In Deep Space 9, once the war began, the same officers were assigned to the Defiant as were running Deep Space 9. Keeping this in-universe, wouldn't the skill set of officers who run a space station be different than the ones who run a starship, especially at war?

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    O'Brien is a decorated helmsman and engineer, Dax is a class-9 pilot, Doctor Bashir is a doctor, etc, etc. Why do you feel that they're under-qualified?
    – Valorum
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:25
  • I don't really think that there is an in-universe answer that makes sense; obviously they were the same people because it was the main cast; but in-universe, you need BOTH a crew to man the station and another to man the Defiant; you can't shut one down because your main cast must go to the other, either one of them can't be left without their senior commanding officers, the ones that have everything under control. I don't really have an answer for you.
    – Sekhemty
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:36
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    I'm not convinced the skillset is so much the problem. I worry more about who takes care of DS9 while the Defiant is on a mission. Especially since DS9 is such a valuable target for the Cardassians and the Dominion. Sep 13, 2017 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


Because the ship was assigned to Sisko/DS9 and wasn't autonomous in the same way other starships were.

Even though the Defiant was designed to be a warship, the project was abandoned and the unfinished prototype had never been put in use. Sisko requests it with the sole purpose of deterring a Dominion attack by showing them that DS9 can defend itself if necessary. The Defiant was a flashy ship with a lot of teeth so Sisko thought he could show they were prepared to defend DS9 if they had to.

SISKO: You'll have complete access to the ship evaluation reports but to put it simply, it's overgunned and overpowered for a ship its size. During battle drills, it nearly tore itself apart when the engines were tested at full capacity.

KIRA: And this is the ship that Starfleet sends us to fight off an attack by the Dominion?

SISKO: We're not going to fight the Dominion, Major. At least, not yet anyway. Our mission is to take the Defiant into the Gamma Quadrant and try to find the leaders of the Dominion, the Founders. We have to convince them that the Federation does not represent a threat to them.

BASHIR: What if they don't believe us?

SISKO: That's why I asked for the Defiant. She may have flaws, but she has teeth, and I want the Dominion to know that we can and will defend ourselves if necessary.

DS9: The Search Part I

Given DS9's strategic value to the Dominion, the Federation (and showrunners, of course) felt that it was ridiculous to expect DS9 to be able to defend itself using only runabouts.

At one point, Robert Wolfe and I were sitting around after the 'Jem'Hadar' episode had been filmed. We were looking at dailies and said, 'Jesus, we're blowing up Galaxy Class starships; these guys are tough, and all we have are these freaking runabouts' [....] We had to come up with a ship to combat [the Dominion]."

Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 79

The Defiant was intended to complement DS9's fleet of runabouts, giving them a faster, stronger ship to perform away missions and protect DS9 from the Dominion. The show's producers even referred to it as "a beefy runabout." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 162)

As such, it made sense to be piloted and operated as an extension of the space station in the same way normal runabouts were.

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    The Defiant was something more than a Runabout+++; the quote that you are citing explicitly states that it was a real warship, not a "super shuttle", and was capable to operate also independently of DS9 (see in example when the Cardassians reconquered the station in the first part of Season 6, or during First Contact); Runabouts couldn't do that. To have the same crew man the Defiant and DS9 more or less makes the same sense as having the Space Shuttle manned by the people at the Space Center in Houston
    – Sekhemty
    Sep 13, 2017 at 22:19
  • @Sekhemty don't you mean have the Space Shuttle manned by the same people who man the ISS? Oh wait...
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 14, 2017 at 12:33
  • The Space Shuttles were never "assigned" to the ISS, they were based on Earth; astronauts on the ISS did not use the Shuttle to perform "away mission"
    – Sekhemty
    Sep 14, 2017 at 12:37
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    @Sekhemty - You're right that the Defiant was built to be a warship but the project was abandoned. The ship was a rough prototype and was never officially finished or commissioned as a warship. It was requested by Sisko for the purposes I mentioned above. It's because of that purpose that it'd be considered an addition to the fleet of runabouts and why the producers considered it a "beefy runabout". Sep 14, 2017 at 13:36
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    @TheIronCheek the project was mothballed at the time, but after the design flaws were worked out, the Defiant class did go into production (one is seen in S6Ep22 "Valiant").
    – Irishpanda
    Sep 15, 2017 at 19:12

In universe, the Defiant was a prototype, and consequently rather valuable; the Federation would likely prefer that it be crewed and commanded by only the most trusted personnel.

Defiant was "attached" to DS9 for station defense, and had little in the way of on-board living accommodations, so it makes sense that personnel would come from the station. As the commanding officer of the station as well as one of the ship's designers, it's not a huge leap to imagine Sisko would want to captain her himself.

From S3E9, "Defiant":

SISKO: Then bring me with you. I can help you stop the Defiant and prove our good faith. I was in charge of the shipyard where the Defiant was built... I helped design it. I know her vulnerabilities... her weaknesses...

The Defiant would likely make regular patrols of the area but we only see the occasions when Sisko and friends are running the ship; it's not clear if there are other patrols run by other crew members.

Out of universe: It's where the action is, so that's where some of the main characters are going to be.

  • Obviously an in-universe explanation is desired. Sep 15, 2017 at 17:39
  • I think the bit I added in postscript is in-universe. The Defiant wasn't just any little ship. I'll clarify in my answer.
    – Irishpanda
    Sep 15, 2017 at 18:34
  • I don't recall Sisko being one the ship's designers. Do you have a reference for that? Sep 18, 2017 at 13:57
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    I will add the reference to my answer.
    – Irishpanda
    Sep 18, 2017 at 16:38

The Defiant was never originally official, it was simply a means for them to hoist the flag to the Dominion, after it's successful shakedown and re-engineering the ship class was put into production. Given the Defiant's small size and minute crew requirements (less than 50) and the size of the DS9 station complement Defiant makes an "Anchor tenant"; one that can stay at station for the majority of it's time under maintenance and only activated when needed. Defiant is in essence an oversized version of a "Runabout". Unlike other starships whose mission parameters are exploration, cargo/utility, logistics, science, transportation. The Defiant is a warship, real world warships spend most of their time either on patrol, deployment or in drydock/berthed. So there's no reason to give it a new crew when DS9 detachment is ideal.

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