Written by Steve Krutzler
STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE
Complete Second Season DVD Gift Set
7 discs, 26 episodes, 5 extras
Streets: April 1, 2003 (U.S.)
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In a recent interview with the Star Trek Communicator, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE co-creator and executive producer Michael Piller reflected on the first TNG spin-off, saying while creatively satisfied with the rapid development of character in the show’s first season, he nonetheless knew the series needed somewhat of a kick in the rear going into its second year. Piller relayed the story of how he approached a fan anonymously while at a restaurant and asked him what he thought of DS9; the fan said there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, but it didn’t seem very exciting. With that in mind, Piller decided to fix this problem with the show’s second season. The result of his and the work of writers like Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe (among others) is a season of STAR TREK that Piller, speaking on the new ST:DS9 season two DVD set, proudly declares one of the best the franchise ever produced. Frankly, it’s hard to disagree.
The first season of DEEP SPACE NINE set out to develop characters quickly, rather than waiting for the third season like NEXT GENERATION did. The result was a bustling first 20 episodes that introduced conflict at every turn and the richest, most engaging group of characters ever seen in the STAR TREK mythos. DS9 bravely departed from the TREK mold by rooting its characters and its stories, forcing a kind of exploration of the human condition never before possible on the prior two series. This didn’t sit too well with many TREK fans, who thought DS9 was either boring or a betrayal of Gene Roddenberry’s vision. In fact, both Piller and Behr discuss this very issue in the DVD extras for season two, explaining why they think Roddenberry would probably have been impressed with DS9. Rather than retreat to the formula that made TNG a bona fide hit, the second season of DS9 charged ahead, pushing its premise further away from what could traditionally be recognized as STAR TREK, layering political plot lines that would resonate throughout the rest of its seven-year run and creating an intricate tapestry.
The year started off with a bang. For the first (and last) time, a TREK season began with a three-part epic storyline. “The Homecoming,” “The Circle,” and “The Seige” take the Starfleet/Bajoran antagonism fomented in the season one finale (“In The Hands of the Prophets”) to the extreme, resolving for the most part that angle of the series’s premise once and for all. By the end of the story, Sisko has proven Starfleet’s veracity, taken back the station from invading Bajoran extremists, and provided viewers with a small taste of the kinds of stories the show would present later.
“The Maquis” two-parter introduced the very premise for STAR TREK: VOYAGER and presented a riveting political adventure. The installment features an extensive guest appearance by Marc Alaimo as ‘Gul Dukat’ and his performance is so multifaceted, at once likeable while at the same time leaving no question as to his villainous soul. One line in particular comes to mind after Sisko has informed Dukat that the Cardassian Central Command hung him out to dry. Sisko asks him if the Central Command holds him responsible for losing the occupation of Bajor and Dukat turns to the window and utters with complete conviction, “there are those who thought I should have killed every last Bajoran while I had the chance… it’s too late for that, I’m afraid.” Chilling, and an excellent example of how well DS9 was scripted at this stage.
“The Maquis” began yet another thread that would be revisited often throughout the series. It also sums up the intent of DS9 perhaps better than anything up to this point. Sisko explains the problem of the episode, which pits him against a lifelong Starfleet buddy who helps found the Maquis (Bernie Casey), by declaring, “Earth is the problem.” Surely blasphemy for any Starfleet captain—but the monologue that follows tells the story of DEEP SPACE NINE in a nutshell and if you aren’t convinced here you probably never could be.
”The Wire” delves more deeply into the mysterious past of ‘Garak’ (Andrew Robinson) in what might be compared to the first season’s “Duet.” This time it’s a delusional Garak who trades barbs with Alexander Siddig’s ‘Julian Bashir’, his friend and doctor. The tour-de-force for Robinson introduces us to a web of lies, each more grandiose than the next and all enigmatic and confusing. Did Garak betray his people on Bajor? Was he a spy betrayed by his partner? The final conversation between the two is another one for the history books, as Garak assures Bashir, “they’re all true… especially the lies.”
”Crossover” dared to tell the follow-up to the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror,” and itself created a whole mythology arc of its own, with several mirror universe stories following over the years. The initial encounter is quite memorable, with Garak as first officer of the station and Nana Visitor giving us her first crack at the luscious ‘Intendant’. There’s really nothing to hate in this episode, which is replete with references to other TREK characters, includes a few noble monologues and gives the main cast a chance to play roles entirely out of character. Also memorable is the comedy “Rules of Acquisition,” another successful showing of Armin Shimerman’s brilliance and the hilarity of guest Wallance Shawn as ‘Grand Nagus Zek’. Even this seemingly throw-away episode sets in motion the Ferengi sexual revolution that would come further down the road, and adds to the build-up of the Dominion, which would eventually come to climactic fruition in the season finale “The Jem’Hadar.”
The finale begins innocent enough, rather campy, in fact. The entire first act is practically a comedy, with the shenanigans of Quark accompanying Sisko, Jake, and Nog on a science trip to a planet in the Gamma Quadrant. The story soon turns deadly and the blinders of an initially narrow story are removed to reveal a broad adventure with galactic consequences. Put simply, “The Jem’Hadar” starts as a camping trip and ends with the kamikaze destruction of a Galaxy class starship at the hands of the Dominion, which makes its claim to the Gamma Quadrant and designs on future conquest abundantly clear. It’s also great to see Quark in action; the character was clown, thief, negotiator, coward, hero, informant, deputy and more throughout the second season, quite possibly one of the most versatile (and well acted) characters STAR TREK has ever produced.
Don’t forget the visit from three TOS-era Klingons in “Blood Oath,” the holographic inspiration for ENTERPRISE’s “Oasis” executed far better in “Shadowplay,” and a host of other gems. “Second Sight” falls a little short with a somewhat derivative alien love story for Sisko, but it’s not difficult to agree with Michael Piller’s perhaps ambitious assertion. DEEP SPACE NINE season two is a breath of fresh air, especially if you haven’t seen it in a while.
Packing and Menus
Weighing in a little fatter than the first season of the series, you’ll once again be impressed with the sturdy plastic flip-style disc housing and outer case. This time you’ll be greeted to brilliant space-scapes of mysterious planets and Galor class Cardassian starships printed on the set’s seven discs. The episode airdates are a nice touch that the ST:TNG sets didn’t include and the ease with which you can flip through the discs and glance at the episode list on the right inner-jacket will make choosing one of the season’s spectacular offerings that much more difficult.
The menus are unchanged since season one, which regrettably means you’ll again miss the episode trailers that ran continuously on the TNG DVDs, a courtesy that made choosing an installment simpler and one that you’re likely to need, considering DS9 has had considerably less rerun exposure over the last decade. The episode-specific menu screens have been augmented slightly but it’s cosmetic only and there is no further functionality or a significant change in design. Whether this will remain unchanged as the rest of the show’s five years become available is anyone’s guess but at this point the omission is certainly more of an annoying oversight than a flaw that compromises the quality of the product in any serious manner. Perhaps more annoying is the fact that not all beginning episode chapters are well-defined, meaning act one sometimes continues in the same chapter as the opening credits, resulting in navigation confusion when trying to skip them quickly.
Paired with the elevated material is an equally improved stash of bonus materials on the set’s seventh disc. Boasting less original featurettes than the last release, the quality of the five documentary programs is mostly impressive. NEW FRONTIERS: THE STORY OF DEEP SPACE NINE is the main program and at 15:00 includes something the first season was sorely missing: brand new interview footage with Michael Piller. He talks about the inspiration behind the series against a view of sketches for a planetary colony that might have become DS9 if location shooting weren’t so problematic. Instead, the frontier town was created in space and Piller is honest about some of the pitfalls of character early in the series. He admits trouble with defining Sisko until later down the road and credits Ira Steven Behr with much of the show’s success. Behr appears in archival 1996/1999 footage, talking mostly about why he thinks Gene Roddenberry would be just as proud of DS9 as any of the more straight-forward TREK series. Robert Hewitt Wolfe gives us his take on the show as a whole as well. The jacket says Rick Berman should be in here, but he’s not.
Next up is MICHAEL WESTMORE’S ALIENS—SEASON TWO, which returns the featurette from the last set and updates it for the new season. At 12:00 this is mostly innocuous and each segment on the aliens is a little brief. There is also very little behind the scenes footage of applying the makeup, but discussion of the Klingon work for “Blood Oath” is a definite highlight. Rick Sternbach is joined by illustrator Jim Martin in the DEEP SPACE NINE SKETCH BOOK: SEASON TWO. Ten minutes of interview remarks includes original concept sketches for many props and sets like the village in “Shadowplay” and Quark’s Tongo wheel. The five minute NEW STATION, NEW SHIPS probably should’ve been combined with the preceding, but it nonetheless contains intriguing discussion and sketches about developing the Starfleet runabouts—which don’t seem to ever have achieved the level of scale that the designers intended—and the Cardassian Galor class warship. Pictures and behind the scene footage of the models makes this the better of the two art department-related programs.
Definitely a delight this time around is the CREW DOSSIER segment on ‘Jadzia Dax’. It’s even two minutes longer than the NEW FRONTIERS feature and is full of brand new interview footage with Terry Farrell shot last October. Farrell talks at length about her casting and her initial difficulty with the character, but the segment really pleases with test footage of Dax with a forehead before they ultimately decided to go with spots for the Trill makeup. Farrell also talks in-depth about “Rejoined,” the fourth season episode featuring her same sex kiss with Susanna Thompson, and “Change of Heart,” which she thinks could’ve provided an excellent death for Jadzia that the writers missed out on.
Most surprising, however, is what remains on the disc. Not because you don’t know they’re here, but because you don’t expect them to be so good. Frankly, the ten SECTION 31 HIDDEN FILES nestled throughout the bonus feature menus are the highlight of the entire feature lineup. The first season presented mostly brief archival interview footage with cast members about their characters, which while a worthy addition to the set, seemed tedious and mostly tacked-on. The set as a whole also didn’t treat specific season one episodes very thoroughly in any of its plethora of bonus features. On the season two set, if you’re looking for great incites into various episodes (and a handy primer on which episodes to check out first), it’s the SECTION 31 files you’ll want to visit.
File 01 presents scenic art supervisor Mike Okuda in 1993 footage talking about the creation of various backlighting pieces and computer animations for the show. His two-minute feature emphasizes the design freedom that the alien setting of DS9 provided for the art department. File 02 has Robert Hewitt Wolfe talking about “Shadowplay,” the episode where an entire village has been recreated holographically. Wolfe talks about Odo’s (Rene Auberjonois) role in the episode and the excitement at adding some small hints of the Dominion into the script. The third S31 file is 2:30 in length and offers Wolfe again, this time talking about the inspiration for “Crossover.” Unquestionably enthusiastic for the material, this is absolutely not to be missed. Number 4 lets Wolfe talk about “Invasive Procedures,” which he explains is modeled after the film KEY LARGO and contains a specific homage to John Woo films. Check out File 05 for more Terry Farrell reflecting on the shuttle fight sequence in “The Seige,” which she recalls as the first “dog fight” by women characters in STAR TREK.
O6 cannot be missed as Armin Shimerman finally makes an appearance on the sets in new interview footage, remembering the visit of actor Wallace Shawn as ‘Zek’. This is one of the longer hidden files and a must-see. Number 7 is a bit shorter, with more Farrell talking “Blood Oath” and her pride at working with Michael Ansara and the other Klingon actors who reprised their roles from the original series. File 08 gives director David Livingston a chance to discuss his efforts on “Crossover” and provides some of the most insightful commentary on the entire set regarding his skewed camera angles (pictured above)--and Rick Berman's displeasure with them. Number 9 is yet another treat, with 1999 interview footage of actor Andrew Robinson talking about Garak. Finally, File 10 is also particularly noteworthy as Michael Piller addresses specifically the issue of Bajoran spirituality and mysticism on the series and explains why he thinks it was a bold move for television and for STAR TREK.
STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE season two is a very well-rounded DVD package. The bonus features are extremely insightful, mainly due to the SECTION 31 vignettes, and the episodes are superb. With more action and more intrigue than season one, the 1993-1994 year of DS9 truly began to set the stage for numerous ongoing plot lines that would guide the series until its unfortunate end in 1999. Season one was good, but everything improved ten-fold in the second year, an amazing accomplishment.
Interestingly, ENTERPRISE may be headed for a similar turnaround. While it’s difficult to debate the superiority of early DS9 compared with the first year and a half of ENTERRPRISE, there are signs that the last half of season two could alter the prequel series in a way that the sophomore year did for DEEP SPACE NINE. While we can hope that it works out half as well for Jonathan Archer and the crew of the NX-01, reliving the excitement of DS9’s path-breaking second season in this new DVD set is, at least, a sure thing.
Episode listing: The Homecoming, The Circle, The Seige, Invasive Procedures, Cardassians, Melora, Rules of Acquisition, Necessary Evil, Second Sight, Sanctuary, Rivals, The Alternate, Armageddon Game, Whispers, Paradise, Shadowplay, Playing God, Profit and Loss, Blood Oath, The Maquis I, The Maquis II, The Wire, Crossover, The Collaborator, Tribunal, The Jem’Hadar.
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