kind of slave.”
Sisko: “It sounds like he’s acting like a Ferengi to me.”

source

Constable Odo
The Shift Arc

Constable Odo was portrayed by Rene Auberjonois

Odo, the station’s constable. Odo, the enigma. Odo, the only one of his kind on Deep Space Nine.

For much of Odo’s arc, he’s searching for his origins but he’s sure of who he is as an individual. Then how, pray, does Odo end up in the negative change arc?

Sometimes what we seek isn’t what we’re meant to find. Or what we wanted to find. Odo’s story is one with many layers, but was it better at the beginning or at the end?

Odo: “Where’s the Changeling? I lost him in the conduits.”
O’Brien: “We haven’t seen him.”
(another Odo emerges from another access port)
Changeling/Odo: “Wait. It’s me, Odo.”
O’Brien(looks at both Odo’s) “You don’t say.”

source

Dr. Julian Bashir
The Growth Arc

Doctor Julian Bashir was portrayed by Alexander Siddig

Stay with me on this one. I’ll not deny that Dr. Bashir had some amazing character moments and difficult choices he had to make throughout the series, including defying orders on several occasions.

Due to some behind-the-scenes tension, Bashir wasn’t developed as well as Sisko or Dax. It’s a well known fact among long time Trek fans that Season Four is when Bashir really begins to shine.

Even with all the writers’ issues with the Bashir character arc, Siddig did an amazing job portraying one of my first television crushes.

Kai Winn: “There is more at stake than one man’s life.”
Bashir: “One man’s life is all I’m concerned with at the moment.”

source

Chief Miles Edward O’Brien
The Shift Arc

Colm Meany reprised the role from Star Trek: The Next Generation

Colm Meany wasn’t sure about reprising O’Brien on another series, but I’m sure glad he did! Because of this O’Brien became an integral character on DS9. Grandfathered in, if you will.

We saw some of his development on Next Gen, but he was more of a secondary character there. Watching the Chief’s growth from Next Gen to the end of DS9 was, and still is, such a joy.

One of the most serious episodes in all of Trek involves O’Brien. If you’re already a fan, you know precisely the one I speak of. It only affirms Trek’s relevancy to what 2020’s brought us. And it O’Brien’s arc shows us that humans in the 24th century will struggle with and overcome the same things we do today.

“It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became, because of you.”
– O’Brien to Glinn Daro

source

Major Kira Nerys
The Growth Arc

Major Kira Nerys was played by Nana Visitor

Major Kira Nerys, very set in her ways when it comes to what she believes, is still willing to accept into her life new relationships, new thoughts and takes on whatever the universe throws at her with strength and grace.

The Round character type suits Kira the most. As she’s Bajoran, she’s just as passionate about her faith and her politics as Cardassians are about order and conquest. Kira’s passion is what draws people of all races to her, and thus needs to change and grow in order to survive.

“If you want to change the government, Minister Jaro, you vote to change it.
You don’t sneak up from behind it with a dagger.”
– Kira to Jaro

source

Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax
The Change Arc

The Dax Symbiont’s eighth host was played by Terry Farrell

Confession: I had a hard time pinpointing Dax’s character arc. And even now I’m still unsure if I made the right choice. Dax, the symbiont within its host of Jadzia (read up on Trill physiology here), has already given Jadzia eight life times’ worth of experiences by the time her character’s introduced in Episode One.

As such, I do believe her character was thought out long before they cast Farrell into the roll. Round in that she knows firmly who she is even with the memories of so many lifetimes inside her.

Even so, Dax still manages to experience much change. Her change isn’t as integral to DS9s timeline as Sisko’s, but their arcs compliment one another well.

Dax: “The Korvat colony. First day of negotiations, I walked out on you, right in the middle of that long-winded speech of yours. You should have seen the look on your face. Nobody had ever had the kajunpak’t to show their back to the great Kang before Curzon did.”
Kang: “I almost killed Curzon that day.”

source

Lt. Commander Worf
The Shift Arc

Michael Dorn also reprised his role from Star Trek: The Next Generation

Because he previously appeared on Next Gen with Chief O’Brien, Worf is quite the Round character. Much of his character’s already developed, so if you really want to get the full Worf experience in, watch all of that series first.

That’s why Worf has the Shift Arc in DS9. We see him learning new skills, learning how to deal with different situations, and how he’s able to hold fast to his heritage in a place he’s never felt quite comfortable in.

If you thought Worf already had quite the role in TNG, just you wait!

Worf: “Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millennia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth.”
Kira: “I don’t think I’ll ever understand Klingons.”
O’Brien: “Don’t worry about it, Major. Nobody Does. It’s the way they like it.”

source

Quark
The Shift Arc

Quark was portrayed by Armin Shimerman

Whether you want to believe a Ferengi can change or not, Quark falls under the Shift Arc category. Two of my absolute favorite DS9 episodes are completely Ferengi-centric: “Little Green Men” and “The Magnificent Ferengi.”

Even with those two fantastic episodes, and other times Quark shines in episodes like “Business As Usual” and “Profit and Lace,” Quark ends up exactly where he began.

As a Ferengi, Quark was raised with an intense need to earn profit. The entire population within the Ferengi alliance, after all, knows the Rules of Acquisition by heart.

For Quark, even with all his aspirations and more deals gone wrong over those gone right, his character ends with some negative changes.

Quark: “You practically begged me to stay,
which was against my better judgement, but I did!”
Sisko: “I didn’t beg you, I blackmailed you.”

source

Rom
The Shift Arc

Max Grodenchik portrayed Rom

Max Grodenchik has said that Rom was supposed to be just a guest on DS9. While it’s true he’s not in the opening credits, both he and Nog really should’ve been.

Rom is not your typical Ferengi. He’s often criticized by members of his own race, or mocked by others, for being too influenced by “hoomans.”

Rom’s arc connects him to several story threads, and he takes it all on in, well, in Rom’s own way. And Rom’s own way is exactly what’s so endearing about him.

Even when he’s plotting against Quark – because he is, after all, still a Ferengi. A Ferengi with a finish you’ll never see coming.

Rom: “I’m going back to Quark! At least then I’ll be cheated by family!”

source

Nog
The Shift Arc

Nog was portrayed by Aron Eisenberg

Nog, influenced by his friendship with the Sisko family, begins to desire something more than what his society expects of him. There’s so much backstory with Nog and the man who portrays him that it could be its own separate blog post.

Because of those desires, he’s met with some tough resistance from those who can’t believe a Ferengi would want something more than profit. He wants to join Starfleet.

Nog’s journey from childhood to trusted member of the crew is a great reason families should watch DS9. For a secondary character, that’s not too shabby if you ask me.

Jake: “I- I- I made other plans!”
Nog: “What could be more important than dom-jot?”
Jake: “I have a date.”
Nog: “Ohhh. We-ell. That’s different.”

source

Gul Dukat
The Fall Arc

Gul Dukat was played by Mark Alaimo

What can I say about Gul Dukat that won’t spoil anything for you? For the character that he is, he’s one of the most developed I’ve ever seen in a Star Trek series. Next would have to be Commander Worf.

Dukat’s journey is one filled with challenge after challenge. He falls from grace, reclaims his place and falls again. Does this give him some form of Cardassian inferiority complex?

Let’s just say that Dukat is the polar opposite of DS9s resident Cardassian, Garak. While their race, as a whole, is ambitious, confident and efficient, this combination of traits feed both Dukat’s ego and his downfall.

Kira: “Why is it when you smile I want to leave the room?”
Dukat: “I suppose it’s because of my overwhelming charm.”

source

Kai Winn Adami
The Fall Arc

Kai Winn was played by Louise Fletcher

Speaking of ego, Winn Adami likes to begin many of her statements with the “I.” I’ll not hide my feelings about this particular character: Adami is a snake, and I’m sure she’ll not appreciate my use of her given name here.

Adami not only qualify for the Fall Arc, she’s a rather flat character as well. Her wants are singular. And, irony of ironies, she’s openly bitter about her circumstances.

Is that bitterness warranted? Is it self-imposed or was it fed by the Bajoran thirst for freedom from the Cardassian Occupation? I guess you’ll just have to watch and decide for yourself.

Kai Winn: “I was chosen by the Prophets to lead our people into a new era. I know that! But I was not meant to be in a room with a Cardassian, debating legalisms and diplomatic nuances.”

source

“But Leigh! You left out Ezri Dax. Jake Sisko. Garak. Weyoun. Keiko and Molly and Kirayoshi O’Brien. Not to mention Liquidator Brunt, Quark’s cousin Gala, Moogie, the Grand Nagus, Damar, Leeta-“

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Deep Space Nine has one of, if not the largest pools of secondary characters I’ve ever seen in a series. And, whether you like my analysis or not, those folks are secondary characters.

While Jake Sisko did indeed grow up on the show (figuratively and literally), there really aren’t enough Jake-centered episodes fully round out his character. I should hope that even Jake Sisko himself, the captain’s son turned author, would agree with that conclusion. In conclusion: his is a flat character arc.

As for the others, some I’d love to see come back if Deep Space Nine were ever revived. But without Odo or Nog (rest in Paradise, Rene and Aron), as well as certain characters written off the show, I don’t foresee that happening any time soon.

For now, don’t let my analysis of these characters dissuade you from watching Deep Space Nine. Sandwiched between The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager, the writers for DS9 were able to explore a different kind of frontier.


The Character Arcs in Star Trek Voyager

Why is there all this focus on Star Trek on my website? The answer is simple – it’s my absolute favorite franchise. Every time it’s on, it’s like I’ve come home to a friend, or rediscovered a favorite comfort food from ages past. Not only that, but if you can look past the sometimes-hokey story lines and bad episodes (there isn’t a single franchise that can claim immunity from a badly written episode), you’ll grow to love the characters themselves.

Star Trek Voyager‘s original run began in January 1995 with “Caretaker,” and wrapped in 2001 with “Endgame.” Throughout its seven seasons the writers introduced and said goodbye to many secondary characters, and some primary ones too.

In writing, a character’s arc, or their development, is an important piece to the story’s overall puzzle. When written well, a character can incite excitement or take a viewer or reader into the depths of despair. The downside to any Star Trek series is there will always be a character(s) who’ll get more screen time than others.

As with any story, each character has a purpose. Some are clearly main characters, others decidedly supporting, and still others make but a brief appearance. As I learn more about these character arcs, I started comparing them to the crew of the USS Voyager. We’ll observe them by rank, and figure out which arc they fall under. But first, let’s take a quick look at the types of character arcs.

These examples all come from KM Weiland’s “Helping Writers Become Authors,” because her resources are awesome.

Please be sure to stop by her blog, because she goes more in depth with each of these. This is just quick reference for this post. Also, each arc is linked to Weiland’s website so you can dive even more deeply.

Positive Change Arc
To paraphrase: Also known as one of the heroic arcs, characters with this arc uses a known or newly learned truth to try implementing positive change.

The Disillusionment Arc
Characters with the disillusionment arc will either join with the positive resolutions of the story or return to their original world, even while knowing the new “truths.” This is a.k.a a “negative change arc.”

The Corruption Arc
Characters with the corruption arc rarely want to positively change. Instead, they use their original lies to continue on in the “new world”

The Flat Arc
[Also a heroic arc] “These characters experience little to no change over the course of the story. […] Sometimes these characters are catalysts for change in the story world around them.”

The Fall Arc
Another negative change arc. The simplest definition of a Fall Arc is the character must face the consequences + aftermath of their choices. No matter what they try to positively change, if they try, it’s met with resistance and futility.

Now let’s see which senior officer exemplifies which arc.
Do any turn to Corruption?

Note: Spoilers and episode recommendations to follow

Captain Kathryn Janeway
Kate Mulgrew
Arc: The Flat Arc

Hear me out here. As the first female captain portrayed by the Star Trek franchise (we can only assume that other female captains preceded her within this universe), Captain Janeway had a lot to live up to. Let’s face it. She followed the likes of James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard. A scientist a heart, Janeway often took it upon herself to study the mysteries of the Delta Quadrant along with her underlings. Episodes like “Year of Hell,” “Scorpion” and “Macrocosm” successfully exhibit her tactical resilience. However, she does have a stubborn streak. One where both Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Tuvok oft have to act as checks and balances, and remind her she isn’t alone in her command-making decisions. Throughout all seven seasons, Captain Janeway remains one of the most constant characters of them all, and clearly the most developed even before the show begins. For this reason, I’ve labeled her as a Flat Arc character. While she wrestles with her truths throughout the entire series, she rarely falters. What influenced my choice –> How to Write a Flat Character by KM Weiland.

Commander Chakotay
Robert Beltran
Arc: The Positive Change Arc

Commander Chakotay, ex-terrorist under the Maquis (if you followed the Deep Space Nine series you’ll know more on what this means), and once a cadet at Starfleet Academy, Commander Chakotay is a perfect example example of the positive change arc. We see a LOT of change within Chakotay’s character (and many fans today wished he’d “hooked up” with Janeway, especially after “Resolutions“). Even after Chakotay’s own fall from Starfleet, and even after his commanding position as a Maquis, I think Chakotay became a father figure to the ship’s crew. Both Starfleet and Maquis alike. While his arc eventually flattened out in later seasons, he was uniquely (purposefully) placed to step in as commander in “Caretaker, Parts 1&2.” From his initial introduction to “Endgame,” you know you’d want Commander Chakotay defending your honor. (ie “Basics 1&2“).

Lieutenant Tuvok
Tim Russ
Arc: The Flat Arc

Commander Tuvok, the steadfast Vulcan of Voyager’s bridge staff, as well as proficient tactical officer, rarely had episodes dedicated just to his character development. Out of VOY’s entire run, only “The Raven,” “Author, Author,” “Gravity,” “Repression” and “Innocence” showcase Tuvok’s loyalty and tenacity as he works to solve problems or even a murder. His keen investigation skills are sharpened by his interactions with the rest of Voyager’s crew, whether he’s willing to admit that or not. Tuvok’s arc was hard to place, but his is the same as Janeways: The Flat Arc. Before you “poo poo” my conclusion, think of this way. Before VOY aired, you can tell Tuvok’s character already had purpose. He’s placed as Janeway’s confidant and valued friend. And, as the oldest member (being a Vulcan), he’s already had a long-standing Starfleet career (“Flashback“). As such, it only makes sense Tuvok would have a somewhat flat arc.

Lieutenant Tom Paris
Robert Duncan McNeil
Arc(s): Positive Change with a lot of Fall

In the series’ opening, we already know Tom Paris, son of a Starfleet Admiral, fell from grace due to bad decision making and then lying about his mistakes. In Starfleet, rank and relations won’t protect anyone from their own undoing. But Janeway gave him an opportunity to redeem himself (“Caretaker”) and his flyboy nature couldn’t keep him from negotiating a deal. We see his arc grow until season five’s episode “Thirty Days.” Up until that time, he’d worked to earn the field commission he’d been given in an emergency situation. From there he had to work again to regain his crew’s – no – his family’s confidence in him. Notable Tom Paris episodes include “Alice,” “Vis a Vis,” “Lineage,” and “Investigations.”

Lieutenant B’Ellana Torres
Roxann Dawson
Arc: The Positive Growth Arc

B’Ellana Torres was especially hard to nail down, but she’s definitely got a positive growth arc. When we first meet her in “Caretaker,” her Klingon half rules over her human one, and she often gave into it during Voyager’s early seasons. One of her major turning points took place in season four’s episode, “Day of Honor,” when she finally (spoiler) admits her true feelings to Tom Paris. Her development does taper off a bit as with any show, but we get to the core of who she is by season four’s end. Notable episodes: “Extreme Risk,” “Lineage,” “Faces” and “Dreadnought.”

Ensign Harry Kim
Garrett Wang
Arc: The Positive Growth Arc

Garrett Wang himself has portrayed Harry as “Voyager’s whipping boy.” With everything the writers threw at him – multiple near death experiences, actual death experiences, individual time travel – Harry could’ve easily gone by way of the Corruption Arc. However, Wang’s character managed to keep his optimism, curious mind and scientific know-how. Ensign Harry Kim, I think, drew a lot of his strength from others around him, most profoundly Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tom Paris (even though Paris disappoints him from time to time). Even though Kim was, in my opinion, under-developed, he still had some positive growth, if not a little flatter than most. Notable Harry Kim episodes include “Caretaker,” “Favorite Son,” “Demon,” “The Disease,” “Course: Oblivion,” and “Ashes to Ashes.”

The Doctor
Robert Picardo
Arc: The Positive Change Arc

My original feelings about The Doctor aside (I found him quite annoying, along with the rest of the crew), The Doctor does possess a positive change arc. This emergency medical hologram (or EMH), probably had the most lines on the show. One such example of his arc is that it took him years – literally years – to choose a name for himself. From his first scenes to very last. There’s also the added logistical nightmare behind his technological “genes,” somewhat solved with the addition of his mobile emitter in “Future’s End.” After season three he calms down, but has a tendency to throw himself into each new hobby he picks up (opera, a holo-family, social lessons with Seven of Nine, just to name a few). Notable episodes include “Darkling,” “Revulsion,” “Flesh and Blood,” and “Projections.”

I’m a doctor, not a battery.

“Gravity”

Neelix
Ethan Phillips
Arc(s): Disillusionment to Growth to Flat

As you can see, Neelix is a complex fellow, and that complexion is perfectly portrayed by Ethan Phillips. Phillips had previously played several characters in the franchise, including a Ferengi on Next Generation and a different Ferengi on Enterprise. Neelix begins his Voyager journey in disillusionment. While his girlfriend, Kes, settled into life on Voyager quite easily, Neelix was tempted to run on several occasions (as in “The Cloud“). At some point in season two, he and Kes are no longer a couple, and he begins to finally grow as an individual, spreading his own wings and expressing a willingness to try new things (“Fair Trade“). By Season Five, with his character established, his arc flattens. Notable episodes include “Jetrel,” “Once Upon A Time,” “Rise,” and “Investigations.”

Kes
Jennifer Lien
Arc(s): Positive Change –> The Corruption Arc

Wait? Seriously? The original ying to Neelix’s yang? Unfortunately, Kes is one of those characters viewers either loved, or loved to hate. Kes, a Delta Quadrant native, willingly joined Voyager‘s crew because of her intense desire to explore the galaxy and leave her Ocampan homeworld behind. Due to her species’ strong telepathic and mental capabilities, Kes eventually had to leave the ship in season four’s “The Gift.” This is where her corruption arc comes into play. Spoiler ahead! Kes returns briefly in season six’s “Fury,” as an incredibly angry individual, believing the crew abandoned her. Something corrupted her in the new years since “The Gift.” But does she stay corrupted? You’ll just have to watch to find out! Notable Kes episodes include “Caretaker,” “Before and After,” “Cold Fire,” and “Persistence of Vision.”

Seven of Nine
Jeri Ryan
Arc: The Positive Growth Arc

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine joined the cast at the end of season two, effectively replacing Kes. The Voyager writing room ramped up her arc, using Janeway as her guide as they did with Kes. (Do you see now why Janeway needed to be the most established character in the beginning?) However, Seven grew so much that she was able to call out Janeway as they disagreed on procedure and life in general. Her story continues with Star Trek’s newest addition to its lineup, Star Trek Picard. Notable Seven of Nine episodes include “Imperfection,” “Scorpion,” “The Raven,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and “Bliss.”


If you’re a Star Trek fan, did I get this wrong? Or did I correctly analyze these ten characters from a writer’s viewpoint? Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.

Conclusion: the more you learn the art of writing, the more you’ll analyze your favorite forms of entertainment.

For I dipt into the future, far as the human eye could see; Saw the Vision of the World, and all the wonder that it would be…

Alfred Tennyson, from the bridge plaque on the USS Voyager

Writing Prompt:
Pick one of your favorite television and try figuring out their character arcs. Perhaps you’ll discover why you love them or love to hate them.