This episode from the fourth series of the popular cult sci-fi TV series Star Trek - Deep Space Nine is a deeply emotional story. The episode centres on two characters: DS9 resident Jake Sisko, who grows old grieving for his father Ben; and an unexpected visitor, Melanie1, to whom he relates his life story. Throughout the episode, the characters of the future refer to events which amuse the dedicated Star Trek fan, such as Morn the silent barfly eventually ending up running Quark's Bar aboard the old space station, and Quark himself retiring to live on his own moon. The outstanding performance by Tony Todd as the older version of Jake Sisko helped to make it one of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all time, voted by the people who matter - the fans.
The story starts with the elderly Jake Sisko injecting himself with poison. As he does this, his doorbell rings, and he opens the door to a rain-soaked girl. She asks if he is Jake Sisko the writer, which he confirms, and he invites her in for a cup of tea. He notices that she is injured, having cut her head on a tree branch, and he tends her wound while she partakes of the tea.
The visitor tells him that he is her favourite author of all time. She asks him why he stopped writing and he tells her it's a long story. She says she has time to listen, so he tells her his story, knowing he will never get the opportunity again.
It begins many years ago. I was 18, and the worst thing that could happen to a young man happened to me. My father died.
Young Jake Sisko
The story unfolds in real time as Jake tells his story. The young Jake2 is writing a story and his father, Benjamin Sisko3 the captain of the space station, Deep Space Nine4, asks his son to accompany him on a trip on the station's starship, The Defiant to watch an 'inversion' of a nearby 'wormhole' in space. Ben, a widower5 and Jake have an exceptionally close relationship, Jake's mother having died when Jake was just 12 years old. Jake is reluctant to leave his writing, but his father asks him to poke his head up from his work every once in a while or he will miss life itself. Jake joins the mission to please his father but there is an accident and Benjamin disappears in front of his son while trying to save the ship.
Jake is devastated and a memorial service is held for Ben. For a while everyone is sympathetic, taking it in turns to care for the sad orphan. Ben's best friend was Curzon Dax, a joined Trill and symbiont: when Curzon died6, the Dax symbiont passed to Jadzia, an attractive young woman, who became known as Jadzia Dax7 after the joining. She took it upon herself to become Jake's guardian.
Even the notorious task-master Quark8 allows his nephew Nog (Jake's best friend) time off working in the bar to partner Jake on the Holodeck. Something strange happens to Jake on the way back to his quarters, after the game of DomJot: his father appears. Ben appears not to know what has happened to him, and is astonished to learn that months have passed. Then Ben disappears, leaving Jake distraught. Jake reports what he has seen and the crew indulge him by running tests, but they think he is delusional with grief.
Life goes on until Ben appears again. This time, Jake manages to get his father to the infirmary where the crew try to work out a way to stablise Ben. They don't succeed, but they understand he's trapped in sub-space and linked somehow to the wormhole inversions.
Meanwhile the Klingons become actively hostile and threaten to take over DS9. An evacuation is ordered but Jake is reluctant to leave, not wanting to sever the tenuous link with his displaced father. The elderly Jake takes a break from his story and his visitor is appalled at the thought of losing his father under such circumstances, getting him back, only to suffer losing him again. Jake continues his story.
Eventually Jake moves back to Earth to live with his grandfather. He attends college, graduates, and becomes a published writer. Jake meets and marries a beautiful Bajoran woman called Korena9, and settles into domestic life. When Jake is 37, the wormhole inversion happens again and Ben appears in Jake's living room. Ben recognises Jake even though they are now chronologically the same age. Jake introduces his wife, and a delighted Ben asks if he's a grandfather.
Don't think because I'm not around that I don't want grandchildren!
Korena shows Ben her husband's books. Jake tries to contact Starfleet so they can help to stabilise Ben but he disappears again. Jake realises that Ben is attached to him, not the space station.
Jake goes back to college to learn about sub-space mechanics so he can help his father himself. His marriage does not survive the strain of his obsession, Korina leaves him and he gives up his writing. He works out when the next wormhole inversion will be, and plans with Nog (who, by this time, is a Captain in Starfleet), the now elderly Jadzia Dax and Dr Bashir to take the Defiant as close to the wormhole as they can get, whilst reconstructing the circumstances in which he was lost, to try and drag Ben back into their space and time. The experiment works, Ben appears next to Jake, but then both Jake and Ben disappear into sub-space. Jake keeps trying to contact the Defiant with no response. Ben is amazed at the change in Jake.
Look at you! You're older than me!
Back on the Defiant the crew battle to get Jake back, and succeed. Jake is devastated that the plan only worked momentarily. Ben had told him to live his life and had been upset when Jake told him that he'd stopped writing to concentrate on getting his father back. A heartbroken Jake weeps in Jadzia's arms.
The elderly Jake tells his visitor that he wrote some more stories in honour of his father. He gives Melanie a gift, his latest unpublished collection of stories. They say goodbye and Jake falls asleep. He has predicted that the link between him and his father is going to be at its strongest that day. He is going to 'cut the cord' (kill himself) whilst they are together and hopefully they will be catapulted back to the moment of the accident. Ben appears as predicted and as he waited for Jake to awaken, he had leafed through the book on the desk. When Jake awakes, Ben tells him how good it makes him feel that he got back to writing. Jake asks him to read the dedication:
To my father, who is coming home.
Ben is puzzled at first but when realisation dawns that Jake is preparing to die whilst they are together, he protests and insists he go on with his own life. Jake weeps and says he's doing it for the boy he was, and that they will get a second chance. Ben hugs Jake and the old man dies in his arms.
Back to the Beginning
Ben finds himself in the same position that he was in when the energy discharge hit him, from his perspective, just moments before. He jumps out of the way and crashes to the floor on top of the 18-year-old Jake, who is astonished that his father seemed to know what was about to happen. Ben hugs Jake, grateful for their second chance, but Jake has no memory of the eventful life he has led. A new timeline has been made, one containing both father and son.
The Time Paradox
Later on in the DS9 series (in the episode 'Tears of the Prophets'), Jadzia Dax is killed by Gul Dukat, a deranged Cardassian, just after her wedding to her Klingon boyfriend, DS9 and Next Generation regular Worf. So when Jake managed to return things to the way they were at the time of the accident that pulled his father into sub-space, something altered the destiny of Jadzia, as she appeared as an old woman in 'The Visitor' episode. The Dax symbiont survived the attack which killed its host Jadzia, and was next joined with a young female Trill called Ezri to become Ezri Dax10, who plays out the seventh and final season of DS9.
How Good Was It For You?
The episode has received plenty of recognition, from fans, reviewers and the industry alike.
The official Star Trek website rates this episode 4.9 (out of 5).
These are some comments from fans of the series:
This episode about a son recounting the loss of his father, was so well-written that I was left with a lump in my throat by the end. - bigstano
Best Jake story ever! Watch it with tissues! - ccb0603
It's the best episode of Star Trek in my opinion. - maf359
As a young person I like any story about the son saving the father. Marks out of 10? 27. - LandingPadC
Nominated for an Emmy Award: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series (1996) - The Visitor.
Nominated for a Young Artist Award: Best Performance by a Young Actor - TV Drama Series (1996) - Cirroc Lofton.
Nominated for an Image award: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (1996) - Avery Brooks.