Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Homecoming written by Ira Steven Behr and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Kira and O’Brien go on a dangerous mission to rescue a Bajoran prisoner of war…

Single Father: Sisko bounces along the Promenade enjoying sparkling conversation with his son and dining at the Replimat and there is a strong feeling that he is starting to feel at home here. Clearly Ben is not ready to have a conversation about girls with Jake. With the Bajoran political system falling into chaos, Sisko can see everything they have worked for in the past year starting to unravel. It pains him to see the situation on Bajor spilling out and affecting even his son. He is clearly a Commander who is willing to think outside the box because I couldn't imagine any of the other Trek series' leads agreeing to let a subordinate head off on a mission that could ultimately kick start a war. He clearly likes a risk. 

Tasty Terrorist: An altogether less abrasive and more serene person than she was in the first year, we visit Kira’s quarters for the first time and see her praying before her mandala. However it is not all hymns and spreading peace for the Major who still threatens to break Quark’s arm at the merest hint of inappropriate advances. Protocol be damned, even though she is practically declaring war on Cardassia Kira is determined to rescue Li Nalas from Cardassia Four. It’s that sort of conviction and defiance of the rules that I really admire the characters on this show for. The cliffhanger is a very important moment for the show because it shows how much Kira has become a part of the DNA of this show and makes the audience realise how much they will miss her. After everything they went through together last year Kira and Sisko look shocked and appalled at this news. Rewind back to Past Prologue and they probably would have been celebrating. That's real development folks. 

Community Leader: Quark has incredible fun winding up Odo with the 76th Rule of Acquisition: ‘Every once and a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies’ (and look at Rom framed by Quark and Odo looking deeply confused by the the whole thing). When Quark is branded with the Circle symbol you could almost call it justice for his ‘one for you and six for me’ payday policy with Rom. What a greedy bastard. 

Young Sisko: Jake is asking out girls now and so watching ships going through the wormhole is boring in comparison. He wants to take Leyra to their quarters or to the holosuite but both are vetoed by his father who clearly has entertained a girl or two in this style in the past and knows exactly where it leads.

Nine Lives: This is where Dax’s role became much less of a scientist and much more about being a good friend to Sisko, a role that suits her far more agreeably.

Everyday Engineer: Given his hatred of Cardassians it makes perfect sense to take the technically savvy O’Brien along to rescue Li Nalas and the quiet exchange between him and Kira where he understands that they might not be coming back shows his strength of character. Quietly, he is the bravest character in Star Trek. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘What if I told I knew someone who could bring stability to Bajor. Someone who could unite the factions and give us a chance to do our job?’ ‘I’d say give Kira the runabout.’ 
‘What you did today Major was declare war on Cardassia. Thankfully they declined the invitation.’
‘This morning I was a slave and tonight I’m a hero.’
‘I’ll never forget the look on his face when he died. He was so…embarrassed.’
‘Bajor doesn’t need a man. It needs a symbol.’

Ch-ch-changes: Aside from the Station feeling generally bright and less claustrophobic than the first season the only cosmetic difference to the show is that they now have the budget to build the upper level of the Promenade (including an upper entrance to Quark’s). And do you know why this is the only major change? Because they pretty much got it spot on in the first season.

The Good: Prepare for your eyes to water as the director chooses to shoot a scene through the leather clad legs of the Boslik Captain. Graffiti being sprayed on the walls of the station is a subtle but effective way of showing how Bajor’s problems are spreading away from the planet. The labour camp sequences are gloriously shot on location and the best indication that the show is lighter, brighter and more expensive than ever. The mining camp is expensively brought to life with tons of extras in a magnificently sunny quarry (I love the water falling in the background of some shots). Star Trek has rarely looked as cinematic (outside of being a movie of course). O’Brien proves very handy with a phaser and manages to gun down several Cardassians on rocky outcrops. Li Nalas is rescued dirty, scarred and wounded – it’s another unpleasant reminder of Cardassian hospitality. Imagine coming home to find that your planet has been at peace for the last year whilst you have toiled under the misapprehension that it was still at war. The sense of relief must be overwhelming. Frank Langella’s Minister Jaro is a powerful, frightening presence of a man – his very existence adds gravity and tension to a scene. I love his quiet admission to Li Nalas that you cannot expect a politician to give up an opportunity such as his homecoming to score some points with the people. He makes no apology for what he is. Richard Beymer gives a similarly impressive performance as the quiet and subdued Li who has lived a lie for too many years for his people and refuses to be a figurehead for them anymore. I love the moment when he declares that he is happy to simply have a moment’s peace whilst sniffing a flower as though it is the most potent smell he has experienced. Li’s story of defeating Gul Viral is one of many stories that emerges in DS9 over the years that comes to life without any images necessary. The dialogue does a lot of the work and your imagination does the rest. 

Moment to Watch Out For: Kira posing as a Bajoran hooker with O’Brien as her pimp is a wonderful sequence that is mined for all the comedy gold it is worth. Kira flirtatiously opens her blouse to give the Cardassian guard a good look before punching his lights out. It is female emancipation in all its glory. Quark’s branding is another memorable moment – I simply cannot imagine Guinan or Neelix suffering this kind of indignity in their place of work. 

Only DS9: ‘No sample of the merchandise until the sale is complete, okay?’ That is how O'Brien describes Kira. Try hard as I might I can’t imagine Riker saying this about Troi or Chakotay about B’Elanna.

Myth Building: The Bajoran Provisional Government is full of political opportunists too busy fighting amongst themselves to give a damn what is happening on the planet. Factional fighting and religious riots are spreading. The Circle are an extremist group on Bajor who believe in Bajor for the Bajorans.

Foreboding: This is the first Star Trek three parter and the narratives spills expertly into the next two episodes. What’s interesting is how much that was set up in In The Hands of the Prophets that impacts here, the mixture of religion and politics which would continue to fuel the series throughout the rest of its run.

Result: It feels like the DS9 universe is opening out in a very positive way with political machinations and intense character work taking place of daft science fiction plots. The Homecoming is the third dazzling episode of this show in a row and another piece that continues to unpeel fascinating layers of the situation on Bajor. Everything feels a little brighter and more expensive with the new season and amazingly between seasons none of the characters have been altered in the slightest because they were already coming together so strongly at the end of the first year. Kira gets some more great moments but this is an ensemble piece and there are plenty of great scenes to go around. Strong character work, expert world building and only the barest glimmer of technobabble; DS9 is discovering its own unique brand of Star Trek: 9/10

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