Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: How DS9 Saved Jake Sisko From Wesley Crusher's Fate

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's smart and careful writing turned Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton) into a great character and avoided the mistakes Star Trek: The Next Generation made with Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton). As the son of Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Jake was a series regular on DS9, and although his character wasn't part of Starfleet, classic Jake-centric episodes like "The Visitor" allowed him to grow up in front of fans' eyes and regard Jake as an integral part of DS9.

Comparatively, Star Trek: The Next Generation bungled Wesley Crusher from the start. The 15-year-old son of Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) was part of TNG since the series premiere, but he was done no favors by being presented as a boy genius who often saved the U.S.S. Enterprise-D from disaster and irritated Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Wesley was widely derided by Trekkers and he was written out as a series regular by TNG season 4. Wesley made occasional guest appearances such as becoming embroiled in a scandal at Starfleet Academy in TNG season 5's "The First Duty." Finally, Crusher was written out a second time when he resigned from Starfleet to join The Traveler's (Eric Menyuk) galactic ventures in season 7's "Journey's End." Though Wil Wheaton always did his best with the material he was given, Wesley isn't generally considered a fan-favorite character, and "Shut up, Wesley!" is still a favorite insult of TNG fans.

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But from the start of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when 14-year-old Jake was introduced alongside his father Commander Sisko, the writers were careful not to make the same mistakes TNG made with Wesley. Jake was no "boy genius," but he was a bright and appealingly normal kid. His friendship with the Ferengi Nog (Aron Eisenberg) gave him a partner-in-crime during DS9's early years and their dynamic only improved and became more endearing as the series progressed, with both enduring realistic growing pains that still never broke their bond. But by DS9 season 4, Lofton had obviously grown to be among the tallest members of the cast, and DS9's writers led by Ira Steven Behr also saw his growth as an actor, which was cultivated by Cirroc's real-life relationship with Brooks. Brooks treated Lofton as his real son, protected him behind the scenes, and gave Cirroc the benefit of his wisdom and years of experience.

The classic DS9 season 4 episode "The Visitor" isn't just one of the best hours of Star Trek, it's also the episode that truly tapped into Jake Sisko's potential as a character. Lofton was joined by Tony Todd, who previously played Kurn, the Klingon brother of Worf (Michael Dorn) on TNG; Todd portrayed the older Jake as he mourned the "death" of his father and labored for decades to find a way to bring Captain Sisko back from being trapped in subspace. On The 7th Rule podcast Cirroc Lofton co-hosts, where he reviews each episode of DS9, Lofton recalled that Todd followed and observed him on set so he could learn Jake's mannerisms and accurately portray him as an older man, and it was an honor for the younger actor to be mimicked by the veteran star of Candyman.

DS9's producers initially tried to have Lofton play Jake at every stage of his adult life in "The Visitor" with the use of prosthetics, but at 18-years-old, the lanky youth couldn't convincingly portray Sisko in his '50s and '70s. But bringing in Tony Todd was an ingenious move: with Lofton and Todd playing Jake in his youth and into old age, fans literally got to see Jake grow up on-screen. The episode's powerful writing and performances by Lofton, Todd, and Brooks conveyed one of DS9's unique and most laudable virtues by portraying the enduring love between father and son.

"The Visitor" also established Jake's future career as a writer, setting him apart as a character who doesn't need to follow his heroic father's footsteps into Starfleet. Unlike Wesley Crusher, Jake was never written off his show; although he doesn't appear in every DS9 episode, the younger Sisko became even more important after "The Visitor" and found ways to remain in the thick of the action during the Dominion War storyline. Whether it was comedic episodes with Nog or witnessing the horrors of war firsthand as a Federation news correspondent, Jake Sisko was a vital part of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine until the end, when he was forced to say goodbye to his father Captain Sisko one last time.

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