About a year ago, I started watching Deep Space Nine for the first time. As I've said before, I grew up with The Next Generation, watched the original series when I was in college, and got to Voyager a couple years ago (here's my post on that series). I figured Deep Space Nine would end up being my least favorite (I'm also planning to watch Enterprise eventually, but I literally have no idea what I'll think of that one). It seemed to have too many Ferengi.
While I definitely did prefer Voyager to Deep Space Nine, the reasons for the preference are more complicated. It took me a year to get through the show and it definitely felt like a long time. I had a hard time getting into it and then I lost interest a couple of times and had to force myself back in. Initially, I felt like Sisko didn't really have a defined character; I didn't know who he was. So I figured that was the point. We didn't have a ship; we had a space station. And we didn't have a captain who was the head of it all; we had a commander who felt more like a side character than the protagonist. It wasn't until around the time that he became captain that his character started developing--and the whole turn he took towards the later seasons of becoming Emissary was interesting.
I did like the exploration of Bajor and their belief system. I finally got some context on where Ensign Roe was coming from. Sci-fi tends to portray religions as either primitive of mystical, so it was kind of refreshing to simply have religion be religion. And I like Kira's character. You describe her and she sounds like she would be the stereotypical 1990's fictional female--the strong, independent, fierce figure. But she's all those things and her own person--she's also tender and affectionate and deeply spiritual. I like that combination. And it adds to her strength that she had two love stories throughout the course of the series and yet not in that exploiting way (that feels so stereotypical of Star Trek) of characters like Counselor Troi. I like Bajor; I want to go back and re-watch all the Next Generation episodes with Bajorans in them now.
While I'm on the topic of Kira's relationships, I didn't like Odo. So, yeah, I don't mind that they didn't end up together in the end. His character served as the exploration for what it means to be human in this series. But I didn't care for his character. Maybe I just don't like his hair, I don't know.
The Ferengi, on the other hand, I was surprisingly okay with. Usually I'd have to do the eye roll for a Ferengi-centric episode, but in this show the Ferengi were a little different. We could laugh at the stereotypes but we also got some unexpected character exploration. Quark, who says he's all about greed but also does things that show he genuinely cares about the people around him. Nog, who enters Starfleet because he wants better than what his dad has. Rom, who sees that his son is right and chooses a career that plays to his strengths and interests rather than his people's expectations. Their quest to find humanity I did find interesting.
Is it an unpopular opinion that I didn't really mind what happened with Dax's character? Maybe it's because the contrast was between the tall and strong Jadzia and the smaller, less certain Ezri--and I'm also small and not always certain (the funny part about that is that Nicole de Boer is 5'5'' and I'm 5', so she's rather taller than I am--they just don't cast a lot of actresses as tiny as I am in sci-fi [or maybe in general], do they?).
So we did get plenty of the character exploration that Star Trek has become known for. But we also got lots of battles and that and I don't really care for watching too many battles and that. So that held my interest less. And the fact of raising the stakes was two-sided. Sure, it makes sense that people won't always get along--but you also lose some of that optimism that Star Trek started off with in the 60's. Do we want to be realistic in fiction or do we want to portray our hopes?
The whole series has a rockier feel than the others. The Next Generation came into its own over the course of each season as it discovered what it could be. Voyager had a pretty clear idea of what it was setting out to be. Deep Space Nine was much more of an experiment and it shows. There's some quite good material in there but also some spots where it just didn't hold my attention. So definitely worth watching; it adds to the mix. Just probably not my favorite of it all.