You know I love Deep Space Nine. Not everyone has the time to invest in a new show, and DS9 has a rough introduction. To help some people get into it, I've compiled a list of five episodes from each season of Deep Space Nine that focus on essential stories and character moments of the series. I've also added a few supplemental episodes that are very good, but don't quite make the cut.
The Emissary (1x01): This is the pilot and introduces the larger conflicts and characters of the series.
A Man Alone (1x04): This episode explores Odo and his place in society. In addition, it marks the beginning of Keiko's school and the friendship of Jake and Nog, one of the series' most important friendships. 1x03, Past Prologue, is really great too, but there are better Kira episodes.
Supplemental: Dax (1x08): It's an episode all about Dax that talks about how Trills handle past lives and her relationship with Sisko. Ultimately, the basics were covered in The Emissary and it's explored better in later episodes.
Supplemental: Vortex (1x12): Another Odo episode, it explores his desire to return home and his compassion.
Battle Lines (1x13): This is Classic Star Trek and if it's cringeworthy, it shows where DS9 can't be business as usual for Star Trek. Luckily, it's also plot-relevant.
Supplemental: Progress (1x15): JFC, this is one of my favorite episodes of Deep Space Nine. It's not relevant to the metaplot. Kira gets better episodes later. But wow, it's a good one.
Duet (1x19): Duet is one of those Kira episodes that's better than Progress. It breaks up the hegemonic view of Cardassians up to this point.
Hands of The Prophets (1x20): The season closer is an obvious parallel to real-life debates of creationism and evolution, but it also introduces Vedeks Winn and Bareil and the darker sides of Bajoran faith. The Star Trek wiki, Memory Alpha, gets to use the sentence, ”Impassioned speeches ensue" to describe some of this episode. It's not very good, but it's important and there are a few bright points. Possibly the nadir of the series, in that it only gets better from here.