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PARAMOUNT HOME VIDEO

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Various
Cast:
Avery Brooks, Rene Auberjonois, Nicole de Boer, Michael Dorn, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Siddig El Fadil, Nana Visitor
Writing Credits:
Various

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
7-Disc set
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 999 min.
Price: $129.99
Release Date: 4/1/2003

Bonus:
• “New Frontiers: The Story of Deep Space Nine Featurette
• “Crew Dossier: Jadzia Dax” Featurette
• “Michael Westmore’s Aliens: Season Two” Featurette
• “New Station, New Ships” Featurette
• “Deep Space Nine Sketchbook – Season Two” Featurette


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Second Season (1994)

Disc Six

The Maquis, Part II continues this story. As usual, a discussion of this episode’s plot might reveal spoilers from Part I, so I’ll skip a synopsis and leap directly into my thoughts about “The Maquis” as a whole.

DS9 seems to revel in underground rebel movements, and “Maquis” suffers from that tendency. These kinds of storylines get a little old after a while, and parts of “Maquis” display that “been there, done that” feeling. The shows also run too long; it doesn’t feel like we really have 90 minutes of material here. “Maquis” starts well and offers some intriguing moments, especially due to Sisko’s personal interests that develop in the second part, but overall it appears pretty average.

Trivia note: Part II includes an appearance from Cardassian Legate Parn, played by John Schuck. The actor joins a select group of performers who appeared in various Trek pieces via different parts – and species. Schuck also played a Klingon ambassador in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The home video version of the latter also featured a dual role actor, DS9’s own Rene Auberjonois; he portrayed a Starfleet colonel in that edition of Country.

The relationship between Bashir and Cardassian tailor Garak receives exposition in The Wire. While they wait to get lunch together, the doctor notices that Garak doesn’t look well. However, the Cardassian resolutely refuses Bashir’s attempts to get him into the Infirmary. Garak then behaves unusually, such as when he gets tanked at Quark’s bar. When Garak collapses, Bashir discovers an implant in the Cardassian’s brain. The show tells us more about it and Garak himself.

Those elements help create some of the better parts of “Wire”. Garak has been a mysterious presence, and this show explores his past nicely. We also learn of the Obsidian Order, a Cardassian secret police, and the program presents a solid examination of internal Cardassian affairs.

When they return from a mission to the Gamma Quadrant in Crossover, Bashir and Kira experience a weird fluctuation. After they emerge from the wormhole, they find themselves in an alternate reality with an alternate Kira in charge of the station and lots of other alternate factors at work. Terrans are lowest on the food chain here, so Bashir gets sent to ore mine. The two Kiras get to know each other as well and we discover some interesting details about this different world.

Trek adores its alternate reality episodes, so we’ve seen this territory surveyed in the past. However, “Crossover” manages to give the subject a clever slant, especially in the way it connects to an episode of classic Trek. “Crossover” provides a slick and stimulating program.

Kira’s beau Vedek Bareil returns in The Collaborator, as he awaits an election to see if he gains the position of Kai on Bajor. This pits him against another recurring character, Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher). Bareil experiences visions of his own death. Along the way, we meet Kubus Oak (Bert Remsen), a Bajoran who worked with the Cardassians during their occupation. He feels tired of exile and wants to return home, but that concept creates friction among those who remember his earlier actions. Matters complicate when Winn grants Kubus sanctuary and we get further involved in Bajoran politics.

On one hand, I always enjoy the smarmy and sanctimonious portrayal of Winn, as Fletcher gives her just the right sense of Nurse Ratched. On the other hand, I dislike the bland and sappy Bareil; I continue to wish for an end to his dalliance with Kira, as I tire of his presence. A second consecutive episode that focuses fairly heavily on Kira seems like a bit much, but the exploration of internal affairs on Bajor offers some good moments, and “Collaborator” offers a pretty good program.

Disc Seven

For the first time in ages, Chief O’Brien goes on vacation in Tribunal. However, this trip gets cut short when a Cardassian patrol ship stops his runabout. They arrest him for allegedly smuggling weapons, and he then undergoes a trial that depicts Cardassian “justice”.

Earlier episodes alluded to the nature of Cardassian trials, and “Tribunal” more clearly depicts the system’s functioning. Unfortunately, it does little more than show us the obvious. It’s a simple plan: you’re guilty and that’s that. “Tribunal” demonstrates some of the inner workings but it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. In addition, the culprit behind O’Brien’s framing is never in doubt. This makes “Tribunal” a mediocre program.

Note: directed by Avery Brooks, “Tribunal” marks the first occasion on which a DS9 actor would work behind the camera as well.

Season Two concludes with The Jem’Hadar. Jake Sisko needs a science project, so his dad agrees to take a trek to the Gamma Quadrant. Thought Sisko envisions a father and son b onding journey, matters complicate when Jake persuades him to invite along the boy’s friend and classmate Nog (Aron Eisenberg) too. Things get even messier when Quark butts in as well; he does so under the guise of aide to his nephew, but of course our favorite Ferengi has ulterior motives. The group have a decent time until they encounter a refugee named Eris (Molly Hagen). She’s on the run from a group called the Jem’Hadar; they take the adults prisoner but Jake and Nog get left on their own to figure out what happened.

It turns out The Dominion are involved, and the Jem’Hadar basically act like their enforcers. This makes the episode worthwhile from an expositional point of view, but the story doesn’t go much of anywhere otherwise. It feels mostly like an attempt to set up material for the future. The subplot in which Jake and Nog attempt to find their own solution reminds me a little too much of the old Next Generation programs that focused on Wesley; Trek doesn’t work well when it emphasizes its children. “The Jem’Hadar” provides a watchable but lackluster program.

Season Two of Deep Space Nine started off quite well, as its opening trilogy offered exciting and rich material. The year became much spottier after that and it lacked much focus. The most consistent thread stemmed from the moderate way that the season set up the impending menace of the Dominion, but that concept won’t pay off until some time in the future. “Jem’Hadar” doesn’t finish with a cliffhanger, but it definitely prepares us for greater conflict with the Dominion later in the series.

One way that DS9 differs from prior Trek series stems from its lack of emphasis on its leader. When I think back on Season Two, I find it hard to come up with many shows that deal heavily with Sisko. However, programs that highlight Quark, Odo, Kira, Dax and Bashir readily come to mind. It’s nice to see a more democratic balance, as DS9’s predecessors pushed their captains to an extreme. But that makes some sense, and the lack of material related to Sisko seems odd and disappointing.

Season Two does offer some improvements over Season One, though. The first year was much spottier. While Season Two provides few genuinely strong episodes, it also fails to toss out many real clunkers, and the series seems more consistent and better integrated. Clearly those behind DS9 needed a while to figure out where they wanted the show to go. Season Two does demonstrate that they totally got there just yet, but it moves the series more in that direction.

One other sign of growth stems from stronger acting. The entire crew feels more natural and they seem to better inhabit their roles. Nana Visitor shows the greatest degree of improvement, as she presents Kira as a stronger but less hammy presence.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I noticed some small improvements when I moved from Season One of Deep Space Nine to Season Two, but overall I felt the second year merited the same “B” for picture.

Sharpness remained about the same between the two seasons. As with the first year, most of the shows came across as nicely accurate and distinct. Occasional softness popped up, but this didn’t occur with any real frequency. In general, the programs seemed pretty crisp and concise. Moiré effects and jaggies also created minor and sporadic concerns that didn’t really affect the presentation, and edge enhancement appeared non-existent. A speck or two cropped up, and a little light grain also could be seen, but for the most part, DS9 looked clean and lacked issues related to source defects.

Colors provided a relative strength of DS9. While neither Next Generation or DS9 ever attempted the broad palette of the original series, the mix of aliens allowed for a variety of tones, and these came across fairly well here. Actually, DS9 looked like the darkest of the three series, and the hues seemed a bit more subdued due to that factor. Still, they worked fine for the most part, as the majority of the colors were clear and distinctive.

Black levels showed some variation. Sometimes they looked deep and dense, but other times they were a bit murky and inky. Shadow detail usually offered good definition to low-light shots, though some were a bit too opaque. Though these comments didn’t really reflect any major differences, I felt that Season Two of Deep Space Nine offered a moderately tighter and more distinctive picture when compared to the series’ first year. Hopefully Season Three will continue this trend.

As with the picture, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Deep Space Nine’s second season largely resembled that of Season One. Soundfields remained fairly heavily oriented toward the forward channels, and they tended to favor general ambience. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the station setting demonstrated some good environmental activity. Elements seemed well placed and they integrated well. For the most part, the surrounds mainly just supported the music and forward action, as I rarely heard anything terribly distinctive from the rear. When compared to Season One, the mix seemed slightly broader and more engulfing, but this improvement failed to become tremendous. Nonetheless, I thought Season Two demonstrated moderate growth in that regard.

Season Two showed similarly positive audio quality. Dialogue came across as concise and warm, and no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility marred the proceedings. As usual, the music seemed dynamic and lively. The score appeared well recorded and distinctive throughout the programs. I noticed good definition and accuracy to the effects, and those elements also contributed tight and rich bass response when appropriate. The soundtrack of Season Two edged a little closer to “B+” territory. For the time being, I’ll stick with a “B” in regard to Deep Space Nine, but I found the audio to seem quite satisfying nonetheless.

Season Two offers supplements similar to those for the Season One Deep Space Nine set. The majority of these come from five separate featurettes. We start with New Frontiers: The Story of Deep Space Nine, a 15-minute and 23-second introduction to the series’ origins. It mixes show clips, behind the scenes footage and images, and interviews with executive producers Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr plus writer/story editor Robert Hewitt Wolfe.

”Frontiers” mostly covers the show’s basic origins and examines the development of the characters. We hear how the producers considered setting the series on a colony and we get notes about how this series differs from other Trek offerings. They repeat themselves too much and “Frontiers” unfortunately contains some spoilers that show developments in later episodes, but it gives us a decent look at some concepts behind DS9

Someone also needed to slap a “spoiler alert” on Crew Dossier: Jadzia Dax. The 17-minute and 45-second piece offers the same mix of production footage, show snippets and interviews we find on the other featurettes. Though we hear a little from executive producer Ira Steven Behr, actor Terry Farrell dominates “Dossier”. She discusses her character and her arc. She goes into some fun details about the role and its challenges, and we even get to learn of one problematic episode for her when she couldn’t get down her lines; amusingly, the featurette then shows the scene in question so we can see how they cut around her verbal fumbles. Farrell proves to be bubbly and engaging as she chats about her role.

Unfortunately, we hear a lot about episodes that some of us – that’d be me – haven’t actually seen. This reveals twists in future seasons. Not only does this mean that much of the information lacks relevance for the neophyte viewer – that’d be me again – but also it takes away some of the surprises that should later occur. The damage doesn’t seem harmful, and for those who already know DS9’s subsequent seasons, “Dossier” offers a lively and informative look at the character. Nonetheless, since it emphasizes a lot about future programs, its placement here seems inappropriate and annoying.

Happily, the same concerns don’t affect Michael Westmore’s Aliens: Season Two. In this 12-minute and 13-second featurette, we get remarks from make-up designer Westmore as he discusses his work. He covers these characters: Skrreea, Dosi, Trill, Melora, Cardassian women, the Cardassian vole, Fenna & Nidell, Maihar’du, Klingon legends, and Fallit Kot. Westmore’s insightful comments help make “Aliens” a very interesting program that sheds a lot of light on his creative processes.

A quick glimpse of some props, New Station, New Ships gives us more information on how the staff invented some of the material. The five-minute and 30-second featurette presents comments from visual effects supervisors Dan Curry and Robert Legato, senior illustrator Rick Sternbach, and illustrator Jim Martin. They discuss the design of DS9 itself as well as the runabout and the Cardassian warship. The runabout dominates the piece, though we learn a good amount about the other two as well. Some behind the scenes shots allow this show to become fairly informative.

The final obvious featurette, Deep Space Nine Sketchbook runs 11 minutes and three seconds. It includes statements from senior illustrator Rick Sternbach and illustrator Jim Martin as we see images of concept drawings created for DS9 props. The pair provide some good notes about design issues and their work, and “Sketchbook” gives a somewhat superficial but reasonably useful piece.

In the last paragraph, I used the qualifier “obvious” because DS9 includes many Easter eggs. Referred to as “Hidden Files”, we get ten of these strewn throughout the two screens of the DVD’s extras menu. These clips last between 121 seconds and 213 seconds for a total of 26 minutes and two seconds of footage. These include comments from executive producer Michael Piller, scenic art supervisor Mike Okuda, writer/story editor Robert Hewitt Wolfe, actors Terry Farrell, Armin Shimerman, and Andrew Robinson, and director David Livingston.

The “Hidden Files” cover a variety of topics. A few discuss specific episodes and their stories. One looks at guest actor Wallace Shawn, while another discusses recurring character Garak. We get more info about the “Blood Oath” actors who reprised their old “original series” roles plus notes about the Bajoran religion and some visual elements of the series. While the “Hidden Files” in the Season One set seemed fairly superficial, these offer more concrete and useful material. They toss in some cool details and appear generally informative.

Positive interface note: as usual with Paramount DVDs, all the extras include English subtitles. Paramount remain the only studio that does this as a given. Negative interface note: if you use chapter skip to bypass the opening credits after the end of each episode’s starting sequence, you’ll often wind up farther into the show than you’d like. Chapter two should always begin immediately after the conclusion of the opening credits, and this inconsistency seems annoying.

Since Season One of Deep Space Nine improved markedly during its second half, I hoped that trend would continue through the series’ second year. Unfortunately, Season Two seemed fairly spotty and inconsistent, and the show didn’t attain the stature I wished would occur. Still, the year started off with an excellent trilogy, and quite a few other good episodes appeared. In addition, the series seemed to gain its bearings better, as the characters and situations meshed more smoothly. It wasn’t a slam-dunk year, but Season Two nonetheless gave us some good work and demonstrated growth.

The DVDs followed the same line. Picture and audio improved slightly compared to Season One, though they remained pretty similar. The set’s supplements also matched up favorably and closely with those on the first set. This remains good news for Deep Space Nine fans, as they should feel pleased with the series’ second season on DVD. Paramount did a nice job with this release, and I look forward to subsequent years of DS9.

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