Our reviews of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season One (published April 8th, 2003), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Two (published May 23rd, 2003), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Three (published September 6th, 2003), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Five (published November 11th, 2003), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Six (published December 8th, 2003), and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Seven (published January 13th, 2004) are also available.
Quark: "What do you think?"
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (DS9) is a better show than you think. Because it was the first Trek franchise not set on a Federation starship, many people didn't give it a chance. Because it also came out at the same time as Babylon 5 and exhibits several of that show's characteristics, many people didn't give it a chance. Because this series has never enjoyed heavy syndication like its sibling shows, many people haven't had an opportunity to give it a chance.
DS9 is a better show than you know. Filled with a multitude of fascinating characters and rich and arching plots, this second spin-off series is more insightful, more fulfilling, and more enjoyable than most of the other series. Many would even be willing to state that DS9 is the best and most rewarding of all the Trek shows.
I'm not sure if I'm willing to go that far, but I do derive great satisfaction from this show. With its release on DVD this year, this is the first time since the episodes originally aired that I am watching them. I've been viewing every episode in order, and it has been a wonderful and refreshing experience. It has honestly been fun to watch Deep Space 9 from the beginning and watch all of the characters and threads slowly develop and come to fruition.
Facts of the Case
Presented in this seven-disc collection are all 26 episodes from the fourth year of the series. They are included in production, not air date, order.
"The Way of the Warrior"
"Little Green Men"
"The Sword of Kahless"
"Our Man Bashir"
"Return to Grace"
"Sons of Mogh"
"The Bar Association"
"Rules of Engagement"
"For the Cause"
"To the Death"
I was exceptionally dismayed when season four first premiered back in 1996. As a fan from the first episode, I didn't like the fact that the producers felt it necessary to bring Worf on board the station. It was an obvious ploy to try and bolster ratings by bringing over an immensely popular character from The Next Generation. I personally felt that the series was doing well on its own, with its rich and textured characters and imaginative, interweaving storylines. Coming into its fourth year, DS9 was a very strong show that didn't need any propping up from its predecessor.
But that's not how it all played out, is it?
Klingons are overplayed in the Trek universe. There have been so many episodes about Worf and his people that I'm just tired of the race. I know I groused about this in one of my numerous TNG DVD reviews, so I won't go on too much about it here. Simply, there's a multitude of alien races out there, so let's spread it around. Besides, Worf is already one of the most fleshed-out characters in Trek history, so let's share the love.
With Worf coming to DS9, it was inevitable that we would be bombarded with even more Klingon episodes, and we were. This is not to say that they are bad, it's just that it's getting old. DS9 had found a way to stand alone, free of the confines of the ship-based Trek format, yet that could have all been destroyed with Worf's presence. Fortunately, my worries were mostly unfounded. Though there were too many Klingon related stories over the next four years, Worf did not dampen the ebb and flow of the established show. Before Rick Berman and Brannon Braga came along and ruined the franchise, Worf actually found a way to enhance the already strong series.
In watching all of the episodes in order, I must reiterate how much fun it has been getting reacquainted with this old friend. It had been far too long since I had the pleasure of watching these episodes, and seeing them again was almost like the first time. Of course, I have a pretty good idea of where each episode is going, but it's re-experiencing all the subtle interactions among the characters that's been most rewarding. As most know, by the end of the run of the series, DS9 had created a huge family of supporting characters, each with an impressive story arc and history. This full complement of personnel truly makes this series special. Each character adds diversity to the DS9 universe, and people are a far more important ingredient in the franchise than in the previous series.
But I do have to say that season four is the weakest to date. I'm still working on season five and do not really remember all of seasons six and seven, and even though there are a few exceptional episodes ("The Visitor"), I was a little bored with this year. It is by no means a bad year, as evidence by the grades, and the episodes definitely propel the story arc forward, but I wasn't as impressed with this batch of shows as in earlier seasons. Many of the episodes seemed inconsequential and didn't play as well as other efforts.
By now, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Paramount in its television transfers. Of no surprise is that Deep Space 9 Season Four is another cookie from the cutter. As always, the full frame video is good with no exceptional qualities. You'll get nice colors, pretty good blacks, and some nice details, but you'll also get some shimmering, grain, and fuzzy details on occasion. It looks like every previous Trek DVD release. On the same note, this season four sounds just like all of the previous Trek DVDs too. I keep hoping for the audio to get better, but it has yet to happen—but there is a light at the end of the tunnel! The dialogue is clean, directionals are modestly used, and the subwoofer gets minimal use. It's a relatively tame Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.
For the bonus materials, season four follows the traditional layout of the DS9 releases, with a handful of featurettes and those "hidden" Section 31 files. Each of the featurettes runs about 15 minutes, and is filled with some mildly interesting information. It's nowhere near as informative as I'd like, but as a Trekkie, there isn't much I don't already know. The featurettes are: "Charting New Territory: Deep Space 9 Season Four," "Crew Dossier: Worf," "Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season Four," and "Deep Space Nine Sketchbook: John Eaves." One of these days, I still hope for something more: an audio commentary, a text commentary, some deleted scenes, a gag reel, or a truly breathtaking behind-the-scenes documentary.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I have no further negative comments to make about this year, so I'll just take a final moment to give kudos to perhaps my favorite character on the show, Garak. Never giving a complete answer, always hiding in the shadows, but still an ally to the station, Garak is a mesmerizing character whom you don't truly know or understand. After four years, who is he? What does he want? Whose side is he on? Television needs to develop more complicated characters like Garak, instead of the simple, color-by-number caricatures we're constantly shown.
Deep Space 9 is a better show than you realize. There are a multitude of great characters, a compelling story arc, and plenty of action and drama for any sci-fi fan. Though many of the shows are self-contained, you'll miss much of the subtle history if you try to jump into the series at this point. It is truly best appreciated when you've watched it all from the beginning. You can observe how the characters change over time; you can see how subtle stories are connected over various episodes over various years, and you can simply experience Trek free from the confines of a starship—though the Defiant is one great little ship.
I wholeheartedly recommend the entirety of the Deep Space 9 series to anyone. Unfortunately Paramount has slapped a pretty hefty price tag on each year's set, but if you can afford it, you'll be rewarded with some of the best stories the franchise has ever produced.
In accordance with Cardassian law, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 The Complete Fourth Season is hereby found guilty on all charges.
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Scales of Justice
• Charting New Territory: Deep Space Nine Season Four
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