Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Klingon Conflict Erupts On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season Four!

The Good: Character, Acting, Special effects, Plot
The Bad: DVD Packaging
The Basics: When the Klingons invade Cardassia, the entire Alpha Quadrant shifts in the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

By now, readers of my reviews know that I am a fan of Star Trek and that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is, by far, my favorite. While it was on the air, I was going to conventions and I kept up with all of the latest news on the series and where it was going. So, I had been quite excited when it was leaked that Worf, from Star Trek: The Next Generation would be joining the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. At that time, I had no fears that the show would begin to center around Worf, which - fortunately - it did not. My problem, at the time, was with how they were going to integrate the Klingon Worf into the series.

Following Sisko's promotion to Captain and Odo's accidental killing of a Changeling at the climax of the third season, paranoia about the Dominion is running high. After a year of menace from the Dominion, the Federation is on edge, the Cardassians have sealed their borders and space station Deep Space Nine is bracing for an attack with daily drills anticipating the invasion from a shape-shifter. It is out of that climate that the Klingons believe that a civil uprising on Cardassia must have been engineered by the Dominion and they mount an invasion of Cardassian territory. The invasion brings Worf to the station to advise Sisko and in its wake, the treaty between the Federation and the Klingons falls apart.

With the Klingons and Federation at one another's throats, Sisko finds Worf's aid invaluable and invites him to stay on the station. The crew of Deep Space Nine weathers the Klingons, a terrorist attack on Earth by the Dominion, a crew of rogue Jem'Hadar, labor strikes and an unexpected pregnancy.

All of this is information you would not find on the DVD box. The problem with buying DVD boxed sets for television shows is that they don't tell you what the show actually is. In the case of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where a serialized story is being told, this is especially aggravating as the whole season basically follows an arc. Season four is the season that the Klingons reassert themselves as villains under the guise of keeping the Dominion out of the Alpha Quadrant. While DVD boxes sets for television shows are currently the fastest growing entertainment market, in a few years their sales will drop as secondary buyers (i.e. those who were not already fans of a show) attempt to find new material and instead find the packaging for boxed sets unrevealing and unhelpful. Saying what the bonuses to a DVD set are does not sell the actual show on it to anyone but those who are already fans.

For those who are not already fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the boxed sets are an excellent way to get into it and season 4 is the last possible one to buy to start to get into the series. While ideally, Deep Space Nine should be viewed from the first season, at the beginning of the third season, it reinvents itself and the fourth season does something similar. So, it would be possible to watch either the third or fourth season, fall in love with the show, and then go back to the beginning to get the full richness of the series. After this boxed set, it honestly is too late; the serialized nature of the show makes it almost impossible for people to get into it beginning with the fifth (or after) season.

Here's why you should give the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine a fair shake: it's damn fine drama. The writers and producers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have a keen understanding of what makes people tick and they have engineered characters that are interesting to watch. More than that, they struggle through some pretty amazing adventures. Season four has some of the best episodes of the series. From the heartwrenching journey Jake Sisko takes in aging as a great writer after his father's death ("The Visitor") to the lesbian passions of the Trill Dax ("Rejoined") to the all out battle that marks the end of peace between the Federation and the Klingons ("The Way Of The Warrior"), this season has something for everyone with consistent sharp writing and great acting all the way through. For fans of the show, there is the dark humor of the Ferengi bartenders forming a union against Quark ("Bar Association"), there is a very cool mission where the Defiant teams up with the Jem'Hadar ("To The Death"), there is the annual "torment O'Brien" episode, which reaches its peak here ("Hard Time") and a James Bond spoof ("Our Man Bashir"). As well, there is a particularly poignant two-part episode on the consequences of giving up civil liberties in the wake of a terrorist attack (groundbreaking considering it aired back in 1996) ("Homefront" and "Paradise Lost"). The season concludes with major consequences in the lives of Kira, Quark and O'Brien ("Body Parts") and Odo being judged for his crimes ("Broken Link"). This season has a wide variety of interesting stories that keep the viewer eager for the next episode.

As with all of the previous seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the emphasis is truly on the characters and how they evolve. In the fourth season, even recurring characters, like Gul Dukat, get juicy parts that make us realize their importance to the overall story. The highlights of the development of the characters are as follows:

Gul Dukat - Heartbroken by the slaughter of his people (the Cardassians) by the Klingons, he sets off on a quest to rid Cardassia of its invaders on a one man crusade ("Return to Grace"),

Quark - Years of working with StarFleet people triggers a backlash from the Ferengi Commerce Authority, leaving Quark alone in the galaxy ("Bar Association" and "Body Parts"),

Jake Sisko - Commits to his life as a writer in the season's best work ("The Visitor") and one of the season's anomalous poor episodes ("The Muse"),

O'Brien - While tormented by Jem'Hadar ("Hippocratic Oath") and a mind-control prison experience ("Hard Time"), O'Brien gets through with a reunion with his wife and the revelation of her pregnancy,

Bashir - Continues to play in the holodeck ("Our Man Bashir") and comes face to face with his own lack of invincibility ("The Quickening"),

Dax - Expresses a willingness to throw everything away for love ("Rejoined") and deals with the loss of her lover until she begins to notice Worf, who is her kindred spirit,

Worf - Arrives on the station an outcast from his people once more ("Way of the Warrior") and works hard to fit in in the new place while constantly being challenged (like in "Rules of Engagement"),

Odo - Spend the season avoiding his people as much as possible until they confront him and force him to be judged for his crime of killing one of his own race ("Broken Link"),

Kira - In an unexpected turn, she aids the Cardassians against the Klingons ("Return to Grace"), falls in love ("Crossfire"), and becomes a willing recipient in a medical procedure gone horribly awry ("Body Parts"),

Sisko - After becoming comfortable with being the Emissary ("Ascension"), Sisko fights battles at home ("Homefront") and in space ("To the Death"), all the while becoming a stronger and more determined commander. He now sees the importance of his post, while his own personal importance is beginning to dawn on him . . .

Still more than any other Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine speaks to those who are not simply science fiction fans. This is great drama and here the moody suspense of the third season gives way to the beginnings of a war story that viewers will find gripping and disturbing. Here in the fourth season, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine teeters on the brink of perfection, achieving almost the best consistent shows that a series may hope for episode after episode.

It would be impossible to evaluate such a meaningful body without looking at how wonderful the acting is. While Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor continue to lead a strong cast, in the fourth season, it is Michael Dorn (Worf), Terry Farrell (Dax), and Cirroc Lofton (Jake) that illustrate the most acting growth. Dorn begins to cut back on his extensive range established in Star Trek: The Next Generation to focus his character's energies, while Farrell opens up and mixes some knockout dramatic moments with her character's new sense of wry wit. The real surprise is how much Lofton grows as an actor in this season. The second episode of the season, "The Visitor" finds Lofton in an award-worthy role and while he and another actor (Tony Todd) play Jake in that piece, Lofton adequately meets the challenges of the role. Lofton is far more expressive and far less goofy in season four.

For people who are not fans of science fiction or Star Trek in general, the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine offers a nice variety of dramatic stories dealing with homophobia, medical ethics, war, paranoia and theology. There is more than enough to keep one entertained without feeling like you are trapped in a strong science fiction premise. In short, this program succeeds in keeping the emphasis on the characters in a way that makes it seem less like science fiction and more like the best dramas.

The nice thing about the DVD boxed set is that it includes all of the episodes and has decent bonus material. While there is still no audio commentary with the episodes, viewers are treated to behind the scenes stories on key episodes filled with new interviews by most of the main cast. It's a treat for anyone who likes the show to have access to the development process.

In the end, the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a great deal of fun and a worthwhile addition to anyone's collection of fine television. With its well-defined characters, excellent acting and brilliant stories, this is close enough to perfect to recommend it to anyone!

For a better idea of exactly what you would get in this DVD boxed set, please read my reviews of the individual episodes at:
The Way Of The Warrior
The Visitor
Hippocratic Oath
Starship Down
Little Green Men
The Sword Of Kahless
Our Man Bashir
Paradise Lost
Return To Grace
Sons Of Mogh
Bar Association
Rules Of Engagement
Hard Time
Shattered Mirror
The Muse
For The Cause
The Quickening
To The Death
Body Parts
Broken Link


For other television reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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