Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season One Review
Towards the latter years of Star Trek: The Next Generation's TV run, Gene Roddenberry and the rest of the crew started putting together plans for a different sort of Star Trek series. After a couple of years in development, Roddenberry sadly passed away, but thankfully this didn't put an end to the franchise and Deep Space Nine finally appeared on TV screens back in 1993.
The series was probably the last daring thing that 'The Powers That Be' did with the Star Trek franchise - it was quite a step to move from a ship-based setting to a station-based setting and there's no doubt that for the first couple of years the writers struggled to adjust to the confines that the series presented.
Deep Space Nine, formerly known as Terok Nor, is a space station in orbit of the planet Bajor. Following many years of Cardassian occupation, the Bajoran people manage to overthrow their oppressors and the Federation comes in to assist in the rebuilding of Bajor and it's society. Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) is given the unenviable task of taking command of the station, and almost immediately after his arrival he discovers the first stable wormhole known to exist.
The beauty of Deep Space Nine and its restricted setting is that it gives the writers a great chance to develop far stronger relationships between the regular cast and recurring stars. Plot threads kicked off in the pilot episode continue to develop throughout the whole seven year run. DS9 has far more levels to it than any other Star Trek series - there isn't a distinct line between good and evil and the Federation is far more distant than it ever was in TNG so we really do get a feeling that we really are exploring a new frontier.
Season One kicks off with a feature length pilot called Emissary which perfectly sets the tone of what is to follow. The episode opens with a flashback to one of the most memorable moments in Star Trek history - Starfleet's battle with the Borg at Wolf 359 where Sisko's wife, Jennifer, is killed. At the time of the battle Captain Picard of the Enterprise was under the control of the Borg. We then move forward a few years and see Picard handing over control of Deep Space Nine to Sisko. On a visit to the planet surface Sisko meets the Bajoran spiritual leader, Kai Opaka, who tells him he is destined to discover the 'Celestial Temple' and become the Bajoran's Emissary to the 'Prophets'... Over the course of the episode, we learn more about the Bajoran people and their society than we have since they were introduced in The Next Generation, and it comes as no surprise that over the course of the subsequent seven years they are developed on a huge number of levels - we discover much about their spiritual beliefs and their politics.
The rest of the season potters along at quite a relaxed pace. There are certainly a few poor episodes during the first year - surprising those that stand out as being particularly disappointing tend to feature familiar faces from The Next Generation - Q makes an appearance in the aptly titled Q-Less as does Lwaxanna Troi in The Forsaken. Thankfully, these low points are more than made up for by some excellent stories that give us a good idea of what to expect in later years - the superb A Man Alone tells us a little about Odo's (Rene Auberjonois) past and Duet was at the time one of the emotionally charged episodes that Star Trek had managed to produce. There's no doubt that the series is a little shaky and over the first two years it's widely accepted that it's differences to previous Trek incarnations cost it a fair few viewers. This is a shame as once the series really hit it's stride it became by far the best Trek series and shows just how lacking more recent outings by the franchise have become.
The performances of the main cast are generally good. I originally had some reservations of Avery Brooks' acting abilities and for the course of the first season, it does seem that he struggles to fit into the role he's given. Nana Visitor is good as Sisko's Bajoran second in command and she manages to convey the hate her people feel for the Cardassians. The rest of the regular cast and major recurring guest stars fit their respective roles well.
A special mention should also go to the set design of the station - the designers had to create a whole new look for Deep Space Nine and the move away from the familiar sterility of the Federation starships such as the Enterprise must have brought about many challenges.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season One spans 6 dual layer DVDs and is packaged in a durable plastic case similar to the Region 2 releases of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The DVDs themselves are held in a number of plastic trays held together in the form of a book.
Unfortunately, unlike the TNG releases, the menus here leave a lot to be desired in terms of navigation. The attempt to replicate the Cardassian computer design just creates confusion that is a great shame.
DS9 was filmed at a 4:3 aspect ratio and this has been preserved for the DVD release. As such, the transfer is non-anamorphic, but is reasonably good. There are some minor encoding issues - mostly minor compression artefacts in static scenes and some aliasing. On the whole though the transfer is perfectly fine and superior to early seasons of TNG and a number of other TV shows. The colours appear a little washed out and there is quite a lot of noticeable grain, but this is as a result of the original recording and nothing to do with the DVD transfer. Black levels are reasonably good and the special effects scenes are nice and sharp.
The English soundtrack is remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1. Unfortunately, it doesn't really make very good use of the surround channels other than for minimal background atmospherics. There isn't very much in the way of directional audio, but the front soundstage is nice and solid and the bass levels are reasonable and suitably punchy during battle scenes.
There is around an hour of extra material, all contained on the final disc in the set. The main extra is probably the 20 minute 'Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning' featurette which goes into some depth on the birth of the series. It includes the usual short interview clips from the cast and crew based on the first year of the show and what was required to get the show off the ground. It does have the disadvantage of numerous clips from episodes all the way through the series which may spoil some of the surprises in later years - however they also give a good taster of what is to come. We also get to see a number of concept drawings and quite a lot on the design of the station and the various sets.
The next big extra is the 'Crew Dossier: Kira Nerys' which focuses on the station's first office - Major Kira. It basically chart's Kira's role through all seven seasons and as such is of course again littered with spoilers of what is to come.
'Michael Westmore's Aliens' is a look at the alien makeup and effects used through the series - Westmore basically discusses the makeup used to create a number of the series major alien species including the Bajorans and Cardassians as well as some other more unique designs.
In addition to the three featurettes above that make up the meat of the extras for this box set, we have a number of smaller additions including 'The Secrets of Quark's Bar' which looks at the props used in the bar. 'Alien Artifacts' is another, more general, look at props from the series including weapons and other small bits and bobs. 'The Deep Space Nine Scrapbook' is exactly what is says on the tin - a gathering of small interview clips and footage that doesn't quite fit in elsewhere. To round off there's a photo gallery and ten small easter eggs which are fairly easy to find!
The first season of Deep Space Nine was by far the weakest, but it still towers above recent Star Trek incarnations - particularly Enterprise. Whereas Enterprise, and to a lesser extent Voyager, plays it safe and never strays from familiar territory, DS9 was a huge departure from what has come before. During the first year, a very convincing society is created in the form of the Bajorans and this will be heavily played upon in later seasons. By half way through the first year, the cast seem to have got to grips with their roles on the series - something that took a good two to three years on The Next Generation.
The DVD box set is good, but not quite perfect and doesn't really excel in any one area, but for fans of the series it's perfectly adequate and I for one can't wait for the subsequent seasons to appear.