Paramount was one of the last major studios to support the DVD format, but it certainly knows how to release TV shows on DVD. The studio is doing fans a great service by releasing entire RUNS in one calendar year. 2002 saw the release of all seven seasons of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and 2003 will see the release of all seven seasons of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Coupled with the special edition re-releases of the "Star Trek" feature films, there's an average of one new "Star Trek" release every month--a definite cause for celebration.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" was doing so well in syndication that Paramount wanted a new show to expand the franchise. The powers that be launched "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" on January 3, 1993. Since "DS9" began its run while "TNG" was still generating new episodes of its own, a couple of crossover episodes were filmed for both "TNG" and "DS9". Some "TNG" episodes even dealt with the Cardassians (an alien race meant to be the villains in "DS9") without mentioning anything that might be happening on DS9 or on Bajor, a planet considering joining the United Federation of Planets.
"DS9" focuses on the Federation presence in the Bajoran system. The Cardassian Empire left Bajor after a brutal sixty-year occupation. The withdrawing Cardassian forces left behind a space station orbiting the planet, re-named Deep Space Nine by the Federation. Starfleet dispatches Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) to oversee DS9. His arrival in the Bajoran system was foreseen by Bajor's spiritual leaders, who think that he is the Emissary to the Prophets, the gods of their religious system. Sisko's arrival on DS9 triggers the opening of the Bajoran wormhole/Celestial Temple, the only known stable wormhole in the universe (i.e. its beginning and end points don't move or disappear). The "discovery" of the wormhole, which connects the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, suddenly turns Bajor into a strategically important planet.
Sisko runs DS9 with the help of First Officer Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor), the Bajoran liaison and a former freedom fighter. They are joined by Chief of Operations Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney from "TNG"); Science Officer Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), a symbiont with a worm living inside of her; Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig or Siddig El Fadil--the man changed his name sometime during the show's run); the shape-shifting Security Chief Odo (Rene Auberjonois); the Ferengi barkeeper, Quark (Armin Shimerman); Rom, Quark's brother; Nog, Rom's son; and Jake Sisko, Benjamin's son. Recurring characters include the Cardassians Gul Dukat and Garek, DS9's tailor.
The "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" Season Three box set includes the following episodes:
Disc 1: "The Search, Part I", "The Search, Part II", "The House of Quark", "Equilibrium".
Disc 2: "Second Skin", "The Abandoned", "Civil Defense", "Meridian".
Disc 3: "Defiant", "Fascination", "Past Tense, Part I", "Past Tense, Part II".
Disc 4: "Life Support", "Heart of Stone", "Destiny", "Prophet Motive".
Disc 5: "Visionary", "Distant Voices", "Through the Looking Glass".
Disc 6: "The Die Is Cast", "Explorers", "Family Business", "Shakaar".
Disc 7: "Facets", "The Adversary".
Season Three begins with Benjamin Sisko taking the initiative in the conflict between the Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant and various powers in the Alpha Quadrant. In "The Search, Parts I and II", Sisko brings the Defiant, a prototype Federation warship with cloaking abilities, to DS9 in order to give the Dominion a taste of Federation power. While the Federation doesn't want to invade anyone's territory, it wants to show the Gamma Quadrant that it won't be bullied into leaving the Bajoran system. Sisko's first expedition into the Gamma Quadrant with the Defiant takes our heroes to the planet on which the Founders of the Dominion live. Odo finds his people, alright--his people are the changelings who have subjected the Gamma Quadrant to their brutal rule.
Although the Alpha Quadrant's powers (the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, etc.) consider the Dominion to be a threat, no major action really occurs during the third season. Well, there is a first-strike attempt made by the Romulans' Tal Shiar and the Cardassians' Obsidian Order (in "The Die Is Cast"), but the whole thing turns out to have been a plot orchestrated by the Founders in order to eliminate the most fanatical elements of the Romulan and Cardassian governments. Meanwhile, everyone is trying to get a feel for how powerful the other side may be. In a related subplot, Odo tries to raise an orphaned Jem'Hadar boy in "The Abandoned", but the boy's genetic code is too strong to override with humanistic care and understanding. Thus, the "good guys" lose an opportunity to foster a kindler, gentler Jem'Hadar and an opportunity to study the enemy closely.
The highlight of Season Three must be the rich writing that generated delightful dialogue and complex characterizations. "DS9" excelled at establishing memorable individuals, and while its characters may not be as imminently likable as those found in "The Original Series", "The Next Generation", or "Voyager", they are the most fully-realized in the "Star Trek" universe. For example, "DS9" gives us the pleasure of watching Garek and Dr. Bashir continuing to share verbal feints over lunch, and it's highly amusing to hear Garek praise the doctor for not trusting him despite their amiable relationship. The episode "Heart of Stone" features memorable performances by Rene Auberjonois and Nana Visitor in a story that has Kira Nerys trapped in a crystal formation with Odo trying to save her. Odo reveals his deepest feelings for Kira, but Kira and Odo never really get any where because...oh, I won't spoil it for you, lol. Yet another good episode with one-on-one interaction is "Explorers", in which Benjamin and Jake Sisko take a father-son trip in a re-created Bajoran solar ship. The two men get to spend some quality time in order to share their dreams, and it's a good episode to watch if a kid in the family is going off to college or something like that.
On a personal level, my favorite narrative threads involve the Ferengi Nog's attempts to join Starfleet. He adopts human gestures (such as handshaking) with exaggerated gusto, and his journey to abandon Ferengi latinum-lust in favor of intrinsically satisfying work reflects the best of the Federation's ideals (much needed given the show's generally dark tone). Needless to say, anything involving Quark, Rom, and Nog is usually pretty funny and engaging, though I could do without Grand Nagus Zek, played by Shawn Wallace using an annoying voice that actually hurts my ears (not severely, but just enough to grate on my nerves).
The 1.33:1 (full-frame on 4:3 monitors) video transfers still look a tad soft to me, and sometimes, I feel as if there are two or three layers of glass plates behind my TV's glass screen. On the other hand, I didn't see any physical defects on the source prints. Colors are vivid when appropriate, and the visual effects work looks very good. There doesn't appear to be any digital artifacting.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio tracks are very good but noticeably less than great. Most of the bass comes from pulsing energy fields and hydraulics, so the audio doesn't sound very full on the low end. The rear speakers don't have much to do, and even the front soundstage seems mostly restricted to the center channel. Dialogue and music come across very well, though, and that's what counts when it comes to "DS9".
The episodes' original DD 2.0 surround English audio tracks are available (and recommended for those of you without DD audio receivers). English subtitles as well as English closed captions support the audio.
All of the extras in the Season Three box set are found on Disc 7. Like most Paramount bonus offerings, most of the extras are featurettes.
There's "The Birth of the Dominion and Beyond", an overview of how the show's writers developed the Dominion hierarchy (the Founders and their underlings) as a sort of "anti-Federation". "Crew Dossier: Odo" focuses on the character's development during the course of the show's run. "Michael Westmore's Aliens: Season Three" is a brief featurette that covers some of the make-up work done for the show.
The last two featurettes focus on specific episodes. "Time Travel Files: ‘Past Tense'" looks at what was done for the "Past Tense" two-parter. For example, people talk about props used for the story and real-world events that inspired the ideas advocated by the show. "Sailing Through the Stars: A Special Look at ‘Explorers'" gives us a glimpse of the production design process that led to the creation of the solar craft that the Siskos used in "Explorers" in their attempt to re-create the ancient Bajorans' journey to Cardassia.
"Star Trek" buffs will get a kick out of the seven Easter Eggs that are on Disc 7. Collectively, they are known as "Section 31 Hidden Files", a reference to Starfleet's Section 31, a rogue group that acts like a secret police, much like the Romulans' Tal Shiar and the Cardassians' Obsidian Order. These Easter Eggs are basically a collection of interviews with cast and crew members. They're not hard to find--while you move the DVD cursor to access the featurettes, you'll stumble upon these Easter Eggs.
A custom plastic packaging houses seven disc trays that can be flipped like the pages in a book. Episode airdates are etched onto the discs themselves, while their stardates are printed on one of the inside covers of the plastic packaging. Everything fits inside a plastic slipcase.
I enjoyed the third season of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" more than I enjoyed its second year. However, my enjoyment came from the show's focus on its characters rather than from any other element. Recurring characters/actors (like Kai Winn/Louise Fletcher, Garek/Andrew Robinson, and Nog/Aron Eisenberg) helped the show blossom into a rich gallery diverse personalities that made "DS9" feel like a larger world than "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (even though the latter found itself zooming from one planet to the next every week). Given the textures and layers that formed during the show's run, I can see why many "Trek" fans consider "Deep Space Nine" to be the crown jewel of the franchise.