All that is needed is:
root~# apt-get install emacs21 postgresql postgresql-dev postgresql-doc
The rest can be compliled (i.e. Tcl 8.4, aolserver, etc.). You may want to also do:
root~# apt-get install wget lynx ssh mutt
If you go graphical then the only thing i personally would add is mozilla and xmms, but that's me. other good things to apt-get or complie are your favorite mail server (i like qmail myself - which needs to be complied due to a Dan Bernstein's source only distribution license).
I'm in the process of switching all of our servers to debian (from redhat, windows, and proprietary firewall software), and have been doing a lot of testing recently. I read this line somewhere "Debian is a pain to install, but the easiest distro to maintain"... at least on servers i'd say that i have to disagree, its easy to install once you swtich your paradigm (i've even done some installs on remote systems running redhat that ran without a hitch - without me needing to ever physically be at the machine - "debootstrap" and ssh are great!). Ongoing maintenance has been trivially simple up until now...
If you have the space you might want to start from a knoppix CD and just copy all the files they use - they have a pretty complete desktop - and it runs on my Dell C840 without any problems (well i needed to go through expert mode to get the sound to work, but that's not crucial stuff).