Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 11, 2003)
With this newest set of discs, the steamroller that is Paramount’s DVD release of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine progresses. Here we find Season Three. These shows will be discussed in the order broadcast, which is also the way in which they appear on the DVDs.
While Star Trek: The Next Generation used a lot of season-spanning cliffhangers, DS9 seemed to prefer year-opening two-part episodes. This means that Season Three begins with The Search Parts I and II. Actually, this program sort of extends Season Two’s closer, “The Jem’Hadar”. “Search” launches with a recap of that episode and we see the crew of DS9 as they prepare for an attack by a force called the Jem’Hadar, enforcers for a mysterious but nasty crew known as the Dominion.
As the gang plot, Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks) arrives at the helm of a Starfleet warship called the Defiant. They need to take this heavily powered prototype into the Gamma Quadrant to meet with the Founders, the leaders of the Dominion. Onboard the ship we meet Starfleet security Lt. Commander Eddington (Kenneth Marshall) and Romulan Subcommander T’Rul (Martha Hackett); the latter wants to make sure that the cloaking device her government loaned to the Federation doesn’t get appropriated inappropriately.
Station security chief Odo (Rene Auberjonois) reacts negatively to the loss of his authority represented by Eddington and submits his resignation. Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) gets the Bajoran government to give him an official role so he can go on the mission, and Sisko also entreats Ferengi businessman Quark (Armin Shimerman) to come along as well due to some of his previous contacts in the Gamma Quadrant. The shows follow the development of this mission and some unusual twists it takes, especially when Odo experiences a particular yen to visit a specific location in the Omarion sector.
The characters and themes of DS9 receive considerable exposition and development here. Parts of “Search” seem predictable, but the episodes include some genuinely startling revelations. Generally exciting and provocative, “Search” offers an intriguing start to Season Three.
The House of Quark finds our favorite Ferengi businessman facing hard times; issues with the Dominion have reduced traffic to DS9. When a drunken Klingon gets into a brawl with Quark, an accident leaves the former dead. Gawkers line the promenade and lead Quark to use an especially tawdry tactic to lure more customers: Quark claims he offed the Klingon during battle. This increases his business but becomes complicated when the Klingon’s family comes after Quark.
Dominion related tensions tug at the family of Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) as well. His wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) shuts down her school because too many families have left DS9. Miles tries to keep her happy, but she clearly feels depressed and without much purpose. Miles tries to fix this problem as he deals with his wife’s continuing career sacrifice to be on DS9.
The O’Brien elements feel a little drab and uneventful, even though they theoretically should provide the best character development. Quark’s plotline feels a little silly and gimmicky, but it’s also a lot of fun. I recognize that Quark exists as little more than a comic relief personality, but the serious Trek universe needs as much mirth as it can get, so I usually enjoy him. “House” melds his sleaziness with the Klingon world and does so in an enjoyable manner.
Sisko throws a dinner party at the start of Equilibrium. Lt. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) claims she has no musical talent, but when she toys with an instrument, she whips out a neat little melody that soon preoccupies her mind constantly and distracts her. She becomes nasty when she loses a chess match with Sisko; she accuses him of cheating and won’t entertain any thoughts to the contrary. She seems similarly brusque with others but backs off when she has a hallucination and fears what this means. Scans by Dr. Julian Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) lead to concerns that Dax may reject her symbiont, so they head to the Trill homeworld to get further information. All seems well for a moment, but Dax’s hallucinations soon return and the plot thickens from there.
Given the unusual nature of the Dax symbiont, she should be one of the series’ most interesting characters. However, I’ve never warmed up to Dax, as she always seems dull. A lot of that comes from Farrell’s mediocre acting skills, and episodes that focus on Dax find it tough to overcome those concerns. “Equilibrium” offers some mildly interesting information about the Trills, but otherwise it works as a fairly bland little mystery.
Another mystery opens Second Skin. Kira finds that records indicate she spent a week at a prison 10 years earlier, but she has no memory of that. When she investigates, she discovers that the only surviving inmate remembers her, and she starts to question her own recollections. She heads to Bajor to investigate but matters weirden when she doesn’t arrive there. Oddly, she ends up among Cardassians with a Cardassian face, and they claim she’s one of them. Kira needs to deal with what’s real and what’s not.
Didn’t we all like this story better when they called it Total Recall? “Skin” betrays serious similarities to that flick, and it never overcomes this feeling that it’s a rip-off of the Schwarzenegger vehicle. It also feels like an attempt to allow Kira some emotional content, but it seems fairly contrived. “Skin” provides a modicum of entertainment but it’s too derivative to really succeed.
An old fling of Quark’s sells him a junked spacecraft in The Abandoned. This comes with an odd catch: the ship includes a discarded baby of unknown species and origins. Sisko moons over the child as he wistfully looks back on the times when his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) remained in diapers. However, those feelings dissipate as the child grows rapidly; within hours, the boy’s an adolescent. The plot thickens when the kid reaches maturity. In the meantime, Sisko experiences additional child problems with Jake after he invites the boy’s sexy girlfriend Mardah (Jill Sayre) for dinner, an activity that doesn’t seem to please Jake.
“Abandoned” offers decent exposition and exploration of a particular alien species, but it doesn’t seem terribly original. The episode reminds me a lot of the Next Generation show in which the crew of the Enterprise tried to humanize a Borg. “Abandoned” doesn’t really do much more than provide some basic discussion of these issues, and it seems lackluster overall.
Sisko, Jake and O’Brien face a ticking clock in Civil Defense. As they attempt to convert an ore processing facility, they accidentally trigger an old Cardassian security measure that imprisons them in the room. A prerecorded message tells them they have only eight minutes to enter a code or else. They extend their time when they “surrender” to the computer, but they still need to find a way out of the location. The episode follows their quest for freedom and the actions taken by others on the station to prevent disaster.
While I definitely like the continuing character exposition of the series, every once in a while it’s nice to get a show that just focuses on suspense and action. “Defense” fills that bill pretty well. It presents lots of intrigue; every time the crewmembers think they’ve found a solution, another problem appears. It’s a taut and lively show with plenty of fun surprises.
During exploration of the Gamma quadrant, the planet Meridian suddenly appears. It turns out this globe shifts between dimensions. When in the other one, the inhabitants become non-corporeal, but when they’re in ours, they turn into hippies. As an inhabitant named Deral (Brett Cullen) hits on Dax, she learns of an instability that will eventually cause the demise of Meridian and its people. In the meantime, a business associate of Quark’s named Tirol (Jeffrey Combs) moons over Kira. He makes a deal with Quark for the latter to create a sexy holosuite simulation of Tirol’s favorite Bajoran.
“Meridian” doesn’t include anything terribly original, as we’ve seen this sort of “doomed society” episode in the past. The attempted romantic connection between Dax and Tirol doesn’t add much either, and just how many damned hippie commune planets are there in the 24th century, anyway? The Quark/Kira/Tirol subplot provides some decent comic relief, but otherwise “Meridian” feels like sloppy melodrama.
We get a guest connection from an old friend in Defiant. When Kira gets overly stressed and Dr. Bashir insists that she get some R&R at Quark’s, a potential partner in crime shows up: Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) from the Enterprise. When the pair take a tour of the Defiant, Riker mysteriously turns on her, blasts her, beams aboard some accomplices and takes control of the ship. The rest of the episode follows various plot twists and developments.
A good callback to a Next Generation program called “Second Chances”, “Defiant” packs some good action while it also helps expand the relationship between Starfleet and the Cardassians. The show puts Sisk in the unusual position to work alongside the Cardassians, which gives the program an interesting flavor. We also get some good cat and mouse material and nice action in this satisfying episode.
Another blast from the Next Generation past shows up in Fascination. At the start of the Bajoran Gratitude Festival, a number of visitors come aboard DS9. O’Brien reunites with wife Keiko and daughter Molly for the first time in months, while Kira gets to spend some time with her lover Bareil (Philip Anglim). In addition, Ambassador Lwaxana Troi – the mother of Next Generation’s counselor Deanna – comes aboard to spend some time with Odo, who she befriended back in Season One.
Is it just me, or does it seem like this season of DS9 has established a pattern? Action episode, then a romance episode, then action, then romance – I hope this doesn’t continue, for it seems calculated. Nonetheless, “Fascination” offers some fun twists, especially as folks start to act unusually during the Festival. The weirdness quotient makes “Fascination” resemble other Trek shows; inevitably, someone will have to track down the reason for the anomalies and set things straight. Still, at least “Fascination” avoids the sentimentality of blander shows like “Meridian”, so it offers a moderately amusing piece.
Time for another two-segment program with Past Tense Parts I and II. These shows also exploit another Trek staple: time travel to Earth of the past. Well, the series’ past, not ours. Sisko and some others head to Earth to address a symposium about the current situation in the Gamma Quadrant. Dax, Bashir and Sisko get lost in the transporter beam and end up in San Francisco circa 2024. Dax gets separated from the two men, and she gets help from media mogul Chris Brynner (Jim Metzler). While she receives the fancy treatment, the guys end up in a camp for the homeless. All three work on finding their way out of this predicament while Kira and O’Brien try to track them back in the 24th century. Matters complicate when Sisko realizes they’re in town right before the start of some legendarily terrible riots; that sets a ticking clock for them to get away from their location, and matters get even worse when the pair inadvertently alter the future.
Like many Trek time travel episodes, “Tense” deals with the complexities of potentially altering history. It twists that concept since it deals with events that haven’t happened for us. While the shows feature the usual themes in which our heroes try to avoid actions that might change history, it varies that because they do create an altered future. Parts of the programs seem predictable, but enough clever and unusual elements pop up to make “Tense” a good two-part piece.
In Life Support, an accident on a transport injures some Bajoran notables such as Vedek Bareil and Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher). As Bashir tries to save Bareil, Winn reveals to Sisko that the Bajorans were working on peace negotiations with their longtime foes the Cardassians. Bareil barely survives, but Winn insists that the discussions take place with him as a consultant anyway. Matters complicate because Bariel remains severely ill and may not survive the treatment. In addition, Jake experiences some relationship issues. He tries to cancel plans with his Ferengi pal Nog (Aron Eisenberg) to go out on a date with Leanne (Lark Voorhies), but Nog doesn’t take a hint and he invites himself along as a third wheel.
Given the drama of the main plot, the teenage antics of the secondary string seem like an odd element, and it distracts from the Bareil story. Fletcher usually makes Winn a delightfully devious character, but she comes across as less lively here, and too much melodrama surrounds Bareil’s fate. “Support” offers a pretty blah show that exists mostly to let Bareil and Bashir utter dramatic moralizing proclamations. Too much of it feels like a bad episode of General Hospital
After a trip to survey conditions on a Bajoran colony in Heart of Stone, Odo and Kira see a Maquis interceptor that attacked a Lissepian supply ship. They chase the single-man craft and head down to the surface of a moon where the pilot appears to crash-land. During the search, Kira’s foot gets stuck in a funky crystal that grows and alters shape when provoked. Atmospheric conditions strand them there, and they’ll need to deal with various threats for at least two days for help from DS9 to arrive; as the crystal grows, Kira fears it’ll totally encase her before rescue comes. Back on the station, Nog declares to Sisko that he wants to join Starfleet; the show follows his efforts to convince the Commander of his sincerity and also lets us slowly find out his motives for this surprise decision.
Given Nog’s status as a minor character, it seems odd to see him featured prominently for two consecutive programs, but in “Stone” he feels better integrated than in “Support”. Nonetheless, the show also comes across as pretty average. Both plots seem like somewhat contrived attempts to develop character bonding, and neither works especially well. There’s nothing terribly wrong with “Stone”, but it remains unexceptional and too much melodrama mars the Odo and Kira segment.
In Destiny, a pair of Cardassian scientists are supposed to come aboard DS9 to help set up a system that will allow communication through the wormhole. However, Vedek Yarka (Erick Avari) believes that if they get onto the station and enable the communications, this will fulfill a prophecy that causes heaps of problems. Sisko declines to take Yarka’s advice, so Cardassians Ulani (Wendy Robie) and Gilora (Tracy Scoggins) show up on DS9. Since the prophecy mentions three “vipers”, this doesn’t seem likely because only two scientists arrive. However, when their counterpart Dejar (Jessica Hendra) comes onboard, Kira starts to wonder if the prophecy may be true, and other coincidences spark even more concern on her part.
Not a great episode but a pretty good one, “Destiny” offers some interesting angles. The interactions with the Cardassian women seem fun, especially as O’Brien gets entangled with Gilora. It’s also intriguing to investigate Kira’s faith-related issues and Sisko’s place within them as the alleged “Emissary”.
Ferengi Grand Nagus Nek (Wallace Shawn) returns in Prophet Motive. He wrote revised Rules of Acquisition that seem totally at odds with common Ferengi wisdom, as these new ones favor happiness over profit. Quark thinks the Nagus has gone nuts, so he attempts to figure out what’s happening here. In addition, Bashir gets nominated for the Carrington Award, the Federation’s most prestigious medical prize. He’s the youngest nominee ever and feels he doesn’t stand a chance to win, but he clearly hopes otherwise.
Episodes in which characters behave contrary to their normal patterns are risky proposition, as they can easily backfire. However, “Motive” works well and offers a very amusing and entertaining exploration of the Nagus’ new clothes. Shawn’s good as always as the cackling Nagus. Toss in a clever call back to the stem bolts from early in the series and “Motive” is a fun episode.
Branching out alert: with “Motive”, we get the second DS9 episode directed by a cast member. We’d already seen some programs led by Avery Brooks, and “Prophet” puts Rene Auberjonois at the helm.
One oddity: when did Max Grodenchik start to play Rom like he was Lennie from Of Mice and Men? Sure, he’s always been cartoony, but I don’t recall him seeming quite this goofy.
Continue to Disc 5-7 and technical ratings...