We're coming up on the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but it's still amazing how ground-breaking that show feels. Deep Space Nine didn't just defy our expectations of what a Star Trek show could be — it also helped to transform our ideas about genre television, in general. To watch DS9 is to have an unforgettable impression of its characters and themes — and yet, there are probably still secrets of DS9 that you haven't learned yet.
Here are 10 things we're betting you never knew about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Want more of this stuff? Here's 10 things you probably didn't know about the Original Star Trek, and 10 things you probably didn't know about Star Trek: The Next Generation.
1) Dr. Bashir actor Alexander Siddig was the first choice to play Benjamin Sisko
Producer Rick Berman saw Siddig playing King Feisal in the British television production A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, and decided to cast him as Commander Sisko. Berman changed his mind when he realized Siddig was only in his mid-twenties, and instead offered him the part of Dr. Bashir — who was originally named Dr. Julian Amoros. This was a part with way less job security: for the first two years Siddig was on the show, the network was constantly telling Berman and the other producers to fire him, because he was the most unpopular character. But the producers held their ground, because they wanted to change Bashir over time and slowly make him more likable. Also: Siddig and Miles O'Brien actor Colm Meaney fought in real life, while their characters were fighting on the show — they had hours of "furious fights" about England and Ireland, according to Siddig.
2) The show was originally planned as a Western
Long before Firefly, the Star Trek producers had the idea to make Deep Space Nine a science fiction Western. Paramount Executive Brandon Tartikoff approached series co-creator Rick Berman with the idea of making the next Star Trek series "The Rifleman in space" with a main character like Chuck Connors from the Western series. In the original versions, the main setting was to be a frontier outpost, somewhere in a desert on Bajor. This 24th Century version of Fort Laramie would have been filmed at an exterior set, somewhere about an hour North of L.A. The cold hard reality of finance nixed this idea pretty early on. It was far cheaper to shoot in a permanent sound stage on the Paramount lot.
3) Lwaxana Troi was supposed to be a major recurring character
In the DS9 bible Lwaxana Troi was described as a major supporting character, on par with Jake and Nog. Special emphasis was placed on her pursuit of Odo as a love interest, with her finding "reasons to come back and see him" on a regular basis. Says the bible: "He tries to discourage her: Ma'am, I turn into a liquid at night. LWAXANA: I can swim." Lwaxana did appear three times on DS9 and attempted to seduce Odo, but she obviously wasn't as major a supporting character as originally planned.
4) Kai Opaka was originally a man who gave naked people foot rubs.
Kai Opaka was originally conceived as being a male spiritual leader of the Bajorans. Visitors to the Kai had to get naked as he probed their pagh through deep-tissue massage of their feet. Once the producers decided to make the Kai a woman, the nudity was axed and the spiritual location of the pagh moved to the ears.
5) Dax's Trill spots weren't just hand-drawn, they were numbered
Michael Westmore, the lead makeup designer and supervisor, drew all of the Trill markings on actress Terry Farrell personally, by hand. He considered them such a work of art he would number his work with Roman numerals on Farrell's collarbone. When she left the show he was up to 479. In the episode where Jadzia Dax appears in a bathing suit, he drew the swirls down her legs and feet using a Sharpie.
6) The show could have had a musical episode
Ronald D. Moore says he kept pitching a musical episode, over and over. His idea was that: "There's just some tech virus that infects the crew and they can only communicate in song, you know? And just do it! And have a ball." Moore pushed for this idea over and over, and "they fought against it and fought against it and fought against it."
7) The first object to go through the wormhole was a cow
Back in 1993, it was often easier and cheaper to make things using miniatures because computer graphics weren't quite there yet. But one effect in Deep Space Nine that was computer generated was the wormhole, though the ships moving through were still models. To check the interior lighting conditions on an object passing through the wormhole, the effects company, Rhythm & Hues, needed a test sequence that would move a computer generated model through the path a ship would take. At the time they lacked any Federation spaceship in their library to use. Instead they combined two objects that they did have –- a cow and a biplane. "Aero-cow," the cow with biplane wings, was the first thing through the wormhole.
8) The station's science officer could have been wheelchair-bound
The first concept for the show's science officer was a character raised on a low gravity planet. In the normal areas of the station, she would be wheelchair bound. But in her quarters or lab, she could fly around effortlessly. She'd also be ideal for doing outside space work. The idea was dropped for series regular since it to much money to create the effect regularly. The idea showed up later in the episode "Melora" as a one-shot story.
9) Quark isn't wearing his own nose in the pilot
Armin Shimerman's prosthetic nose was not ready by the time the pilot was filmed and publicity photos were taken. Instead, he ended up wearing the nose designed for Max Grodénchik, the actor who played Quark's brother Rom. In the pilot Rom was not yet a character and Grodénchik was only referred to as Ferengi Pit Boss. (Both Shimerman and Grodénchik auditioned for the role of Quark, and Grodénchik made such an impression they kept him on as a Ferengi and cast him as Rom when the character was developed.) Also, during the first season, a huge earthquake struck L.A. while Shimerman and Odo actor Rene Auberjonois were in makeup — both actors decided to skip the two hours of makeup removal and go home to check on their families, terrifying many passersby on their way home.
10) The show is full of Man from U.N.C.L.E. references
One of the co-producer of the first season, Peter Allen Fields, started out his career as a writer for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He made Garak, the Cardassian spy, a tailor as a cheeky nod to the United Network Command for Law Enforcement headquarters being hidden behind the front of Del Floria's Tailor Shop. Del Floria's is also a shop on the promenade. Another little reference to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is on the ATM machine located in Quark's bar. On the machine are symbols for different species currency including Klingon, Vulcan, Ferengi, Bajoran... and strangely enough, the U.N.C.L.E. logo.
Sources: The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Original Series Bible, Memory Alpha, Westmore's Aliens: Season 5 DVD extra, Secrets of Quarks Bar: Season 1 DVD extra, TrekCore, TrekMovie.com, TrekNews.net and TrekWeb.com.