Part one: A bombing indicates the Changelings have reached Earth (thunderclap) and Sisko and Odo — with Jake in tow to visit Grandpa Sisko (Brock Peters) — head there to help Starfleet. Admiral Leyton (Robert Foxworth), Sisko’s former CO, appoints our buddy Benny to head Starfleet security on Earth. Then, power goes out across the planet, and everybody assumes it’s a Changeling plot. Leyton gets a previously hesitant Federation Council President Jaresh-Inyo (Herschel Sparber) to allow Starfleet to send troops across the planet as the Changeling paranoia reaches a fever pitch.
Part two: Sisko and Odo learn the power outage was actually caused by Starfleet cadets, on orders from Leyton, who wants more authority to defend Earth from the Changeling threat. Sisko calls the station and has Kira and Worf bring the Defiant to Earth, armed with evidence that some unexplained wormhole openings were faked by Leyton. Meanwhile, Sisko meets a Changeling impersonating O’Brien — further evidence that infiltrators are on the planet. Before the Defiant can arrive, Leyton has Sisko arrested, accusing him of being a Changeling. Leyton sends a Starfleet ship to stop the Defiant from arriving, and the two engage in a short battle. By this point, Sisko has escaped with Odo’s help and has a phaser on Leyton in the admiral’s office. With things about to go from barely lethal to really freaking lethal in the battle, Leyton orders his ship to stand down and is arrested. But he tells Sisko that he hopes they both don’t regret Sisko’s successful efforts to stop him. Sisko’s dad, representing the people of Earth or something, admits he’s terrified, but that life will go on. Sisko and company head back to DS9.
Why it’s important
This episode further escalates the “Changelings are everywhere” theme from “The Adversary”. It’s an interesting approach, in that the Changeling’s don’t actually cause the problems. But the fact that they’re around causes paranoia among the good guys that leads to some classic DS9 shades of gray. It’s a nice two-parter, even if it’s sort of a cheat. Had the Dominion really caused the power outage, you figure a fleet of Jem’Hadar ships would have arrived shortly thereafter to take advantage.
We also get a glimpse of the Founders’ thoughts on Odo’s actions in “The Adversary” when the Changeling impersonating Leyton in part one shows clear animosity toward Odo. There’s also the idea that Sisko is becoming a more important player in Starfleet and Federation matters.
Oh, and for as much crap as I’ve given Sisko for being insubordinate, he’s totally in the right on this one, whereas he’s been arguably in the right in the past.
What doesn’t hold up
The biggest bit of goofiness happens in part two, when the Defiant arrives in time to actually make a difference. At most, a few days pass between the time Sisko contacts Kira and the showdown between the Defiant and the Lakota. It’s never explicitly stated where the showdown takes place, so it might have been a ways from Earth. But it was close enough where the Lakota could respond and where Leighton viewed it as a threat.
We get a glimpse in “The Search” that DS9 is maybe a week or so away from Earth — given a line from Jake — and that doesn’t quite fit the “edge of the frontier” billing and the idea that the Federation is quite large. But a few days from DS9 to Earth makes even less sense. We’ll continue to catalog the “It’s a Small Galaxy” problem DS9 will show us over the next few years. Voyager was guilty of that, too (along with so many other things).
Also, what exactly happened with the Changelings on Earth? We know there was at least one of them, and there were likely more, especially if the Changeling impersonating O’Brien was telling even a bit of the truth. Now, there is the matter of the disease, which we learn later was affecting the Changelings around this time. But wouldn’t the Founders on Earth — who likely weren’t linking with other Changelings, who weren’t infected en masse for at least a few months — have taken the opportunity to wreak some havoc?
The reason they didn’t, of course, is that doing so would have been too tumultuous, even for DS9. We’ll see a lot of this over the next few years, but “Homefront”/”Paradise Lost” is DS9’s biggest example of where rationalizing or retconning the buildup versus the end result doesn’t work at all.
Also, I’m again amazed — maybe even appalled — at the lack of preparation Starfleet and the DS9 crew, in particular have engaged in despite clear warnings of Changeling infiltrators. On Earth, Starfleet tests on Odo what level phaser setting would incapacitate a Changeling. This is a great idea, but one that should have been done WELL BEFORE this episode. Keep in mind that the looming threat of Changeling infiltrators predates even “The Die is Cast”, which happened about a year before this episode! This is another example of a scene used for exposition — it shows that the Changelings are really big threats to anyone who might have missed previous episodes — which makes Starfleet and Sisko look really dumb.
Last thing. These episodes do some big-time character retconning. Sisko, back in “Emissary”, was an officer whose career had apparently taken a downward turn. He was basically damaged goods (with reason) after his wife’s death at the Battle of Wolf 359. Essentially, his time on DS9 reinvigorates his career and gets him promoted, and that all made at least some sense.
But here, it sounds like he was always an officer on the way up. Leyton thinks very highly of him and he’s held in awe by Starfleet cadets. Keep in mind that this episode takes place after maybe three major incidents with the Dominion (in “The Jem’Hadar”, “The Search” and “Starship Down”) only one of which was particularly successful. Granted, Sisko led the defense of the station against the Klingons, but that doesn’t seem like something that would impress the Dominion-crazy cadets or Leyton’s group enough to make Sisko almost James Kirk like in the eyes of Starfleet. At least, not based on what Sisko was less than two years earlier.
What this episode probably does best is establish in tone the idea that the Dominion stuff is really messing with Starfleet and the Federation, putting the Roddenberry, early-TNG utopian stuff aside to deal with a particularly nasty foe. Some Trekkers hate DS9 because it took Trek in this direction, but I think it was probably inevitable. Keep in mind that some of the darker elements of DS9 — the Maquis, the Cardassian war — were actually part of TNG in the final few seasons. In other words, there’s only so much you can do with franchise centered around a conflict-free civilization.
We also see some great battle scenes in “Paradise Lost” between the Defiant and the Lakota, and we understand Worf’s role on the station. Essentially, he’s second in command of the Defiant and third in command of DS9. Which makes sense, but is very interesting
Coming later this week …
Gul Dukat goes rogue … with Kira’s help?