Nana Visitor of 'Deep Space Nine' Talks 'Star Trek' Past and Future

Nana Visitor, Kim Nerys
Nana Visitor appears in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Season 6 in 1997. (Image credit: Everett Collection)

"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" — a 1990s series that took years to be accepted by fans — remains relevant as the multiplayer game 'Star Trek Online' ventures into the series' plot.

When Nana Visitor assumed the role of Kira Nerys on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (DS9), her character was an embittered former warrior for the first couple of seasons. Kira's people, the Bajorans, had been at war with another race called the Cardassians. Kira just wanted to continue the war and kill Cardassians, even though the sides had brokered a peace.

"If you thought about taking a woman from any war-torn country today, who is fighting on one side or the other, and moved her to America or anywhere else that was a safe haven, she will have post-traumatic stress," Visitor, who lends her voice to an expansion pack of the video game "Star Trek Online," released June 5, said in an exclusive interview with [What I Learned by Watching Every 'Star Trek' Show and Movie]

Kira's character was ahead of her time, Visitor added. In 1993, when DS9 first began airing episodes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was known as a medical condition; it was added to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the 1980s, based on the experience of treating Vietnam War soldiers. 

Yet PTSD was still an obscure disorder in the 1990s, according to Visitor. Today, it's more widely recognized. One of her own sons fought in Afghanistan and came back with the disorder, she added. But he is doing well with treatment, and will enter Columbia University shortly for postsecondary studies, she added.

Picking up viewers, decades later

Twenty-five years later, DS9 is still wowing viewers with its prescience. It began its run on television as a controversial "Star Trek" series, focusing on the adventures of inhabitants on a space station named "Deep Space Nine" instead of the starship crews used in the original "Star Trek" (1966-69) and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987-1994). 

The series gained popularity and ran until 1999. And it's still exerting an influence on the "Star Trek" stories told; several characters from it (including Kira) were added in a recent expansion to the "Star Trek Online" game. At the time of her interview in mid-April, Visitor had not started voicing her character and did not know anything about what her plotline would contain. She did say, however, that Kira and DS9 would continue to have relevance for people who weren't even born yet when the series aired.

Famously, viewers were frustrated during the run of "Deep Space Nine" because the series did not contain each plotline within a single episode. This meant that in an era of cable television and VCRs, fans had to either be in front of the television during airtime or manually setting up a videotape recording to keep up with the series. Not many shows back then adopted that format, but today it's very common. Most Netflix series, for example, include complex seasons that are designed for several hours of watching at a time.

"People are now used to serialized TV shows, and people want to sit down and binge-watch — I certainly do," Visitor said. "That was the big problem with 'Deep Space Nine.' People didn't think it was possible to get to an episode you missed, and to hop back in was difficult. Now it's a preferred way."

Visitor remains active as an actor today. Fans of the reimagined "Battlestar: Galactica" (2004-09) were briefly treated to a Visitor cameo in the fourth season, when she appeared as a woman dying of a medical condition. She also played Dr. Elizabeth Renfro/Madame X, a recurring character in "Dark Angel" — a James Cameron cyberpunk television series that aired between 2000 and 2002. Visitor added that fans will soon be able to see her on stage, but the project details are still classified. ['Star Trek Online' Offers Custom 3D-Printed Starships]

Legacy of "Star Trek"

Visitor said she's watched part of the new "Star Trek Discovery" television series and at least a few of the rebooted "Star Trek" films that have played in Hollywood since 2009. "Some of them I really liked, and some of them not so much," she said of the new films.

"But you know what? It doesn't matter what I think," she added. "They are still making 'Star Trek' movies. As long as they hold a place for something that may not be 'Star Wars'-ish, that isn't all just big battles but has some kind of thoughtfulness behind it, that's the part I hope isn't lost."

DS9 left an enduring legacy, especially in Visitor's personal life. Visitor married DS9 co-star Alexander Siddig in 1997, during the series' run, and her subsequent pregnancy with their son, Django, was included as a plotline on the show. The couple divorced and Visitor later remarried, but Django is one example of her everyday connection to DS9, she said. Also, not a week goes by where she isn't in contact with somebody in the "Star Trek" world, especially Denise Crosby of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Visitor says she constantly gets people coming up to her at conventions, saying that they were inspired to get into the space field because of her. One person once arrived at an autograph table with a video of a Mars landing, saying he helped land that system on the Red Planet, she recalled. "Oh my God, you want my autograph? I want yours!" she quipped. And when she visits NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she added, she gets treated like a rock star.

When asked if there's something Visitor doesn't get much of a chance to talk about in interviews, she said that she likes to keep herself independent of affiliations — even when it comes to describing herself as an actress. "I don't like to be called an actress, because that signifies a whole lifestyle that goes with it, and it's not true of me. But I'm an actor — it's what I do, it's who I am. So I stay in this nebulous place."

As for "Star Trek Online," you can get more details about how to access the game here.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: