Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Complete Fourth Season Studio: Paramount Year: 1995-1996 Rated: NR Length: Over 1200 minutes Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Fullscreen Subtitles: English Release Date: August 5, 2003 "Let's just say DS9 has more shades of gray..." Spoken by Captain Sisko in "Hippocratic Oath," these words not only serve, in the story, to contrast life on a space station vs. life on a starship - they also define Deep Space Nine, the series. It has more shades of gray than its predecessors. Gone is the sterile atmosphere of a starship. Gone are the simple good vs. bad relationships. In DS9, events unfold in an unclean universe where allegiances shift, and the lines between good and bad are no longer clear. Seasons one and two were like the first act of a seven-season-long play. We were introduced to the people, and to the world which they inhabit. By the end of season two, we were given hints at the conflicts which would define the series. Season three was the turning point. The Defiant made its first appearance, and we started to see threads emerge. At the end of season three, one of those threads was pulled, unravelling a story that took four seasons to unfold. Season four opens with a bang in "The Way of the Warrior," as the Klingons enter into conflict with the Cardassians, an act which will allow the Dominion to exploit the turbulence in the Alpha Quadrant and start on their path to domination. Commander Worf has joined Deep Space Nine as Strategic Operations Officer, in response to the new Klingon threat. The stage for the four season Dominion arc is set in this exciting double length episode. Not every episode is dedicated to the Dominion arc, and the producers expertly set the balance needed for a threaded series. In fact, episode two, "The Visitor," is one of the most personal stories ever told on DS9 - and it's one of my favorites. Jake is separated from his father in an accident and spends a lifetime trying to get him back. Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton turn in excellent character-building performances here... and guest star Tony Todd steals the show as the elder Jake Sisko, with a stirring performance of his own. Other favorite standalone episodes include "Little Green Men," an homage to great scifi of the past, as well as to Area 51 lore. "Our Man Bashir" has Julian playing a James Bond-like character... decidedly uncharacteristic of him. It's episodes like these that continue the character-building we saw in the first seasons, while other episodes, such as the fantastic two-part Homefront and Paradise Lost, are left to advance the Dominion War plot. As the season progresses we begin to truly realize the peril that the Alpha Quadrant faces, as we see hints of just how far the Dominion has infiltrated the quadrant... setting the stage for season five and beyond. The cinematography of this series is as different from the others as its themes. The expansive promenade and large OPS center allow for long tracking shots and deep focus photography. The lighting is mostly sourced lighting... scenes are kept dark, seemingly lit by visible lamps, accent lighting and control panels. This gives a dark overall impression, and allows the set to be selectively, boldly, and beautifully painted with light and color, rather than bathed in unsourced light. This series is beautifully shot from start to finish. Episode List: Disc 1: The Way of the Warrior The Visitor Hippocratic Oath Disc 2: Indiscretion Rejoined Starship Down Little Green Men Disc 3: The Sword of Kahless Our Man Bashir Homefront Paradise Lost Disc 4: Crossfire Return to Grace Sons of Mogh Bar Association Disc 5: Accession Rules of Engagement Hard Time Shattered Mirror Disc 6: The Muse For the Cause To the Death The Quickening Disc 7: Body Parts Broken Link SPECIAL FEATURES The Video: I've been pleased that the quality of the video in the DS9 sets has been better and more consistent than we saw with "Star Trek: The Next Generation." This holds true for season four as well. The discerning viewer will notice some occasional mild pixellation or pixel drift, especially in darker action scenes... but it's usually momentary and rarely distracting. Casual viewers most likely will not even notice. Colors are vibrant and saturated. The picture is not exactly razor sharp, but it is adequate and does not exhibit any noticeable edge enhancement. The program is presented in its original fullscreen aspect ratio. The audio: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. As expected with a television production, the mix is non-agressive. The forward soundfield is expansive, with dialog anchored to the center channel. Music and sound effects shine in the left and right front channels. Rear channel effects are noticed in space battles and action scenes, and for general ambience, but they lack punch. The LFE is noticeable in the action scenes, as well as the ever-present rumble heard on the station or on a ship. Again, though, the low frequency effects are slightly underutilized. There's nothing remarkable about the surround mix, but it is at least above average for a television series of this genre, age, and production budget. One of the best demo episodes for audio is "Our Man Bashir." The score is excellent - reminiscent of James Bond films, and the sound effects in the opening sequence are well done. Both audio and video are comparable to the prior Deep Space Nine releases. Special Features: Charting New Territory (approximately 18 minutes). Executive producer Ira Steven Behr and writer / producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe talk about how they took the series in a new direction, and the difficulties they faced integrating the character Worf into the series. They and other cast and crew members also discuss the outstanding stand-alone episodes of the season, including the controversial "Rejoined," the sci-fi homage "Little Green Men," "Our Man Bashir," and the fan favorite "The Visitor." Also talked about was the season finale, "Broken Link." There are serious season four spoilers in this featurette. You will want to avoid watching this until after you have finished viewing season four. Crew Dossier: Worf (approximately 14:30 minutes). Michael Dorn discusses his character Worf in interviews from 1995, 1999 and 2002. Discussions of Worf's character development and relationships with crew are included. There are serious spoilers for seasons 4, 5, 6 and 7 in this featurette. If you are viewing this series for the first time, consider yourself warned. Michael Westmore's Aliens (approximately 11 minutes) Michael Westmore discusses creating alien makeup effects for Star Trek, and reveals how many of these props are recycled among the Star Trek series. Of particular interest is the discussion of the origins of the character Morn. No spoilers. Deep Space Nine Sketchbook (approximately 10 minutes) Illustrator John Eaves discusses the process of designing show elements through illustration in this 2002 interview. Photo Gallery Dozens of still images from the episodes of season four, and from behind the scenes. Indiana Jones Preview Trailer You'll be seeing this on several upcoming Paramount titles. "Section 31 Files" Those who are unfamiliar with the term "Section 31" will need to wait until the season 6 episode "Inquisition" to find out more. The "Section 31 Hidden Files" on the DS9 DVDs are simply little, easy to find "easter eggs." These short (2 - 5 minutes) featurettes bring us behind the scenes and inside the characters of DS9. There are ten "Hidden Files" on disc 7. Hidden File 01: Alexander Siddig discusses "The Quickening" in this 2002 interview Hidden File 02: Armin Shimerman talks about the making of "Little Green Men." Hidden File 03: Nana Visitor talks about playing out of character in "Our Man Bashir." Hidden File 04: Guest Susanna Thompson speaks of her role in "Rejoined." Hidden File 05: Director David Livingston talks about the landmark episode "The Visitor." Hidden File 06: Visual Effects Coordinator Gary Hutzel talks about raising the bar on TV visual effects. Hidden File 07: Writer Ronald D. Moore talks about pushing the envelope in "Sons of Mogh." Hidden File 08: Chase Masterson discusses her first day on the set as "Leeta" in this entertaining clip. Hidden File 09: Michael Dorn discusses the Klingon episodes, like "The Sword of Kahless." Hidden File 10: Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) talks about his experiences playing a Klingon --- Final Thoughts... My one complaint about this set is minor, but it bears mentioning. Once again, the authors of this DVD set have not consistently placed a chapter stop after the opening credits. Don't hit the chapter skip button, or you may find yourself missing several minutes of the program. Season 4 of Deep Space Nine is when the series really begins to soar, turning the screw on the Dominion plot, as well as turning in some of the best stand-alone episodes of the series. This boxed set is highly recommended for fans of the series. Those unfamiliar with this series, but who are familiar with other Star Trek series will want to take note: this is not Star Trek: Recycled. This is a bold, different Trek. Of course, if you've made it through season three, you knew that already.