#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 11, “Homefront”

December 21, 2013 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

Joseph Sisko and son, from Season Four, Ep 11, "Homefront"

Joseph Sisko and son, from Season Four, Ep 11, “Homefront”

Well, that didn’t take long. Just when I’d started complaining about this season spending too much time away from the core Dominion plot arc, we’re thrown into a terrorist attack taking place on Earth itself in “Homefront”. This gives us a strong episode, and one that resonates with a post-9/11 audience even more than it must have back in the late 90’s. More on that in a moment.

The episode opens to Dax and Sisko observing the wormhole’s odd activity–it’s been opening and closing like a revolving door at a busy downtown office, but there’s no sign of any ships leaving it. That should have screamed “get a perimeter around it, and start scanning”, but it’s basically shrugged off by Sisko, while the Bajorans on board see it as a possible sign from the prophets.

I see it as creating an unrealistic reaction by Star Fleet. But Starfleet can’t even get a dedicated picket line around the wormhole–a potential Dominion beachhead–so I should expect complacency.

As the episode turns stronger, we’re shown the fallout over a shocking attack: a bomb was detonated at a joint conference on Earth, killing more than twenty people. A changeling was involved, and Sisko and Odo are summoned to Earth to consult on the crisis. A black mood hangs over the station, but it’s brightened by the fact that Ben and Jake will get to spend a little time with grandfather Sisko, aka Joseph, played with excellence by the late Brock Peters.

Arriving on Earth, we’re treated to the episode’s two main plotlines: Sisko family values in the guise of the family Cajun/Creole restaurant and Joseph Sisko’s stubborn desire to continue helming it, health be-damned, and the growing security measures Sisko, an Admiral, and a few other folks think are needed to ensure safety from another Changeling attack. These measures run headlong against the Federation President’s desire not to create some sort of police state on Earth. There’s also a little shoehorning in of Rom’s issues at the Academy, which was nice.

Ben’s challenges with his father are great, universally relatable stuff. We can all sympathize with the dual demands of wanting our loved ones to take care of themselves, while also respecting their wishes. So of course that aspect of the episode was strong.

Serious times call for serious measures...right?

Serious times call for serious measures…right?

The other plot–Starfleet’s drive to safeguard against Changelings–might have almost taken a back seat to the Sisko drama at the time the episode originally aired. Here, on the other side of 9/11, it looks both quaint and ahead of its time. Twenty-seven people killed is shocking? It’s something we’re almost numb too, here in the enlightened 21st century–it doesn’t stick as much in our heads when mass killings happen domestically, and when they happen internationally you can’t hear them over the sound of our reality television.

The other day I was riding up an elevator and saw on the news ticker a report of forty people killed in a suicide attack in Iraq. I got off at my floor and promptly forgot about it. And that’s modern life, and the fact that such an event at a Federation Conference produces a planet-wide day of mourning is a nugget of detail ripe for discussion. I’m not a globalist, and so some aspects of Trek have always rubbed me the wrong way. But better sympathy for man’s plight, worldwide? I don’t see how cultivating that emotion couldn’t help us.

Our own Federation Conference moment was made of starker stuff–thousands killed. And we signed over so much in the name of security. Only now are we as a society looking Starfleet in the eye and beginning to ask how far down the rabbit hole they’ve gone. And our new-found concerns are certainly not universal, which is quite an indictment of us, if you think about it.

This subject produces the episode’s strongest moment when it circles back to the Joseph Sisko plot arc, and Ben has to talk his father into taking a mandatory blood test (which typically proves whether one is a Changeling or not). Defiant, and outraged, Joseph shoots many common sense-oriented holes into the concept behind the test, and demonstrates a principled everyman’s outrage over such blanket security measures. And at the end of the episode, we’re treated to the other side of the coin dialing things up even more, as a global power grid failure leads to the onset of martial law.

Unsurprisingly, this episode ends with “…to be continued”. You could place those same words over our own country in this age of paranoia and intrusion, and they’d fit just as well. “Homefront” speaks to issues it was remarkably prescient about, and as such its voice is even sharper today. The day it first aired, in the shadow of surveillance programs like ECHELON, it asked us what we wanted to become. Today, it asks us if who we are now is what we want to be.

And that’s great science fiction.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

See the rest of the review series here.

"Beacon" Part IA young couple’s miracle at the last star left in the Universe will lead to a specter from the past returning to confront mankind…and the end will become the beginning. Try Part I of the Beacon Saga Serial, for your choice of ebook platforms.