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 Four (published November 3rd, 2003), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Five (published November 11th, 2003), and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Seven (published January 13th, 2004) are also available.
"On the Enterprise, I was considered to be quite amusing."
Season six was a year of dramatic change for Deep Space Nine. Many things happened to our characters in the midst of the war with the Dominion, and not all of those events unfolded as I had remembered. The writers took bold steps in developing the show and its deep array of characters and it was the year that our characters grew more than in previous years because of the harshness of the war. But there were also amazing moments of joy as some characters drew very close.
What surprised me the most, though, is how time has changed my perception of a few key events from this year. After watching these episodes for the second time, I came away with decidedly different interpretations of several crucial story points.
Note: This review includes extensive spoilers about the sixth season of Deep Space Nine.
Facts of the Case
Presented on this seven-disc set are all the episodes from the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Filled with many lyrical titles, the episodes are:
"A Time to Stand"
"Rocks and Shoals"
"Sons and Daughters"
"Behind the Lines"
"Favor the Bold"
"Sacrifice of Angels"
"You Are Cordially Invited…"
"The Magnificent Ferengi"
"Who Mourns for Morn?"
"Far Beyond the Stars"
"One Little Ship"
"Honor Among Thieves"
"Change of Heart"
"Wrongs Darker than Death or Night"
"In the Pale Moonlight"
"Profit and Lace"
"The Sound of Her Voice"
"Tears of the Prophet"
In watching season six, I sometimes found myself shaking my head in wonder. Was this really Star Trek that I was watching? It's just so different from every other incarnation. And, I've said it many times before but it doesn't get old: Deep Space Nine is a great show that you should watch. Because it is different from every other spin-off, you never know what to expect. It isn't the same stolid characters in the fresh and rosy Federation. We travel in the gray in the DS9 universe.
But the writers knew that a perpetual darkness was not something that would always keep the viewers coming back. Though there is a devastating war going on, they knew they could not focus on that in every episode, or their fans could become bored or maybe even disenfranchised. You cannot beat on the drum forever before you annoy people. As such, one of the greatest positive changes dreamed up this year was the holocharacter of Vic Fontaine (James Darren). Vic was a self-aware hologram, programmed as a lounge singer in 1950s Las Vegas. When people needed to get away, they went to Vic's for some warm company and great entertainment. Trek has occasionally dabbled in music (Spock and his harp, Uhura and her singing, Worf and Picard doing Broadway), but this is the first time that they found someone who really knew how to sing. Darren's true talent was a refreshing change, so when the characters went into Vic's, you found yourself looking forward to the singing. Who would have thought there'd be a '50s lounge singer on Star Trek? But beyond the charm of Vic's singing, he became much more. Because he was a very special hologram, he was masterfully in tune with people. So, Vic became the station's counselor. People would find themselves going to Vic to help them through the hard times of the war. Vic's place became the perfect counterpoint to the darkness of the war.
And DS9 brilliantly handled the war. It wasn't solved in one or even a few episodes. As with the rest of the series, arcs developed and played out gradually. Entire multi-episode arcs fleshed out the pain and anguish of a true war. People dealt with the strife in realistic fashion. The war, much to our dismay, was not going well for our Federation. The Dominion seemed to be the superior force. And that, too, is a fascinating counterpoint in that our friends, the good guys, weren't winning. DS9 rarely took the easy path.
During season six, Worf's and Dax's characters became very prominent. At the end of year five, Jadzia said she would marry Worf at the end of the war. But, with the war not going well, the two took the first opportunity, the first lull in the action, to get married. It was a Trek first: two central characters tied the knot. (O'Brien and Keiko weren't central characters on TNG, but, if you persist, I'll note that their relationship has been explored on DS9 and not on TNG.) If you've read some of my TNG reviews, you may recall that I am not overly fond of the Klingons. They're excellent characters, but I feel they're overplayed—a little of them goes a long way for me. So, I easily tire of the Klingon episodes.
And this is where my memory starts to come into play.
Knowing my predilection to be bored by Klingon episodes, I was not looking forward to "You Are Cordially Invited." It wasn't just the fact that it was a "Klingon" episode, but, like Quark and Julian, I wasn't fond of the idea of Jadzia and Worf marrying in the first place, and I had a vague recollection that I didn't enjoy the episode the first time. Memories, they can be a tricky thing. As I watched the episode, I was surprised to find that I liked it, quite a bit in fact. It was nothing like I remembered, and I found it to be one of the better tales of the year. It didn't matter that it was a Klingon episode, nor did it matter what I thought of the two getting together. My memory was wrong, and this was a fun episode that went where no Trek had gone before. It greatly expanded the characters and opened up more unexplored avenues for the writers—as evidenced later in the year in "Change of Heart."
I could go on and say practically the same thing regarding the Ferengi episodes, but I won't. Suffice it to say, this year came to a mixed decision on the Ferengi due to the odd juxtaposition of episodes. On the one side, there was the excellent episode "The Magnificent Ferengi"; on the other, there was the silly, cross-dressing episode "Profit and Lace."
But now we get into the deeper and darker areas of DS9—major events that developed this year that had a profound impact on the direction of the series. There are two of them, and both also play a part in my memory game. The first is the death of Jadzia, and the second is the birth of Section 31.
Terry Farrell, who plays Jadzia, decided that season six would be her last with the franchise. I'm not certain we ever learned the true story of why she didn't want to sign for the final year (money? stagnation?), but it was a surprise and a blow to the fans—not to mention a blow to Worf, who would now lose the second love of his life. At the time, I remember feeling somewhat bitter about her departure. Why couldn't she just do one more year? Why mess up a solid show? So, when the rumors bubbled up that she would die, I didn't shed a tear. I guess I felt that was a just outcome for someone who betrayed my show. Good riddance! Now, a few years later, with that bitterness and betrayal long vanished, I can look at the death of Jadzia in a whole new light. In this case, it's not so much a case of being deceived by my memory, but being overly influenced by lesser factors. Still, I expected to not care that Jadzia would die. I didn't expect anything to really change, but I was wrong. This time I was sad that she had to die, had to leave. Watching six years worth of episodes in a compressed amount of time allowed me to more fully appreciate every character's development and interaction. This time, without the onslaught of external emotions, I didn't want her to go. It was a shame. Her death, which was handled a bit lightly—I feel it needed more gravitas—altered the arc of the show once again. But, as in all things Trek, no one ever really dies. Jadzia was gone, but Dax would be back.
Trumping all of this in importance, however, is the creation of the dark and dangerous organization, Section 31. Star Trek has survived and flourished for decades because of the shows that tackle the tough topics, be it Vietnam, racism, homosexuality, or many others. Fans appreciate how the writers have been able to (usually) delicately weave social commentary into this science-fiction setting. That's what brought the show back to life in the '70s, and that's what helps keep it going today.
Trek has always been prescient. I'm not simply speaking about its uncanny knack for predicting technology; they've been also been able to tackle topics before they've hit the mainstream. In the case of Section 31, they addressed a topic five years before its importance would sink in. When Sloan first came to Bashir in "Inquisition" and talked about Section 31, I loved it. I was enamored by this shadowy group that set out to take care of dangers to the Federation. Back then, I remember believing how "cool" it was that such a group could be hidden within the Federation. Contrary to all we've seen before, the perfect Federation does have a dark side. To maintain the peace and stability of hundreds of worlds, Section 31 had to sometimes resort to undesirable means. What a fascinating concept. But fast forward to today, and I am no longer that fond of the implications of the rogue Section 31. I had every expectation of simply enjoying the episode as I had years before; I didn't have the slightest inclination that something would suddenly feel amiss. Yet, the concept of Section 31 has eerie similarities to what is going on in America today. Without being too political, I have been unnerved by some developments that have been implemented by my government in the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11. Seeing an enigmatic group that answers to no one and can invade one's privacy at will makes me too nervous about unchecked power in my real life. I fear the lengths that some individuals may be willing to go to in the name of freedom, and I fear that their power could go one step too far. Do I have cause for worry? I believe I do. In the end, Bashir may have destroyed Section 31, for he realized the dangers of such an organization. Now, today, we must be careful that we don't end up crossing that dangerous line ourselves.
Star Trek continues to delight me, amaze me, and even make me think, even when I least expect it.
But it is now time to move past the social commentary and discuss the attributes of the DVD set itself. I'm going to sound like a broken record (does that cliché still work since there are so few record players in existence anymore?) because this set is as are all the others. There's nothing here to differentiate it from its predecessors. It's another pressing from the Paramount Trek mold. The full frame video is a duplicate of every other set out there: adequate color definition, pleasant details and saturation, and minimal transfer errors. For television, it's a nice transfer, but not as lush as we're getting used to. In my review of season five, I briefly went on about how the sound mix was so much better that year. Well, I have to take a step back and say that I think I was a bit too kind in my analysis. In going back, the sound in year five was the same as in every other year, except for a few well placed directionals. As such, year six is another copy of the same thing: no hiss or distortion, clear dialogue, and modest use of the bass and surrounds. With all the massive space battles, I really was hoping to get more.
The extras for this season are the same as for every other set: a half dozen featurettes and ten "hidden" Section 31 files. I'll say that the bonus items on this disc were a bit above average, as they hit interesting topics and discussed them from new angles. That's what fans want: new interviews and new information. Of course, we'd also love to see outtakes, deleted scenes, commentaries, and a real in-depth feature, but I guess we'll just have to keep on dreaming. The featurettes are:
• "Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars" (8.5
minutes): a good, if too short, look at this brilliant tale of racism in
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I am quite fond of this series and have nothing negative to say at this point. Instead, I would like to point out to you the episode "In the Pale Moonlight," the only A+ grade of the year. DS9 delves into the gray areas, and no other episode truly shows the ramifications of having to do bad things to achieve a good goal. See what it takes for Sisko to turn the tide of war, and see how he must come to terms with his actions.
Aside from a disappointing mirror universe episode and an odd cross-dressing Ferengi episode, the sixth season of Deep Space Nine is superb, intensely marching towards its inevitable end. Always doing more than simply scratching the surface, DS9 investigates the characters and the consequences of all its actions, rewarding the viewer with insightful and fully developed characters and situations. It is not the Star Trek you may be used to, and it is all the better because of that. As always, I wholly and highly recommend the series for your viewing pleasure. Take the time to watch the show, and you will be rewarded.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Six is hereby found not guilty on all charges.
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