Written by Ronald D. Moore and Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Reza Badiyi
Season 4, Episode 11
Production episode 40514-484
Original air date: January 8, 1996
Station log: After a summary of “Homefront,” we see Sisko and Odo going over the reports on the sabotage of the power grid. Odo notes that Red Squad was sent back to the Academy after the blackout. Since they’re cadets, it makes sense that they’d be sent home for protection—but then Sisko notes an order to mobilize all cadets as part of the effort to secure Earth.
Joseph reopens the restaurant after four days. There’s been no sign of attack by the Dominion, and he’s tired of sitting around. Besides, the Starfleet security guards on the streets probably haven’t had a good meal in four days, and Joseph is just the man to feed them…
Sisko contacts the Academy about the recall of Red Squad, and the commandant urges Sisko to erase the record immediately. The commandant also said he was reluctant to let Leyton use Red Squad, but they performed their mission admirably. Sisko plays along, saying he’ll take care of it, but after he signs off, he and Odo (who was deliberately standing off camera, as it were) realize that there’s more going on here than they suspected.
Later at the restaurant, Joseph happily submits to a blood screening—his change of heart, he says, is directly related to the Dominion sabotaging the power grid on Earth. Sisko is now feeling odd about that, and he meets with Nog at their table to discuss Red Squad. Nog says that Red Squad are the only people he’s seen who aren’t scared of the Dominion. He’s been taking Jake’s advice to get to know them, though they seem only to be interested in Nog because he knows Sisko—Sisko is their hero, apparently.
Sisko orders Nog to arrange a meeting with a member of Red Squad. Nog’s reluctant at first—the members of Red Squad are supposed to be secret, and Nog only found out thanks to Ferengi deviousness—but Sisko makes it an order and soon Sisko is talking with Cadet Riley Aldrin Shepard. On the guise of a dress-down by a superior officer, Sisko gets the whole story of how Red Squad sabotaged the power grid themselves. It was supposed to be completely off book, with no written record of the mission. The briefing officer didn’t even identify herself.
Sisko and Odo discuss the matter in Sisko’s Creole Kitchen. There hasn’t been a Dominion invasion, but Starfleet has been able to fortify Earth—the very thing Leyton wanted. The evidence points to Starfleet sabotaging the power grid for their own purposes. Sisko is on the horns of a dilemma—these are his friends, and he can’t turn against them. Odo points out that it is they who have turned against him.
The next day, Odo and Sisko report to Jaresh-Inyo. Odo starts with his learning from the Krajensky changeling that the Founders were infiltrating the Federation, and how after that, Leyton started pushing for tighter security on Earth, but Jaresh-Inyo rejected the proposal. After the Antwerp bombing, Jaresh-Inyo did agree to some security measures, but not all of them. Leyton and his people wanted all of it, so they sabotaged the power grid.
Jaresh-Inyo is appalled at the notion, and Sisko doesn’t have any real proof, as Red Squad and Leyton covered their tracks. So Sisko suggests that the president order Leyton to remove the troops and stop the random blood screenings. If he acquiesces, Sisko is wrong, and he’ll resign; if he’s right, this will prove it. However, the security measures are overwhelmingly popular among the people; the president can’t discontinue them without proof, so Odo and Sisko must get that proof.
Sisko tries to get Nog to arrange another meeting with Shepard, but instead of Shepard—who, along with Red Squad, has been sent offworld—he gets Leyton. They sit and talk in the restaurant. Leyton feels what he’s doing is necessary to protect Earth. Sisko won’t support Leyton, so the admiral ends his tenure as head of Starfleet Security and sends him back to Deep Space 9.
While Sisko sits pensively at a fountain, he’s confronted by a changeling disguised as O’Brien, who taunts him for a bit. Then he sits pensively in the restaurant, and has a talk with Joseph. They reminisce about his old girlfriends, and Sisko finally decides to take action. He contacts Kira on a Bajoran frequency in order to remain covert (she informs him that the wormhole stopped opening and closing since Sisko transferred to Earth) and then he and Odo break into secure Starfleet files (which Odo manages, saying he learned how to do it from watching Quark all these years) and discover that Leyton’s been putting officers who served under him in sensitive positions on or near Earth. Many of these transfers are scheduled for the 14th, when the president is to make a big speech.
Benteen comes upon him in his office, and he says he’s just cleaning stuff out before he leaves. Sisko congratulates her on her promotion to captain of the Lakota, and he tells her that he’s staying on Earth for a bit longer, using some of his leave.
When Sisko reports to the president with his findings, Leyton and Benteen are already there, and they fake a failed blood screening “proving” that Sisko is a changeling. Leyton visits Sisko in his holding cell, and admits that he plans to have Starfleet take over control of Earth on the 14th. Leyton insists it’s temporary until the changeling threat is eliminated.
Several days later, Odo breaks Sisko out of his cell, telling him that the Defiant is en route, complete with the officer who set up the opening and closing of the wormhole, who did so under Leyton’s orders. Odo goes to speak to the president while Sisko confronts Leyton with his evidence. However, Leyton has already ordered the Lakota to intercept the Defiant, having been told that everyone on the ship is a shapeshifter.
Sisko points out the long-term consequences of his actions. Other Federation worlds won’t necessarily agree with Leyton ousting their duly elected president. It could lead to civil war, one that will start if the Lakota opens fire on the Defiant.
Meanwhile, the Lakota opens fire on the Defiant. Worf does hesitate at first—it is a fellow Starfleet vessel—but ultimately he chooses, unsurprisingly, to fight back. Benteen contacts Leyton saying the battle isn’t going well for them, and Leyton orders her to keep the Defiant from reaching Earth by any means necessary. Tellingly, when Benteen asks for confirmation that orders have been changed from disabling the Defiant to destroying it, Leyton won’t actually come out and say that.
Worf contacts Sisko a bit later to announce that the Lakota has powered down weapons and is escorting the Defiant to Earth—however there have been more than two dozen casualties (most of them on the Lakota). Sisko says that the president is expecting them.
Leyton insists that he still has enough officers loyal to him to make a fight of it, but Sisko points out a) that Benteen is the one most loyal to him, and he’s lost her, and b) who is he going to fight, exactly? “You’re fighting the wrong war.” Leyton realizes he’s lost and resigns.
The Siskos and Odo say their goodbyes to Joseph and beam to the Defiant, and then Joseph opens the restaurant. “Today I’m recommending the pasta boudine. It’s got a bit of a kick, but it’ll make you smile.”
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The opening and closing of the wormhole that made everyone suspicious of Dominion activity in the first place was actually a subspace doodad being placed on the communications relay on the Gamma Quadrant side of the wormhole in order to fake a cloaked fleet coming through.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is forced to take down his former CO, who didn’t bring Sisko in on his plan. Leyton’s conspiracy includes at least Benteen and the Academy commandant, and there are others involved, but even though Sisko was high up in Leyton’s chain of command on Earth, he was deliberately left out of the conspiracy to sabotage the power grid. Leyton himself confirms that he wasn’t sure Sisko would go along with it, but the commandant of the Academy and the dude from Red Squad both just assumed that Sisko was in on it.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: When the battle between the Defiant and the Lakota gets down to the nitty-gritty, it’s Kira who reminds Worf that it’s “them or us.”
The slug in your belly: Dax does some nifty maneuvering of the Defiant, doing spiffy barrel rolls around the Lakota as they fight.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf is in charge of the Defiant, and he puts off firing on the Lakota as long as he can, but when push comes to shove, he says, “We fight.” Damage to the Defiant is much less than the considerable damage done to the Lakota, though Worf resists taking the final step to destroying them.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo has a relatively easy time breaking Sisko out of jail, seeing as how he helped Sisko write the security protocols for Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, where he’s being imprisoned. Odo has also apparently at some point learned the Vulcan neck-pinch, which he uses on one of the security guards.
Rules of Acquisition: Nog is able to find out who’s in Red Squad because he’s a Ferengi—which is the only actual reason he offers, and it’s really all we need. He’s gonna make such an entertaining officer…
Victory is life: A changeling disguised as O’Brien has a little chat with Sisko, announcing that there are only four changelings on Earth. Though it’s honestly three more than they need…
Keep your ears open: “Paradise has never seemed so well-armed.”
Sisko giving Benteen the episode’s theme in ten words or less.
Welcome aboard: Back from “Homefront” are Brock Peters as Joseph, Aron Eisenberg as Nog, Susan Gibney as Benteen, Robert Foxworth as Leyton, and Herschel Sparber as Jaresh-Inyo. We also get David Drew Gallagher as Cadet Shepard; he’ll reprise that role in “Valiant” in the sixth season.
Trivial matters: Robert Foxworth had previously played a high-ranking military officer staging a coup against Earth on Babylon 5, though in that case, his General Hague was on the side of the good guys. However, he was unable to reprise his role as Hague in the episode “Severed Dreams” due to his commitment to this two-parter, and so Hague was killed off-camera, as stated by Major Ed Ryan, played by Bruce McGill. There’s a blooper in that episode, in which McGill had Ryan reply to the query as to where Hague was thusly: “General Hague is doing Deep Space Nine. It seems his agent double-booked him, and there was nothing to be done. You’ll have to settle for me.”
All the former officers from the Okinawa whom Sisko mentions in passing are named after characters from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22.
Leyton mentions that the Okinawa fought against the Tzenkethi, last mentioned in “The Adversary,” when Leyton was CO and Sisko was XO. One of those battles was dramatized in the novel Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III.
It will be revealed in “When It Rains…” in the seventh season that, during this trip to Earth, Odo has been infected by a morphogenic virus, which Odo will infect the Founders with when he enters the Great Link in “Broken Link” at the end of this season. That disease will ravage the Founders throughout the Dominion War arc of the final season.
The Slings and Arrows eBook The Oppressor’s Wrong by Phaedra M. Weldon tells what the Enterprise-E was doing during the coup, on a mission to Starbase 375 when martial law is declared.
In the novel Hollow Men by Una McCormack, Sisko visits Leyton in prison after the events of “In the Pale Moonlight,” in which Sisko will commit acts that compare unfavorably to those of Leyton in this two-parter.
Various novels—notably A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal by David Mack and your humble rewatcher’s A Time for War, a Time for Peace and Articles of the Federation—will establish that Jaresh-Inyo stood for election later in the same calendar year as this two-parter, and lost badly, due mainly to being duped by Starfleet. His replacement is a Bolian named Min Zife, who is more of a hardliner, and he’s the one who leads the Federation through the Dominion War. Articles, which takes place eight years after this two-parter, includes Jaresh-Inyo’s funeral and the president—Zife’s successor, Nan Bacco—gives his eulogy.
Walk with the Prophets: “This Pandora’s Box of yours—we’re opening it together.” A limp, weak ending to a promising storyline, one that pretty much throws all the pertinent questions of “Homefront” out the window in exchange for a fairly rote power-grab storyline.
Robert Foxworth is a problematic casting choice here, because, while he’s excellent at quiet intensity (see in particular his performance as the eponymous character in Gene Roddenberry’s The Questor Tapes, a character that was in many ways the rough draft for TNG’s Data), he’s less good when the intensity gets kicked up a notch. As a behind the scenes threat in the early parts of the episode he’s a lot more effective than he is after he steps out from behind the curtain in Sisko’s Creole Kitchen to confront his former XO. As a result, Leyton has no nuance, he’s just a nasty-ass, run-of-the-mill, power-mad bad guy.
And that’s too bad, because the role really calls for nuance. The story would’ve been so much more effective if Leyton had the strength of his convictions, if we saw him the way Sisko described him to Jaresh-Inyo—a patriot who believes he’s doing the right thing—but instead we get a mustache-twirling villain who imprisons Sisko and orders Benteen to fire on the Defiant.
Both of those actions, by the way, don’t make any sense on the face of it. If Sisko was a changeling, why didn’t he turn into a bird and fly out of Jaresh-Inyo’s office? He was also imprisoned for several days, which means that he had to have eaten, slept, and gone to the bathroom, none of which are things changelings need to do. (Hell, the first time he took a dump, he’d be “revealed” not to be a changeling, since, to be indelicate, shit screenings would work as well as blood screenings.)
And Leyton hangs Benteen out to dry by not actually giving the order to destroy the Defiant, but using the language of plausible deniability, enabling him to later say, “Why, no, Councillor, I never told Captain Benteen to destroy the Defiant, she did that on her own initiative.” It’s to Benteen’s credit that she figured it out and ended the fight; it’s to the script’s lack of credit that we don’t see that. I would much rather have seen Worf and Benteen’s conversation on the subject, rather than yet another talk between Leyton and Sisko, of which we had about ninety in the episode, each one less interesting than the last. It wasn’t aided by Avery Brooks being all histrionic when Sisko castigates Leyton, as it’s Brooks’s least convincing mode.
Plus, there’s the problem that Sisko himself throws in Leyton’s face: how’s the rest of the Federation (150 worlds or so, as we learn in First Contact) going to feel about this? His plan doesn’t really take that into account, and the solution he proposes to Sisko is poorly thought through.
Worse, we get a weak followup to Joseph’s very legitimate complaints about the blood screenings from “Homefront.” Last time, he was adamant that he shouldn’t—but once the power grid goes down, then it’s okay. Here’s a prime candidate for the examination of situational ethics—where is the line here, anyhow?—and it goes completely unaddressed, even though at this point Sisko knows that the sabotage of the power grid may well not have been by the Dominion, making Joseph’s change of heart very hollow.
Also the notion of Leyton as a changeling is never addressed. That’s part of the point, of course, is that the Founders are fomenting paranoia and that humans are doing this all themselves, but it still should’ve come up, if for no other reason than to disappoint Sisko, given him the one hope that maybe his old friend was actually a changeling—but instead was the ugly face of humanity.
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be co-running a writers workshop sponsored by the I-Con convention this Saturday, the 8th of March, in downtown Manhattan, alongside fellow author Laura Anne Gilman and writing professor Joan Digby. Click here for more info.