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If you thought this sensational show couldn’t get any more exciting and dark, then you thought wrong. Deep Space Nine Season Four is every bit as mind-blowing as its predecessors, only with the volume cranked up a notch or two. This season, one of the most popular and coveted characters in science fiction comes aboard the station to gravid effect. Within this collection you can also expect tighter writing and some of the shows absolute best episodes.

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Series
Starting with a bang which would echo throughout millions of television sets across the globe, Deep Space Nine began its fourth year; a year full of surprises, suspense and drama. After Odo was forced into killing one of his own people – something which has never before happened – and learning that the Changelings were spread thickly, the alpha quadrant is now more unsettled that ever before.

‘Way of the Warrior, Part I and II’ gets the ball rolling in a way that has never, not ever been seen before in Star Trek, or even the whole of television for that matter, and likely won’t be again for a long time. Not only does it rope Worf back into the Star Trek scene, one of the best characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was also one of the biggest episodes ever filmed. Action like you could scarcely imagine in your wildest dreams is effortlessly woven into every shred of this epic fanfare, action that has such a poignant emotional integrity to it. Honestly, how many times have we seen a boring Hollywood action epic without any emotion or awe latched onto them? Well, you can rest assured that ‘Way of the Warrior’ breaks this trend somewhat significantly.

During the course of these two elating episodes, you will also get the sense that season four is heading down a much darker, much more violent path that what has come before it. While for the most part that is true, season four also spares plenty of time to ‘lighten up’ and provide some of the funniest episodes ever to grace this series. You see, season four is something of a “deep breath before the plunge”, but to borrow a quote from Gandalf there. It’s kind of the crossroads to the much darker Deep Space Nine that is just around the corner, so it brings plenty of lighter stuff to the table – in effort to balance the scales a bit.

On the other hand, this season also gave birth to the most dramatic and tear-shedding hour of television I have ever come across in my twenty one years, which brings me to the next episode ‘The Visitor’. Its story is simple; Jake witnesses a horrible tragedy; he sees his father die before his very eyes right at the time in his life when he needs him the most. Distraught, he finds solace in the many crewmen and women who served under his father, until the day comes when his father appears to him for just a few seconds. This bizarre event unfurls a chain of decisions in Jake’s life, decisions he puts into action immediately.

Several years pass and Jake has given up writing in favour of learning the sciences. He desperately tries to discover why his father keeps appearing to him every few years, only to be yanked back into some kind of anomaly immediately afterwards. The older, adult Jake is played magnificently by the Candyman himself (Tony Todd) who also plays Worf’s younger brother Kurn. But what make’s this episode so special is not its revolutionary special effects or its robust sets designs, but its tender affection between father and son. It sort of reminded me of Marlin and Nemo’s relationship in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, it shows that same kind of integrity, passion and respect for its characters, and the end result is a triumph of emotional power-play.

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‘The Visitor’ is one of those rare Star Trek episodes whereby anybody can watch it and immediately be drawn into the power of its story, and be totally captivated by its inner meanings and messages. It also happens to be one of the greatest episodes in Star Trek, ever – and that is no exaggeration.

Honourable mentions must also go to the fabulous Kira/Dukat episode ‘Intercession’, where we meet Dukat’s daughter for the first time – a character that reprises her role a few times during the remaining four seasons. ‘Rejoined’ is also a great little episode, which features one of televisions few same-sex kisses as Jadzia and a former Trill lover makes out onscreen. ‘Starship Down’ is another impressive action episode where the Defiant plays a Wrath of Khan inspired hide and seek with a Jem’Hadar ship. Whereas ‘The Sword of Kahless’ is another superb Klingon adventure akin to season two’s ‘Blood Oath’.  

You remember I said something about funny episodes in this season? Well, plenty of that can be found in ‘Little Green Men’, one of the crème de la crème standouts! Basically, the idea behind it is this; the Ferengi are the original Roswell aliens! Simply put, Quark, Rom and Nog take a trip to Earth, and the little Ferengi ship they travel in somehow transports them to a mid twentieth century planet Earth. Do I really need to explain how this turns into one of the most insane, laugh out loud hours you will ever whiteness? This episode is pure and simple narcotics in a can! I could watch it over, and over again without complaint.

‘Our Man Bashir’ is another, which frankly should not be seen by those sensitive to laughter or those with weak hearts! Basically, Bashir and Garak become stuck in a hollosuite (yes, yes, yes it’s one of those again) but with a twist; the regular cast of the program have been replaced with unbeknownst Deep Space Nine crew members after a transporter accident! The hollosuite program is a sort of a James Bond spoof with all the necessary 60’s decals, pert women and of course, those loony evil villains. This episode does for James Bond in the television world what Pixar’s The Incredibles has done for it in the cinema world. Absolutely everything is here, from the walls that revolve into bars, the sexy Bond girls, and the jazzy music. Even the last line of the episode parallels the ‘Bond will return’ catchphrase. If you are a Bond fan, and a Trek fan, then this is a marriage made in heaven.

Things get a bit darker from here on out as the veil is lowered on more Dominion activity in the double, ‘Homefront’ and ‘Paradise Lost’ episodes – two of the best episodes this season no less. Dukat also gets more screentime in ‘Return to Grace’ and ‘Bar Association’ marks the exact fifty percent point for the entire series. ‘Hard Time’ sees O’Brien wind up in more hot water when he is subjected to a form of prison-like brainwashing, which makes for some of the most powerful and bittersweet scenes this season. ‘Shattered Mirror’ returns us to the alternate universe for a third outing, thought the results are not quite as effective as the pervious two. Still, it makes for a great hour of television and the Klingon sequences aboard the flagship are in a class all their own!

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‘The Quickening’ is easily the most depressing episode, when Bashir winds up on a disease-infested world that he obligates to try and cure. Brilliantly written, and elegantly directed by Rene Auberjonois (Odo), this powerhouse spectacle intertwines unforgettable drama and some truly brutal truths about the flaws and arrogance of human beings. It also manages to crank up the hatred meter as it elaborates the sinister motives of the Dominion. Just don’t snack when watching this, trust me on that. This episode is reason enough for the show being rated a ‘15’ certificate.

To end the season, the comic penultimate ‘Body Parts’ should cause a laugh or two as Quark tries to convince Brunt he wont break a contract – even if it means his life. Finally, ‘Broken Link’ sees Odo returning to his people when he becomes prisoner to a fatal illness only the Founders can cure. However, he must face a mysterious trial within the Great Link for his killing of another Changeling over a year before. The last scene of the episode once again sets up a breathtaking cliff-hanger when Odo recognises Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire as a Changeling, one who is waging war on the quadrant. A great end to a superb season, but the best is ‘still’ yet to come.

Video
Visually, Deep Space Nine improves slightly this season. This is hands down the best looking of all the boxed sets thus far, with greater sharpness across all twenty six episodes, as well as improved colour and shadowing throughout. Whilst the palette hasn’t changed much, the handling of those colours has. Every episode appears ever so slightly crisper and less rough-around-the-edges as the image has previously appeared.

Some standout episodes to boast the newly improved transfer would probably have to be ‘Intercession’ due to its sharply lit outdoor sequences. Thought a generous amount of grain can be readily spotted in this episode, it does prove all too well that things have gotten better. Sadly however, compression issues still plague the set, but season four is still a great looking season nonetheless.

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Audio
Due to the fact that this boxed set differs little from the previous sets, I have used some material from prior reviews to flesh out this section. There really isn’t much to say about the audio that was already spoke of in the season one to three reviews to be perfectly honest. Everything is pretty much as it was back then; everything, right down to the finest point. Dolby’s 5.1 soundtrack still envelopes the listener in a great environment and it still cracks out the old space rumble that monopolises the optical shots.

Perhaps one slight improvement in this season would be the use of lower end frequencies, which have improve marginally over its forebears. With slightly more action and more spatial bound scenes, the subwoofer gets a healthier workout. Save for that, season one, two and three are practically identical in this department.

Extras
The special features for season four sadly remain unchanged. Once again the usual helpings are served on a rusty platter, and frankly, things are beginning to get a tad too familiar and repetitive. While in principal these features will amount to well over seven hours by the last season, they are still unjust for such a poignant show. They just do not do it any justice and are about as in-depth as my non-stick shallow frying pan. Still, let us investigate and plunge forth.

'Charting New Territory': Season 4 of Deep Space Nine’ can be entrusted to dole out the usual slew of interviews and episodic clips to give you just a taster of the overall bigger picture. Once again Ira Behr and some of the other major players get in front of the camera to offload some trivia.

‘Crew Dossier: Lt. Worf’ pays homage to the man himself. Michael Dorn speaks openly about his return to the Trek cannon and the provided footage shows how his character integrates with the Deep Space Nine crew.

‘Michael Westmore's aliens: Season 4’ continues the alien quest this master artist gives to Deep Space Nine over its seven year window. Here, you will find many of his superb creations as seen during the season.

In ‘John Eaves: Deep Space Nine sketchbook’, we are walked though some of the artwork provided while ‘Bob Blackman's designs of the future’ and ‘Deep Space Nine chronicles’ round out the array of extra features this season.

As with the previous three boxed sets, the ‘Section 31 Hidden Files’ are once again dotted throughout both menu screens, which, once again proves to be a royal pain in the ass when trying to navigate to each one! If they were going to hide them, they could have at least made them harder to find.

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Overall
Well, we are finally passed the half way point – but fear not my loyal Trekkies, the journey is ‘far’ from over, that much I can guarantee. Matter of fact, the best this show has to offer is still a ways away. Though each season has improved exponentially over the last, season five through seven goes so far into the rabbit hole that any traces of light are almost non existent. True, it only gets darker from here, but at least Quark can be called upon to lighten the mood a little.

As for season four, well, it’s a real treat, which you may have gathered already. It has once again beaten out its predecessors and nothing seems to be able to slow the momentum. If you are a fan then you know how great this season was, but if you are new to the show and wanted to skip all the set ups and such, then season four would be a great place to start. You would miss a heck of a lot, even pivotal moments, but if all you care about is action, suspense and pure chaos, then this is a great year to hop aboard. But do heed this warning – the last episode of the show would hold for you a lesser emotional brow than it would do if you started from the beginning.

Now that’s over with, what about the DVD? Well, this is so far the best of the earlier boxed sets. Everything is slightly improved, especially the transfer. Audio aspects remain unchanged, even in the face of upped action scenes and space bound conflicts. Not to worry though, everything looks and sounds great for the most part, and you couldn’t really ask for better.

In the next review, one of the most infamous reunions in entertainment history gets the royal treatment, and the show’s best cliff-hanger is going to once again cause plenty of coronaries. Catch it in a few weeks. Until then, adieu.


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