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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Complete Second Season By Brian Jacks
Like clockwork, scarcely a couple months after the first season of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine series hit DVD, Paramount has now released the show’s second season (come on Fox; if they can release Trek this fast than surely you can do the same for The Simpsons!). As is usually the case with television, season two is longer than the first, clocking in at 26 episodes spread across seven disks, and like the Next Generation box sets, this one is chock full of extras. Trekkers, you may show your excitement.
The years 1993-1994 were a milestone in Trek history. The franchise’s mainstay, Next Generation, was finally heading off the air after seven glorious seasons, and handing over the reins to the relatively untested Deep Space Nine. The trepidation was almost palpable, as for the first time in Trekdom, the Federation’s exploits would be centered not on a starship, but on a space station far from Earth and surrounded by alien cultures. While the first season of DS9 eased the fears of many and pushed the show off to a running start, it was nonetheless an uneasy transition. Thankfully, if the first season demonstrated the show had a place in the Trek universe, the second season would cement it.
Deep Space Nine’s first season introduced us to the series’ main characters; a commingling of alien cultures, some known – such as the Trill, Bajorans, Cardassians, and Ferengi – and some new, such as the shapeshifting chief of security, Odo. Through the show’s first twenty episodes we were gently eased into the series and its locations: the station, Quark’s bar, Bajor, and of course, the Wormhole, with the unexplored Delta Quadrant hinting at a larger storyline resting over the horizon. The second season continues that tradition and begins the march towards the climactic Federation-Dominion war. Throughout the second season, subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) references are dropped to the mysterious organization nestled firmly on the other side. Quark and the Ferengi discover the group controls trade in the area, and the season’s last episode introduces the Jem'Hadar, soldiers of the Dominion. A Galaxy-class starship is attacked, leaving the impression that the third season begins an all-out struggle.
Season two isn’t all about conflict on the other side of the wormhole, however. Each of the main characters is given their own episodes to explore more fully who they are, and what they are about. Odo’s origin continues as a focal point for the series, hinting at what’s to come. Quark’s quest for profit is yet again the centerpiece for a very entertaining episode co-starring The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn, and even Quark’s brother Rom is given room to develop. Both Kira and Dax are given episodes that explore their roots and culture, and Bajor’s political situation is the stage for the season’s three-part opener. Conflicts and space exploration aside, there’s some genuine Roddenberry-ish gems in here that the Trek creator would have loved. Gene went for storylines that really delved unflinchingly into societal issues, and a few of those serious episodes are included. Even secondary characters are given room to come into their own, such as the secretive Cardassian tailor, Garak (giving us our first mention of the Obsidian Order). What would be a continued nod to Star Trek: The Original Series starts here with the episode “Crossover,” a parallel universe story that’s based on a transporter accident James T. Kirk experienced in the classic “Mirror, Mirror” (the one with the evil bearded Spock).
Deep Space Nine has been remarked by many to be the finest in the franchise, and after viewing the first two seasons, it’s not hard to see why. With the colossal battles to come, it only gets better from here.
The episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season two are presented in their original 1.33:1 fullframe broadcast aspect ratio. Like the last seasons of Next Generation and the premiere season of DS9, the transfer is relatively clean with little edge enhancement or compression issues. Colors are strong with darker tones well defined (and there’s a lot of blacks here). All in all, about as good as you could get with a season that’s reaching its tenth-birthday.
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Audio-wise, the season is presented for the first time in Dolby Digital 5.1. While the rear channels are mostly utilized for ship and station sounds and other such ambiance, the more aggressive nature of some of the storylines (i.e. more battles) allow for more usage of the soundstage. The transfer is presented cleanly with no audio distortion noticed.
Like the previous Next Generation and DS9 box sets, Paramount has included a hefty amount of supplements into the collection. Since there are no commentaries included on any of the episodes, the studio relies on a number of featurettes to satisfy fans.
Headlining the extras is a 15-minute featurette entitled, “New Frontiers: The Story of Deep Space Nine.” Featuring interviews with executive producers Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr, this covers the general concept of deciding to locate the series on a space station as opposed to a ship or other locale. Interestingly, Piller reveals that they were originally contemplating setting the show in Federation colony, basically making it a futuristic Western. Another topic discussed is whether Gene would approve (Ira says he would). Quite a bit of time is spent on talking about character development, and defining who each of the mainstays are (Sisko as the anchor, Odo as the Spock/Data character, etc.). They also mention they originally wanted Next Generation’s Ensign Ro on the series, but when the actress nixed that idea they developed the character of Kira.
Continuing the tradition of having each DVD collection contain one featurette focusing on a main character, this time we delve extensively into Lieutenant Jadzia Dax. Featuring a number of interviews with the radiant Terry Farrell, topics discussed include her getting the part, working with the make-up team on designing the look of the character, and her difficulty in speaking the advanced technical jargon inherent in playing the station’s science officer. Because this discusses the character through six seasons, a number of possible spoilers are involved here, so newbies beware. “Crew Dossier: Jadzia Dax” lasts about 18 minutes.
Like the first season, the second also includes an installment of “Michael Westmore’s Aliens.” Lasting about 12-minutes, the show’s make-up supervisor takes us inside the various aliens he worked on in the second season, as well as original characters such as the Trill. He also touches on deciding what a Cardassian woman would look like (one had never appeared before the second season of DS9).
“Deep Space Nine Sketchbook” is an 11-minute piece with senior illustrator Rick Sternback talking about creating character and set designs and other conceptual art he and his team created for season two.
“New Station, New Ships” is a five-minute look at designing the station and the ships, including a Cardassian battlecruiser and Deep Space Nine’s runabout shuttle.
Like the previous season, a number of short hidden vignettes are also included, each lasting from two to three minutes. Containing ten in total, they mostly include various episode-centric discussions, although one features Armin Shimerman (Quark) talking about working with Wallace Shawn, and another involves Andrew Robinson talking about his character Garak. Another one is a short look at the Bajoran religion.
The Show: A. If the show’s first season was great, the second only improves upon it.
The Look: B. Mostly clean and vivid with few compression artifacts.
The Sound: B+. Some pretty cool battles give the soundstage more to work with.
The Extras: B+. Much like its Next Generation cousins, this set is loaded.
Overall: A.Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is worth owning at any price. Don’t just stand there…go get it! Now!