I noted that in the previous episode, many of the ways characters reacted reminded me of the immediate aftermath of 9/11, an incident that hadn’t happened yet when these episodes came out. To be very fair, the United States did not go full-on martial law or anything along those lines, but the feelings of paranoia and the heightened fear of a second attack were certainly there.
However, if Earth is a paradise, how does one go about losing or regaining it?
That seems to be the trick here. Sure, it may seem scary at first to people like Jake and his grandpa, but Joseph Sisko is nothing if not adaptive. Maybe he can’t serve his regular customers with the entire planet under curfew, but those Starfleet officers patrolling every street corner gotta eat too. If anything, Joseph’s role seems to be to jovially disagree with his son at every moment, but he does so in a way that gets Ben to actually stop fretting and do something because it doesn’t take Ben long to realize he’s been had. Having the generally-suspicious-towards-everybody Odo as a sidekick helps there, and it does seem as if the whole thing was done to give Admiral Leyton, Sisko’s old CO and a longtime friend, supreme authority over at least Earth if not the Federation as a whole.
The thing is, Leyton is maybe not really the bad guy here. Nothing he’s doing is being done out of a desire for power but moreso by Leyton’s belief that the civilian leadership in the Federation doesn’t really have what it takes to do what needs to be done to stop the Changeling menace.
Oh, and there may only be four Changelings on the entire planet, not counting Odo. One approaches Sisko in O’Brien’s form and tells him as much. Sisko didn’t think O’Brien could have gotten to Earth from the station that fast, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen O’Brien so cheerful before, so I was tipped off immediately. Then he got cocky by pointing out how easy he can get around and do whatever he wants. I think I liked cheerful O’Brien better. Then again, Sisko didn’t seem all that disturbed that a Changeling A) had O’Brien’s form down pat and B) knew as much as he did about the Chief.
And no, no one stops that guy from leaving.
Of course, Sisko was already suspicious by then. Odo found evidence a group of cadets from Starfleet Academy beamed back to the Academy at an odd time just before the lights went off planet-wide. Nog wanted to join that group, and Sisko can pressure Nog for the name of one of them. And that dummy will more or less brag how he and his friends managed to knock out the power to the whole planet. Likewise, a call to the station reveals that the wormhole wasn’t letting a Dominion fleet sneak through cloaked but the whole thing was being done by someone there to give Leyton power until the Dominion crisis was over. And since the episode would be weird without most of the rest of the main cast, that means Kira and Worf are headed to Earth in the Defiant, a ship that is small but far tougher than the ship Leyton sent to stop it.
Really, Leyton reached too far, and he fell, even after he tried to frame Sisko as a Changeling agent.
But the thing is, it wasn’t a terrible plot. At least in terms of execution. Put trusted people in positions of power (including Sisko), and then take care of the Dominion threat that is, again, four Changelings if the faux O’Brien can be trusted. Sisko often has moments of smoldering rage when he sees people disrespecting oaths taken as Starfleet officers. He’s not the slightest bit diplomatic like, say, Picard is. But this episode allows the viewer to also see Sisko feeling despair. These people, he laments to Odo, are also friends of his. It really hurts to go against people he’s close to, but to be very fair, Sisko knows the threat of the Dominion better than anybody, and the idea that the Federation ideals need to be sacrificed, even temporarily, in order to save it doesn’t sit well with a man like that.
And yes, I do choose to believe Leyton really was going to return power once the Dominion had been dealt with. Too bad in a situation like this, there’d be no way to know for certain when that would be over.
Plus, Worf did order the Defiant to return fire, and if there’s one last thing that stops Leyton, it’s the simple fact his own people don’t really want to fight the Defiant. I don’t think I blame them one little bit for that.
I really dug this one more than the first one, mostly because it shows Sisko and Leyton both going head-to-head, using the resources at their disposal to stop each other. It’s only Ben Sisko’s own better planning and thinking that wins out over the better-positioned Leyton, and he can go back to the station afterwards, leaving his father behind because, well, ol’ Joe Sisko has a good thing going in New Orleans, and if there’s a reason for Ben to fight, it’s to make sure his stubborn old father can still do what he loves.
That seems like a good start to me.
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