STAR TREK REWIND: “Homefront,” “Paradise Lost”

“Don’t kid yourself, Ben. This Pandora’s Box of yours…we’re opening it together.”

Neither the consequence of patriotism nor nationalism, Starfleet Command wages a war against the citizens of Earth by way of fear-mongering. That’s a word we hear much more often these days. After a terrorist bombing is revealed to be the handiwork of the Founders, Sisko (with Odo) is recalled to Earth to head up Security. Odo accompanies him to provide useful information about his people. Suspicion brews quickly, as Starfleet believes the Founders have infiltrated the Federation.

Paranoia is like a virus, infecting everyone within close proximity, and when others are not so swift to believe with you, they need to be convinced. We’ve had situations like this before; the Cold War, the Blacklist, Japanese Interment after Pearl Harbor, our Nation after 9/11. Paranoia is a kissing cousin to history. Because the Dominion and the Founders represent such a fearsome, monolithic threat to Starfleet, worse than the Borg (for the Borg cannot shape-shift and their ultimate goal never changes), key high-ranking officials start formulating a plan.

Instead of a direct attack on the Dominion, Starfleet’s target is Earth and the United Federation of Planets, a genial, futuristic analogue for our own United Nations (but far more efficient) as well as a central governing body. Citizens and government need to be convinced this is an existential threat. This is a variation on the classic novel (and movie), Seven Days in May about the Military takeover of the United States government when the President contemplates a treaty with the Soviet Union. Starfleet has learned a few lessons since those halcyon days of Cold War and possessive privilege.

They’ve learned you have to sell a war by means of broken-window extortion. The paranoia quickly escalates on the home-front, specifically with Sisko’s Dad (played by Brock Peters) who is just too aggressively nice to tolerate for more than a few minutes at a stretch. He’s got this quirky, down-home, Southern cordiality that plays in strict defiance to Ben Sisko’s cold steel practicality.

In fact, he’s a little too at ease in the midst of this panic. Sisko’s Dad, because of his failing health, has to stick to a regimen, and because the changelings are among us and Dad doesn’t want to eat or leak blood, Ben begins to suspect his Dad may be a shape-shifter.

Starfleet shuts down power all over the globe and blames it on the Dominion, causing worldwide panic. Starfleet security officers occupy street corners, martial law is instated, and it’s up to Sisko and Odo to expose the plot before the Federation is led down the precipitous path to fascism. Five years before 9/11, Deep Space Nine shows us the price of compromise when we hand over our basic rights in exchange for the illusion of security and protection. When I originally wrote this review at the end of 2018, I came up against some very harsh resistance from readers who disagreed with ideas about paranoia and the consolidation of power.

It could simply be that I see paranoia as the “end” to the “means,” with fear being the catalyst or starting point that would culminate in the paranoia. All an entity would require is the proposition of an enemy, as well as a list of qualities that enemy possesses. The Dominion were always interesting to me because they had the power to masquerade as anything, whether a bird or a Klingon, or a human. This was the prevailing fear Americans had during the Cold War. I’m reminded of Dr. Strangelove and General Jack D. Ripper’s propagandistic speech to his soldiers:

“Your Commie has no regard for human life, not even his own. And for this reason, men, I want to impress upon you the need for extreme watchfulness. The enemy may come individually, or he may come in strength. He may even come in the uniform of our own troops. But however he comes, we must stop him. We must not allow him to gain entrance to this base. Now, I’m going to give you THREE SIMPLE rules: First, trust NO one, whatever his uniform or rank, unless he is known to you personally; Second, anyone or anything that approaches within 200 yards of the perimeter is to be FIRED UPON; Third, if in doubt, shoot first then ask questions afterward. I would sooner accept a few casualties through accidents rather losing the entire base and its personnel through carelessness.”

Sounds an awful lot like a speech about Dominion infiltration, doesn’t it? This is how paranoia works, and speeches like this are nothing new. Neither is the logic.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Pike, Kirk to Picard, and Sisko to Janeway— boldly read what no one has read before!

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