Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Earth's Greatest Enemy Lives There In “Paradise Lost!”

The Good: Character, Acting, Elements of intrigue and mood
The Bad: Plot, Discontinuity with the first part
The Basics: When it becomes clear that Earth's problems are the result of Red Squad and Admiral Leyton, Sisko acts to protect the Federation.

When last we saw Our Heroes on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Earth was suffering from a power outage, the Federation President had put control of Earth's security in the hands of Sisko and Admiral Leyton and Nog was still whining about not being a member of Red Squad. "Paradise Lost," the second part to the storyline, goes off in an entirely different direction than "Homefront" (reviewed here!) did and in some ways, it does not even seem like the second part of a two-part episode.

"Paradise Lost" begins days after the power grid is brought back online with Sisko discovering a group of Red Squad cadets having strange deployment during the accident and tying Red Squad to Admiral Leyton. With minimal prodding, Sisko manages to get a full confession of what occurred that night from a Red Squad cadet, who confesses to sabotaging the power grid. With Earth under martial law as a result of the Changeling-assumed outage, Sisko attempts to prove Leyton is behind everything only to be accused of being a Changeling himself. As Sisko is incapacitated, it becomes clear his former commanding officer has become a paranoid leader with visions of military dictatorship, which threatens to destroy the foundation of the Federation.

Instead of continuing the Changeling angle established in "Homefront" with a dominating mood of paranoia and suspicion, "Paradise Lost" returns the focus to the human element and establishes Admiral Leyton as the sole, true villain and that's rather unrewarding given the build-up in the first part. In fact, the Changeling infiltrators evident in "Homefront" are almost thoroughly neglected save a brilliant scene between Sisko and a Changeling impersonator and the last lines by Odo in the episode. So all of the paranoia brilliantly built up in the first episode is instantly dissipated and it becomes instead a detective story where Sisko pieces together what Admiral Leyton is up to and how he executed his past plans. It's almost difficult to watch this immediately after the first part due to the abrupt shift in moods.

Still, the characters work, especially Sisko and Admiral Leyton, who are the true focus of this episode. And when it is focused on them, the episode works well. One of the things about the episode that amuses me is Dr. Bashir's presence on the bridge of the Defiant as it approaches Earth. There's no reason for him to be there and he is standing there as if that were the case and it sets up for someone on the bridge to be wounded in an obvious - and disappointing - way. But when the episode is on the two main characters, it works.

Admiral Leyton, while megalomanical in one respect, is an excellent portrait on how one man can go so wrong with the right interests at heart. Indeed, the way Leyton seizes power under the guise of protecting the freedoms of the Federation is not disanalagous to another leader who currently uses the same excuses the threaten the underlying principles on which the United States was built. Leyton's charisma and concern are sensibly balanced with an underlying need to have power and his manipulation of Captain Benteen and the President of the Federation are perfect for a character of his repute.

But largely "Paradise Lost" is Sisko's journey to action against his former Captain. While there are shades of Star Trek The Next Generation's "The Pegasus" here, Sisko's journey is a bit different from Riker's in that episode. Sisko uses this crisis to reach out to those around him: Nog, Jake, his father, Major Kira and even the Changeling. His need to protect the Federation from this enemy is compelling and, actually, heroic. That Sisko takes some time to move from inaction to action is well portrayed and it becomes pretty much the last time he takes time being cerebral about a decision. From this point in the series, Captain Sisko is in charge and he acts that way. It's a refreshing change in the character and it works well.

The acting in "Paradise Lost" is wonderful for the characters presented. Colm Meany steals the show playing the Changeling on Earth. It's a clever performance by Meany that extends far beyond the writing on the page; he manages to create a very different character almost immediately with his body language. Similarly, Hershel Sparber, who plays President Jarish-Inyo returns as a very realistic politician. He had great bearing that makes us believe in the reluctant leader.

Robert Foxworth does a magnificent job as Admiral Leyton, infusing him with charisma and domineering. As a wonderful foil to him, Brock Peters plays Joseph Sisko as the somewhat baffled sage and that enhances the conflict that surrounds Captain Sisko. Peters' support performance makes Avery Brooks' portrayal of the Captain in this critical turn in his life very realistic and worthwhile. That's not to say that Avery's performance once he does set his course of action is not insightful and forceful, it's just enhanced by the more subtle performance Peters gives.

In the end, "Paradise Lost" is a very different episode from the first part and may be enjoyed by anyone, as opposed to only those who have seen "Homefront." Anyone who likes a good political conspiracy story will find something to like here. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for its enhancing of the Sisko character as well as the resolution to "Homefront."

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the turnaround season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Index Page organized by rating!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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