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The Homecoming

Production no.: 421
Teleplay by: Ira Steven Behr
Story by: Jeri Taylor and Ira Steven Behr
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: September 25, 1993
Frank Langella .....
Richard Beymer ...
Max Grodénchik ...
Michael Bell .........
Marc Alaimo ........
Leslie Bevis .........
Paul Nakauchi ......
Minister Jaro [uncredited]
Li Nalas
Freighter Captain
Tygarian Officer

Quark is on his way to a holosuite when he is stopped by Odo, who has just arrested the first officer and two crewmembers of a Subytt freighter that was smuggling defective isolinear rods to Bajor. And the tip came from none other than Quark, a fact which puzzles Odo mightily. Quark says the two of them have been enemies long enough, and it's time they called a truce. Odo doesn't trust this at all; however, there's nothing he can do but just go away. Quark, rather pleased with himself, quotes a puzzled Rom the 76th Rule of Acquisition: "Every once in a while, declare peace -- it confuses the hell out of your enemies."

Then Quark bumps into a friend of his, a sexy female Boslic freighter captain, who asks if he knows anyone headed to Bajor, and holds up an elaborate Bajoran earring, which she says she promised she would deliver. It was given to her by a maintenance worker on Cardassia IV, who told her to take it to Bajor, and whoever she showed it to would understand. Taking the earring, Quark says he knows what to do with it.

Kira is praying when Quark pays her a visit. He is very interested in her quarters, but he is the last person Kira feels like playing hostess to. Then he shows her the earring. "Where did you get this?" she demands. He tells her, and she abruptly leaves the room with the earring. "Consider it a gift," Quark grumbles.

Jake catches up to his father on the Promenade, with some great news. There's a Bajoran girl named Laira whom Jake's interested in. Sisko starts to give him pointers on asking her out, but it turns out Jake has already done so. He's wondering where to take her, and he's thinking the holosuites. Sisko objects to this, and they are still discussing it when Kira approaches urgently. Jake leaves, Sisko gets some food at the replimat, and turns his attention to Kira. She wants to borrow a runabout, but is reluctant to say why. However, she finally relents and tells him. She wants to go to Cardassia IV to rescue a Bajoran prisoner of war.

Kira shows Sisko the earring, which bears the insignia of Li Nalas, the greatest resistance leader Bajor ever had, whose most famous victory was over Gul Zarale in hand-to-hand combat. Li was reported killed in action, but his body was never found. And Kira needs a Starfleet runabout because Bajoran ships don't have the maneuverability or defensive capabilities for a mission of this sort. Sisko asks if she's sure the earring is genuine; Kira tells him that a DNA analysis of some dermal residue on the backing confirmed that it was Li's. She has contacted three ministers, but Sisko guesses correctly that they were unwilling to risk war with Cardassia over an earring. He doesn't blame them. Kira, however, points out the troubles Bajor is going through right now, which have gotten worse since the loss of Kai Opaka. There have even been some outbreaks of religious and political violence. "Bajor needs a leader. Someone the people will listen to. Someone they can trust." And she's certain that Li Nalas is that leader.

At that moment, O'Brien calls Sisko and Odo, to a location in the habitat ring. Sisko tells Kira he'll think about giving her the runabout, and leaves. When he arrives at where O'Brien was calling from, they see a door with a graffiti symbol painted on it -- the emblem of the Alliance for Global Unity, also known as the Circle. "They're an extremist faction who believe in Bajor for the Bajorans," Odo explains. "All other species are inferior and should be expelled from the planet." The emblem has been appearing all over Bajor, but this is the first time it's been seen on the station. "If they think scrawling a few signs is going to get rid of us, they've got another think coming," says O'Brien.

In his office, Sisko is popping his baseball in the air and thinking when Dax enters, in response to his request to speak to her. It looks as though everything he's been working for here over the past year is starting to fall apart. But, "what if I told you that I knew someone who could bring stability to Bajor? Someone who could unite the factions and give us a chance to do our job?" "I'd say give Kira the runabout," Dax tells him. Sisko wonders what they'll say to the Cardassians, and Dax points out that the Cardassians had sworn they had released all their Bajoran prisoners.

When Sisko leaves his office, he gives Kira the nod, and tells O'Brien (who also knew about Kira's plan) that Kira's cover story will be that she is going to pick up some mineral samples. O'Brien says he can modify the runabout to fool the Cardassians' sensors into thinking it's a Lissepian transport. "I see you've already given this a bit of thought," says Sisko.

Kira is preparing to leave when Sisko comes to her quarters to wish her luck. With him is O'Brien, who will be accompanying her. Kira is dubious at first, considering the complications it could cause for Starfleet, but Sisko is willing to risk that. "The truth is, I need Li Nalas back on Bajor as much as you do." And O'Brien says he's seen how Cardassians treat their prisoners. Kira finally relents, and a little later, they leave on their mission. "Either we bring back Li Nalas, or we don't come back at all," Kira declares.

Thirty minutes from Cardassia IV, the runabout is scanned by a navigational control post, then hailed. O'Brien suggests that they bluff them, and Kira answers the hail, identifying their vessel as the Lissepian transport Martuk. The Cardassian post offers to send a repair ship to help fix their apparently malfunctioning subspace field emitters, but Kira says that's unnecessary. She invents a tale about a cranky gul who's waiting for her shipment of rulot seeds, and finally her story is accepted.

Having reached Cardassia IV and achieved synchronous orbit above the Hutet labor camp, O'Brien scans for Bajoran lifeforms, and is surprised to pick up multiple readings. There seem to be about a dozen Bajoran prisoners. The runabout can't beam up more than two at a time, and they can only do it once before all hell breaks loose. The compound has a standard Cardassian forcefield around it.

They land, and approach one of the camp overseers, as Li and another prisoner look up curiously. O'Brien, posing as a pimp, tells the burly Cardassian that Kira has "an appointment" with the prefect. Kira plays her part perfectly, and the overseer is very interested in arranging an appointment with her for himself. He turns off the forcefield to let her in so he can inspect the "merchandise". Kira enticingly begins to open her blouse, then lashes out and knocks him unconscious. She lets O'Brien in as the two of them take out two other overseers, then they rush to find Li, who is confused by this turn of events. A brief flurry of explanation is interrupted by more Cardassian phaser fire. One prisoner is killed; Li is wounded. Kira and O'Brien hustle everyone toward the runabout, and some of the prisoners decide to stay behind and cover the others' retreat. Li is reluctant. "Don't you see, we did this for you!" one of them tells him.

Kira, O'Brien, Li, and the others reach the runabout. Kira tries to wait for the rest, but there are warships entering orbit. She makes the tough decision, to leave behind those who ensured their escape, and the runabout zips away.

They make it back to DS9, where Bashir takes charge of Li, who is concerned for the other former prisoners. Meanwhile, Kira heads for Sisko's office, and finds him in conversation via subspace with Gul Dukat. But rather than threatening reprisals, Dukat says he has just informed Sisko that the Cardassian High Command has issued a formal apology to Bajor. "We had no idea that Bajoran prisoners were still being held on Cardassia Four," Dukat says. The camp prefect will be chastised, and the remaining prisoners are en route home to Bajor. "I hope that our quick response to this unfortunate situation will prove once and for all that Cardassia is no longer your enemy."

In the infirmary, Bashir ministers to Li's injury and mentions the famous battle with Gul Zarale as well as some of Li's other campaigns. Li cuts him off. "Doctor, I think that you'll find that others enjoy talking about those days far more than I do." Later, when Li walks down the Promenade with Kira and Sisko, excitement ripples through the Bajoran passersby. Uncomfortable under the stares, Li says he's a bit tired, and Sisko is about to take him to his quarters, but a crowd has formed.

Meanwhile, Kira greets Minister Jaro, who has just arrived on the station. "You know, your little adventure has made you some enemies in the Chamber of Ministers," Jaro tells her. He says she effectively declared war on Cardassia; thankfully the Cardassians declined the offer. Jaro warns her officially against disobeying orders again. However, "as a private citizen, I want to thank you for what you've done this day." Kira takes him to the Promenade, where Li reluctantly begins to address the crowd. He is only too happy to yield the floor to Jaro, who launches into a polished speech.

In his quarters at last, Li is glad to have a moment's privacy. "Enjoy it while you can," Sisko tells him. "Judging from the crowd on the Promenade, a moment may be all you get." Seeing Li's discomfort, Sisko adds sympathetically that this must all be rather overwhelming. Li asks what Bajor is like now that the Cardassians have gone. Sisko tells him frankly that Bajor lacks strong leadership, and Li becomes aware that a lot of people are pinning their hopes on him. Kira had told him on the runabout that his return would bring stability. Sisko leaves him alone to get some rest.

Late at night, in the closed bar, Quark is dividing up the latinum between himself and Rom, who is unhappy that he is making one bar for every six of Quark's. But when he complains, Quark starts giving him only one out of every seven bars. Rom gives up and leaves. Suddenly Quark is accosted by three masked figures, who grab him, stuff a cloth into his mouth and press a brand to his forehead. The brand is the emblem of the Circle.

Quark is treated by Bashir with a dermal regenerator, as he gives an indignant report of the incident to Kira and Sisko. Li asks who's responsible, and Kira tells him about the Circle; Li is shocked to hear that Bajorans did this. The provisional government has tried to stop them, but the Circle is better organized; people turn to them out of impatience with the government. "We need someone to speak out against these reactionaries. Someone the people will listen to," says Kira. And though Li is silent, a look of dread comes over his face.

Sisko goes home to find Jake moping on the couch. His date was tonight, but Laira called it off because her father forbade her to date a non-Bajoran. Sisko commiserates with his son, and sends him off to bed, but before he can retire himself, a call comes in for him from a Tygarian freighter docked at the station. The ship's executive officer tells Sisko that the ship was about to leave for the Gamma Quadrant when they discovered a Bajoran trying to get aboard, disguised as a crew member. Sisko is stunned to see that it is Li Nalas.

In Sisko's office, Li explains himself. He tells Sisko a story of when he was in the resistance: after he and two other members of his cell escaped an ambush, finally they had to come out of hiding for food and water. He was the only one with a phaser, so he went to scout ahead at a small lake. There, he tripped and fell, as a Cardassian rose out of the water. They stood there staring at each other, then when the Cardassian reached for a phaser rifle, Li shot him. Li's friends found them a moment later, recognized the Cardassian as Gul Zarale -- who had massacred six Bajoran villages -- and decided that Li had killed him in heroic combat. The story spread despite all Li's efforts to deny it, and his reputation grew until he became a half-mythical hero to the resistance. Even in the labor camp, his presence seemed to be a source of inspiration to the other prisoners. "And I had done nothing but shoot an unarmed Cardassian in his underwear. I'll never forget the look on his face when he died. He was so...embarrassed." Now, Li says he has had enough of being a slave to his reputation.

Perhaps Li is right and he isn't the man people think he is, Sisko says. "But Bajor doesn't need a man. It needs a symbol, and that's what you are." He tells Li that people look at him and see the best in themselves. "But it's all based on a lie," Li exclaims. "No," Sisko tells him. "It's based on a legend. And legends are as powerful as any truth. Bajor still needs that legend. It needs you."

A few days later, Li, who has been on Bajor, returns to DS9 with Jaro, who announces that Li has been voted the title of Navarch by the Chamber of Ministers. "They felt any existing title was inadequate," Li explains with self-deprecating humor. "So they created a new one for me." Now, though, Jaro says the Navarch is here to resume his new post, as DS9's Bajoran liaison officer. "Major Kira is no longer assigned to this post. She's been recalled to Bajor." Kira and Sisko stare in disbelief.

To be continued...

  • The genesis of this episode came from an idea by Jeri Taylor for a TNG episode.
  • Frank Langella chose to appear because his children were fans of the show. His name was left out of the credits at his request.
  • The scenes at the Hutet labor camp were filmed at a working rock quarry in Soledad Canyon, which is north of LA.
  • Sisko's baseball makes its debut on his desk in this episode. The baseball was to become Sisko's symbol. It was quite possibly the same baseball tossed to him by the Buck Bokai alien at the end of "If Wishes Were Horses".