Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Paradise Lost"

***

Air date: 1/8/1996
Teleplay by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Story by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Reza Badiyi

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"We do not fear you the way you fear us. In the end, it's your fear that will destroy you." — Changeling

Nutshell: A good tale of Starfleet paranoia, although it can't really live up to "Homefront."

Four days after the massive power outage which had Earth holding its breath for a Dominion invasion, all is still clear. Power has been restored, and there have been no indications of an attack. Things are far from normal, however. There are armed Starfleet officers on, seemingly, every street corner. Admiral Leyton has declared martial law and holds Earth in his hands.

Something isn't right. Sisko finds an inconsistency in an obscure record, and through a plot twist involving Starfleet Academy (and Nog, if you can believe it) Sisko learns what's really going on: Admiral Leyton—not Dominion infiltrators—caused Earth's power outage so he could convince the President to turn over control of Earth to him. This way, Leyton can put troops on the streets and execute the security measures he deems necessary.

"Paradise Lost" is exactly what I expected it to be. It's a good episode, but hardly an event of astounding magnitude that would, in retrospect, make "Homefront's" setup seem as truly frightening as it appears to want to be. I mean, let's face it. If the Dominion actually attacked during the blackout, the repercussions would be so unfathomable that I can't even begin to imagine such an episode. The writers will not begin to take such risks with the series, because if there's one constant in the Star Trek universe, it's that there will always be peace on Earth, and the Federation will remain intact.

It's kind of like "The Best of Both Worlds." It had one hell of a setup, yet the outcome was inevitable. It posed the question: Are the Borg really going to assimilate Earth? Well, of course not. Things that bad by definition can't happen on Star Trek, even if the story would be more realistic, disturbing, and/or dramatic if they did happen.

Consider last season's two-part "Past Tense," where Sisko and the others got stuck in Earth's past. Part one ends with Sisko deciding to take the place of the martyr Gabriel Bell. In dramatic terms, the best way to have ended part two would have been to have Sisko give his life in Bell's place to preserve the time line. Instead, there's a very convenient but necessary contrivance that allows Sisko to live, but have the same effect on history. Why? Simply because writers can't make big changes in history or kill off the leading character of the series. It's as simple as that.

My point? In essence, the writers' hands are tied. They need a resolution, but it probably can't be something that's going to have a profound effect on the Star Trek universe.

"Paradise Lost" also has this quality. Obviously, the Dominion is not going to destroy Earth. And unless the creators had decided to do some kind of war episode in which the Dominion are defeated (which, on the other hand they could have done, and probably should do eventually down the line) there is also no real way to actually have a Dominion attack like part one wants to suggest.

So, what instead? The episode is about Leyton's power play to declare martial law—a story that does indeed work, despite some foregone conclusions. On a character level, this is about Sisko's choice of having to confront a friend and former-mentor who is undermining the best interests of Earth and the Federation. (And I'll have to admit, though it's satisfactory, this can't compare to part one's story of living a life amid confusion and paranoia.)

Still, Sisko carrying a story about duty and loyalty is a good idea. When Sisko tells Leyton that he isn't going to support the initiative to take Earth under military rule, Leyton orders Sisko back to DS9, which, naturally, Sisko refuses. He instead begins gathering evidence against Leyton to present to the President. Subsequently, Leyton fakes Sisko's blood test and tells the President that Sisko is a shapeshifter. They throw Sisko into a cell.

Noteworthy is the scene where Leyton visits Sisko in his cell. He reveals a subtle guilt for doing what he did to his friend. He seems to genuinely care about Sisko's welfare ("If you need anything—food, something to read—just tell the guard"). It's nice to see that the writers don't throw characterization out the window just to make Leyton less sympathetic. At the same time, I wonder if Leyton would really go so far as to open fire on another Federation ship for what he considers the best interests of the Federation.

The show basically rides on this conclusion, in which Odo breaks Sisko out of jail and the honorable Starfleet captain goes to Leyton's office to try to talk some sense into him. Sisko has a speech or two—delivered with perhaps too much passion, as Avery Brooks tends to overact here, whereas Robert Foxworth's lower-key style might have been better suited to both characters rather than just Leyton's.

With the Defiant on its way to Earth to prove that the mysterious wormhole activity was indeed not a cloaked Dominion fleet, but a ruse orchestrated by Leyton's informant on DS9, Leyton sends his right hand officer, Captain Benteen of the USS Lakota (Susan Gibney, who portrayed Dr. Leah Brahms on TNG) to intercept the Defiant which is "not to reach Earth under any circumstances!" under the pretense that everyone on board has been replaced by shapeshifters. With the situation out of his hands, all Sisko can do is wait, while the Defiant and the Lakota face off.

This brings up a rather unique situation—two Starfleet ships shooting at each other. After a brief phaser battle, Worf and Benteen realize they have to ignore their superiors and make some field choices. Benteen abandons Leyton's increasingly outlandish procedures. With no one to back him up, Leyton realizes that he's lost his initiative. His approach is wrong, he's ruined, he decides to resign, etc., etc. This is all basically by-the-numbers, but the presentation is what makes the show work. Reza Badiyi's direction, while not particularly gripping, keeps the momentum up to a satisfactory pace.

So what does this two part episode mean? It's best summed up in one fascinating, stand-out scene between Sisko and a Changeling spy who assumes O'Brien's form. The Changeling informs Sisko that there are only four shapeshifters on the entire planet. "And look at the havoc, we've wrought," he says. He's right. Paranoia running amok is exactly what allows Leyton's power play to take place in the first place. The Dominion's biggest advantage over the Federation is how they can plant fear and suspicion.

Previous episode: Homefront
Next episode: Crossfire

Season Index

42 comments on this review

robgnow - Thu, Aug 21, 2008 - 8:46pm (USA Central)
Ah, the "evil admiral" cliche'....

Actually Leyton reminded me a lot of Admiral Norah Satie in 'The Drumhead'... the same "only I can save the Federation from itself" attitude when faced with a possible invasion.
Anonymous - Mon, Nov 10, 2008 - 1:19am (USA Central)
I really do wonder about the portrayals of Admirals in Starfleet. They are always shown to have limited judgment, be otherwise incompetent, or be very open to treason. Even the Federation President is depicted as a bumbling fool. Are we really to believe the highest authority of the entire Federation is that incompetent, and that every Admiral is less capable than a Captain in command (as it seems). Some realism is lacking.
Destructor - Sun, Jul 19, 2009 - 7:34pm (USA Central)
I think having thr Dominion attack in this episode would ahve seriously undermined the theme, which was all about the power of fear. It's not exactly preposterous to think that the military might help to exaggerate an existing threat in order to get the populace to accept less freedoms- on the contrary, it was remarkably prescient.
Jay - Fri, Sep 4, 2009 - 11:51pm (USA Central)
I agree about the Admirals. They never seem to be particularly qualified. The one in Rapture comes to mind. Necheyev wasn't bad, but still a bit lacking. They finally found a credible one with Admiral Ross.
Nic - Tue, Dec 8, 2009 - 7:11pm (USA Central)
Your point of view is interesting (as it basically amounts from reviewing both parts separately rather than as a whole), though I would like to note that the writers never INTENDED to have the Dominion attack in part two. They didn't "tie their hands." Part I was purposefully used as a misdirection as to what the theme of the episode was... and only in Part II do you realize that the episode's real message - a very powerful and relevant one - is that fear of an enemy can be MORE dangerous than the enemy itself.
Anthony2816 - Fri, Feb 5, 2010 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
Star Trek admirals: Let's just say that the majority of them are great officers.

The ones that aren't, well, they're the ones whose actions are interesting enough to become storylines.
robgnow - Sat, Feb 6, 2010 - 2:16am (USA Central)
Good point, Anthony. I'm sure that following around an Admiral who did his job competently and caused no problems for our main characters at all would be... let's just call it 'anti-climatic'.

Not to mention 'purposeless' to the main character's plot arc.
Jeff O'Connor - Sat, Oct 9, 2010 - 11:04pm (USA Central)
I must admit, I get a real kick out of going back in time and reading some of Jammer's wants and predictions. Here, he says the writers should probably tackle 'some kind of war episode' in which the Dominion are defeated, at some point down the line.

And then we got seasons six and seven.
Jay - Sun, Dec 26, 2010 - 12:12am (USA Central)
So we follow around the bad admirals, but the good captains?
Polt - Tue, Jan 25, 2011 - 5:13pm (USA Central)
Anonymous said, " Even the Federation President is depicted as a bumbling fool. Are we really to believe the highest authority of the entire Federation is that incompetent,"

I think 8 years of W proved how realistic those statements are.
GregHenley - Mon, Aug 1, 2011 - 3:19pm (USA Central)
So this surprises me. No one mentioned that Odo suddenly appears to know the Vulcan neck pinch! This IS what he used on that security guard isn't it? Was she a security guard? She had no phaser.

-Greg
tec - Tue, Nov 15, 2011 - 3:48am (USA Central)
She was blood screening and Odo is head of securaty im sure he knows all kinds of disarming techniqs
HammerSlammer - Wed, Jun 13, 2012 - 1:13pm (USA Central)
For me Leyton was the next Garth of Izar, only without that funny paper crown.
Peremensoe - Wed, Aug 1, 2012 - 1:19am (USA Central)
"Was she a security guard? She had no phaser."

I believe she did; that's where Sisko gets one to go confront the admiral.
Londonboy73 - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 12:09pm (USA Central)
Unbelievable! I didn’t think it was possible – but Avery Brooks’ acting has actually got WORSE!!
How on earth did this guy ever get to star in what would otherwise be an excellent series. Have you ever seen a worse actor leading a show? I am amazed that this is not mentioned, here especially. In this episode he cannot deliver a line without sounding....out...every...word... Who talks like this in real life?

As for the scene where he is interrogating the cadet from red Squad - watch it again and try and argue this is not the worst acting you have ever seen – it would be criticised in a school play let alone here! It’s such poor acting that I am amazed he kept his job for 7 years!

Those who love DS9 wonder why with the best plots and great story arcs this is considered by those who dip in and out of Trek as the weakest of the incarnations. Look no further than this episode...Avery Brooks take a bow!!
Nathaniel - Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - 9:00pm (USA Central)
And amazingly enough, some people like Avery Brooks acting.
Elliott - Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - 1:54pm (USA Central)
Amazing, yes, but not quite so amazing as the people who like this series.
Nathaniel - Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - 10:39pm (USA Central)
I agree. We are quite amazing people. Its good of you to recognize that.
Londonboy73 - Sun, Aug 12, 2012 - 9:37am (USA Central)
Nathaniel - I can believe that people may tolerate his acting because they love the series but think it is good??

If you take DS9 as a series out of equation and simply look at the guy’s acting – can anyone hand on heart actually say it is of a high standard.

Or simply compare his acting to ANY of the other main cast members.

As I say, in the UK at least, this is why the series never took off like TNG or Voyager.
MIster P - Sun, Aug 26, 2012 - 3:19pm (USA Central)
Brooks isn't good with the big dramatic speeches that we see in Trek all the time, I'll give you that. But the quieter scenes with Jake or his father come across as incredibly genuine. I like him a lot.
Sintek - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 1:03am (USA Central)
There is more to acting than line delivery. Who are we to say that's not how a real Benjamin Sisko would speak? I've seen and heard people in real life who would be considered terrible actors in film or television, but it's their natural inflection and pattern of speech.
William - Mon, Oct 15, 2012 - 7:57pm (USA Central)
So what does this two part episode mean? It's best summed up in one fascinating, stand-out scene between Sisko and a Changeling spy who assumes O'Brien's form. The Changeling informs Sisko that there are only four shapeshifters on the entire planet. "And look at the havoc, we've wrought," he says. He's right. Paranoia running amok is exactly what allows Leyton's power play to take place in the first place. The Dominion's biggest advantage over the Federation is how they can plant fear and suspicion.


That pretty well tells the power of this episode, and why I still give it four stars.
DG - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 6:49am (USA Central)
The conversation between "O'Brien" and Sisko got me thinking about how ethics work with this.

Firstly, assume two things:
--
1. Most sentient 'species' in Star Trek's universe are actually breeds of the same species, akin to dogs.(Half-Betazed, Half-Klingon, Half-Vulcan, etc, from TNG The Chase).

2. For sake of this argument assume Changelings are not part of that system. The important part is that they are NOT the same species as everyone else.
--

If ethics is based on a species' sentience or language capabilities, then yes, the Changelings are unethical. The Humanoid ST species is (obviously!)capable of language and sentience!

But what if it's based on Species?

Consider the ethics of humans vs. ants or mice. 4 humans could easily take out a few anthills or some individual mice. We also have dogs as beloved pets, breed farm animals, etc.

Imagine a world where No Human Ever Hurt Another.

We'd still eat meat, (aka, no PETA rant) we wouldn't give our buildings over to ants/termites/mice, we still have our dogs (Vorta ^ ^), we'd run animal experimentation, etc.

No wars. No murder. No rape. No beatings.

About our only flaw would be a strong penchant for
making feral children! (Odo...)

Compared to us, the Changelings are *amazing*.
Josh - Wed, May 22, 2013 - 11:24am (USA Central)
This episode certainly did the battle for the Federation's soul story a lot better than Star Trek: Into Darkness.

I'm thinking of Pine doing the final confrontation between Sisko and Leyton. It will probably be in a much noisier environment than a television set of an office. But it could have been quite awesome.
Sean - Sun, Jul 21, 2013 - 2:37am (USA Central)
I quite enjoy Brooks's acting, actually. Not because I love DS9 so much, which I absolutely do. But because I actually think he's rather good, albeit with a slight tendency to overact at more dramatic moments. Like the climax of Far Beyond the Stars. But I hardly notice it, usually, because he is so good at conveying the drama of the moment and showing us the gravity of the situation. And Brooks definitely has the quieter moments down. His deep voice helps, certainly. Though I will say that most of the rest of the cast is better, that doesn't make Brooks any worse by comparison. He holds his own quite well.
Paul - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 9:20am (USA Central)
@Sean: Usually Brooks holds his own. The problem is that he often has his worst moments -- like in 'Far Beyond the Stars' -- in his biggest episodes.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 12:57pm (USA Central)

Same quality level as the first part.

7/10
Patrick D - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 10:17pm (USA Central)
This episode is so prophetic, it's eerie. It annihilates Star Trek Into Darkness in terms of commentary on post-9/11 America (and this episode aired 6 years before that fateful day).

It's also strange watching Sisko browbeat the admiral for trying to trick people into war, when just two years and a half years later...
Dusty - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 11:20am (USA Central)
Leyton was not evil. Not at all. He was a smart, capable officer who taught Sisko everything he knows about leadership. But 'Paradise Lost' reveals that Sisko has since learned things on DS9 that are lost on Leyton back on Earth--things about personal honor and looking at the big picture. Leyton was so obsessed with the immediate threat the Dominion seems to present on Earth that he was blinded by paranoia and lost his way. He'll commit sabotage, treason, and a coup to physically protect the planet at a staggering psychological cost. And only Sisko, Odo, and Benteen stopped him. Meanwhile, the Changelings have only bombed one building. As the fake O'Brien pointed out, all they really had to do was make their presence known and watch Earth wreak havoc on itself, and that nearly happened.

What a plot arc that was. I suppose it makes even more sense to us now than it did when it aired. And I have no problem with Avery Brooks' acting at all.
DLPB - Sat, Feb 22, 2014 - 7:34pm (USA Central)
The major flaw with this episode is that it relegates the very real threat posed by Shape-shifters (of which one had already entered Starfleet grounds) to a story about paranoia, and a bunch of people who want to cause war.

Rather than tackle the very real issue of a Changling being a massive, massive threat to security, it instead uses the episode for leftist propaganda. And that's a shame.

A full arc with Starfleet dealing with the changlings would have been great. Those guys can be ANYTHING (if we ignore the fact that this is scientifically impossible). It would have made for some fun episodes.

Instead, it isn't the changelings who are to be feared.. no.. it's ourselves. Give me a fucking break.
Corey - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 7:29am (USA Central)
"Instead, it isn't the changelings who are to be feared.. no.. it's ourselves."

Well, if you think of the changelings as being similar to the US fears of "communist infiltrations", you will see that DS9's stance was correct. Most of the "commie" threats in US history were faked. Meanwhile, it was the CIA doing exactly what it accused the Soviet's of, in most Latin America, Asian, Caribbean and middle Eastern nations (also "friendly" nations like Greece and Australia), namely, infiltrating, assassinating and installing despots.

Here's historian J Coatsworth: “it is not seriously in question that from 1960 to the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites, mass slaughters consistently supported or initiated by Washington.”

So the resolution to the Homefront and Paradise two-parter was in keeping with Trek progressivism. It's only later that the treatment of the Dominion becomes dubious and a bit simplistic.
Vylora - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 1:03am (USA Central)
Well there was definitely a lot said about this two-parter and especially a lot of interesting reading in the comments for "Homefront". Which in turn made me want to say a lot myself. But then I decided I'm going to instead concentrate on these episodes. Not that I have a lot to add really. :p

Jammers reviews were spot on though I've always felt both parts were equally classic in my opinion.

4 stars each.
Eric - Wed, May 7, 2014 - 1:16am (USA Central)
Great Episode. Its funny seeing how TV series have evolved since then. Back then, you had to have a "reset button" at the end of any episode. Nowadays, you have more stories with lasting consequences. I actually wanted the defiant to destroy the other ship in self-defense, and to see the fallout from that play out in the next episode, and the one after that, etc..

Nonya - Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - 12:17am (USA Central)
*Yawn* Even more tedium, and much more self-righteous pandering. Thing is, we were never really all that familiar with Earth before the threat, so we don't know the depths it "plummets" with this two parter. Given how all of this stuff has been in motion for a while, paradise must have been lost a long time ago. Besides, how stupid was Sisko not to even alert anyone about the changeling he met?

That, and this episode has no affect on anything later on.
Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 10:13am (USA Central)
Earth "before the threat" is aptly explained here. Listen to Sisko's Dad if you don't understand.

Best line?

"JOSEPH: Worried? I'm scared to death. But I'll be damned if I'm going to let them change the way I live my life.

SISKO: If the changelings want to destroy what we've built here, they're going to have to do it themselves. We will not do it for them."

As for those that feel Avery isn't a very good actor. I'm one of them, but we trekkers are very welcoming/forgiving when it comes to substandard acting, aren't we? He's still my Captain.

"Eerily Prescient" aye.

Hopefully our over zealous "security details with phasers" can someday be "beamed out" of here too.

4 stars for me.
Jack - Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - 7:26pm (USA Central)
It was odd that the O'Brien changeling claimed that the changelings don't fear humans, since it was already stated previously by the female shapeshifter that the changelings' fear of "solids" was pretty much their raison d'être for creatign the Dominion.
Zuriel Seven - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 4:13pm (USA Central)
Another odd thing within this episode is Leyton's suggesting that if Ben needs anything (quoted above as "food, something to read") that he may ask Security at the desk and they will get it for him.

One of two things is happening: 1) Starfleet no longer requires officers who will be guarding changelings to read up on them (the most imminent threat to the security of the planet), or 2) changelings have started eating real food...
Ospero - Wed, Sep 3, 2014 - 12:29am (USA Central)
@Jack: You have to take the fear quote in its entirety - "we do not fear you the way you fear us". The changelings' fear of solids lacks the element of paranoia that serves as this two-parter's undercurrent. They fear the outsider that wants to destroy what it perceives as a threat, not the infiltrator who can put on a familiar face and never drop it until it's too late.
Peremensoe - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 6:55pm (USA Central)
I just watched both parts again. I too feel they are of equal quality--or, more precisely, form a coherent whole story of quality. This is *not* like the cliffhanger two-parters for which the second halves were written separately.

"Homefront" definitely contains clues to Leyton's real plan; for example, he says he's had weapons stockpiled... for *just such* an unprecedented security deployment.

Also, Sisko does tell people about his changeling encounter, at some point off screen. He declines to tell Dad at first, not wanting to scare him and not sure yet how he himself is going to proceed. But by the end both Dad and Odo clearly know that there are changelings, plural, on Earth.

Not that there's really much useful intelligence there. The claim of "four" may or may not be true, and in any event Starfleet already knew there was one, and if the Dominion can land one they obviously could have landed a bunch.

Changelings can 'eat' if they want to.

Finally, a note on direction. Remember the (great) scene where the Red Squad cadet proudly explains the sabotage operation--and thus Sisko learns the full, awful dimensions of Leyton's plot? The crushing fact of treason by his own CO, who he had learned from and respected? And then the *next* scene is so dark--literally dark, as he and Odo grapple with the betrayal. The light of "paradise," so bright in the early, sunlit outdoor scenes, has fallen into shadows.

Four stars.
Spindles - Thu, Oct 9, 2014 - 3:06am (USA Central)
In Homefront, the time index that Worf recalled during the playback of the initial explosion at the conference was 5-911. In this episode, one of the names Sisko mentioned in Admiral Leyton's confidential list was Snowden. Some interesting synchronicity in an episode about a false flag attack that would necessitate broad and sweeping new powers of the military ... and that is essentially what Starfleet is, the military, despite the fuzzy rhetoric.
Shayne O - Sun, Nov 9, 2014 - 9:58am (USA Central)
The point about incompetent Admirals however is perhaps apt. One thing working in the public service has taught me is that people seriously overestimate the competence of senior staff. It was not lost on me, for instance that the department head was the CIOs son, and that at 25 with no qualifications there was nothing that made him more suitable than his underlings, some with PhDs and decades of experience. But the right connections and perhaps the right social skills get you to the top. And this is the same for almost any organization, public or private. Humans preferance a compelling smile over a compelling set of qualifications. And we're poorer for it.
Filip - Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
In my opinion, a brilliant two-parter. Everything led up to the scenes between Sisko and Leyton, and the Defiant and the Lakota, which I could watch over and over again.

I just have to add, because of some previous comments, that I am one of those people who enjoy Mr. Brooks' acting.

Both parts - 5/5.

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