Overall: 8.1 - A solid first effort
The writers managed to rapidly establish some of the most three dimensional and intriguing characters ever to grace the Star Trek franchise with a combination of excellently planned back story and solid dialogue. A series pilot is fraught with many dangers, not the least of which is the building of a cast that viewers will want to follow going forward, not to mention the establishment a show's "stasis" (the set of conditions under which the show will thrive in future episodes)...and you still need to tell a good, concise, 90-minute story. As pilots go, this has to be one of the best-written I've ever seen in any genre.
As is common in a pilot, most of the actors were clearly not comfortable in their roles yet. You can see the latent talent, particularly in lesser-known Terry Farrell, Colm Meaney and Armin Shimmerman. Avery Brooks annoyed me a little with his first taste of scenery (mmm....scenery...); which he chewed rather hungrily in the climax of his encounter with the Prophets (or if you still prefer...the wormhole aliens). Nana Visitor was also a little bit overdoing it in a number of the more emotional scenes. And if you want to talk about overdoing it, wow did Alexander Siddig make a fool of himself (speaking as someone who enjoys acting critiques). On the whole, it was not a bad debut for a cast that would later shine from every corner, but you notice things looking back on it with fresh eyes.
Right off the bat we see a show which is (very carefully) respectful to people of faith, significantly grittier and less naive than earlier Trek incarnations, and loaded with pathos. All of these characters are likable in spite of their failings, and the healing process that Sisko begins is earned, and psychologically relevant. Notice, I said he BEGINS to heal...other Treks fall into the trap of healing a character's deepest wounds in a single episode to maintain an anthology feel. DS9 will be different and we can see it already.
Star Fleet is invited by the newly minted (and highly unstable) Bajoran Provisional Government to establish order and provide humanitarian aid following the end of a 60 year occupation of Bajor at the hands of the Cardassian Empire. A reticent Commander Benjamin Sisko takes command of the station over his own objections and the barely restrained ire of its liaison officer, Major Kira Nerys. At the insistance of Kai Opaca, Sisko embarks on a search for the center of Bajoran spirituality - the Celestial Temple. While he manages to establish contact with a race of advanced life forms inside a newly discovered stable wormhole, Kira and a scrappy Star Fleet crew defend the station against a Cardassian attack precipitated by the apparent loss of one of their war ships.
"I wonder if he'd have been as fascinated if you still looked like you did the last time I saw you." - Sisko to Dax regarding Bashir's adolescent drooling.
"We met on the battlefield...at Wolf 359" (Picard gulps) - Isn't it fun to have a commander officer who can intimidate THE Jean Luc Picard?
"Fire six photons across Jazad's bow!"
"Uh Major...we only have six photons..." - Better get used to it, Miles...she doesn't hold back.
"If you don't take your hand OFF my hip...you'll never be able to raise a glass with it again."
"I love a woman in uniform!" - Yep...this show is going to be fun!
OK, I'm going to vent here. Just what the heck were Jennifer and Jake Sisko (and the other "civilians") doing on ships engaged in all out war with the Borg?! What...they didn't have ten minutes to eject the escape pods full of non-essential personnel before they proceeded to risk every innocent life against a foe that had easily gotten past the Enterprise and a half dozen Federation outposts and was unstoppably plunging into the heart of Federation territory en route to Earth with the stated purpose of assimilating all life into their collective? Seriously? Yeah...that annoyed me the first time I saw this episode...now it just ticks me off.
On another matter, Star Fleet officers don't have money. The Federation does not pay them for their service since there is no such thing as currency in the Federation. Explain, then, just how dozens of them converged on Quark's bar mere days after arriving and were already placing large bets in gold-pressed latinum at the Dabo wheel? This will continue to be an annoyance of mine. The show continues to put forth the idea that humans have moved beyond the need for capitalism, and yet we see Sisko somehow bribing Quark or extorting money from him to pay for damages etc. and O'Brien and Bashir end up with massive running bar tabs which they always pay on time. I'm dizzy just thinking about the hypocrisy.
If you want to create a new show, you should contact Rick Berman and Michael Pillar and ask them how they did it so well...because it is rare that a series launches this rapidly and this smoothly. If fandom had given DS9 half the chance it deserved, they would have seen a show that brought remarkably consistent quality entertainment home compared to other Trek series. Starting on day one.