Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sisko's Father Turns Up Alive, For the Moment, As The Changelings Reach Earth In “Homefront!”

The Good: Wonderful plot, Good character development, Great mood, Nice acting
The Bad: Continuity Problem
The Basics: When the Changeling threat reaches Earth, the Dominion resurfaces and Sisko and Odo journey to Earth to stop the Changelings.

In "Emissary," the very first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a young Sisko flirts with Jennifer - the woman who will be his wife - by saying, "My father was a gourmet chef" and the use of the past tense is pretty strong. Indeed, in the first three seasons, whenever Sisko's father is referred to, it's in the past tense which implied that he was dead. In fact, in the episode "Past Tense," Sisko does not mention wanting to go visit his father while he's on Earth, reinforcing the idea. Yet, we were all very wrong - apparently - to believe that, as "Homefront" finds Joseph Sisko alive and well, living on Earth. In fact, the only clue that Joseph Sisko was still alive was leaks in "The Visitor" where he is alluded to as being alive for the first time in the series.

When a conference on Earth is bombed, Sisko, Jake and Odo journey to Earth with the knowledge that the Changelings have invaded. Determined to stop the shapeshifters from undermining the Federation and StarFleet, Sisko is promoted to Head of StarFleet Security by Admiral Leyton. Together, Sisko and Leyton attempt to convince the pacifist Federation President to back sweeping security reforms designed to protect StarFleet from potential Changeling infiltrators. When he declines, Earth's power grid is sabotaged and it appears the Changelings are responsible . . .

The entire "Joseph Sisko is alive" aspect of the plot is disturbing. It seems to me it was either carelessness on the part of the writers, or at some point, they said what they did with Scotty to justify his presence in Star Trek Generations; "We didn't want one line to stop us from bringing this character here." Part of the problem that occurs when you introduce a character like Joseph Sisko is that you either contradict what has been established or you rework or both. In this case, it is both; Joseph Sisko and Captain Sisko - it will be seen - have a very close bond. Why then the Captain only referred to him in the past tense becomes problematic and from this point forth, it's present tense about his father all the way.

Outside that problem, which is admittedly a difficulty only for fans of the series, "Homefront" has a great deal to recommend it. First, it's a great story about paranoia. Admiral Leyton immediately appears as a character who senses a grave threat to Earth and the Federation and is determined to do something about it. With the feeling that anyone we encounter could be a Changeling, Sisko's suspicion that his father has been replaced is a genuine one and we - the audience - feel it as well. This episode does an excellent job at establishing a mood of fear and curiosity.

The episode boils down to being split between the characters of Sisko and Odo, though Nog makes a reappearance here. As Nog tries to convince Sisko to recommend him to a group called Red Squad, Sisko finds himself mired deeper and deeper in attempts to locate the Changelings and protect against them.

Odo's character is heavily featured as well, as his place on the mission is to aid StarFleet in finding the Changelings that are on Earth. Odo faces a conflict now with his people that is enhanced by his actions in the third season finale. He knows his people consider him a traitor for his part in the death of the infiltrating Changeling in "The Adversary" and here he becomes more troubled by that. Add to that, "Homefront" represents Odo's acknowledgment of his cultural heritage. In the beginning of the episode, his obsessive devotion to order is presented with humor and yet it belies a deeper truth about Odo; he has something of his people in him.

Brock Peters makes an auspicious entrance to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine portraying Joseph Sisko. Peters plays the elder Sisko as a sage-type character and it works well for him. Similarly, Aron Eisenberg's return to the series as Cadet Nog allows Eisenberg to add more depth to his character. Here we see how determined the young man may be and it works well for his character.

The episode's best acting comes in the form of Robert Foxworth who plays Admiral Leyton. Foxworth captures the attention of the viewer in a way that no other StarFleet admiral has; he's cunning, forceful and intelligent. He instantly comes across as more of a person of substance than any of the other admirals in the Star Trek universe. Foxworth has a natural charisma that makes his character's protective instinct of Earth instantly believable. We can see how he helped develop Ben Sisko and Foxworth goes a long way to making the character understandable.

In the end, this is an excellent setup episode that was much needed for the series. Given the resolution to "The Adversary" at the end of the third season, fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have been waiting for the appearance of the Dominion once again. Here we are rewarded with the return of the Dominion in a way that portrays them as every bit as menacing as we've been led to believe in the previous two seasons. It's about time.

"Homefront" is a good paranoia thriller that may be enjoyed by anyone. It's quite good at conveying the important information right in the episode and so is accessible to those who are not fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or science fiction in general. The acting is sharp and the characters are engaging in a way most viewers will find captivating, even if one of them was supposed to be dead. Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for its impact in the Dominion plot.

[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 index page by clicking here!

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