the story: Kira believes the key to reviving Bajor's fortunes is liberating a Resistance hero who has just been discovered alive in a Cardassian labor camp.
what it's all about: A lot of fans found the first few seasons of Deep Space Nine dull because of their heavy quotient of Bajoran stories. Actors playing Bajorans tended to play them as subdued individuals (a key exception to this rule was Nana Visitor's Kira, who's one of the most spirited characters in all of Star Trek). The hero Kira liberates in "The Homecoming" conforms to this standard. Thankfully, there's always Kira and the complexities of Bajoran politics. It's fascinating that politics became such a favorite subject on TV in the years following Deep Space Nine's conclusion in 1999, whether in The West Wing or House of Cards. Like a lot of its content, this was one element in which the series was ahead of its time.
Another was its focus on serialized storytelling, of which "The Homecoming" was the first of an unprecedented three-episode arc (the series later had six- and ten-episode-long arcs, but not until its final two seasons). It's also the best and most focused episode of this first stab at extended storytelling. It builds on work from the first season, notably "In the Hands of the Prophets," the season finale, which helped set the tone for the rest of the series.
The story of a forgotten hero is a compelling one, which fans might tend to overlook because the two episodes that follow kind of move on from it to other elements. In fact, the whole of the arc is very relevant to 2016 U.S. politics, the search for a hero who will unite a dispirited population, amid controversies over outside influence and outsiders within the population itself. (It's no surprise, then, that scores of Star Trek personalities have been pledging to oppose Donald Trump, who certainly appears to fit the model of the villains in this story.)
In fact, the xenophobia in the arc is later echoed in Enterprise's "Demons"/"Terra Prime" arc, which many fans consider the true final episodes of that series. Certainly, fans remember those episodes better.
The problem, again, is that Deep Space Nine became much better known for other stories, or for earlier, more self-contained efforts like "Duet." Yet it's absolutely worth immersing yourself in the most ambitious look at the problems facing Bajor, the planet Starfleet and Sisko came to help transition from years of Cardassian oppression, as represented in "Homecoming" and its two sequels. The hero Kira finds actually helps Kira find her own voice, as someone who's far more willing to cooperate with Starfleet than she'd been previously. That means this episode is best viewed as an essential Kira episode, which in turn helps unlock the entire series for fans still wondering what it's all about.
As a lot of fans have already, you may decide that Deep Space Nine has considerably more merit than you have previously considered.
- franchise - Star Trek's mission statement is all about discovering the hero in all of us.
- series - The mission statement of this series is all about discovering heroes in unlikely places.
- character - Kira's most certainly a hero, which this episode makes clear.
- essential - As stated above, this is an episode that unlocks a lot of series mythology.
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)