To many, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” is the pinnacle of storytelling for the franchise. Though derided at first, as it was the first Trek show, film, or animated series without a ship at its center, DS9 broke new ground. It showed how versatile Gene Roddenberry’s ideas and universe could be.
Years later, fans worldwide recognize DS9 as not just a great show but also “a turning point in TV history,” as Salon put it. The show handled so many real-world situations that were relevant in the 90s, but also today. Including homelessness and civil unrest, governmental secrets, surrogate motherhood… the list is seemingly endless.
The man steering the show for much of the time was the now-legendary Ira Steven Behr. This gentleman got his start on “The Next Generation” but became the showrunner for DS9. He wrote 53 out of the 176 episodes of the series — that’s 30% of the series total!
Taking on Tough Situations
Behr and his team tackled the tough topics of the day in the classic style of “The Original Series,” which is to change the situation around a bit and put the conflict on a planet far from Earth.
“Obviously, this was in the ’90s, so there was the Middle Eastern conflict, Lebanon was a big hot topic, tons of things, the Northern Ireland thing came up too, so I would say it’s not based on any of them, and it’s based on all of them,” Behr told entertainment reporter Brian Lloyd.
Though the show covered violent situations, they mostly went unnoticed and unbothered by the censors in the United States or other countries in which DS9 aired.
“Rejoined” was one episode that was looked at by censors in Europe (for featuring a kiss between two women). This is interesting, as one of the most memorable censorings of a Trek episode was over the famous “interracial kiss” between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols in “Plato’s Stepchildren.”
The one show that still bothers Behr — to this day — is “To The Death.” This was one of the many Behr wrote, along with Robert Hewitt Wolfe.
The Battle Over ‘To The Death’
The story featured the Jem’Hadar taking over an Iconian Gateway, allowing them to transport thousands of their warriors on planets without warning. The device resembled the Guardian of Forever, which was how Kirk, Spock, and McCoy time-traveled in the TOS episode, “City on the Edge of Forever.”
Instead of time travel, the Federation and Dominion feared that this rogue Jem’Hadar faction would use the ability to “beam” onto any planet to essentially take over or destroy any civilization they wished to.
So, Captain Sisko, Worf, Dax, O’Brien, and some other crew members joined forces with Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) and a team of Jem’Hadar to storm the building that held the portal. The episode featured hand-to-hand combat only because a device on the planet was interfering with phasers and other equipment.
Directed by Trek alum LeVar Burton, there were many deaths on both sides in “To The Death,” and this included Federation officers. This fighting caught the eye of the censors on the other side of the Atlantic.
According to Den of Geek, “To The Death” was cut by “a staggering 45 seconds by The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in the U.K because the scenes of hand-to-hand combat were too violent.”
Part of what was cut was the sound of a neck-breaking during a situation with the Jem’Hadar and Mr. Worf. That was deemed too violent for audiences.
Behr Still Remembers…
Behr said that 32 seconds were cut from the show. In an interview from “Captains’ Logs Supplemental — The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages,” Behr said:
“Thirty-two seconds of nothing but action, and I wish it had happened. It kind of restored my faith in the Jem’Hadar, and I think it really makes them interesting. I thought Clarence Williams was good; we finally had Jeffrey Combs back. I thought it really filled in a lot of the Dominion backstory. It was really a tense little episode. I just wish it had been thirty-two seconds longer.”
And, as this tweet makes clear, Mr. Behr is still not happy about the decision to remove those seconds:
Interestingly, the viewers did not complain as much about the violence as they did about the choppy editing used to remove the offending seconds from the episode.