Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Deep Space Nine 4x11 "Homefront"

rating: ****

the story: Shape-shifters on Earth mean a huge crisis...

what it's all about: If somehow Deep Space Nine had ended after four seasons (as Enterprise did later), I think the legacy of the series would be "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost," especially post-9/11, when this story became hugely relevant.  The rampant paranoia and the questionable decisions members of Starfleet make are unlike anything else found in the series or the franchise, save perhaps "Conspiracy" from Next Generation, an episode that notoriously dropped off any further significance when its storyline was never revisited.  (In that instance, somewhat the episodic nature of Star Trek at that point both at its worst and arguably best.)  Yet "Homefront" directly impacts the budding Dominion arc, which had been developing in fits and starts since the end of the second season with the introduction of the Jem'Hadar and Vorta, as well as "The Search" at the beginning of the third, in which the Founders are revealed, and a few stabs at the reaction they engendered, such as "Way of the Warrior" at the start of this season.

And yet, never before is the whole idea so potent than when the story is largely focused on the good guys acting like bad guys because they're scared.  Isn't that exactly what people have been saying, the past fifteen years, about what happened after 9/11?  Maybe this needs to be emphasized about "Homefront," and that's why I'm choosing it as the leading point of the episode, and its sequel.

From a president who waffles over how to respond (actually the opposite of what happened in the real world) to Starfleet hotheads dictating the course of action (in its basic framework, the story kind of borrows the typical Hollywood framework, which could also be seen in 24, which was actually conceived before 9/11 but eerily debuted at around the same time; Kiefer Sutherland also stars in Designated Survivor, which certainly follows the template, although just as engagingly).

Oddly, it's the rare Deep Space Nine story that does not actually involve the eponymous station, making it one of the rare Star Trek stories to have taken main characters into an arena totally unrelated to their duty stations (away missions don't count).  It's a huge crisis, and it means Sisko is actually given a new assignment, albeit temporarily. 

So the premise is excellent, and what grounds it is actually fairly personal, the introduction of Sisko's father, Joseph.  This is actually one of the things about the season that most blatantly demonstrates the fresh start the season hoped to be, because early in the series it was heavily implied that Sisko's father was dead, so to suddenly see him alive and kicking (most definitely kicking!) is a shock, but a welcome one, because he adds considerable spice to the Sisko family, and a welcome addition to the series repertory of recurring characters, older than the norm by far, a member of a previous generation much like the elder Klingons who had previously filled that function on a less personal basis.  It's actually the one instance in the whole franchise, aside from Sarek, where the aged parent of a main character becomes a significant character, too.

But this is all setup, in an odd quirk of the series (Enterprise would later echo it in its fourth season), a mutipart episode that has different names for each installment, which had already occurred in the second and third seasons, and would again once storytelling became more serialized, especially at the beginning of the sixth season and end of the seventh.  The second half of this story is as important as this one, even if both episodes effectively tell one long one.  In Voyager midseason two-part episodes would eventually be aired in two-hour blocks (that was the benefit of airing on a network instead of in syndication).  But Voyager never had a story quite like this one...

I'll leave further discussion to "Paradise Lost," which comes next.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Adds to the crisis trope frequently found in Star Trek.
  • series - Tells a major story of the Dominion arc.
  • character - A considerable focus on the expanding Sisko family.
  • essential - Becomes more and more significant as the years pass.
notable guest-stars:
Brock Peters (Joseph Sisko)
Robert Foxworth
Susan Gibney
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

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