Case Number 03284

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, SEASON THREE

Paramount // 1995 // 1181 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // September 6th, 2003

The Charge

"You're too late. We are everywhere."

Opening Statement

The third season of Deep Space Nine is out, and it brings no surprises to owners of the previous seasons. In this season, the action picks up the pace, and the suspense and drama settle down for a twelve round, bare knuckled boxing fight with one another. Plus, the crew has a new spaceship to play with. A tight, well-rounded DVD offering, it offers thrills to fans and bewilderment to the casual shopper from its exuberant price tag.

Facts of the Case

Twenty-six episodes make up the third season of Deep Space Nine, and coincidentally, they are all included here. They include:

* "The Search, Part I"
Sisko and company take their newly acquired ship, the Defiant, out for a spin in the Gamma Quadrant, hoping to locate the leaders of the Dominion.

* "The Search, Part II"
Odo spends time with his people, while Sisko and company run into the complications of peace with the Dominion.

* "The House of Quark"
Everybody loves a Quark episode; after lying about killing a Klingon in the heat of battle, the dead Klingon's widow shows up and, according to Klingon law, forces Quark to marry her.

* "Equilibrium"
One of those "deadly secret from Jadzia's past lives threatens her present life" episodes. You'll see more of them to come.

* "Second Skin"
Kira wakes up as a Cardassian, surrounded by Cardassians, who insist that she is actually a long-lost Cardassian daughter.

* "The Abandoned"
When the crew discovers an infant Jem'Hadar, Odo takes a shining to it, and tries to undo the genetic conditioning that makes him bust people up constantly.

* "Civil Defense"
When an automated, ancient Cardassian security program becomes accidentally activated, the crew goes crazy trying not to get blown up and rescue the station.

* "Meridian"
In a display of excellent foresight and planning, Dax falls for a man who will inevitably disappear into another dimension for 60 years.

* "Defiant"
Just when you thought you'd gotten rid of Riker from Next Generation, he shows up to steal the Defiant and blow up Cardassians.

* "Fascination"
For no apparent reason, everybody starts having sex with everybody else. Completely unrelated is a Bajoran love festival going on at the same time.

* "Past Tense, Part I"
A transporter accidentally (somehow) sends the crew back in time to Earth, during a point of great civil unrest. Those wacky transporters.

* "Past Tense, Part II"
More of the above, Sisko manages to break every rule in the book and mess with the timeline, but nobody notices or cares.

* "Life Support"
Bashir's medical ethics are brought into question as he tries to save the life of an important dignitary crucial to Cardassian and Bajoran peace.

* "Heart of Stone"
Odo loves Kira, Odo loves Kira!

* "Destiny"
Showing great leadership, Sisko ignores a Bajoran prophecy of terrible death and destruction to undergo a joint scientific venture with the Cardassians. Hilarity ensues.

* "Prophet Motive"
Another Quark episode. Ferengis show up. Something like that. Stuff happens, I assume. It's a funny episode. Just enjoy it.

* "Visionary"
More wacky time traveling, this time where O'Brian goes into the future to watch himself get rubbed out, among other entertaining things.

* "Distant Voices"
After getting the crap kicked out of him by an alien, Bashir goes on a voyage of personal exploration to save his life, which apparently involves being very old.

* "Through the Looking Glass"
Parallel universes are always cool. Sisko assumes the role of his dead universe counterpart in order to save the fake version of his wife, who is dead in his world, the big softie.

* "Improbable Cause"
When Garak's clothing shop gets fundamentally fed up with being where it was and goes kablooey, Odo is on the case.

* "The Die is Cast"
The Romulans, not having enough to do in Deep Space Nine, get bored and team up wit the Cardassians in order to launch a pre-emptive strike on the Dominion. Also, Garak kicks the crap out of Odo.

* "Explorers"
To prove a point, Sisko and Jake build an 800-year old Bajoran spaceship and fly around in it for an entire hour. Watch it again and again.

* "Family Business"
Quark's mother shows up. Hooray. Trouble ensues. Can you believe it?

* "Shakaar"
Kira ends up teaming up with her former resistance leader, and causes some trouble. People get angry, surprisingly.

* "Facets"
Jadzia gets in touch with her old hosts by letting them take over the bodies of the crew of Deep Space Nine. Quark gets to be the doting mother figure, and Sisko gets to be the axe murderer. Now that's comedy.

* "The Adversary"
The season finale, trouble breaks out when a war in the Alpha Quadrant begins to develop due to the manipulations of a shape shifter in disguise.

The Evidence

Things really started turning around for Deep Space Nine in the third season, thanks in part to a running story arc that would fuel the show throughout its entire television run; those pesky Dominion just managed to become almost the central focus for every episode after their introduction. Even in episodes where they were nowhere to be seen, the sense of oppressive dread and worry cast upon the already dark atmospheric feeling of the show is ever-present.

Having a constant oppositional force (half of which involve genetically engineered soldiers bred solely for fighting and dying in combat, and the other half involving devious liquid shape shifters who would remain hidden and disguised as friends and allies) as a constant pressure upon the show turned out to be a wonderful idea, and many would agree that Deep Space Nine finally came into its own and stepped out as a fully functional entity within the Trek canon; the show was no longer timid and clumsy from being Roddenberry-less, it became more gutsy and daring than its predecessor, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and of course, a lot less like Babylon 5.

Amusingly, the more Deep Space Nine developed into its own independent organism, no longer in the shadows of its big popular brother, the more it came to resemble said brother. What made Deep Space Nine an interesting show, say, compared to Star Trek: The Next Generation, was the complete and utter lack of mobility on the part of the cast -- a space station is a static environment, and trouble had to come find it, as opposed to the latter (the Dominion, for example, fit this bill exceptionally well, the jerks). But this "lack of motion" seemed to be a hard selling point to a lot of people, as the idea of a Trek space station show seemed, well, very stupid and boring.

This, in small part, was probably true.

Ultimately, this proved to be an unfounded accusation; the producers worked exceptionally hard over the years making the show interesting in a slow, developing, brooding way that lingered in the memory -- rather than being swashbuckling, it was brooding and atmospheric, the characters, in their own ways, started to become independent and interesting and distinct and memorable.

But then, in the third season, when the momentum was high, the fans were more interested than previously before, the characters were developing nicely and the show began to take on a sense of political intrigue and deception and grittiness, what do they do?

They give them a starship.

Bad idea? Hard to say, really; but darned if it doesn't make for great entertainment. The Defiant was basically a gigantic gun with seats strapped to it, and it could turn invisible. To the inherently nerdy, boy howdy, it kicked a lot of ass.

However, it did allow for Deep Space Nine to "cheat" somewhat, closing the gap between discovering a new, independent identity for the show and imitating the formula that people were comfortable with. Rather than being forced, out of necessity, to take the Trek universe in daring new directions or innovate the formula into new territory, by giving the cast a fancy starship to utilize at their leisure to go explore other planets, blow the crap out of other ships, et cetera, it changes the focus of the show slightly, and retreats to Next Generation-esque formulaic situations.

Call me a cynic, but I feel that at the same time that the show began to find its niche and play up its strengths, ironically, it started to backpedal slightly and retreat to safe, well-established ground.

Don't believe me? Wait until Worf shows up later.

The third season of Deep Space Nine also established the most amusing Star Trek fallacy that seems to plague every single Trek-related production since the start -- actors starting to direct episodes. I swear to you, this happens. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- LeVar Burton ended up directing some interesting episodes on Next Generation, and Jonathan Frakes became the new Leonard Nimoy. Both these actors ended up directing episodes of Deep Space Nine at various points in the show. Likewise, both Rene Auberjonois and Avery Brooks take up the reins in the third season of Deep Space Nine to continue this tradition. Thankfully, the contributions of the cast in the creative process become a boon rather than a hindrance as the show progresses.

The acting in the third season has solidified into a veritable well-oiled machine, where each cast member seems at ease with one another, and the small, complex nuances of interactions begin to flourish. Avery Brooks's over-the-top dramatic delivery starts to make sense as Sisko spends a lot of time being very stressed out. Rene Auberjonois begins to show some heart as Odo, and this depth of character greatly expands the range of the character. Likewise, Nana Visitor softens Kira up somewhat, and it works wonders for the character, adding depth of feeling into the resident sourpusses. Overall, the character development and acting quality is very good. You will find no complaint here.

The stories and episodes in season three are well-written overall, mixing humorous inane storylines with serious, social realism (seemingly contradictory, yes, but Star Trek alone pulls it off well) and dramatic tension and anxiety. Few episodes stand out as gigantic stinkers, and even seeing Will Riker show up is more amusing than annoying (since it isn't really him, how clever!)

The show looks great, and the production values of the show become apparent on an excellent transfer. Presented in their native 4:3 aspect ratios, the transfers looks very nice, very nice indeed. Despite the dark tint and moody atmosphere of the show, the set lights up in fluorescents and strong blues and yellows, and the colors come through strong. The visuals are sharp and come through clear, with no noticeable artifacts or spots to speak of (at least, none worth mentioning.) Graininess is occasionally an issue, but this is not a surprise, considering the fact that the whole darn show is dark and atmospherically lit.

The sound is fantastic -- the bass rumbles appropriately, the ever-present ambient noises (a great Star Trek constant) are very decipherable, but never muddy the foreground. The Dolby 5.1 mix is excellent in terms of audio quality, but the mix is very center and front focused, and never really reaches its potential in terms of utilizing all available sonic space. In a feature film, this could be a hindrance, but it is very acceptable in a made-for-TV production.

The special features on the set, as a whole, are slightly disappointing. Tiny little "secret" (but not really secret) Easter eggs dot the disc, masquerading as featurettes (and I use the term extremely generously, as a two minute interview barely qualifies.) All I know is; if I got these for Easter, I'd be awfully pissed off.

The features include an eleven minute featurette, "The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond," offers slim insight into the development of the Dominion as the central opposition in Deep Space Nine, and a feature called "Sailing Through the Stars: A Special Look at Explorers" chronicles the development of an award-winning ship design in the episode "Explorers." The Time Travel Files focuses on an episode called "Past Tense," with much said on the social revelancy of Star Trek as a cultural force capable of change, and the Crew Dossier focuses on Odo and the development of Auberjonois's character into the dynamic security officer. This is probably the most amusing feature on the disc, as Auberjonois is hilarious and comically animated, and hearing him go on about making Odo an alien John Wayne is worth a watch. Michael Westmore's Aliens focuses on Ferengis and Kira as a Cardassian, and the process involved in aging a cast member (in this case, Bashir).

Ultimately, the few interviews with actors while occasionally candid and interesting, offer very little in terms of genuinely informative and interesting information.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Anybody who doesn't know about the incredible quality that has gone into the physical manufacturing of the Deep Space Nine packaging so far, rest assured, the packaging is excellent.

And by "excellent," I mean, "not good at all."

Befuddling, confusing, and just downright odd, the packaging for Deep Space Nine reminds me simultaneously of an accordion and a CD jewel case. Still, in all fairness, it does its job -- it holds the DVDs so I don't have to -- it's just such an oddball design that one questions the psychological stability of the designer more than the safety and protection of the discs themselves.

It should be noted also that these are awfully expensive discs. Like, really expensive, man.

Closing Statement

As a DVD presentation, Deep Space Nine: Season Three is top-notch. When all is said and done, though, the hefty price tag makes things complicated; otherwise, it would be as simple as saying, "Anybody that likes Deep Space Nine should buy these sets." Sadly, this is not possible.

A great set, but shockingly expensive; still an excellent investment if you are, for example, one of the cast members of the show. The only problem is, once you buy one season, tiny Paramount executives in suits with tiny little wings appear over your shoulder and try to rationalize all the reasons why you should buy the other six seasons and hold off on a small, non-essential purchase in the future -- say, a house.

The Verdict

The court will hereby make friends with anybody that buys the Judge the other six seasons of the show that he now should own, for the sake of organization and dynamic flow on his DVD shelf.

Court is in recess pending this decision. Also, thumbs up for Deep Space Nine: Season Three.

Review content copyright © 2003 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 89
Extras: 59
Acting: 84
Story: 80
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 1181 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Chapter Log
* The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond
* Michael Westmore's Aliens, Season Three
* Crew Dossier: Odo
* Time Travel Files -- "Past Tense"
* Sailing Through the Stars -- A Special Look at "Explorers"

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0106145/combined

* Star Trek Official Site
http://www.startrek.com/