Episode 4.12: Paradise Lost

The story in Homefront (Ep. 4.11) turns out to be a red herring. The direct Dominion threat to Earth never materializes. The true threat to paradise comes from Leyton and his coup. I think the heart of the episode lies in the exchange between Sisko and the O’Brien Changeling. Paradise on Earth is balanced on the edge of a pin. It only takes 4 Changelings to push key individuals into staging a coup, to incite martial law, and to cause a Federation ship to fire on another Federation ship. Fear is the key weapon the Changelings wield. Humans may be ingenious enough, honorable enough, compassionate enough to create paradise, but they also fear losing control of what they have. That fear is deep seated in our communal psyche, I think. Leyton’s obsession with the chain of command is a manifestation of this fear. The exchange Sisko and Leyton have at the end are over diametrically opposed philosophies. The chain of command demands obedience; it exerts control over others. Oaths (such as those to the Federation) relinquish control; they give away one’s sovereignty to be obedient to another or to a higher cause. What I find fascinating is that paradise is built on the latter, not the former.

I learned a new term in the last few weeks: Alternative Wisdom. I believe Paradise Lost is a story of alternative wisdom. Traditional wisdom is the kind that fits into our expectations, into our box. Follow the law to be good; the rich get richer; everything in life has a right and a wrong answer. These are the kinds of things we expect out of life. Alternative wisdom is the kind that surprises you. Generosity pays dividends back to us; there can be many true answers; the more we tighten our grip, the faster something slips away. Alternative wisdom runs counter to our standard expectations. I believe this story is one of alternative wisdom. To hold onto paradise, we must release our control over it. We cannot force paradise into being nor protect it at the point of a phaser. Paradise rests our ability to surrender our need for control in favor of trust in our fellow man.

A key manifestation of Sisko’s oath to the Federation is how he constantly seeks civilian authority throughout the episode. Foremost, he goes through the President of the Federation, not his superiors at Starfleet. It is through the President’s authority that Sisko must act. If he acts on his own, he’s no different than Leyton. Sisko’s brooding over the situation lasts three scenes, until Joseph, another civilian authority, convinces Sisko that he must act. After this, he turns again to the President, though at this point, he is too late as Leyton beat him to it.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode, but I think the story kinda just fizzles out as a second part. The first part was great, filled with paranoia, questions of loyalties, and the hints of moral compromise. In Homefront (Ep. 4.11), Sisko exhibits these qualities; Paradise Lost shifts all those emotions and actions onto Leyton, which somewhat disappoints me. The ending was also really abrupt to me; Sisko went from being in the cell to being in total control very quickly. The believable part was how Benteen abandons Leyton, and it all falls apart. The loyalty to the Federation and to each other is deeply engrained, and destroying a fellow starship would be horrendous.

Random Thoughts: 1) Leyton’s plan was working on the populace. After the power station sabotage, even Joseph is willing to get blood screenings. As a proxy for the civilians, this was to show that Leyton’s coup would have been more easily accepted, had been successful. 2) I really like Nog’s role in this. He brings very unique, very Ferengi abilities to Sisko’s crew. He knows how to obtain information discreetly. He’s also learning what it means to take orders. In a related note, Odo breaks into Leyton’s files using skills he learned from Quark. 3) Sisko manipulates Cadet Shepard by tricking him into showing off what Red Squad did. 4) Colm Meaney exaggerates himself for his role as a Changeling. Both movement and speech are overdone. 5) The Bajorans are used as a resource outside the Federation to assist Sisko, foreshadowing their coming role in the Dominion War. 6) Odo gives a terrible Vulcan Neck Pinch when rescuing Sisko. 7) At the end, Leyton is truly deluded. He falls back on loyalty, not truth, when Sisko directly lays out the consequences of his actions. 8) Letyon intentionally targeted and manipulated Sisko. He knew ahead of time that Sisko would be a pawn, which is why he set up the wormhole to act in the manner that it did.  9) The title of the episode comes from John Milton’s book of the same name.

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~ by Joshua Black on September 18, 2017.

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