Star Trek: Deep Space Nine appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Get ready for more of the same compared to prior seasons; Year Six looked a lot look its predecessors.
For the most part, sharpness looked good. Occasionally the image took on a moderately soft or fuzzy appearance, but that occurred infrequently. Instead, most of the shows were nicely detailed and distinctive. Sporadic – though slight – examples of jagged edges and shimmering did pop up at times, but I saw no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also caused virtually no concerns.
Though it was a fairly dark series most of the time, DS9 still featured a pretty varied palette, and the DVDs usually replicated those tones nicely. Mostly the colors were appropriately saturated and could become quite vivid when necessary. Black levels looked reasonably deep and dense, though they were slightly murky and inky at times. Shadow detail usually offered good definition to low-light shots, but some were a bit too opaque. Overall, the shows continued the trend from prior seasons and earned a solid “B+” for picture quality.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Deep Space Nine also seemed very consistent when compared with the prior seasons of the show. For the most part, the soundfield remained pretty strongly stuck in the front, which was my main complaint about the audio. Both the remixed original series and Next Generation DVDs featured a lot of well-integrated surround material, but DS9 used the rears simply for ambience almost all of the time. Only a few exceptions occurred, as even most battles and other active sequences largely left the rear speakers out of the loop.
Nonetheless, the track generally worked fine. The forward spectrum showed good delineation of sounds, as it placed them appropriately and melded them smoothly. The track created a nice feeling of atmosphere that didn’t seem quite as involving as I’d like, but it functioned more than adequately in general.
Audio quality remained solid. Speech seemed distinct and natural, and I discerned no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. The score sounded vibrant and bold, as the music appeared bright and dynamic. Effects presented solid detail and clarity, and they also offered nice low-end material at times. Bass response wasn’t extraordinary, but it added some good kick to the show when necessary. While the audio of Deep Space Nine never excelled, it seemed solid overall and earned a “B”.
The majority of these extras revolve around five separate featurettes. We start with Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars, an eight-minute and 48-second examination of the series’ big villains. It mixes show clips, stills, and interviews with executive producer Ira Steven Behr, production designer Herman Zimmerman, and actors Avery Brooks, Armin Shimerman, Rene Auberjonois, Michael Dorn, Penny Johnson, and Jeffrey Combs. We see way too many snippets from the episode in this fairly uninformative program. The participants mostly just wax about what a great show it was, and we learn almost nothing about it otherwise. Since we already can see the program elsewhere in this set, I don’t know why we get so many pieces of it excerpted here. “Inquiry” is a dull and fairly useless featurette.
24th Century Wedding focuses on “You Are Cordially Invited” and runs 10 minutes, 54 seconds. It includes statements from writer Ronald D. Moore, director David Livingston, and actors Terry Farrell and Aron Eisenberg. They cover the origins of the story and a little about its development and various elements. It’s a much better show than its predecessor, as it gives us a fun look at “Invited”, largely due to Farrell’s amusing anecdotes. It still includes too many show clips, but at least some of these illustrate the various stories.
Crew Dossier: Julian Bashir runs 14-minute and 20-second piece offers the same mix of production footage, show snippets and interviews we find on the other featurettes. Though we hear a little from executive producer Ira Steven Behr and actor Andrew Robinson, actor Alexander Siddig dominates “Dossier”. We learn Siddig’s audition and the character’s early conception. He then discusses various aspects of the role, Bashir’s development, and his interaction with other characters. He also chats about his crossover spot on Next Generation and other elements. A lot of insightful material appears here and this program contains some solid information. The featurette even uses show clips as a sly comment on Siddig’s comments; when he states that he only had two romantic affairs, we cut to shots of him with Leeta, who the actor forgot.
Another Crew Dossier focuses on Quark. His featurette fills 16 minutes and includes comments from executive producers Behr and Michael Piller, writer/story editor Robert Hewitt Wolfe, and actors Max Grodenchik, Jeffrey Combs, Terry Farrell, Nana Visitor and – mostly - Armin Shimerman. This pursues elements similar to that in the Bashir “Dossier”, as we get notes on Quark’s origins, development, and relationship to others. It’s another useful piece, though it gets pretty gushy with positive testimonials toward the end.
Because they come after six full seasons of the series, the Bashir and Quark “Dossiers” lack as many spoilers as the prior featurettes in the same line included, but a couple pop up here. A few small hints for Season Seven pop up, so skip these featurettes if you want the end to come as a surprise.
Sketchbook: John Eaves offers a look at some drawings created for the series. In this nine-minute and 15-second piece, we hear from illustrator Eaves as he chats about his designs. He talks about the Ketracel facility, a raft from “Rocks and Shoals”, Klingon and other alien bits from the Worf/Dax wedding, the giant sets from “One Little Ship”, the Fifties sci-fi designs from “Far Beyond the Stars”, the Valiant and the new Dominion vessel from that program, Molly’s drawings in “Time’s Orphan”, and the Cardassian defense platforms. We find some insight into the process and what led Eaves to certain designs.
Two minor components round out the obvious parts of the set. In the Photo Gallery, we find 40 images. These offer a decent mix of production stills and behind the scenes pictures. It’s particularly amusing to see Michael Dorn direct while in Worf makeup and street clothers. Lastly, we get an Indiana Jones Preview Trailer. What Indy has to do with DS9, I don’t know. Oh wait – both come from Paramount. There’s your connection! (By the way, since the Indy set hit the shelves a few weeks prior to Season Six, how can this still be a “preview”?)
In the last paragraph, I used the qualifier “obvious” because DS9 includes many Easter eggs. Referred to as “Hidden Files”, we get seven of these strewn throughout the two screens of the DVD’s extras menu. These clips last between 78 seconds and four minutes, two seconds for a total of 26 minutes and 42 seconds of footage, and we get comments from executive producer Behr, director David Livingston, and actors Terry Farrell, Nana Visitor, Marc Alaimo, Mark Allen Shepherd and Rene Auberjonois.
The “Hidden Files” cover a mix of topics. We hear about Farrell’s work in the season’s final episode, the growth of Kira’s attitude toward Gul Dukat, Visitor’s performance as a lounge singer, the choice to use the Dominion War as a running story, Iggy Pop’s guest spot as a Vorta, the season’s most significant kiss, the Worf/Dax dynamic on their mission episode, Dukat’s insanity, some interactions between the writers and the cast, and the Morn character. These comments add a little depth to the package and provide some interesting information.
Positive interface note: as usual with Paramount DVDs, all the extras include English subtitles. Paramount remain the only studio that does this as a given, though I think DreamWorks very rarely omit text. Negative interface note: if you use chapter skip to bypass the opening credits after the end of each episode’s starting sequence, you’ll often wind up farther into the show than you’d like. Chapter two should always begin immediately after the conclusion of the opening credits, and this inconsistency seems annoying. Well, maybe they’ll fix this with Voyager; obviously it won’t change for the final season of DS9.
I must admit that Season Six of Deep Space Nine came as a minor disappointment to me. I expected more action and a more continuous plot line in regard to the Dominion War than I got, and some of the material we did find seemed to rehash themes seen in the past. Nonetheless, the shows mostly seemed entertaining, and despite the relative lack of action, they moved along events nicely. The DVDs presented picture, sound and extras that matched up cleanly with prior sets; all are good, but don’t expect anything revelatory. Overall, Paramount produced another solid DS9 release with Season Six, and I look forward to the series’ concluding programs in Season Seven.
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