The Worst Star Trek DS9 Episode Got Writer To Join The Show

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

For a while, Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spinoffs had an open-door policy on scripts, which gave a voice to young writers while potentially bringing new blood into the permanent writing teams.

On paper, the idea sounds very straightforward: write a great episode and get a permanent chair writing for the show. However, great Star Trek writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe managed to get offered a permanent job after writing “Q-Less,” one of the worst DS9 episodes ever made.

Paramount’s Open-Door Script Policy

Before we can dish more about how the worst DS9 episode gave us one of the best writers, you need to know what a game-changer Paramount’s open-door policy on Star Trek scripts was. This policy allowed Ronald D. Moore to submit a script for the episode that became “The Bonding,” and it was good enough that he was soon offered a full-time writing position on The Next Generation.

The sheer quality of that episode’s writing impressed showrunner Michael Piller, who later said he was “very proud” of “The Bonding” because “it struck the heart of Star Trek, exploring the human condition.”

Moore Created One Of The Best Sci-Fi Shows In History

Moore would go on to be one of the best writers for that era of Star Trek, which eventually opened some major doors. Not only did he win an Emmy for his work on TNG, but Moore eventually became the showrunner for the Battlestar Galactica reboot, generally considered one of the best sci-fi series ever made. It’s fair to say that Moore is the ultimate example of a Trek writer who parlayed a great episode into multiple exciting careers for himself.

Not All Star Trek Submissions Were Gold

Then there’s Robert Hewitt Wolfe, someone who owes his Trek career to creating what might be the worst DS9 episode in the series. He wrote “Q-Less,” the disappointing story in which Q made his one and only cameo on Deep Space Nine.  And in case you guys think we’re being overly hard on this early episode, Wolfe is the first to admit that the final script was very lacking.

From A Fun Episode To A Dull One

Previously, Wolfe had written the fun (if overly basic) TNG episode “A Fistful of Datas.” This demonstrated his Trek experience, but he wrote “Q-Less” before he was offered the full-time job on the new spinoff. 

While he didn’t go so far as to call his Q-centric adventure the worst DS9 episode, Wolfe later said he focused too much on Q and not enough on the main characters. He also criticized the infamous boxing scene where Sisko bellows, “I’m not Picard,” noting that simply illustrating that the new character is different from the Enterprise captain doesn’t do enough to tell us who Sisko really is.

Wolfe Went On To Write Better Episodes

We were surprised to see Wolfe get offered a full-time job after writing the worst DS9 episode, and the quality of the episode wasn’t entirely his fault. Instead of developing this story on his own, Wolfe was basically handed a really crappy outline and told to make it better. Ultimately, he was offered the full-time writing gig as much for his ability to analyze this and other stories for narrative weaknesses as much as for his ability to craft great scripts of his own.

And while we have been giving Wolfe a hard time for writing the worst DS9 episode, it’s worth pointing out that he wrote or co-wrote some of the show’s best episodes, including great season premieres (like “The Way of the Warrior”), season finales (like “A Call to Arms”), and two-parters (like “In Purgatory’s Shadow”/”By Inferno’s Light”).

Ended On A High Note

star trek: deep space nine feature

He left after Season 5 but still came back in the final season to write the memorable whodunit “Field of Fire.” At the end of the day, we have to raise a glass of Romulan Ale to the talented writer who gave us so many great stories.

As for the fact that he wrote the most cringe-worthy dialogue for the fan-favorite character Q,…that’s easy enough for Star Trek fans to overlook. Especially by your third glass of the azure alien elixir so good it should be (and was) outlawed.