'The Visitor' Highlights Everything Beautiful About the Jake/Sisko Relationship
Yesterday was the birthday of Avery Brooks, who played Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. As some of you may know, I’m five seasons into my first go-through of DS9, and it’s the second Star Trek series I’ve ever watched. The official Star Trek twitter asked people what their favorite Sisko moment was, and while I can’t officially have a number one yet, I knew which episode would probably be my #2, just in case: “The Visitor.”
**Spoilers for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.**
On Earth, we find an elderly Jake, played by the excellently cast Tony Todd, sitting alone and injecting himself with something. There is a knock at the door; it’s some strange young woman who says that Jake is her favorite author and she wanted to see him. Being a writer, and Jake, he takes the girl in, and she asks him why he stopped writing. Jake explains that he stopped writing because of an event that happened to him when he was eighteen years old and his father Benjamin Sisko died.
Now, this kind of time jump episode is no stranger to Star Trek, so I wasn’t super prepared for the tears when it started, but boy, what a fool I was.
In the “normal timeline,” we see that there was a malfunction on the Defiant’s engineering deck (damn it, Chief). Papp Sisko went to fix it, and Jake, who decided not to follow directions, followed behind him. The warp core was beginning to go critical, but with Jake’s help, Sisko was able to stop the core from exploding by doing some kind of techno-babble, but as he passed a piece of equipment to Jake, the warp core emitted an energy discharge. Sisko was pushed out of the way, but he saw his father get vaporized by the energy.
So that’s gut-punch #1.
There was a great funeral for Sisko, because he was both a Captain and the Prophet, and Jake was traumatized by what happened. Then, one night, he saw his father sitting in a chair, but he disappeared quickly. Dax and the others assumed it is just a dream, but a few months later, it happened again, and this time it was long enough that they could bring Benjamin into the infirmary. They discovered that he was stuck in a subspace, unaware of the passage of time. Despite everyone trying to save him, Sisko began to disappear again. He begged Jake to be alright, but Jake knew he wouldn’t be.
I just want to take a moment to commend Cirroc Lofton, because he did a great job as Jake, and he was such a good young actor. He really sold the pain and loneliness. Plus, the real familial chemistry he had with Avery Brooks sold the entire thing. It’s so great—ugh, the feelings. Okay. We cut back to old!Jake and find out he’s dying. So, that’s also happening.
Eventually, young!Jake moved back to Earth, went to Pennington School, and began writing. He ended up moving to Louisiana and marrying a Bajoran woman named Korena. (Tony Todd takes on the Jake role for pretty much the rest of this episode). He and Nog (sob) stayed in touch, and Nog became a Starfleet commander. The three of them celebrated Jake winning a big writing award, and we see that Jake really seemed to have adjusted and found peace. So naturally, while working on his newest novel, Jake and Korena found Sisko lying near the couch.
Despite being a little shaken by the passage of time, Sisko was elated to see Jake had grown up and was happily married (he also looks for the grandkids). But for Jake, seeing his father again just upset him, because it highlighted all the things that Benjamin missed out on. Sisko said he was proud of his son, but for Jake, as long as Sisko was out there, nothing could be enough. Jake stopped writing and began studying subspace mechanics in order to find a way to save his father.
Korena eventually left him. His Ahab-like obsession, while filled with good intentions, just stopped him from being able to enjoy any aspect of his life. In order to recreate the accident, he got Nog, who became a captain, and got the Defiant out of retirement, including Dax and Bashir. However, instead of bringing Ben back, Jake got himself pulled into subspace. Ben was happy to see how Jake was doing, but was horrified to find Jake had lost his wife and abandoned his writing career in order to try to rescue him. Ben begged Jake to get back to writing and to live his life properly. Jake got pulled back from subspace, but didn’t heed his father’s warning.
And that brings us back up to the present, where Jake tells the young woman that his father is coming, and she leaves, the two Sisko men reunited. Jake tells his father that he has gotten back into writing and asks Sisko to read a dedication:
“To my father, who’s coming home.”
Jake explains that he is the link that kept pulling Sisko back into normal space, like a rubber band. Once Jake dies, Sisko will be lost in subspace forever, without having an anchor to hold on to. The only way to save Sisko is to cut the cord at the time they are in perfect sync. If he did so, Benjamin will be returned back to the time of the incident, and he could avoid the whole thing.
However, Benjamin realizes that Jake is committing suicide, with the injection we saw him taking earlier being a poison. Sisko begs Jake not to do it, but Jake sees this as saving two lives: Benjamin, and the young boy who needs his father. Jake dies in Sisko’s arms before he’s yanked back in time. Back in the Defiant engine room, Sisko dodges the energy discharge and his subspace fate. Sisko hugs his son close, knowing they now have a second chance together.
Now, I know this isn’t a singular moment, but I think this entire episode pays tribute to Avery Brooks’ talent. Especially with how every time he sees Jake, he tries to be calm and safe for him. He is the ultimate dad, and this episode made me cry so hard. Whenever I think of Sisko and what makes him great, I think of how much his son loves him, and this episode is a tribute to them both.
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