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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