STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE
Complete Third Season DVD Gift Set
7 discs, 26 episodes, 5 extras
Streets: June 3, 2003 (U.S.)
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Written by Steve Krutzler
DEEP SPACE NINE was on top of its game from the very beginning of season three. Building on two years of intense character development and an intricately woven universe, the first TNG spin-off had developed a personality entirely different from its predecessor and strove to become even more distinct with competition from sister series VOYAGER on the horizon. Throwing caution to the wind, producers Ira Steven Behr and Michael Piller were now free to let their characters—by this point the most developed and unique of any TREK series—inhabit the universe and populate its stories naturally. Serialization became an integral part of the show and the ongoing drama enhanced our new heroes and made each story richer than the next.
No one is a placeholder in DS9’s third season. Sisko is nothing like Kirk or Picard. Kira is unlike any first officer we’ve ever met. The only similarity Odo shared to Data or Spock was alien makeup and his Other status. Quark is probably the most original TREK character, filling no traditional TREK role and imbuing the universe with a frivolity and humor lost since the original series. Even O’Brien, Bashir and Dax were characters unlike any previous series. The season begins with “The Search” and although we’re over two years in, the episode begins with a passionate shouting match over divided loyalties between Sisko and Odo, a conflict unimaginable on TNG, VOY or especially ENTERPRISE. The characters all have divided loyalties on DS9 and season three began to flesh them out for the better. Rather than homogenize the cast into a cooperative, happy family, the DS9 crew encounters more obstacles to its own existence with every installment.
It’s different from the start, as “The Search” makes it clear DS9’s mission is going to become that of peacemaker. This is accomplished most obviously by the addition of the Starship Defiant, the first Federation vessel to have as its primary mission not exploration, but war. The peculiarities of the show’s new mission bring out the characterizations brilliantly and what is an intense action/adventure show is also a very personal character drama, not least of which for Odo. The feature quality of special effects and action sequences is evident in part one’s final climactic battle, which is more gritty and visceral than anything glimpsed in TREK for years. Whether it’s the brief space battle with the Defiant or Sisko and Bashir taking up hand-to-hand combat against the Jem’Hadar, the camera seems to have a more realistic shake and the editing and cinematography deliver a pulse pounding experience that will make your excitement strangely audible, even if watching the episode by yourself.
Part two isn’t quite as effective, especially upon immediate viewing, as the rip-roaring excitement of the previous episode’s finish is dispensed with quickly for a very different type of story. While it’s an innovative twist to have the crew living through a hypothetical Dominion incursion as a sort of “truth test,” the notion that the Founders could so perfectly replicate the station and its ancillary characters (Garak, for one) perfect enough to fool our intrepid heroes is far-fetched and not quite satisfying. More interesting is the Odo story that culminates in the somewhat by-then obvious, but nonetheless compelling, conclusion that the Founders are a race of Changelings that live in a lake of goo.
There are spectacular character pieces like “Second Skin,” where Kira must face that she might actually be a surgically-altered Cardassian agent; “Distant Voices,” where Julian Bashir ages before our eyes in a very convincing makeup job by Michael Westmore and his team. There’s a particularly well-done TNG tie-in episode, “Defiant,” which features Jonathan Frakes as ‘Thomas Riker’, the transporter duplicate from “Second Chances.” This episode also features some more of the Sisko/Gul Dukat dynamic glimpsed in season two’s “The Maquis” and so present in the last years of the show. There are Ferengi comedy episodes galore, each showcasing the genius of Armin Shimerman and the ability of DS9 to do a type of story unseen on STAR TREK since “The Trouble With Tribbles” or “Mudd’s Women.” The political intrigue of the Dominion arc reverberates through “Improbable Cause” and “The Die Is Cast,” which also contains the spectacular duet between Andrew Robinson (‘Garak’) and Rene Auberjonois (‘Odo’). The finale, "The Adversary," continues DS9’s tradition of continuing storylines and ups the ante for the Dominion subplot, passing the point of no return on the serialization boat and providing some of the best suspense TREK has ever seen.
The Packaging and Menus
This season’s color is green and the same durable plastic CD flap case greets your anticipatory hand when you pull it out of the sleeve. Much like the impact DS9 made on fans (and critics), these sets will be here a long time owing to top-notch production and packaging. The U.S.S. Defiant graces the top of each CD and some superficial schematics reside on the front left fold of the set. The menus this time around replace the Starfleet runabout with the Defiant flying through the wormhole to begin with but the changes pretty much end there. Still no rectification of the lack of episode trailers for ease of selection between episodes and the main menus are identical in design to the previous two sets.
Season three comes with five all-new featurettes. The first, THE BIRTH OF THE DOMINION AND BEYOND, is the longest and most well produced. With ample new interview footage with all the major players—Piller, Behr, Robert Hewitt Wolfe--we’re led through the thought process of developing the Dominion as an antithesis to the Federation and a specific threat that would differentiate DS9 from TNG and then looming VOYAGER. Ira Behr makes a particularly salient point when he says that the idea of giving the Dominion three major villainous races—the Jem’Hadar, the Vorta, and the Founders—was to avoid the possibility of choosing just one and finding that it didn’t pan out: a strategy ENTERPRISE may seemingly be trying to reproduce with its Xindi humanoids, insectoids and other –oids lined up for the fall. Wolfe’s contribution is particularly noteworthy, as Piller gives him credit for the initial ideas behind all three foes, and the former TREK writer reveals the passion behind the development of the franchise’s best threat since the Borg.
Next up is the third edition of MICHAEL WESTMORE’S ALIENS, this time focusing extensively on Ferengi makeup for Quark, the Grand Nagus (Wallace Shawn) and Quark’s mother; Nana Visitor’s brief stint as a Cardassian for “Second Skin”; Bashir aging through several stages for “Distant Voices”; and then a concluding piece of Odo’s initial makeup construction and how it was adapted for various changes in the third season, like the flaking shapeshifter at the hands of a torturous Garak in “The Die is Cast.”
The focus on Odo continues with a CREW DOSSIER on the prickly Constable, featuring all new interview footage with a bearded Rene Auberjonois in what amounts to a pretty lengthy discussion of one of TREK’s best characters from start to finish. Particularly interesting is the actor’s retelling of his first audition and his uncertainty at revealing Odo’s origin earlier than he had expected. Rene also talks about taking up the director’s chair and is probably one of the most genuine STAR TREK actors you’ll ever hear from. If you love Odo (how could you not?), you’ll probably think this is the best of the DOSSIER programs yet.
TIME TRAVEL FILES highlights “Past Tense,” one of DS9’s most poignant and classically-minded episodes. Dealing with a 21st century Earth that imprisons homeless in concentration camps, “Past Tense” ranks up there as one of the best STAR TREK episodes of all time and it’s a two-parter to boot. The combination of old-new history, fleshing out the void of pre-23rd (and now 22nd) century STAR TREK history is irresistible and this featurette reveals Ira Behr’s inspiration for the story and the crew’s shock when California lawmakers actually began considering homeless “zones” while the episode was in production. Particularly pleasing here is the first brand new interview footage with Avery Brooks, who makes a brief but notable appearance, as well as 1999 footage of Colm Meaney, who touts the nobility of the episode and its following in the grand STAR TREK tradition of social commentary.
Finally, SAILING THROUGH THE STARS: A SPECIAL LOOK AT “EXPLORERS” is the set’s only production documentary (not counting makeup) and looks at the design for the Bajoran solar sailer ship featured in the father-son sci-fi story that tugs all the right strings—right down to the Cardassian space fireworks at the end. Herman Zimmerman talks in new footage about his design ideas for the interior set and illustrator Jim Miller recalls his delight at designing the “whimsical” flyer. The episode is another one of those STAR TREK classics in more ways than one, and it’s a story that manages to sum up the spirit of the entire franchise while putting its own unique, DS9-specific spin on the idea by enveloping it within the Cardassian/Bajoran political dynamic.
Finally, SECTION 31 hidden files populate both menu screens of the special features and include a whole gamut of mini-features. As with season two, these are definitely worth watching, even if some could’ve been combined into meatier main featurettes. There are a couple about “Second Skin,” one including new interview footage with Nana Visitor about her harrowing makeup experience, while the other has Robert Wolfe again extolling his enthusiasm for a script; Wolfe commentates a file on “Family Business,” one of the Ferengi episodes; David Livingston talks about directing “The Die Is Cast”; and two files feature visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel recalling the efforts to blow up the station for “Visionary” and the miniature constructed for the Founders’ homeworld’s surface in “The Search.” Topping it off is a shorty with Jim Miller about designing 60s-style wall posters for brief moments in “Past Tense.”
Despite the large platter of features, the glaring oversight is a focus of any kind on the design of the Defiant. The arrival of the ship was very important for the show and yet there is no featurette going through its visual design (certainly a first in STAR TREK ship design) or its interior set design. Is this being saved for a later? I don’t know why; season three is where it belongs. This omission, however, highlights a startling lack of any meaty production programs on the disc. There are hardly any design sketches this time around and the “Explorers” feature only minimally touches on this area of interest. The programs overall are stunningly lacking of cast interview footage and producer Rick Berman makes no appearance here, perhaps owing to the fact that Behr was beginning to diverge into the serialized territory the exec was forced to swallow.
Does that matter? Only inasmuch as the product could’ve been better and season two was. But the quality of the 26 episodes are the best yet for DS9 and there’s no denying the hours of enjoyment fans of the show or those just discovering it will get from this new third season treatment. Buying a package like this on DVD really comes down to repeat usage and if my own repeat viewings of the first two seasons are any indication, season three will fill this bill admirably in the months to come.
Episode listing: The Search I, The Search II, The House of Quark, Equilibrium, Second Skin, The Abandoned, Civil Defense, Meridian, Defiant, Fascination, Past Tense I, Past Tense II, Life Support, Heart of Stone, Destiny, Prophet Motive, Visionary, Distant Voices, Through the Looking Glass, Improbable Cause, The Die is Cast, Explorers, Family Business, Shakaar, Facets, The Adversary.
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