Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Visitor

"You will never forgive yourself if you miss it."

In a poignant episode about love and choices, Sisko disappears during an accident, and his son Jake's life is changed irrevocably as a result.

How do you react to self-blame and guilt, especially when your parents are involved? Jake and Ben have had a lot of precious moments throughout the series, but this episode rawly lays bare the depth of Jake's feelings for his father. When the episode's Deus ex Warpcorina nearly destroys the Defiant, Sisko is trapped in a similarly convenient subspace fragment. Their quest to support and help each other echoes across dimensions as, act by act, Jake recounts his experience to a young writer named Melanie.

Jake's self-blame is pretty nebulous when seen from the outside. If Jake hadn't been present, it's possible Sisko would simply have died. Instead, thanks to everything Jake himself did, Sisko had a chance at survival. Losing a second parent, however, pushes Jake into a kind of feedback loop, a holding pattern. His disbelief at losing his father is matched only by his implicit belief that the crew, his father and Deep Space Nine were the equal of any problem - that something can be done. Watching Jake struggle with this guilt and his loneliness is painful. Only when Jake is forced away from the station by the war with the Klingons, and into building a new life with a woman named Korena, does he seem like he's healing. It's so painful that, by the time Sisko reappears for the third or fourth time I'm almost yelling at him not to – because every time Sisko appears, Jake is re-drawn into an inner cycle of guilt and obsession he can't break out of.

Perhaps Jake's realization that he's missed out on so much becomes part of his desperation for a second chance. Oh, sure, by the end of the episode he's rescued Sisko. But am I alone in feeling disquieted at how poor Jake the Elder dies? I think Sisko certainly isn't. Sisko's second chance is bought at the expense of Jake's first chance – and I have to wonder if Sisko doesn't sense that on some level when he returns to his timeline and changes the future, or if the whole story becomes a dream which fades. At heart, what this episode shows us is how much Jake needs his father and family to be a writer. I'm grateful that Jake has a chance to finish growing up and becoming the person we know he can be.

Bits and Pieces

The makeup used throughout the episode is kind of distracting to me, not good. I also hate the future uniforms, but they're consistent – we see them in "All Good Things."

I looked up Korena, who is played by Galyn Görg, and has also had roles on Voyager, Xena, Hercules, Stargate, and Lost.

Quotables

Jake the Elder: I'm sorry.
Sisko: What for?
Jake the Elder: For giving up on you.
Sisko: No one could be expected to hold out hope for this long.
Jake the Elder: I should have just kept trying to find you. I just went on with my life.
Sisko: And I'm proud of what you've accomplished.
Jake the Elder: None of it matters now that I know you're still out there, lost somewhere.
Sisko: Of course it matters. You have a wife, a career. And don't think because I'm not around much that I don't want grandchildren.

Melanie: Can I ask why you haven't published these?
Jake the Elder: Well, I was tinkering with the last story just this morning. Besides, if you publish posthumously nobody can ask you for rewrites.

Overall

No Dominion, a possible glimpse of the future with the Klingons, overall an episode disconnected with the bigger soap opera stories – but an episode that made me tear up, that gave Cirroc Lofton and Tony Todd the opportunity to express a range of acting and emotion we don't often see on TV today.

Five out of five warp core accidents from me.

2 comments:

CoramDeo said...

Man, this episode. Anytime DS9 gives Jake the spotlight, you know the writer had something to say. I don't love this one as much as many of the other episodes of this series, unlike many fans, but I absolutely appreciate and enjoy it. It's just the sort of story this show loves to tell, which is the main reason I love the show so much.

Baby M said...

One of the best episodes in the whole franchise. While no one in real life have ever lost a parent to a subspace anomaly, we've all lost someone close to us, or at least know someone who did, which is why this resonates so strongly.

The guest stars playing Jake the Elder and Melanie had the hardest acting jobs in the episode, and they more than met the challenge.