Happy Father's Day to Benjamin Sisko and Only Benjamin Sisko
When I started talking about wanting to watch Star Trek at long last, the response from almost everyone was that I should start off with the 1993-1999 series Deep Space Nine, which deals with a Federation space station, Deep Space Nine, that guards the opening of a stable wormhole to the far side of the galaxy by the newly liberated planet of Bajor. I was prepared for the political drama and the complicated character stories, but what I was not prepared for was constantly crying over how much of a great dad Benjamin Sisko is to his son Jacob “Jake” Sisko.
On the show, Sisko is the Commander of the space station (and, later, captain of the USS Defiant), played by the deliciously baritone Avery Brooks, and as well as being responsible for the many souls on the ship, crew and civilians, he is also responsible for the raising of his young son, Jake Sisko.
Benjamin is a single father; his wife, Jennifer, was killed during the conflict with the Borg. The Borg wanted to gain all of the Starfleet’s knowledge and assimilated Captain Jean-Luc Picard into the system, and created a Borg drone known as Locutus. In the battle, all of the starships at Wolf 359 were destroyed, where around 11,000 people were killed, including Jennifer. So, as Sisko takes his command on Deep Space Nine, he is also taking with him a teenage boy who he is responsible for teaching, nurturing, and guiding.
One of the beautiful things about Benjamin and Jake is how openly they love each other. They’re always hugging, and Benjamin is both emotionally and physically affectionate towards his son. Despite his work, you see that Benjamin makes time for Jake and wants to do his best to make Jake as safe as possible.
In the episode “Babel,” the ships gets infected by an “aphasia virus,” a plague engineered by the Bajorans as a weapon against the Cardassians. It causes everyone to start speaking gibberish, eventually leading to fatality. Jake gets infected by the virus and can no longer understand what his father is saying, but despite that, Jake can tell that his father will protect him, because they have a bond that goes beyond language.
What’s also important is that Jake’s transformation into adulthood challenges a lot of Benjamin’s own prejudices. Jake’s friendship with Nog, a young Ferengi boy, causes a lot of Benjamin’s inherent prejudice against the alien race to come out. The Ferengi, as a fictional race, are … kind of problematic. Their civilization was built on the idea of free enterprise, and the main goal in life for a Ferengi is earning a profit, to the point where selling your own brother is normal.
Nog is the nephew of the main Ferengi character, Quark, and he becomes Jake’s best friend as they both go through their strange teen years together looking at girls, coming up with schemes, and supporting each other. Still, initially, Benjamin thought that Nog would be a bad influence and didn’t want the two hanging out together. Jake defied his father, and in the episode “The Nagus,” we see that part of the reason Nog acts out is that his intellectual pursuits are considered outside of typical Ferengi traditions, and his actions in school are because he wasn’t properly trained to read. So, when Benjamin follows Jake to see what he’s doing, it’s revealed that Jake is teaching his friend how to read.
Benjamin is proud because this is the kind, empathic boy he raised—someone who knows to go beyond appearances and culture to find the truth in an individual.
This happens again when Jake brings home … a dabo girl named Mardah! Dabo girls are pretty much beautiful women who work on casinos, and there are a lot of sexual connotations to the profession. Mardah is a few years older than Jake, and Benjamin is very suspicious of her, until they actually have a conversation. Yes, Mardah is a beautiful young woman, but she’s also a survivor of a war occupation, an orphan, and someone who is making a living on her own without any help, so why should there be judgement on that?
It’s a great scene because Benjamin sees that his “poet hustler son” is a good person, and just because they’re going on different paths doesn’t mean they aren’t close. One of the hardest things is when you raise a child to be independent, and that independence means they don’t always keep to the expectations you set for them. So, instead of being a member of Starfleet, Jake becomes a writer, which does reflect the thoughtful and soulful aspects of his father, even though Benjamin was a warrior, as well.
In a world where so many father-types in media are trying to “sculpt men” and teach through tough love, Benjamin raises his son in kindness, compassion, and a level of freedom that shows why he’s not just a great captain, but a great dad.
Benjamin Sisko knows to trust and believe the people he loves, and that’s the greatest gift a father can give their child.
(image: CBS Television Distribution)
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