With yesterday’s announcement of a brand new Star Trek series premiering in 2017, I felt it was time to share another of my favorite Star Trek episodes. This time around I’m going to cheat a little and talk about three of them, “The Homecoming,” “The Circle,” and “The Siege” from Deep Space Nine. This trio of episodes focuses around the return of Bajoran war hero Li Nalas during a time of serious upheaval as the Bajoran Provisional Government begins to fall apart and civil war looms.
This trio of episodes kicks off the second season of the show, and I think it’s a great start. While I love the first season, it is at times kind of tough to get through. Many of the relationships that later defined the series had not yet been developed, or in a couple instances were almost completely backward. By the start of the second season, the show starts feeling like the one I love. Through most of the first season, Kira is openly hostile towards Sisko and the Federation in general and while I understand where her hostility came from, it doesn’t serve the story very well when the first officer is constantly attempting to undermine or sidestep the captain. Starting with “The Homecoming,” Kira makes a good faith effort to follow procedure and protocol, though the viewer is aware that if things don’t happen the way she wants, Kira is willing to do whatever is necessary to uphold her convictions.
Li Nalas is absolutely the most interesting character of the arc. Li is obviously uncomfortable with his status as a war hero. At one point he tells Sisko the story of how he became famous, except that he tells Sisko what actually happened, not what the legend says. Li is actually embarrassed by what happened and just can’t understand why people flock to him. He is hardly the leader most of his people think him to be. As events begin to unfold Li tries to run away and just live a normal life or, if nothing else, be a simple soldier like he was before. Of course, in the end, Li was able to step up and be the symbol his people needed. One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes is “…but be not afraid of greatness: Some/ are born great, some achieve greatness, and some/ have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” This fits Li Nalas nearly perfectly. He had no desires to be great, but it was thrust upon him. What makes this story interesting is how he deals with that greatness.
These three episodes also go a long way to stabilizing the overall situation that viewers found during the first season. Season two would eventually introduce the real threat for the series, The Dominion, but until then the show is largely about the Bajorans and their ability to recover from the Cardassian occupation. By the end of the story arc, the government is far more stable and many of the more problematic elements within the society have been purged. It also firms up the relationship between the Federation and Bajor. It was almost comedic how often the show’s writers felt the need to remind viewers that the relationship between the two peoples was less than ideal. After the conclusion of “The Siege,” they thankfully stop doing that and, while everything isn’t perfectly smoothed over, it’s still clear that Starfleet is there for the long haul.
The final thing that makes me really love this trio is that there is a decent amount of political intrigue, at least for Star Trek. There are several different sides all vying for power and all trying to out-maneuver one another. Even more than that, there are outside influences, such as the Cardassians, that are trying to manipulate and undermine the various groups in an effort to bring the entire system crashing down so that they can easily move back in. This is also the first time we see Vedek (soon to be Kai) Winn as a truly malignant force. Although her first appearance at the end of the first season alludes to the fact that she is not on the side of the protagonists, she is hardly more than a member of a cantankerous conservative religious order. In “The Circle,” viewers begin to see her political ambitions and realize that they are of a more sinister nature. By the end of “The Siege,” audiences understand that she is willing to do what it takes to accomplish her designs, regardless of the costs to others and even Bajor itself.
While I realize I am in the minority when it comes to Deep Space Nine, I keep finding myself coming back to it more than almost any other show. Perhaps it’s not the greatest show in existence, but there are many episodes, like these three, that offer a lot more than to audience members. Hiding just below the surface is a gold mine of interesting discussion topics and character development that give the show great depth and nuance.