It was 20 years ago today…
On January 3, 1993*, my family and I sat down to watch the premiere of the new Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine. We'd heard the complaints--how could it be Star Trek without the starship Enterprise?--but we were actively looking forward to that aspect of this new show. Wasn't it about time we saw what life was like for people who weren't Star Fleet personnel on active starship duty?
The pilot episode was exciting and intriguing from the start. These were not the sorts of characters we were used to seeing on Star Trek--and we liked that! An officer who wasn't happy about his new posting, people from a non-Federation culture who were not at all pleased at the prospect of Star Fleet interfering in their lives, a civilian population emerging from a revolution… this wasn't a crisp, shiny, our-cool-tech-can-solve-anything world. This felt complex, messy…more like real life.
Then came the scene where some thieves are trying to break into a shop on the Promenade. A tall, skinny alien with a weird face strides into view, and one of the crooks throws a weapon at him… but instead of ducking out of the way, the alien just stands there. His head shifts into shimmering gold and the weapon passes right through it and hits the bulkhead behind him. The alien leaps forward and slams the would-be criminal up against the wall…but the fight is interrupted by a precisely aimed phaser blast from the show's established hero, Star Fleet Commander Sisko, arriving to save the day.
Our skinny alien, however, doesn't need saving, and doesn't appreciate the interference. His first words to Sisko, the upstanding Star Fleet officer, representative of the noble Federation, are "Who the hell are you?"
I still remember my reaction at that moment: a bark of delighted laughter at the surprised/annoyed look on Sisko's face, and watching the weird, skinny, irritable alien and thinking, "Oh boy, this guy is going to make things interesting…."
I was right, of course. Constable Odo kept things interesting from one episode of DS9 to the next, not only in his role as "alien outsider" (an archtype found in every Trek series) but by becoming a fascinating, complex character we could relate to and care deeply about.
Now here we are, twenty years later…but if you pop in a DVD to rewatch an episode, or just think back on a favorite story, Odo remains as interesting as ever.
And so does the man who brought him to life! Since this website was created, we've been doing our best to keep up with René's impressively productive schedule of activities: theatre, films, TV shows (in series regular, recurring guest, and one-shot roles), videogame and cartoon voices, award-winning audiobook narrations, charity fundraising at conventions, all in addition to his creative endeavors as a photographer, graphic artist, and sculptor.
So, thank you to all the fans who continue to support René and his work. And most of all, thank you, René, for keeping things interesting!
* It's difficult to establish an official anniversary date for DS9; according to some sources, its first "satellite air date" was January 2; some list the "premiere" as January 3, and others as January 4. So, if you believe you first saw it on a date other than January 3, you're probably right!