The introduction of the U.S.S. Defiant into Deep Space Nine really changed everything. The show, which was initially supposed to be about a space station that hosted alien species, now had introduced something which made it less unique. Captain Sisko could now visit strange new worlds, just like Kirk, Picard, and Janeway.
This was controversial, and according to Screen Rant, Rick Berman initially opposed the idea. Berman was in charge of Star Trek before Gene Roddenberry’s death until the end of Star Trek: Enterprise’s final season. DS9 showrunner Ira Stephen Behr was able to get the Defiant added to the show, which gave Sisko and company the ability to get into new and different storylines.
But an interesting thing happened in those episodes after the introduction of the ship. Two non-Federation characters, Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and Odo (the late René Auberjonois), served aboard the Defiant as if they were part of the crew. This is a subject of frequent conjecture on various fan bulletin boards. The question is always the same — why is Major Kira first officer for a Starfleet vessel?
Part of a Deal With Bajor
It does not seem that there’s an obvious answer to this. The Reddit user HereticalWalnut speculates that Kira might have benefited from an agreement between Starfleet and the Bajoran Provisional Government:
“The updated agreement included provisions for the major to carry over her rank to the Defiant — as it is operating out of Bajoran space,” writes the Walnut.
Defiant Was Just a Souped-up Runabout
This is a popular theory, but others speculate that it could be the Defiant and not Kira that was key. On the TrekBBS, user Robert Hofner writes that perhaps the ship’s status was less Starfleet warship and more glorified runabout. Those were ships that Kira could take out anytime.
“[The Defiant] was assigned to the station for use by its command personnel when they needed something with bigger guns than a runabout, especially for incursions into the [Gamma Quadrant],” Hofner writes. “The command structure of DS9 extended to the ship rather than the ship having a separate command.”
Rank From DS9 Carried Over to the Defiant
Still, others think that perhaps it was that due to her rank on the station that mattered. Some believe that status carried over to the Defiant, which placed her in the first officer position. This is the opinion of TrekBBS’s CorporalClegg who summarizes:
“She was probably the de facto [executive officer] during Season 3,” Clegg writes. “Since the ship was garrisoned at the station, I’m sure it was up to commander’s discretion for it to follow the same chain of command.”
Kira’s authority, however, seems to fall in line with standard Starfleet procedure. As pointed out on a different Trek BBS thread, Dr. Bashir was able to threaten to relieve her of duty, as he would any Starfleet officer, during the episode “Defiant.”
While fans can debate how the command structure on DS9 was set up, there is no denying Nana Visitor’s desire to use the Defiant in the same way another female character used her ship.
“I really wanted to do Captain Janeway,” Visitor told c|net back in 2016. “I wanted everything, but I didn’t want to leave Kira… I wanted to do it all.”
Worf Changed Everything
While it appears that any of the above answers could be the correct one, there is a definite change when Mr. Worf (Michael Dorn) joined the cast of DS9. When Worf arrived at Season 4, Kira was no longer second-in-command on the Defiant. It seemed that she might have been used by showrunner Behr as a fill-in until Worf showed up.
Some point out that there is Trek precedence for Kira acting in charge of a vessel like the Defiant, even though she was not an official crew member. Didn’t Chakotay and the other members of the Maquis pitch in onboard the Voyager during the pilot episode, “Caretaker?”
Also, Earth history is full of examples where leaders from one nation command those from another in an alliance of some kind. One must only look at World War II and the D-Day invasion to see one of these interesting points in time.
American General Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded British, French, Canadian, and American troops, which were the main thrust of the invasion. There were also forces from other nations, including Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Poland, involved in the operation.