Sunday, September 23, 2012

4-11. Homefront.

Admiral Leyton (Robert Foxworth) has a job for Sisko.


When a bomb goes off at a conference between Federation and Romulan diplomats, Sisko and Odo are summoned to Earth. Analysis of security video shows that the attack was the work of a Changeling. As Admiral Leyton (Robert Foxworth) explains, Sisko knows more about the shapeshifters than anyone in Starfleet. To that end, Leyton is naming Sisko acting head of Starfleet Security - effective immediately!

Sisko, Leyton, and Odo work together to institute new precautions throughout Starfleet. Phaser scans will be done of all objects going into high-security areas. High-ranking Starfleet officers and their families will be required to submit to blood tests to prove they are not Changelings. Even gaining these concessions from the peace-loving Federation President Jaresh-Inyo (Herschel Sparber) is not easy. But when a further Changeling infiltration is discovered, Leyton worries that their security is not enough, and that firmer steps must be taken to protect Earth!


Capt. Sisko: Experiences firsthand the paranoia left by the Changeling attack when his father (Brock Peters) refuses to submit to a blood test. The elder Sisko insists that he never joined Starfleet and never swore any oath to them, and that he has no duty to cooperate with a violation of his rights. Ben's response? Suspicion. When his father cuts himself with a knife, Ben stares at the blood on the blade, frozen in the rush of emotion at this confirmation that his father really is human. His father points out that a Changeling might fool a blood test by stockpiling human blood in any case, and Ben worries that he may be right - not about Starfleet betraying its principles, but about the prospect of the Changelings overcoming their security measures.

Odo: Odo has always been authoritarian in nature. We saw back in Season Two's The Maquis that Odo prizes security over freedom, when he observed that for all the Cardassians' abuses, the station was safer when they were in charge. It's no surprise that he is in lockstep with Admiral Leyton about the need for increased security. His time as security officer has also granted him an understanding of the worst aspects of human nature, notably of the power of fear. This gives him just enough insight to persuade the Federation President - first with a demonstration, then with words - to grant Leyton the very powers the admiral is seeking. 

Pompous Earth Bureaucrat of the Week: Leyton is Sisko's former CO, and the man who recommended Sisko to command Deep Space 9. He and Sisko are initially on the same page about the need for increased security on Earth. Gradually, however, we see hints of xenophobia in the admiral. He observes of the president that Earth "isn't his world. We can't expect him to care about it the same way we do." We don't see any sign that Leyton wants anything other than the security of Earth, and to actor Robert Foxworth's credit, he never plays Leyton as a villain. He is genuine in his dealings with both Sisko and Odo, and shows genuine intelligence and authority. Still, I suspect Leyton's pursuit of security will see him in the role of (well-meaning) villain come the second half of this two-parter.


"Fear is a powerful and dangerous thing... If you don't act, if you don't show them that they're not alone, then fear will surely take over."

Odo's warning to the Federation President achieves his goal, as the man accedes to the wishes of him, Sisko, and Leyton, signing off on additional security measures. What is lost on Odo and the other characters, but not on the audience, is that these measures are a response to fear. They know of only a single Changeling on the planet. But out of fear of what might happen, they are reacting as if they are under siege by an unseen army. 

The idea of Changelings invading Earth was originally intended for the Season Three finale. When Paramount overruled the show's producers, not wanting to end the year on a cliffhanger, the concept was recycled for this mid-Season Four two-parter.

I think it worked out for the best. The Adversary was an ideal endpoint for Season Three, demonstrating the threat posed and the damage done by a single Changeling. That was further developed by The Way of the Warrior, a story whose catalyst was the paranoia created by the Changelings. All of this allowed the threat to build steadily, so that it is all the more effective when it literally comes home.

A wise decision is to craft Homefront not as a Changeling hunt, but instead as a story about paranoia. The Changeling attack provides the catalyst, and a second infilitration pushes Leyton's suspicions to the brink at just the right moment. However, the real threat is the one the President sees - that of transforming Earth into a police state, oppressing its citizens in the name of protecting them.

This is a terrific episode, the first real payoff we've gotten to The Adversary's declaration that, "We are everywhere." The Way of the Warrior saw the Klingons responding to the perceived threat of the Changelings. Now we see Earth going the same direction - only this time, it's not just a perceived threat. There is a Changeling on Earth, maybe more than one. There's enough here to hint that Leyton's approach to the problem is the wrong one. At the same time, there is a legitimate threat, one which does require a response.

It's one of the joys of Deep Space 9, in my opinion. A situation is created with many shades of gray. The President doesn't want to do anything about the problem, only agreeing to added security after Odo provides him with a visceral scare. The end of the episode shows him weak and indecisive in a moment that demands leadership. He has the right instinct, to protect people's rights and protect the values of the federation. But he still comes across as weak. Leyton's instincts to secure against potential invasion are not all wrong, but his desire to enforce martial law is an overreaction. Both men have valid arguments, but both are ultimately wrong.

An excellent first half, and one which leaves me eager to watch Part Two.

Overall Rating: 9/10.

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