Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Homecoming"

***1/2

Air date: 9/27/1993
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr
Story by Jeri Taylor and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When Kira receives a Bajoran earring—smuggled out of a Bajoran labor camp—she goes on a mission to Cardassia IV to liberate the prisoners, who have been held in contrary to the Cardassians' promise that all their prisoners of war had been released. Kira hopes to find Li Nalas, a renowned Bajoran hero whose return to Bajor could unite the torn world in its hour of need.

The first and best of three parts, "Homecoming" follows up the promise of Bajoran political situations that last season's "In the Hands of the Prophets" left behind. Paced much like a feature film, this installment sets up the three-parter beautifully. The expanded time format provides a great deal of character development opportunities. The dialog scenes between Sisko and Kira show two characters on the same wavelength in what feels like true Federation/Bajoran interaction. Each strives to similar goals, but acknowledges that the other has its own agendas.

In the episode's second segment, Kira and O'Brien take a Runabout to Cardassia IV to rescue the prisoners. The action sequences and outdoor locations are expertly done under Winrich Kolbe's stellar direction. The episode's third segment analyzes the situation of Li Nalas (Richard Beymer), revealing a textured, multifaceted character with some fascinating dimensions. Beimler's portrayal of a hero who never even wanted to be the living legend he became is a fully realized performance. Sisko's observation that "Bajor doesn't need a hero; it needs a symbol," is especially keen.

The introduction of Minister Jaro (Frank Langella) adds nicely to the character canvas and promises to play a big part in the arc. Overall, this is a difficult episode to summarize in words; much of the success can be attributed to various pieces of interesting dialog exchanges and performances. Even though the plot is just beginning, this is a knockout season opener that covers quite a bit of ground stylistically and dramatically. Well done.

Previous episode: In the Hands of the Prophets
Next episode: The Circle

Season Index

9 comments on this review

Greg M - Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - 2:21am (USA Central)
Could we say that The Homecoming might be DS9's most underrated premiere episode? It sure seems that way. I watched it and the entire trilogy tonight and it still holds up really well. Loved the scenes on Cardassia 4, and Li Nalas having to adjust to being the symbol the Bajorans see him as.
azcats - Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
i am so confused. on the Voyager section. every talks about how great DS9 is. there is usually 20-40 comments. over here... 1 comment??

anyway, very good opening show. i enjoyed it very much. great characters and story line. ds9 is a very good show.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:26pm (USA Central)

I do not find Nalas to be a very compelling character. A decent episode on the whole.

6/10
Petetonglaw - Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - 9:12am (USA Central)
"The action sequences and outdoor locations are expertly done under Winrich Kolbe's stellar direction." Rewatched this episode on netflix and found the action sequences and outdoor locations just do not withstand the test of time (20 years). Also, graffiti is a lame form of civil disobedience particularly for a society that has just lived through an 80 year brutal occupation.
Jack - Fri, Dec 27, 2013 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
Odo's line about the Promenade being "deserted at this hour" seems odd for a space station, especially an open port like DS9...it's doubtful that the concept of offhours or the middle of the night would have any meaning.

And every indication is that Quark owns the bar. Rom's assertion that he should get half the profits is a bit absurd...That he got 1 share of profit for every 6 Quark did suggests he's getting 15% of the profits of a bar he seemingly doesn't even co-own.
Yanks - Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - 12:46pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode. Good kick-off to the second season.

I thought the whole "Kira and Obrien rescue" was pretty unrealistic. It seems like the Cardassians are horrible shots and of course Iron Mike Kyra again floors someone with twice her strength. Wouldn't it have been much more realistic to send the runabout to C4, scan for Bajorans, then present the findings and the earring to Cardassia? (Dukat)

I enjoyed the Li Nalas character and thought Richard Beymer did a fine job playing the part.

While Sisko and Kira were surprised that Dukat was apologetic, I really don't think they should have been. Cardassia already publically said they've released all Bajorans... this would have been a huge embarrassment and unlawful for the Cardassian government.

The introduction of the Circle is good and realistic.

Jaro (Frank Langella) was awesome! Very believable and comes off as a very influential leader.

Sisko/Jake first date stuff was good.

I loved the interchanges between Sisko and Li Nalas.

"LI: But I am not the man that they think I am.
SISKO: Perhaps not. But Bajor doesn't need a man. It needs a symbol, and that's what you are. No one's asking you to lead troops into battle, or to kill a hundred Cardassians with your bare hands. I saw you in front of the crowd on the Promenade. They look at you and they see strength, and honor, and decency. They look at you and they see the best in themselves.
LI: But it's all based on a lie.
SISKO: No. It's based on a legend. And legends are as powerful as any truth. Bajor still needs that legend. It needs you."

Sisko not really caring about how Li really killed that Cardassian and bringing perspective to Li. All good stuff.

Then of course....

"Major Kira is no longer assigned to this post. She's been recalled to Bajor."

Jaw hit the floor... how's that for a cliff hanger? :-)

3 out of 4 stars for me.
Ian G - Tue, Jul 22, 2014 - 1:09pm (USA Central)
I really enjoy this whole arc which starts at the end of the first season. The action sequences were from 90's TV so the standards were much lower then, but I still thought they held up fairly well. DS9 has a really funny trip of giving tiny Kira, who weighs in at a whopping 115 lbs, an iron fist that can knock any character, no matter how large and powerful they are, down with one hit. I also thought that it was odd that the nature of the political violence was toned way down to graffiti and branding Quark, compared to religious extremism fueled bombings and assassinations from the previous episode which seemed more appropriate for a society that fought a 50 year long insurgency with terrorist tactics.
Kevin Mc - Fri, Sep 5, 2014 - 11:51am (USA Central)
Just realised, very slow of me, that Le Nalis (however it's spelled) is Twin Peaks' very own Benjamin Horn.
Elliott - Fri, Nov 14, 2014 - 2:05pm (USA Central)
And we're back.

When we last left our heroes...

DS9 had accomplished the following :
In terms of a Trek spin-off, the first season was a bit of a disappointment. Weak sci-fi elements and a very mixed bag of characterisations left me feeling rather blah about the series. There are enough admirable characters (O'Brien, Odo, Quark) to hold my interest amidst the ignoble (Sisko), boring (Dax) and schizophrenic (Kira).

As a show wishing to distinguish itself from its predecessors, three major trends emerged :

1) format: DS9 is playing like a concentrated version of TNG's 6th season in terms of recurring characters and tighter, more consequential continuity, which is fun. I've always said that this kind of quasi-serialised storytelling is rewarding the viewer for his loyalty to the programme. Nothing wrong with that.

2) politics: Many of the stories tend to shy away from the mythologised, allegorical approach of traditional Trek in favour of political realism. While I don't disparage the team for wanting to take this approach, it's an incredibly difficult task to pull off in a sci-fi setting like Trek's. In most fictional universes, there are many elements from contemporary culture which are basically replicated or transposed into the fiction for the sake of making the universe seem more real; comic books still involve global politics alongside magic and superhuman adventures, series like nuBSG use a pastiche of contemporary socio-political models against the sci-fi elements. The problem in Trek is that the "fictional universe" is quite specifically not meant to be fiction so much as extrapolation. It's set in the *real* future, a place where, according to the creators, our current socio-political climate will eventually lead. When one adopts the comic-book model of contemporary pastiche, one directly contradicts this model. That in and of itself is not terrible, but of course in Trek's case, the model which is extrapolated is not arbitrary but quite specifically didactic; it's not only the future which will happen, but which *should* happen, so we say. The Trek ethos is built around this ubiquitous "should* and, assuming for the moment that the creators had no ulterior motivation, in their attempt to create political realism, they have generated a disquieting tension with this ethos. As of yet, however, this is all it is: tension. Tension is not a bad thing. After all it feels like drama.

3) religion: This topic is of course intimately tied with #2, however, the series has been remarkably inept in dealing with the issue no matter what position one takes. As contemporary analogy it's downright insulting to both those with actual religious beliefs and modern atheists. The only group this kind of schlock writing seems to appease is the apologist crowd which likes to congratulate itself on its supposed tolerance of religious belief to which the majority of Sisko's comments in ItHofP pander. Despite these missteps, there is still potential in this focal point for the series, however.

On to Season 2 …

Teaser : ***, 5%

We start out with a familiar motif from S1, Odo questioning Quark in as Gestapoish a manner as he can get away with. In this case, it is Quark's apparent *honesty* which makes Odo suspicious; Quark tipped Odo off to a smuggling ring as an overture to a “truce.” Cute. Rom 2.0 (the lower-case idiot) makes an appearance to remind us to hate him.

Quark meets with a living Troll doll with tits who has in her possession a Bajoran earring (you know, ALL Bajorans wear them like ALL Catholics wear crosses, right?).

Cut to a third scene: Kira guiding in a aeroplane for landing in her quarters...oh wait, no, she's praying. Quark flirts a bit then offers Kira the earring which we learn was found on Cardassia IV. Kira recognises it, so it seems, steals it from Quark and runs out. So we've got a little mystery, a little humour. Also, note there are no Starfleet officers depicted in the entire (long) teaser. Very interesting.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Next re-introductions are the Siskos, Jake and Ben. Cirroc Lofton has become a bit more animated, which I actually find kind of grating. I preferred some of his understated performances from last season. Brooks is the same as ever, uncomfortable, with very little in terms of natural cadence in his speaking or movements. We also get another contemporary retcon, though subtle; Jake is studying algebra, which either means he takes the short-runabout to school or they've again chosen to write humans like they're from 1990, and not the 24th century (remember that 8-year-old who was studying calculus on TNG?). What follows is a laborious little scene straight out of your typical sitcom of the era; Jake asks out a girl and Ben offers intrusive advice, blah blah, you've seen this about a thousand times already.

For once I'm please to see Kira burst in to break up this tedium and asks him to borrow a runabout (not before we're treated to 45 riveting seconds wherein Sisko orders coffee and pie from two different replicators). Kira reveals that the earring belongs to a prisoner of war, Li Nalis, whom she intends to rescue. Showing a remarkable surge in wisdom following the events of “Duet,” the provisional government has decided that this earring is an insufficient motivator for risking a war with the Cardassians. Obviously grasping at straws, Kira wheedles at Sisko, claiming Nalis would make an opportune leader for the fractured Bajoran people.

O'Brien calls to report the discovery of a spray-painted circle, symbol of a Bajoran supremacist movement (The Circle). Real creative by the way, using spray paint. Doesn't that just smack of the 24th century?

Act 2 : **, 17%

So, the real premise for the show is put forth plainly in a conversation between Sisko and Dax (preluded, of course, with pandering bits of backstory “Kurzon liked talking about baseball”). Bajor is unstable, having backtracked significantly it seems from the comradeship which was a major theme in last season's finale. Sisko believes (read: hopes) that Kira's contact, Li Nalis, might be the solution to his problems. Ever the opportunist, he is quickly convinced to acquiesce to Kira's request. In one of those painful “lets all smile at each other awkwardly” scenes which exemplify 90s television, Sisko informs Kira of his decision, which includes sending O'Brien along. Even as I write these line-by-line little reviews, I'm struggling to convey just how incredibly boring the construction of these scenes is. Trek is usually a slow burn, and I personally like it that way. But in that sizzle there's usually an artfulness, a sweep, an underlying intensity which is basically absent from all these scenes. It's a lot of pedestrian dialogue with two-dimensional musical cues and utilitarian camera work.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

Kira and O'Brien run into a bit of trouble and pose as a Lessepian transport (The Martok, isn't that cute?). We are treated to yet *another* clichéd scene where Kira bluffs the Cardassian ship over the comm, muting in between every single exchange so that she and O'Brien can state the obvious to each other (“They're getting suspicious”). Gee, do you think the extended pauses in your response might have something to do with that, Major? Well that was utterly pointless (a growing trend). So in an episode purporting to deliver upon serious themes, several minutes of potential dialogue which could address, I don't know, the commonalities between O'Brien and Kira, their shared experiences fighting Cardassians, Kira's misgivings and concerns, O'Brien's worry about leaving his baby fatherless, are spent on a routine, cheap and dull bit of outwitting the bad guys. What a shame.

O'Brien discovers that Li Nalis' is one of several Bajoran life signs on Cardassia IV, indicating the Cardassians were, not surprisingly, totally dishonest about returning their prisoners after the withdrawal. I'm sure we'll see consequences. The two decide to land in order to mount a rescue.

On the surface, we get some more clichéd labour camp tricks, you can probably guess; the Cardassian guards needlessly strut about shoving he barrels of their weapons in the Bajorans' backs, ordering them “back to work.”

Okay, let's pause and consider the logic of this next scene: O'Brien, a human, is on a Cardassian planet with Kira, a Bajoran woman, trying to pedal her as a prostitute. Even if one does not totally buy in to the Roddenberry ideal, the idea that a human could be believed to be PIMPING on a planet which was very recently at war with his people is so fucking ridiculous, I'm surprised the guards didn't shoot them both right there. Ah, but surrendering to logic would rob of us more coma-inducing clichéd bullshit; guard is dumb and horny, Kira feigns condescension, O'Brien feigns greed, and –I bet you didn't see this coming—Kira pulls a fast one and Trek-fus her way into the camp. Oh, and throw in the fact that all of Kira's and O'Brien's phaser fire hits its target, while the Cardassians can only seem to hit extras. Most of the prisoners make it back to the runabout, Li Nalis amongst them, and they zoom off back to DS9.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Upon her return, Kira discovers that Sisko and Dukat are conversing via subspace. In that satisfying oily way of his, Dukat conveys to Kira that his people have formally apologised for holding Bajoran prisoners on Cardassia IV (notice he avoids actually apologising to Kira. Nice). The Cardassians are obviously playing chess, but the question is, what advantage did holding Li Nalis provide them, that it was worth maintaining such a pointless little labour camp in secret?

After Bashir treats Li, the Bajoran leader, Minister Jarro is brought on board DS9. He chastises Kira for “declaring war on Cardassia.” Basically, he gives Kira the same guff Sisko will habitually dole out: “As an officer, I condemn what you did. As a private man, I condone it. So fuck off you wonderful you.” Got to love those principled men.

Meanwhile, Li is thrust into the spotlight by popular demand, but it's Jarro who ends up revelling it, yucking it up with the expected platitudes. Li is...skeptical. Later in private, Sisko returns to his opportunity—the reason he authorised Kira's little adventure. Li is needed to provide political stability to Bajor. He doesn't seem the most likely candidate, does he?

Interlude with a Ferengi : It's payday and Quark is allotting Rom his salary (a sixth what Quark allots himself—seems generous given our current economic disparity). Suddenly, a group of angry thespians bursts in to the bar and assault poor, moderately greedy Quark. The scene should be rather terrifying, but the costumes on the assailants are so goofy and the music so hackneyed, that it's really more hilarious than frightening.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

It turns out, they assailants were just trying to brand Quark with their circle graffiti. Why Quark? He's not a Bajoran, duh. They should have tried branding Odo. At any rate it serves as the convenient demonstration to Li about how badly he's needed to bring order to Bajor.

Reïnforcing this theme, Ben comes home to discover his son was stood up by his date on account of some good-ol'-fashioned racism (the girl's father didn't want her dating a non-Bajoran). While I'm usually pretty immune to the Ben/Jake dreck that passes for family drama, in this case I found the scene effective: short, to the point, non-histrionic and moving.

Immediately after Jake heads to bed, Sisko is informed that Li has tried to stow away aboard an alien vessel rather than own up to the mantel placed before him. It turns out Li's notoriety (and ensuing hero-status) is based on a bit of mis-information—Li's great “savage struggle” was really a bit of accidental luck accompanied by pathetic circumstances (an unarmed Gul in his underwear). Li “allowed [himself] to be a slave to his reputation,” but he's had enough and now that he's free of the Cardassians, he wants to be free of his own people. Being a stubbornly credulous people, it doesn't really matter that Li's fame is based on a lie, they need him to be a symbol for his people (just like Berail in ItHotP).

Li is given a newly-created political title, “Navok,” as well as Kira's job as liaison officer to DS9 (casually announced by Jarro). 10 points if you can guess who the bad guy is!

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

The episode ends up really working in the end, with some well-crafted thematic storytelling and a sufficiently tense cliff-hanger, without feeling forced. But getting there was a lot rougher than necessary. Much of the first few acts feel like unnecessary padding (even though we needed Kira to risk her life and defy orders to tie into the cliff-hanger). Not unnoticed go the historical rewrites to 24th century Federation culture. They may seem like trivialities (Jake's math level, O'Brien's perceived monetary needs, etc.), but these little bits tend to add up over the course of the series. As I mentioned in the teaser, the interesting parts of the episode have everything to do with the Bajoran and Cardassian characters, and basically nothing with Starfleet or the Federation, which is fine, but under those circumstances, the last thing this feels like is Star Trek. Overall, the episode continues season 1 trends, but excises the sci-fi element completely, focusing on political observation, with some tired character elements thrown in.

Final Score : **.5

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