Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 4, 2003)
Over less than the last year and a half, I’ve watched all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the first four years of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. By the end of 2003, I’ll have completed the entire seven-season run of DS9, and I assume the when 2004 concludes, I’ll also have watched all seven years of Star Trek: Voyager. Before these DVDs arrived, I’d never watched one episode of any of these series. I knew the Next Generation crew from their feature films, but the TV adventures of those folks and their DS9 and Voyager counterparts remained alien to me.
I gotta admit that I think this is the way to go! It’d seem so frustrating to have to wait months and months for storylines to develop. I can knock out an entire season in one long weekend with these DVDs. I don’t think that was much of an issue with Next Generation, as most of its stories remained largely self-contained. Sure, they had plenty of season-ending cliffhangers, and a few themes developed, such as the threat of the Borg. However, the series never featured any genuinely expansive plots that took great periods of time to unfold.
On the other hand, DS9 did. I’ll get into those issues in more detail as I discuss the programs, but DS9 attempted to present a more coherent thread and seemed less isolated and self-contained overall. These shows will be discussed in the order broadcast, which is also the way in which they appear on the DVDs.
We quickly get a reminder of DS9’s main foe, the Dominion, at the start of the double-length The Way of the Warrior. As we learned during previous seasons, the Dominion is run by the same race of changelings to which Security Chief Odo (Rene Auberjonois) belongs, so the team conducts a test hunt to find him to increase their preparedness if one of his kind gets on the station. After that, things liven up when a Klingon ship arrives at DS9. Headed by General Martok (J.G. Hertzler), they’ve come to help fight the Dominion, though Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) doesn’t seem convinced they’re needed.
Other issues develop. We find that the Cardassians have closed off their borders. The station’s Cardassian tailor Garak (Andrew Robinson) encounters problems with the Klingons, who beat him for no apparent reason. More Klingon ships arrive, and Sisko becomes more personally involved when the freighter run by his girlfriend, Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson), apparently comes under attack. It seems the Klingons are inspecting all ships for shape-shifters, an action that Sisko opposes. This increases tensions and requires the presence of a Klingon on the station. Who do they recruit? None other than our old pal Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn)! He then investigates the truth behind the stationing of the Klingon troops, and we see what develops after he finds the facts.
I thought the tensions between the Federation and the Klingons might be little more than an excuse to bring Worf onto DS9, but happily, the plot meshes pretty naturally with the prior Dominion-based storyline. Actually, it goes farther than that, as “Warrior” helps move things along quite nicely. Some parts of it feel excessively expository, but the episode works well overall as it pushes along the series in a dramatic and clever way.
After all the action of “Warrior”, things get quieter for The Visitor. The program uses an unusual structure, as we meet an aged Jake Sisko (Tony Todd). We learn that he turned into a success writer who penned only two works. We also find out that his father apparently died when he was 18. The show then displays when happened during a scientific mission on which Jake (Cirroc Lofton) accompanied Ben. Things go wrong, and we see Ben killed right before our eyes. We then watch as Jake tries to deal with the death of his dad. However, it turns out Ben didn’t die at all; instead, he went into some sort of temporal displacement, and he eventually reappears on DS9 after more than a year. However, he soon vanishes again, and the show traces Jake’s life and his dad’s periodic resurfacing.
An entertaining fantasy, “Visitor” loses some points because it never rises above that level. Since it takes place in the future, it deals with a reality that doesn’t exist in the show and – due to some events that occur – never will. “The Visitor” offers some moving moments and seems interesting overall, but it feels like something of a disappointment after the drama of “Warrior”.
We focus on Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) and Chief Mile O’Brien (Colm Meaney) in Hippocratic Oath. On the way back after a survey mission, they experience an energy wave that causes them to crash land on a strange planet. There they meet the Jem’Hadar, the enforcement arm of the Dominion. As we learned during previous seasons, the Dominion keeps the Jem’Hadar in check due to genetically engineered addiction to a substance called ketracel-white. This group of Jem’Hadar wants to break free of the Dominion, and they force Bashir to help them find a way to get away from their need for the drug.
“Oath” helps expand our understanding of the Jem’Hadar, and it offers an interesting twist. The show takes the Jem’Hadar from just being a group of mindless thugs and creates the possibility of change within their organization. “Oath” feels a little preachy at times – a fault with many Bashir-oriented programs – but it earns points since it develops the characters and situations.
As Indiscretion opens, Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) gets a message from Razka Karn (Roy Brocksmith) that he may have found traces of a missing Cardassian ship called the Ravinok. Since a friend of hers called Lorit Akrem was a Bajoran prisoner aboard the vessel, she’s held hope alive for survivors over the last six years. Against her better judgment, Kira agrees to take a Cardassian representative; to her surprise, it turns out to be our old acquaintance Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo). While they go on their mission, Sisko deals with changes in his personal life, as his girlfriend Kasidy Yates considers moving to live on DS9, and he’s not sure if he’s ready for that step.
While the mission between Dukat and Kira seems moderately interesting, it feels a little dated in regard to DS9. If it appeared in Seasons One or Two, I’d call it a good piece of development for the relationship between the Cardassians and the Bajorans. However, in Season Four, we’ve had enough of those shows, and this one feels like too much of an attempt to create a détente when we’d really rather further the Dominion storyline. “Indiscretion” goes down fairly predictable lines and seems average.
A Trill scientific team comes aboard DS9 in Rejoined. One of the participants is Dr. Lenara Kahn (Susanna Thompson), who used to be married to one of Commander Jadzia Dax’s (Terry Farrell) hosts. Actually, the Dax symbiont was married to the Kahn symbiont, but the hosts never met. Trill society frowns upon reconnection, though, as the whole symbiont experience is supposed to get them to do new things with each host.
Frankly, “Rejoined” feels like little more than an excuse for some girl on girl action. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the episode generally comes across as forced and flat. Dax has never been a very interesting character, largely due to Farrell’s fairly wooden portrayal. Like many Dax episodes, this one enjoys an intriguing concept, but the result seems bland and somewhat pointless.
At the open of Starship Down Sisko meets with Quark and Hanok (James Cromwell) of the Karemma Commerce Ministry. They discuss a dispute in the transactions between the Karemma and the Federation. The Karemma risked problems with the Dominion due to these interactions, and the Jem’Hadar come gunning for them. Sisko takes charge of the Defiant to stop the Jem’Hadar, and this runs them into trouble.
”Down” seems somewhat reminiscent of the climax of Star Trek II. That film featured a battle between the Enterprise and a foe lost in the galactic muck, a theme that becomes prominent during “Down”. However, enough variations occur to make “Down” more than just a rip-off of the film, and it seems like a fairly good action-oriented episode.
Trivia note: Cromwell again proves himself to be the Trek James of all trades. His turn as Hanok marked his fourth role in a Trek series or movie.
Quark’s cousin repays a debt at the beginning of Little Green Men. Our favorite Ferengi barkeep gets a seemingly terrific ship and decides to test it with a trip to Earth. Since his nephew Nog (Aron Eisenberg) needs to go there to enter Starfleet Academy, he uses that occasion as an excuse to head there along with his brother Rom (Max Grodenchik). However, Quark really just wants to run some contraband and earn a few bucks. A problem develops along the way, and their attempted solution sends them back in time to Earth of 1947 where the natives believe they’re Martians.
Trek always loved their time travel shows, and “Men” offers one of the better explorations of the topic. The show cleverly ties the fiction into reality and makes it a fun little tale. We get to hear Ferengi before it becomes processed by the universal translator and see how the two societies interact. Trek humor often seems cutesy and precious, but the cynicism of the Ferengi helps deflate that, and “Men” offers a clever and entertaining show.
A quest for a legendary artifact operates at the center of The Sword of Kahless. Klingon notable Kor (John Colicos) wants to find the famous Sword, and Dax and Worf agree to help him. Before they split, however, someone attacks Kor and delves into his mind. He doesn’t recall this intrusion, though, and the trio head out to seek the Sword. Inevitably, they run into some trouble along the way when we find out about Kor’s attacker. The quest to retrieve the sword becomes intense and leads to various conflicts.
“Sword” includes some moderately interesting moments as we learn a little more about Klingon politics. However, since that topic was done to death on The Next Generation, “Sword” feels a bit stale. The intrigue about the sword itself becomes a simple morality tale and comes across as somewhat tired. “Sword” isn’t a bad episode, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Holosuite-based episodes were a staple of Next Generation but didn’t pop up during DS9 until Our Man Bashir. Here we see the doctor’s fantasy of life as a Bond-like secret agent. Garak comes along for the ride as the pair engage in a little fantasy role-playing. In the meantime, Sisko and a small crew encounter sabotage on their runabout while they return from a conference. They barely get transported out in time and the station needs to shut down most memory functions to store their patterns. Where do they go? Right into Bashir’s holo-fantasy, where they unwittingly become part of his game. Bashir has to keep the program running to allow Odo and the others to find a way to rescue the missing crewmembers.
As I noted, Next Generation did holo-fantasies to death, so I expected little from “Bashir”. However, the twist that places the crewmembers into the game makes it intriguing. On its own, it provides a fun little Bond-style adventure, and the real-life stakes make it more compelling.
At the start of Homefront, a changeling causes a terrorist attack on Earth. Odo and Sisko head there to San Francisco to confer with Starfleet. There the captain discovers that Admiral Leyton (Robert Foxworth) wants to make him chief of security on Earth to deal with the Dominion. In addition, Sisko brings son Jake along so the pair can visit with the elder Sisko, Ben’s dad Joseph (Brock Peters).
After some detours for the last few shows, it’s good to see DS9 get back to the plot related to the Dominion. It gets into too much soap opera with health issues related to the elder Sisko, but at least we get some good movement in the Dominion domain.
Paradise Lost offers the conclusion of the two-part program started with “Homefront”. I won’t get into the details since it might include some spoilers for the prior show. Suffice it to say that Sisko works hard to get to the bottom of the changeling threat and uncovers some intriguing concerns on Earth.
As with “Homefront”, this episode gains some strength because it helps advance the Dominion threat. Some of the plot points seem fairly predictable, but a few interesting developments occur. “Lost” feels like it’s setting the stage for something that’ll occur later, but that’s necessary and valuable.
In Crossfire Bajoran First Minister Shaakar (Duncan Regehr) visits the station. He supports the movement for Bajor to join the Federation, but extremist factions oppose that possibility and threaten the Minister. Odo suspects an assassination attempt will occur, so he takes precautions to prevent it. Along the way, we see that both Shaakar and Odo pine for Kira.
Another day, another hunky Bajoran with a connection to Kira. Are there any former Bajoran rebels who don’t develop a romantic affection for our Major? “Crossfire” complicates matters because it furthers the exploration of Odo’s love for Kira that first appeared in Season Three. Despite the unusual nature of the love triangle, “Crossfire” seems like a dull soap opera episode.
Kira heads to a Cardassian conference in Return to Grace. There to share Bajoran intelligence about Klingons, Gul Dukat escorts her there. Disgraced in Cardassian society because of his half-Bajoran daughter, he lives in moderate exile with her. When they arrive at the conference, it appears that a Klingon attack killed all the folks there. Their freighter encounters a Klingon Bird of Prey, but that ship ignores their phaser assault. Kira and Dukat try to modify the freighter to take on the enemy.
Though “Grace” threatens to turn into another episode of “Everybody Loves Kira”, it manages to avoid the gooey trappings of “Crossfire” and mostly focuses on grittier goals. We get some good action combined with old-fashioned Trek ingenuity, and the show furthers the Dukat character nicely. “Grace” offers an above-average piece.
Worf’s brother Kurn (Tony Todd) comes to DS9 in Sons of Mogh. He immediately declares that he wants Worf to kill him. Because of Worf’s opposition to Klingon chief Gowron, Kurn lives in disgrace. Worf actually goes through with Kurn’s plan, which lands him in hot water with Sisko and Starfleet, although his brother survives. This leads to an attempt to find Kurn some way to deal with his continued life, and he gets a job on DS9. In the meantime, as they return from some routine maneuvers, Kira and O’Brien discover some mysterious and suspicious actions by the Klingons.
I pretty much got my fill of Worf’s family issues back during The Next Generation, so I can’t say I looked forward to “Mogh”. Unfortunately, the episode didn’t do much to exceed my expectations. Once again Worf finds himself torn between his life with Starfleet and his Klingon heritage. We saw that theme played out jillions of times on Next Generation, and “Mogh” adds little to the party. The moments in which Kurn adjusts to life on DS9 are somewhat interesting but they ultimately don’t seem to go much of anywhere.
Footnote: while many actors have played more than one role in the world of Trek, I think Tony Todd earns a special place. He performs as two different characters for the same series in the same season! If you forgot, Todd played the elderly Jake Sisko earlier in the year.
Quark’s brother Rom takes ill in Bar Association. When Dr. Bashir patches him up, he learns of how few rights Ferengi workers enjoy and encourages Rom to form a union. Quark eventually pushes him too far, and he tries to start that kind of group although it goes against Ferengi standards. The show follows their work and its effect on Quark and the station.
DS9 had the good sense not to lean too heavily on Ferengi episodes, so they usually come as a treat. This isn’t one of the best, and it definitely doesn’t match up with “Little Green Men”, but it seems reasonably entertaining. At times it feels a little too much like an attempt to obviously develop characters, but it remains an enjoyable program.
Continue to Disc 5-7 and technical ratings...