Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Homecoming”

“The Homecoming”
Written by Jeri Taylor & Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 1
Production episode 40512-421
Original air date: September 26, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Quark meets with a Boslic freighter captain who was given a Bajoran earring by a maintenance worker on Cardassia IV, and was told that any Bajoran would understand its significance. She’s not making it to Bajor this trip, so Quark takes it to Kira, who recognizes it as belonging to Li Nalas, one of the heroes of the Bajoran resistance.

Kira goes to Sisko for a runabout. Sisko has heard the stories of Li’s great victories, but also thought he was reported killed; Kira says his body was never found. She’s already scanned the dermal residue on the earring, which matches Li’s DNA, and she’s already gone to the provisional government, and they’re not willing to go to war with Cardassia over an earring. But Bajor needs a leader—since Opaka was lost, the factionalizing of Bajor has deteriorated, there are religious riots and an extremist group calling themselves “the Alliance for Global Unity,” or, simply, the Circle, causing problems (O’Brien finds graffiti of theirs on the station), and the provisional government is filled with political opportunists. Kira insists that Li can be the leader Bajor desperately needs.

Sisko promises to think it over. He talks to Dax, who thinks he should give Kira the runabout if for no other reason than to expose the fact that there are still Bajoran prisoners in Cardassian space—they claimed to have released them all. Sisko agrees, and authorizes the trip, once O’Brien has refitted the runabout so that it’ll come up on Cardassian sensors as a Lisseppian transport. (O’Brien had already given this considerable thought, to Sisko’s annoyance, realizing that Kira had talked to most of the senior staff about this.) Sisko also wants O’Brien to accompany Kira, who refuses the help at first, but Sisko insists. Kira makes it clear that they’re coming back with Li or not at all, and to Kira’s obvious surprise, O’Brien agrees readily.

Kira bluffs her way past a navigation control post, and then they make it to Cardassia IV—but they’re reading a dozen Bajorans down there. Plan A—to beam Li up—just became impossible, as they can’t tell which of the twelve is Li, and Kira wants to rescue all of them. So they land outside the force field (which apparently only covers the ground, since beaming from orbit was an option), and approach. Kira claims to be a comfort woman, with O’Brien as her pimp—she’s got an appointment with the prefect. The overseer wants to know how much it would cost him for an appointment, and lets Kira (but not O’Brien) inside the force field so he can inspect the merchandise. Once he gets close enough, Kira decks him. She and O’Brien take down the other two nearby guards with their phasers, but there are plenty more, and they get pinned down behind a ridge. Four of the prisoners offer to stay behind and hold them off so Li can get back to Bajor safely. Li himself, who’s wounded, refuses to allow that, but everyone insists. Kira leaves them her phaser and the remaining prisoners all go back to the runabout.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

They try to wait long enough for the other four to make it back, but there are two warships in orbit, they have to go now. They make it safely back to DS9, and the prisoners are brought to the infirmary, where Li is far more concerned with the well being of the others than with his own wound.

When Kira reports to Sisko, she finds him on subspace with Dukat, who informs them both that Cardassia formally apologizes to Bajor for the labor camp on Cardassia IV; the prisoners Kira and O’Brien were forced to leave behind are en route to Bajor as well. After Dukat signs off, Sisko congratulates Kira on a successful mission.

In the infirmary, Li cuts off Bashir’s attempts to discuss his history with the resistance, including his victory in hand-to-hand combat against Gul Zarale. After he cleans up, Sisko and Kira take him on a tour of the station. Lots of Bajorans openly gape at Li, who is obviously uncomfortable with the attention.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

Minister Jaro arrives on the station, greeted by Kira. Jaro tells Kira that she made some enemies in the chamber of ministers, and he also officially chastises her for disobeying orders. But as a private citizen, he thanks her for bringing Li home.

The gaping has turned into a crowd-control issue, and Li finds himself all but trapped in the replimat with Sisko, who tells him that they’re not going to leave without him saying a few words. “If that’s what it takes,” Li says reluctantly, and addresses the crowd haltingly, then is saved by Jaro, who welcomes him home and asks if he can speak to the crowd. (“You can’t expect a politician to give up an opportunity like this.”) Li eagerly tells him to go right ahead.

Sisko escorts Li to his quarters, saying he hopes they’re sufficient. For the first time, Li smiles—he just spent a decade in a Cardassian labor camp. The guest quarters on DS9 is luxury beyond his wildest dreams. He’s also surprised that people even still remember him. He’s gone from slave to hero in less than a day—what’s more, he has learned that Bajor is free (a fact obviously kept from the prisoners on Cardassia IV). He asks Sisko what the newly freed Bajor is like, and Sisko then tells him about the planet’s lack of strong leadership, and why Li is needed.

Quark is assaulted by the Circle, and branded with their symbol on his forehead. When Kira explains to Li what the Circle is about—that they want all non-Bajorans gone from Bajor—he’s appalled. So appalled, in fact, that he tries to run away to the Gamma Quadrant by stowing away on a vessel headed there. He’s caught and brought to Sisko.

Li at last tells his story. He was part of a minor resistance cell, all but three of whom were wiped out by the Cardassians. He and the other two survivors fled to the hills. Lack of food or water led them to venture into a valley; Li, as the only one who was armed, scouted ahead, where he literally stumbled on a Cardassian bathing in the lake. Li managed to shoot him before he shot Li, and the Cardassian fell on him. His cohorts found him with a naked, dead Cardassian on top of him, recognizing the victim as Gul Zarale, who’d killed many a Bajoran. They immediately spread the story of his glorious victory over Zarale. Li kept trying to demur, but no one would let him, and his legend grew. He was just a guy who was lucky enough to survive a massacre and who then became the hero of the resistance because he shot a Cardassian in his underwear. He’s done being a slave to his reputation, and he wants out.

Sisko, though, won’t let him off that easy. Bajor needs a symbol right now, not a man. Nobody’s going to ask him to lead troops into battle or kill a hundred Cardassians with his bare hands. But the Bajoran people look at him and see the best in themselves. Li returns to Bajor with Jaro, where the chamber of ministers unanimously elect him to be given the title of navarch—an existing title was deemed insufficient, so they made one up. Jaro and Li then return to the station, as Navarch Li is the new Bajoran Liaison Officer to Deep Space 9. When Sisko points out that he already has one, Jaro says that Kira’s no longer assigned to this post and has been recalled to Bajor.

To be continued…

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

The Sisko is of Bajor: In contrast to a year ago, Sisko is very invested in Bajor and its ongoing stability. His reasons for agreeing to give Kira the runabout are as much for his own mission, as given to him by Picard in “Emissary,” as they are to help Bajor, though both goals are similar.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira marshals support from Dax and O’Brien to bolster her argument to Sisko, with the former helping convince Sisko to agree and the latter working out the engineering details on how to do it. She and O’Brien then do a superlative job with the rescue, with Kira playing the role of comfort woman with gusto.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

Rules of Acquisition: Quark tips Odo off to a Subytt freighter that was selling defective isolinear chips to the Bajorans. Odo is annoyed and confused by Quark suddenly being helpful, more so by Quark’s insistence that he and Odo are going to be friends from now on. After Odo leaves, Quark explains to Rom that he’s following the 76th Rule: “Every once in a while, declare peace—it confuses the hell out of your enemies.”

The slug in your belly: Dax doesn’t enjoy talking baseball with Sisko, and she reveals that Curzon didn’t like talking baseball with Sisko nearly as much as he let on.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

For Cardassia! Cardassian Supreme Directive 2645 declared that all Bajoran prisoners would be released. Cardassia IV is in violation of it, and Kira’s exposure of it leads to Cardassia apologizing to Bajor and not censuring her for her invasion of Cardassian space and attack on Cardassian military personnel.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Jake has asked a Bajoran girl named Laira out on a date, and asks his father for advice on where to go. Sisko puts the kibosh on a holosuite or in taking her to their quarters, and makes suggestions Jake deems “boring.” Finally, Jake hilariously declares, “I can see you’re not ready to have this conversation” to his father and walks off.

Later, Laira winds up cancelling the date because her father won’t let her go out with a non-Bajoran.

Keep your ears open: “I’ll never forget the look on his face when he died. He was so… embarrassed.”

Li’s conclusion to his description of his “epic” battle against Zarale.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

Welcome aboard: Guest stars galore in this one, from established recurring characters Rom (Max Grodenchik) and Dukat (Marc Alaimo) to uncredited appearances by longtime Trek character actor John Fleck as the Cardassian overseer and (most impressively) the great Frank Langella as Jaro (Langella did the three-episode appearance for his children, and so worked for scale with no credit). Leslie Bevis makes the first of three appearances as Rionoj, the Boslic freighter captain (she’ll be back in “The Abandoned” and “Broken Link”), and Michael Bell plays the Bajoran prisoner who smuggled Li’s earring out.

But the other big guest (besides Langella) is Richard Beymer, best known for his roles on West Side Story in 1961 and Twin Peaks from 1990-1991, as Li. He’ll be back for the next two parts, as will Langella.

Trivial matters: This is the first three-part storyline ever done on Star Trek. DS9 will have many two-parters, and also a couple of multi-episode storylines in its last two seasons, but this is the only three-parter; there won’t be another one on Trek until Enterprise’s final season.

Li’s time in the resistance, and capture by Cardassians, was chronicled in the Terok Nor novel Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison. The post-finale DS9 novels also established that a Bajoran Militia ship was named after him.

In the Mirror Universe, Li was the First Minister of Bajor, seen in the MU short novel Saturn’s Children by Sarah Shaw (a pseudonym for David Mack, in the collection Obsidian Alliances) and in the DS9 novel The Soul Key by Olivia Woods.

This is one of three writing credits for Jeri Taylor on DS9. Taylor helped Michael Piller run the writers room of TNG, and was the co-creator of Voyager and also its show-runner for its first few seasons. (Her other two credits will be the two-part “The Maquis,” a story that helped to set things up for Voyager.) This story was based on a pitch she had for TNG where the Enterprise would encounter a Bajoran woman trying to rescue a former Bajoran resistance leader who no longer wanted to be a leader. However, Michael Piller thought the story better suited to DS9, so Ira Steven Behr reworked it into the first part of a season-opening trilogy.

Walk with the Prophets: “All I had done was shoot an unarmed Cardassian in his underwear.” What a great start to the new season. Keeping the momentum going from the strong end to the first season, we have an episode that truly gets to the heart of what the show’s about: the recovery of Bajor from the Cardassian occupation. By expanding the story to three parts, the epic scope of the storyline gets a serious chance to breathe. Rewatching it, I was surprised to see that neither Winn nor Bareil—two essential characters in the Circle storyline—were even in the episode (they’ll be in “The Circle” and “The Siege”).

Ultimately, this episode is about symbolism and legends and leadership. Everyone, from Kira to Bashir to Jaro, speaks of Li Nalas in reverent terms, yet the man himself seems so—so unassuming. Yet we think of that as the modesty of the true hero, thinking of others before himself, unwilling to gloat over past accomplishments. Richard Beymer plays it beautifully here, keeping the role low-key, yet the growing frustration with his being fawned over becomes more and more etched on his face, culminating in out-and-out disgust with the Circle’s attack on Quark.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

His confession of the true source of his legend is a tour de force, as he tells the tale matter-of-factly, yet with that subtle undertone of frustration.

And it’s one of a bunch of fine performances. Frank Langella and Marc Alaimo have an insincerity-off, as both spew impressive amounts of fecal matter. Both Terry Farrell and Siddig El-Fadil are noticeably more comfortable (and in the latter case, less annoying) in the roles of Dax and Bashir, presaging both characters’ improvement over the course of the season and series, and the episode opens with reassurance that Rene Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman’s magnificent double-act will continue apace.

But this episode is owned by Colm Meaney and especially Nana Visitor. The pair of them together are superb during the rescue, with Kira in particular showing the skills that got her through fighting a guerilla war: faking being first a Lissepian captain, then a comfort woman. As the two characters with the most experience fighting Cardassians, Kira and O’Brien are a natural pairing, which we got a hint of in “Emissary” while Sisko was communing with wormhole aliens, and which works beautifully here, Kira’s passion and drive a good match with O’Brien’s nigh-overwhelming competence.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on The Homecoming

And throughout it all, we have Sisko once again being the rock at the center of everything. One of the things I like about Sisko is that he can bring order to chaos when it’s required of him, but can also be pretty damned chaotic when it’s called for. For this storyline, it’s the former that’s needed, and Avery Brooks is magnificent, navigating the treacherous waters of Kira’s provocative mission, Bajoran politics, Cardassian politics, Li’s reluctance, and even his son’s burgeoning love life. (As always, the scenes between the two Siskos sparkle.) Also, I just love the fact that he doesn’t drop everything to talk to Kira, but takes the time to finish his conversation with Jake, gets his breakfast, sits down and starts eating, and then asks Kira what she wants.

An excellent start to a new season.


Warp factor rating: 9

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