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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season One By Brian Jacks
After a spectacular whirlwind DVD release of all seven Star Trek: The Next Generation seasons, Paramount has now released the first year of franchise’s third series, Deep Space Nine. Comprising twenty episodes over six discs, The Complete First Season takes fans boldly into post-Roddenberry territory, allowing fans to finally experience the thrills of intergalactic space opera in the confines of their own holodeck (or 27 inch Samsung, whatever).
Premiered during TNG’s sixth season, DS9 was the first series developed without the input of legendary Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry. Considered by many (this reviewer included) to be the finest of the shows, DS9 brought together a menagerie of characters on a tiny little space station in the farthest reaches of the Alpha Quadrant. Whereas Next Generation concentrated primarily on external threats and conflicts, Deep Space Nine’s confined environment allowed a hefty amount of internal situations. To provide the substance of this bold new direction, the producers assembled a varied group of individuals, headlined by Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), the first black lead in the Trek Universe, and played by one of the most incredible and passionate actors around. If Brooks impressed me on Spenser: For Hire, his work on DS9 just blew me out of the water (on a related note, it’s great hearing Brooks talk off-set; he speaks in the same almost-Shakespearean tone in real life).
Joining Sisko in Federation garb was Doctor Julian Bashir, chief engineer and ex-Enterprise crewman Miles O'Brien, and my personal favorite, science officer Jadzia Dax, played deliciously by Terry Farrell, undoubtedly the hottest actress to ever don a Starfleet uniform, or any uniform for any job, ever. Joining them was the feisty Bajoran first-officer Kira Nerys, and one of the best pairing of characters in television’s history, Head of Security constable Odo and his always-scheming Ferengi pseudo-nemesis, Quark. The back-and-forth nature of their relationship made for some of the funniest lines and moments in Trekdom, and it’s all here in digital greatness. For those who are wondering, Worf doesn’t enter the picture until four years in.
Wherein Next Generation was able to transport the stories to faraway worlds, in Deep Space Nine the conflicts were generally brought right to them. Taking place on a space station situated next to a stable wormhole, Deep Space Nine was a hodgepodge of alien characters, each with their own distinct cultures, hatreds, and alliances. This allowed for a fascinating level of interaction between differing species, such as the headlining conflict between Bajor and Cardassia, and later the spectacular battles between the Dominion and the Federation.
Another notable feature of Deep Space Nine was its delving deep into dozens of characters, especially the mainstays on the station. Right off to bat in the first season we learn about Odo the Shapeshifter’s desire to explore who he is, Jadzia’s joining with a century’s old slug, the sometimes-strained father-son relationship between Benjamin and Jake Sisco, Quark’s unending (and often hilarious) quest for profit, and so on. Even infrequent characters are profiled to good extent, such as the Ferengi financial leader, Grand Negus Zek, played brilliantly by Wallace Shawn. Other characters such as Garak, the mysterious Cardassian tailor, make their first appearances here, setting a stage for more prominent roles in future seasons.
Deep Space Nine is a fan-favorite for a reason, and after viewing these episodes it’s not hard to see why. Season two can’t come soon enough.
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Each episode of Deep Space Nine is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. Because of age and a fairly low-budget in its opening season, some grain and “mushyness” exists, although for the most part it’s an excellent transfer. Having watched many an episode on both cable and videotape, there have been some noticeable improvements achieved during its leap to DVD. All in all, it’s as good as it’s gonna get.
Much like the Next Generation sets, both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround are included (with optional subtitles). While the majority of the audio is directed through the center channel, the surrounds are put to use in quite a few instances, although mostly to convey ambiances like ship sounds and the wormhole opening. Again, considering this is a television show and not a feature film, it’s a more than acceptable transfer.
Each of the Next Generation releases included a considerable number of supplements, and the Deep Space Nine edition follows in that tradition.
Headlining the extras are six featurettes. “Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning” is a basic overview of the series, and includes interviews with producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller, production designer Herman Zimmerman, and the show’s art director. Lasting 17 minutes, topics discussed include what went into creating the look of the station, and the building of various sets, including the Promenade, Quark’s Bar, and Operations. Then we have a ten minute piece entitled “Michael Westmore’s Aliens,” where the make-up designer takes us through the process of creating the show’s dozens of alien cultures. Westmore also worked on TNG, and so he’s able to provide insight into older characters as well, such as the Klingons, the Cardassians, and the Bajorans. Dax is also discussed.
Each season collection will contain an extended look at one of the main character, and kicking off the featurette series is “Crew Dossier: Kira Nerys,” a 14-minute look at the second-in-command. Obviously, it features quite a few interviews with actress Nana Visitor, but we also hear from producer Ira Steven Behr who talks about the growth of the character. Visitor also talks about her real-life romance with co-star Alexander Siddig (Bashir – they later divorced), and the experience of playing Kira while pregnant.
“Secrets of Quarks Bar” is a five-minute discussion with Star Trek archivist Penny Juday, who talks about the various props used in Quark’s Bar, in particular items like bottles, glasses, and trays. Hearing how she raided flea markets for these 24th Century items is downright interesting.
In “Alien Artifacts,” we’re treated to a three-minute session with Propmaster Joe Longo, a pleasantly gruff-looking fellow who shows us various props used on the show, such as tricorders, card-readers, and the many types of weapons, including phasers and knives.
The production aspect continues in “Deep Space Nine Sketchbook,” where we gain additional insight into the station’s design from Star Trek veteran illustrator Rich Sternbach. This delves into it pretty deeply, and discusses the evolutionary process of the design from concept stage all the way to modeling. This featurette lasts almost six minutes.
We also have nine hidden (although easily found) short vignettes, each one featuring an interview with an actor talking about his or her character. These include a look at Sisko, Dax, Miles O’Brien, Kira, Bashir, Jake Sisco, and two each for Dax and Odo. Each last about two to three minutes.
Rounding out the extras is a photo gallery, consisting of pictures from both behind-the-scenes and post-production stills.
The Show: A. Easily one of the best show’s on television.
The Look: B. Minor grain aside, it’s still pretty to look at.
The Sound: B.DS9 finally available in 5.1 surround? Count us in.
The Extras: B+. Much like its Next Generation cousins, this set is loaded.
Overall: A. Arguably the best Trek ever. Worth a buy at any price.