Monday, December 3, 2012

Deep Space Nine, Season 2: The Homecoming

Deep Space Nine, Season 2
"The Homecoming"
Airdate: September 26, 1993
20 of 173 produced
20 of 173 aired


Kira is compelled to go on a dangerous, unsanctioned mission when she discovers that a Bajoran hero of the occupation, Li Nalas, as still alive in a Cardassian prison camp. His rescue will prove to have lasting repercussions on the powder-keg Bajoran political situation, both on the station and on the planet surface.

Maria! I'll never stop saying Maria!


Matthew: I just want to say, at the outset of Season Two, that I love the fact that they're dipping into multi-part storytelling. For one thing, the previous approach in Season One obviously wasn't working, and a shake-up was needed. For another, I think when you are locating your show around a particular place like this, you may as well go really deep into storylines (compared with the often superficial yarns of the previous season). OK, that said, is this the best possible part one of a three part story? I don't think so. It's competent, but it isn't really crisp and crackling with tension. It's kind of a slow burn, and I feel like it had some padding here and there (for instance, Quark and Rom dividing the money, Jake lamenting a girlfriend we never see on camera).

Kevin: I was really blown away by the idea of a three-part episode. I think when Majel Barrett voice-overs "and now the "continuation" instead of "and now the conclusion," it was one of the most exciting moments for me that season. I'll hold off on reviewing the episodes as a group until the end of the arc, and stick to the first part. I agree this is not a barn burner of an opening, but I almost don't mind that. I'd rather see them land a solid, regular episode just to show they can do. I thought the slice of life scenes were nice in and of themselves. Jake being sad about the girlfriend would have had more punch if we had seen her, but it was a nice attempt to give the problem both broad and personal examples. Its utility aside, I crack up every time during the payday scene.

Matthew: I like that we finally meet someone from the provisional government, and that he is a real character, instead of an officious bureaucrat merely present to momentarily thwart the main characters. Minister Jaro is written very realistically - neither mustache-twirlingly villainous nor obsequiously goody-goody. We can see him going either way, and that makes the character much more interesting to watch for me (compared to the way Vedek Winn was introduced). I like the general fleshing out of Bajor that takes place here - a Weimar Republic-like government, ripe for takeover by extremist factions. Ahhh. It's so nice to actually be interested in a story! That said, the Circle's actions are a little toothless. I would have liked an explosion, at least. It was an exciting aspect of the Season One finale, so they feel a little anti-climactic here.

Kevin: Bajoran politics can be hit or miss, and any other issues aside, the Bajoran politic angle really fires on all cylinders the whole arc. I like from the beginning that Jaro is duplicitous, but in a credible way, publicly chastising but privately thanking Kira. At least one of those positions is false, and it makes the characters later bigger machinations more credible. They also peppered his dialogue with good one-liners, like how a politician could not resist the opportunity to address a crowd. Everything about Jaro's character read as organic and it helped flesh out the Bajoran political story. As for the Circle, their violence felt very calculated, which I like, actually. It was enough to be intimidating without being so horrific as to turn away potential sympathizers. The only part of their arc that annoyed me was how everyone told Sisko, "You should get down here," rather than just tell him, "We found some graffiti " I hate dialogue like that as it smacks of just artificially increasing tension.

Matthew: I noticed that, too. It reminded me of the Simpsons joke (during the Lemon Tree episode) in which Nelson implores everyone to follow him to a horrific revelation. After several minutes, the other kids just ask him whether he could just tell them. And Nelson says, "I said there's no time to explain, and I stand by that." Something about the slave labor camp angle kind of bothered me. Why would the Cardassians risk this? What are these slaves doing, anyway, sorting rocks? How good could this camp have been run at all if an earring could have been smuggled off-planet? Is it located in the same star system as the Cardassian homeworld? Then, we get some Stormtrooper-level poor aim Cardassians, and some egregious trek fu when Kira lays out the guard with three punches. But still, it's an exciting prison break scene overall.

Kevin: That didn't bother me as much. One of the post-TNG novels posited the uselessness of their activity was part of the psychological torture of the Cardassians, and I liked that idea and retroactively applied it to the episode. The aim was horrifically bad, but I did enjoy the sequence as a whole. Kira and O'Brien's exchange on the runabout was pretty gripping. I also appreciated that the writers had Kira care about the other prisoners and had the plot resolve things for them too.

Matthew: I feel like the Li Nalas "reluctant hero" story has been done. I think it might have been more interesting if he actually were a flamboyant and successful military hero, and was emotionally ruined by a decade of prison. Anyway, I like the cliffhanger for the most part. It's the first time DS9 has played this card (main cast member leaving! Oh no!), and it took longer than TNG did. It also feels more organic than "Haven," because it ties in to Kira's actual actions in the episode, and her character arc overall. So I'm on board with the story idea.

Kevin: I remember thinking that since this was after the season break, it seemed less artificial a threat. I figured had Nana Visitor really been leaving, it would have made the news sooner, but still, I was sufficiently surprised. I think you pegged it by pointing out her leaving is the result of actions she had taken over the course of the episode and the series.


Matthew: Well. We've moved away from Shouty Kira and are now on to Sexy Kira. I'm just not a fan (though this is nowhere near as bad as Bi-Sexy Mirror Kira). I'm not saying she isn't a svelte, attractive woman. She is. But when she sways her hips and acts all hootchie-mama, I just don't dig it. She is very good for the rest of the episode, though.

Kevin: Nana Visitor has really come into her own with the character. Her brief scene with Quark was great as was her imploring Sisko for the runabout. I enjoyed the prison sequence as well. I don't know what it says that I responded better to sexy Kira than you did, but I'm sure it says something.

Matthew: Avery Brooks and Siddig El Fadil have both dialed it back a bit from last season, and it's a nice improvement. Terry Farrell seems to have graduated from Spock-like to Curzon-like, and that's nice, too. Auberjonois and Shimerman pick right up where they left off, and are loads of fun yet again.

Kevin: I like Li Nalas' characterization. I thought his scene with Sisko after being caught trying to leave was really well done. His weariness really came through in a non-whiny way. The rest of the main cast really felt like they have (finally) gelled into a cohesive whole.

Matthew: I love me some Frank Langella. I like him in everything I've seen him in, (I think he was great in Frost/Nixon), and he brings both complexity and gravity to every role he plays. Richard Beymer is pretty good as Li Nalas. Better than he was as Tony in West Side Story, that's for sure. He brought a believable weariness to the role.

Kevin: There's something so unapologetic about Jaro's political abilities that you almost can't help rooting for him. He really played a credible politician, to the point that even his self-interest didn't read as EVIL, just as self-interested.

Production Values

Matthew: This wasn't a real barn-burner, effects-wise. We got a force field and a phaser fight on the prison planet, and those were adequate but not standouts. The prison camp itself was pretty mundane, and the shield... pylons, whatever they were, looked a bit silly.

Kevin: Star Trek has certainly developed a love of a small number of canyons in the LA area, haven't they. I liked the scenes overall and am glad they did it outdoors instead of a soundstage.

Matthew: There was some really artful direction when Sisko is prevailing upon Nalas to engage the people, leaving him out of focus. It really accentuated Avery Brooks' voice, and kept us from seeing any scenery chewing, if it existed.

Matthew: Kira's outfit really accentuated her tiny waistline. I've always found the Bajoran knitwear to be a little monotone, though. I guess it's very nineties, for whatever that's worth. Li Nalas' outfits were pretty ridiculous. He looked like an old fattish guy - it reminded me of Riker's latter-day casual wear. On the other hand, I liked the Jaro outfits - for a political character, they were imposing but also physically flattering and conservative.

Kevin: I agree with Jaro's outfits. The color and textures looked formal without going crazy. Personally, I always like Bajoran knitwear. It read as an actual set of fashions that a people might actually wear.


Matthew: I'm vacillating between a 3 and a 4. The 3 argument is that this feels a bit slow and unfinished. But the 4 argument is that it had a good number of exciting scenes, good characterization, and good performances. I'm going to stick with a 3, because I don't want to just give a knee-jerk rating by contrast with the doldrums of Season One. This is a solid show, but it doesn't scale any prodigious heights. Either way, it's a good omen for Season Two.

Kevin: The sheer energy and interest the episode holds for me is enough to push this into a 4 for me. Between the broader implications for Bajoran/Federation and Bajoran/Cardassian relations and the personal story of Li's return and Kira's potential departure, I remember being really eager to see next week's episode. They had a lot to choose from for where to go next, and I remember being really curious what it would be next week. That makes a total of 7 for the two of us.

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