This Star Trek article contains spoilers for Picard season 3.
Between 1966 and 2005, Star Trek fans were introduced to the franchise’s first five leads: James T. Kirk in The Original Series, Jean-Luc Picard in The Next Generation, Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine, Voyager‘s Kathryn Janeway, and Jonathan Archer from Enterprise.
Archer has not been seen since the end of Enterprise because that show’s storyline ended just over 100 years before Kirk’s mission began (though his Kelvinverse counterpart was apparently long-lived enough for Scotty to beam his beagle into space). But Kirk has appeared in two later series — the original spin-off, The Animated Series, in the 1970s, and more recently in Strange New Worlds, plus of course the Kelvinverse films. Janeway is a recurring character in Prodigy, which functions almost as a sequel series to Voyager, and Picard got his own spinoff named after him, with a third and final season that functions as a sequel series to The Next Generation.
So where is Captain Benjamin Sisko, and why have we not seen or heard from him since the Deep Space Nine finale, “What You Leave Behind?”
The most obvious explanation is that Sisko’s character was left in a very different place than the other captains, figuratively and literally, at the end of his series. While Kirk, Picard, and Janeway all ended their series as captains and later became Starfleet admirals, Sisko ended Deep Space Nine not even living on the same plane of reality as Starfleet. He joined the Bajoran Prophets, aka the wormhole aliens, becoming a non-corporeal, extra-dimensional being existing outside of linear time. This makes it a lot more difficult for him to pop up in a cameo, unlike, say, Janeway, who was able to quickly video-call Picard to give him orders in Star Trek: Nemesis.
The only direct reference to Sisko in modern Star Trek had Lower Decks’ Beckett Mariner confirm in the season 3 episode “Reflections” that Sisko is “working hard in a celestial temple.” This presumably means that he is still Propheting with the wormhole aliens at the time that episode is set (2381 CE, 20 years before the currently-airing Picard season 3). When Lower Decks visits Deep Space Nine in the following episode, Sisko’s baseball is still sitting on Colonel Kira’s desk, so he has clearly not come back for it yet at that point. In Star Trek Online, Sisko convinces another Prophet to give the player character a task, suggesting he is still at the celestial temple in that continuity as well.
But the celestial temple is hardly an impossible place to come back from. In fact, actor Avery Brooks specifically requested that Sisko promise his pregnant wife Kasidy that he would come back to her. Brooks did not like the representation of a Black man abandoning his pregnant wife to raise their child alone, and as a result Sisko appeared to reassure Kasidy that he would return – presumably, while their child was still relatively young. As Picard season 3 has clearly shown, suddenly meeting your child as an adult is not the same as raising them.
Indeed, in the non-canon Star Trek novelverse, Sisko has already come back. In the Deep Space Nine relaunch novels, he returned on the day of his and Kasidy’s daughter’s birth. In the new series of comics from IDW, he returns after three years. In the hypothetical new episode sketched out by Deep Space Nine’s writers in the 2019 documentary What We Left Behind, Sisko reappears after 20 years and says, “I’m sorry, Jake. I lost track of time.”
Even if Sisko were still with the Prophets by the time of Picard (which would break his promise to Kasidy, who would have been waiting 26 years by then), there’s nothing stopping him from featuring in any of the current shows as a Prophet, just as Wesley Crusher made a cameo appearance as a Traveler in Picard season 2. In fact, he should theoretically have a very easy time showing up whenever he wants, since time has no meaning to the Prophets. Like Wesley, Sisko could jump to other timelines, and could even pop up in the 23rd century of Strange New Worlds or the 32nd century of Discovery, as well as the 24th and 25th-century-set Lower Decks, Prodigy, or Picard.
So Sisko’s return is far from impossible. But fans know better than to get their hopes up too much at this point. After all, Deep Space Nine tends to receive less attention among the wealth of references, homages, actor cameos, and other nods in the currently airing Star Trek shows.
The underrated show has not been entirely absent from modern Trek, of course. Lower Decks devoted the sixth episode of its third season to creating what was essentially a short episode of Deep Space Nine, complete with an homage to the show’s title sequence. It also featured two of the three characters left on the space station at the end of the show’s finale, Colonel Kira and Quark, though poor Dr. Bashir was left out for some reason (the rest of the characters had all gone on to other things at the end of the show). And Lower Decks also informed us back in season 1 that Chief Miles O’Brien was “the most important person in Starfleet history,” although they have yet to explain why in-universe (the actual reason was that it was a tribute to him as the original lower-decks character, as Mike McMahan told StarTrek.com).
But beyond that, The Next Generation and Voyager have received notably more attention. Prodigy even revisits the Delta Quadrant setting, and a central storyline revolves around Voyager’s former First Officer Chakotay going missing and Janeway trying to find him. Picard has also picked up on stories from Voyager, including by bringing back Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine. There has even been a Voyager cameo in Lower Decks from Robert Duncan MacNeill’s Tom Paris. But however many references Lower Decks itself makes to other series, it is spiritually a sequel to (and loving spoof of) The Next Generation – it even uses the same font on the credits and episode titles.
And then there is Picard, which is a direct sequel to The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner are featured in all three seasons, and the third season brings back most of the main cast members in some shape or form (whether Denise Crosby will get a cameo as either Tasha Yar or her daughter Sela has yet to be seen). Surprisingly, Picard season 3 may now also be the best hope for a surprise Sisko return in modern Trek.
Two characters from The Next Generation also appeared as regular characters on Deep Space Nine. Colm Meaney’s Miles O’Brien, a recurring character on The Next Generation, transferred to Deep Space Nine at the beginning of the series, and he was joined from season 4 onwards by Michael Dorn’s Worf. We don’t know whether we will get an appearance from Chief O’Brien (perhaps Lower Decks has something in mind for him), but Worf is already making waves in Picard season 3 as our eyes and ears into a new Changeling conspiracy that threatens the Federation.
As longtime Trek fans will undoubtedly remember, the Changelings were the Founders of the Dominion, Deep Space Nine’s main antagonists throughout the Dominion War storyline that dominated later seasons. And where the Changelings are, Deep Space Nine references must surely follow. In Picard season 3 episode “Seventeen Seconds,” for example, Worf tells Raffi about an old friend of his from the Changelings’ Great Link. This is, of course, a reference to Odo, one of two Deep Space Nine characters we are sadly unlikely to see again, because their actors – René Auberjonois and Aron Eisenberg (who played Nog) – have passed away.
As well as drawing on the series’ major villains, Picard has also already made a sort-of-reference to Sisko himself. In the alternate timeline of season 2, in which Seven of Nine is President Annika Hansen, General Sisko is mentioned to be a Confederation Officer. When Seven tells her husband she wants a Confederation Officer to brief her on the Vulcan War, it is Sisko he says he will call before she stops him because she wants Rios. Considering this is a reality in which General Picard has the skulls of Gul Dukat, General Martok, Grand Nagus Zek (more Deep Space Nine references), and Sarek on display in his trophy room, we can only imagine how vicious an enemy this General Sisko might be. But he does not appear on screen, and as an alternate timeline character, he is not “our” Sisko anyway.
Picard season 3 episode “No Win Scenario” drew a more oblique but possibly more significant connection to Sisko. For the first time since the pilot of Deep Space Nine, we saw Picard confronted by a traumatized Starfleet veteran of Wolf 359, the battle in which he, as the assimilated Locutus of Borg, led the Borg forces against Starfleet. Like Sisko, Captain Liam Shaw of the USS Titan hates Picard because he fought and lost people in that battle. It’s a grudge Sisko himself held against Picard at the start of Deep Space Nine, having lost his wife in that very battle, although the commander was never as rude or disrespectful as Shaw.
Still, the series is strangely hesitant to make a direct reference to Sisko. The episode in which the Wolf 359 conversation takes place is titled after one of Kirk’s most famous lines (“I don’t believe in the no-win scenario”). Even more oddly, it features a name-drop for Janeway in a reference to an incident we never saw on screen, that is not connected to Seven of Nine, and that requires Voyager’s occasional bad guys the Hirogen to somehow make it to the Alpha Quadrant. We love a Janeway reference, but when the writers go that out of their way to mention her and still barely acknowledge Sisko’s existence while directly pulling threads from Deep Space Nine, it does start to feel a bit strange.
If Star Trek does eventually become interested in bringing the character back, and considering the franchise’s general tendency to avoid recasting, any return for Sisko would require Avery Brooks to be open to the idea. Brooks’ most recent on-screen credit was for the film 15 Minutes, back in 2001. Since then, he has acted in theater, narrated documentaries and audiobooks, and taught acting classes, and he did return to voice Captain Sisko for the Star Trek: Legacy video game in 2006. He also took part in William Shatner’s 2011 Star Trek documentary film The Captains, but declined to appear in What We Left Behind, in which archival interview footage was used instead.
To be clear, Brooks has never said that he’s unwilling to play the character again. It could instead be a case of Brooks waiting for the right material. Whether that means the right script, the right show, the right offer, or whether Brooks is simply uninterested in returning at all, only Brooks would know. As fans, we can only hope that some day, somehow, he will be persuaded to give us at least one more glimpse of 1990s Trek’s toughest captain.
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard stream on Thursdays on Paramount+.