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We are coming to the end of a great journey, a voyage beyond all imagination…this is Deep Space Nine at its absolute height, at the time of its true venture into the uber realms of classic viewing. Season Six was a time of great pain and suffering for the crew, the Federation and indeed the entire Alpha Quadrant. Who would have thought the Romulans would have been the silver lining on an otherwise gloomy horizon…

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Series
Big things happen this season, not least the second biggest event in the whole history of the show. I am of course referring to the massive six-part opener which officially initiates the season and pioneers its very inner sanctum. If season five were all about the brewing of the war, then season six is all about the actual consequences of war, and the pain it inflicts on the lives and minds of everyone it touches.

It’s strange, but of all the half minded crap stuffed onto modern television, Deep Space Nine still emerges as the triumphant success it always was; only it now has even more legitimacy due to the more rippled waters of twenty first century politics. You can often catch the tainted air of modernism within these troubling episodes of warfare and corrupt governmental idealisms. Deep Space Nine is almost – real. The parallels between it and the world we live in today is often startling.

As previously mentioned, season six begins with what is easily the second biggest event in the entire series – second only to the epic ten-part finale in season seven. These six episodes literally lead right into the next, and it all begins where season five ended – the Dominion/Cardassian Alliance reclaiming Deep Space Nine for themselves, driving the federation deeper still into their own territory.  

‘A Time to Stand’, the first of the six sets things up nicely. Sisko, without the station or sufficient command status is now stranded on a Federation outpost, feeling somewhat sorry for himself. How would you feel if an oppressive force tore away your home and place of study, as it were? Still, the clouds begin to part when Admiral Ross offers him a special-ops mission into the very heart of the Dominion – in a Jem’Hadar ship no less! This is the very ship Sisko and crew seized a few years back.

The mission is simple; destroy a ketracel-white facility to slow the Jem’Hadar advance. Of course, not everything goes quite as text-book as they had hoped, the Jem’Hadar ship is severely damaged and without warp when the facility explodes prematurely. Meanwhile back on Deep Space Nine the new proprietors are oiling themselves into a more lenient position with Bajor.

‘Rocks and Shoals’ sees the continuation of the arc, and Sisko has to crash-land on a planet to avoid a confrontation with the Jem’Hadar. Unfortunately, they are already one step ahead – they too are on the surface. By this stage in the arc one thing dawns; Sisko has not set foot on the station in a number of episodes, he and most of his crew are out and about warding off the Dominion. It sort of defies everything we have seen in Star Trek before, where the situations are all nicely tied up by the fourth act. Not here, here we have a real confrontational story stuffed to the brink with natural cause and effect dilemmas that signify more than just great scripting abilities.

Between the episodes ‘Sons and Daughters’ and ‘Behind the Lines’, a hushed uprising begins on the station, one organised by the remaining Bajoran officers. Kira is determined to see the Dominion, and Gul Dukat, removed from the station no matter what the cost. To make matters worse, Weyoun and Dukat have a disdainful plan to destroy the Federation mile-field that was placed before the Dominion arrived. That way, thousands of their ships can spill into the Alpha Quadrant and effectively ensure a clean victory for the Founders.

‘Favour the Bold’ and ‘Sacrifice of Angels’ bring this story to a head. Sisko finally escapes the planet, takes command of the Defiant and gathers a fleet of some six hundred Federation ships to retake Deep Space Nine. This alone will ensure that the mine-field remains intact and the Dominion forces stay anchored in the Gamma Quadrant. When the fleet mobilizes, they are shocked to find well over a thousand Jem’Hadar/Cardassian warships waiting for them. Sisko plainly utters “Let fortune favour the bold” before heading straight into the grinding teeth of the enemy fleet.

What follows in both ‘Favour the Bold’ and especially in ‘Sacrifice of Angels’ is easily the most impressive space battle ever seen on the small screen, perhaps ever. In it’s time it dwarfed anything even cinema had produced in terms of sheer scale, expense and even power of imagery. The music thunders away like a grand John Williams fanfare, clashing, crashing and rising with the crescendo of battle. This is frankly the greatest moment in television history, save for one little scene in a certain season five episode.

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For those who have never seen Deep Space Nine, you might just assume that statement to mean a battle with lots of poorly rendered CGI ships whizzing about the screen like angry wasps. How wrong you’d be if that was the image that aforementioned statement conjured. This battle, along with many others, is made up of highly detailed model work and integrated CGI segments, so as to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Let’s face it; Star Trek has never had a standardized television budget. Since The Next Generation, right up until the third season of Enterprise, Trek has been graced with a swelling budget that dwarfs even the most visual of programming on the air. It’s thanks to high ratings (well, at least for TOS Reruns, TNG, DS9 and VOY) and merchandise worth billions that allows for this impressive scope to be a regular occurrence.

But seriously, even for this show the cost of these two episodes must have been unthinkable, but by no means did the rest of the season suffer because of them. Only a show as popular and successful as this could have pulled off anything as big or as daunting. ‘Sacrifice of Angels’ is the best episode of this arc, and one scene towards the end signifies its power. Gul Dukat, the usually suave, confident protégé to Cardassia finds himself torn and broken. He has lost the station, and even the will to live when he is robbed of the Alpha Quadrant and his daughter as she dies in his arms at the cunning hand of Damar. Seeing him curled up in the cell at the very end is both disturbing and oddly unsettling. A true classic and one hell of a story, but the season has only just started…

Worf and Jadzia finally tie the knot in a true gem of an episode entitled ‘You are Cordially Invited’. What differentiates this wedding with so many other generic TV marriages is the fact that this is a balls to the wall Klingon ceremony. I especially love the end scene with the actual proceedings, to the tune of loud thunderous drums and the crew lined up to observe. Wonderful stuff, though not at all overly sentimental. It’s great to see Worf come so far, and his courteous little smile at the end was the hallmark of his entire persona.

Season six also features the greatest Ferengi episode of the series with the magnificent ‘The Magnificent Ferengi’. It brings back all of the best loved Ferengi from the series, even the ones only ever mentioned in conversation. Quark, Rom, Nog, the Nagus, Cousin Gaila, FCA Liquidator Brunt, Ishka and others are hurled into a dangerous rescue mission on command of the Nagus. They are to rescue Quarks mother Ishka who has been captured by the Dominion!

‘Waltz’ brings about something that has been waiting to happen for a very long time – Gul Dukat and Sisko finally coming to blows. Of course, Dukat is mentally unstable at this stage, but when both crash-land on a hostile world they are forced to rely on one another for survival. However, it soon becomes clear to Sisko that Dukat is planning something dangerous when certain lies are accidentally unveiled. Aside from showing the twisted side of Dukat, the episode also touches on some issues that have arisen since the very first season. Dukat has always sought respect and adoration from Sisko, and he attempts to finally sieve, if not prise it out of Sisko once and for all.

Now, onto yet another all-time classic and an episode so good I had to watch it thrice…I kid you not. At first, ‘Far Beyond the Stars’ shocked the hell out of me. It toyed with my emotions, somehow got under my skin and threw so much at me in one go that I just had to pause, reverse and watch it again and again. What follows is easily the most audacious Star Trek episode ever put before the cameras. ..

Where do I start though? How can I possibly describe something that is every bit as uplifting to the soul as it is shattering? Okay, think of it as the precursor to The Matrix, only base it in 1950’s America in a time of depression right within the heights of racial tension. Now place the entire crew of Deep Space Nine into this world. Strip them of uniform, makeup (yes, even Kira, Odo, Dukat, Weyoun, Martok, Worf, Jadzia and Quark) and blanket them in a story of passion, romance and coming of age fitting of the era.

Sisko plays a talented African-American author, struggling to get his work the proper attention it deserves, and all because of his colour. Odo plays the arrogant yet compassionate publisher. Quark, Kira, Miles, Julian and Jadzia play the co-writers at the workshop. In a strange yet fitting twist, Dukat and Weyoun play the thuggish cops of downtown. As for Worf, he is a strappingly confidant black sportsman; underappreciated in white-dominated areas yet loved, cherished and adored in his home town. It’s also quite amusing seeing him woo the women with his boyish charms.

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‘Far Beyond the Stars’ is Star Trek at its greatest, at its absolute peak. This is what Gene Roddenberry strove to create his entire life. In fact this episode only came to fruition because of his original vision, his ideas, his creativity and his undying love of the genre. In a way, ‘Far Beyond the Stars’ is the very definition of Roddenberry’s absolute imagination, but seen like never before. It has however been shaped into a genuinely classic science fiction mould we can all associate with and relate to.

One simple question it raises right at the end is totally believable; what if the universe of Star Trek, specifically the fabric of Deep Space Nine, is merely manufactured and all very much apart of this person’s fantasy? It even encourages you to question your own existence as a human being; something too few films or television series are able to capture in such a short timeframe. It also has the most confrontational of scripts, effortlessly dealing with racism and the troubles of the era like it were easy to write about. It doesn’t even shy from using racial slurs. It faces them without the fear of being politically incorrect and does full justice to the turbulence of the past, though never does it feel slanted, one sided or racist itself, it simply feels organic and natural. Peel away those layers of fleshy tissue and what you’ll find beneath is a soft, pulp-like organism called ‘life’. This, in as many words, is exactly what ‘Far Beyond the Stars’ captures.

Moving on, and one little episode that springs rapidly to mind when overlooking season six is incidentally called ‘One Little Ship’. I have some fond memories of this charming, visually stimulating episode. If I were to sum it up in one simple, yet fully apt word, it would be ‘unique’. Basically, Julian, Miles and Jadzia are shrunken by a spatial anomaly, along with a runabout, and have to zip through a much larger Defiant to aid Sisko against the rebellious Jem’Hadar who have besieged the ship. How freaking cool is that? If you’re still unconvinced, then maybe the scene where O’Brien and Julian go all ‘Honey, I shrunk the kids’ will. Indeed, they enter an overly large conduit, dodging electronic cables and modules, which is just pure geekiness, but totally fabulous all the same.

‘Inquisition’ is another one of those tongue-twisters that manages to get your adrenaline glands pumping as the story flows like a tainted breeze. This episode also provides the first of several glimpses into the infamous Section 31 – a secret division of Starfleet that operates outside of the Prime Directive.

Remember my opening paragraph of this review; it stated something about the Romulans being the silver lining…yes? Well, our next episode addresses this very issue. ‘In the Pale Moonlight’ is another Deep Space Nine favourite, for a great many reasons. It opens with Sisko seated comfortable on his sofa, looking directly into the lens of the camera. He is narrating to us a simple, elegant and yet frightfully controversial story. He knows the war with the Dominion isn’t going too well, he knows that the Alliance is in desperate need of a new ally; the Romulans.

Now, the problem is this; the Romulans are happily tied up in a friendship treaty with the Dominion. They are obviously not going to join the ranks of war when they can sit comfortably on the fence and watch their rivals get flushed down the drain. While this may be the case, Sisko and Garak have a master plan to rope the Romulans into the field of fire. If they can somehow prove to the Romulans that once finished with the Federation and Klingon’s, the Dominion would almost certainly come for them, then the war would turn steadily in their favour.

After consorting all possible contingencies, Sisko and Garak work in secret to forge a cunning plan of action that will force the Romulans into the war, like it or not. When everything seems to go awry however, and huge twist in the story lifts from its heavily shrouded lair, the Romulans do indeed become the much needed silver lining. The only questions lingering at the end are those of ethics. Were Sisko and Garak’s actions warranted, or did the discomfort of war become their eventual undoing as law abiding men? A classic episode and one that inspires a good amount of debate long after the credits have rolled.

‘His Way’ introduces the long-term swing-singing character Vic Fontaine – a great character that really adds some extra class to the show. ‘The Reckoning’ pits the Prophets and the Pah-Wraith off in a deadly showdown and ‘The Sound of Her Voice’ is a great penultimate episode with a seriously affecting and bittersweet ending you wont soon forget.

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[The three following paragraphs contain some potentially show-ruining spoilers. Please avert eyes now – you have been warned]

I don’t normally invest time in revealing spoilers, but in this instance the season six finale ‘Tears of the Prophets’ demands it of me. During the epic invasion of Cardassian space, Sisko heads up a huge fleet of Federation, Klingon and Romulan ships to gain some footing in the floundering war with the Dominion. When Sisko ignores a warning from the Prophets not to enter this battle, a Pah-Wraith infested Dukat boards the station steals a Bajoran Orb and is forced to kill Jadzia Dax.

Fans know how sad this episode was, and still is. The impact of it sends a shudder down your spine. It comes at a very, very inappropriate time however. She and Worf are happy together, they are even planning on having a baby – something which is difficult for them as it is, being of two unique races. Jadzia dies a pretty pointless death when you come think about it, she doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory, she dies in a Bajoran shrine thanking the Prophets for her ability to have a child with Worf. This kind of death makes it harder to mourn for this character’s passing, something I suspect was planned prior to this sequence.

When Ezri Dax turns up in season seven, it sheds some light on the whole Trill way of life. Dax returns, but it is not Jadzia. It creates this odd emotion, like a sort of heartbroken joy if you will. It is wonderful to have Dax back, but Ezri is a constant reminder of Jadzia, even though she has all of Jadzia’s memories. This was a genius move to make, and one that rubs off on the characters, Worf in particular.

‘Tears of the Prophets’ is a superb finale to this breathtaking sixth season. On one had it is jam-packed with more awesome space action and on another it is balanced with heartbreaking drama and emotion.

Video
In short, season six is more or less identical to season four with regards to image quality standards. There is still a healthy dose of unwanted grain peppered throughout each episode, but in all the print looks as solid and sharp as it has ever appeared before. Dark scenes are most commonly affected by the grittiness however, but as I have stated before it sort of suits the shows darker themes and nature. Still, it doesn’t get away scot-free when improvements almost certainly could have been pursued by Paramount.

Audio
All the Star Trek sets come complete with a beefy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and all of which sound pretty great by all measures. Deep Space Nine season six has some superb uses of LFE during climactic battle scenes and the clarity of the rich-sounding dialogue is always a pleasurable experience. Compared to the previous five boxed sets, season six doesn’t really improve much in way of actual quality, only stretches the palate to accommodate for the more robust action arcs.

Extras
‘Mission Inquiry: Far Beyond the Stars’ is a pleasant documentary on this all time classic episode. ‘24th Century Wedding’ goes undercover and unveils the many interesting titbits regarding Worf and Jadzia’s memorable wedding.

‘Crew Dossier: Julian Bashir’ is another short to mid-range feature about the station’s doctor. ‘Crew Dossier: Quark’ is a little more interesting and a fraction longer than the previous, but still lacks the depth needed to really do these characters justice.

‘DS9 Sketchbook: John Eaves’ once again provides us with many illustrations used on the creation of this show, specifically season six.

Other features that populate the seventh disc is a smart feature called ‘One Little Ship’ which basically dissects the titular episode. There’s also a handful of Ferengi features in ‘Ferengi Rules Of Acquisition: The Beginning’ and ‘Ferengi Rules Of Acquisition: The Sequel’. Both run for less than ten minutes each. Elsewhere the usual ‘Section 31’ hidden files and photo galleries round out the set.

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Overall
Season six is my favourite year. True, the quality of season’s four though seven are pretty similar, but six just nailed it slightly more meticulously that the rest. I can’t think of anything that wasn’t spot on here, and considering the intensity and depth of the storytelling throughout, that again shows how much talent these writers and producers had. To hold something this big and layered together with seemingly ultra-durable mental glue must have taken hundreds of man-hours of supervision, but the series only gains from it.

From a DVD aspect, season six shines very brightly indeed. The features are prominent, the image is great and the audio is at its finest to date. Put simply, this really is the absolute best thing in the entire seven season collection, episodically and technically. Perfect.


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