Benjamin Svetkey
March 06, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

Once, twice, three times a sensation. At least that’s the idea behind Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, yet another Trek series, planned for nationwide syndication early next January. A sneak peek: ”It’s going to be darker and grittier than The Next Generation,” promises Rick Berman, executive producer of both shows. ”The characters won’t be squeaky clean.”

Some details:
Time and Place: The show will take place in the same time as Next Generation, around A.D. 2360, but this time the setting will be a decaying space station in orbit around a stripped mining planet. As a port of call for visiting merchant ships, the station will feature the sort of salty-dog amenities you’d never dream of on a Federation starship — including a casino and a holographic brothel. The station’s most important feature is its proximity to a cosmic ”wormhole,” a tear in space that acts as a shortcut to the unexplored other side of the galaxy. Boldly exploring that wormhole, seeking out strange new worlds and civilizations (hmmm-sounds kinda familiar) is pretty much what the new show will be all about.

Faces: Deep Space Nine will have eight central characters, although none has been cast or even named. The station’s human captain will be an embittered Starfleet commander who lost his wife during an attack by the Borg (the same zombies who kidnapped and brainwashed Next Generation‘s Captain Picard last season). The security officer will be a ”shape shifter” — that is, a bloblike creature that can change into any form it wants, including human (a similar character was introduced in the feature film Star Trek VI). The science officer will be a female alien who spends much of the first episode in a warp-powered wheelchair — she’s from a much lighter planet and can’t hack the station’s heavier gravity. Other characters are still in the works — but expect plenty of visits from those familiar faces over at Next Generation. Picard, Data, Worf, and the rest of the gang will have plenty of time to do cameo appearances because…

Exit ‘Next’: Deep Space Nine will probably nudge Next Generation off the air sometime in 1994. ”Every show has its lifespan,” says Berman. ”And Next Generation‘s was always foreseen at seven years. That’s why we’re doing Deep Space Nine — to keep the Star Trek franchise alive after Next Generation is gone.” Picard and friends will always be around in reruns, though, along with the crew of the original 1966-69 Star Trek series (which is still being broadcast on more than 200 stations across the country).

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